Hot Topics and Wishful Thinking
And so, here I am, after a weeks vacation, in suburban Chicago at the Cialis Western Open stuck wondering about so many things that my golf mind is actually spinning!
Topic - Tiger and Butch
Butch told The Golf Channel on the Sprint Post Game last Sunday that he and Tiger did in fact talk in the days after the United States Open. Then Tiger answered a TGC driven line of questioning on the topic and told the assembled media here on Wednesday in Chicago that he, in fact, was the one who called Butch to clear the air.
Ive always wondered why we care/cared so much but I think Ive figured it out.
Theory: Since Tiger launched his campaign toward professional success and worldwide stardom, all we seemed to hear about from Woods was what he and Butchie were working on. It was talked about at every press conference. It was talked about at every major.
Butchie and I are making some adjustments, Woods would say. Butchie and I worked on this, Butchie and I worked on that.
And while we listened, we also believed. We believed that if Woods trusted his swing to Harmon then, he was also trusting a good bit of his future too. And if I remember correctly, not many thought Woods would fail. Thus, we also came to believe that Butch Harmon was as good as they came, when it came to keeping the best of the best on the right path, so to speak.
And now, we feel the need to reunite them. To get things back the way they were. To solve the crime thats taken away our dominant star.
Topic ' Tiger and Steve Williams
On his website Tiger admitted that Steve may have gone a bit overboard.
In that same Wednesday news conference Woods again said Williams was a bit out of bounds and told us that discussions had taken place with the PGA Tour about future security involving cameras and the like.
Woods made it clear that the PGA Tour does a fine job of policing things, and at the same time reminded us that the Williams Camera Heist took place on USGA property under the USGAs watch.
And now, Williams, in an interview with the Associated Press, admits that kicking over a news photographers camera was not his best move, but defends his actions in taking a camera away from another photographer while standing on the tee.
Ive wondered why fans and media have seemed so passionate about this over the lasts few weeks.
Theory: Many realize full well that golf as a sport has reached all time highs in popularity. Crowds are greater in number than ever before.
And if the paid assembled crowds at baseball, basketball and football and even tennis are allowed to make noise, boo athletes, and feel safe in doing so, why should golf be so radically different? Did Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa drop their bats in disgust while flash bulbs went off by the hundreds before and during and after each swing in hopes that the record home run swing would be captured for all to see? No. Did somebody come to either sluggers rescue to make sure those cameras were in proper order? No.
Spectators, for the most part, do not want to see those they pay to watch, entertain by taking shots at other paying customers. And many feel that if Williams, whose next smile toward a gallery member might just be his first, chooses to act the way he does, his on-course life will only get more difficult. Agreed?
Another note, on the 18th green of Tigers first round Thursday at Cog Hill, Williams was not wearing his caddy bib. The other two caddies were. Williams, by the way, sports corporate logos on his shirts. Im left wondering if the incident I witnessed was just coincidence.
All that said, I keep wondering about the rest of the year. I have no genie, I have no bottle and as you know by now, I have absolutely no ability for magic. But maybe you can find your way into agreement with some of these wishes for the rest of the 2004 golf calendar:
* I wish, above all other things, that Tiger Woods will once again find his magic. Love him or not, hes a better thrill ride when hes on his so-called A game.
And who wouldnt want Mickelson, Els, Singh and others to earn their biggest triumphs with Woods alongside instead of finishing a few hours in front.
* I wish that Tigers stuntman, I mean front man, I mean caddie Steve Williams would spend more time counting clubs and adding yardages instead of subtracting cameras and bouncing members of the gallery. Hes giving caddies a bad name. Period. Get to know the gallery a little bit. Remember Fluff?
* I wish the United States Golf Association would find a way to keep a weeks worth of U.S. Open discussion targeted on the competition instead of its playing surface. Each year the course garners far too much attention for all the wrong reasons. Its slowly diminishing my enthusiasm for our national championship, and who knows what theyre writing overseas!
* I wish David Duval the best this summer. I hope Shinnecock did something to re-fuel his fire. And he now knows, hes got plenty more work ahead.
* I wish I knew what happened to Matt Kuchar. Hes gone from weekend winner to weekend traveler real quick. And hes got company in the form of David Gossett. Both are true examples for the college stars to emulate so I hope theyre back to winning form soon.
* I wish Europes best players would start doing more than just showing up at majors and instead start winning. Like it or not, it makes for better Ryder Cup fire. And as you know, they have little trouble in beating up on the U.S. in that competition.
* I wish it wasnt so that Dottie Pepper called it a career. Shes been great for the game, and has the drive and desire to go along with the terrific talent.
Injuries can be a tough thing. Maybe a few weeks rest and a few good tournaments (she says shell play a few more this year) might make her reconsider. If not, then I wish shed come to work for TGC!
* I wish for more of Cristie Kerr. Not so much that Im a Kerr fan, but I love it when some of Americas best play to their potential. Now, if Kerr could grab a tow rope to pull up the likes of Laura Diaz, Beth Bauer, Natalie Gulbis and others.
* I wish for a whole lot more of Annika. Just think if Annika called it quits and started a family. The LPGA loses its top draw and more than a few ratings points. How long would sponsors continue to pony up? How much pressure would find its way to Hawaii for Michelle Wie to come up to the big leagues to save the day? Just asking.
* I wish more people would wake up to the strength of the Nationwide Tour. If youre one of those who likes taking your son or daughter out to a minor league baseball game for the ability to catch a better seat and a less expensive experience, go out and watch Jimmy Walker or D.A. Points. Both are PGA Tour bound, and you can actually see them play a round of golf!
* I wish for Steve In the Flesch to continue his superb play. A top 10 at the U.S. Open earned him more Ryder Cup points, and wouldnt it be sweet for him to play for Hal Sutton?
I know, I know. Im biased.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Monday Scramble: Flawless Francesco outlasts them all
Francesco Molinari outlasts the rest, Tiger Woods inches closer to an earth-shattering victory, Jordan Spieth lets a successful title defense slip away, Eddie Pepperell toasts his success and more in this week’s Open edition of Monday Scramble:
Amid a wild and windy afternoon at Carnoustie, where seemingly no less than a dozen players had a viable shot at the claret jug, it was a steady performance from Francesco Molinari that translated into breakthrough.
Molinari is no stranger to the big stage, and five years ago he played the final round alongside Phil Mickelson as Lefty stormed from behind to win at Muirfield. But this time, this day, it was his turn to shine as he put forth a ball-striking and scrambling clinic that yielded 16 pars and two birdies while the other leaders struggled around him.
It's the cap of an impressive heater for Molinari, who is now the first Italian to ever win a major. He outlasted Rory McIlroy at the BMW PGA Championship in May, won the Quicken Loans National by eight shots last month and now has finished first or second in five of his last six worldwide starts.
The soft-spoken veteran played the final two rounds without making a bogey, and he is a worthy champion. Expect the jug to receive a few refills of wine - and perhaps a little coffee - over the next year.
1. For about a 90-minute stretch Sunday, it seemed like Tiger Woods would finally find a way to silence the critics once and for all.
Playing alongside Molinari, Woods displayed the same tactical brilliance on the opening nine, carding two birdies while others struggled out of the gates and, at one point, taking the lead alone. But an errant approach and a poor flop shot led to a double bogey on No. 11, and his bid for the jug was diverted soon thereafter.
But man, what a ride it was through that opening stretch. For months the questions have lingered about exactly how and when Tiger might put all the pieces together, and after an early exit at Shinnecock it was easy to write him off. But his inner tactician shined for much of the week on a toasty layout, and he was steady in all facets over the weekend.
Just as Woods' five-win season in 2013 has been used as a recent example of just how high his ceiling reaches, so too this performance will be viewed like manna from heaven for Tiger apologists. He didn't quite pull it off, but there's every reason to expect that he can do so the next time around.
2. While he came up three shots short of catching Molinari, even Woods appeared to savor the final leg of a T-6 finish that serves as his best result in a major in five years and becomes the new high water mark for an already impressive season.
"It was a blast," Woods told reporters. "I was saying earlier that I need to try and keep it in perspective because, beginning of the year, if they'd have said you're playing the Open Championship, I would have said I'd be very lucky to do that."
3. A bit more on Molinari, the newest Champion Golfer of the Year who has turned into a weekend assassin over the last three months.
Between his stirring victory at Wentworth, his rout at TPC Potomac and his comeback at Carnoustie, Molinari has now played six weekend rounds while making only a single bogey. One!
That includes 36 bogey-free holes over the last two days in Scotland, as Molinari methodically took apart the demanding links layout while turning in the only bogey-free scorecard out of the entire field on Sunday.
"To go the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest," Molinari said. "But I felt really good this morning. When I came here, I felt ready for the challenge."
4 While many players would quiver at the thought of a final-round tee time alongside Woods with a major on the line, Molinari didn't blink. Perhaps because he's been in similar situations before.
In addition to his supporting role during Mickelson's win in 2013, Molinari has twice faced off with Woods in the Ryder Cup - including a 2012 singles' draw that remains Woods' most recent Ryder Cup match. So stepping to the tee Sunday, Molinari was fazed neither by his playing partner nor by the three co-leaders that sat three shots ahead of him.
"Clearly in my group, the attention wasn't really on me, let's put it that way," Molinari said. "If someone was expecting a charge, probably they weren't expecting it from me, but it's been the same the whole of my career."
5. How times change. Just a few weeks ago, Molinari opted to tee it up at the Quicken Loans National instead of the French Open at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National. The reason? He was concerned about his FedExCup standing.
Molinari hadn't done much in the States this year, and he was 123rd in points with his 2019 status very much in limbo. Fast forward a few weeks - including two wins and a runner-up - and Molinari can safely book travel plans on both sides of the Atlantic for years to come.
6. It was a week of what might have been for Jordan Spieth.
Spieth started his stint in Scotland by handing back the claret jug in a ceremony he admitted was more bitter than sweet. But through 54 holes, he was the betting favorite as one of three co-leaders, equipped with a great chance to go back-to-back and end a victory drought that extended back to Royal Birkdale.
Amid a disappointing campaign, it was the first time he started the final round closer than four shots to the lead.
But Spieth apparently used up his magic last year in Southport, as he seemed out of sorts from the start and quickly faded. Spieth didn't make a birdie all day, and he found a gorse bush at an inopportune time en route to a double bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.
It added up to a 76 and a tie for ninth, another disappointing finish in a year of mixed results. Now he'll have to wait another year for a potential reunion with the jug.
7. Of course, Spieth wasn't the only player who watched a share of the 54-hole lead slip away.
Kevin Kisner held at least a share of the lead after each of the first three days, but his bid for a maiden major went sideways in a bunker on the second hole Sunday. Xander Schauffele's bid lasted significantly longer, as he kept pace with Molinari until the 17th hole.
But in the end, it was a 3-over 74 and a share of second place for both men, who now find themselves firmly in the Ryder Cup mix heading into the homestretch of the selection process.
8. For the first time in his career, Rory McIlroy has a runner-up finish in a major championship. But good luck making sense of his week at Carnoustie years from now.
McIlroy was barely a factor over the weekend, having seemingly forfeited his shot at a second Open title during benign third-round conditions. But when his lengthy eagle putt fell on the 14th hole Sunday and sparked a celebration reminiscent of Hazeltine, hope was once again alive.
Ultimately, it was too little too late for the Ulsterman, who couldn't convert a lengthy birdie putt on the 72nd hole that could have putt pressure on the leaders behind him. He'll leave Scotland with a healthy check, but without the feeling that he ever got both feet planted in his quest for the claret jug.
"I just ran out of holes," McIlroy said.
9. If McIlroy's runner-up felt like somewhat of a disappointment, Justin Rose's T-2 finish was nothing short of found money.
Rose needed to birdie the difficult 18th on Friday simply to make the cut on the number, and he rebounded with a third-round 64. The Englishman added a Sunday 69 to lend credence to the notion that, despite only two top-10s in the tournament as a pro, Rose might still have an Open title in him after all.
"I just think having made the cut number, it's a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday," Rose said.
The weekend close continues a recent run of solid form for Rose, who won a few weeks back at Colonial and now has reached a career-best No. 2 in the world rankings.
So the Champion Golfer of the Year walks into a coffee shop...
Sadly, it seems we may not see these creative retirement plans come to fruition - at least not for a few years. But credit to Molinari for thinking outside the box, and credit to Wesley Bryan for a timely share.
This week's award winners ...
Hair of the Dog: Eddie Pepperell. The 27-year-old Englishman admitted he was "a little hungover" during the final round, but he still put up the day's best score with a 4-under 67 that gave him a share of sixth and his first ever top-10 finish in a major. Drinks all around.
Paris Bound?: Webb Simpson. The Players champ tied for 12th to move past Bryson DeChambeau at No. 8 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically. Schauffele moved to 11th, while Kisner moved to 13th.
Quiet Consistency: Tony Finau. Finau tied for ninth at Carnoustie and has now cracked the top 10 in each of the three majors this year. In fact, six of his 10 career major starts have gone for T-18 or better. Perhaps something for Captain Furyk to consider.
Quietly Slumping: Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard is barely a year removed from his watershed win, but he has now missed the cut in four straight majors and has missed six of nine cuts overall dating back to the Masters.
Role Reversal: Molinari, who won The Open while playing alongside Tiger 12 years after he caddied for his brother, Edoardo, in a group with Woods at the 2006 Masters. Woods was the defending champ, and Edoardo was the reigning U.S. Amateur winner:
2006: Francesco Molinari caddies for his brother at The Masters in the same group as Tiger— Golf Monthly (@GolfMonthly) July 22, 2018
2018: Beats Tiger Woods to win The Open #golf #molinari #tigerwoods #golfer #golfers #instagolf #golfstagram https://t.co/QtmHCyPAvZ pic.twitter.com/7ABuJL53So
King of Yelp: To the Carnoustie barber that gave Spieth a trim before the third round that set social media ablaze. While Spieth admitted it was a little "high and tight," it became the most famous £9 haircut in years.
Make Your Own Bed: To the frat house of American stars that has become something of an Open annual tradition. While Spieth, Kisner and Zach Johnson fell short of winning the jug for the house, hopefully they all got a few good shots in on all-time goalie Jason Dufner during intra-squad soccer scrimmages.
Kick Him Out: To the obnoxious fan that nearly derailed Tiger's final tee shot. One-upsmanship has become somewhat of a plague among American crowds, but Sunday showed that even the revered Scottish faithful have a few bad eggs in the bunch.
Place Your Bets: With only 17 days until the opening round of the PGA Championship, the Westgate Las Vegas installed Dustin Johnson as a 12/1 co-favorite alongside Spieth and McIlroy. Woods headlines the group next in line at 16/1.
Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Justin Thomas. For the second year in a row, Thomas' Open chances fell apart during a rainy second round. It was 67-80 at Birkdale, and this time 69-77 to miss the cut by a shot at Carnoustie. Watching what Rose did after finishing only one shot better through 36 holes only adds salt to the wound.
DJ, McIlroy, Spieth listed as PGA betting favorites
Three majors are in the books, but there's still one more trophy up for grabs in two weeks' time.
While next year The Open will signal the end of the 2019 major season amid a revamped calendar, this is the final year that the PGA Championship will be held in August. The tournament returns next month to Bellerive Country Club outside St. Louis, which last hosted the PGA when Nick Price won in 1992 and hasn't hosted a PGA Tour event since Camilo Villegas won the 2008 BMW Championship.
Oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published PGA betting odds shortly after the final putt dropped at Carnoustie and Francesco Molinari left with the claret jug. Topping the board are a trio of major champions: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, all listed at 12/1.
McIlroy won the PGA in both 2012 and 2014, while Spieth needs only the Wanamaker Trophy to round out the career Grand Slam. Johnson has recorded four top-10s in the PGA, notably a T-5 finish at Whistling Straits in 2010 when a few grains of sand kept him out of a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.
Fresh off a T-6 finish in Scotland, Tiger Woods headlines the group listed at 16/1, behind only the three co-favorites as he looks to win a 15th career major.
Here's a look at the betting odds for a number of contenders, with the opening round of the PGA just 17 days away:
12/1: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth
16/1: Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler
18/1: Justin Rose
20/1: Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Jason Day
30/1: Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama
40/1: Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Paul Casey
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar
60/1: Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson
80/1: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Kevin Kisner
100/1: Ian Poulter, Thomas Pieters, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Daniel Berger, Kevin Chappell, Brian Harman, Brandt Snedeker, Charley Hoffman
Molinari moves to No. 6 in world with Open win
After breaking through for his first career major title, Francesco Molinari reached some rarified air in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Rankings.
The Italian's two-shot win at Carnoustie moved him up nine spots to No. 6 in the world, not surprisingly a new career high. But it's also a quick ascent for Molinari, who has now won three of his last six worldwide starts and was ranked No. 33 in the world after missing the cut at The Players Championship two months ago.
A share of second place helped Xander Schauffele jump from No. 24 to No. 18 in the updated standings, while the same result meant Kevin Kisner went from No. 33 to No. 25. Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy both went up one spot after T-2 finishes to No. 2 and No. 7, respectively - a new career high for Rose.
The drama in the rankings unfolded at No. 50, as Tiger Woods moved up 21 spots to exactly No. 50 following his T-6 finish. While some projections had him moving to 51st, Woods was able to sneak into the top 50 just in time to qualify for a return to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as the top 50 in the rankings both this week and next qualify for Akron.
That includes Zach Johnson, last year's runner-up who was not yet qualified but moved from No. 52 to No. 49 this week. It also includes Kevin Chappell, who went from 61st to 47th with a T-6 finish in Scotland.
Despite missing the cut at Carnoustie, Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for another week followed by Rose, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Molinari is now at No. 6, with McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day rounding out the top 10.
Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race
A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.
Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.
Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.
Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:
1. Brooks Koepka
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Patrick Reed
4. Justin Thomas
5. Bubba Watson
6. Jordan Spieth
7. Rickie Fowler
8. Webb Simpson
9. Bryson DeChambeau
10. Phil Mickelson
11. Xander Schauffele
12. Matt Kuchar
13. Kevin Kisner
14. Tony Finau
15. Brian Harman
On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.
Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:
1. Francesco Molinari
2. Justin Rose
3. Tyrrell Hatton
4. Tommy Fleetwood
1. Jon Rahm
2. Alex Noren
3. Rory McIlroy
4. Paul Casey