Muirfield's history meets modern reality in 142nd Open

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2013, 11:39 am

GULLANE, Scotland – The 142nd Open Championship isn’t about Man vs. Mother Nature, the normal undercard at golf’s oldest title bout, so much as it is a clash of conventional wisdom against the competitive realities of the modern game.

The weatherman will have his say – he always does when the game’s best descend on the ancient links – but this Open is shaping up to be a collision between Muirfield’s historical legacy and the capriciousness of parity in the modern game.

In one corner looms Muirfield’s major marquee. In short, the East Lothian gem doesn’t do flukes. The list of Open champions at Muirfield is a World Golf Hall of Fame roll call – Nick Faldo (twice), Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, Walter Hagen.

If you refer to a player in hushed tones, he likely won an Open at Muirfield. Unlike many of the other Open rotation layouts, the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers eschews bad bounces and quirky breaks.

142nd Open Championship: Articles, videos and photos

“Look at the list of past champions. The number of Hall of Famers that there are who have won here,” said Tiger Woods, one of the few greats who hasn’t claimed a claret jug at Muirfield, but Mother Nature did have a say in that in 2002. “It just goes to show you, you really have to hit the ball well. You have to be able to shape it both ways.”

But Muirfield’s almost flawless cast of championship characters stands in contrast to the uncertainty that has become the norm in Grand Slam golf. Eighteen of the last 20 major champions have been first-time members of the Grand Slam club.

Some attribute the eclectic list of recent major champions to Woods’ fall from grace which has corresponded with an 0-for-16 Grand Slump for the world No. 1. That void has been filled, at least to some degree, by relatively surprising winners.

For Woods, who was quick to remind the press on Tuesday that he has won four times this year, his drought is the byproduct of injury and the pressure-filled realities of major championship golf.

“I think it's very simple, there's a lot of pressure in major championships, and you're also playing under the most difficult conditions,” said Woods, who has been sidelined since the U.S. Open with an elbow injury. “Generally in these majors you're probably getting close to the top 100 players in the world. And you combine the strength of field with the most difficult conditions and with the most heightened pressure, you're going to get guys making mistakes.”

The only mistake Woods may have made in 2002, the last time the Open was played at Muirfield, was playing his way into an afternoon tee time on Saturday. The storm that swept in from the Firth of Forth that day is still considered the worst in modern golf.

“It was like the end of the world,” said Joe Damiano, who caddied for runner-up Stuart Appleby at the ’02 Open.

Woods signed for a third-round 81, one of 10 cards in the 80s that dark day, and yet a Hall of Famer (Els) still emerged from a playoff a day later. It seems not even a proper Scottish gale can deny Muirfield a champion who was beyond reproach.

A similar hoolie doesn’t seem likely this year. A particularly dry and hot spring has produced a bouncy layout that is reminiscent of Hoylake in 2006 when Woods bunted his way to the claret jug.

The more pressing concern is what impact the wind will have on play. At the core of Muirfield’s greatness is a rare out-and-back routing for each nine that creates a circular loop that most Open courses lack.

At St. Andrews and Royal Troon, for example, each nine travels away from the clubhouse and then back, leaving, effectively, two winds for players to deal with. At Muirfield, one hole may play into the wind and the next will have a cross wind.

“Muirfield or Troon would offer the two best chances (to win an Open); because of the way the holes move, it's very comfortable for me off some of the tees, getting the ball in play, as well as around the greens,” Phil Mickelson said.

Although Woods is the consensus favorite for this week’s Open, Mickelson would have to be considered a close second.

Before 2011, when he finished runner-up at Royal St. George’s, Mickelson described his relationship with links golf as a “hate-love” affair.

“I used to hate it and now I love it,” Lefty said.

That affinity likely grew on Sunday when he won the Scottish Open on what is widely considered one of the country’s top new links courses at Castle Stuart (it’s also worth pointing out the last three Open champions played the Scottish Open the week before).

Mickelson certainly has the pedigree to join the who’s-who list of Muirfield champions, as does Els – for a second time – who will be vying for a unique double this week. The defending Open champion is also the last player to hoist the claret jug at Muirfield.

On paper, however, Graeme McDowell may be the player with the most up-side this week.

Having grown up in Northern Ireland at venerable Royal Portrush, McDowell is uniquely suited to links golf and claimed two of his three titles this year – the Volvo World Match Play and French Open on the European Tour – on links-like courses.

“The links-style golf is in my blood and I always feel like I revert back well to it. I naturally and instinctually can play well in the wind,” McDowell said.

But then the disconnect between favorites and major champions has been profound for the past half-decade or so. From Y.E. Yang (2009 PGA) to Trevor Immelman (2008 Masters) the Grand Slam script has become much more improvisational.

Whether Muirfield can alter that legacy and stay on script may be the week’s most intriguing matchup.

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M. Jutanugarn finally joins sister in LPGA winner's circle

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 1:42 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn won the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open by two shots for her first victory in six years on the LPGA Tour, joining sister Ariya as the second siblings to win on the tour.

The 23-year-old from Thailand shot a 3-under 68 for a 12-under 272 total Sunday at Wilshire Country Club in the tour's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Jutanugarn won in her 156th start after three career runner-up finishes, including at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. She had 21 top-10 finishes before winning.

Seven-time winner Ariya tied for 24th after a 70. She joined the predominantly Asian crowd to follow her older sister's final holes, crying as Moriya two-putted to close out the win.

Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first sisters to win on the LPGA Tour.

Hall of Famer Inbee Park shot a 68 to tie for second with Jin Young Ko (70).

Park had opportunities, but she wasn't able to put pressure on Jutanugarn playing in the final threesome. However, Park will return to No. 1 in the world when the rankings come out Monday, knocking off top-ranked Shenshen Fang, who tied for 12th.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Jutanugarn began the final round with a two-shot lead and never wavered in fulfilling the potential she first displayed as the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2013. After a birdie at the second hole, she reeled off nine consecutive pars before sinking birdie putts at 12 and 13.

She overcame a tee shot that narrowly missed going out of bounds for another birdie at 15 to lead by three.

Jutanugarn ran into trouble on the par-4 16th. Her approach landed on the green and rolled off it, stopping inches from dropping into a bunker. Her chip shot ran well past the hole and her par putt just missed catching the edge of the cup. That left her with a short putt for bogey, her first in her previous 28 holes, trimming her lead to two shots.

Ko's tee shot on 18 landed about 4 feet from the hole, giving her a chance to cut Jutanugarn's lead to one shot with the Thai facing a long birdie attempt.

But Ko missed, leaving Jutanugarn room to maneuver. Her birdie putt came up a couple feet short, but she calmly parred the hole to win. Ariya rushed onto the green and joined others in emptying water bottles on her sister before they embraced.

So Yeon Ryu (68) finished fourth at 7 under. American Emma Talley (67) and Eun-Hee Ji (71) tied for fifth at 6 under, making Ji one of four South Koreans to place in the top five.

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After Further Review: Tour players embracing new ideas

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 1:26 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On players embracing new ideas on the PGA Tour ...

PGA Tour players are trying to tell commissioner Jay Monahan something: They like new.

In the second year of the two-man team format at the Zurich Classic, 10 of the top 14 players in the world have signed up, including all four reigning major champions. It’s the first time all four have been in the same field since the Tour Championship. If the laid-back event offered world-ranking points – it doesn’t, and that’s part of the appeal – the winner would have received 62 points. That’s the same as the Genesis Open.

Sure, some sponsor obligations are involved in boosting the field here, but there’s no other way to look at this: Today’s PGA Tour players are not only willing to play events that are a departure from the 72-hole, stroke-play norm. They’re encouraging it. - Ryan Lavner

On Moriya Jutanugarn's breakthrough win ...

As much love as there is between the Jutanugarn sisters, it couldn’t have been easy for Moriya, watching her baby sister, Ariya, soar past her as one of the LPGA’s dominant stars the last few years. Mo, though, never betrayed an inkling of frustration or envy.

That’s what made Mo’s breakthrough LPGA victory Sunday at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open especially meaningful for everyone who has admired Mo’s devotion to her sister. Mo was always a fixture, waiting in the wings to celebrate whenever Ariya hoisted a trophy.

So emotions were high late Sunday, with Ariya waiting in the wings this time, with Ariya sobbing in Mo’s arms after the victory was secured. It was heartwarming for more than Apple, the mother who raised these talented, loving sisters. As always, Apple was there, too, soaking both her daughters in tears of joy. – Randall Mell

On the tough scheduling decisions facing the PGA Tour ...

According to multiple sources, officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation on Monday.

While this is good news for the folks in Fort Worth, Texas, who were in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of timing, there remain some tough decisions to be made in the next few weeks.

If the PGA Tour’s plan is to end its season before Labor Day beginning in 2019, something must give. Currently, the Houston Open, a staple on Tour since 1946, and The National are without sponsors. When the music stops in a few weeks and the circuit announces the ’19 schedule, there’s a good chance one, or both, of those events will be the victims of bad timing. – Rex Hoggard

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Triplett hole-out wins Legends of Golf playoff

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 12:12 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Kirk Triplett holed out from a bunker for birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf to lift himself and partner Paul Broadhurst past Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman.

''Well, you're trying to make it, but you know realistically it doesn't go in very often,'' Triplett said. ''You're trying to give your partner a free run at it. You don't want to hit it up there 20 feet past or do something silly. I'm just trying to hit it the right distance and get it on the right line.''

Langer and Lehman took it in stride.

''You kind of learn to expect it,'' Lehman said. ''These guys out here are so good and Kirk Triplett is a magician around the greens. The odds of making that shot are probably not good, but you certainly expect him to hit a great shot and he did and it went in.''

Lehman and Langer missed birdie putts after Triplett holed out.

''I kind of felt like we both hit pretty good putts, misread them, both of them,'' Lehman said. ''I hit mine probably too hard and Bernhard's was too soft, but you have to hand it to the guys who hit the shot when they have to hit it.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Broadhurst and Triplett closed with a 6-under 48 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to match Langer and Lehman at 24 under. Langer and Lehman had a 47, playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

The 56-year-old Triplett won his sixth PGA Tour Champions title.

''That's a big roller-coaster - three good shots and mine, right?'' Triplett said. ''I'm feeling a little dejected walking down that fairway there, a little sheepish. To knock it in it just reminds you, this game, you know, crazy stuff.''

Broadhurst claimed his third senior victory.

''I don't get too emotional, but that was something special,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said.

Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal had a 48 to tie for third with 2017 winners Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco. Singh and Franco, the third-round leaders, shot 50.

Mark Calcavecchia-Woody Austin (48), John Daly-Michael Allen (49), Steve Stricker-Jerry Kelly (50) and David Toms-Steve Flesch (52) tied for fifth at 20 under.

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Mullinax (T-2) comes up short of maiden win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:06 am

The Valero Texas Open saw an unheralded player break through to earn a maiden victory, but unfortunately for Trey Mullinax his day will have to wait.

Mullinax started the final round within a shot of the lead, having fired a course-record 62 during the final round. He trailed Andrew Landry by one shot for much of the final round while racking up six birdies over his first 11 holes, but a pair of late miscues meant the former Alabama standout had to settle for a share of second place, two shots behind Landry.

A final-round 69 marked a career-best finish for Mullinax, who is playing this season on conditional status and whose lone prior top-10 this season came after he Monday qualified for the Valspar Championship.

"I know my game's there, I'm playing really well," Mullinax told reporters. "Give all credit to Andrew, he played really well today, rocksteady. He was putting great, hitting great shots."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Given time to reflect, the 26-year-old will likely look back on the final two holes where nerves appeared to get the best of him. Looking to put some pressure on Landry, Mullinax chunked his pitch on the short 17th hole into a greenside bunker, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.

Then Mullinax was unable to convert a 9-foot birdie putt on the final green, which would have forced Landry to make his 8-foot par putt to avoid a playoff. Afforded the luxury of two putts for the win, Landry rolled in his par save to cement a two-shot win.

"Made a bad bogey on 17, but just you've got to hit some bad shots," Mullinax said. "Would have liked to have got the putt on 18 to fall to put a little bit of heat on him, but this experience that I'm gaining right now is just going to help me down the road."