Final Day Drama at Disney

By Rex HoggardNovember 15, 2010, 4:37 am

ChildrenLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – On a sun-splashed afternoon adjacent a kingdom where time stands still, math gave way to money, the game’s original, and most reliable, litmus test.

As Mickey’s little hand inched its way home on Sunday, a cast of characters that even the imaginative Walt Disney could appreciate surfaced – complete with a genuine reclamation project hoisting the hardware, a rookie stick-figure lifting a $1 million lottery ticket and all manner of money list victories and defeats to fill the moments in between.

Briny Baird was the first to emerge from the fray, a perennial bubble boy who started the week 126th in earnings, left his 10 footer for birdie at the last on the low side of the hole and signed for his closing 68 at 12:45 p.m.

“I’m going to get in my car and listen to the Dolphins game,” said Baird as he eased his grey GMC Yukon out of Disney’s parking lot. At the time he was 125th in projected earnings – which, for a Tour pro, is as useless and gut-wrenching a statistic as exists – Miami was trailing Tennessee by a field goal and overnight leader Roland Thatcher was a shot clear of Robert Garrigus.

Before Baird made it to the Florida Turnpike for the four-hour journey back to Jupiter, Fla., his nomadic existence on the top 125 “bubble” had already started as he toggled between Nos. 125 and 127 for much of the afternoon.

By the time Joe Durant fist pumped his 9-foot par putt at the last at 2:42 p.m. he’d displaced Baird, temporarily, on the hot seat. In a moment of money list levity a reporter tried to cheer Durant up by telling him he was still in the race to win the ballstriking and total driving categories.

“I’d love to win putting just one year,” he smiled. Durant’s consolation prize is a 2011 Tour card, marking the first year since 2006 he’s finished inside the top 125.

Less than five minutes later (2:48 p.m.), Charles Warren, as haggard as any after a 5-footer for birdie at the last moved him to 14 under par, stood beside Disney’s scoring trailer studying the projected money. At 150th he didn’t have a Tour card, but he would avoid the second stage of Q-School this week if he could remain inside the top 150.

“I’m getting too old for this,” Warren sighed when the cash carrousel had finally stopped, leaving him $10,887 inside the top 150 and his tie for ninth assuring him a spot in the Sony Open to start 2011.

As the tournament tumbled along, largely a two-man race with Thatcher clinging to a one-stroke lead over Garrigus at the turn, a half dozen other less-obvious but just as emotional competitions came to dramatic endings.

At 2:56 p.m. Johnson Wagner double bogeyed the Magnolia Course’s 16th hole, dropped to 126th in earnings and staved off adrenaline, or fear, to hole a shaky 6 footer for par at No. 18.

“I’m about to break down right now,” said Wagner, who came up short at 126th but did avoid second stage with his tie for third place. “I’m just shaking. I love this job so much and you can’t try to protect your job.”

And so the timeline went – 3:05 p.m. cool-hand Michael Connell put the finishing touches on a 67-67 weekend to jump from 129th to 115th. Tom Pernice Jr. bogeyed two of his last three holes to fade to 139th.

At 3:45 p.m. Thatcher made a mess of the 17th, his second bogey in as many holes, to fall out of the lead and down to 131st in projected earnings. From tied for the Children’s Miracle Network Classic lead to bound for Q-School in 15 minutes – Space Mountain doesn’t bottom out that fast.

Ten minutes later a semi-surprised Garrigus gazed at the leaderboard adjacent the 18th hole, the math telling him he had 18 inches and two putts standing between himself and his first Tour title.

His final-round 64 was the round of the day, his climb from a drug rehab clinic in 2003 to Tour winner a comeback of epic proportions. Shame the Tour stopped handing out the Comeback Player of the Year award last season because few, if any, have rallied from so far.

“I was sitting on my couch in 2003. It was 3 a.m. and this info-merical came on about a drug rehab clinic in San Diego,” said Garrigus, who was 122nd in earnings starting the week and would have been remembered for blowing a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole at Memphis this year had he not made Magic Kingdom magic. “Here it is, 3 a.m. and I’m high as a kite. I’m worthless. Something has to change.”

And the clock was still not finished. At 4:09 p.m. Troy Merritt tapped in for birdie from 1 ½ feet on the 17th hole, the winner of a three-man playoff for the $1 million Kodak Challenge over Rickie Fowler and Aaron Baddeley, not to mention the ultimate survivor at 125th in cash to close the year.

Earlier in the day Aron Price and Blake Adams, playing in the three-ball ahead of Merritt, teed off at No. 18 and ran back to the 17th green to watch the beanpole miss his 33-footer for the $1 million. Say what you will about the Kodak Challenge, there’s not much that can make the frat brothers sit up and take notice like a winner-take-all shootout.

In the final analysis, three players wedged their way into the top 125 (Thatcher, Connelly and Mark Wilson, who was already exempt for 2011 via his victory last year in Mexico) and three got bumped (Troy Matteson, who was already exempt via his victory at the 2009 Open, Michael Allen and Woody Austin).

“I’m disappointed but there’s no one I can kick but myself and I’m tired of kicking myself,” Baird said.

Baird was halfway home to south Florida when the dust and decimal points settled. He was 127th in earnings, $33,400 behind Merritt, but at least his beloved Dolphins were 29-17 winners over Tennessee. It’s not a Tour card, but it is something.

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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.