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.

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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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Sources confirm Charles Schwab to sponsor Colonial event

By Rex HoggardApril 19, 2018, 2:42 pm

Multiple sources have confirmed to GolfChannel.com that officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation.

Tournament officials scrambled this year after Dean & DeLuca ended its sponsorship of the event just two years into a six-year agreement, pulling together an assortment of local sponsors and renaming the event the Fort Worth Invitational.

Colonial’s status on the PGA Tour schedule became even more uncertain when the PGA Championship announced it would move from August to May, beginning in 2019 as part of a major overhaul of the circuit’s schedule.

According to the Dallas News, and confirmed by multiple sources at the club, officials plan to announce the new long-term agreement with Charles Schwab on Monday that will begin in 2019.

News of a long-term sponsorship deal would also suggest the event will remain in May in 2019 and beyond. The Tour has indicated it plans to announce the ’19 schedule at next month’s Players Championship.

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PNC Extends Title Sponsorship of PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 1:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., April 19, 2018 – IMG and NBC Sports today announced that The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. has extended its contract as title sponsor of the PNC Father/Son Challenge, the tournament that pairs the games’ legends alongside their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

PNC’s multi-year extension as title sponsor keeps the PGA Tour Challenge Event in Orlando reflecting the bank’s commitment to Central Florida. PNC has served as title sponsor of the tournament since 2012. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes will continue to play host to the PNC Father/Son Challenge. The 2018 PNC Father/Son Challenge will take place Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16, with television coverage on Golf Channel and NBC.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge long ago became one of my family’s favorite golf tournaments,” said 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus. “I have had the pleasure of playing with my sons, and last year, partnering with my 15-year-old grandson GT was a thrill. I am delighted the event—a uniquely special one to us fathers and grandfathers, and perhaps to the many fans out there watching from home or outside the ropes—will continue for many years to come.”

“After our victory in 2016, I said that this win was as good as anything I have done in my career,” said former World No. 1 and major champion David Duval, who alongside his stepson Nick Karavites captured the 2016 title. “I felt blessed to have Nick inside the ropes with me and to have our family surrounding us all week. That’s what makes the PNC Father/Son Challenge so special, and I’m pleased to hear that PNC has extended its support of the event. This golf tournament means so much to all of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in this event.”

The tournament also holds three events in qualifier markets per year. This year they will be in Dallas, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge allows fans to see golf’s legends playing the game they love alongside those they love most,” said Alastair Johnston, vice chairman, IMG. “We are grateful for PNC’s ongoing support of this unique tournament and we look forward to returning to Orlando to celebrate golf and family for many years to come.”

Community support is a key aspect of the tournament and PNC’s sponsorship. PNC is committed to donating $150,000 annually to local non-profits over the life of its sponsorship. Across six previous years of title sponsorship, PNC has already donated $900,000 to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to support the “Healthy Families Orange” program. Over the years, PNC has also had the opportunity through this tournament to co-host events for local women in business, to put on clinics and provide free access to the tournament for active military, and even provide a service dog for a local veteran.

"PNC's long-standing sponsorship of the Father/Son Challenge reflects the philanthropic values we share with the PGA Tour and the golf community, as well as our focus on strong relationships,” said Bill Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. “As PNC Bank continues to expand its footprint, the PNC Father/Son tournament helps us gain visibility with new audiences and to strengthen the relationships we enjoy today with more than 8 million retail, wealth, and corporate and institutional banking customers across the country.”

“NBC Sports is extremely proud of our heritage as co-founder for the Father/Son Challenge, one of golf’s most special events that closes out the calendar year on the golf schedule,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports. “Our relationship with PNC Bank elevates this event each year as a must-attend and must-see event for players and fans alike, and we look forward to our continued relationship with PNC Bank for years to come.”

Past winners of the PNC Father/Son Challenge include some of the biggest names in golf including Raymond Floyd (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001), Jack Nicklaus (1999), Bernhard Langer (2005-06, 2014), Davis Love III (2012) and David Duval (2016).  Masters champion Angel Cabrera and his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. captured the 2017 title.

To qualify for the PNC Father/Son Challenge, participants must have won either a major championship or THE PLAYERS Championship in their career. The professional’s partner must not currently hold a Tour card, and while the majority of partners in the history of the event have been the sons of the golf legends, the family-themed tournament has seen daughters, grandsons and one father – Justin Leonard’s dad, Larry – participate over the years.

The PNC Father/Son Challenge is operated in partnership by IMG and NBC Sports.

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Fire damages National Golf Links of America clubhouse

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 12:55 pm

A fire broke out Wednesday at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., causing "extensive damage" to a portion of the historic course's clubhouse.

According to a 27East.com report, an initial call was made to the Southampton police department about a fire on the roof of the clubhouse at 11:34 a.m. With the club's gates too narrow to fit a fire truck through, more than 100 firefighters from various departments helped douse the flames by transporting water up a hill to the east side of the clubhouse.

The fire was reportedly extinguished by 2:30 p.m., with no injuries requiring medical attention. According to a Golf Digest report, the club was undergoing construction on its outdoor eating area known as "the Birdcage" and that most of the club's historical documents reside on the opposite end of the clubhouse from where the fire broke out and was contained.

Opened in 1911, National Golf Links of America was designed by C.B. MacDonald and hosted the inaugural Walker Cup in 1922. The biennial matches returned in 2013 to NGLA, which is often rated among the top courses in the U.S. and sits adjacent to Shinnecock Hills, site of this summer's U.S. Open.

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Chappell returns to Valero as defending champ

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 9:48 pm

It's impossible for any of the players at this week's Valero Texas Open to forget who captured the trophy last year.

That's because most players stay at the JW Marriott hotel that's a short walk from the first tee at TPC San Antonio, and the defending champion's face is emblazoned on the hotel's room keys. This week, that honor belongs to Kevin Chappell.

"You get some sly comments from players about their room key," Chappell told reporters Wednesday. "'Oh, I'm tired of looking at you.' And I'm saying, 'Believe me, I'm tired of being in everyone's room.'"

The position of defending champ is one Chappell relishes this week as he returns to the site of his maiden PGA Tour victory. A one-shot win over Brooks Koepka led to a euphoric celebration on the 72nd green, and it helped propel Chappell to his first career spot on the Presidents Cup team in October.

Chappell has missed the cut each of the last two weeks, including the Masters, but he also recorded top-10 finishes at the CareerBuilder Challenge, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It's reason enough for Chappell to feel optimistic heading back to a course where he was a runner-up in 2011 and finished T-4 in 2016.

"This year's been a little bit of a strange year for me. I usually don't find form until about here, usually a slow starter," Chappell said. "But having three top-10s before this event, I've kind of found some form. I'm looking to turn those top-10s into top-5s, and the top-5s into wins. That's the challenge moving forward this year."