Sunday Morning Coming Down

By Mercer BaggsJuly 23, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship Hes now won 11 of these things. But its hardly old hat. Tiger Woods loves to win major championships, and each one has its own special meaning.
None like this one.
Ten times, Tiger has been able to celebrate a major victory with his father, Earl. This time he could not. Earl passed away May 3 due to cancer, leaving his son with lots of memories and lots of emotion.
Tiger Woods and caddie
Tiger Woods and Steve Williams embrace after Woods' third Open Championship victory.
That emotion, previously unavailable for public consumption, overflowed Sunday evening in England, when Tiger tapped in his par putt for a two-stroke victory ' a repeat performance ' in the 135th Open Championship.
Woods raised his fists, gave a shout that Pops could hear in Heaven, and then broke down. He hugged his caddie, Steve. As Williams went to pull away, Tiger held on. He buried his head into Williams broad right shoulder and covered it in tears. He then shared an extended embrace with his wife, Elin. And another with his instructor, Hank Haney, as well as with a few other people.
He didnt have his father to bear hug this time, so he spread the love around to everyone else.
It was honest and real. It was the best moment of this championship.
Driving into work this morning, trying to beat Tiger and Sergio to the first tee, I heard a song, Sunday Morning Coming Down, and wondered if Johnny Cash was singing the theme for this finale at Royal Liverpool.
It sure seemed like it, especially with everyone tumbling down the leaderboard early.
Chris DiMarco bogeyed the first. Jim Furyk bogeyed the first two. Adam Scott did the same. Mark Calcavecchia bogeyed 2. Garcia three-putted 2 and 3 for bogey. Angel Cabrera tripled the second. Ernie Els didn't falter, but never made a move.
By the time Woods made the turn, he had a three-stroke lead. It looked like a reprise of the 2002 Masters Tournament, when Woods led a group of world-class players by a slim margin, posted a modest final-round score, and still won handily.
Thank goodness for an inspired DiMarco. He put forth a fight that would have made his late mother so very proud of her son.
His birdie at 13, combined with Tigers bogey at 12, cut his deficit to just one. But he could get no closer. Woods birdied 14 and 15 ' with still two par-5s to play ' to create a separation that could not be fully filled.
Woods wasnt flawless this Sunday, but he was close. He tied the lowest score of the day, a 5-under 67, which is remarkable considering that he was playing from the front.
Just goes to show you what he can do when it puts his ball in play.
By using driver only once over four rounds, he managed to hit an astonishing 86 percent of these tricky and unpredictable links fairways ' this from a man who ranks outside the top 175 this season on the PGA TOUR in accuracy off the tee, and who hit only 25 percent of the fairways in two quick rounds at the U.S. Open.
And even though he was hitting longer irons into greens crustier than W.C. Fields, he managed to get his ball to finish on them 81 percent of the time, 15 of 18 on Sunday. He knew that he couldnt be aggressive, and so he wasnt. He just made sure to hit as many browns in regulation as possible, just put the ball anywhere on a putting surface that mirrored worn-out grass in the final match at Wimbledon.
His execution was brilliant. His putting, save for portions of the third round, was magnificent. His pace was perfect, particularly on Sunday.
His only mistake came in the form of an errant approach shot at 12, which led to his only dropped shot of the day, and can be attributed to the annoyance of the incessant clicking of camera phones.
Woods was as close to mistake-free as a player can be in the final round of a major championship.
Such cannot be said of his playing competitor.
Garcias first mistake came when he got dressed in the morning. After watching him the last two days, I thank my mother for making me color blind.
Sergios game was almost as offensive as his attire. Nerves attributed to a couple of early, critical errors. Frustration or disappointment may have contributed to a couple more going out. One day after shooting a front-nine 29 to rally into contention, he was 10 shots higher to plummet out.
Regardless of how he may try and spin it, this was a big loss for the 26-year-old Spaniard. Heading to the PGA Championship at Medinah, site of his electric introduction to the golfing public in 1999, Garcia is still without a major championship.
But its not just that ' its not just that Sergio hasnt won one of golfs Big 4. Its that this week ' this final round ' proved that he is no nearer Woods than he was seven years ago. In fact, hes no where close.
But, then, who is? Perhaps Phil Mickelson, who should not be discredited because of a lackluster performance this week.
Woods, though, on the heels of missing his first cut as a professional in a major championship, proved once again that he is still the standard.
The whole week, not just on Sunday, he was in complete control of his mind, his body and his clubs. And even his emotions.
It was all in-check ' until it was all over. Then, it all came pouring out.
As Kris Kristofferson wrote, and Johnny Cash sang to me this morning: And Lord, it took me back to something that Id lost. Somewhere, somehow along the way.
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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

    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.”