The Way the Ball Bounces

By Mercer BaggsJuly 15, 2003, 4:00 pm
SANDWICH, England ' Tiger Woods walked along the mounds that are Royal St. Georges fairways, wiping his brow as the heat intensified Tuesday.
 
It is those contours, however, not so much the sun, that will make a man sweat in this 132nd Open Championship.
 
These fairways are very difficult to try and hit, especially with all the mounding in them, Woods said. And thats just the way it is. You try and understand youre hitting good shots, youre going to get bad bounces ' hit marginal shots and get great bounces.
 
Irelands Padraig Harrington, the highest ranked European (ninth) in the field, agreed: You have to accept the good and the bad bounces.
 
Its going to test our patience, added U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, I think more than any course Ive ever played.
 
This is the 13th time Royal St. Georges has hosted an Open Championship. It has produced a list of champions far less suspect than its fairway caroms.
 
John H. Taylor (1894), Harry Vardon (1899, 1911), Walter Hagen (1922, 28), Bobby Locke (1949), Sandy Lyle (1985) and Greg Norman (1993) are among RSGs accredited winners.
 
Things have changed a bit in the decade since Norman fired a final-round 64 to win his second Claret Jug. The course, which was the first venue outside of Scotland to host this championship, has been lengthened 246 yards to a healthy 7,106. Nine of the tees have been altered.
 
But while nuances have changed, the essence is still the same.
 
Whereas Olympia Fields, site of this years U.S. Open, was straight forward, Royal St. Georges is more Jerry Lewis than Dean Martin.
 
Here, what you see is not always what you get. Because you cant entirely distinguish what it is you are seeing.
 
My definition of this golf course is a quirky golf course, said Norman. Youve got humps, lumps and hollows.
 
Some of the shots are semi-blind, some shots you have to trust the distance how far you want to hit it through the air, but then you have to calculate a 60-yard run, and hopefully that run is going to be straight.
 
Some of the greens are situated low, some are high. Some are exposed, where the greens are very, very firm and fast, and some are receptive, where you can spin the ball back with a pitch shot.
 
You have got to get to know the golf course early on in the week, and if the conditions stay the same, you get a good feel about the golf course.
 
Woods, who is usually more exacting than exhausting in his major preparation, played his third practice round at RSG Tuesday morning, teeing off a shade past 6:00 AM.
 
Its playing differently than what Ive seen on videos, a different wind, said the 2000 British Open champion. I remember Greg (Norman) hitting driver, 4-iron on the last hole (in 1993). Today I was debating whether to hit 2-iron or 3-iron off that tee.
 
This is Tigers first visit to Sandwich, situated along Englands southeast coastline, as it is for many in the field. And all involved have been treated to a series of glorious sun-drenched days.
 
The conditions remind Norman of the time leading up to the 93 championship, when the sun teamed with the wind to create a treacherously fast and firm layout.
 
Id love to be able to sit here in the locker room for about four hours and listen to what the players said after the first day they played here, said Norman.
 
Like the first fairway ' if the conditions stay like this, 20 percent of the field will only be able to keep it on the fairway. They may all hit the middle of the fairway, but it wont stay on.
 
Wednesday rains took the teeth out of the course a decade ago, and may again do so this time. Thunderstorms are a possibility over the next two days.
 
But, forecasters predict, players will not have to endure the extreme wrath of Mother Nature, as they did Saturday at Muirfield a year ago.
 
It was very cold, very windy and very wet. And nothing defines that days apocalyptic attitude more so than Woods round.
 
Two off the lead at the start of the day, Woods, who had already won the Masters and U.S. Open, struggled mightily, lashing through the heather on his way to a 10-over 81. He recovered Sunday to shoot 65 and tie for 28th. Still, it was his fifth finish outside the top 10 in eight British Open appearances.
 
It marked the first of four consecutive majors played without a victory. For the first time since 1999, he is without a major trophy on his mantle.
 
I just would like to play more consistently. If I do that Ill give myself a chance to win, he said. Youre not going to win every one, but certainly at least you can give yourself a chance coming down the back (nine) on Sunday. Thats one of the things I havent been able to do.
 
Woods was five back entering the final round of last years PGA Championship before rallying to a runner-up finish. He had bookend rounds of 76-75 at this year's Masters, and a third-round 75 knocked him out of contention in the U.S. Open.
 
Though recently winless in golfs four biggest events, Woods does have four victories this season.
 
He won three times in his first four starts coming off of knee surgery, had one top 10 in his next six, and then quashed all talk of a slump by crushing the field in his last tournament, the Western Open.
 
The key to making it two in a row this week may well lie in events beyond his control ' the spastic ball-hops.
 
Woods said he hit a 2-iron down the 17th fairway Tuesday only to have it finish in the knee-high hay.
 
I think everyone will probably say this is the most severe fairways were going to play, as far as bounces go. Not too often do you hit the ball down the middle and you end up in the bunker or the rough because of the bounces, he said.
 
It comes down to getting the right bounce, and a guy getting a bit a luck on this golf course.
 
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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 golfodds.com.


    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.”