Americans storming the Castle

By Rex HoggardJuly 6, 2011, 8:58 pm

A mischievous smile twists Gary Woodland’s face and he leans into the answer like a man reluctantly offering a closely-guarded secret: “I love hitting it low, I grew up in Kansas,” he beams. “I’m excited to get this 2-iron out and get rocking.”

For Woodland, just two days shy of his first transatlantic flight and his initial taste of links golf, it will be Christmas in July. Like a half dozen or so other American Tour types bound for Royal St. George’s and next week’s Open Championship, Woodland was looking forward to the ultimate linksland tune-up at this week’s Scottish Open.

Call it on-the-job training when your job is bouncing 2-iron tee shots down rock-hard fairways and landing 8-irons 20 yards short of the green and letting Mother Nature and lunar-like topography handle the rest.

It’s an art form that is as alien to Americans as roundabouts and beans for breakfast, particularly for Woodland who will be playing his first Open not to mention his first true links course.

“I’ve never been to Europe,” Woodland said last week at the AT&T National. “I wanted to get accustomed to the time, first of all. And second of all I wanted to learn links golf. The course is a links course this year; I hear it’s awesome. That was the big factor.”

And if Woodland becomes homesick at the Scottish Open he can simply stroll down the practice tee at Castle Stuart, site of this week’s European Tour stop just outside Inverness, and chances are he’ll see a familiar face.

Included in the mini-American invasion of northern Scotland will be Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Ryan Palmer. All total, eight Americans are in this week’s Scottish Open. Although that’s not an entirely surprising amount considering last year’s Scottish Open featured seven Americans, it is a reality that is entirely attributed to a dramatic change of venue.

Since 1996 the Scottish Open has been played at Loch Lomond, a parkland-style layout that did little to prepare players for the unique rigors of the British Open. This year, however, officials moved the event to Castle Stuart, a 2-year-old links layout hard on the shores of the Moray Firth that looks and plays like it has been there for a century.

If this week’s field is any measure, the move has paid off.

Although the PGA Tour granted fewer conflicting event releases, waivers that allow members to compete on other circuits, (six in 2011 compared to 12 last year), the move to Castle Stuart was the deciding factor for the likes of Woodland and Snedeker.

“He plays his best golf on the hardest golf courses – the (U.S.) Open, the PGA, the  Masters and he’s going to start liking the British,” said Todd Anderson, Snedeker’s swing coach who suggested the American play the Scottish Open on his way to the season’s third major championship. “You can’t just fly over from the John Deere (Classic) and expect to play well.”

Depending on how this week, and next week, goes for Snedeker & Co., there is a good chance next year’s Scottish Open could draw even more Americans. A possibility not lost on Tour officials.

“Moving to Castle Stuart may hurt us,” conceded John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson, who has bolstered his field at TPC Deere Run thanks to a chartered 767 that shuttles players from Moline, Ill., to Kent, England, in first-class comfort.

From a pure competitive point of view it’s impossible to question the logic, particularly for Open rookies like Woodland and Palmer.

“I grew up in the wind,” Woodland said. “It blows 30 (mph) everyday in Kansas. I’m used to that; the biggest thing is just getting adjusted to the time and everything. Getting accustomed to the shots, it’s a whole different ball game from out here (on the PGA Tour) where you just try to hit it a mile high.”

Getting acclimated to links golf is nothing new. Stewart Cink spent a week in Ireland playing the ancient game prior to his 2009 Open victory at Turnberry and the week before Padraig Harrington won the 2007 and 2008 Open Championships he played the Irish PGA Championship, which was played on traditional links courses.

Considering the steep learning curve for players at the Open Championship it’s a sacrifice made even more obvious by the Scottish Open’s move to Castle Stuart. All of which is bad news for Woodland because after this year there’s a good chance his secret is out on the 2-iron and the tune-up tournament.

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Fisher becomes first in Euro Tour history to shoot 59

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 21, 2018, 11:29 am

There’s never been a sub-60 score on the European Tour, and Oliver Fisher almost went two strokes better Friday at the Portugal Masters.

Fisher’s 40-footer on the final green burned the edge, but he tapped in the short par putt to record the first 59 in tour history.   

“It feels great,” he said after getting sprayed with champagne. “It was in the back of my mind all day.”

It didn’t look like it.

The 287th-ranked player in the world, Fisher made 10 birdies, an eagle and seven pars during his magical round.

All of the other major pro tours have produced a 59 – nine times on the PGA Tour; once on the LPGA – but this was the first time that a player on the European Tour broke the sub-60 barrier. (There have been 19 rounds of 60.) Earlier this year, at the Scottish Open, Brandon Stone narrowly missed an 8-footer on the final green during the final round. This tournament has produced a few chances, as well, with both Scott Jamieson and Nicolas Colsaerts coming up just short over the past few years.

Fisher went out in 28 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, then made three birdies in a row to start the back nine. He tacked on another birdie on 15 to give himself a shot at history, then played the closing stretch in 1 under. On 16, he needed a 20-footer for par after leaving his tee shot well short of the flag. He two-putted for birdie on 17 and then coolly made par on the last, after his birdie try from 40 feet just missed on the left edge.

Two years ago, he arrived in Portugal needed a good result just to keep his card. He shot a final-round 64. 

On Friday, he made tour history.

“I kept that in the back of my mind, thinking things could be worse,” he said. 

To this point, Fisher had a forgettable season. Ranked 72nd in the Race to Dubai, he didn’t have a top-10 in a stroke-play event since late February. His last four results: MC-T71-MC-MC. He opened the Portugal Masters with a 71 and was in danger of missing the cut.

Now, improbably, he’s in position to score his second European Tour title, after capturing the 2011 Czech Open.

“I tried to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not often that we get a chance to shoot a really low one.”

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Paisley (61) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”