Big 3? Then, yes; now, no

By Rex HoggardJuly 15, 2016, 8:07 pm

TROON, Scotland – For two days along the Firth of Clyde the Big 3 have largely gone bust.

In Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy’s defense, Friday’s gale got the best of almost everyone not named Phil Mickelson and history will show the game’s leading men endured every bit of the raw end of this week’s draw.

It happens.

Although all three will be hanging around for the weekend at the 145th Open, they really weren’t holding out much hope they’d be able to get within a 9-iron of the claret jug on Sunday.

“At this point if I make the cut, I'm looking to put nice, smooth, solid swings, very confident putts on it to lead into the PGA Championship, because I know my chances here are likely finished,” said Spieth, who followed his opening 71 with a 75 and made the cut on the number to begin the weekend a pair of touchdowns behind Mickelson.

Day and McIlroy will also be around for the weekend festivities, but it doesn’t seem likely that either will be playing anything more than a supporting role.

The world No. 1 is tied for 41st after an eventful 70 on Friday that left him 11 strokes behind the 46-year-old pacesetter, while McIlroy showed an impressive amount of poise on his way to an even-par card that left him tied for 15th place and eight shots back.

“I had a chance to watch Phil yesterday afternoon and this morning, and it's the best I've seen him play in a long, long time. His swings are good. He's got his ball flight under control. He seems like he's putting well,” McIlroy said.


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It was a sentiment echoed to varying degrees by each of the Big 3 - tough day, tough side of the draw, tough crowd. But then the weight of unrealistic expectations can be overwhelming at times.

No, despite what will surely become a theme on social media, the problem isn’t the game’s top threesome at the moment so much as it is the press and public’s need to dictate the terms of a desired rivalry.

The phenomenon has evolved even further in recent weeks with the emergence of Dustin Johnson as a card-carrying member following his victory at the U.S. Open, some even suggesting the notion of a Big 4 which led one U.K. newspaper to dub McIlroy the Ringo of the group.

“Probably not the first time I've been compared to the Beatles,” McIlroy said earlier this week.

The rub of branding the group the modern version of the Big 3 is that the original threesome – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player – were virtually inseparable both on and off the golf course.

The legend is that it was the late Mark McCormack of IMG who coined the original phrase as a marketing tool shortly after Nicklaus turned pro, but then that’s always felt like an oversimplification at best and a wildly cynical case of revisionist history at worst.

The concept of the Big 3 first emerged in 1962, the year Nicklaus joined the Tour and the group played against each other at the first World Series of Golf, but grew as the threesome began to trade majors with regularity.

From 1962 to ’71, just 14 of 40 majors (a 35 percent clip) were played without at least one of the Big 3 either winning or finishing runner-up, and often with a combination of that trifecta dueling for the title like at the ’62 Masters, where Palmer beat Player, or the ’65 Masters when Nicklaus beat both Palmer and Player.

The group would combine to win 13 Masters titles, including seven straight in the early 1960s.

By comparison, the modern version of the Big 3 has finished outside of the top two in a major on 10 of the last 21 occasions (45 percent) since McIlroy first got on the major board with his victory at the 2011 U.S. Open.

Just twice, at the ’11 U.S. Open when Day finished runner-up to McIlroy and at last year’s PGA when Day and Spieth finished first and second, respectively, have they legitimately dueled on a major Sunday.

As Friday’s leaderboard proves, the current Big 3 simply don’t have the required head-to-head appeal the original enjoyed. They are friends, or at least friendly, and enjoy the thrill of testing themselves against the absolute best every bit as much as Nicklaus, Palmer and Player, but even McCormack – a true marketing wizard – would be pressed to paint the current landscape as anything other than what it is.

There’s something also to be said for how much deeper fields are today than they were during the original Big 3's reign, if you’re inclined to open that generational can of worms.

If Nicklaus, Palmer and Player arrived at each Grand Slam looking to beat two dozen or so legitimate contenders, the 2.0 group must cast an eye much deeper down the tee sheet.

The average age of the Big 3 is 25.6, which in golf years is traditionally considered just short of their prime years, and they’ve already proven themselves adept at lapping the game’s deepest fields and playing unprecedented golf.

Perhaps they will evolve into the modern version the masses and media want to make them out to be, but until then let’s just enjoy them for what they are – three engaging and utterly entertaining champions.

Nothing more, nothing less.

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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  

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; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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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.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

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Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.