More questions than answers

By Rex HoggardAugust 11, 2011, 8:03 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Not sure what was the bigger surprise on Day 1 at Atlanta Athletic Club & Sauna, that Tiger Woods signed for his worst opening-round score in a major or that he stopped on his way to points beyond to talk with the media about his misadventures.

Normally, we’d hold Woods to a higher standard when it comes to the obligatory sound bite, but if ever he deserved a 'get out of jail free' card it was Thursday. In short, his 7-over 77 is among the worst 13-hole rounds in recent history.

Thirteen because through five holes Woods looked like, well the old guy, you remember the one who won major in bundles and U.S. Opens on one leg. Three under par through five holes, tied for the lead for about a minute, which was about how long it took for things to get sideways.

A double bogey at the par-3 15th hole, another at the par-4 18th was all it took. There were plenty of unsightly moments after that, but the script had been set.

Just before Woods stepped to the 17th tee, his eighth hole of the day, the PGA of America e-mailed a “GUR” (ground under repair) announcement for the 17th and 14th greens, which were damaged by mowers late Wednesday. At that moment it seemed like an apropos assessment of Woods – Game Under Repair.

Following the eventful round Woods was surprisingly forthright: “Got off to a great start, 3 under through five and was having mechanical thoughts and wanted to free it up. I thought I was playing well enough to let it go. I’m not at that point yet.”

There are always more questions than answers when it comes to Woods, but Thursday’s pile up created even more certainty and the kind of questions that, even if he were inclined, Woods would probably be powerless to answer.

Deep, maybe even painful, questions like: You said on Wednesday you showed up this week at the PGA Championship looking for a “W,” but given the state of your game was avoiding another “WD” a more realistic goal?

Woods has been clear on this, lowering expectations is not an option, yet the PGA will be his 21st consecutive official PGA Tour start without a victory, dating back to the 2009 BMW Championship, and his 10th winless major since his historic 2008 U.S. Open triumph.

Has Jack Nicklaus’ Grand Slam record of 18 major championships, the benchmark that has driven him since his junior days, become less milestone and more Moby Dick?

The media is fond of saying Woods is an old 35-years-old, noting that Nicklaus never dealt with the litany of injuries, both physical and mental, that Woods has. Woods has the same number of majors (14) as Nicklaus did at 35, which proves the last four are always the hardest. But regularly being reminded of that summit can’t be productive.

If it is “reps” that you feel you truly need, than why not consider playing next week’s Wyndham Championship?

Woods said he will not play the regular season’s final event next week because of family obligations. But he needs to finish in the top 30 or better this week to move into the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list and qualify for The Barclays in two weeks. If he misses the cut at Atlanta Athletic Club his next competitive event may be November’s Australian Open the week before the Presidents Cup.

Given the current state of your game, should you play the Presidents Cup?

Last week U.S. captain Fred Couples made it clear one of his two wildcard picks is earmarked for Woods and his decision to play the Australian Open is an indication he has told Couples he would participate in the biennial matches. However, the matches – which, unlike the Ryder Cup, requires full team participation in each session – is no place to dust off the rust or hide a struggling star.

Have you tinkered too much with the formula that has worked so flawlessly for more than a decade?

Both Woods and swing coach Sean Foley seemed confident the new action is starting to take, and in Foley’s defense Woods has played just 11 official Tour events on the Canadian’s watch, but the swing is just part of an ever-changing picture.

In order, Woods has divorced his wife, his caddie, moved to south Florida and tinkered with his pre-tournament routine. He climbed to the top of his game because he was never satisfied with the status quo, but maybe a complete life overhaul could have waited.

Was Bryon Bell your best option for a caddie this week?

It’s likely Woods would have signed for a 77 on Thursday even with Steve Williams on the bag, and Bell is clearly someone he trusts. But the “friends and family” plan rarely works out in situations like this and given the gravity of this week’s event it may have been wiser to go with a proven commodity.

And finally, the $50 million question that every athlete in a similar situation has asked themselves, are you worried?

For two weeks Woods has raved about his healthy left leg, and that’s a start. But during the quiet moments when the cameras and fans are gone, the thought that his best days may be behind him must be inescapable.

In fairness to Woods, only time can answer that question. But after days like Thursday he can’t like the potential answer.

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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.

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Knox relishes round with 'mythical figure' Woods

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 8:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Russell Knox was expecting the worst and hoping for the best Thursday at The Open.

Playing with Tiger Woods tends to have that effect.

The native Scot received a treat earlier this week when he saw his name on the tee sheet alongside his boyhood idol, Woods.

“Felt good out there, but obviously my swing, it was just like I had too much tension,” Knox said after an opening 73. “I just wasn’t letting it go as normal. First round with Tiger, I expected to feel a little bit different. The way I felt was better than the way I swung.”

Knox said that he was nervous playing alongside Woods, a player he’d only encountered on the range. “He’s almost like a mythical figure,” he said.

But after a while, he settled into the rhythm of the round at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I thought it would be worse,” he said, “I feel like I should know what I’m doing. It’s cool playing with Tiger, but I’ve got to get over that. I’m here to win, not just enjoy my walk around the course.”

Knox probably had more interaction with Woods than he anticipated, if only because the third member of the group, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, keeps to himself because of the language barrier.

“It’s kind of a blur,” Knox said. “It’s like, Oh, I’m chatting away with Tiger here like normal. I don’t even remember what I was saying.”

There have been countless stories from this year as the next generation of players – guys who grew up watching Woods dominate the sport – get paired with Woods for the first time.

It was no less special for Knox on Thursday.

“It’s nice for him to say things like that,” Woods said, “and we enjoyed playing with each other. Hopefully we’ll play a little bit better tomorrow.”