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Time is on their side: The new crop of major champs

By Randall MellApril 10, 2018, 11:30 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Patrick Reed could hear the storm coming.

All those roars Sunday at the Masters, they were like thunderbolts cracking all around him.

“I saw Jordan and Rickie storm up those leaderboards,” Reed said.

That would be Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, whose bold Sunday charges tested more than Reed’s shot making as he fought to hold them off and win his first major championship.

Spieth came from nine shots back to briefly catch Reed, with Fowler nearly catching him coming from five shots back.

“I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Reed said. “It's just a way of God basically saying, 'Let's see if you have it.’ Everyone knows you have it physically, with the talent, but do you have it mentally? Can you handle the ups and downs throughout the round?”

Reed’s breakthrough victory in the majors is further evidence the golf gods are asking tougher questions than they ever have.

Further evidence that today’s players may be more explosive and more fearless than the game has ever seen.

Further evidence that the sport is richer and deeper with young talent than it’s ever been.

Reed keeps an epic new run of young major championship winners going. He’s the fourth different player age 27 or younger to win a major over the last four majors played. That’s never happened before in the modern era.

They’re making it tougher to win multiple majors.

Nine of the last 10 major championships have been won by first-time major winners.

The last four Masters have been won by first-time major champions.

This trend is emboldening Fowler and others who haven’t won a major to believe they can follow Reed’s footsteps at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in 10 weeks.

“I am ready to go win a major,” Fowler said. “But this was kind of the first major week that I understood that, and known that, and felt that.

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“So I'm ready to go. I'm really looking forward to this year and the three majors that are left.”

Rory McIlroy, who was looking to complete the career Grand Slam, got run over by Reed in their pairing together.

While McIlroy knows his golf history, he made a mistake trying to turn his major championship experience against Reed on Saturday evening, before Reed headed home to sleep on his first 54-hole lead in a major.

“I feel like all the pressure is on him,” McIlroy said. “He’s got to go out and protect that, and he’s got a few guys chasing him who are pretty big-time players. He’s got that to deal with and sleep on tonight.”

McIlroy is sharp guy, but, boy, did that tactic backfire.

McIlroy shot 74 and was pretty much irrelevant on the back nine.

While Reed may have a feistier edge than most of today’s young players, he could be the poster boy for the era’s fearless style of play.

“Patrick is not scared,” Fowler said. “He won’t back down. He’s a fighter.”

Reed reveled hearing so many prognosticators on Sunday morning pick McIlroy over him. It was like high-octane fuel for him. Same thing when he heard fans cheering more for McIlroy at the first tee, and later for Spieth and Fowler as they made their charges.

Spieth, 24, suggested after a fast start Thursday that owning a green jacket is a formidable difference maker once the first tee balls are in the air at Augusta National.

“Once you win here, you have an advantage over anybody who hasn't won here,” Spieth said.

That makes sense, but not as much sense as it used to make, at the Masters or in any other major.

Youthful bravado is trumping experience more than it ever has.

“Patrick is a member of the Masters club now,” Spieth said. “He’ll have a green jacket forever. His name is etched in history.”

At week’s start, Gary Player said he believed somebody in his 50s could win a major now, the way players today take such care of themselves.

Actually, with so much talented youth hoisting trophies now, that feat could be more difficult than ever.

At 47, Phil Mickelson was hoping to eclipse Jack Nicklaus as the oldest winner of the Masters. He arrived at Augusta National with momentum from a victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship last month, but he barely made the cut Friday. He left Sunday conceding that time is beginning to weigh on him on these major championship stages. He will turn 48 on Saturday of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, where he will be looking once again to complete the career Grand Slam.

“I put a little bit too much pressure on myself in the majors now, because I know that I don't have a ton of time to win them, especially U.S. Opens,” Mickelson said. “But these next two U.S. Opens, Shinnecock and Pebble Beach, give me two really good opportunities. So, I need to get my game sharp.”

Tiger Woods is still putting his game back together after so much time away with his back issues, but he must have left Augusta National knowing Reed makes it harder to win here in the future, that all these young first-time winners are making it harder for anyone to win.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.