For Presidents Cup, a step in the right direction

By Rex HoggardOctober 11, 2015, 9:26 am

“Starting is half the task.” - Korean proverb

INCHEON, South Korea – In professional sports style points and moral victories rank right up there with participation medals.

As former New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards once opined, “You play to win the game.” Yet while it wasn’t the outcome Nick Price had envisioned or hoped for there was no hiding a sense of measured accomplishment over the International team’s best showing in more than a decade in the Presidents Cup.

“I think it was 1983 when Europe lost by a point, Seve [Ballesteros] was in the locker room, and all the European players were down in the dumps and they were very depressed that they had lost,” Price said. “He looked at them all and said, ‘No, no, don't be depressed. This is like a victory for us. We only need one more point.’”

It wasn’t the perfect script as Bill Haas and Sangmoon Bae made their way up the 18th fairway in the day’s last two-ball on Sunday with the U.S. assured at least a tie, but it was closer than it had been in more than a decade. After five consecutive American blowouts in the biennial event Price was willing to embrace progress, however measured it may be.

It was competitive, it was compelling and, at least on this side of the international date line, it was captivating thanks to an International rally that seemed about as likely as an American collapse as a gloomy morning got underway at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.

By the time Haas and Bae set out in the day’s anchor match the home team was down in seven matches, all square in three and leading just a single game. Like so many Presidents Cup before it, the 11th edition appeared to be finished before Sunday really began.

But Price’s team, which began the final frame trailing by a point after spotting the U.S. side a 4-1 advantage on Day 1, chipped away, slowly at first with Adam Scott starting the rally with a 6-and-5 rout of Rickie Fowler.

As the day evolved and the rain fell, the personality of these matches swung dramatically, first from what could be considered the Comeback Cup to the possibility of an outright Correction Cup with plenty of examples of the former, including blown leads by J.B. Holmes (1 up through 13 holes), Jimmy Walker (1 up through 9) and Jordan Spieth (1 up through 13) that all went the Internationals' way.

Math and diminishing opportunities, however, slowly made the latter seem more apropos.

When Australian Marc Leishman rolled in a 6-footer for birdie at the last to close out a 1-up victory over world No. 1 Spieth, the event was tied at 12 ½ points apiece with three matches and the fate of the event still on the course.

“It was pretty uncomfortable at times today but the guys stepped up and played amazing golf when they had to,” U.S. captain Jay Haas said. “There were no individuals; everybody came together as a team; a moment I'll never forget.”

Branden Grace, who finished with a 5-0-0 record, closed out Matt Kuchar (2 and 1), and the first of many dramatic swings came on the 18th hole when Chris Kirk converted from 15 feet for birdie and Anirban Lahiri missed his birdie attempt from 4 feet for a U.S. point that assured a tie.

That left the outcome to Bill Haas and Bae, the lone South Korean in the event who played his final professional event for two years as he prepares to report next month for mandatory military service.

“Win one for your mom. Your mom deserves this,” the captain said walking down the 18th fairway to Bill Haas, who secured the winning point when Bae failed to reach the green with his third shot (a misplayed chip shot) and a 15 ½ to 14 ½ U.S. victory.

Price will certainly suffer the slings and arrows of armchair quarterbacks everywhere for many of his moves, a list that likely starts with his decision to sit Bae on Day 1 and his choice of Thursday’s opening format, alternate shot, which he freely admitted is the International team’s Achilles’ heel.

But if 2015 becomes a turning point for an event mired in an identity crisis born from competitive irrelevance, then it will be Price who will be remembered as the conduit of change.

“There's no doubt this team was much more invested in this event than any team I've ever been on before,” said Adam Scott, who was playing his seventh Presidents Cup. “They made the right decisions, and the proof was in the pudding today with how it all panned out.”

It’s the ultimate act of self-indulgence and hindsight, but just imagine if PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem wouldn’t have bargained Price down to a four-point format reduction instead of the six-point change the captain had lobbied for?

That will be the next International captain’s problem, but at least Price’s successor won’t have to wrestle with a general sense of cynicism from a team that has found itself on the wrong side of too many boat races.

This time the indifference that had largely defined Presidents Cup Sundays since 2005, when the two sides began the final day tied at 11 points apiece, was replaced by a rare level of interest born from the competitive reality that Sunday’s finish was just the second time, and the first since 2003, that the cup was decided on the final hole.

As wind and rain whipped the closing ceremony the grin on Price’s face was unmistakable. It wasn’t a perfect world, but the problems of the past suddenly seemed less insurmountable.

“At the end of hardship comes happiness.”

- Korean proverb

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.