Blown Away

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2010, 1:24 am

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Lucas Glover stood over a 2-foot bogey putt on the Old Course’s treacherous par-3 11th hole for two minutes. When the fastest player on the PGA Tour takes several minutes to prepare for a putt of that length something is amiss.

On this day, at the home of golf, in a country known for terrible weather, the afternoon portion of the Open Championship’s second round was suspended for an hour, but should have stayed suspended for the remainder of the day. And the madness of it all was that it had nothing to do with Scotland’s trademark rain. Rather, the Old Course simply was not setup to withstand the winds that whipped across this charming town like a tornado that pelts America’s Heartland.

“Every pin they put on a knob on the back of the green,” said Oliver Wilson, who followed a 68 with a 79 and has the weekend off. “If you went to every green and said, ‘where is the worst place we can put these pins,’ they did it on 18 greens. Whoever set these pins should be fired.

“It’s links golf, it’s going to be like this. Either don’t cut the greens so short or put the pins somewhere where it’s flat.”

Just after 2:30 p.m. local time tournament officials blew the horn when conditions were deemed unplayable because wind gusts were over 40 mph, causing balls to move on some of the greens that were most exposed to the wind, particularly those along St. Andrews Bay. It was the first delay for wind at the British Open since 1998 when there was a 38-minute stoppage during the second round at Royal Birkdale.

This delay at the Old Course lasted just over an hour. The only problem was that conditions weren’t much better when players returned to their positions. In fact, they may just have been worse.

“To be honest, I think they just wasted an hour of our time,” said Andrew Coltart following his 77.

Said Tiger Woods: “We thought it might give us a break and we might come out there with less wind and have a chance at posting some pretty good numbers; that wasn’t the case. They were saying it’s a hole-by-hole scenario. They could call it at any time, but they didn’t, even though it was blowing pretty good.”

That seemed to be the theme of the day. Players were either miffed that they were taken off the course for an hour and put back on in similar conditions, or they were annoyed that they had to be on the course at all.

Funny how after the first round it was thought that those who played later in Round 1 and early in Round 2 were the ones who landed on the wrong side of the draw. In reality it was the opposite. The top four men on the leaderboard – Louis Oosthuizen, Mark Calcavecchia, Paul Casey and Lee Westwood – all were finished Friday before Mother Nature decided to play favorites.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest conditions were unplayable. On the aforementioned 11th hole, which was playing 174 yards, Nick Watney aimed left of the flag but his ball ended up way right, giving him a 120-foot birdie putt. His first attempt only went 80 feet, leaving him another 40 feet for par, which he missed.

Phil Mickelson played through rain in the morning and when he was finished his 1-under-par total was hovering right around the cut line. By day’s end he was in a tie for 38th place and easily able to punch a Saturday and Sunday tee time.

Camilo Villegas, not a short hitter by any definition, hit a poor shot off the sixth tee but still failed to reach the fairway on the 412-yard, par 4 hole. On the same hole, Woods yelled “go left, go way left” to his ball because he knew there was more room on that side and that he wouldn’t end up near Villegas.

After the round Woods said that playing partner Justin Rose hit a tee shot “fat” on the third hole because during his swing he thought the ball was moving but it was just oscillating.

Most players were afraid to ground their putters for fear of being assessed a one-stroke penalty should the ball move.

“I don’t think they should have called us off the golf course,” said Rory McIlroy. “When we got back out there the conditions hadn’t changed. The wind probably got a little bit worse. It probably wasn’t a smart move.”

To McIlroy’s credit, he didn’t blame the conditions for his poor play. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland sent a buzz around St. Andrews Thursday when he opened with a major championship record-tying 63. The round quickly got sideways Friday when he made bogey on four of his first eight holes. He was never able to rebound and shot 80, essentially ending his hopes for a first major.

Woods' round was probably the most impressive on the day although a score of 73 would hardly make the world No. 1 pleased. But he was 2 over early in the round, got both shots back, lost two more near the end of the round before closing for birdie on the home hole that nearly was an eagle. Still, Woods sits eight shots behind Oosthuizen, who holds a five-shot lead over Calcavecchia.

“When we started off we had the bad wind because the front nine was tough,” Oosthuizen said. “And we got to 10 and it started raining again. And then it just dropped completely, the wind, and from 14 we had the last five holes downwind, which is a huge difference.”

The same can’t be said for the afternoon. While Oosthuizen was likely watching this Open Championship on the telly, conditions got nasty and stayed nasty.

Nasty enough for the speedy Glover to turn deliberate while standing over a short putt, proving that on this day around St. Andrews, something definitely was amiss.

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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.

Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open

Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."