Short and sweet: Scott win answers anchoring questions

By Randall MellFebruary 29, 2016, 1:09 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Maybe we won’t look at that short putter as if it’s some sort of serpent in Adam Scott’s hands anymore.

We won’t watch him wondering if that thing is the poisonous 14th club in his bag.

Scott will like that, because he knows there was only one way to answer the irritating question dogging him into this new year.

Can he still win with a short putter?

Yes, damn straight he can.

With his victory Sunday at the Honda Classic, Scott won for the first time since the Rules of Golf forced him to abandon anchoring the long putter he adopted back in 2011, a steadying tool he used to break through and win his first major, the Masters in 2013. Scott’s win comes in just his third start with this year’s new anchoring ban in effect. In winning for the first time in almost two years, he showed the ban may not be a career-thwarting challenge some thought it would be.

“There was a sense of relief, but overall I'm thrilled with where my game's at,” said Scott, who finished second last week at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles. “To get a victory is even more satisfying, to just reassure me that I'm working on all the right things, going in the right direction this time of year.”

The Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Scott beat Sergio Garcia in a Sunday duel on the difficult Champion Course. He started the day tied for the lead with Garcia, four shots ahead of the rest of the field, and he won playing smart, defensive golf. He avoided big mistakes, like the quadruple bogey that hurt him Saturday, and he hit the nerve-racking safe shots to the middle of greens that were required coming home. He let Garcia make the mistakes.

“It was tough, a really difficult course,” Garcia said. “Adam played really, really good, really solid. He just missed a couple shots here and there. He deserved to win.”

Scott, 36, didn’t just dropkick all those questions about the short putter into that lake aside the 18th green at PGA National. He replaced them with delightful new questions, the kind he’ll much prefer being posed to him over the next six weeks. Can he win another green jacket at the Masters? Can he feel the same confidence on Augusta National’s greens that he had with a long putter? Because this victory moves Scott back on any short list of Masters favorites.

“Obviously, you want to go to the Masters feeling your game is in good shape,” Scott said. “You say results don't matter, until you get them, and they do matter. Certainly, with the quality of the golf course this week, the quality of the field, I think this was a really good test and reflection for me, where my game's at.

“To get a win is definitely confidence. To come and win down the stretch at a course like this, definitely has that major kind of feel, where big questions are asked of your shots, and there's trouble at every point if you hit a bad one. That’s very much like a major.”

Scott said he wanted to feel relevant again with Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler in so many headlines.

“I said yesterday I was desperate for this win, and I was,” Scott said.

There was something else reinvigorating about Scott’s 12th PGA Tour title, his first in almost two years. There wasn’t just satisfaction winning with the short putter. There was satisfaction winning for the first time as a father, for the first time with this new family lifestyle radically changing so many habits. His wife, Marie, and his 1-year-old daughter, Bo Vera, are part of all this now.

“It’s only been a great transition, though certainly trying at times, trying to balance everything on and off the course,” Scott said. “I’ve had a lot of things changing over the last 12 months, but it’s settling down now. It’s fantastic to feel like we really have everything in the family life under control, with my wife and daughter very happy with everything. We have some idea of what we’re doing.”

This was also Scott’s first victory since Stevie Williams left him as a full-time caddie.

Last year, Scott looked out of sorts adjusting to so many changes in his life and game. There was the birth of his daughter near the year’s start, there was life without Williams regularly on his bag, and there was the juggling act trying to prepare for life without the long putter. He went to the short putter about this time a year ago trying to get ready for the anchoring ban, but he struggled and went back to the long putter. It only created more questions about how much he was depending on anchoring the broomstick. The truth is, Scott said he wasn't putting well with a short or long putter last year.

So Scott proved a lot Sunday at PGA National, not just to skeptics, but himself.

“Again, it just reassures me I'm on the right track with the things I'm doing on the greens,” Scott said. “I'm just going to try and get better every week. I think it's in a great spot at the moment. If I can get better and better, then I like what's to come.”

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”