Tiger the Man to Beat at Firestone

By Golf Channel NewsroomAugust 16, 2005, 4:00 pm
Due to the delayed finish of the PGA Championship, it's a short week for some of the games top players as they descend upon Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, for this week's WGC-NEC Invitational.
Since it was included as one of the four World Golf Championship events in 1999, the NEC has had quite a run of entertaining golf. And the one player who has put on the best show at Firestone is Tiger Woods.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' record at the WGC-NEC is unmatched by anyone in the event's six year history.
In the event's inaugural year of 1999, Tiger rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on the 17th to help him edge Phil Mickelson by a stroke. The win came on the heels of his first-ever victory at the PGA Championship.
He then duplicated the feat the following year, pulling off the double dip at the PGA and NEC by lapping the field in Akron. Twice flirting with shooting 59, Tiger's 259 four-day total still stands as the tournament record.
In 2001, Woods and Jim Furyk put on an epic duel in a seven-hole playoff that ended with Woods third straight victory in the event.
The following two years a little international flavor reached the winner's circle with Australia's Craig Parry taking home the title in 2002 and then Darren Clarke puffing his way to victory in 2003.
Which leads us to defending champion Stewart Cink's win last year over that Woods fella. No, Tiger didn't win but his second place showing ran his record at the NEC to this: 1st, 1st, 1st, T-4, 4th and 2nd. Throw out his opening-round 75 at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol and we could be looking at Tiger going for his third PGA-NEC combo this week.
Five for the Title
Tiger Woods
Woods is the least likely player to have a post-PGA letdown due to his record at Firestone and his unwavering belief in trying to win every tournament. Tiger is unquestionably the mentally toughest in the game - a point reinforced by his T-4 finish after grinding to just make the cut at Baltusrol,. And Firestone CC obviously fits his eye and its length - a monster at 7,360 yards on a par-70 layout - bodes well for the world's No. 1 player.
Phil Mickelson
With another 800lb. gorilla off his back following his validating win at Baltusrol, Lefty might shoot for even loftier goals such as challenging Woods for the No. 1 world ranking. A tall order indeed, considering Mickelson has never ascended to the top spot in the world, even before Tiger made it on the scene back in 1996. Mickelson has had success in this event, with a win in 1996 when it was known as the World Series of Golf, then three straight runners-up from 1997-99.
Davis Love
Sparked by his strong showing at the PGA Championship, Love brings a good record at the NEC to the table. Though he hasn't visited the winner's circle, Love has four top-10s in just six attempts, including a fourth place showing last year and a third in 2003. Despite having a rough go at it in the final round at the PGA, he proved to himself he can still play with the best.
Vijay Singh
Not one to let things ruffle his feathers too much - like a poor putting performance at Baltusrol - Singh just continues to put up astonishing numbers, and most importantly wins. Tied with Woods and Mickelson with four titles thus far in 2005, the big Fijian also has seven other top-5s on the year. Best showing at Firestone, however, is a tie for sixth in 2003.
Retief Goosen
Goosen has quietly - of course - put together an impressive season with a win at the International two weeks ago and his third top-6 effort in the majors at the PGA Championship. Striking the ball as well as just about anybody, the Goose just needs to get hot with the putter. Ranked fifth in the world and sitting in the sixth spot on the money list, Goosen will most assuredly be in the mix this weekend.
Playing Out the Font Nine
Four more to keep an eye on...
* Stewart Cink
Always needing to give a nod to the defending champ, Cink's sizzling opening-round 63 last year led to his wire-to-wire win, which was his second victory of the season. Ranked fifth in prize money in '04, he currently sits in the 34th position.
* David Toms
The unassuming Toms is putting together another solid, if not spectacular, season. He was, however, spectacular in the year's first WGC event. His roll through the six-match Match Play event was some of the finest golf of the year. He comes into NEC with some confidence after a satisfying 69-68 on the weekend at Baltusrol.
* Zach Johnson
Might be playing with a chip on his shoulder after be passed over by Jack Nicklaus for the Presidents Cup team. Finished 12th on the list but Fred Couples got the nod.
* Fred Couples
Opposite of Johnson, gets boost of confidence with his selection to the team from hero Nicklaus. Was in the mix at PGA Championship until a final-round 76 derailed him. Plus, with the majors now over for 2005 it's about time he starts warming up for those silly season events that he loves, in which there is no equal.
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    Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

    Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

    Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

    Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

    He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

    "I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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    How to watch The Open on TV and online

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

    You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

    Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

    In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

    Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

    (All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

    Monday, July 16

    GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

    GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

    GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

    Tuesday, July 17

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

    Wednesday, July 18

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

    Thursday, July 19

    GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

    GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

    Friday, July 20

    GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

    Saturday, July 21

    GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

    Sunday, July 22

    GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

    GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

    GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

    GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

    GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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    The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

    Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

    What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

    What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

    How old is it?

    It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

    Where is it played?

    There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

    Where will it be played this year?

    At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

    Who has won The Open on that course?

    Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

    Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

    Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

    Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

    This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

    Who has won this event the most?

    Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

    What about the Morrises?

    Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

    Have players from any particular country dominated?

    In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

    Who is this year's defending champion?

    That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

    What is the trophy called?

    The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

    Which Opens have been the most memorable?

    Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

    When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

    Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.