Worlds Best Test Harding Park

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 3, 2005, 4:00 pm
Tiger Woods is playing. So, too, is Vijay Singh. And Phil Mickelson. And just about every other player in the top 50 in the world.
 
But the headliner for this weeks World Golf Championships-American Express Championship may well be Harding. Not the suspect 29th President of the United States. But the restored municipal course in San Francisco, Calif.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' ribs may be the difference between a fourth AmEx win or just another top-10.
Harding Park is the site of the final individual WGC event of the season. The venue was opened in 1925, and at the time was considered among the best public courses in the world. But over time, apathy led to neglect and the course became more cow pasture than championship venue.
 
Then came Sandy Tatum. The Bay area resident and former USGA president led a restoration campaign that helped transform the layout into what it is today.
 
What it is is a 7,086-yard gem that sits along Lake Merced. But what the public sees on a daily basis is not what will greet the field this week.
 
The course is normally a par-72, but it will be reduced to a par-70 as the ninth (474 yards) and 12th (475 yards) holes will play as par-4s instead of par-5s. The fairways, which usually measure as wide as 35 yards, will average 25-28 yards. The rough, typically 2 inches, will reach nearly 4 . And the greens will measure nearly 12 on the Stimpmeter, as opposed to the normal 8 or so.
 
When the WGC was formed in 1999, it was done so to create a global competition between the best players in the world. But the series has been anything but worldly.
 
The American Express Championship, which is on offer to the top 50 players on the Official World Golf Ranking and select money winners from around the world, is the only one of the three individual WGC tournaments that has avoided establishing American roots.
 
The Accenture Match Play has been played every year but once at La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. And the NEC Invitational has been contested every year but once at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
 
On the other hand, the first two editions of the AmEx were held at Valderrama Golf Club in Andalucia, Spain. The 2001 tournament was to be held at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo., but was canceled in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The 2002 and 2004 editions were held at Mount Juliet in Kilkenny, Ireland. And the 2003 event was played at the Capital City Club in Woodstock, Ga.
 
The venues have varied over the years, but there has been one constant ' Tiger Woods' domination.
 
Five for the Title:
 
Tiger Woods
Woods has won 10 of the 20 WGC tournaments in which he has played, including the World Cup team event. Three of those wins have come in the AmEx. He won the inaugural tournament in 1999 and again in 2002 and 2003; thats three wins on three different courses. The two times he didnt win, he was tied for fifth in 2000 and ninth a year ago. He should once again be a factor ' if hes up to it. Woods has been resting since the Presidents Cup, allowing his sore ribs a chance to heal. He played Harding Park as a child and in college, but this will be his first trip since the redesign.
 
Chris DiMarco
Chris DiMarco is riding an emotional wave after his Presidents Cup performance.
Chris DiMarco
When DiMarco won a crucial singles match against Stuart Appleby in the 2003 Presidents Cup, he felt like it would spur him on to more PGA Tour victories. It didnt. When he led the Americans in points earned at the 2004 Ryder Cup, he felt the same. It didnt either. Now, after going 4-0-1 in the 05 Presidents Cup and making the Cup clinching putt, he again believes this will be the springboard to more titles. Well see. As confident as ever (and thats saying something), DiMarco is looking to end his three-year winless drought on tour this week at Harding Park, which benefits precision and putting more so than power.
 
Vijay Singh
Singh amazingly has never won a WGC event. He tied for second in this event two years ago, and tied for third in this years NEC. He is trying to put behind him a miserable performance at the Presidents Cup, where he went 0-2-3.
 
Michael Campbell
If this was the Accenture Match Play, Campbell may have been the favorite. He won the HSBC World Match Play three weeks ago and then was magnificent at the Presidents Cup. He posted a combined 7-1-1 record in those two events. Campbell has plenty of confidence at the moment and would love to win again on American soil.
 
Sergio Garcia
Garcia has won six times on the PGA Tour, including this years Booz Allen Classic, but he doesnt yet have that signature win. This would be it. Garcia took about a month off following a win on the European Tour. He used last weeks Chrysler Classic of Greensboro to sharpen his game, as well as to avoid a straight shot from Europe to the West Coast. He has four top-10s in five starts in this event.
 
Playing Out the Front Nine
 
Four more to keep an eye on
 
*Phil Mickelson, who is in search of his first WGC victory. It's late in the year, which means Mickelson usually isn't a likely candidate to win. But with this event being in his home state of California -- where he's won seven career tour titles -- he may have a chance.
 
*Thomas Bjorn, who was runner-up to Els last year. Bjorns brother lives in Oakland. He is one of only a handful of players to have seen the new Harding prior to this week. He is, however, trying to overcome an illness that forced him to spend three days in the hospital last week.
 
*Jim Furyk, who is seeking his first top-10 in this event. Harding Park may be well-suited for Furyks game. His success, however, may depend on his health. Like his Presidents Cup partner Woods, he is nursing sore ribs.
 
*Colin Montgomerie, who won last weeks dunhill links championship. Its a long trip from Scotland to San Francisco, but Monty should be riding high after his first victory of the season ' which came at St. Andrews, nonetheless.
 
Related Links:
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”