The Week That Was
Like most of us, I was eager to see what security changes had taken place during the interim. I was not overly impressed. The taxi dropped me at the airports curb and I was shocked to see curbside check-in was available. I took advantage of the convenience and avoided that dreadfully long line inside which had awaited me.
I was informed a new regulation had just gone into effect and carry-on baggage would now be limited to just one piece, plus a purse or a laptop computer. I gave up the purse and kept the Toshiba. The line at the security checkpoint moved quickly enough perhaps, too quickly. As I approached the metal detectors and x-ray machines, we travelers were told to take our computers out of their bags; but we were not told to turn them on why not? How could that civilian looking at the scanner possibly know that it really was a harmless computer?
I took off my watch with its metal band and emptied my pockets of a complete handful of coins, with the full intention of putting them in one of those trays, to be passed around the detector. But the civilian employee refused my offering and said No, dont worry, go on through. I passed through without any alarm sounding. I wondered what else people were carrying through. No secondary search, either. Was this really safer than before?
Once on the plane, more questions. If youre going to take away metal knives, why allow metal forks? And how about wine bottles and real glass glasses. Weve all seen those movies where bottles and glasses were quickly transformed into weapons. Is there a problem giving everybody plastic cups?
The travel experience was more than just noteworthy; and not just for me. Many of the players in the Vegas field had not been on tour since before September 11. Kenny Perry had been home for the past seven weeks, proudly helping to coach his sons high school golf team. It felt funny to travel again, he said. To see those M.P.s with those M-16s over their shoulders was quite an eye-opening experience. Kenny was shaking his head. Ive seen them over in Europe and to see them in my own country was quite shocking.
The air raids on Afghanistan and the Taliban began last Sunday and continued every day as this golf tournament was played. The one-month anniversary of the September 11 attacks came on the day of the second round of play. Memorial services and funerals for the victims of terrorism ' our fellow Americans ' continued on a daily basis. Then came more anthrax and the warning from the F.B.I.
With all that is going on in our world with all of the angst how is it possible for these PGA Tour players to continue to play their game? How difficult is it to do their jobs? To focus on the task at hand?
Tom Lehman: Im completely committed, and believe in the fact that we should be doing exactly what we always have done. I dont want to be dictated to how Im going to live my life. Hey, were golfers and lets go play golf. Toms comments came after shooting 63, 62 in the first two rounds to lead the tournament. Do what you always do, he added. Dont let somebody else tell you how to live. I think thats really what courage is about ' over-coming your fears and getting out and doing it.
Like all of us, Kenny Perry has spent much of the last month glued to the news. When I get out here, thats kind of four hours away from the world and I really dont think that much about it until I get off the golf course and watch the news. Then I focus on the country. Perry says golfs fans and players have a great deal in common these days. This is my escape, right here. My four hours away.
John Cook has a 15-year-old son and hes worried what a war will mean for him in a few years. But like his peers on tour, Cook plays on. This is what we do. This is our livelihood. John echoes President Bushs wish for all Americans to live their normal lives. Obviously there are way more important things in the world than our golf, Cook says. But thats what we do and thats why our families are able to live the way they do, and thats how we take care of our families. With a look of determination, Cook adds, Thats the best thing that we can do. Keep that attitude, understand whats going on and give the President our support, give our troops our support, give our agencies all of our support. But go along and do our business that were supposed to do it.
During these times that try mens souls, is golf just a silly little game that has little purpose or meaning? Perhaps. To paraphrase our Declaration of Independence: All men are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among those, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Play away please.
'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.
Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.
“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”
Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.
The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.
“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”
Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.
“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”
Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.
“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.
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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.
“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.
Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.
Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.
“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.
“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”
It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.
“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.
“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”
This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.