After 3 major duds, the golf gods giveth back at PGA

By Jason SobelAugust 10, 2014, 1:02 am

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Let’s not sugarcoat things: As far as golf seasons go, this one has stunk worse than Craig Stadler’s old socks.

The Masters was over by the time the final pairing reached the back nine on Sunday. The U.S. Open was over by Friday. The Open Championship was over before it even started.

The game’s most popular player went from winning to wincing, as Tiger Woods never finished higher than 25th place.

The next guy on that list hasn’t exactly dominated, either, with zero top 10s for Phil Mickelson on the PGA Tour so far.

Meanwhile, the guys who have won titles aren’t even household names in their own households. Bowditch? Hadley? Noh? No offense to any of ‘em, but each could walk through his local mall holding a trophy and still not get hassled by anyone but the perfume lady.

Even Scott Stallings, who won his third career title earlier this year at Torrey Pines, doesn’t get any respect. Following his second round at the 96th PGA Championship on Friday, the walking scorer in his group asked where he currently works as a club professional.

Cue Rodney Dangerfield and commence collar tug.

Such is life in the topsy-turvy world of parity, where anyone can win on any given Sunday.

Not to go all Sergio Garcia circa 2007 on you, but there is only one villainous organization to blame for this year’s interminable snoozefest: Those unmerciful golf gods.

The almighty beings who control the game’s landscape from behind the curtains have robbed us of our fun. They’ve taken away our excitement, our nerves, our diversion from lives spent in too many cubicles and classrooms, wishing away the hours with thought bubbles of final round drama floating above our heads.

They have rendered our Sunday afternoons into fitful bouts of burdened sleep on the couch. Or even worse, they’ve turned ‘em into the perfect time to get cracking on that honey-do list.

Maybe, though, just maybe, they were testing us.

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Testing our patience, our perseverance, our love of the game. They wanted to see just how long we’d keep returning to watch listless leaderboards.

Well, entering Sunday’s final round at Valhalla Golf Club, there’s finally some good news: We’ve passed the test.

Those insidious golf gods have turned benevolent. They’ve nurtured our waning interest back to health at just the right time.

With 18 holes remaining, there are currently 18 players within six shots of the lead. And these aren’t just any players – we’ve got a handful of world-class talents in contention, from next-gen stars Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler to old favorites Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker to the underdoggiest of underdogs in Bernd Wiesberger and Mikko Ilonen.

“Jam-packed,” Fowler called the leaderboard. “You never know what can happen. It's wide open and someone is going to have to play some good, solid golf tomorrow to win.”

This is all we’ve been asking for the entire year, isn’t it?

It’s the Daytona 500 with cars racing bunched together on the final lap. It’s the Kentucky Derby with horses neck and neck down the stretch. It’s the Super Bowl with an offense driving and the clock quickly ticking down to zero.

A few years ago, the PGA of America dropped the longtime slogan, “Glory’s Last Shot,” for this tournament, but the premise remains. Sunday will mark the last major championship round for eight months and while there’s obviously still plenty more golf to be played this year, a final-round dud could leave a bad taste in our mouths for an awfully long time.

If this one goes anything like the previous day, those afternoon naps will be replaced by edge-of-your-couch anxiety, leaving the honey-do list taped back to the fridge for another week.

Not only will a cushioned course provide plenty of pin-seeking darts and red numbers on the leaderboard, but the par-5 18th hole has the opportunity to produce fireworks in the manner of an eagle to secure the win – something that has never before happened in 430 previous majors.

Then there’s the historical angle: You’ll someday want to tell your grandkids about the day you watched Mickelson win his sixth major. Or McIlroy win his fourth. Or Fowler win his first.

“You have to push yourself [Sunday],” Mickelson explained. “You can't make the mistakes, but you can't play defensive and conservative. You have to attack. The golf course is soft and you can get to a lot of pins.”

For the first seven months of this year, the golf gods needed to taketh away. Now it appears they have finally decided to giveth back.

Congratulations. We’ve waited for this day, waded through enough of the doldrums. We deserve this. We passed the test. The best day of this golf year is almost here. All we need to do is stock up on Cheetos and make sure those couch grooves are conforming.

But just in case, we all might want to pray to the golf gods extra hard beforehand.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”