Talking Playoffs With the Players at the Airport Bar

By Jerry FoltzAugust 23, 2010, 8:59 pm
Without fail, any Sunday afternoon at the airport gathering areas (otherwise known as the bar) is a great place to be if you’re a fan of the PGA Tour. Sunday was priceless.
First, I ran into Rocco Mediate at the Delta counter and we made our way to the pizzeria/tavern to kill a couple hours before our flights departed. We watched the final round of the Wyndham Championship on TV with the sound on, not that it mattered because when you spend time with Rocco barely a moment goes by before he’s on to the next thought. So after arguing, discussing, and laughing about subjects ranging from golf swing, course design, family life and a variety of other topics, I came to the conclusion that Rocco has no gray area in his life, everything is black and white. Oh how I love a person with conviction. Secondly, I concluded that between us, we had just about every answer to any problem we discussed. Lastly, I decided that I want the movie rights to his life story. I’m not sure under what genre the movie would fall, but it’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
Jeff Quinney
Jeff Quinney missed qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs by one shot. (Getty Images)
Soon, the place started to fill up with more tournament people – players, caddies and various others that lead the same nomadic life for most of the year.
I was sitting next to PGA Tour sophomore Michael Connell and two of the traveling physical therapists from the fitness trailer when to my left sat down Jeff Quinney.
“What happened to you?” I asked noticing a mostly-healed strawberry on the right cheek of his face. “Slipped in the pool,” Jeff said while also showing me his left forearm complete with a trail of scrapes in an arched pattern that looked moderately painful.
“How are you doing?” I asked as a general question having not known how he ended up in the final round. “Not Good,” he responded in a more dejected tone than I’m use to hearing from the normally happy-go-lucky guy. Now comes the difficult part – do I let that breathe for a while of do I follow up?

“How so?” I continued.

“126 – by 2 points,” Jeff said, “Scott Piercy beat me out of the playoffs by 2 points – or one shot. One shot today, or one shot yesterday, or one shot anywhere else in the entire year.” Now it was definitely time to let it breathe for a while when suddenly a voice from the end of the bar summed it up perfectly while simultaneously lightening the mood of the now somber room. “That sucks.”
I’m not sure if it was Lumpy, who was now two seats down, or one of the trainers, but there was no need to add anything at that point.
Then Quinney looked at his phone and said, “Oh great, now I’m getting sympathy texts. How do you respond to those,” Jeff asked in a playful manner to which quite a few colorful ideas came immediately from the group of commiserating friends.  Even the bartender couldn’t help but double-over in laughter to some of the suggestions.
Not too long after that exchange, John Mallinger came walking in also looking worse for the wear after a long week. We knew that he played well in the final round, but as we watched Arjun trying to win coming down the stretch, we never really paid attention to the bubble of the top 125 in FedEx points.
Somebody asked how it ended up for John and he responded, “If David Toms doesn’t make the 30-footer at 18, I’m in.” He informed us that Toms’ birdie broke a logjam at second place that included him. The tie for third wasn’t good enough.
As if on cue, from the back of the bar and a different voice, came the perfect words once again:  “That sucks.”
When I took my seat on the plane headed home for a couple of days I couldn’t help but think about how much all those guys would love to be going to The Barclays, my next stop. With ever shrinking fields for four weeks and large purses, anything is possible. And now they’re left with four weeks off (many will play a Nationwide event or two) and five smaller-purse Fall Series events remaining to try and climb into the top 125 on the money list and avoid the fall classic.

Everybody who was gathered around seemed very happy for Arjun Atwal as he’s a well-liked player on Tour, and they’re also happy that he now gets to avoid that very same reality that they’ll spend the next month thinking about – the potential for another trip to Q School.
There was some discussion that the rule that’s keeping Arjun Atwal out of the Playoffs needs to be amended immediately as it wasn’t ever intended to keep out someone who started the year as a member of the Tour. To add to the absurdity, I let them know that as of Sunday evening, Arjun was the fourth alternate to get into this weeks Nationwide Tour event in Knoxville.
So this week, the Playoffs begin without Arjun, or Quinney, or Lumpy, Mallinger, Connell, or Rocco, but if you ever doubt the relevance or importance of the Playoffs to the players themselves, spend Sunday evening in the Greensboro airport next year.
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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”