Open Championship not as interesting without Rory

By Rex HoggardJuly 8, 2015, 7:53 pm

The 144th Open Championship just got less interesting.

Sure, Jordan Spieth will be looking to secure the third leg of the single-season Grand Slam and Tiger Woods is returning to the site where he won two of three claret jugs with something that resembles decent form, but without Rory McIlroy, it just won’t be the same.

The world No. 1 announced via Instagram on Wednesday that after rupturing a ligament in his left ankle playing soccer two days ago, he would be unable to return to St. Andrews to defend his title.

“After much consideration, I have decided not to play in the Open Championship at St. Andrews. I’m taking a long term view of this injury and, although rehab is progressing well, I want to come back to tournament play when I feel 100% healthy and 100% competitive. Thank you all for your support and best wishes. I hope to be back on the course as soon as I can,” he wrote.

While much of the golf world continues to fixate on the “kick about” that landed McIlroy on the disabled list – as if a 26-year-old should lock himself away when something as important as a major championship is hanging in the balance – the real talking point should be the impact his absence will have on next week’s event and beyond.

With the makings of a bonafide rivalry emerging between McIlroy and Spieth, this certainly seems like a potentially historic missed opportunity.

Spieth will still be eying Grand Slam history at the Old Course, but it will be missing the buzz that would have come with a potentially historic duel with Rory on such an iconic venue.

The two have traded titles with regularity this season, with Spieth striking first with his victory at the Masters. The Northern Irishman answered with convincing triumphs at the WGC-Match Play and at the Wells Fargo Championship in May.

Spieth won last month’s U.S. Open, essentially putting the ball in McIlroy’s court, but now that answer will have to wait.

“It's unlucky, it's unfortunate, and I'm sure he's taking it harder on himself than anybody else,” Spieth said Tuesday at the John Deere Classic. “But I don't think he did anything wrong, it just was an unfortunate situation, and hopefully he rebounds quickly and gets back right to where he was.”

Spieth’s comments go well beyond that of a friend or interested bystander. In many ways having a healthy rivalry is as important to a player’s legacy as his record.

Arnold Palmer had Jack Nicklaus, Nicklaus had Tom Watson, even Woods had a revolving cast of would-be contenders from Ernie Els and Vijay Singh to Phil Mickelson to add a level of intrigue to all of those milestones.

A victory for Spieth at St. Andrews won’t be diminished by McIlroy’s absence – let’s be honest, if Jordan leaves Scotland with the third leg of the Grand Slam there will be little talk of ligament damage and ongoing therapy – but the best in any sport crave the competition more than the championships.

So far, the rivalry between the two young players has been good natured, competitively heated and very much a two-way street, which are the central tenets of a good rivalry.

In May, following his victory at the WGC-Match Play, McIlroy was asked how he planned to spend his birthday, which was the next day.

“Every Monday morning I go onto the website and look at what my lead [in the Official World Golf Ranking] is,” he said at Harding Park. “Tomorrow will be the same. It’s nice to be in that position.”

It was a telling glimpse into the competitive elements that make a good rivalry and why a Rory vs. Jordan showdown at this year’s majors was so compelling.

Next week’s Open will be entertaining, it always is at the Home of Golf, and Spieth may well make history, but it could have been historic.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.