Westwood moving forward, eyes first major

By Rex HoggardMay 28, 2013, 7:58 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – It was signature Westy, delightfully dry with just enough subtle honesty to leave both the questioner and the queried feeling vulnerable.

Less than 48 hours removed from a closing 73 at the European Tour’s flagship event, Lee Westwood was asked his level of disappointment of having come up short at the BMW PGA Championship, again.

“Gone now,” he offered with a sheepish grin. “Only lasts about three beers.”

It was straight out of Worksop, England, and perfectly dovetailed with that most profound British axiom – just get on with it.

The man most-often tabbed with the dubious title “Best player without a major championship” has had a lifetime of moving on. On eight occasions he’s finished fourth or better at a Grand Slam stop only to walk away empty-handed.

Memorial Tournament: Articles, videos and photos

Sunday’s shortcoming at the European circuit’s faux major, which Westwood has never won, was just the most-recent near miss, but even in the fog of jet lag he played to the high side of the second-guessing game.

“I’m playing pretty consistently,” Westwood understated.

He’s finished in the top 10 in his last five events, hasn’t missed a cut anywhere in the world since last year’s PGA Championship and came within a single misstep on Quail Hollow’s famed green mile of his third-career PGA Tour victory earlier this month.

In the grand scheme of things, Westwood’s grand plan has proceeded almost perfectly.

Westwood decided to uproot his family this year and move to South Florida and focus his efforts on playing the PGA Tour. The weather was better, the jet lag was mitigated and his practice more intense.

“He is playing a lot of social golf in Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.). He never did that in Worksop . In England he was always practicing and never really played money games, but it’s allowed him to work hard on his short game,” said Chubby Chandler, Westwood’s manager with International Sports Management. “He’s enjoying life and his wife and family are happy.”

The “money games” at Old Palm and The Floridian have drastically improved Westwood’s short game, which has long been considered his Achilles’ heel. He ranks 87th on Tour this year in strokes gained-putting, up from 175th and 138th in that category in 2012 and ’11, respectively.

If anything, Westwood’s ball-striking, considered a benchmark on Tour, is not as sharp this year relative to his normal efficiency, Chandler said. In many ways, that fact makes Westwood’s climb back into the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking (No. 10) that much more impressive.

While it hasn’t produced the wins some thought it would, by almost every measure Westwood’s relocation to warmer climes – he just recently completed the sale of his home in England, the “last piece of the jigsaw,” Chandler said – has been a success.

“It’s made my life way easier,” Westwood said. “Not having jet lag – or as much jet lag – and being able to come home on Sunday night (instead of) not come home until Tuesday morning. There’s really not been an adjustment for me to make.”

All of which brings the discussion back to his missing major.

After two rounds in April, Westwood was just three strokes off the lead at the Masters before a third-round 73 sent him tumbling down the leaderboard; and next month’s U.S. Open at Merion, considered a ball-striker’s ballpark, has the look and feel of a perfect fit for the Englishman.

Westwood hasn’t finished worse than 23rd at the national championship since 2008 and he crafted his schedule, last week at Wentworth and this week’s cameo at Muirfield Village, with Merion in mind (he had a scouting trip planned to the Philadelphia-area gem on Monday but canceled at the last minute).

In 2008 at Torrey Pines, Westwood posted a 2-over 38 on his closing nine to miss the playoff with Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate by a stroke. The next season he nearly completed the “near miss” slam, finishing tied for third at the British and U.S. Opens and runner-up at the 2010 Masters.

Bringing his talents to South Beach, or thereabout, has helped, but Westwood has come close enough times to know nothing is guaranteed.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable,” he said when asked about his missing major. “I don’t think it’s one of those things you can force. … I suppose if I won a major championship now, would it make my career a great career? I don’t know. That’s for other people to decide.”

For now, the newly minted 40-year-old from Worksop is content with the road ahead. Just get on with it.

Getty Images

Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

Getty Images

Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

Getty Images

Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

Getty Images

Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.