Tiger Starts Defense of Masters Title

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 11, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Jack Nicklaus sloshed through mud outside the Augusta National clubhouse, seemingly oblivious to the biting breeze, the chilling drizzle, the total lack of anyone else on the putting green.
 
'Ah, what a beautiful day,' he said, pulling out three balls for some last-minute Masters practice.
 
Hardly. Thursday was a day for staying inside after another wave of showers turned golf's hallowed grounds into a muddy mess, forcing the first round to be called off without a shot being struck.
 
They returned Friday morning, Tiger Woods and the rest of the 93-man field, as the 67th Masters finally got under way.
 
Sandy Lyle hit the opening tee shot under gray, damp clouds as the temperature struggled to reach 50 degrees. Fanfare was minimal. Club chairman Hootie Johnson wasn't on the first tee, as the Masters did not have honorary starters for the first time since 1982.
 
Players started on the 1st and 10th tees, with hopes of playing 36 holes to get the first major of the year back on schedule.
 
Nicklaus arrived at the course Thursday morning, only to get word that no golf would be played. He went back home for a while, but couldn't stay away.
 
'I didn't have anything else to do,' the six-time Masters champion said. 'So I figured I would go do some putting and chipping.'
 
He girded himself for the dreary, dank weather by layering a shirt, two sweaters and his rain suit. The folks staying in the nearby cabins had a better idea, judging from the smoke billowing from the fireplaces.
 
'I've never seen anything like this here,' said Ray Floyd, the 1976 Masters champion. 'I know the decision not to play was tough, but what else can you do?'
 
Indeed, while Augusta National has been trying to stave off Martha Burk and her protests against the all-male membership, there was nothing the exclusive club could do about another woman: Mother Nature.
 
For the first time since 1939, the opening round was postponed by rain.
 
'I'd like to see something good happen here because of all the negative press,' David Toms said. 'But we don't play in a dome.'
 
A dome would have come in handy this week. It's been raining since Sunday, knocking out one entire day of practice and cutting short the popular Par 3 Tournament.
 
Even so, some 30,000 fans showed up Thursday, ready to see some golf. They walked gingerly through the brown slop, but their shoes and pants were still splattered with mud. (Certainly, this will be a banner week for Augusta's dry cleaners.)
 
A few dozen fans even made it all the way down to Amen Corner, staking out a space with their folding chairs. No one ever came by.
 
'They're probably desperate to see a shot,' Scott Verplank said.
 
David Ziff traveled from Atlanta for his first Masters experience with a friend who arranged for the tickets. Driving down Washington Road, they heard on the radio that the first round had been called off.
 
'I'm going to walk the course, look around and go back to Atlanta,' said Ziff, holding three bags of Masters merchandise. 'At least I can say I've been here.'
 
Woods, chasing history as he goes after an unprecedented third straight title, didn't even make it to the golf course.
 
'Evidently, they felt it was unplayable,' he said.
 
More showers were expected Friday morning. When they do get around to golf, the soggy turf should play right into the hands of Woods and others who hit the ball far and high on a 7,290-yard course that will seem even longer.
 
Stamina also figures to play a big role. Memo to those who took Arnold Palmer in the office pool: The 73-year-old King isn't likely to make the cut for the first time since 1983.
 
'If you're not under 32 and can hit 280, you've got no chance,' said Loren Roberts, who is 47 and averages 254 off the tee.
 
The course was unplayable, even with the club's high-tech, underground drainage system. Some 4 inches of rain have inundated the course; on the third and seventh fairways, there was simply nowhere to take relief from casual water.
 
Players are allowed to lift, clean and place their balls in the fairway at regular PGA Tour events to cope with the mud. That doesn't happen at the majors, and club officials made it clear that the ball is played as it lies at the Masters.
 
'There would be a woman member here before that happens,' Chris DiMarco quipped.
 
And speaking of women, Burk and her National Council of Women's Organizations still plan to protest Saturday - the first day sunshine is in the forecast.
 
In Atlanta, Burk called on Augusta National members to take a stand against Johnson and turn in their green jackets if they don't agree with him on the issue of female members.
 
'The choice,' Burk said, 'is to stand up and support Hootie, or stand down.'
 
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Photo Gallery
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
     

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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.”