Teammates Turned Adversaries

By Mercer BaggsAugust 24, 2001, 4:00 pm
In one month, theyll be teammates playing for their country. But, for now, theyre competitors battling for a $1 million first-place prize ' and, perhaps, a little more.
Jim Furyk leads fellow Ryder Cuppers Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods by two shots heading into the weekend in the $5 million WGC-NEC Invitational.
Furyk shot a 4-under 66 Friday to finish 36 holes at the Firestone Country Club at 9-under-par 131.
Two shots is nothing, Furyk said. Two shots can change on one hole. I still think we are very early in the golf tournament.
Mickelson matched Furyks 66 to move to 7-under, while Woods shot 67 to do the same.
Stuart Appleby (64), Padraig Harrington (66) and Darren Clarke (68) are tied for fourth place at 6-under.
Furyk started the day tied at the top with Greg Norman, but the Shark sank in round two. Norman, who said Thursday he was as confident in his game as he had been in years, bogeyed two of his first four holes in the second round and never got on-track.
Proving the fickle nature of Sport, Norman followed a head-turning 65 with a head-dropping 1-over 71.
The 46-year-old now stands five off the lead at 4-under.
Furyk set the pace early Friday, birdieing two of his first three holes.
He dropped a shot at the par-4 4th, but steadied himself with five straight pars to close his outward nine.
Furyk started the back with a birdie at the 10th, and then added another at the 14th to tie Woods for the lead at 8-under.
Tiger appeared ready to run away with his third consecutive NEC title when he birdied holes 6-8 to make the turn in 4-under-par 31.
Tiger took a two-shot lead at 9-under with his fourth birdie in five holes at No. 10, but ran into some serious trouble coming home.Woods tee shot at the par-4 13th nestled near a tree in the left rough. Laying caution to the wind ' as he is oft to do ' Tiger played a full shot, hitting a large root on his downswing.
Tiger, who was forced to hit a shot left-handed earlier in his round, released the club at the moment of impact with the trees base. And after shaking the sting out of his hands, he walked briskly to where his ball landed ' about 30 yards away.
It was the best shot I had, said Woods, who admitted to hurting his elbow when he hit the root. The healthiest shot would have been to take two-club lengths and drop. But the best shot was to go for it, try and put the ball in the fairway, edge it up there and make your par.
Instead, Woods made bogey ' his first of the day ' and dropped into a tie at the top with Furyk.
The 625-yard, par-5 16th was the deciding hole between the two leaders. Furyk made a routine birdie; meanwhile, Woods recorded an uncharacteristic double bogey.
It took Tiger three shots just to find the fairway at the 16th. He then hit the pin with his fourth shot, but the ball caromed 12 feet from the hole.
Woods then misjudged a couple of putts. Four swings + three putts = double bogey.
Having watched a two-shot lead turn into a three-shot deficit, Woods stuck his approach shot at the 18th to 10 feet, from where he converted the birdie putt.
However, Tiger wont be in Saturdays final twosome. That distinction belongs to Furyk and Mickelson.
The left-hander, who didnt arrive in Akron, OH until 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, played a cautious round on Friday.
Mickelson recorded four birdies to nary a bogey.
I didnt hit the best shots, but I scored well, Mickelson said.
With his wife, Amy, expecting their second child later this year, Mickelson has but one more tournament on his 2001 schedule ' the WGC American Express Championship.
Yet, though he has two victories to Tigers four this season ' and lacks the major that Woods has ' Mickelson still believes he can win Player of the Year honors.
If I can win this week, I move to the top of the money list, he said.
I know theres one player thats won more tournaments, but I dont know who has played better (than me) throughout the year.
A victory this week is a must if he wants to keep alive his POY hopes.
News, Notes and Numbers
*Lee Westwood withdrew after his second round after sustaining an injury to his left wrist on the 13th tee. The Englishman completed his round of 8-over-par 78 and went straight to the physio unit, where his wrist was strapped and ligament damage was diagnosed. He is expected to be sidelined for a little while and has flown home to England.
*Mickelson declined to come to the pressroom after the second round. He had to throw out the first pitch in an Akron Arrows minor league (AA) baseball game.
*Playing alongside Woods, Thomas Bjorn shot 9-over-par 79 to fall from 4-under to 5-over.
Full-field scores from the WGC-NEC Invitational
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”