Come Fly With Me

By Mercer BaggsOctober 26, 2009, 6:50 pm

Y.E. Yang

THE FLY: Y.E. Yang found plenty of trouble getting to paradise. After making a 16-hour flight from South Korea to New York, Yang's charter plane from JFK airport to Bermuda had to be re-routed after the landing gear wouldn't retract.  A four-hour delay ensued before the PGA champion could again take off for his ultimate destination. In all, Yang's trip to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf took nearly 26 hours. While the three other major champions practiced and battled horrible weather conditions Monday in Bermuda, Yang took a nap on a fold-out bed in the locker room. Stewart Cink, the British Open champion, snapped a shot of Yang [above] with his camera phone and posted it on his Twitter page.
Sure, flying stinks, but pray we never develop Star Trek-like teleportation. Here's two reasons why: 1) Jeff Goldblum. 2) No excuse to avoid family. And if you're ever in a situation where you really want to get off an airplane, pull a Charles Grodin.

Angel Cabrera

THE FLY, PART II: Angel Cabrera had air transportation problems as well this past week. The reigning Masters champion endured multiple flight delays while trying to travel from Bermuda, site of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, to Spain for the Castello Masters. He missed his tee time and was disqualified.
Backspin To make matters worse, Cabrera's group was on the first green when play was suspended due to high winds. Had those winds picked up a bit earlier then Cabrera would have been able to make the start. This is probably the worst thing that has happened to Cabrera all year. What a great year it's been.

Lucas Glover

AIN'T LIFE GRAND: U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot 65-66 to win the PGA Grand Slam of Golf by four shots over Masters winner Angel Cabrera. British Open champ Stewart Cink was third, while PGA winner Y.E. Yang was fourth.
Backspin Winning a major championship is the gift that just keeps on giving. Not only do you secure a place in golf lore; you get lavished with praise, perks, and millions and millions and millions of dollars. Yang got $200,000 just for showing up and playing two days of care-free golf in Bermuda. The earning potential for a newly minted major champion is limited only by how much he is willing to exhaust himself during the offseason.

Troy Matteson

HEART OF THE MATT-ER: Troy Matteson won his second career PGA Tour event, defeating Rickie Fowler and Jamie Lovemark in sudden death at the Open. Matteson bogeyed his final two holes of regulation to force the playoff, but atoned with a birdie on the second extra hole.
Backspin Matteson set a 36-hole PGA Tour scoring record by shooting back-to-back 61s in the second and third rounds. Still, Fowler may have been the most impressive this week. The 20-year-old had an ace and seven birdies in the final round. In just two events on Tour as a pro, he's earned over $550K. He now needs to win the Viking Classic – not out of the realm of possibility – to earn a Tour card for 2010. Otherwise, it's off to the final stage of Q-School, which at least guarantees him a spot on the Nationwide Tour next year.

David Duval

MONEY TALKS: Troy Matteson's victory in the Open moved him from 131st to 55th on the PGA Tour money list, with two tournaments remaining. Matteson was the only player to move inside the top 125, while Jeff Maggert (123rd to 127th) took his place on the outside.
BackspinDavid Duval is now the official bubble boy at 125th. Rich Beem is 124th, with others like Steve Flesch and Ricky Barnes perilously slipping in the standings. Chris Riley is currently 126th, with $613,027 this season. It took $852,752 to finish 125th in earnings last year.
Nationwide Tour graduates

THE GRADUATES: Matt Every, needing at least a solo third-place finish to earn his 2010 PGA Tour card, won the Nationwide Tour Championship to secure a spot on the main circuit. He and 24 others now have tickets to the big show next season.
Backspin Count Fran Quinn among them. The veteran spent Saturday night in the hospital due to a urinary tract infection but managed to hang on to the 25th position. Brian Stuard and Alister Presnell were the only two players who started the week inside the cut line and were bounced out. Stuard finished $2,844 behind Quinn for the final spot.

Erik Compton

EASY E: Erik Compton easily advanced to the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School, winning his opening-round site by seven strokes. A year ago, and still recovering from his second heart transplant, Compton needed a late rally to make it to Stage 2, where his drive for a Tour card ended.
Backspin Hopefully, Compton will make it to the final stage, thus securing him at least a spot on the Nationwide Tour. Among those who didn't make it to Stage 2 were: Gary Nicklaus, the 40-year-old son of Jack Nicklaus; Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer; Tadd Fujikawa and former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee. Unlike the others who failed to advance, Lee still has a place to play next year as he won a 2009 European Tour event.
Michael Jonzon

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:  Michael Jonzon won the European Tour's Castello Masters. ... Phil Blackmar won his first Champions Tour title at the AT&T Championship. ... Trevor Immelman had successful wrist surgery and expects to be healthy for the 2010 season.
BackspinIt was the 37-year-old Swede's first European Tour win since 1997. And what a sweet trophy he won. ... Blackmar had been contemplating a move back to the broadcast booth before this triumph, which came in his home state of Texas. ... At least he knows no matter what happens each year he always has one place to play in April.

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

So much for that.

Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

What’s the difference now?

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

“I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

“I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”