And in This Corner

By Michael CollinsFebruary 20, 2008, 5:00 pm
Editor's note: Michael Collins has been a stand-up comedian for 15 years and has more than seven years experience as a professional caddie. He currently covers the PGA TOUR as a correspondent with XM Satellite Radio and takes his turn on The Turn Mondays on GOLF CHANNEL.
So, Im on the flight to Tucson for the Match Play (not in first class this time!) sitting next to a couple of beautiful blondes, Robin and Arlyn (How sweet is that name? And, yes, she is as hot as her name.), on their way to Phoenix so Arlyn can interview to get into dental school.
So were talking golf and schools ' Arlyn graduated from UF last year; Robin (her mom) owns a cleaning company ' and, of course, they ask me about Tiger and Phil. Are they cool? Are they nice guys? Nah, theyre both huge jerks. You shouldve seen their faces! Then I let em off the hook and told them how cool they really are and I start thinking how lucky we are in the sport of golf that we really dont have villains. I mean we try to create them (see Rory Sababtini, Vijay Singh, even Nicklaus back in the day) but it just doesnt really work, because when it comes down to it most guys out here on tour are good at heart.
Now there are guys I would like (Id actually pay) to see fight. Lumpy vs. Colin Montgomerie (Heavyweights); Charles Howell III vs. Camilo Villegas (Featherweights); Boo Weekly vs. an Orangutan (that one actually happened!); Frank Lickliter II vs. Peter Lonard (Redneck vs. Rugby); and the main undercard, Phil vs. Vijay. Now some people wanna see Tiger vs. Phil, but I think the Vijay match-up would be better because they have a past.
Imagine Vijay taking a swing at Phil! Phil smiles sheepishly as he kicks Veej below the belt! Vijay goes down but being a former bouncer, and having golf balls of steel, he grabs Phil by the hair and pulls him down, too. And, of course, Phil is still smiling. After three rounds Vijays bloody, ashy, and has bite marks on his shoulder. Phil has three teeth and hes STILL SMILING!
Now who should Tiger fight? KJ Choi! Former power lifter, you know hed know some tae kwon-something thatd at least confuse Tiger for a little bit. I dont think KJ could win but itd be a good fight!
This week the sports news has been all about steroids. Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte were actually in front of a congressional committee and the public to talk about or deny their use of human growth hormones and steroids. First of all, arent we at war in TWO PLACES? What the hell are our congressmen doing talking sports at a time like this? And second do we really care? I mean lets be real, were gonna start testing this year on the TOUR for drugs and to be honest with you, I dont care if someone tests positive for anything. A friend of mine, who will remain nameless, had the funniest line at the player meeting a few weeks ago when the players and TOUR got together to talk about the testing policy.
The exchange went like this: Player, So you saying that you can come to MY HOUSE at anytime and test me? Tour, Yes, thats the gist of the agreement. Player, Hows the tester gonna get out of my house with a bullet in his a--? Eruption of applause and laughter from the other players present.
I dont care if Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Floyd Landis and even Marion Jones used. You know why, because no matter how many steroids, HGH, and horse tranquilizers I took, I cant do what these people can do. I cant golf, run, jump, swim, hit, throw, and ride a bike at the level these people can when theyre NOT on steroids. I think thats what most of the people making all this noise are truly so pissed about. Heres a reality slap: if Tiger, Phil, Vijay, Ernie, and even Jim Furyk were all doing steroids and then stopped, theyd still put a whooping on you and me. Maybe we should require them to play while they are on mushrooms just to see!
Robin and Arlyn previewed this column and they both agreed with me. Robin says we should let them all do steroids if they want to; they know the price theyll have to pay later in life. Arlyn says, whatever helps her get into dental college. Beautiful, single, and gonna have a good paying job. WHERE ARE MY CARDS?!?
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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.

    Getty Images

    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.  

    @radiosarks on Twitter

    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

    Getty Images

    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.