Westwood looks to continue run of British success

By Jay CoffinJuly 20, 2013, 8:29 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Let’s paint a pretty picture.

Justin Rose collected epic pars on the last two holes of the U.S. Open last month at Merion to become the first Englishman to claim the prize in 43 years.

Thirteen days ago, Scotland’s Andy Murray defeated favored Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the Wimbleon final to become the first British man to capture the coveted crown in 77 years. The United Kingdom still is celebrating the feat.

See what we’re doing here? This is a big deal.

England’s Lee Westwood leads his beloved Open Championship after 54 holes at Muirfield. If the Summer of Britain is to continue, the hopes rest on Westwood’s broad shoulders. More precisely, the hopes rest on his putter, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

As much as Westwood tried to downplay his position late Saturday evening – saying he enjoys this moment and he doesn’t consider this a high-pressure situation – this is his best chance to finally capture major glory. At 40 years old, Westwood has accumulated as much major-championship scar tissue as anyone in the Tiger Woods era.

142nd Open Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Westwood has collected seven top-three majors championship finishes since the 2008 U.S. Open, where he was one shot out of the Monday playoff between Woods and Rocco Mediate. Westwood held the 54-hole lead at the 2010 Masters and lost to a sizzling Phil Mickelson. During the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open, Westwood lost his ball in a tree on the fifth hole and had to declare it lost. He ultimately made double bogey on the hole and fell from contention and tied for 10th place.

He’s played well in majors and lost to someone better, he’s played poorly and thrown some away.

“I know what it takes,” Westwood said. “Even though I haven’t won a major, I know what it takes to win one.”

On this beautiful Saturday on the coast of the Firth of Forth, in the bright shining spotlight that goes with playing alongside Woods, that goes along with playing your home major championship, Westwood played like the man with 14 majors on the resume.

Both titans began the day at 2 under par, one shot behind Miguel Angel Jimenez. Four hours later, Westwood shot 70 to Woods’ 72 and will take a two-shot lead over Woods and Hunter Mahan into the final 18 holes. It was the eighth time in the last 13 occasions in which they have been paired together that Westwood shot a lower score than Woods. Woods had the lower score four times and they tied once.

“He’s won tournaments all over the world,” Woods said. “He knows how to win golf tournaments. He’s two shots ahead and we’re going to go out there and both compete and play.”

Woods struck the first blow when he made birdie on the second hole to grab a share of the lead but Westwood made eagle on the par-5 fifth hole when he putted from off the front of the massive green. In a four-hole stretch, between Nos. 4-7, Westwood gained four shots on his playing competitor.

The shot of the day – and quite likely the shot of the week if Westwood goes on to win the claret jug – came in the form of bogey on the par-3 16th hole. Westwood hit his worst shot of the day off the tee and the ball landed well left of the green in thick, gnarly hay. He chopped out but failed to put the ball on the green. The ensuing chip shot ended 20 feet from the hole and Westwood drained the putt, turning potential double bogey into bogey. Westwood made birdie from 15 feet on the 17th hole while Woods made bogey. The last three holes had plot twists aplenty.

Now, the putter. It has been Westwood’s nemesis in big moments for the better part of his career – sans the Ryder Cup, where he seems more at ease and putts fall more regularly. Here at Muirfield, not only is Westwood putting well, he leads the field with only 81 putts through three rounds. What once was a curse now is a blessing.

“I’ve won 40 times, you don’t not putt well winning that many,” Westwood said. “I putted nicely this week. I’ve got a key that I’m thinking about and I’m rolling the ball well. It’s starting on the line that I pick, which is nice to see.”

Westwood began working on his putting with Aussie Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 Open champion, two weeks ago and the two have worked diligently on loosening up with the flatstick in hand and releasing all tension in the motion.

Putts will have to drop again for one more day if Westwood is going to please his people and claim the 142nd playing of the Open Championship. He’s paired with Mahan in the final group, while Woods and Adam Scott will be just ahead in the day’s penultimate pairing.

Woods has never won a major while trailing after 54 holes, a stat that’s not lost on Westwood. If Westwood is to win he’ll have to focus as well as he did Saturday and hope to fight off a once-nervous putting stroke, all while watching Woods try to win his 15th overall major and first in more than five years.

It’s a tall task, but one for which Westwood feels prepared.

“I’m hoping it’s going to turn out differently because I haven’t won one yet and I’d like to win one,” Westwood said. “You can only do what you think is right and put all that practice and hard work you’ve done tomorrow, try not to get in your own way mentally and just focus on the job at hand and believe you’re good enough.”

If it doesn’t, “it’s not the end of the world,” Westwood proclaimed.

No, but it’ll put a damper on what has been a great summer for Britain.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

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PGA Tour Latinoamérica moving season finale to Doral

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

“We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

“We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

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Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards

By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

“My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.