Time Machine

By Jay CoffinJuly 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' Its impossible to walk 10 steps around these hallowed grounds without seeing a reminder of the 1977 Duel in the Sun. The epic battle between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry is still regarded as one of the most electric major championships ever and signage, video reels, scoreboards and shirts documenting that occasion blanket this place. Theres even a pub here named after that magical Sunday.
 
Tom Watson tips his hat to the gallery after making birdie on No. 12 in the first round. (Getty Images)
Nicklaus hasnt played a British Open since 2005 at St. Andrews so Watson has been asked ad nauseum this week to recall the events from 32 years ago. He talked about his love-hate relationship with links golf in the early years, he talked about a young neighbor girl who gave him a lucky piece of aluminum foil and heather before he won the British Open at Carnoustie in 1975 and he talked about how he could remember each of the 65 shots he took to defeat Nicklaus in 77.
 
But it wasnt until late Wednesday afternoon, when his pre-tournament obligations were complete, that he saw the biggest indication that hed play well this week. Watson received a text message from Nicklaus wife Barbara, who simply wished Watson good luck. Watsons return message told Barbara how much he misses spending time with the Nicklaus family during Open Championship week.
 
Theres something slightly spiritual about today, Watson said following his first-round 65 that put him a shot off the lead. Just the serenity of it was pretty neat.
 
Pretty neat? Some in the gallery were nearly in tears watching Watson rekindle the magic that helped him win five British Opens. Someone forgot to tell Watson that its 2009, that hes 59-years-old and that hes not supposed to be leading major championships against Tiger Woods (the TW that most thought would be leading) and a handful of players who are young enough to be Watsons grandchildren.
 
It wasnt too long ago when Watson made noise at the 2003 U.S. Open where, then 53, he fired a first-round 65 at Olympia Fields to hold a share of the lead with caddie Bruce Edwards on the bag fighting a battle against ALS. Edwards passed away 10 months later.
 
This time is altogether different. This is the major with which Watson is most associated. He freely admits that hes a ceremonial golfer at the Masters and cannot contend with the kids at Augusta National. But he knows he has a fighting chance to contend here this year and next at St. Andrews, where hell play in his 33rd and final British Open.
 
I feel inspired playing here, Watson said. A lot of it has to do with being in the presence here at Turnberry again, just the culmination of a lot of things that have gone on already.
 
I feel that Im playing well enough to win the golf tournament. It doesnt feel a whole lot out of the ordinary from 32 years ago except that I dont have the confidence in my putting as I had 32 years ago. But, again, a few of them might go in.
 
It was vintage Watson. Dressed sharply in his gray trousers, gray and black argyle sweater with a light purple shirt underneath he smoothly charted his way through these links with five birdies, the last coming at the par-5 17th hole where he hit his tee shot longer than playing partners Sergio Garcia and amateur Matteo Manassero. Watson was in control (he hit 12 fairways and 15 greens), his putter didnt let him down as its done several times in the past and he used his vast experience and knowledge of these championships to make him seem unstoppable.
 
He flushed it today, Garcia said. The quality of his shots, it was awesome to watch.
 
Watson hit his drive in the right rough off the 18th tee but he hit a 7-iron from 200 yards onto the green and two-putted to close with a par.
 
Its fun to hit the ball solid, Watson said. The reason Im out here is to hit quality shots when the pressure is on. I love to compete and I still like to hit a shot when it really counts.
 
No one knows what to expect from Watson the next three days. He doesnt know what to expect. Prior to this he had not been playing much and had turned his attention to filming an instructional video hes wanted to produce for a long time. He doesnt know if hell be able to handle the pressure that goes with his situation, saying that some days he finds it easier to deal with than others.
 
But none of that matters. At least for one glorious day in Scotland the magic was back.
 
He did everything well, Watsons caddie Neil Oxman said.
 
There were signs everywhere that said he would.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The 138th Open Championship
  • Getty Images

    Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

    By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

    South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

    Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

    Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

    “I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

    Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

    “Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

    Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

    “We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”

    Getty Images

    Spieth admits '16 Masters 'kind of haunted me'

    By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:38 pm

    Two years ago, Jordan Spieth arrived at Colonial Country Club and promptly exorcised some demons.

    He was only a month removed from blowing the 2016 Masters, turning a five-shot lead with nine holes to play into a shocking runner-up finish behind Danny Willett. Still with lingering questions buzzing about his ability to close, he finished with a back-nine 30 on Sunday, including birdies on Nos. 16-18, to seal his first win since his Augusta National debacle.

    Returning this week to the Fort Worth Invitational, Spieth was asked about the highs and lows he's already experienced in his five-year pro career and candidly pointed to the 2016 Masters as a "low point" that had a lingering effect.

    "Even though it was still a tremendous week and still was a really good year in 2016, that kind of haunted me and all the questioning and everything," Spieth told reporters. "I let it tear me down a little bit. I kind of lost a little bit of my own freedom, thoughts on who I am as a person and as a golfer."


    Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


    Spieth went on to win the Australian Open in the fall of 2016, and last year he added three more victories including a third major title at Royal Birkdale. Given more than two years to reflect - and after nearly nabbing a second green jacket last month - he admitted that the trials and tribulations of 2016 had a lasting impact on how he perceives the daily grind on Tour.

    "I guess to sum it up, I've just tried to really be selfish in the way that I think and focus on being as happy as I possibly can playing the game I love. Not getting caught up in the noise, good or bad," Spieth said. "Because what I hear from the outside, the highs are too high from the outside and the lows are too low from the outside from my real experience of them. So trying to stay pretty neutral and just look at the big picture things, and try and wake up every single day loving what I do."

    Getty Images

    Spieth offers Owen advice ahead of Web.com debut

    By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 6:22 pm

    As country music sensation Jake Owen gets set to make his Web.com Tour debut, Jordan Spieth had a few pieces of advice for his former pro-am partner.

    Owen played as a 1-handicap alongside Spieth at this year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and this week he is playing his own ball on a sponsor invite at the Nashville Open. Owen joked with a Web.com Tour reporter that Spieth "shined" him by not answering his text earlier in the week, but Spieth explained to reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the two have since connected.

    "We texted a bit yesterday. I was just asking how things were going," Spieth said. "I kind of asked him the state of his game. He said he's been practicing a lot. He said the course is really hard. I mean, going into it with that mindset, maybe he'll kind of play more conservative."

    Owen is in the field this week on the same type of unrestricted sponsor exemption that NBA superstar Steph Curry used at the Web.com's Ellie Mae Classic in August. As Owen gets set to make his debut against a field full of professionals, Spieth noted that it might be for the best that he's focused on a tournament a few hundred miles away instead of walking alongside the singer as he does each year on the Monterey Peninsula.

    "Fortunately I'm not there with him, because whenever I'm his partner I'm telling him to hit driver everywhere, even though he's talented enough to play the golf course the way it needs to be played," Spieth said. "So I think he'll get some knowledge on the golf course and play it a little better than he plays Pebble Beach. He's certainly got the talent to be able to shoot a good round."

    Getty Images

    Presidents Cup changes aim to help Int'l. side

    By Rex HoggardMay 23, 2018, 6:20 pm

    In March when the PGA Tour announced the captains for next year’s Presidents Cup there was an understandable monsoon of attention for one element of that press conference.

    Tiger Woods being named the captain for the U.S. team that will travel to Australia late next year was just not news, it was a monumental shift in how many view the 14-time major champion.

    Although he’s slowly played his way back to competitive relevance, his decision to lead the red, white and blue side was the most glaring example to date that Woods is beginning to embrace a new role as a leader and a veteran.

    Newsy stuff.

    In that blur of possibility, however, were a few other nuggets that largely went overlooked but may end up impacting the biennial team event much more than the two high-profile captains (Ernie Els was named the International side’s front man for 2019).

    Among these subtle changes is a new rule that requires every team member to play at least one match prior to Sunday’s singles session, instead of the two-match minimum in previous years. In theory, this would allow a captain to “hide” a player who might not be at the top of his form.

    The Tour also announced each captain will have four, up from two, captain’s picks and they will make those selections much later than in previous years.



    Officials would understandably be reluctant to admit it, but these changes are designed to give Els and Co. a chance, any chance, to make the ’19 matches competitive.

    Following last year’s boat race of the International team at Liberty National in New Jersey – a lopsided rout that nearly ended late Saturday when the U.S. team came up just a single point short of clinching the cup before the 12 singles matches – most observers agreed that something had to change.

    The International team has won just one of the dozen Presidents Cups that have been played, and that was way back in 1998, and has lost the last five matches by a combined 20 points.

    Giving Els and Woods more time to make their captain’s picks is a byproduct of the timing of next year’s event, which will be played in Australia in December; but giving both captains a little more flexibility with the addition of two picks should, in theory, help the International side.

    The Tour also altered how the points list is compiled for the International team, with a move to a 12-month cycle that’s based on the amount of World Ranking points that are earned. The previous selection criteria used a two-year cycle.

    “That was a change that was important to Ernie Els to make sure that he feels like he has his most competitive team possible,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations. “That in conjunction with having four captain’s picks instead of two, which had been the case prior to 2019, he feels that’s going to give him his best chance to bring his strongest, most competitive team to Australia.”

    The 12-month cycle will start this August at the Dell Technologies Championship and end at the 2019 Tour Championship, and puts more importance on recent form although had the new selection criteria been used for the 2017 team, there would have been just one player who wouldn’t have automatically qualified for the team. That’s not exactly a wholesale makeover.

    “It didn’t seem to be a dramatic change in the makeup of the team,” Pazder conceded.

    Still, a change, any change, is refreshing considering the one-sided nature of the Presidents Cup the last two decades. Of course, if the circuit really wanted to shake things up they would have reduced the total number of points available from 30 to 28, which is the format used at the Ryder Cup and as a general rule that event seems to avoid prolonged bouts of competitive irrelevance.

    Perhaps these most recent nip/tucks will be enough to break the International team out of a losing cycle that doesn’t help bring attention to the event or motivate players.

    There’s no mystery to what makes for a compelling competition, look no further than the Ryder Cup for the secret sauce. History makes fans, and players, care about the outcome and parity makes it compelling. What history the Presidents Cup has is largely one-sided and if last year’s loss is any indication the event is no closer to parity now than it was when it was started in 1994.

    Els has been a part of every International team since 1996 and if anyone can pull the side from its current funk it would be the South African, but history suggests he might need a little more help from the Tour to shift the competitive winds.