Tiger Woods remains in contention for 15th major

By Randall MellApril 14, 2013, 12:20 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – This isn’t exactly the way you want to start your Masters Saturday.

They call the third round “Moving Day,” and Tiger Woods learned before he even showed up to hit his first tee shot that he was moving backwards, that he was being slapped with a two-shot penalty for an improper drop at the 15th hole in Friday’s third round.

Woods learned in a morning telephone call from Masters competition committee chairman Fred Ridley that there was some good news with the bad news. Ridley asked Woods to come to the club to talk about his rules violation before his round. The good news was that the committee was engaging Rule 33-7 and waiving the disqualification Woods faced for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Word of the ruling quickly ignited a firestorm of debate with some well respected names criticizing the decision and saying they would have withdrawn.

Greg Norman tweeted as much; David Duval, too.

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On the Golf Channel set, Brandel Chamblee, Brad Faxon, Olin Browne and even Woods’ friend, John Cook, said they believed the rules violation deserved disqualification.

That’s how Woods started the third round, with a punch in the gut.

It could have been worse, though. It could have been a knockout blow.

Instead of beginning Saturday three shots back, Woods started five back, but he was still in the tournament.

Woods didn’t waste time sending a message that he intended to take advantage. He striped his first drive down the middle and stiffed his approach shot to 3 feet. He made a birdie that defiantly cut through the fog of negative momentum rolling in against him.

Though Woods had some struggles with his putter in the middle of his round, he fought to give himself a chance to win Sunday.

With a 2-under-par 70, Woods sits tied for seventh, four shots behind the leaders, Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera.

All in all, Woods managed nicely swimming upstream.

“It started off, obviously, different, but I'm right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “As of right now, I'm four back with a great shot to win this championship.”

Woods is looking to win his first Masters in eight years, his first major championship of any kind in five.

If Woods is going to get himself back on track to equal or pass Jack Nicklaus’ major championship record, he will have to do so winning his first major coming from behind. He has won all 14 with at least a share of the lead.

Also, he will have to overcome a fairly strong Masters tradition. He’ll have to overcome the fact that 19 of the last 22 Masters winners have come from the final Sunday pairing.

And if he does win, he will become the first Masters champion to win with an 8 on one of his scorecards. That’s the nasty score Woods received at the 15th hole Friday after being penalized for making an improper drop, a penalty that set off a debate over whether the rules committee failed to protect the field in protecting Woods by waiving disqualification.

Woods was asked what he thought of complaints that he ought to withdraw.

“Under the Rules of Golf, I can play,” Woods said. “I was able to go out there and compete and play. Evidently, this is the Harrington rule, I guess. If it was done a year or two ago, whatever, I wouldn't have the opportunity to play. But the rules have changed, and under the Rules of Golf I was able to play.”

And Woods is playing to win. He made five birdies in a round that felt like it could have been even better.

While Woods faced criticism for avoiding a DQ, he had support, too.

“I think they got it right,” Steve Stricker said.

Former Masters champ Sandy Lyle didn’t like calls for Woods to pull himself out of the event.

“I think that's probably a little harsh, disqualifying himself,” said Lyle, the 1988 winner. “We're only players, we don't know the rules 100 percent and there (are) people out here that do know the rules. It's up to the governing bodies to decide.”

After Woods’ terrific start, he made two bogeys on the front nine to go with one other birdie. He missed a 3-footer that wickedly horseshoed out at the ninth.

On the back nine, Woods coaxed in a delicate 5-footer for par at the 10th but missed another 5-footer at the 11th to fall six shots off the lead.

“I missed a few putts here and there, could’ve converted the par 5s better,” Woods said.

Woods made a move on the back nine, with back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th holes, making things interesting when he returned to the 15th hole, the scene of his controversial drop a day earlier. The hole wouldn’t be his undoing again. He striped a drive and then stuck his approach 10 feet below the hole for a terrific eagle chance.

Suddenly, with leader, Angel Cabrera making bogey at the 12th behind him, Woods had a chance to create a three-shot swing and move within two of the lead.

Alas, his eagle putt missed, but his third birdie in four holes moved him thickly back into contention.

His back nine gives him what he wants, a chance to win on Sunday.

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”