Big names add spark to early West Coast events

By Rex HoggardJanuary 13, 2016, 7:00 pm

Rumors of the West Coast swing’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

If last week’s left coast kickoff is any indication, concerns that a crowded dance card later this year with golf’s return to the Olympic Games and last season’s relocation of the WGC-Match Play would leave the swing, well, on a participation island were unfounded.

The West Coast, the theory went, would suffer as players would bank a few off weeks before what promises to be a hectic summer – consider that after the U.S. Open top players will face a 16-week stretch with 10 “must-play” events, including two majors (Open Championship and PGA Championship) in a three-week run.

Making things even more dire was the Match Play’s move last year to May. The WGC, which had anchored the West Coast swing, was a prime draw for Europeans to venture to this side of the transatlantic divide.

But the reality, at least based on last week’s field at Kapalua and an unofficial survey of top players, paints a much-more optimistic picture for the West Coast.

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions enjoyed its best tee sheet since 2005 with six of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, including No. 1 Jordan Spieth and No. 2 Jason Day.

Nor does it seem the winners-only event will be a cameo for the game’s marquee.

Spieth, who has been guarded about his schedule, gave a glimpse of what we can expect.

“I'm not sure if I'm supposed to or allowed to voice [his schedule] right now,” he said on Sunday at Kapalua. “But I'll be back at Pebble Beach and I'll be at L.A. and I'll be back to Tampa.”

It’s not a huge surprise Spieth will play the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am the second week of February given his status as an AT&T spokesman, but the addition of the Northern Trust Open to his starting lineup was encouraging.

After the Tournament of Champions, the Los Angeles stop may be the year’s most-improved field with Spieth, who tied for fourth place last year at Riviera Country Club, joined by Rory McIlroy, currently the world’s third-ranked player.

The Farmers Insurance Open, traditionally the unofficial start of the season for many of the top players in previous years, also has an impressive list of early commitments, including defending champion Day, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson.

Even Kevin Kisner, who has admitted he’s not a “West Coast guy,” will make a few starts, including the year’s first two starts in Hawaii and the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“I think I made two cuts in my career on the West Coast before,” he said last week. “There's no reason to go. I don't have to do it anymore, so I don't need to beat my head against the wall trying to beat these guys on courses I know I can't.”

This week’s Sony Open, which has traditionally been one of the West Coast’s weaker fields, includes 22 of the 32 players who teed it up last week in Maui.

Among those who made the short hop to Oahu were Open champion Zach Johnson; while Adam Scott, who didn’t make a PGA Tour start until Bay Hill last year, will make his 2016 debut at Waialae.

Much of this improved participation seems to be the byproduct of changing priorities among the game’s young champions.

The perceived lack of star power at West Coast stops is largely based on Tiger Woods, who from 2000-10 condensed his starts out west.

In 2000 and ’01, the then-world No. 1 played five times annually on the West Coast (that included the Match Play before its exodus to the early summer), but that number dropped to four from ’02 through ’05, and from ’07 to ’09 he played just twice each year out west.

Yet where Woods subscribed to a less-is-more approach to scheduling, the likes of Spieth, Day and McIlroy have embraced a more inclusive docket, be that on the West Coast or around the globe.

McIlroy will get his year underway at next week’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on the European Tour before shifting his focus to the United States. Similarly, Spieth will also play the Abu Dhabi stop as well as the Singapore Open at the end of January before closing out the West Coast in Los Angeles.

Whatever the changing motivations among the game’s elite, the result is a West Coast that’s not nearly as wanting as some thought it would be.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.