Big expectations for current crop of young guns

By Rex HoggardOctober 29, 2009, 1:59 am

The e-mail was from a friend and, more importantly, a long-time PGA Tour observer who has come by his insights honestly and it prompted an immediate and utterly repented mea culpa. The crime was a blog item that suggested Rickie Fowler’s play at last week’s Open had put a down payment on the 2010 Rookie of the Year award, and the rebuttal was more than warranted.

“Would you guys please stop it! The circus around (Fowler) is big enough as it is,” my electronic consciousness pleaded. “For once, let's let an American prospect prove himself first, then anoint him King, OK?”

In our race to discover the next big thing, the media is a chronic violator of the single-most important tenet in golf, if not all of sports – actions, not potential, are what counts.

It’s less an indictment on the abilities of Ty Tryon or Ricky Barnes or, with apologies to one of the Tour’s most engaging and accommodating players, Charles Howell III than it is an example of the media’s unrealistic expectations, and the 2010 lot has the potential of being a hanging fastball that is impossible to lay off.

Fowler, fresh off back-to-back top 10s and a playoff loss last week in Scottsdale, Ariz., would be the No. 1 draft choice for 2010 for many, but he’s followed closely by the likes of Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Jamie Lovemark and Michael Sim.

Of the leading five, Fowler and McIlroy seem to have the most polished games at this stage although neither are full-time Tour locks for 2010. Fowler’s play has earned him an exemption into the second stage of Q-School, while McIlroy – who finished in the top 10 at the U.S. Open and PGA and played 11 Tour events this year – will likely pass on Tour membership and play a similarly limited U.S. schedule in ’10.

“He did consider (membership), but he’s so young. I wouldn’t say we’re playing it safe. Just being sensible,” McIlroy’s manager Chubby Chandler with International Sports Management said. “It’s the first time I’ve managed a player and been concerned about burn out.”

Despite his play at the Open, where he finished second alongside Fowler in a playoff, Lovemark is bound for the capricious first round of Q-School this week, while Ishikawa (six Tour events in ’09) was solid for the International side at the Presidents Cup but will also play a limited Tour schedule next year.

Sim, who will not technically be a Tour rookie but struggled with injuries his first trip around the Big Leagues in 2007, owned the Nationwide Tour this year with three victories, a “battlefield promotion” and an earnings record. More importantly, he’s the only one among the five assured a full schedule. But even that guarantees nothing.

A close inspection confirms the 2010 class has the potential to be special.

“We have produced (rookie) classes with good players, but rarely with this much depth and this much potential commercial appeal,” said one longtime observer.

Without question, anyone who witnessed the media crush that followed Ishikawa’s every step this year, or McIlroy’s brush with the big stage when it counted the most or Fowler’s current 15 minutes of fabulousness can attest to the group’s Madison Avenue cache.

But then potential has never seen the front door to the World Golf Hall of Fame or Butler Cabin, just ask Mark Carnevale.

In 1992 Carnevale was on top of the world, a Tour winner, a rising star and the circuit’s Rookie of the Year, ahead of fellow first-year players Phil Mickelson and David Toms. Since that breakout year Carnevale has posted four top 10s and finished inside the top 125 in earnings just once. Ditto for 2000, when Michael Clark II took down the world-beater-in-waiting likes of Sergio Garcia and K.J. Choi for RoY honors yet hasn’t seen the top 150 in earnings since.

The point? The deepest classes since 1990, the year the Tour starting dishing rookie hardware, have come from the most unpredictable places.

Few recall 1994 as a watershed moment for future Tour greatness, but that rookie class included Ernie Els (the RoY winner), Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Justin Leonard, Chris DiMarco and Shaun Micheel; or the 2002 class which featured Jonathan Byrd (RoY), Chad Campbell, Tim Clark, Luke Donald and Boo Weekley.

By comparison, 1997 is where potential proved a point and Tiger Woods became the only player to etch his name into the RoY crystal and the Jack Nicklaus Trophy during the same calendar. A good year? Yep, every bit as good as 1982 was for Bordeaux, but hardly deep considering that Jerry Kelly is the only other player of note still making headlines from the ’97 crop.

There is no denying the depth of the current “Fab Five.” Fowler’s next Tour stop (this week’s Viking Classic) could well be his first as a member if “Golf 2.0” finishes what he couldn’t last week and gets his first professional “W,” and European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie should rename McIlroy “The Franchise” in time for next year’s matches.

But they all have work to do before the media and fans hand them the keys to the kingdom. Or, as our e-mailing watchdog so succinctly put it, “let's let an American (or otherwide) prospect prove himself first, then anoint him King.”

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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  

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.