Poor finish sours McIlroy's 8-under 64 at Players

By Randall MellMay 13, 2016, 7:50 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Now that will take the fun out of shooting 64.

Rory McIlroy didn’t look like a guy who just posted his best round ever at The Players Championship as he marched off the course Friday at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. He didn’t look like a guy glowing over his swift climb into weekend contention with a chance to win the PGA Tour’s flagship event for the first time.

McIlroy walked off the last green looking as grim faced as the guys headed to slam their trunks on their way out of town after a missed cut.

He looked as if he wanted to snap the lob wedge that failed him after a bogey at the closing hole.

McIlroy’s finish turned sour after he found himself standing over a 91-yard wedge shot in the middle of the fairway at the ninth hole, his 18th of the day. He needed to make birdie to shoot a 10-under-par 62, the best round in the 43-year history of The Players. He needed a par to shoot 63 and gain a share of the tournament record.

“A few guys have shot 63 here, it would have been nice to shoot 62,” McIlroy said.

An otherwise exhilarating day full of so much to feel good about left him feeling something else.

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“Disappointment,” McIlroy said. “I'm frustrated. It should have been a couple better.”

McIlroy was at 8-under 136 when he signed his scorecard, two shots off the lead.

“I feel like I should be tied for the lead,” McIlroy said. “So, yeah, I'm disappointed, but there are still two more days to go. That's the nice thing. I'm in a good position heading into the weekend, but it really depends on what the guys do this afternoon. Hopefully, I'm still not too far behind going into the weekend.”

We heard the hungry competitor in McIlroy in those frustrating, raw moments after his round, but as he made his way from one interview station to another after signing his scorecard, the bigger picture of the day became clearer to him. He was on fire for 17½ holes. He pounded drivers deep and straight. He hit a lot of wedges, which have frustrated him of late, tight into pins. He needed just eight putts over his first eight holes. He shot 29 on the back nine (his first nine) to equal the course record.

McIlroy was brilliant for all but the final 10 minutes of his 4-hour and 45-minute round.

“Obviously, I have to take a lot of positives from it,” McIlroy said. “I played well. I took advantage of the conditions.”

McIlroy is seeking his first victory since winning the European Tour’s DP World Championship last November. He is seeking his first title at The Players Championship after top-10 finishes in each of the last three years.

“I’m happy with my game,” McIlroy said. “I’m in good position even though I finished a little bit frustratingly, but these things happen.”

McIlroy gave himself a chance at the course record after hitting a 3-wood down the middle at that last hole, leaving himself 275 yards to the pin. Why didn’t he go for the green in two?

“I sort of talked myself out of it in the fairway,” McIlroy said. “Any time I’ve went for the ninth green in two here, I've either hit into the trees on the left, or I've hit it out to the right, into those grassy mounds that Pete Dye loves. It has never really worked out for me when I went for the green.”

McIlroy said he took 5-wood out of his bag this week and replaced it with a 2-iron. He said he might have gone for the green if he had left the 5-wood in his bag.

“I could have got a little bit more height,” he said. “Yeah, I was thinking about it. I wanted to make birdie and shoot 62. There's no doubt about that.”

From 91 yards, McIlroy tried to finesse a lob wedge at a hole location cut near the front of the green.

“I might have left myself a little bit too close,” McIlroy said. “It was a tough shot with it being downwind and the pin so tight. I was trying to get sort of cute with it, I guess, and I just hit it too easy.”

McIlroy’s approach ballooned short, landing in deep Bermuda rough on a slope in front of the green. He tried to pop out his chip, but he barely got the ball on the fringe of the green, leaving himself a 21-foot putt for par. He ran that past.

McIlroy hasn’t been happy with his wedges this season. He ranks 116th on tour on approaches between 50 and 125 yards, but he was stiffing wedges on Friday. That last lob wedge approach was his worst all day.

“I could have been a couple lower, but it was still a great round,” McIlroy said.

And it gives him a chance to have a great weekend.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 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.