Making a leap is goal of tightly packed leaderboard

By Randall MellApril 3, 2016, 2:56 am

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – So who is going to make the big splash on Sunday?

The candidates lining up for a chance to make the traditional leap into Poppie’s Pond intrigue with all their star power.

Lexi Thompson moved to the head of the line early Saturday evening with her brilliant finish at the ANA Inspiration, but she has a strong and deep cast of challengers to hold off.

Rolex world No. 1 Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun and Ariya Jutanugarn are each one-shot back. Ko, 18, and Chun, 21, are already major champions. Jutanugarn, 20, was a can’t-miss phenom until a shoulder injury derailed her three years ago, but she looks like she’s regaining the form and confidence that made her such a formidable newcomer.

Former world No. 1 Ai Miyazato and young English star Charley Hull are two shots back.

Major championship winners Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen and Hyo Joo Kim are among 15 players within four shots of the lead.

They all marched past Poppie’s Pond Saturday on the way to the 18th green wanting to make the leap on Sunday.

“The special thing about this event is that you get to jump in there, not only yourself, but with your team, with your parents, with the caddie,” Ko said. “It will be a jump that I would love to take. I don't know if that's tomorrow, or if it's ever going to happen, but if it does, I think it'll be a very special moment.”


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Chun, the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, grew up in South Korea on the other side of the world watching the Kraft Nabisco before it became the ANA.

“That small pond looks so attractive,” Chun said. “Before I finish my career, I definitely want to jump in there.”

If Hull wins, we might see the most memorable leap ever.

“I looked at it the other day, and it didn't look that deep to do a dive,” Hull said. “So, I thought `belly flop,’ leave a mark on my face.”

Thompson, 21, is seeking to win the ANA Inspiration for the second time in three years. She took a one-shot lead into Saturday, but her new red-hot Cure putter cooled in the middle of the round. She missed a 5-foot putt for birdie at the fifth, a 4-footer for par at the eighth, a 7-foot birdie chance at the ninth and an 8-footer for par at the 10th. She slipped three shots behind in that stretch only to seize the lead back with a bold, late blitz.

Thompson birdied the 15th and 16th holes and eagled the 18th. With the tees ups to 490 yards at the last, Thompson bombed her tee shot and then carved a 5-iron to 15 feet.

“I was hitting it well, just couldn't get the putts to drop,” Thompson said. “I was just putting a little timid but then hit a few good shots coming in, so I had a few short birdie putts. To knock it in on 18 is always the most amazing feeling here at the ANA.”

Thompson has been working on dealing with adversity in the game. She brought South Florida sports psychologist John Denney onto her team at the start of last year to help her.

“I knew it was something I needed to work on,” Thompson said. “I was just getting too down on myself, and I needed to be more positive out there. It was holding me back, so I needed help. Honestly, he has just helped me be more positive on and off the golf course and just realize that I'm blessed to be playing a game for a living that I truly love, and just to be grateful for my family, my fans and my friends and just enjoy life.”

Thompson showed a resolve on the back nine Saturday that should serve her well in her final pairing Sunday with Jutanugarn. Ko will be playing in the pairing right in front of Thompson. Last fall, Ko and Thompson played together in the final round of the Evian Championship, the last major in women’s golf. Ko became the youngest winner of a major (18 years, 4 months and 20 days old) there. She closed with a 63 and beat Thompson by six shots.

“I'm just trying to focus on my own game,” Thompson said. “All I can control is my attitude, my game on the golf course, and going into tomorrow I'm just going to have the same mindset, be positive, focus on doing my routine on every shot, take it slow, and just try to visualize my shots out there.”

The Dinah Shore Course at Mission Hills isn’t Evian Resort Golf Club. Thompson seems built for the course as the LPGA’s longest hitter this year, but this isn’t a two-woman showdown with so many players having a chance.

“There's so much history and tradition behind [this major],” Thompson said. “It’s always an honor to put your name on that trophy. But there's a lot of golf to be played, and you’ve just got to focus on your own game and see where it goes.”

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 146th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Knox relishes round with 'mythical figure' Woods

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Russell Knox was expecting the worst and hoping for the best Thursday at The Open.

Playing with Tiger Woods tends to have that effect.

The native Scot received a treat earlier this week when he saw his name on the tee sheet alongside his boyhood idol, Woods.

“Felt good out there, but obviously my swing, it was just like I had too much tension,” Knox said after an opening 73. “I just wasn’t letting it go as normal. First round with Tiger, I expected to feel a little bit different. The way I felt was better than the way I swung.”

Knox said that he was nervous playing alongside Woods, a player he’d only encountered on the range. “He’s almost like a mythical figure,” he said.

But after a while, he settled into the rhythm of the round at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I thought it would be worse,” he said, “I feel like I should know what I’m doing. It’s cool playing with Tiger, but I’ve got to get over that. I’m here to win, not just enjoy my walk around the course.”

Knox probably had more interaction with Woods than he anticipated, if only because the third member of the group, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, keeps to himself because of the language barrier.

“It’s kind of a blur,” Knox said. “It’s like, Oh, I’m chatting away with Tiger here like normal. I don’t even remember what I was saying.”

There have been countless stories from this year as the next generation of players – guys who grew up watching Woods dominate the sport – get paired with Woods for the first time.

It was no less special for Knox on Thursday.

“It’s nice for him to say things like that,” Woods said, “and we enjoyed playing with each other. Hopefully we’ll play a little bit better tomorrow.”

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Rain expected to shower Carnoustie Friday morning

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:43 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – By the end of the day Friday, we’ll be able to determine which side of The Open draw ended the first two rounds at Carnoustie with more favorable conditions. With rain expected for most of Friday morning, it seems those who played early/late may be more pleased.

According to Weather.com, there is a 75 percent chance of rain beginning at 2 a.m. local time Friday here in Scotland. That percentage vaults up to 95 percent by 7 a.m., with the first tee time scheduled for 6:35. At 11, the number drops to 55 percent. After 2 p.m., the percentage chances of rain are 25 percent and below for the remainder of the day.

Temperatures during the day are expected to be from the low 50s to the low 60s and winds will vary between 14-18 mph, again per Weather.com.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


This is The Open’s official weather report for the weekend:

Saturday: A dull start with some drizzle possible. Staying cloudy for much of the day but gradually becoming brighter with a chance of some sunny intervals during the afternoon and evening. Winds light and variable in direction but should predominantly settle in to a SSE 8-12mph during the afternoon. Max temp 20C (68F).

Sunday: Often cloudy but mainly dry. A better chance of some decent sunny spells compared to Saturday. Most likely the windiest day of the Championship; SW 12-18mph with gusts 20-25mph. Feeling warm, especially in any sunshine with a max temp of 23C (73F).

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Bandaged Woods 5 back after even-par 71

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:38 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods arrived Thursday with therapeutic tape on the back of his neck.

Carnoustie’s back nine inflicted even more pain.

Playing in the most difficult conditions of the day, Woods’ progress was stalled by two late bogeys as he settled for an even-par 71 that left him five shots off the lead at The Open.

“I played better than what the score indicates,” he said. “It certainly could have been a little bit better.”

Woods created a stir when he showed up with black kinesiology tape on his neck. Afterward, he said that his neck has been bugging him “for a while” and that Thursday was merely the first time that the tape was visible.

“Everyone acts like this is the first time I’ve been bandaged up,” he said, smiling. “I’ve been doing this for years.”

Woods said that the discomfort didn’t really affect his swing, other than a few shots “here and there.” It didn’t seem to affect his score, either, as he went out in 2 under before a few stumbles on the back nine.

On the fast, baked-out turf, he played conservatively off the tee, using driver only once and 3-wood just twice. Apparently he didn’t need the added distance, not with his 6-iron traveling 240 yards. He tried to play to his spots, even if it routinely left him more than 200 yards for his approach.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


That’s the strategy he employed at Hoylake in 2006, where he hit driver just once and captured the third of his Open titles. Despite some of the similarities in firmness, Woods said that Carnoustie presents a different challenge off the tee.

“These fairways are very small,” he said. “They’re hard to hit right now. They’re so fast, and they’re so moundy.”

Finding the fairway wasn’t the chief problem for Woods on Day 1, however. He missed just four fairways but found only 11 greens.

More damaging to his score was his play on the par 5s. Despite having only an 8-iron in, he failed to birdie each of the two par 5s and then bogeyed Nos. 10, 13 and 15 to squander his early momentum.

Though the draw here won’t be a significant factor – or at least not like in recent years, with a wide range in scores from morning to afternoon – it’s clear that Woods (in game 47 of 52) encountered the most difficult of the conditions Thursday, with the wind gusting to 20 mph and the fairways running even faster after another sun-splashed afternoon.

Still, his opening 71 was one of the better scores in the late wave.

“He hit it good,” said playing partner Russell Knox. “He plotted his way around, which I expected him to do, and he was very conservative off the tee. It’s kind of fun to watch him do that, to be honest.”

Even more fun would be a major with Woods in contention.

He hasn’t broken par in the opening round of his last eight majors. Indeed, for Woods, these slow starts have been the real pain in the neck.