History Major

By Mercer BaggsJuly 19, 2000, 4:00 pm
He won by 12 at Augusta. He won by 15 at Pebble Beach. Now Tiger Woods is on golf's most sacred ground. And the question persists, will he assault the Old Course in the same manner in which he has other reverent venues?
 
Woods is a 2-to-1 favorite to capture the career Grand Slam this week in St. Andrews, Scotland, site of this week's 129th Open Championship. It's the lowest odds ever posted in the tournament's history, and it's warranted. Woods has won 14 of his last 26 PGA TOUR starts. He's won two of the last three majors. We won't go into detail what he did at this year's U.S. Open.
 
Aside from his length, short game, mentality and resume, Woods has something else on his side - history. Every time he tees it up, you know there's a chance you're going to witness something you've never seen before. And wouldn't it be fitting that at just 24 years of age he would become the youngest player to win all four majors on golf's oldest course. Maybe it's not history. Maybe it's destiny.
 
'If there's any two tournaments you want to win, and have them on specific golf courses, you're going to want to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and win the British Open at St. Andrews,' said Woods.
 
'It's just ironic it happened to be in the same year, and ironic the fact I get to have the chance to complete the Grand Slam on the most historic golf course ever designed,' he said. 'It's just a wonderful opportunity.'
 
But, there is hope for the field. The last time Tiger was this prohibitive a favorite was the Masters. He finished 5th. There are also the elements. Woods may have an advantage over his peers in terms of ability and mentality, but in Scotland, Mother Nature reigns supreme. And she's fickle at best.
 
Then, there's putting. Tiger never three-putted at the 2000 U.S. Open or the 1997 Masters (see opening paragraph). In his last start, Woods took 123 putts through four rounds of the Advil Western Open. He tied for 23rd, his worst finish of the season.
 
And lest we forget the 155 others in the field. They're not half bad.
 
At 14 to 1, Ernie Els is the odds-on favorite to finish runner-up to Tiger. He's already accomplished that feat three times this season. He's also finished second in both of the year's first two majors. However, this week there's a new Ernie Els in town. Or, actually, it's an old Ernie Els. One of confidence. One on form. One who's just won. Last week, Els captured the Standard Life Loch Lomond, in what proved to be a dramatic primer to this week's Open. It was his first victory anywhere in nearly 17 months.
 
Americans have won four of the last five Open Championships, dating back to John Daly's win a St. Andrews in 1995. Last year, Paul Lawrie came from 10 strokes down on Sunday to defeat Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard in a playoff. Of course, he did have a little help along the way.
 
This week, Lawrie is 125-to-1 long-shot to defend in his homeland. The Scot hasn't won since his triumph in Carnoustie. In recent months, he's suffered through a groin injury, which forced him to skip the U.S. Open. Then, on Tuesday, he was struck in the wrist by a child's backswing while conducting a youth clinic. It forced him to skip a scheduled practice round on Tuesday, but the defending champion says he'll be ready come Thursday.
 
'I normally only have one practice round, so it's not going to do me any damage,' said Lawrie.
 
As with any major there are a myriad of storylines. There's the ERC driver controversy. How many players will use the club that's legal in Europe, but illegal in the states? Can Nick Faldo continue his reemergence at the site of his second Open championship? How will Sergio Garcia fare a year removed from his 89-83 performance at Carnoustie?
 
Will Jack Nicklaus make the cut in what could be his final Open appearance? Will David Duval be a factor? Will Duval, Colin Montgomerie or Phil Mickelson earn their first major? Will Lee Westwood make it 3-in-a-row in Europe? What in the world will Daly do? And of course, we can't forget about Van de Velde.
 
By day's end Sunday, a new chapter in golf history will be completed. As to who writes it, well, we'll have to wait and see. Then again, British bookies will give you 2 to 1 odds it will be Tiger Woods.
 
NEWS, NOTES AND NUMBERS

  • This week's purse is $4,330,000 (approx.). The winner will collect $787,400 (approx.).
  • Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen are the only four players who have won each of the four current major events.
  • This is the 26th British Open contested on the Old Course at St. Andrews. The first occurred in 1873, when Tom Kidd shot 91-88 to win. John Daly won the last time it was played here in 1995.
  • The British Open didn't become an official PGA TOUR event until 1995.
  • The last player to successfully defend was Tom Watson in 1983.
  • David Gossett, Philip Rowe, Luke Donald and Mikko Ilonen are the only amateurs in the 156-man field.
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'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team

By Nick MentaJuly 19, 2018, 4:45 pm

“The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.

Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.

Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.

A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.

"Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told GolfChannel.com in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."

Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."

He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.

Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.

“It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.

"The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.

In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Web.com Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

“I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."

The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”