Bunker Shots

By Randall MellAugust 4, 2009, 4:00 pm
With football season just around the corner, we set the weeks storylines with the help of some great gridiron coaches:
Down, set, hike me another trophy!
Its not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference. ' Bear Bryant
Tiger Woods has made a good living in the rubber capital of the world.
In the land of B.F. Goodrich, Goodyear and Firestone, nobody bounces the competition better.
Woods will be looking to win for the seventh time at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, when he tees it up at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Of course, it probably wouldnt matter where he played this week if it were a World Golf Championship event. You think his winning percentage in major championships is impressive? Check out his WGC record.
Woods has won 14 of the 49 major championships he has played as a professional.
Thats a nice little 28.6 winning percentage.
He has won 16 of the 30 WGC events he has played.
Thats a whopping 53 percent of the time.
Woods won eight of nine WGC events in one stretch, including five in a row.

Feels like a home-field advantage
Believe deep down in your hearts that youre destined to do great things. ' Joe Paterno
WGC events are almost always about Tiger almost all the time, so here we go with a listing of where Firestone ranks among PGA Tour stops where Woods has won the most as a pro:
  • Torrey Pines ' 7
  • Firestone Country Club ' 6
  • Bay Hill Club and Lodge ' 6
  • Augusta National ' 4
  • Cog Hill Golf & Country Club ' 4
  • Muirfield Village ' 4

    Second-half comeback
    Ive had smarter people around me all my life, but I havent run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they cant outwork you, then smarts arent going to do them much good. Thats just the way it is. And if you believe that and live by it, youd be surprised at how much fun you can have. ' Woody Hayes
    Vijay Singh says his knee is healed, and now his swings rounding back into form, which bodes well as he prepares to defend his title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
    Singh, 46, hasnt won this season, which places him in a similar spot to a year ago. After making Bridgestone his first PGA Tour title last season, he went on to win the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship in back-to-back starts and claim the FedEx Cup.
    Sing is looking to extend his streak of consecutive seasons with at least one PGA Tour title to eight.
    Guess who holds the longest ongoing streak? Of course, Sir Eldrick Woods, who has won in 14 consecutive seasons, every year since he turned pro in 96.

    Best player on the second unit
    Breaks balance out. The sun dont shine on the same ol dogs rear end every day. ' Darrell Royal
    Thirty-eight WGC events have been staged since they were initiated in 1999, including seven World Cups, which were dropped from the WGC umbrella after the 06 season.
    Whos the best player not named Tiger Woods in the WGCs short history?
    That would be Australias Geoff Ogilvy.
    Woods has his 16 WGC titles and Ogilvy has three (06 and 09 Accenture Match Plays and the '08 CA Championship).
    Northern Irelands Darren Clarke (00 Accenture Match Play and 03 Bridgestone) and South Africas Ernie Els (01 World Cup and 04 CA Championship) are the only other players to have won more than one.

    The women will scrimmage this week
    Any time you give a man something he doesnt earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect. ' Woody Hayes
    The LPGA has no event scheduled this week, but it feels like training camp is in session at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., with the American Solheim Cup team practicing for the Aug. 21-23 matches.
    After unveiling her team Sunday at the end of the Ricoh Womens British Open in England, American Captain Beth Daniel gets a chance to experiment with pairings for alternate-shot and best-ball competitions.
    There will be pressure on Michelle Wie, whose selection as a captains pick drew much scrutiny, even though her record stood out as superior to other captains pick possibilities. Who will Wie be paired with? How about pairing the oldest and youngest players on the team? How about Wie, 19, teaming up with Juli Inkster, 49? It might not be the best fit for alternate shot because Wies so much longer than Inkster, but it would be an intriguing best-ball combo.
    Inkster, with 31 LPGA titles, has a lot to offer the winless Wie. As far as alternate shot goes, Brittany Lincicomes a long bomber like Wie. Or theres Paula Creamer, who hits more greens than anyone on tour. The Creamer/Wie duo would be an intimidating team with Creamer leading the LPGA in GIR and Wie leading it in putting.
    Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
  • Full Coverage - Reno-Tahoe Open
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • @kharms27 on Instagram

    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.