After major breakthrough, Stenson eyeing Olympic gold

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2016, 6:41 pm

TROON, Scotland – Toward the end of his news conference on Friday following a second-round 65 Henrik Stenson, as clever as they come, was stumped by an overly zealous question.

“If you had a choice of two of three: [winning] a claret jug, Olympic gold medal or Ryder Cup, which of those two would you take?” the media type asked.

Stumped, Stenson pondered the question for a moment before he allowed, “How long did you think about this question?

“If I say I'll take Olympic gold and The Open, I'm going to have 11 guys kicking me when I walk outside,” he laughed. “So I'll take the Ryder Cup then for my teammates, and then I'll take The Open as of now.”

On Sunday at Royal Troon the Swede answered at least a third of that question, winning The Open by three strokes in a duel for the ages against Phil Mickelson.

But if Stenson’s response to the left-field question rings of what has become a familiar indifference to Olympic golf, know that the 40-year-old may have simply been playing to the crowd – which would include his potential European Ryder Cup teammates and the Scottish masses.

In fact, the record shows that perhaps more than any other top player Stenson has displayed the most passion for this year’s Games, starting with his commitment to play.

Following a procession of high-profile withdrawals that include the world Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 – and has ballooned to 20 no-shows at last count – Stenson has taken a uniquely devoted approach to Olympic golf.

The Zika virus, which has been the most-often cited reason for the top players to not travel to Rio, is of no concern to Stenson, as only he could explain.

“For once it's a competitive advantage to be 40 and not looking to have any more kids,” he smiled.

While September’s Ryder Cup matches loom large for the likes of Stenson, the Scandinavian’s affinity for the Games goes beyond a passing interest in the opening ceremony and exploring the Olympic Village. He grew up counting medals and cheering for athletes who normally wouldn’t be household names even in Sweden. 

“I know, unlike others, he’s really keen on the Olympics,” Gareth Lord, Stenson’s caddie, said. “Especially at his age. He’s got this one [Olympics], if he’s got another that definitely would be it. But he’s definitely got this one. I know Rio is on his mind.”

He also realizes a byproduct of the exodus by the game’s top players from the Olympics will be dramatically improved chances to medal, and that was before he outdueled Phil Mickelson on Sunday.

In fairness to Stenson’s politically correct answer earlier last week, he’s been on multiple winning Ryder Cup teams and now that the void of his missing major has been filled the prospect of Olympic gold has moved to the front of his “to do” list.

“I think after a pretty long and successful career, it would be pretty cool to have an Olympic medal hanging next to some of the nice trophies I have at home,” he said.

Stenson will be the highest-ranked player in Rio and following his historic performance at Royal Troon a favorite to medal.

Imagine the impact on golf in Sweden that within five weeks Stenson became the first Scandinavian to win a major followed by a gold-medal performance in Brazil.

“It would be big outside the golfing community as well,” Stenson said. “It would be to the broader sports crowd and to the whole country. That would be massive.”

There’s also the issue of scheduling, which is widely considered an unspoken element of the rash of Olympic withdrawals. While the golf calendar has been condensed because of the Games, with two majors and Rio slated in a five-week window, consider Stenson’s extended take.

Not only will he play the Olympics, the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the Ryder Cup – that’s 11 must-play events in eight weeks – but he’ll also play the European Tour’s season-ending series to complete his season.

Many players have professed their support for the Olympics and will travel to Rio. Others have offered lukewarm support and will not. But Stenson has backed up that praise with passion and action.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”