Tiger Train Rolls into Firestone

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAfter the first three majors of the year, the following week on tour is somewhat of a letdown, with most of the world's top players forgoing the event to wind down.
 
The PGA Championship, however, is a different beast due to the fact that right on its heels is the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, one of the four WGC events that offers up prize money in excess of all four if the major championships.

Formed back in 1962 as a four-man 36-hole exhibition, the tournament didn't become an official PGA TOUR event until 1976. Having been played every year at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, (except in 2003) the event was then added as one of the four World Golf Championships in 1999.
 
And ever since that year Tiger Woods has seemingly owned the place.
 
Phil Mickelson
How will Phil Mickelson respond after his disappointing finish at the PGA Championship?
His stats in the event are staggering - four wins, including three straight starting in '99, a runner-up in 2004 and a pair of fourth-place showings in 2002 and 2003. And yes, he comes in this year as the defending champion after holding off a feisty Chris DiMarco last year.
 
After winning his third PGA Championship last week, Tiger will attempt to win the PGA-WGC combo for a remarkable third time. He won both events in 1999 and 2000 and is looking forward to the prospect of keeping his momentum moving forward.
 
'That's a challenge. It's a challenge for all of us as players. Sometimes you play great one week and you don't have it the next. Welcome to golf. But I'm going to a place that I've had some success at, and I'm looking forward to going there to Firestone, and it's a World Golf Championship, another big event,' said Tiger after his win in Medinah.
 
The other big story line this week outside of who can stop the Tiger train is the jostling for position in terms of the European Ryder Cup squad.
 
A bit unlike the U.S. points list, European players have two ways of qualifying for the squad. The top 5 players on the World Points List as of Sept. 3rd will automatically qualify, as will the top 5 not otherwise qualified from the Ryder Cup Points List.
 
Here are five players, besides Tiger, to keep an eye out on at Firestone:
 
Phil Mickelson
Could go in two directions this week: get back in the saddle after a disappointing showing at Medinah and challenge for the title; or finish well down the leaderboard with thoughts on getting back home to the family. Was runner-up to Woods in 1999 but recent performances have been lackluster, not a top-20 in his last three starts. The three years prior to the event becoming a part of the WGC format, Mickelson had a win in 1996 followed by two straight runners-up.
 
David Toms
Started off year strong with a win at the Sony and then a runner-up and a third at the Ford Championship at Doral and the Honda Classic, respectively. Was in the mix at the halfway point at Medinah before ho-hum weekend left him in a tie for 16th. Last two starts at Firestone were a T-6 in 2004 and a T-9 last year.
 
Stewart Cink
Could take his game up a notch after receiving confidence boost on being named one of captain Tom Lehman's Ryder Cup picks. And Lehman had good reason to pick four-time PGA TOUR winner: four top-5 finishes in his last 10 starts. Throw in the fact that Cink won the title here in 2004 - holding off Tiger in the process - and Cink may very well find himself challenging the King of Firestone once again.
 
Brett Wetterich
Could be inspired by talk in the media proclaiming him to be the weak link on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Having quite a rollercoaster year as seen by a four tournament stretch earlier this spring: missed the cut at the Wachovia Championship; won first career PGA TOUR title at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship; missed cut at Bank of America Colonial; runner-up finish at The Memorial Tournament.
 
Luke Donald
Perhaps a bit overwhelmed in his final round pairing with Tiger at Medinah, Donald had shown beautiful form to his game through the first three rounds. Tenth on the PGA TOUR's money list, Donald has six top-10s for the season including his win at the Honda Classic in March. Finished sixth here last year.
 
Related Links:
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    Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

    Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.


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    Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

    Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

    But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

    Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

    “It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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    After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

    In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

    No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

    Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

    “I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

    Let it go.

    Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

    “I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

    It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

    During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

    Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

    “It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

    McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

    It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

    “I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

    The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

    Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

    The only thing left to do?

    Let it go.

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    Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

    Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

    Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    There is, however, one running wager.

    “Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

    Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

    Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

    “I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.