Backspin Out of Focus

By Dena DavisJune 1, 2009, 4:00 pm
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WIND BENEATH HIS WINGS: After five top-10s this season, including some heartbreaking near-misses, Steve Stricker finally won, defeating Tim Clark and Steve Marino in a playoff at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. The critical point to Stricker's round was his chip-in birdie on No. 17. In his press conference following the victory, Stricker said a 'man in the stands' told him to chip it in there on the 71st hole and hearing that encouragement from a stranger actually helped him focus.
Backspin Now, that's what you call 'the 12th man' right there. Strick, a Wisconsin native, should consider sending the guy a wheel of cheese for being an inspiration, or letting the fan wear his Tartan jacket for a week. Or both. How cool would one look in a Tartan jacket wielding a wheel of cheese?

CLOSING TIM(E): Clark, who has won the most money on the PGA Tour without winning an event, blew a two-shot lead with five holes to go Sunday. He left short a 9-foot putt that would've won it on the final hole, then pulled a 7-footer that would've ended the playoff on the first hole. Afterward, he bailed on the press room, not wanting to deal with the media, but did offer this to an on-course Tour rep: 'I can't take anything positive from today. I have a lot of work to do when it comes to closing out golf tournaments.'
Backspin Well, he also may have some work to do when it comes to being a professional athlete. Somewhere in Cleveland, LeBron James doesn't feel so alone. However, we'll give the affable Clark a pass on not facing the media. After all, he didn't have a great supporting cast ' that broomstick putter is doing him no favors. It's too bad the 33-year-old South African wasn't able to stay focused and finish this one, just to get that monkey off his back. The good news is that while Clark isn't the closer he wants to be yet, he is getting closer each time he puts himself in position to win. He should really focus on that.

UNBREAK MY SHARK, ER, HEART?: Earlier in the week at the European Open in Ash, England, Sergio Garcia said his game has suffered due to his breakup with Greg Norman's daughter Morgan-Leigh in March. While the world's No. 4 did win a European Tour event in November, he's notched only one top-10 finish ' at the Qatar Masters in January ' since then.
Backspin It's never easy getting over heartbreak. Just ask Greg Norman. Oh, wait. Maybe Sergio shouldn't go there ... Actually, it's for the best that Garcia, somewhat a modern day version of the Shark (without actually having won a major) is not spending time with the Norman family anymore. Maybe he should consider spending time with Arnold Palmer's granddaughters ' or dating the relatives of any other Hall-of-Famer who could actually close. That good karma is bound to rub off on the hard-luck El Nino, right?

PRETTY IN PINK: Tour players at the Colonial made a vibrant statement in the fight against breast cancer, and in support of Amy Mickelson, by donning an array of pink garb on Saturday at Hogan's Alley. David Feherty even got into the act. Amy Mickelson expressed her overwhelming gratitude for the gesture on Phil's Web site: 'It has been a very humbling day... We are determined to overcome this. Today's 'PINK OUT' will help all people, whether they're fighting breast cancer or helping a loved one, know that they are not alone. '
Backspin Once again displaying the positive attributes and humility many have come to expect from Amy, Phil Mickelson's wife showed great class in her reaction to the day ' and in her deflecting the attention off of her and focusing on raising awareness for the disease and all of the other women affected. We just wish someone could have brought less focus to funnyman Feherty's facial hair. Nobody needs to see that.

'BEAUTY!': On the 20-year anniversary of his victory at Colonial, Ian Baker-Finch played the Crowne Plaza Invitational, only his second time competing in the last 12 years. The 48-year-old Australian, best remembered for his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale in 1991 and his subsequent psychological problems that would eventually be the demise of his golf career, had not played tournament golf in eight years. He missed the cut in Fort Worth going 72-77, and returned to covering the tournament for CBS and using adjectives like, 'beauty!' and 'juicy!' to describe other player's golf shots.
Backspin You could make an argument that perhaps Finchy took a spot that would have been better for a younger player ' a viable competitor. But at least the Aussie didn't blow up with a round of 92 as he did at the 1997 British open when he was lured back into competition. We hope this helped him between the ears, allowing him to shed some of the psychological demons from his past. Let's just hope this doesn't inspire other past champions to want to play on the 20th anniversary of their various PGA Tour wins. Old guys embarrassing themselves in tournaments out of their league is best saved for the first two rounds of the Masters ' where IBF can tell CBS watchers that Ray Floyd put that one 'right in the Mayor's office.'

NOT GOING ANYWHERE FOR A WHILE? TWEET: LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens announced she was open to having her tour members use Twitter, the popular social networking site, during tournaments so they can express their emotions and interact better with fans. 'I'd love it if players Twittered during the middle of a round,' Bivens said. 'The new media is very important to the growth of golf and we view it as a positive, and a tool to be used.'
Backspin Paula Creamer just joined Twitter last week. Natalie Gulbis, Christina Kim, Michelle Wie and Morgan Pressel are also all frequent tweeters. What I would point out here, is that the hands-down most popular PGA Tour tweeter, Stewart Cink, started consistently tweeting around the time he finished third at the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February. Since then, he's missed two cuts and had only one top-25 finish. There's something to be said about focus that Ms. Bivens should consider. Having the ladies connect with their fans is one thing. But if they're preoccupied trying to pen clever 140-character tweets in the middle of tournaments, then some serious questions should be raised: wouldn't this breed slow-play and wouldn't it undermine the credibility of the tour? We'd rather see Paula Creamer win a major than read her tweeted feelings on the 18th hole at the LPGA McDonalds after she misses a 3-footer that would've given her that elusive win.

NOT ON HIS WATCH?: Little-known European Tour player Christian Cevaer, 449th in the world, beat England's Steve Webster, Scot Gary Orr and Spaniard Alvaro Quiros by a shot to take the European Open at the London Golf Club in Ash, England. Cevaer's 74 was the highest final round by a winner all season. While the aforementioned likely produces yawns from those in the U.S., across the pond, the event caused a stir as the Frenchman's slow-play was the most discussed topic among the galleries.
BackspinApparently, Cevaer has a serious history of the slow-play affliction, and even has the dubious distinction of being the first European Tour member to be penalized back in 2002. But now that he's notched a victory ' after agonizing and deliberating over every single one of his shots and barely making it to dusk-time ' the question sluggishly looms: Will George O'Grady punish the triumphant tortoise? The European Tour commissioner handed Cavaer his trophy and a fancy Rolex watch for his win Sunday. We're thinking O'Grady should have slipped the slow-play fine into the watch's box as a symbolic reminder. We are also thinking that if this hare-brained (pun intended) 'twittering-during-a-round' notion catches on on the Euro Tour, Cavaer doesn't stand a chance of even finishing a tournament.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The LPGA will contest their Tour Championship as the season finale, with or without a sponsor, in Houston. ... Peter Hanson qualified for the U.S. Open, earning the final spot by making a hole-in-one in a sudden-death playoff. ... Davis Love III made it through qualifying to earn a spot in the Open Championship. ...
Backspin The LPGA now contests zero tournaments in the state of Florida ' or three fewer events than they play in Mexico. ... That is the ultimate walk-off moment. ... Give Love credit for not only earning a spot in the field, but for putting aside his pride and going through qualifying. ...
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Crowne Plaza Invitational
  • Full Coverage ' European Open
  • Complete News Headlines
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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 was able to cobble together 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  

    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; or check the GLE app)

    Monday, July 16

    GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

    GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

    GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

    Tuesday, July 17

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

    Wednesday, July 18

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

    Thursday, July 19

    GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

    GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

    Friday, July 20

    GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

    Saturday, July 21

    GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

    NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

    Sunday, July 22

    GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

    NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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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.