Major champion Brooks caddieing for buddy Henry

By Jason SobelMay 10, 2012, 2:42 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- There's an annual tradition at The Players Championship, one of the more entertaining traditions on the game's most elite level. During the final practice round for the tournament, competitors reach the ominous 17th hole, stare at the daunting tee shot over water and ... promptly turn over ball-striking duties to their caddies.

J.J. Henry never made it to 17 on Wednesday, deciding to only practice on the course’s front nine. Even if he had, though, he wasn't going to let his caddie take a swing.

“I told him he wasn’t hitting that shot,” Henry said. “I’d be blackballed from the caddie wagon if he hit that shot close.”

As for his caddie? “I’d be embarrassed if I did hit a good shot,” explained Mark Brooks.

Yes, that Mark Brooks – the same Mark Brooks who won the 1996 PGA Championship and has competed in this very tournament on 21 different occasions during his career.

For the first time, Brooks is looping for Henry this week, a turnabout that features a major champion throwing the bag over his shoulder and advising a one-time PGA Tour winner.

“It’s not easy,” Brooks said. “It would be easy to carry the bag. It’s hard to caddie – there’s a difference.”

It’s an idea that the longtime friends and fellow Fort Worth, Texas, residents discussed a few years ago, one which came to fruition when Brooks found a few weeks off from his Champions Tour schedule.

“It’s not something we’re going to do every week, but if he can help me maybe a couple of times a year and he likes doing it, I think it’s neat for him,” Henry said. “Obviously, he likes seeing all of his buddies and he’s maybe not out here as much anymore, but he still feels like he’s in the game and he’s helping someone he enjoys helping. And on my side, I enjoy having him help me.”

Henry can use the help. After finishing 103rd on the PGA Tour money list last year, the 37-year-old is off to a slow start this season. In 14 appearances so far, he’s made the cut just seven times, with only one result in the top-25.

“It’s no secret,” Brooks explained. “He’s struggled a little bit several times in the last three or four years; he’s had stretches where he’s struggled. All of a sudden, it became like making the cut was an accomplishment. If you get in that very long out here, you’re gone. So that’s what we’re working on. It’s not really goal-setting. It’s doing the little things right – focusing better, not going through the motions.”

“I’m just trying to learn from him,” Henry said. “If there are one or two little things that click – especially for me, for whatever reason I haven’t played a whole lot of great golf yet this year, so to have him see what my tendencies are and see why things are off, we can go back and talk about it. It’s not just about this week. It’s about trying to help me out.”

And so in an effort to help a friend, a major champion is lugging the bag this week – albeit with one major caveat. Rather than the usual hefty staff bag, Brooks is shouldering a lighter carry bag, though that may change later in the week.

“He told me if I tee off at noon or later on Saturday or Sunday, he’s going with the staff bag,” Henry said. “So the pressure is on.”

Getting into that position would mean a paycheck for Henry, which in turn would mean a paycheck for his caddie, though as he said with a laugh, “We’ll figure something out. We haven’t gotten that far yet.”

That may be the only thing on which Henry and Brooks aren’t on the same page. Looking way ahead, if he can help his man not only make the cut, not only contend, but actually win the tournament, well, the major champion wants his cut of the treasure, too.

“Oh, hell yeah,” Brooks claimed. “He’s got to pay somebody. He might as well pay me instead of Uncle Sam.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”

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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break

By Mercer BaggsJuly 19, 2018, 2:14 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.

“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.

Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.

Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.

“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”

It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.

“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.

“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”

This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.