Remembering that awful Saturday at Muirfield

By Rex HoggardJuly 15, 2013, 2:36 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – It was a vicious storm, even by Scottish standards.

But then the storm that blew away many an Open Championship dream in 2002 didn’t have the look of a normal hoolie. This wasn’t a Scottish storm, this was straight out of the midwest – black and ugly and unforgiving.

“It was like Kansas and you never see that over there,” said Davis Love III of the storm that descended on Muirfield 11 years ago. “When the sky just turns that weird green color, you just don’t see that over there.”

Blackish green Saturday – the stuff of Open lore.

Love was one of the fortunate on that dark Saturday at the 2002 Open Championship. He’d narrowly made the cut following rounds of 71-72, was one of the first groups off on Day 3 and beat the tempest to the clubhouse.

“It went from decent to awful in a space of 30 minutes,” Love said.

When Love teed off early Saturday he was tied for 50th. By the time the sun set on golf’s meanest day he’d climbed into a tie for 23rd thanks to an even-par 71. Justin Leonard made an even more meteoric rise, beginning the day tied with Love, signing for a 68 just as the chaos began and climbing into a share of third place by sunset.

“We were staying in Greywalls,” said Love of the iconic hotel that sits adjacent the ninth hole at Muirfield. “Justin had the end room and we were close by and I kept running into his room yelling, ‘You’re in the top 15.’ Then I’d run back and yell, ‘You’re going to be leading.’”

The third-round lead went to Ernie Els, who carded a heroic 72 in some of the day’s worst conditions.

To put the Big Easy’s 1-over card in context, there were more than twice as many rounds in the 80s (10) as there were in the 60s (four) and the field average for Day 3 was 74.6.

“I'm just happy to be in the house. That was a very difficult day today. Especially the front nine. I mean, it was some of the toughest conditions I've ever seen in an Open Championship,” Els said at the time.

Els finished 72 holes tied with Stuart Appleby, Steve Elkington and Thomas Levet at 6 under and claimed the claret jug in a playoff.

If Els won the first of his two Open titles on Day 3 in 2002, Tiger Woods certainly lost his bid for his third consecutive major championship on that wind whipped, frigid Saturday.

Woods was fresh off victories at the Masters and U.S. Open when he opened his week along the Firth of Forth with rounds of 70-68 and was tied for ninth place, just two shots out of the lead, when he set out in Saturday’s storm. In other words, exactly where he wanted to be.

Things quickly unraveled for the world No. 1 with a bogey at the first and a double bogey at the par-5 fifth hole. He went out in 42 and did little better on his inward loop, carding a 39 that included his only birdie of the day at the 17th.

Woods’ 10-over 81 still stands as his highest round in a major as a professional.

“I was playing with (Mark) O’Meara at the time, and we were just about ready to go out, and it just hit. You can see this wall of rain coming in,” said Woods, who closed with a 65 on Sunday to tie for 28th.

“The forecast was just for maybe some showers, no big deal, whatever. But no one had forecast for the wind chill to be in the 30s. For it to be that cold ... that was the thing.”

For Woods, and everyone else, the contrast to how the course had played for the first two rounds was jarring.

At the par-3 fourth hole, for example, Woods said O’Meara couldn’t reach the green with a 3-wood. At the fifth, where Woods said he played driver, 6-iron earlier in the week, he hit driver, 2-iron, 2-iron on Saturday ... and still hadn’t reached the putting surface.

The rub of the draw is part of tournament golf, particularly if that tournament is played in Scotland, but the ’02 Open was a wildly exaggerated personification of that truth.

“You could be the guy to tee off at 6:50 or 6:40 (a.m.) and get the worst end of the weather. Or you can get the guy who has the late tee time and have the perfect weather coming in. You just don't know,” Woods said. “I just happened to be at that time when we got the worst of it right when we started.”

As bad as the wind and the rain were that Saturday at Muirfield, it was a thermometer that bottomed out in the 30s that made things so difficult. At one point during the worst of it, Love and Leonard were running dry towels and jackets out to players on the ninth hole from their hotel rooms.

“It just got so cold that nothing was working, and no one was prepared for that. No one had enough clothes. Everything was soaked,” Woods said. “It got to the point where the umbrella was useless. It was raining too hard, and it was too windy.”

Woods was hardly the only contender blown off course on Day 3. Colin Montgomerie, who began the third round tied with Woods at 4 under, went out in 41 and home in 43 for an 84, the day’s highest round. According to links lore, Woods jokingly told Monty on Sunday morning, “I whipped your butt yesterday.”

Truth is it was Mother Nature who doled out the ultimate butt whipping on that stormy Saturday in 2002.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

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After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray

On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

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In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.




Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”