Tiger Giveth and Taketh Away

By Michael CollinsJune 19, 2008, 4:00 pm
My greatest U.S. Open moment has been taken from me!
Damn you, Tiger Woods; its all your fault. Tuesday, you, me and Bubba (Watson) are joking around on the putting green and everything is fine and dandy. By Saturday night after following you around the course, my best moment at a U.S. Open has now been replaced - and I'm not in this one! At least the second one you were in, but at I was too. Now that's even thats third.
Let me explain. My previous favorite U.S. Open moment was caddying in Pinehurst, first time its held there since Payne Stewart won. Im caddying for Omar Uresti and in spite of him putting a spike through one of my Nikes before the second 18 we made it through the qualifying and got in.
We had practice rounds with Justin Leonard one day, whos a lot funnier than they show on TV, and David Duval (with his dad Bob telling funny stories from his days on tour walking with us) talking fishing and telling jokes about Ben Wallaces afro.
This was setting up to be a special week for me. Then, of course, Thursday comes and so does the carnage. Let me tell you before they started that graduated rough, the U.S. Open really sucked (Corey Pavin exception) for short straight hitters, of which Omar is. That was because short straight hitters normally only miss the fairways by a yard or two and in Opens past that was the worse place to miss. So by the time were coming down the last three holes we are gonna HAVE to par in.
I just got off the phone with Omar (hes here in Hartford this week, and were setting up movie times for the week but that's a whole nother addiction) to make sure I tell it right. The 16th is a devastatingly long par 4, about 490 yards playing a little downhill, but even after a good drive we still had a 4-iron into a green about as soft as Nancy Grace interviewing one of the Texas cult mothers.
With a middle left hole, I tell O, front of the green, let it release. He hits it perfect. -- 25 feet for birdie. But we dont need birdies, just birdie putts. He two-putts for par, ONE DOWN! next up, the par-3 17th, uphill about 200 yards, front right hole, Anywhere but front right bunker is the place to be. Well y'all already know where this ball is going as Im screaming, GET UP! GET UP, PLEASE, BABY!!!
Sometimes players, after hitting a shot like that, will put their chin on their chest and as a caddie you know bogey is coming because in the player's mind theyve already made bogey. But this time O is walking with his head up at a much faster pace than I was used to. We get to the bunker, good lie but short sided with the green sloping away. He hits as good a shot as could be asked from there, 15 feet for par. He brings me in on the read and I give him the line. He strokes it exactly over the spot I said and on the final rotation... BINGO! TWO DOWN, ONE TO GO!!
The 18th is a relatively easy tee shot for a U.S. Open -- wide(r) fairway, but the second shot is to a right pin tucked between ridges. No problem, front of the green, uphill putt for bird from 20 feet. I can take a deep breath, when, OOOOOOOOPS. O hits it 4-and-a-half feet by! Now weve got a downhill slider, left-to-right to make the cut on the number (as we were some of the final threesomes on the course). I gotta find some Kaopectate....
I get called to look at the putt. Ill skip the drama and tell you he made the putt because my favorite moment came the next day. The way the cut worked out, we were the last ones in on the number and because of that we were playing first off ALONE on Saturday.
We get to the first tee on Saturday morning and the stands are packed. I see O is a little anxious, and so am I, but there is a microphone on a stand next to the tee. This is a dangerous thing for a stand-up comedian to see. An older (late 50s) man wearing a bow tie walks up to the mic, does some announcements and welcomes, then tells the crowd about turning off any cell phones that were inadvertently brought in. Time to pounce! I grab the mic from this poor man and say, Unless youre a good looking girl, in that case my number is 717...
The crowd roars with laughter seeing a caddie, in bib and all, do such a thing. Then the man says one more thing and uncomfortably walks two steps away from the mic... MY TURN AGAIN! I walk back up to the mic and say, And how about a warm welcome for our starter?! (applause) Orville Redenbachers brother, Wilbur! The place went nuts. Omars sitting on a fold-out chair, bent over laughing; the State Troopers who were standing around had their hands on their knees with tears coming out of their eyes as the starter ran into the tent to hide from the crowd, which made it even funnier.
But the best part: Omar piped driver right down the middle and I got to spend the day, just me caddying and my friend playing the U.S. Open by ourselves on Saturday morning getting standing ovations, talking about everything and nothing, having a blast.
I was almost disappointed that we played too good. We passed many men that day and had to play with another pro Sunday, but by the time we finished Saturday coming up 18, we were the talk of the course for what we did at the first tee to the starter. During a tournament where there are very few smiles, my friend and I skipped into a Saturday sunrise.
And that was my favorite moment in golf until I followed Tiger on Saturday for XM witnessing and calling the eagle at 13, the chip-in birdie at 17, and the eagle at 18. I literally went crazy on the air (you should hear the blooper reel: they mix my call with a Spanish broadcaster calling a soccer goal) but thats because when it comes down to it, Im a fan first. Now I know what people who saw Bobby Jones in person win a major felt. But daggone, now hes even taking MY moments! And if this week in Hartford is even half of the finish Jay Williamson and Hunter Mahan put on last year, Im gonna need a medivac.
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.
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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.”