Hawk's Nest: Phil sends message with FedEx fatigue

By John HawkinsSeptember 8, 2014, 3:25 pm

Two of the game’s biggest names, two funny-looking withdrawals at halftime of the BMW Championship.

On the surface, the WDs are unrelated, although it’s hard not to remember how Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley formed such a potent duo two years ago in that biennial match-play shindig vs. the Europeans.

Mickelson’s explanation for pulling out was strikingly candid — almost defiant as an ode to the independent contractor: “My primary goal is to rest and prepare for the Ryder Cup,” he announced. Those words surely delighted the neckties in Camp Ponte Vedra, which can’t quite convince its own membership that everyone else’s events aren’t as big as their own.

The Euro bout is still three weeks off, however, and if Mickelson had been in contention at Cherry Hills, he obviously wouldn’t have flown home Friday night, which forces us to read between the lines. When you’ve won five majors, 42 PGA Tour events and earned approximately a half-billion doing it, a slim shot at another $10 million doesn’t rock your planet.

Rich people don’t buy lottery tickets.

Bradley, meanwhile, bailed over a Thursday rule violation that went unpenalized, a case of guilt trumping a plugged lie in the public eye.

“It’s eating me alive,” Keegs said of the incident, which involved free relief from an embedded ball on a greenside bank at the 18th. “I know [a Tour official] approved the drop, but I just can’t be sure it was the right spot.”

You can’t touch a man who overdoses on chivalry, especially when it costs you a spot in the Tour Championship — Bradley fell from 28th to 33rd by taking himself out of the tournament. Again, there are some murky circumstances here, as Keegs’ morality needle didn’t start spiking until a fan questioned him after the round over whether the ball was truly embedded.

I’m no criminal, but if I’m cleared of any wrongdoing before some dude claims he saw my ball bounce, I get eight hours of sound sleep and keep playing. Unless Tom Watson is the one who snitched on me, I don’t give up my leap at $10 million just because I got a favorable ruling on a pure judgment call.

As a combo platter, the Mickelson-Bradley departures represent cold, hard reality in a league where massive amounts of money are paid to the contestants and the pile of obligations keeps getting taller and thicker. Mickelson is 44 years old. All that is left for him to do is to add a touch of varnish to his legacy, and he’s never been particularly stellar in the Ryder Cup.

So he walks away from the third FedEx Cup playoff tilt to reintroduce himself to his children and fall in love with the game again. He has played five tournaments in the last six weeks. His kids have started school and he hasn’t been around. At this point, the man just wants to go home.

If you work in a factory or lay bricks for a living, you probably can’t comprehend it, but the grind of competitive golf comes with a point of diminishing returns. In 2012, Camp Ponte Vedra slotted a bye week between the BMW and Tour Championship. The Ryder Cup was played at Medinah that fall — those involved in both events went straight from Atlanta to Chicago. No big deal. Captain Watson is said to have asked the Tour for an off week after Atlanta, however, allowing his squad to catch its break before heading overseas. Fair enough, but with Tiger Woods removed from the scene, Mickelson struggling to stay motivated and the first three postseason gatherings producing little suspense, this year’s playoffs have produced the biggest collective clunker in its eight-year history.

Too many format flaws + decreased starpower = a big fat shortage of buzz. This wasn’t the year to go four consecutive weeks, but if there had been a bye, how many people would have noticed?

MICKELSON HAS NEVER been a fan of bunching the playoff events together. You may recall that in the inaugural postseason series (2007), he won the Deutsche Bank Championship, then announced on national television that he’d be skipping the BMW because he didn’t like the schedule.

“They don’t listen to me,” he said at the time regarding his more vehement protests to the Tour.

“We listen to him,” a vice president replied, “but that doesn’t mean we’re going to do what he tells us to do.”

It’s not just the big boys who aren’t crazy about the system. veteran player Bob Estes tweeted on Sunday, “From day one, I’ve said that the FedEx Cup playoff should only be three events. Four is one too many.”

He may not actually know it, but I’ve hired recently retired tour pro Joe Ogilvie to serve as commissioner of the Hawk’s Nest. Ogilvie is in charge of assessing front-burner topics and how the Tour handles those matters, and so I asked him if Mickelson and/or Bradley should be fined or reprimanded for scooting out on tournaments without a suitable cause.

“No, because [Tim Finchem] screwed the FedEx Cup anyway when he went four in a row,” came the response. “Bradley, you can’t fine in any circumstance. I give Finchem a failing grade this year. Dustin Johnson, the website [pgatour.com], sacrificing what is best for the FedEx Cup to the Ryder Cup without getting anything in return ...”

Gee whiz, Joseph. Congratulations. You’ve just won Employee of the Month.

SOMEBODY HAS TO play with Bubba. And in final analysis, that’s what led to Webb Simpson getting a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Simpson-Watson won their first three partnered matches at the 2011 Presidents Cup, triggering an American rout at Royal Melbourne, and Simpson did most of the heavy lifting.

The pair was also a success at Medinah, wrapping a couple of 5-and-4 triumphs around a tough loss to Ian Poulter/Justin Rose. Simpson’s even-keel demeanor is a fine complement to the high-strung lefty — the more Bubba accomplishes, the more irritable he seems to become, at least on the course.

Nobody’s going to come out and say it, but Watson can be a handful as both an opponent and a teammate. He’s hard on himself, harder on his caddie (Ted Scott) and quite willing to express his opinion on just about anything. Besides, it’s not like Simpson was buried beneath a few-dozen bodies on the U.S. points list. He finished 15th — two spots behind Bradley and 10 ahead of Hunter Mahan.

Skipper Tom Watson admitted he wasn’t fully aware of Simpson-Watson’s prior success until shortly before announcing his picks last Tuesday, which is a bit scary. Simpson’s 2014 was by no means awful, although he did miss the cut at three of the four majors and the Players.

A victory in Las Vegas last fall technically makes him a 2014 champion. Otherwise, there were four top-fives, all at weak-field events. I am of the firm belief that Captain Watson had his eye on experienced Ryder Cuppers from the very start — a 65-year-old iconoclast isn’t going to pick a rookie for a road game against an opponent that is an overwhelming favorite.

THAT WAS A different Billy Horschel who won Sunday at Cherry Hills. The old Billy used to yell at his golf ball on just about every shot, good or bad, displaying an animated streak that set him apart from a vast majority of his tour-pro brethren.

It’s funny how we watch a guy on TV one week and decide whether we like or dislike him primarily by his body language and behavior. My late mother was one of the kindest people to ever walk the earth — the apple falls miles from the tree sometimes — and a huge golf fan who just didn’t care for Davis Love III.

“He’s one of the most likeable people I’ve ever covered,” I told her more than twice.

“But he never smiles,” she would say. “He looks like he just got out of the dentist’s chair.”

Horschel definitely rubbed some golf fans wrong with his histrionics, but when I met him at the 2013 PGA Championship, I couldn’t have been more impressed. Nice kid, very respectful, and if he ever makes a Ryder Cup team, America will be the better for it.

Having gone through the transcripts of Horschel’s interviews at Cherry Hills, I’m surprised nobody asked him about the changes in his on-course demeanor. He was questioned repeatedly about the 6-iron he knocked into the hazard on the 72nd hole at the Deutsche Bank, which killed any chance he had of beating Chris Kirk, and for good reason.

That was a mistake no quality tour pro should make. It says something about Horschel’s toughness that he came back and won the very next week, but let’s not get carried away with his future. The last guy to do something similar was Kyle Stanley, and we haven’t seen him since.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 22, 2018, 11:00 am

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Saturday, Day 3 (Times ET)

7AM-3PM (Watch): Jordan Spieth fired 65 to move into a three-way share of the 54-hole lead, while Tiger Woods (66) played his way into contention. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler and Thorbjorn Olesen.

4:30-7AM (Watch): Sunny skies and birdies were on the menu early in Round 3, as Justin Rose made his way around Carnoustie in 64 strokes. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau.

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

8:20AM-3PM (Watch): As the skies cleared on Friday afternoon, defending champion Jordan Spieth made a run to try and regain the claret jug. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith.

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 22, 2018, 8:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 22, 2018, 8:30 am

Tiger Woods begins the final round of the 147th Open Championship four shots off the lead. He's out at 9:25 a.m. ET on Sunday and we're tracking him.

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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.”