Horses for Courses

By Rex HoggardJanuary 31, 2010, 6:14 am

Farmers Insurance OpenSAN DIEGO – Blame it on TMZ. Or divisive health care debates or an abnormally cold winter.

Whatever the impetus, golf has gotten mean.

Consider the last news cycle. Within the last 24 hours Phil Mickelson was forced to defend his honor, John Daly retired, then Tweeted, then unretired; and, finally, a thuggish muni took a toll on the Tour’s best and brightest.

Say this about the Tour’s SoCal staple, it stays on script.

Each year like taxes the North Course lulls Tour types into thinking they’ve got a good handle on things only to get TKO’d on the weekend when the proceedings move exclusively to the South Course.

The South’s 7,568 yards doesn’t take the tabloid’s temperature or reward style points which goes a long way to explaining why each year’s leaderboards have a “50 First Dates” feel to them.

Much like the famed Del Mar Racetrack just up the San Diego Freeway, some Tour ponies seem better equipped for the South than others.

Consider Saturday’s 54-hole primer. Atop the leaderboard is Ryuji Imada, whose last three cards at Torrey Pines read T-16, second, T-14; followed by Phil Mickelson, a three-time Torrey winner; and Ernie Els, whose handful of SoCal starts include a tie for sixth in 2005 and a 14th at the ’08 U.S. Open.

“It’s a great course to play because you don’t feel like you have to shoot a lot under par to do well,” said Charles Howell III, who is tied for 17th and counts two runners-up on his Torrey Pines resume. “It would be interesting to see what the scores would be if the North wasn’t in the rotation.”

They tried that experiment once. It was called the U.S. Open and Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate made history and plenty of histrionics with 1 under par totals.

Opinions vary on why certain players excel on the South. Kamikaze putters seem to be the cure for Torrey’s bumpy Poa greens, while long and straight, which plays well most weeks, is also crucial, particularly on what is essentially the circuit’s longest venue at sea level.

“Driving the ball in the fairway at Torrey is important,” said Mike Taylor, the swing coach for Lucas Glover who is alone in fourth, three shots back. “I also think players who putt with more aggressive speed on those greens tend to putt better. Lucas does both very well.”

Glover is 29th and 32nd in driving distance and driving accuracy, respectively. It’s a combination that lifted him to last year’s U.S. Open victory and top-4 finishes at Torrey Pines last year and in 2006.

Simply put, it’s not the Bob Hope. Twenty under is not an option at Torrey Pines, which is why the U.S. Golf Association has made Torrey the Open’s West Coast home and why linebackers like Glover, Els and Mickelson enjoy its smash-mouth ways.

“It’s a U.S. Open course, long, hard, demanding,” said Glover, who played his best golf last year on the circuit’s hardest pitches (Torrey Pines, Bethpage, Quail Hollow). “It’s so hard it helps with my patience and I need that.”

Mickelson’s resume, to say nothing of his play this week, certainly qualify him as a founding member of the Torrey Pines “skull and crossbones” society, but Lefty’s take on the beloved muni is a bit sweet and sour.

The San Diego native has finished in the top 25 in more than half his starts at Torrey Pines (11), but he has not broken the victory seal since 2001, the same year Rees Jones did his pre-U.S. Open nip/tuck on the layout.

“The changes that were made to the golf course affected the way I've played here,” said Mickelson, whose best finish since ’01 is a tie for fourth in 2003 and ’04 and he finished 18th at the ’08 Open during the great “no driver” experiment. “The reads of the greens are totally different; they don't break towards the ocean, they break away from the bunkers.”

By comparison, Els has played Torrey Pines as a professional just twice, the 2005 Buick Invitational (T-6) and U.S. Open (T-14). The result, he concedes, of an international schedule and appearance fees. “The cash was good,” he said.

But it is a style of play, not reps, that matters at Torrey Pines.

“It's a good golf course for longer hitters,” Els said. “You can get onto some of the par 5s. But it's a good ballstriking golf course. You’ve got to hit the ball well all over. You can't really fake it around here.”

Seems about right that the “Big Easy” would be in the hunt on a course that is anything but.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.