Bunker Shots Quail Hollow

By Randall MellApril 28, 2009, 4:00 pm
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Blasting into the week ahead . . .
Long John's old for his age
John Daly turned 43 on Tuesday.
Thats not old in golf these days. Vijay Singh has won 22 PGA Tour events in his 40s, more than anybody in history. If youre thinking its because he keeps himself so fit, what about Kenny Perry? At 48, Perry nearly won the Masters, which would have been his fifth victory over the last year. Retief Goosen just turned 40 and looks fit and rejuvenated. Tom Lehman contended at the Transitions Championship two weeks after turning 50. Davis Love III was 44 when he won at Disney last fall. Fred Couples will turn 50 in the fall and is still a factor.
But at 43, Daly seems old for his age, though he can convince us otherwise beginning this week.
Dalys making his first tournament appearance in four months in Thursdays first round of the Spanish Open on the European Tour. Its his first real action since his trio of missed cuts touring Australia in December.
That Daly is serious about being a factor again is clear in the fact that he underwent Lap-Band surgery two months ago, a procedure in which a silicone band is strapped around the upper portion of the stomach, limiting food intake. He reports having lost more than 40 pounds.
News that Daly lost the weight the old-fashioned way might have inspired confidence that he has found new discipline, but he has clearly taken a committed step toward improving his game. With his six-month PGA Tour suspension nearing an end, with Daly saying bankruptcy is nearly upon him, he has much motivation to draw upon. Still, you cant help being skeptical that hell make us take him seriously again. You do, after all, have those snapshots in your head, one where Dalys playing golf shirtless and shoeless with a cigarette dangling from his lips in Missouri a year ago and another where hes in his orange jail jump suit after his arrest outside a Hooters restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C., last fall.
Of course, theres real genius in John Daly. Its how he created a persona that allows fans to forgive pretty much all his transgressions.
In the end, though, scorecards dont forgive. Its what we love and hate about golf. Dalys numbers will speak for themselves in this return to tour golf with speculation mounting that hell stay in Europe for a month or so before making his return to the PGA Tour at Memphis June 11-14.
Tiger vs. Lefty: The great Quail hunt
Tiger Woods looked as if he left Augusta National with a sense of urgency.
You wonder how much of that was a reaction to watching Phil Mickelson put up a 30 on the front nine in their final-round Masters pairing. Mickelson looked Woods in the eye and then nearly put together the greatest final round in a major since Johnny Miller shot 63 at Oakmont to win the U.S. Open in 1973. Yeah, Mickelson squandered a terrific chance to knock out Woods and everyone else, but the difference in their temperaments leaving the years first major said everything. Woods was last seen there kicking his golf bag, Mickelson beaming over how close he came to something historic.
Mickelson only beat Woods by a shot, but it felt like more. Mickelson looked like he was failing to capitalize on big chances on the back nine, Woods like he was getting as much as he possibly could out of his wayward swing.
Mickelson has taken his share of beat downs at the hands of Woods in majors like everyone else, but nobody gets off the mat with more relish than Mickelson. Nobody wants a piece of Woods more. Of course, nobody responds to being pushed as forcefully as Woods.
Whether youre a Tiger guy, or a Phil guy, or just a golf fan, the possibility of seeing a showdown with both playing at the Quail Hollow Championship this week excites.
While head-to-head duels among golfs stars occur so infrequently, Woods and Mickelson both have records of playing well at Quail Hollow. When Woods won there in 07, Mickelson finished tied for third, four shots back. Mickelson has three top-10 finishes there.
The possibility of seeing these two duel in the near future escalates as they prepare to play back-to-back weeks with The Players Championship scheduled next week.
Oh yeah, Cabreras back
Angel Cabrera will tee it up at Quail Hollow for the first time since winning the Masters.
After Cabrera won his first major, the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2007, it took him six months to crack the top 20 in another PGA Tour event.
Cabrera is more prepared for what follows a major this time. He says his aim is to win five majors before he retires. At 39, that doesnt allow for excessive celebration of this last title. Hell need his total focus at Quail Hollow. In his only appearance there, he shot 82 in the final round last year and finished 72nd.
And Kim, too . . .
Anthony Kims 11 birdies in the second round of the Masters reminded us what spectacular talent he possesses.
We needed reminding.
After opening this year tied for second at the Mercedes Benz Championship, Kim disappeared from leaderboards, heightening scrutiny once more over his work habits, or lack of them, a problem he acknowledged having to overcome before he won the Wachovia Championship last year. Quail Hollow is where Kim launched his career to another level, setting himself up for his second PGA Tour victory at the AT&T National in July and his Ryder Cup dramatics in September. His second-round brilliance at the Masters might have been a sign hes close to igniting another terrific run.
Theres nothing like a parade . . .
Kenny Perry will find some good medicine without hitting a shot on Thursday.
Perrys skipping the Quail Hollow Championship to join his father, Ken, as grand marshals of the Kentucky Derby Festivals 54th annual Pegasus Parade in Louisville. Perry, who felt the sting of losing the Masters in a playoff, three weeks ago, is sure to be cheered wildly by his fellow Kentuckians as he and his father make their way along the parade route. Perry, a native of Franklin, Ky., helped the United States win the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in Louisville last fall.
For a guy who lost a two-shot lead with two holes to play at Augusta National, Perrys getting a lot of love these days, thanks to the noble manner hes carried himself in defeat.
Perry may not be the favorite to win the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black June 18-21, but New Yorkers are likely to love this guy and his bid to erase those bad Masters memories with his first major championship triumph. Perrys return to the spotlight at the Zurich Classic last week didnt end so well with a 78 in the final round. We should get a better feel for whether he has another magical run in him when he tees it up at The Players Championship next week.
Lincicome makes the big show
Brittany Lincicome, winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, will throw out the first pitch Thursday at Tropicana Field when the Tampa Bay Rays are host to the Boston Red Sox. Lincicome grew up in Pinellas Park, Fla., about 15 minutes from Tropicana Field. She said fellow members of the gym she works out at were insisting she not cheat and sneak up to the front of the mound. She works out at a sports rehabilitation facility that has a pitchers mound. Members there have been exhorting her to practice for her big pitch from the full 60 feet 6 inches.

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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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    Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

    So much for that.

    Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

    He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

    What’s the difference now?

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

    “I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

    Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

    “I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”