With flair, Spain claims first International Crown

By Randall MellJuly 27, 2014, 11:30 pm

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Beatriz Recari sized up the International Crown trophy during the gala on the eve of the inaugural matches and made a bold claim.

“We’re taking that home with us,” Recari said.

Recari was having fun, but she wasn’t kidding. The Spaniards were on a mission. They won Sunday with bravado that would have made the late match-play maestro Seve Ballesteros proud of his fellow Spaniards.

With a staggering sweep of all four of its singles matches on Sunday, Spain ran away with the first playing of the international team event. Recari, Carlota Ciganda, Belen Mozo and Azahara Munoz all closed out their singles victories before reaching the 18th green.

“We just like to trash talk,” Mozo cracked good-naturedly. “It’s how we are. We accept trash talk back. We like it, we embrace it. It’s how competitive we are.”

The quartet paraded away from Caves Valley Golf Club with the trophy and their individual sterling silver crowns as part of their winner’s haul.

“It means so much to us, for our country,” Recari said. “We feel the flag. Our blood boils when we hear the anthem, and when we see the flag. That's for you to have an idea of what it means for us. We're just so stoked that we did it, and that we can take this trophy back home.”

Mozo clinched the crown, rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt at the 16th hole to close out a 3-and-2 victory against Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn with two matches still on the course.

“I had absolutely no idea,” Mozo said, not knowing what was on the line as it was happening. “I just wanted to make the putt. You don’t understand how much.”

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Ciganda made a strong statement early. Insisting she be the first Spaniard sent out in singles, Ciganda came out on fire against Korea’s Na Yeon Choi, a formidable competitor and winner of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. Ciganda birdied the first on her way to an 8-and-6 thrashing of Choi. She birdied seven of 12 holes and didn’t lose a single one.

“The first time I looked up at the leaderboard was the fifth hole and Carlota was already 5 up,” Munoz said.

The Spaniards claimed 15 points over the four-day competition, with a victory worth two points and a halved match worth a point. Sweden finished second with 11 points with Korea and Japan tying for third with 10 points each.

Motivation was never lacking for the Spaniards, who arrived believing they were better than the fifth seed they carried. They really found fuel, though, after losing both of their matches to the Americans on Friday, which dropped them from first to last in Pool A.

“I think that worked in our favor, because we were so upset that we were determined that we were going to win every single point left for the rest of the tournament,” Recari said.

The Spaniards made good on their bold claims once more. After the Americans swept them, they didn’t lose another match, winning all of their Saturday fourballs and their Sunday singles.

Leaving the 18th hole after the American sweep, Mozo told LPGA chief communications officer Kraig Kann to “keep shining my crown.” She carried that sterling silver crown with her into the media center after the victory. They all did.

“We are named now the best country in the world and that is huge,” Munoz said. “So, hopefully, golf in Spain is getting more and more popular, but I think this is really, really, really going to help.”

Spain arrived believing it had an advantage in a team format because its members have played so much together in team events. They’re all between ages 24 and 27. They all grew up playing together under the Spanish Golf Federation. They won European Amateur Team Championships together.

Ciganda, Munoz and Recari helped the European Solheim Cup team beat the Americans for the first time on American soil last year. Ciganda and Munoz even won the NCAA Championship together in 2009 as teammates at Arizona State, playing here at Caves Valley.

“I think the reason why we're so good is because we have the Spanish Federation that has supported us since day one,” Mozo said. “We have an amazing program, and we have been raised playing together at training camps, tournaments around Europe, and that was our thing.”

They have their crowns to prove it.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 9:20 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.