Monsters ball at 90th PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
In Backspin, GolfChannel.com takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf ' with a spin.
 

ST. PADDYS DAY: Padraig Harrington won the PGA Championship, his second consecutive major championship, and now has claimed three of the past six majors. The Irishman didnt win this one going away like he did the Open Championship last month at Birkdale, as he made three huge clutch putts on the final three holes ' 16 for par; 17 for birdie; and 18 for par ' to defeat Ben Curtis and Sergio Garcia by two shots.
 
Backspin When Tiger Woods went on the DL after the U.S. Open, critics said it was time for someone else to step up and take advantage of the situation. Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia were the names thrown around most often as the ones expected to produce the goods. Never once did we hear Padraig Harringtons name in that conversation. Now, two months after the U.S. Open, Harrington has established himself as the worlds second-best player and has as many major championships as Mickelson.
 

ANOTHER CLOSE CALL: Sergio Garcia was the victim of another major championship. The Spaniard has 14 top-10 finishes in majors but hasnt collected a victory, meaning hell continue to carry the label of BPNTWAMC ' Best Player Never To Win A Major Championship. He led by one in the middle of the 16th fairway and lost by two.
 
Backspin El Nino will win one of these things eventually but it aint going to get any easier. Harrington is plucking off majors at a Tiger Woods-like clip and, um, well, Tiger Woods will be back for the Masters in April to continue to pluck off majors at a Tiger Woods-like clip. If the guy made putts in majors like he does in the Ryder Cup, hed have won more majors than Harrington and likely would have stolen two from the Irishman.
 

CURSE OF THE LIONS: Ben Curtis tied for second place with Garcia at Oakland Hills. The Ohio native led midway through the final round but lost a chance to validate his shocking victory in the 2003 British Open as he bogeyed two of the final four holes for a 71. He did, however, move up to No. 7 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings to qualify for the team next month at Valhalla.
 
Backspin What do you expect when you wear Detroit Lions paraphernalia all week? The Lions havent had a winning season since they were 9-7 in 2000. Wearing the Lions colors endeared Curtis to the galleries but it didnt do much for his karma. Tip for Curtis: Next time if you want to have your cake and eat it too, it may be better to go with Detroit Pistons gear.
 

SCARY STUFF: Living up to its nickname as 'The Monster,' Oakland Hills played very difficult as the winning score was 3 under, the highest winning score in relation to par at the PGA since 1987 when Larry Nelson won at 1 under.
 
BackspinThe Monster must have given the players nightmares all week, as hard greens and fairways, and impossibly thick rough made for an extremely difficult test of golf. It was one that many of the competitors did not appreciate, as Robert Allenby called the challenging setup, 'Crap.' Maybe we should send Mr. Allenby a thesaurus?
 

DIDN'T SEE THIS COMING...OR DID WE?: Kenny Perry withdrew from Oakland Hills after shooting an opening round 79 due to an eye injury he suffered while removing a contact lens just two days prior. The Kentuckian, who had made the cut in 16 of his last 17 PGA Championships, was playing in his first major of the year.
 
Backspin Putting aside Perry's peculiar decision to play in Milwaukee rather than Birkdale, it would be tragic if a scratched cornea were to keep the 48-year-old from playing in the Ryder Cup Matches. It left the Kentucky native with just one round of golf played in majors in the 2008 season. Very, very weird.
 

GLORY'S LAST CUT:There were many casualties of Oakland Hills as multiple big names failed to qualify for the weekend. Adam Scotts, Lee Westwoods and K.J. Choi's quests for their first major were cut short, while major champions Zach Johnson, Trevor Immelman and Vijay Singh also had the weekend off.
 
Backspin Fresh off a victory at Firestone, Singh's putting woes continued as the Fijian four-putted his final hole on Friday to miss the cut. Westwood made sure to let the PGA of America know what he felt about the golf course before heading home early after carding 77-78. The Englishman ripped the layout saying that the organizers 'are sucking the fun out of the major championships.' Thanks Lee, but weren't not sure majors championships were ever supposed to be 'fun.'
 

ANOTHER GOODBYE: The Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika ended its two-year run as an LPGA event, citing lack of sponsorship as the main reason for canceling the tournament
 
Backspin Annika's event had the LPGA's third highest pay out at $2.6 million, but with its namesake calling it a career the major draw was gone. And while we're talking about Sorenstam, the Swede tied for sixth place on the LET's Scandinavian TPC, playing for the final time in her home country.
 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Duke star Amanda Blumenherst won the U.S. Womens Amateur on Sunday, beating NCAA champion Azahara Munoz, 2 and 1, in the 36-hole final at Eugene Country Club...Scott Piercy won this week on the Nationwide Tour with for his first career victory on the circuit...Eric Manning shot a second-round 88 at Oakland Hills to take the honor of highest round shot at the 90th PGA Championship.
 
Backspin Blumenherst, a three-time NCAA Player of the Year and runner-up at this event in 2007, had to rally for the win as she found herself 1-down after the morning 18 and still a hole behind through 27... Piercy drained a 20-footer for birdie on the 17th hole to seal the deal. 'To make that at that time you cant ask for anything more, Piercy said...Manning, the Cortland Country Club head pro in Syracuse, N.Y., fired a sublime no birdie, two triple bogey, three double bogey, six bogey round on Friday.
 

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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.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.

     

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    Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

    The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

    Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

    Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.