Woods forgiving Garcia would stun the world

By John FeinsteinMay 22, 2013, 7:45 pm

Almost everyone has a moment in life when something comes out of their mouth that they wish they could snatch out of the air and stuff back inside. It can be something said to a loved one or a friend in private. For public figures, it often happens with a microphone in front of them when they have to think on their feet.

That’s what happened to Sergio Garcia on Tuesday at the European Tour awards dinner. Golf Channel’s Steve Sands asked Garcia a question in jest about having dinner with Woods at next month’s U.S. Open and the words that came out of Garcia’s mouth: “We’ll have him round for dinner every night. We’ll cook him fried chicken,” can’t be snatched back.

Certain moments – both good and bad – follow public figures through their lives, right to the end. When Tom Kite finally won his major in 1992 in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach he said, “Well, at least now I know what the first line of my obituary will be.”

That was good news. This is not.

Bob Knight won 902 basketball games, three national championships and an Olympic gold medal. “The chair” incident will be near the top of his obit. LeBron James can win a dozen NBA titles in Miami and no one will let him forget “The Decision.” Bill Buckner was a borderline Hall of Fame baseball player. His error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series is in the first sentence of any story written about him – even though the game had already been tied.

Fuzzy Zoeller’s “fried chicken and collared greens” comment in 1997 will be right there in the first two paragraphs with his two major championships someday. Woods can win 100 major titles and his marital infidelities in 2009 will follow him if he lives to 2109.

That’s life. And legacy. Now, Garcia has his very unfortunate legacy and, no matter how often he apologizes, no matter how sincere he may be, it isn’t going away. Not now. Not soon. Not ever.

That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t apologize. He should do so in person to Woods because it is the right thing to do. The remark was, as he put it, 'stupid' and mean. Unlike Zoeller, who wasn’t being malicious, just remarkably insensitive, Garcia seemed malicious because, as everyone knows, he and Woods can’t stand one another.

One of the sadder aspects of all this – from Garcia’s point-of-view – is that he was holding his own with Woods in the verbal sparring match that began during the third round of The Players Championship. He’d even shown some self-awareness earlier in the day on Tuesday when he said Woods was probably right to call him a whiner.

But then, on Tuesday, he came to his verbal/social/cultural 17th hole at Sawgrass. He didn’t put two in the water, he put about a dozen in the water. And, unlike in the movie “Tin Cup” he didn’t finally hole out. He’s not dry yet and won’t be anytime soon.

Of course, as in all things, there are ways to make some amends. The public apology was a first step; a personal apology should come next. Then some public gestures – even if they will be seen as PR moves – would be both smart and the right thing to do. Maybe a large donation to the Tiger Woods Foundation with the money earmarked for public schools in Washington.

Those sorts of things are the best Garcia can do right now. Woods is never going to truly forgive him, but Garcia needs to try anyway. He might also want to consider some sensitivity training – for his own sake, not anyone else’s. The only good thing about a mistake is that it gives you a chance to think about why you made it. Athletes are always saying, “I can learn from this” in the wake of defeat. This was the biggest loss Garcia has ever suffered. He would do himself a favor if he tried to learn from it.

Woods has now won the battle, just as he won the golf tournament when Garcia melted down on the 17th at Sawgrass a few weeks ago. His initial tweet in response to Garcia’s gaffe was pure Woods: he put a few extra bullets into the body while it’s still twitching. He’s entitled to do that.

Now though, Woods has another great opportunity. He should, at least publicly, accept Garcia’s apology. He should say something like “God knows I’ve made mistakes in my life that I regret. I’ve asked people to forgive me and been fortunate that so many people have done so. Sergio’s asked me to forgive him. I told him I hope we can start again on Square 1 and show one another the respect – on and off the golf course – that all of us would like to have.”

That would be game, set, match Tiger.

In all likelihood, the thought of letting Garcia off the mat a little won’t cross Woods’ mind now. And, if it does cross the mind of his agent or PR person, they aren’t likely to voice it to their boss. Imagine it though: Tiger the Magnanimous. It would be the most stunning thing Woods has done since he made the putt on 18 at Torrey Pines in 2008 to force the U.S. Open playoff with Rocco Mediate.

And there would be one huge difference: No one was surprised when Woods made that putt. Almost everyone would be shocked if he made this gesture.

Garcia just left him with a tap-in to win a major that could have more meaning than any victory already on his resume.

Knock it in Tiger.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”