Open Formula

By Rex HoggardJune 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share
2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' They sleep in cars and shell out working class wages to land a tee time at Bethpage State Park s Black Course. If the forecast holds and this U.S. Open is played at Bethpage Splash this week there are going to be more than a few among the 156 players assembled in the Long Island hills wondering why. Arent traffic jams and the Mets punishment enough?
In fact, if you subscribe to the theories found in the blogosphere and on the unfiltered airwaves, all but 10 or 15 of this weeks comers should pack up the courtesy car and skip town now before things get too busy on the Van Wyck Expressway.
We hear it almost yearly. Usually around Fathers Day, a big, burly golf course enters the rotation and the world becomes convinced only Superman and a handful of immortals could hoist Sunday silver.
We hear it so much one-half expects Open Doctor Rees Jones to be slapped with a malpractice suit for running parity out of the national championship. If NFL boss Roger Goodell ran things in Ponte Vedra Beach , Fla. , the Tour would slap a luxury tax on the U.S. Golf Association for upending the competitive balance.
The 10-horse race theory, of course, is pure bunk. Thats rubbish, recoiled Dale Lynch, who should know since his man Geoff Ogilvy proved at Winged Foot that, for many Tour players, greatness is merely four good putting days away.
Lynchs man was a bit less offended, but no less adamant.
They said that for Torrey Pines last year, too, Ogilvy reasoned. If you put Rocco Mediate as the guy who is going to win the tournament, you'd say, he's nice. But he was a birdie on the last hole away from winning. That was the longest course ever.
In 2002, the last time the Open came to this slice of public access paradise, the guy who hit more greens than anyone and drove it further than all but six players for the week ' Tiger Woods ' won. The guy who came in second place, Phil Mickelson, was eighth in greens in regulation and seventh in driving distance.
Point is, hitting it long off the tee and controlling your irons plays well at the Black and if you needed to pick a winner there is not going to be much of a choice between a Bubba Watson and a Brian Gay.
However, that doesnt make the 109th Open a 10-trick pony.
In many ways the long-held notion of an Open player has been debunked by a list of recent winners that read like golfs version of a Colors of Benetton advertisement. In order since 2004, the Open has been won by a cadaver (Retief Goosen), a curiosity (Michael Campbell), a reformed hothead (Ogilvy), a caddie yard special (Angel Cabrera) and the keeper of the gate (Woods).
There used to be a mold, Woods said. Im sure in years past it seemed like every person was a pretty short hitter, very straight. That seemed like that was the type of player that it took to win U.S. Opens. But now I think that it has changed a little bit.
The only formula is that each player was on form and had an affinity for par no matter the cost. For all his histrionics, Woods is a par junkie at major championships. In 14 U.S. Open starts Woods has finished under par just three times, including his 2000 romp at Pebble Beach . Among those 14 starts he has the same number of victories as he does finishes outside the top 25 ' three.
At an Open, regardless of venue, booming drives and strong backs to hoist balls from ankle-high rough are just tools, par is the trade.
The whole idea of a U.S. Open is obviously to grind it out and make pars, Woods said. How you do that, its up to you.
Thats not to say there is not a short list of frontrunners. But for Jones, who tinkered the Black Course to Open readiness like he did prior to the 02 championship, it has nothing to do with the golf course and everything to do with a players major makeup.
If theyve won a major before its easier to win another one. Once youve been in that situation it just makes everything easier, Jones said.
Make no mistake, this Open is far from a utopian free-for-all. In theory all 156 start Thursday with visions of Sunday trophy presentations in their heads, but the golf course and Mother Nature have already spotted anyone inside the top 10 percent of the Tours driving distance category a half-stroke advantage per side.
The forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of showers all week and, invariably, a 40 percent chance the winner will have a moon ball that carries 300 yards faster than, well, a New York minute.
There's certain guys it's going to be really hard for. And it hasn't helped them that it's rained. There's no doubt hitting the ball a long way off the tee is good, and there's no doubt hitting a long way straight off the tee is really good, Ogilvy said. I wouldn't say it counts out everybody, but it makes it a little difficult for a lot of guys.
This Peoples Open may be more democratic than some give it credit. But make no mistake, at Bethpage not all competitors are created equal.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage -2009 U.S. Open
  • First- and Second-Round Tee Times
  • Sectional Qualifying results
  • Bethpage Black Ballpark
  • Getty Images

    Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

    Just like that other tournament, right?

    Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

    But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

    After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

    Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

    “I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

    The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

    “I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

    His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

    Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

    Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

    “When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

    But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

    While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

    “I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

    But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

    Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

    Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

    Getty Images

    Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

    BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

    The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

    First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

    Getty Images

    Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

    In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

    “I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

    After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

    “I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

    Getty Images

    Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

    PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

    Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

    ''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

    Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

    A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

    Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

    ''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

    The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

    ''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

    Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

    ''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

    McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

    ''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

    Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.