Shag Bag Blog Week 18

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 3, 2009, 4:00 pm
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Welcome to the Shag Bag, where the team and Golf Channel talent will regularly file thoughts and opinions from around the world of golf.

Redemption thy name is 4-iron. Its not that Sean OHairs tee shot at Quail Hollow Clubs 17th was the steeliest of shots, and his bogey followed by a three-putt at the last made for a nervous few minutes, but given OHairs history down the stretch with tournament hardware on the line, it was progress.
OHair rinsed a few at TPC Sawgrass 17th a few years back to dunk his title hopes and earlier this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational he found another watery fate at Bay Hills 16th. On Sunday at Quail Hollow, OHairs 4-iron tee shot at the demanding 17th avoided the water and his bogey-bogey finish was good enough to hold off the likes of Tiger Woods, Lucas Glover and Bubba Watson.
Its worth pointing out that OHairs misses at the 2007 Players against Phil Mickelson and Woods at Bay Hill have given him a rare trail-under-fire seasoning among the games American young guns. Seasoning that likely made things a tad easier at Quail Hollow.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 3, 6:22 p.m. ET


In hindsight, Zach Johnsons birdie blitz, which featured eight birdies in an 11-hole stretch, on Friday at Quail Hollow Club should come as no surprise.
Charlotte, N.C., is close enough to Georgia ' where the Z Man has won three of his five Tour titles ' and Quail Hollow, tamed to scoring perfection this year by officials in search of a spark, has an Augusta National look to it. The rough is being maintained at 2 inches, at the Masters they call that the second cut, and the greens have been rolled to slick perfection.
It all adds up to a perfect fit for the fairways-and-greens putting wizard Johnson.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted May 1, 12:58 p.m. ET


In case youre wondering, 11 of Tiger Woods 66 PGA Tour victories have been wire-to-wire triumphs.
While a lots made of his record with the lead going into the final round of a PGA Tour event (45-3), Woods isnt bad protecting a first-round lead.
With his 65 Thursday at the Quail Hollow Championship, Woods took a first-round lead for the 24th time in a PGA Tour event. He won 13 of those and has won 9 of the last 12 times he jumped out front in the first round.
Here are his wire-to-wire PGA Tour victories: 06 CA Championship, 06 Ford Championship, 05 WGC-Bridgestone, 05 British Open, 03 BMW Championship, 02 CA Championship, 02 U.S. Open, 02 Arnold Palmer Invitational, 00 WGC-Bridgestone, 00 PGA Championship and 00 U.S. Open.
' Randall Mell
Posted May 1, 11:37 a.m. ET


Tiger Woods lost the Masters, a fact he is probably becoming tired of being reminded. After a few days cooling off in central Florida he seemed properly vented and ready to continue conquering at Quail Hollow on Thursday. That is until a member of the media reminded him of his Masters miss.
In 2000 I had a pretty good year that year and I didn't win the Masters, either, Woods said of that historic 00 campaign that featured nine victories and the final three legs of the Grand Slam.
Still a tad cool, we see.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 30, 3:51 p.m. ET


NBC-TV analyst Johnny Miller used a car analogy comparing Phil Mickelson with Tiger Woods in a media teleconference Thursday afternoon.
Phil has as much horsepower in his car as Tiger, Miller said. Its just that the lug nuts arent tightened down as much.
Miller is preparing to work The Players Championship at the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. next week.
If Tiger never existed, Phil would be the Tiger today, Miller said.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 30, 1:53 p.m. ET


Rumors of Hank Haneys demise have been greatly exaggerated. At least that was Tiger Woods figurative take of all the Axe Hank talk on the Inter-web since the Masters. On Thursday, the world No. 1 added a literal endorsement of his swing coach with a final-nine 30 at Quail Hollow Club and a Day 1 65.
Haney, who spent last weekend in central Florida working with Woods, would be particularly pleased with how the First Pupil picked his way around the layout, hitting 77 percent of his greens in regulation and needing just 1.57 putts per green in regulation.
Woods 65, good for an early three-stroke lead, is his lowest opening round on Tour since the 2007 Tour Championship, and ' hopefully ' a reason for the Web world to give Haney a break.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 30, 12:52 p.m. ET


John Daly says hes swinging better without his love handles.
Daly, who reports hes up to 60 pounds lost after Lap-Band surgery in Feburary, opened with a respectable 2-under-par 70 Thursday in the first round of the European Tours Spanish Open.
Losing the weight hasnt hurt his power. He averaged a whopping 328.5 yards per drive in the first round. It will be interesting to see how that stands up against long-hitting Alvaro Quiros at days end. Daly played a morning round, Quiros is out in the afternoon.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 30, 9:45 a.m. ET


Brandt Snedeker withdrew from this weeks Quail Hollow Championship and headed home to Nashville, Tenn., to receive treatment for a rib injury that flared up three weeks ago at the Masters.
Snedeker, who also pulled out of last weeks Zurich Classic, was scheduled to work with a pair of trainers from the Tennessee Titans staff and plans to be ready for next weeks Players Championship. The injury was characterized by Snedekers manager as a strain and should not be a lingering problem
In 2005 Snedeker cracked a rib while playing the Nationwide Tour and the time off could be helpful for a player who has struggled since his magical Sunday duel with Trevor Immelman at last years Masters.
The injury is another blow to the American youth movement. Anthony Kim has been slowed this season by a hamstring injury, all of which may prompt U.S. Presidents Cup captain Freddie Couples to request a weekly injury report along with points updates.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 29, 4:46 p.m. ET


Tiger Woods met with the media at the Quail Hollow Championship Wednesday.
He was asked about speculation about Hank Haneys future as his swing coach, speculation based on reports that Woods gave Haney an earful of his frustration after the second round of the Masters.
Heres a snippet of the ASAP Sports transcript where Woods addresses that:
Q: There was some speculation because you were a little cranky at times at Augusta about Hank and your status and his future.
TIGER WOODS: Thats complete speculation. It has nothing to do with Henry. I didnt hit the ball the way I wanted to and I didnt make any putts. I felt like that every day. It was 17 and 18 that hurt. I didnt finish off my rounds the last couple days, and it cost me a chance to win the golf tournament.
Q: So he just happened to be standing there when you were at the point of frustration as much as anything?
TIGER WOODS: No, I mean, usually you just leave me alone, let me vent for a while and then Ill be ready to focus on what I need to do to get ready for the next day. Its happened before, hes seen it before, Stevie (Williams) has seen it. Youve got to vent. We dont get a chance to do that because we come off the green, we do media right away. Youre constantly on, and I just need to vent for just a little bit. Give me five minutes, ten minutes, and once thats over, its what do we need to do to get ready to win this golf tournament the next day.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 29, 3:20 p.m. ET


During his first American news conference since winning the Masters, Angel Cabrera didnt reveal exactly what hell serve at next years Champions Dinner, but he suggested it isnt likely to be exotic.
A lot of different meats and a little wine, said his swing coach Charlie Epps, who served as translator for reporters Wednesday at the Quail Hollow Championship. Meat and potatoes.
Epps, who stayed with Cabrera Masters week, said Cabrera cooked every night of their Masters stay because he doesnt like to wait in lines at restaurants.
Chicken and rice, chicken and spaghetti, Salisbury steak, Epps said. He doesnt buy anything in the can. All fresh.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 29, 2:33 p.m. ET


Lorena Ochoa expects her injured caddie, Dave Brooker, to be back on her bag in six weeks for the McDonalds LPGA Championship, but shell have an experienced substitute to help bridge the gap, according to her brother and agent, Alejandra Ochoa.
Australian Adam Woodward, 34, a former caddie for Maria Hjorth who worked most recently with Ji Young Oh, will tote Ochoas bag for the two events she will play leading into the McDonalds LPGA: The Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill (May 7-10) and the Sybase Classic presented by Shoprite (May 14-17).
Brooker fractured a foot on the eve of the final round of the Corona Championship last weekend while playing a soccer match with other caddies, friends and club members, but he wont require a cast. Hes in a protective boot.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 29, 11:43 a.m. ET


There will be more balls in the air in a quicker start to the Solheim Cup this year.
U.S. Captain Beth Daniel and European Captain Alison Nicholas will switch up the format when the matches are played Aug. 21-23 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. Instead of the traditional foursomes (alternate-shot) matches leading off morning play the first two days, the captains have agreed to start with fourball (best-ball).
I always felt as a player that we would see better golf if you played your own ball in the morning and then played alternate shot in the afternoon, Daniel said. As a captain, you see more golf out of your players in the morning to help you make your picks in the afternoon. Another positive is that fans on the first tee in the morning see four players tee off in a group instead of just two.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 29, 10:10 a.m. ET


John Daly is celebrating his 43rd birthday Tuesday in Spain.
Hes there to play in the European Tours Spanish Open.
In his space on, Daly noted that other than being jet-lagged from the flight overseas, its actually the best Ive felt in years. Finally, everything is feeling good.
He lost 40 pounds after undergoing Lap-Band surgery in February. Daly apparently likes the way hes looking. He twittered about the possibility of wearing a white belt with white shoes on tour. He said hes planning to spend most of today working on his short game, putting and wedge play. Hes scheduled to play in the pro-am on Wednesday.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 28, 11:39 a.m. ET


Two years ago Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan drew a crowd, maybe the biggest Wednesday gathering ever on Tour, when they played together in the Quail Hollow Championship pro-am.
This years undercard is slightly more subdued. Woods will tee off at 7:30 a.m. (ET) with NFL star Payton Manning, while defending champion Anthony Kim pulled a North Carolina staple and will play with NASCARs Jimmie Johnson.
It may not be MJ/TW, but Manning and Johnson arent too bad on Tobacco Road.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 28, 11:15 a.m. ET


As reported in an earlier blog by our colleague Randall Mell, the U.S. Center for Disease Control has recommended all non-essential travel to Mexico be postponed because of the onset of swine flu. The alert may be a few days late for some LPGA Tour players who competed in last weeks Corona Championship but early enough to get Nationwide Tour officials thinking.
The Nationwide Tours Mexico Open is scheduled to be played May 21-24 at El Bosque Golf Club, but officials said Monday they are monitoring the situation closely.
We havent made a decision but we are concerned by what we have been seeing and reading, said Bill Calfee, president of the Nationwide Tour. Right now were planning to play the event as scheduled, but that could change.
Nationwide officials sent an e-mail to players on Monday to update the situation and plan to make a decision by early next week whether to play the event. Calfee said the tournament would probably be rescheduled for later in the season if the situation worsens.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 27, 5:01 p.m. ET


LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster returned home to the United States thinking family and friends back home this past weekend were probably more nervous about the swine-flu outbreak in Mexico than the players competing at the Corona Championship in Morelia.
I felt pretty comfortable there, Inkster said. The LPGA did a great job keeping us updated on what was going on. To me, it wasnt a big deal, I felt fine being there.
Morelia is about 200 miles from Mexico City, a city reported on Sunday to be slowed to a snails pace by the threat. Richard Besser, acting director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control, said Monday that the center will recommend non-essential travel to Mexico be postponed.
Inkster said she flew out of Morelia and did not go through Mexico City. She said the airlines did a great job helping reroute players who were scheduled to fly through Mexico City on their way out.
' Randall Mell
Posted April 27, 4:02 p.m. ET


Friendly has become a fad on the PGA Tour. Quail Hollow Club, home to this weeks star-laden Tour stop, has always been a favorite among players, but a little tweaking by officials this year may make the layout an instant classic.
According to tournament director Kym Hougham the rough for this years event will be maintained throughout the week at 2 inches, more than an inch shorter than normal. As a trade off, officials will ramp up Quail Hollows greens to about 12 on the Stimpmeter. Hougham was quick to note, however, the layouts pitched greens could not be allowed to roll much faster than that.
We dont mind letting them go 12, 14 under par, Hougham said. We want some fun for our fans.
Fun for the players, as well.
' Rex Hoggard
Posted April 27, 2:12 p.m. ET

@kharms27 on Instagram

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.

Getty Images

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.  

@radiosarks on Twitter

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?’”

Getty Images

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.