Open All But Closed

By Mercer BaggsJuly 22, 2000, 4:00 pm
Tiger Woods is a cruel man. He gave us hope on Saturday. Hope for a competitive final round in the 129th Open Championship. He then took that hope and squashed it flat. Leading by as few as one shot on Saturday, Woods will take a six-stroke advantage into the final round.
 
Woods stares down shotWoods shot a 5-under-par 67 to move to 16-under through three rounds; good enough for a six-shot lead over his nearest competitor, David Duval.
 
In perfect scoring conditions, the world's best players set out to assault an almost defenseless Old Course in the third round. Led by Duval, the field made a run at Woods, who entered the weekend with a three-shot lead.
 
At one point on Saturday, Duval, Thomas Bjorn and Loren Roberts climbed to within two of Tiger. David Toms, Ernie Els and Steve Flesch all managed to get within one. But just as the tournament was tightening, Wood pulled away.
 
After a bogey at the 2nd, which ended his streak of 63 straight holes in a major event without dropping a shot, Woods responded on the very next hole by sinking a 7-footer for birdie. He carded a second birdie at the 8th and antoher at the 9th. He then strung together three straight birdies beginning at the 12th. Woods did make a second bogey at 'The Road Hole' 17th, but just as he did at the beginning of the round, Woods closed with his 7th birdie of the day.
 
'I need to go out and execute my shots one at a time,' said Woods. 'I have 18 more holes to get the job done.
 
'I guess the media finally got what it wanted. The media gets the top two players in the world against each other. Really it's just two friends playing.'
 
Tiger vs. David. It's what we've all been waiting for. A showdown between the world's No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players in the final group, in the final round of a major championship. But thanks to his otherworldly play, Woods has dulled the anticipation.
 
Duval did what he had to do on Saturday. Battling back spasms, he fired a bogey-free 66. Still it wasn't enough. Trailing Tiger by seven shots as the day began, Duval picked up only a single stroke by round's end.
 
'Well, at least I get to look him in the eyes,' Duval said of his final round confrontation with Woods. 'I felt like I played like the first two days, except that today I eliminated the mistakes. I feel like my game is back to where it should be and that I can win events like these.'
 
Els had the potential to make the biggest splash in the third round. After a bogey at the 1st, he birdied the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 8th and 10th holes to move to 10-under-par. At the time he was just one off the lead. Once Tiger birdied the 8th, Els was two back entering the 12th. That's where Els' chances of catching Tiger by the tail ended. The smooth swinging South African hit into an unplayable lie off the tee. He was forced to take a drop. Two swings and two putts later, Els had carded a double bogey and fell four back of Woods. He parred his final six holes to enter the final round eight off the lead at 8-under.
 
Tiger carried a ten-shot lead into the final round of the 100th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he shot a Sunday 67 to win by 15. If he can hold on to win at St. Andrews, Woods will become the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam. He would join Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen as the only men to accomplish that feat.
 
If Tiger can shoot a 66 or better on Sunday he will break the Open Championship 72-hole aggregate scoring record, set by Greg Norman (267) at Royal St. George's in 1993.

 
NEWS, NOTES AND NUMBERS
  • David Gossett, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, turned professional on Saturday, one day after missing the cut at the 129th Open Championship. Said Gossett: 'I feel I can play with these guys and play in (PGA) Tour events.' Gossett, who was low amateur at this year's Masters, shot 71-78 in the British Open.
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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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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, GolfChannel.com 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.