Almost Epic

By Mercer BaggsAugust 31, 2008, 4:00 pm
Heath Slocum wins The Barclays

DON'T BLAME ME: Heath Slocum won the first FedEx Cup Playoffs event, parring the 72nd hole for a one-shot triumph over Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker. In the process, Slocum moved from 124th to third on the FedEx Cup points list.
Backspin Slocum deserves great applause for beating three sure-fire future Hall of Famers. However ... this was a MASSIVE blow to The Playoffs. To start with a sudden-death battle featuring Woods, Els and Harrington could have been like the first three rounds of the Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns fight, but with the prospect of it going nine more. In the end, The Barclays crowned a deserving champion, but one who quashed a lot of buzz by making one 20-foot putt.
Liberty National Golf Club

(DON'T) GIVE ME LIBERTY: Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J., played host to The Barclays for the first time. The course offered picturesque views, including the Statue of Liberty. However, players didn't seem overly impressed with the course itself.
Backspin Tiger Woods bypassed the media each of the first two days, presumably adhering to the adage, 'If you don't have anything nice to say ... .' Even Tour nice guy Zach Johnson responded with, 'I'm not your guy,' when asked to comment on the course. Are PGA Tour players pampered and whiny? Of course they are. And they should be tased for complaining about things like bumpy greens at Pebble Beach. But they do have a point on this one: They're in the 'playoffs,' playing for millions and millions of dollars. They shouldn't be playing on tracks where one the best things anyone could muster was, building this course 'ruined a perfectly good landfill.'
Sergio Garcia at The Barclays

DO YOU MIND?: One week after coming up one inch short of missing out on a playoff, Sergio Garcia took a share of the first-round lead at The Barclays after an opening 6-under 65. He then shot 76-74-70 to tie for 31st.
Backspin Garcia remains winless on Tour since last year's Players. He's also endured some pretty brutal defeats the past few seasons. But I wouldn't advise him to see a sports psychologist, simply because I don't believe in them. Not like werewolves, I do believe sports psychologists exist. I just find their existence further evidence as to how much better Tiger Woods is than everybody else. He doesn't need one, and neither do you, Sergio. Use that money on better things. Like taffy.
Jim Furyk

NO QUIT IN FURYK: Jim Furyk closed in 69 Sunday at The Barclays to tie for 15th, six shots back of winner Heath Slocum. If not for a third-round blunder, however, he might have contended for the title. Furyk played the first two holes Saturday with an extra club in his bag. He was penalized two strokes per hole.
Backspin After becoming aware of the infraction – which turned a pair of opening pars into two double bogeys – Furyk responded with five birdies and no bogeys over the remainder of his round. He then made three more birdie to just one bogey Sunday. Furyk is the Bizarro World John Daly – or vice versa.
Adam Scott

TAKE IT EASY: The top 100 players on the FedEx Cup points list qualified for this week's Deutsche Bank Championship outside of Boston. Some of those missing the cut were: K.J. Choi (No. 101), Michael Allen (108) and Adam Scott (110),
Backspin Four players jumped inside the top 100 (Heath Slocum, Fredrik Jacobson, Troy Matteson and Richard S. Johnson) and four fell out (Choi, Matt Bettencourt, George McNeil and Ben Curtis). Thirty more players will get the ax after the Labor Day conclusion of the Deutsche Bank.
M.J. Hur wins the Safeway Classic

THAT TROPHY'S BIGGER THAN HUR: M.J. Hur, a rookie on the LPGA, birdied the second extra hole to defeat Suzann Pettersen at the Safeway Classic. Hur shot a flawless five birdie, one eagle, 7-under 65 Sunday en route to her first tour win. Pettersen was in complete control of the tournament until a bogey at 14 and a double bogey at 15.
Backspin As senior writer Randall Mell pointed out it's been nearly four months since an American has won on the LPGA. Maybe they should make more tournaments team events.
Michelle Wie

WIE'RE GETTING CLOSER: Michelle Wie finished two back at the Safeway Classic, two removed from a playoff. She shot rounds of 68-71-66 for her fourth top-5 finish of the season.
Backspin Wie was done in by an erratic second round, which included five birdies and four bogeys. But she made a game of it on Sunday, recording six birdies without dropping a shot. Wie has never been much of a closer. If that changes, she'll add considerably to the American win total each year.
Paula Creamer

SICK TO HER STOMACH: As reported by Randall Mell, Paula Creamer withdrew from the Safeway Classic due to flu-like symptoms. Her family is hoping this recent ailment is just a bug and not more serious. Creamer has suffered from a mysterious stomach malady since last year, which is still undiagnosed.
Backspin What's scarier than the unknown? You're sick and doctors can't tell you why. With my luck, they'd say: 'We've never seen this before in humans, only in lemurs.' Hopefully, for her sake and the LPGA's, Creamer will be back to full strength very soon.
Byeong-Hun An wins 109th U.S. Amateur

THE U.S. AM TO AN: Byeong Hun-An, a 17-year-old high school senior in Florida, defeated Clemson senior Ben Martin, 7 and 5, to become the youngest champion ever at the 109th U.S. Amateur. It's the second consecutive year that has happened. An is about a month and a half younger than Danny Lee was when he broke Tiger Woods’ record last year to become the youngest champion in an event which began in 1895.
Backspin An isn't just young; he's from South Korea – which isn't a bad thing. It just means that internationally-born players have won five of the last seven U.S. Amateur Championships. That's not a bad thing either, globally speaking. But when Americans stop winning American events, Americans tend to stop paying attention.
Peter Hedblom wins the Johnnie Walker

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Peter Hedblom won the Johnnie Walker Championship for his third career European Tour title. ... Loren Roberts birdied his final two holes to win the Boeing Classic on the Champions Tour. ... Tiger Woods won the second annual Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge. ... Woods also joined the field for the HSBC Champions in China, which is now part of the World Golf Championships series.
Backspin Few champions opt for the Burt Reynolds '72 Cosmo pose after victory (You can Google that one on your own). ... Roberts beat Mark O'Meara by one to keep the two-time major champion winless on the senior circuit. ... The skins game, which also featured Begay, Mike Weir and Camilo Villegas, made $750,000 for Begay's foundation, which uses sports to promote physical fitness and wellness among Native American youth. ... The Champions field includes Woods, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, British Open champion Stewart Cink, PGA champion Y.E. Yang and defending champion Sergio Garcia.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage – The Barclays
  • Full Coverage – U.S. Amateur Championship
  • Full Coverage – Johnnie Walker Championship
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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.