Reed, Woods throw up red flags Sunday at Doral

By Rex HoggardMarch 10, 2014, 12:55 am

Doral, Fla. – For the second consecutive year the guy in the red shirt won the PGA Tour’s south Florida siesta otherwise known as the WGC-Cadillac Championship, just not the guy the majority of the golf public thought it would be.

It’s far too early to declare Patrick Reed the other guy just yet, that kind of high cotton only arrives after a six-pack of majors and a dozen Tour tilts, but there is no denying that the 23-year-old has gone a long way to back up all that brashness.

On Sunday, under the most glaring spotlight of his young career, Reed held off the deepest field of the year for a one-stroke victory and his first World Golf Championship.

If comparisons to Tiger Woods seem a tad too farfetched when it comes to Reed, consider that he has now won three Tour events in his last 14 starts and climbed from 370th in the world at this point last year to inside the top 20 with his victory at the new Doral thanks to a stellar short game and an inner belief that belies his resume.

“My whole team behind me they know how good I am and they believe I'm a top‑5 player in the world. And I believe it, as well,” said Reed, who closed with a 72 to edge Bubba Watson (68) and Jamie Donaldson (70) by a shot.

Misplaced confidence is part of professional golf, consider it a job requirement or an occupational hazard, depending on one’s point of view. Either way, doubt is the easiest way to squander potential and if Reed rubs some the wrong way with his self-belief consider the fact that he’s come by it honestly.

Josh Gregory saw it the first time he met Reed, who was leaving the University of Georgia after one year and was looking to transfer to Augusta (Ga.) State.

“My job is to convince players they are twice as good as they are,” said Gregory, who was the golf coach at Augusta State at the time. “(Reed) didn’t need to be told how good he is.”

That confidence will likely only grow following Reed’s victory at Doral, where he began the final round two shots clear of the field and birdied three of his first four holes.

Although things wouldn’t go entirely to script with a bogey at the 14th hole to drop him to 3 under, a miscue at the last by Donaldson would give Reed a cushion to play the potentially devastating last hole in an uncharacteristically conservative manner.

Reed hit 7-iron short of the 18th fairway, punched up to 76 yards with his second and two-putted for victory and has now turned all three of his 54-hole leads into Tour titles.

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“I asked, ‘What’s Donaldson at?’ and heard he’d missed a 15‑footer (at No. 18) so he made bogey,” Reed said. “I was playing for that right rough and laid up with 7‑iron, hit a little wedge to the middle of the green and easy two‑putt.”

But if Reed’s results have finally caught up with his confidence, Woods enters his final run up to the Masters with a balky back and a game that ebbs and flows depending on his medical status.

Through his first three holes on Sunday, Woods hit a water hazard and two fans. It’s not often the world No. 1 signs more gloves during the round than he normally does after the round but such is life for Woods in 2014, a calendar which features just 10 rounds on the Tour and only a single completed card on a Sunday.

Woods opened his day with a drive that sailed right of the first fairway and clunked a fan on the head, followed by another at the third that caromed back into the fairway.

“Everybody OK?” Woods asked the fans along the third fairway.

He was not.

Before hitting his 5-iron approach shot into the third, Woods tried to loosen his back with a few simple twists. It didn’t work and his approach sailed into the lake for the second time in three days.

By the turn he was eight strokes back and moving gingerly, again. Woods withdrew from the Honda Classic after just 13 holes a week ago and he spent the better part of Sunday on his way to a closing 78 and a tie for 25th place stretching what was obviously a tender back.

“If I feel good I can actually make a pretty decent swing. You saw it (Saturday, when he carded a 66),” said Woods, whose last scheduled start before next month’s Masters will be the Arnold Palmer Invitational in two weeks. “I actually can make some good swings and shoot a good score, but if I’m feeling like this it’s a little tough.”

In Woods’ defense, the entire field likely felt a little tender after four trips around the nip/tucked Blue Monster. Donald Trump wanted the hardest golf course on the PGA Tour and with an assist from Mother Nature on Friday – when winds gusted to 35 mph – he, and architect Gil Hanse, succeeded.

The week’s scoring average (73.852) makes Doral the toughest course in 2014. That’s nearly 2 ½ strokes harder than the course average last year (71.35), when 19 under was the winning total compared to Reed’s 4 under finish.

“I think it needs to mature a little bit, tweak it here and there,” said Watson, who has a victory and two runner-up finishes in 2014. “I never looked at the green on No. 9 because for me being a lefty, all it takes is the ball going a little bit to the right and rolls off the green into the water. I think it's very severe.”

With the possible exception of Trump, Reed may have been the only person giving the Blue Monster a perfect score in its debut, but then what else would one expect from the winner or a player with as much confidence as the Texan?

On Saturday night, Reed raised eyebrows in certain circles when he said he considered himself a top-5 player in an NBC Sports interview. It was a telling glimpse into the mind of a player who appears precariously perched between confident and cocky.

The same could be said for Reed’s choice of a Sunday wardrobe, which dates back to his junior days. But one shouldn’t confuse confidence for careful respect.

“The best player ever to live when I was growing up wore black pants, a red shirt,” Reed said. “I was growing up watching him, I always thought, you know, it would be cool to wear black and red come down Sunday. You know, it’s worked.”

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”