Moment of Claret-y - COPIED

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' It had been 15 years since Turnberry had hosted an Open Championship, and for good reason. For the fourth time the course, which clings to the craggy coast, produced copious amounts of high drama, history and heresy, not to mention 71 holes of near legendary proportion.
 
From the same shores that gave us Robert the Bruce and 1977s Duel in the Sun between a young Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, came four windswept and unprecedented days ' a Duel for the Ageless.
 
Its an unbelievable fairytale story, Padraig Harrington, who knows a thing or two about silver slippers, said of Watsons quest for a sixth Claret Jug.
 
Stewart Cink
Stewart Cink holds on tightly to the Claret Jug. (Getty Images)
But then this fairytale had a twist by way of a lanky Alabamian. For 71 holes the improbable inched closer to impossibly perfect with each flawlessly hit shot until Watson was ultimately undone by a familiar foe ' his putter.
 
Staked to a one-shot lead and eyeing the all-to-familiar 18th green from the middle of the fairway, Watson bounced his approach over the putting surface and failed to salvage a par to slip into a tie at 2 under with Stewart Cink.
 
Fifty-nine is still golfs magic number, but for all the wrong reasons.
 
The 59-year-old Watson made a mess of the playoff, starting with a bogey and ending, figuratively if not literally, his week with a double bogey-7 at the third extra frame. He picked a bad time to start missing the middle of the clubface.
 
They go 54 holes on the Champions Tour for a reason, and 76 proved to be four too many for the toothy hero of Turnberry.
 
By the time Cink eased onto the 18th green in the playoff he had the look of a man who had just crashed a party thrown in someone elses honor and Watson, who played 71 holes like a 39-year-old, finally began looking his age.
 
Dream almost came true, sighed Watson, who closed with a 2-over 72, his highest card of the week.
 
Nicklaus recently said his 77 loss to Watson at Turnberry was the best hed ever played without winning. Watsons effort on the Ailsa Course this week may be the best anyone has ever played without cashing gold.
 
Watson, who went to bed in the grand hotels Watson Suite each of the previous two nights with the lead, was impossible to dismiss even when he began his final round bogey-par-bogey to slip out of the top spot.
 
From there, he appeared to answer all challenges, first from Ross Fisher followed in order by Lee Westwood, Chris Wood and Mathew Goggin.
 
Jeremy Kavanagh, a young Brit who lucked his way into a Tuesday practice round with Watson, ventured to a nearby horse track Monday night and eyed an entry named Whaston.
 
I put 5 pounds on her at 16 to 1 and hit, Kavanagh said. The next day I told Tom and he said, Maybe that name has a lucky ring to it this week.
 
For the better part of four days, it felt more historic than lucky.
 
After battling with Westwood and Goggin down the stretch, Watson put what appeared to be the tournament out of reach with a birdie at the 17th and a one-stroke lead.
 
But then Cink, as sentimental as the next, had a plan of his own.
 
Amid a cacophony of misses and messes, with the leaders peeling away with each gust, Cink went blank and rolled in a 15-footer at the 72nd hole to sign for one of just six birdies at the closer and a final-round 69, a full hour ahead of the pack, to post 2-under 278.
 
Its the kind of putt that had eluded Cink for much of his career.
 
After ditching his long putter two months ago and enlisting the services of sports psychologist Dr. Morris Pickens, Cink came across from the United States early, took his knocks on three of Irelands finest links courses to prepare and shouldered into the final round three shots out of the lead.
 
I actually believed I could win this tournament starting today, Cink said. In the past I wouldnt have done that.
 
History will note Cinks birdie at the 72nd hole as the catalyst to victory, but it was a missed 2-footer on the seventh hole Saturday for bogey that set his victory march in motion.
 
I missed and I didnt let it get to me, Cink said. That was one of the moments that was pivotal.
 
Cink went on to post a 71 in Round 3 and weathered a pair of late miscues Sunday on Nos. 14 and 16 to put himself in position to end Watsons fairytale.
 
Lost, however, in a playoff that seemed to suck every breath of air out of the Firth of Clyde was Cinks ball-striking exhibition.
 
He scrambled for par at the first extra hole; two-putted at the second to keep his lead; and rifled his second at the par-5 17th to 40 feet, while Watson was making hay down the left side of the fairway, to put the title out of reach. His towering approach at the 18th rolled to 3 feet for an apropos birdie.
 
He needed one here, said Cinks caddie, Frank Williams. He wont admit it, but Im sure Southern Hills (the 2001 U.S. Open and site of Cinks closest brush with major glory before Turnberry) is still in his mind and a lot of other peoples minds as well.
 
In Cinks defense, there were no shortage of rally killers looking to spoil Watsons wonderful ride. On Sunday the grounds of the former World War II airstrip had the look of rush hour at JFK.
 
Fisher, the lean Englishman with an overdue wife, ran in birdies at the first and second holes to move to 5 under early, but his title chances unraveled like a modern dance step ' hay, hay, hay, drop ' when he went from the rough to the rough to the rough at the fifth for a quadruple bogey-8.
 
Westwood held at least a share of the lead as late as the 16th hole, but the perennial major bridesmaid pitched his approach long at the demanding par-4 16th and missed an 18-footer for par to slip to 1 under and never recovered.
 
Tasmanias best hope for a major ended when Mathew Goggin bogeyed the same hole a few minutes later.
 
Wood, a 1,500-to-1 long shot when the week began, looked to trade his 08 silver medal (for winning low-amateur honors last year at Royal Birkdale) in for the gold version presented to the Open champion, finishing at 1 under with two birdies over his last four holes. But he finished tied with Westwood, one shot out of the playoff.
 
An Open that was unkind to favorites, sentimental or otherwise, went to the Tours favorite Twitterer.
 
In the end, Watson won the senior division, and Cink the tournament proper, his first major and his first victory since last years Travelers Championship.
 
But then the enormity of the situation was not lost on Cink. Far from it. We thought Jack Nicklaus had hung the moon when he won the Masters at 46, Cink said. This is 13 years on from that. . . . I dont feel ashamed. I dont feel disappointed.
 
Given the gravity of his historic run, neither should Watson.
 
Related Links:
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  • Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

    Cops called in bizarre ending to Florida Mid-Am

    By Ryan LavnerMay 20, 2018, 7:16 pm

    In a one-paragraph post on its website, the Florida State Golf Association declared Marc Dull the winner of the 37th Mid-Amateur Championship on May 13 after his opponent – in a tie match with two holes to go – was unable to return because of an “unfortunate injury” sustained during a lengthy weather delay.

    Left unreported was what allegedly happened.

    According to a police report (see below) obtained by GolfChannel.com, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office received a call that afternoon from Dull’s opponent, Jeff Golden, who claimed that he’d been assaulted in the parking lot at Coral Creek Club, the tournament host site in Placida. In a statement provided to police, Golden said that he was sucker-punched in the face by Dull’s caddie, Brandon Hibbs.

    Both in his statement to police and in a subsequent phone interview afterward, Golden, 33, said that the alleged incident stemmed from a rules dispute on the ninth hole during the championship match. As he surveyed his putt, Golden asked Dull whether the cup was damaged or if there was loose debris around the edge.

    “Don’t worry about it,” Hibbs reportedly told Golden. “If you’re going to make it, you’re going around it.”

    With tensions already running high because of what he perceived as breaches of etiquette by his opponents, Golden informed the rules official in the group that he believed Hibbs’ statement constituted advice. The penalty was a loss of hole, giving Golden a 2-up lead at the turn.

    At that point, Hibbs told police, he recused himself and returned to the clubhouse. Dull and Golden continued their match, heading to the 17th hole all square when they were pulled off the course because of inclement weather.

    Golden told police that he headed to the parking lot at 2:45 p.m. to retrieve some dry clothes from his car when Hibbs “approached him, apologized, then punched him on the left side of the face,” causing him to fall to the ground.

    “I had a moment where I was happy to see him, because the first thing he said to me was, ‘I want to apologize,’” Golden said last week in a phone interview. “By the time he finished I was being punched.”

    Asked why he believed Hibbs would strike him, Golden said: “It was from the earlier ruling, 100 percent. He had anger toward me because I called him out on a ruling.”

    In a statement given to police, Hibbs, 36, said that he had “been in the clubhouse the entire time and did not batter [Golden], nor was he in the parking lot.” Hibbs, who caddies with Dull at Streamsong Resort in Central Florida, did not return a message seeking comment.

    Police wrote in the report that there were no witnesses to the alleged attack, nor was there any surveillance video from the parking lot. While observing Golden the officer noted “no swelling or abrasions to the face,” but there was “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip.” Hibbs’ hands and knuckles showed “no scrapes or abrasions.”

    Golden, however, said that there were three bloodstains on his shirt and punctures inside his mouth that proved he’d been struck. He also described himself afterward as “dizzy” and seeing “weird shades of colors,” and that the area between his wrist and thumb was “very sensitive” from catching his fall. Still feeling woozy, he met with his doctor the day after the alleged incident and also underwent a CT scan on Friday.

    “I was extremely shaken up,” he said. “I had concussion symptoms.”

    Golden declined to press charges – he said later that he wasn’t given the option, because of a lack of physical evidence – and refused medical attention.

    Reached by phone last week, Dull said that he had no knowledge of the alleged attack and was only made aware once the police arrived. He said he had waited out the delay in a storm shelter.

    “It was shocking,” he said. “[Hibbs] said to me, ‘I didn’t touch the guy.’”

    Once the police left, it was up to the FSGA to determine how to proceed.

    With the course now playable after a two-hour delay, under the Rules of Golf, the players were expected back on the 17th hole.

    Golden asked Dull whether he would concede the match.

    “I said that I wasn’t going to concede,” Dull said. “Why would I concede the match when I was sitting in the shelter, and when I come back someone is accused of being hit?”

    So Golden then decided to concede, handing the Mid-Am title to Dull, the reigning FSGA Amateur Player of the Year.

    “I just wanted to get home,” Golden explained later.

    Asked last week for more details about the final result, Jeff Magaditsch, the organization’s director of tournament operations, said in an email that Golden “expressed concern about a wrist issue” and that “not much additional information is available.”

    A day later, once the details of the police report became available, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that Golden “didn’t want to play anymore.”

    “Regrettably, the golf course was very playable and Jeff understood that he needed to resume the match,” he said. “I think he was just ready to go.”

    When asked to comment on the alleged attack, Demick said that the police “found absolutely no evidence of an assault.”

    Last week Golden, who qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open and is now a tennis pro at Palencia in St. Augustine, appealed the FSGA’s decision, writing in a letter that tournament officials shouldn’t have accepted his concession.

    Dull said that he was “annoyed by the whole incident.”

    “I think it taints the entire championship,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. No golf tournament should end that way.”

    Getty Images

    Delayed start for Nelson might mean Monday finish

    By Will GrayMay 20, 2018, 6:04 pm

    DALLAS – Inclement weather  pushed back final-round tee times at the AT&T Byron Nelson by more than four hours, increasing the likelihood of a Monday finish in the tournament’s debut at Trinity Forest Golf Club.

    With the field already scheduled to play in threesomes off split tees, the opening tee times for the day got pushed back from 9:23 a.m. CT to 1:23 p.m. because of steady rain in the area. The delay means that the final group won’t start their round until 3:35 p.m. local time.

    With sunset in the Dallas area scheduled for 8:23 p.m., the leaders will likely have just under five hours to complete their rounds or face returning to the course Monday morning. Threesomes have been used for each of the first three days, and in part because of the intricacies of the new layout rounds have routinely approached 5 hours and 30 minutes in duration.

    Should play spill over into Monday, those playing next week’s event will face one of the Tour’s shortest commutes, with Fort Worth Invitational host Colonial Country Club less than an hour away.

    Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise share the 54-hole lead at 17 under, four shots clear of the field. They’ll be joined in the final trio by Australia’s Matt Jones, who is tied for third with Kevin Na.

    Getty Images

    Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

    By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

    Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

    During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.

     

    A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

    Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

    Getty Images

    Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

    By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

    DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

    With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

    But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

    That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

    Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.


    Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

    AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


    There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

    If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

    “I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

    While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

    While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

    “Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

    But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

    While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

    “I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

    Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

    But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.

    Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

    “Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

    An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

    For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

    “It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”