PGA has lots of excitement to live up to

By Rex HoggardJuly 27, 2016, 5:03 pm

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – There are few things in life that regularly live up to the hype – weddings, childbirth, the Masters, the occasional Game 7.

Perhaps this week’s PGA Championship has the goods. Maybe the year’s final major delivers a worthy bookend to what has been a truly memorable Grand Slam season.

The players are certainly all in place.

Depending on your math, all of the pieces are there – Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, even Henrik Stenson and his newfound major fame.

But even Day, this week’s defending champion and the world No. 1, seemed to suggest, at least with his actions if not his words, that it might be best to temper expectations for the year’s final major.

“I haven't played a practice round. I haven't seen the course. I don't know what it looks like,” Day said on Wednesday ... on Wednesday.

The Open probably set the bar a tad high with a finish for the ages, thanks to an inspired final-round duel between Stenson and Phil Mickelson.

“I don't think the score was really the most impressive part of that. It was more the resilience and how they fed off one another. It was a total match-play scenario,” McIlroy said of the Royal Troon title bout.

The U.S. Open delivered drama – albeit some of the unwanted variety thanks to a curious ruling – and a champion (Johnson) that had been in waiting for far too long. Even the Masters provided enough fireworks via Jordan Spieth’s Sunday meltdown and Willett’s unforgettable final round.

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There are plenty of scenarios that could make this week’s championship a worthy ending to the major season.

Johnson getting on the board again at an event that probably owes him one is not out of the question. Day going back-to-back to solidify his status atop the pack would also be compelling; as would another PGA for McIlroy given his status as the forgotten Beatle in some media circles.

After flirting with major golf’s magic number of 62 at Royal Troon, a softer Baltusrol is there for the taking and a record round would inject a measure of history into this week’s proceedings. Just don’t count on it.

“I don't see anybody shooting [62] here at Baltusrol,” said Mickelson, who came within a single rotation of setting the new major mark on Thursday at Royal Troon.

For those who read tea leaves, there’s a pattern to this major championship season. Each of the first three major winners – Willett, Johnson and Stenson – were all first-time Grand Slam champions and all three were ranked inside the top 12 of the world ranking when they cracked the game’s ultimate grass ceiling.

If that trend continues that leaves just three players – Rickie Fowler (No. 7 in the world), Sergio Garcia (No. 10) and Branden Grace (No. 12) – poised to join the club.

“I would love to make it four in a row. Obviously it would be very nice,” Garcia said. “But we'll see. It's a long week. And like I said before, my goal is to play well, to give myself another shot at winning a tournament, winning a major, and then see what I can come up with.”

It should also be noted that the last time a single season’s majors were swept by first-timers was in 2011, when Keegan Bradley completed the rookie slam with his victory at the PGA.

Part of what has been a somewhat subdued build up to the PGA can be attributed to a measure of championship fatigue. The engraver finished etching Stenson’s name into the claret jug just 10 days ago and in two weeks the Olympics will assume its position as golf’s ultimate test followed in short order by the Ryder Cup.

So if the game’s best and brightest aren’t exactly selling the 98th PGA as the “Blowout at Baltusrol” they’ve come by their measured optimism honestly.

Although any tee sheet that includes Jason, DJ, Rory and Jordan should be good enough to generate buzz, be it at a major or otherwise, and golf’s ongoing narrative of a Big 4 continues to be pinned to the need for a combination of the dominant foursome going head-to-head when it counts at a major.

But even that script is changing.

“It’s a Big 1, really,” said one Tour insider on Wednesday at Baltusrol. “When Dustin is on his game it’s hard to imagine anyone beating him.”

Others offhandedly dismiss the notion of a dominant quartet, either through the attrition of increasingly deeper fields or evolving attitudes.

“It is something that you guys have always done. You've always kind of gone with the Big 3 or the Big 4 or the Big 5 or whatever. It is fine,” Garcia said. “The only thing I can do is keep improving, keep getting better, keep doing what I know how to do.”

As compelling as a Big 4 may look on paper, there currently isn’t much by way of an established body of work to suggest the stars have aligned perfectly over south New Jersey.

Maybe Baltusrol will be the curtain call this major season deserves, an exclamation mark that includes all of the game’s elite; but history suggests that it might be best to keep expectations low.

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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.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1