Karlsson puts yips behind, qualifies for British Open

By Rex HoggardMay 21, 2013, 1:51 am

PLANO, Texas – On the eve of last year’s Open Championship Robert Karlsson withdrew because, he tweeted at the time, he had acquired “some bad habits in my game.”

The square-shouldered Swede later admitted it was the yips that drove him from Royal Lytham & St. Annes, all of which made the scene late Monday at Gleneagles Country Club all at once surreal and special.

With a return trip to this year’s Open at Muirfield hanging in the balance, Karlsson raced his first putt on the first hole of a four-players-for-three-spots playoff some 15 feet past the hole.

“I had the same putt an hour ago,” Karlsson later admitted.

In regulation, Karlsson had three-putted for bogey on the penultimate hole and then hit into a water hazard at the last hole to finish in a four-way tie for sixth place at 4-under 136. So from virtually the same spot on the 17th green he had the opportunity for the ultimate mulligan.

But then the last year has been something of a career mulligan for Karlsson.

“I felt like I started from the beginning,” Karlsson said. “In August (2012), I didn’t know if I would ever play golf again.”

Karlsson overcame his bout with the yips, regained his PGA Tour card at Q-School in December and took another step toward closing that dark chapter in his career when he calmly rolled in the 15-footer for par at the first extra hole at Gleneagles to earn his 12th start at golf’s oldest championship.

“I didn’t want to hit it short,” Karlsson grinned when asked about his first putt that raced by the hole at the par-3 17th. “I had the same line up the hill that I had (in regulation play) and knew what I needed to do.”

Karlsson finished the 36-hole marathon tied with Bud Cauley (70-66), Luke Guthrie (65-71) and Andres Echavarris (67-69), who bogeyed the first extra hole to end the playoff.

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Josh Teater took medalist honors with rounds of 64-69 to qualify for his first major championship, while Johnson Wagner (68-66) and Camilo Villegas (68-66) tied for second place.

Brian Davis (66-69), who also qualified for the Open at Gleneagles in 2011, and Scott Brown (71-64) rounded out the top 8 to earn invitations to Muirfield in July.

It seems about right that on a day fit for flying a kite, eight players weathered the wind to advance to the ultimate wind-tunnel test.

“I’m quite surprised how good the scoring was,” said Davis, whose opening round featured a tee shot at the first that sailed out of bounds followed by six consecutive birdies. “It was blowing a hoolie all day.”

Not that Teater seemed to have much trouble with the winds after opening his day with a 64 and he was pleased with his closing card of 1 under considering the increasingly difficult conditions.

“I was just trying to hit shots in this crazy wind,” said Teater, who has never played a links course. “I wasn’t trying to attack any flags. Normally, in those 36-holers you have to go low but in that wind you just tried to hold on.”

And if dealing with the gale wasn’t challenging enough, Wagner had the added duties of also playing caddie for the day.

Wagner’s regular caddie, Matt Hauser, took the week off to be with his family following the death of his brother, Zack, two weeks ago; so Wagner’s trainer, Victor Trasoff-Jilg, stepped in at Gleneagles.

“It was the first time I had a yardage book in my hand since college,” Wagner said. “I may start carrying one all the time. It gave me a purpose walking up to the ball.”

Karlsson’s purpose since last year’s Open meltdown has been to savor how far he’s come. Following a pedestrian start to the season he withstood brutal weather on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this month to finish tied for fourth.

Quail Hollow was Karlsson’s first top-five finish on Tour since the 2011 Crowne Plaza Invitational. For a player of Karlsson’s caliber two years out of contention is an eternity and what makes Monday’s 37 holes so significant.

“I try to look at all the qualifiers as an opportunity,” said Karlsson, who tied for fifth in 1992 when the Open was played at Muirfield. “It’s a chance for me to go out and see what I can do without any pressure.”

He now gets to return to the Open Championship, where he hit rock bottom last year, with a similar attitude and, more importantly, without the “bad habits” that haunted him in 2012.

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Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.

8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.

8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.

12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.

12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

We hope it isn’t his back.

Or his neck.

Or his knees.

Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

Competitively, it’s all that matters.

Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

The game soars to yet another level with that.

A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.