Hal Sutton Press Conference Transcript
Q. Looking at the scores today --
HAL SUTTON: Well, you know, when nothing was going on early in the round, I knew something had better happen in a hurry or I was going to get outdistanced by everybody. When I got those four in a row, I knew, well, that was good.
Q. How does your game feel right now compared to last year, Saturday and Sunday?
HAL SUTTON: Honestly, I'm not hitting the ball as good this year as I was last year and I really haven't made a lot of putts. I made a couple of putts on the back nine. For the way I played, I feel pretty good for where I'm at, to be honest with you. I haven't done anything real bad and I haven't done anything real good, either. It's just, you know, I've missed a lot of greens, from what I normally miss. None of them real bad. None of them put me in real trouble. But sometimes, if you just short-side yourself here, you're not going to get up-and-down.
Q. Does it get to the point where you can score, while you may be are not playing as well as you could?
HAL SUTTON: Well, I feel good on this golf course. You know, I know kind of where we want to be, and I tend to hover around -- hover around that spot, even if it is a poor shot, I'm going to favor the side of the green that I need to favor. I thought they were pretty tough. I don't know what everybody else thought, but -- you know, I'm glad I was not in those last three or four groups, because those greens are going to get crusty and quick. 13, it got quick around that green there. I'm surprised that we've seen a few of the pins that we've seen, on the days that we've seen them. I didn't expect to see that pin on the front of 17 on Saturday, you know. I expected to see that on the first two days. They are just throwing something different at us.
Q. Is there a sense of urgency when you get to a point like 9, that front nine and you are still spinning your wheels a little bit? Do you have to get a little more aggressive?
HAL SUTTON: I didn't get any more aggressive. I actually just got some shots in there close and happened to make the putts. I made about a 10-footer on No. 9 and about an 8-footer on No. 10. Then I hit a really good shot in there, almost made eagle at 11, about 14 feet, something like that. A 4-wood in there. Then on 12, I hit it about six feet. You know, so I hit four really good shots in a row, and that's what -- that's what you need to do to get it going.
Q. How realistic is this now with the leaders at 11 right now?
HAL SUTTON: You never know on this golf course. You know, a lot of it depends on what the weather is going to be. A little bit earlier tee time is not all that bad sometimes, either, because, you know, two or three groups could make a lot of difference in the way the green feels. You know, all you can do is go out and put it on the fairway and put it on the green and make a few putts and see where that puts you at the end of the day. I'm not concerned with how close I've got to be in order to win the golf tournament. I'm just trying to play the best that I can.
Q. Defending this championship at all this week, when you come back is that a factor in a tournament?
HAL SUTTON: Not really. It puts a different twist than normally coming into a golf tournament. If you try to think about defending a tournament, that's not what you are normally thinking about. You are normally thinking about trying to win a golf tournament, to play smart shots. You don't need the added pressure of trying to defend it. I haven't even thought about that this week.
HAL SUTTON: People have been extra nice to me here. It's a real warm, fuzzy feeling when people are cheering for you like that. 17, they just cheered for me all the way around, which was really a nice feeling. It was nice to be able to make a putt for them.
Q. How long was it?
HAL SUTTON: Ten feet.
Q. Talk about defeating Tiger head-to-head -- (inaudible) -- and you were tough talker this week last year?
HAL SUTTON: I wasn't a tough talke. I was only responding to what everybody else said.
Q. Talk about your confidence?
HAL SUTTON: I think -- you put me in a bad position here. All I did, first of all, was respond a little to what everybody else was saying. It just wasn't in my nature -- I had never been taught by my coach or my dad or anybody else that taught me about competition to give up before you're done playing, and that's what everybody was trying to get me to do. Just because Tiger was there, I can't imagine why they would want me to do that. Anyway, just because I stood up for myself, which is what I would expect anybody to do, I think the fans really, actually, endeared that. And the fact that, you know, I was able to go out and win the tournament on top of that. I wasn't trying to be cocky with what I was saying. I was just trying to defend myself.
Q. After that, how much in the locker room did people say, 'Way to go'?
HAL SUTTON: A lot of people were for me last year. That was a tough time right along there. Tiger, nobody had defeated him in a while. He had pretty much gone through everybody, and everybody was wondering if anybody was going to be able to get to him. So, golf needed that at that time. Tiger, as I say every week, when I get an opportunity, he lives up to his No. 1 billing all the time. In no way do I say anything to take away from him, because I think he is a fantastic player and a credit to the game.
HAL SUTTON: I'm a big Paul Azinger fan, so if I can't win, I've love to see him win the golf tournament. So I'll be pulling for Paul.
Q. (Inaudible) -- withdrawing from the tournament?
HAL SUTTON: They'd have to just about roll me out in a wheelchair on the first tee, almost. I love coming here playing. I didn't think about it.
Q. Guys withdrawing for sinus problems or things like that, you're a guy who is not going to pull out for any reason?
HAL SUTTON: I think that everybody wants their stars to line up just perfect and feel like they have got to get it all just exactly right. And having been out here for roughly 20 years now, I realize that there's very few days that all of your stars line up, and you just have to go out there and make the most of it.
Q. Can you go out tomorrow, if the weather really changes, and just grind away and see what happens?
HAL SUTTON: Yeah. You know, the weather, we've faced a little bit different wind every day. I don't know if it got cooler, if it got windy or something of that nature and they allowed the greens to stay the way they have -- it's going to be tough. It will play really hard. So, you never know what will happen. You get three or four birdies early, and boom, you're right there and everybody else is worrying about how they are going to make their par, and you've already got three or four birdies. You know, you've pulled yourself close.
Q. Any holes that you feel like you should birdie?
HAL SUTTON: I hate to think about it like that, because you might find yourself in a position where you didn't do it and you count yourself out. Like today, I birdied 2 and I hit it perfect.. Came off the second shot, didn't get up-and-down. That was frustrating, because I was right in the middle of the fairway to get the birdie and didn't get it. If I looked at it the way we just talked about it, I might have looked at it and counted myself out. All you can do is deal with what you've done, and whether you deal with it or don't, you just go to the next hole and try to do the same.
Q. Have you been in the fitness trailer or done any --
HAL SUTTON: I'm not a fitness guy. I go in there -- I go in the other trailer and get stretched and -- you can tell I'm not much of a fitness guy.
Full Coverage of the Players Championship
Schauffele on close call: Nothing but a positive
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Playing in a final group at a major for the first time, Xander Schauffele awkwardly splashed out of three pot bunkers, went out in 40 and still somehow had a chance to win at Carnoustie.
Playing the 17th hole, tied with Francesco Molinari, Schauffele flared his approach shot into the right rough and couldn’t get up and down for par. He dropped one shot behind Molinari, and then two, after the Italian birdied the final hole.
Just like that, Schauffele was doomed to a runner-up finish at The Open.
“A little bit of disappointment,” he said. “Obviously when you don’t win, you’re disappointed. Hats off to Francesco. I looked up on 17 and saw he got to 8 under, which is just incredible golf and an incredible finish.”
Schauffele did well to give himself a chance. The 24-year-old was in the final group with Spieth, but both youngsters fell off the pace after rocky starts. The Tour’s reigning Rookie of the Year birdied the 14th but couldn’t convert a 15-footer on the treacherous 16th that would have given him a one-shot cushion.
“It’s going to go in the memory bank as a positive,” he said. “I had a chance to win a major championship. I was in the final group. I had to face a little bit of adversity early in the round, and I still gave myself a chance. Anyone can look at it however they want to, but I’m going to look at is as a positive moving forward and try to learn how to handle the situations a little better next time.”
They came, they saw and Molinari conquered The Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – From a perch above the 17th tee, next to a three-story grandstand that may well be the tallest structure on the Angus coast, the 147th Open Championship unfolded with more twists and turns than a Russian novel.
It was all there like a competitive kaleidoscope to behold. In quick order, Rory McIlroy’s title chances slipped away with a whimper, a par at the last some 100 yards to the left of the 17th tee. Tiger Woods, seemingly refreshed and reborn by the Scottish wind, missed his own birdie chance at the 16th hole, a half-court attempt near the buzzer for a player who is 0-for-the last decade in majors.
Moments later, Kevin Kisner scrambled for an all-world par of his own at No. 16 and gazed up at the iconic leaderboard as he walked to the 17th tee box, his title chances still hanging in the balance a shot off the lead.
Francesco Molinari was next, a textbook par save at No. 16 to go along with a collection of by-the-book holes that saw the Italian play his weekend rounds bogey-free. He also hit what may have been the most important drive of his life into what a Scot would call a proper wind at the 17th hole.
Xander Schauffele, who was tied with Molinari at the time at 7 under par, anchored the action, missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 16th hole. Moments later the Italian calmly rolled in a 5-footer for birdie at the last to finish his week at 8 under par.
All this unfolded over a frenzied final hour of play at Carnoustie, offering just a taste of what the other four-plus hours of play resembled.
“I couldn't watch Xander play the last two holes, to be honest,” said Molinari, who became the first Italian to win a major. “That's why I went to the putting green, because I probably would have felt sick watching on TV,”
Carnoustie may not be the fairest of the Open rotation courses, but it certainly delivers the dramatic goods regularly enough.
Woods’ prediction earlier in the week that this Open Championship would come down to no fewer than 10 would-be champions seemed hyperbolic. It turns out he was being conservative with his estimate.
All total, 11 players either held a share of the lead or moved to within a stroke of the top spot on a hectic Sunday. For three days Carnoustie gave, the old brute left exposed by little wind and even less rough. Earlier in the week, players talked of not being able to stop the ball on the dusty and dry links turf. But as the gusts built and the tension climbed on Sunday, stopping the bleeding became a bigger concern.
If most majors are defined by two-way traffic, a potpourri of competitive fortunes to supercharge the narrative, this Open was driven in one direction and a cast of would-be champions with a single goal: hang on.
A day that began with three players – including defending champion Jordan Spieth, Kisner and Schauffele – tied for the lead at 9 under, quickly devolved into a free-for-all.
Kisner blinked first, playing his first three holes in 3 over par; followed by Spieth whose poor 3-wood bounded into a gorse bush at the sixth hole and led to an unplayable lie. It was a familiar scene that reminded observers of his unlikely bogey at Royal Birkdale’s 13th hole last year. But this time there was no practice tee to find refuge and his double-bogey 7 sent him tumbling down the leaderboard.
“I was trying to take the burn out of the equation by hitting 3-wood to carry it. It was unlucky. It went into the only bush that's over on the right side. If it misses it, I hit the green and have a birdie putt,” Spieth said.
Schauffele’s struggles coincided with Spieth’s, with whom he played on Sunday, with a bogey at the sixth sandwiched between a bogey (No. 5) and a double bogey (No. 7).
This opened the door to what the entire golf world has awaited, with Woods vaulting into the lead at 7 under par, the first time since the ’11 Masters he’d led at a major, and sending a low rumble across the course.
Since Woods last won a major, that ’08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on one leg, Spieth and Schauffele, who Tiger spotted four strokes on Sunday, graduated from high school; McIlroy went from phenom to four-time major winner and Donald Trump was transformed from being a TV celebrity to the President of the United States.
But the fairytale only lasted a few minutes with Woods playing Nos. 11 and 12 in 3 over par. They were the kind of mistakes the 14-time major champion didn’t make in his prime
“A little ticked off at myself, for sure. I had a chance starting that back nine to do something, and I didn't do it,” said Woods, who finished tied for sixth but will have the consolation prize of moving into the top 50 in the world ranking to qualify for the last WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in two weeks.
But as Woods faded, McIlroy made a familiar move, charging in an eagle putt at the par-5 14th hole to tie Molinari and Schauffele at 6 under par. The Northern Irishman would run out of holes, playing the final four in even par to finish tied for second, but the moment wasn’t lost on him.
“It was great, just to be a part of it and hear the roars. Tiger being back in the mix. You know, everything,” McIlroy said. “There's a lot of big names up there. It was nice to be a part of it. For a while, I thought Tiger was going to win. My mindset was go and spoil the party here.”
By the time the final groups reached Carnoustie’s finishing stretch it was a two-man party, with Molinari proving for the second time this month that boring golf can be effective.
Although he’d won the European Tour’s flagship event in May, Molinari decided to add the Quicken Loans National to his schedule because of his precarious position on the FedExCup points list (122nd) – he won that, too. The week before the Open, he fulfilled his commitment to play the John Deere Classic, a requirement under the PGA Tour’s new strength of field rule, and finished second.
Although his track record at The Open was nothing special – he’d posted just a single top-10 finish in his first 10 starts at the game’s oldest championship – his machine-like game was always going to be a perfect fit for a brown and bouncy links like Carnoustie and a topsy-turvy final round.
“I told his caddie earlier this week, because I didn’t want to say it to [Molinari], I have a good feeling this week,” said Molinari’s swing coach Denis Pugh. “It was the perfect combination of clarity and confidence.”
With the sun splashing against the baked-out fairways, Molinari emerged from the clubhouse, wide-eyed and a little dazed after what could only be described as a major melee, his no-nonsense, fairways-and-greens game the perfect tonic for an Open that defied clarity until the very end.
Spieth and Schauffele were put on the clock Sunday
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Contending in a major championship on what is largely considered the toughest major championship course can be hard enough, but as Jordan Spieth reached the 10th tee box, he was given another layer of anxiety.
Spieth, who was playing with Xander Schauffele on Sunday at Carnoustie, was informed that his group had fallen behind and been put on the clock. On the next tee, he was given a “bad time” for taking too long to hit his drive.
“I handled it OK, but looking back, you know, that was a turning point in the round,” said Spieth, who played Nos. 10 and 11 in even par and finished tied for ninth after a closing 76. “If you get 1 under on those two holes with a downwind par 5 left [No. 14], it's a different story.”
Spieth, who began the day tied for the lead with Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under, had dropped out the top spot with a double bogey-7 at the sixth hole. He was tied for the lead when officials put his group on the clock.
“I took over the allotted time on the tee on 11 to decide on 3-iron or 3-wood, but throughout the day, I think I played the fastest golf I've probably ever played while contending in a tournament,” he said.
Woods (T-6) qualifies for WGC-Bridgestone via OWGR
After narrowly missing out on a 15th major title at Carnoustie, Tiger Woods can take solace in the fact that he earned a return to Firestone Country Club by the thinnest of margins.
Woods was ranked No. 71 in the world entering The Open, and the top 50 in the rankings on both July 23 and July 30 will earn invites to the upcoming WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Despite missing a short birdie putt on the 72nd hole, Woods' three-way tie for sixth was enough to lift him to exactly 50th in the updated rankings.
It means that Woods will return to Akron in two weeks despite starting the year ranked No. 656. Firestone's South Course is the site of eight of Woods' 79 career PGA Tour victories, including his most recent worldwide victory back in 2013 when he won by seven shots. He has not played the invitation-only event since withdrawing in 2014 because of injury.
That's also the last time that Woods played in any of the four WGC events.
Woods had stated for several weeks that he hoped to return to Firestone this summer, given that the tournament will permanently shift to TPC Southwind in Memphis beginning next year. While he had the option to play next week's RBC Canadian Open to bolster his world ranking, Woods reiterated in recent weeks that his status for Akron would simply hinge on his performance in The Open.
"One of my goals is to get into Akron one last time before we leave there," Woods said at The Players Championship in May. "I've won there eight times and I'd love to get there with one more chance."
Speaking to reporters after a final-round 71, Woods explained that he thought he needed a top-4 finish to qualify and had fallen short. Instead, his 5-under total and best finish in a major since the 2013 Open at Muirfield proved to be just enough.
Woods will now take a week off before teeing it up in Akron Aug. 2-5, followed by an appearance the following week at the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.