Sunday challenge: Go for gold or lay up for bronze?

By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2016, 8:36 pm

RIO DE JANEIRO – Pop quiz: Who finished third at the 2008 U.S. Open? How about the 2009 Open?

Anybody?

Unless you’re a golf historian or have too much free time, you likely have no idea who “showed” in ’08 at Torrey Pines when Tiger Woods won on a broken leg or in ’09 at Turnberry when Stewart Cink broke Tom Watson’s heart.

The answer to both questions is Lee Westwood. This is by no means a slight against the perennial Grand Slam also-ran, but the Englishman won’t be asked to recount his Sunday at either tournament by his grandchildren.

The hierarchy of history on this is rather clear, winners are remembered, and on rare occasions a hard-luck bridesmaid may rate a mention, but third place is normally an afterthought quickly lost to the fog of time.

That’s not an indictment of those who fall short, just a competitive reality. But on Sunday in Rio those subtleties will give way to the Olympic dream.

The winner of the men’s golf competition will stand atop the podium, accept his gold medal and probably get a little weepy when his national anthem begins to echo off the nearby hills; and he will also have company on that platform.

For the first time in 112 years the runner-up and third-place finishers will leave Rio with something more to show for their efforts than a bloated bank account and a handful of World Golf Ranking points.

For most players, not since Q-School has a score other than the week’s lowest held much interest, but Olympic golf brings new meaning to the concept of a golf trifecta.

“There's no protecting top 10, no protecting a top 5,” American Matt Kuchar said. “You've got to strive to be on the podium, strive to win the gold medal, and hope that if it's not gold, it's silver; and if it's not silver, it's bronze. After that it really doesn’t matter that much.”


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How that may change a player’s perspective coming down the stretch will be the topic of much debate on Sunday, but already on Saturday those who would normally not be holding out much hope for a competitively productive week were eyeing the new reality from a different perspective.

Consider Rickie Fowler who seemed to shoot his way out of the tournament with rounds of 75-71 to start the week, but an opening nine of 29 on Day 3 vaulted him up the leaderboard and the American finished the day tied for 14th place, nine strokes out of first but just a touchdown shy of a bronze medal.

“I'm at least giving myself a chance now with the way it looks,” Fowler said. “If I go out and play well tomorrow, I could sneak up there. Normally you don't get rewarded much for second and third, but here, you can walk away with some hardware. Getting the gold may be a little bit of a far stretch right now, but you never know.”

If Fowler sounded a tad too optimistic for some considering his play this week, consider his current position in context.

Daniel Summerhays began the final round of last month’s PGA Championship five strokes out of the lead, which given Jimmy Walker’s play may as well have been 50 strokes, but closed with a 66 and finished alone in third place.

Perhaps even more enticing for those who were harboring thoughts of a medal-winning rally was Jim Furyk at the U.S. Open. The veteran started the last turn 10 strokes out of the lead, posted a best-of-the-day 66 on Sunday and tied for second place.

Both Summerhays and Furyk went home with bigger paychecks than their Saturday fortunes suggested they would, but were otherwise footnotes to the larger narrative.

A similar rally on Sunday in Rio would hardly be a surprise and would certainly qualify as historic.

Earlier this week Bubba Watson joked he would, “lay up and go for the bronze,” at the 18th hole on Sunday if need be, but all one-liners aside there is always a chance a player will reach the Olympic Golf Course’s closing stretch – a scoring buffet which includes a drive-able par 4 (No. 15), short par 3 (No. 16) and a par 5 that’s reachable in two shots for most players in the field (No. 18) – with a choice to make, play bold and try to win gold or conservative to assure a bronze medal.

Added to the equation is the possibility of a tie, which could force multiple playoffs, although recent history suggests there could be a clean sweep with 15 of 39 non-match play events this season on the PGA Tour finishing with solo first-, second- and third-place finishers.

Lost in this medal dynamic, however, is each player’s competitive DNA. Professional golfers are conditioned to post the best possible score regardless of outcome, and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson was rather clear when asked if the prospect of playing for three different places would influence his game plan for Sunday.

“I’ll still be going for first there, even though the consolation prizes might be a little better than what we’re used to,” said Stenson, who is alone in second place one stroke behind front-runner Justin Rose.

Still, there will be worthy consolation prizes that could ease the sting of losing, or at the least make those who come up short part of the historical conversation. Just ask Westwood.

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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 golfodds.com.

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