Woods, Westwood two realistic contenders Sunday

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2013, 8:51 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – This much seems certain, one way or another a major drought will end at the Dust Bowl Open on Sunday.

With respect to the pack, this has all the markings of a two-man race – one man looking to get off a five-year major schnied, the other hoping to reach the mountain after 40 years of major misses – on a golf course that is showing no signs of letting up despite the R&A’s best efforts with hoses.

He would never say as much, but when Tiger Woods sets out on Sunday in the penultimate group at the 142nd Open Championship it will mark his best chance to date to win what has turned out to be his most elusive major – No. 15.

Woods will start the final turn two strokes behind Lee Westwood, but if Saturday’s spell was any indication that could change in a matter of minutes.

Consider that Saturday’s action seemed to turn with each gust of wind. Through three holes Woods found himself two shots clear of Westwood and pacing the field, four holes later it was the Englishman three shots clear of the world No. 1.

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Call it a Muirfield minute, made possible by a crusty course blown so dry that the R&A may want to consider banning lighters and matches for fear the ancient links will accidentally combust.

Westwood emerged from the dust late Saturday, with birdies on two of his last four holes for a 68 and a 3-under total. It was almost enough to make one forget the lifetime of heartache Westwood has endured at the majors.

“I've had lots of chances, sometimes I've played well, other times I've played not too well,” Westwood said. “I know what it takes. Even though I haven't won a major, I know what it takes to win one. It's just a case of going out there tomorrow and having the confidence in my game, which I've got, and putting it to the test.”

As much focus has been on Westwood’s recent move to Sean Foley’s stable and a series of impromptu lessons from Ian Baker-Finch, it has been his attitude that has steadied his every step this week on the East Lothian links.

That was particularly evident on Saturday paired with Woods. Each time the game’s alpha male took a step in his direction, Westwood coolly countered. But on Sunday he will be playing history, as well as a bouncy links and the best player of his generation.

Westwood has finished in the top 3 at every major and his history of heartache includes a runner-up at the 2010 Masters and Open Championship and ties for third at the ’11 U.S. Open and ’12 Masters.

“You try and picture yourself winning the Open Championship tonight, but forget about it tomorrow and go and tee off down the first, and focus on it in the middle of the fairways with the first tee shot and then go from there,” he said late Saturday.

And besides, it’s not as though Woods’ Grand Slam record since 2008 is the stuff of legend. In his quest to win his 15th major, Woods has six top-10 finishes in his last 16 majors, but with each try the pressure has built.

There’s also the reality that Woods has never won a major when trailing after 54 holes, but then he hasn’t played a venue so uniquely suited to his skills since 2006 at Hoylake.

The brown and bouncy links have proven to be the perfect canvas for Woods, who has lived on a steady diet of fairway woods and long irons off tees – he hit his only driver this week on the par-5 fifth on Saturday – and near flawless ball-striking from the parched turf.

“I’m only two back with one guy ahead of me and we’ll see what they do tomorrow,” said Woods, whose round was marred late when his second shot into the par-5 17th hole “spun” into the cool wind and into a cross bunker.

Late Friday, the question du jour was who had the most pressure on them on Day 3, Woods or Westwood? But on the eve of the final round it will be who will handle the pressure on Sunday, because it will be inevitable.

“I’ve got 14 of these things,” Woods said. “I know what it takes to do it, but it’s not just us. There are a lot of guys who have a chance.”

Given Saturday’s turbulent leaderboard, Woods may have a point.

There are 16 players within six strokes of the lead, a margin of error at Muirfield that can be covered in a few holes if Saturday’s action was any indication.

Among the supporting cast, Hunter Mahan should draw the most attention following a round-of-the-day 68 on Saturday to move to 1 under par and earn a spot in the final tee time for the second consecutive major.

Although Mahan came up short last month at Merion, the ballstriker had the look of a player who had paid his dues and was ready to make that final major step.

“It can be overwhelming at times being in the last group,” said Mahan, who has one top-10 in eight Open starts. “You have to believe before you can win. I think you actually have to see it happening.”

Angel Cabrera, whose two PGA Tour wins are both majors, would also be considered a serious contender despite his third-round 73 that left him in a large group at 1 over; along with Zach Johnson, fresh off his own heartbreaking overtime loss last Sunday at the John Deere Classic, whose game also seems perfectly suited for the links exam.

Or maybe the gatecrasher will be Adam Scott, gutted at last year’s Open Championship by Ernie Els and suddenly looking more comfortable in the major spotlight after his Masters breakthrough.

All eyes, however, will be on Westwood and Woods, both playing for more than a date with the engraver and the claret jug. They will be separated by 10 minutes and a few hundred yards on Sunday at Muirfield, but this will be a mano-y-mano match. The only question is who blinks first?

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Sources confirm Charles Schwab to sponsor Colonial event

By Rex HoggardApril 19, 2018, 2:42 pm

Multiple sources have confirmed to GolfChannel.com that officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation.

Tournament officials scrambled this year after Dean & DeLuca ended its sponsorship of the event just two years into a six-year agreement, pulling together an assortment of local sponsors and renaming the event the Fort Worth Invitational.

Colonial’s status on the PGA Tour schedule became even more uncertain when the PGA Championship announced it would move from August to May, beginning in 2019 as part of a major overhaul of the circuit’s schedule.

According to the Dallas News, and confirmed by multiple sources at the club, officials plan to announce the new long-term agreement with Charles Schwab on Monday that will begin in 2019.

News of a long-term sponsorship deal would also suggest the event will remain in May in 2019 and beyond. The Tour has indicated it plans to announce the ’19 schedule at next month’s Players Championship.

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PNC Extends Title Sponsorship of PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 1:00 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., April 19, 2018 – IMG and NBC Sports today announced that The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. has extended its contract as title sponsor of the PNC Father/Son Challenge, the tournament that pairs the games’ legends alongside their sons, daughters and grandchildren.

PNC’s multi-year extension as title sponsor keeps the PGA Tour Challenge Event in Orlando reflecting the bank’s commitment to Central Florida. PNC has served as title sponsor of the tournament since 2012. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes will continue to play host to the PNC Father/Son Challenge. The 2018 PNC Father/Son Challenge will take place Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16, with television coverage on Golf Channel and NBC.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge long ago became one of my family’s favorite golf tournaments,” said 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus. “I have had the pleasure of playing with my sons, and last year, partnering with my 15-year-old grandson GT was a thrill. I am delighted the event—a uniquely special one to us fathers and grandfathers, and perhaps to the many fans out there watching from home or outside the ropes—will continue for many years to come.”

“After our victory in 2016, I said that this win was as good as anything I have done in my career,” said former World No. 1 and major champion David Duval, who alongside his stepson Nick Karavites captured the 2016 title. “I felt blessed to have Nick inside the ropes with me and to have our family surrounding us all week. That’s what makes the PNC Father/Son Challenge so special, and I’m pleased to hear that PNC has extended its support of the event. This golf tournament means so much to all of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to play in this event.”

The tournament also holds three events in qualifier markets per year. This year they will be in Dallas, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

“The PNC Father/Son Challenge allows fans to see golf’s legends playing the game they love alongside those they love most,” said Alastair Johnston, vice chairman, IMG. “We are grateful for PNC’s ongoing support of this unique tournament and we look forward to returning to Orlando to celebrate golf and family for many years to come.”

Community support is a key aspect of the tournament and PNC’s sponsorship. PNC is committed to donating $150,000 annually to local non-profits over the life of its sponsorship. Across six previous years of title sponsorship, PNC has already donated $900,000 to Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation and the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children to support the “Healthy Families Orange” program. Over the years, PNC has also had the opportunity through this tournament to co-host events for local women in business, to put on clinics and provide free access to the tournament for active military, and even provide a service dog for a local veteran.

"PNC's long-standing sponsorship of the Father/Son Challenge reflects the philanthropic values we share with the PGA Tour and the golf community, as well as our focus on strong relationships,” said Bill Demchak, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group. “As PNC Bank continues to expand its footprint, the PNC Father/Son tournament helps us gain visibility with new audiences and to strengthen the relationships we enjoy today with more than 8 million retail, wealth, and corporate and institutional banking customers across the country.”

“NBC Sports is extremely proud of our heritage as co-founder for the Father/Son Challenge, one of golf’s most special events that closes out the calendar year on the golf schedule,” said Jon Miller, President, Programming, NBC Sports. “Our relationship with PNC Bank elevates this event each year as a must-attend and must-see event for players and fans alike, and we look forward to our continued relationship with PNC Bank for years to come.”

Past winners of the PNC Father/Son Challenge include some of the biggest names in golf including Raymond Floyd (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001), Jack Nicklaus (1999), Bernhard Langer (2005-06, 2014), Davis Love III (2012) and David Duval (2016).  Masters champion Angel Cabrera and his son, Angel Cabrera Jr. captured the 2017 title.

To qualify for the PNC Father/Son Challenge, participants must have won either a major championship or THE PLAYERS Championship in their career. The professional’s partner must not currently hold a Tour card, and while the majority of partners in the history of the event have been the sons of the golf legends, the family-themed tournament has seen daughters, grandsons and one father – Justin Leonard’s dad, Larry – participate over the years.

The PNC Father/Son Challenge is operated in partnership by IMG and NBC Sports.

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Fire damages National Golf Links of America clubhouse

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 12:55 pm

A fire broke out Wednesday at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y., causing "extensive damage" to a portion of the historic course's clubhouse.

According to a 27East.com report, an initial call was made to the Southampton police department about a fire on the roof of the clubhouse at 11:34 a.m. With the club's gates too narrow to fit a fire truck through, more than 100 firefighters from various departments helped douse the flames by transporting water up a hill to the east side of the clubhouse.

The fire was reportedly extinguished by 2:30 p.m., with no injuries requiring medical attention. According to a Golf Digest report, the club was undergoing construction on its outdoor eating area known as "the Birdcage" and that most of the club's historical documents reside on the opposite end of the clubhouse from where the fire broke out and was contained.

Opened in 1911, National Golf Links of America was designed by C.B. MacDonald and hosted the inaugural Walker Cup in 1922. The biennial matches returned in 2013 to NGLA, which is often rated among the top courses in the U.S. and sits adjacent to Shinnecock Hills, site of this summer's U.S. Open.

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Chappell returns to Valero as defending champ

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 9:48 pm

It's impossible for any of the players at this week's Valero Texas Open to forget who captured the trophy last year.

That's because most players stay at the JW Marriott hotel that's a short walk from the first tee at TPC San Antonio, and the defending champion's face is emblazoned on the hotel's room keys. This week, that honor belongs to Kevin Chappell.

"You get some sly comments from players about their room key," Chappell told reporters Wednesday. "'Oh, I'm tired of looking at you.' And I'm saying, 'Believe me, I'm tired of being in everyone's room.'"

The position of defending champ is one Chappell relishes this week as he returns to the site of his maiden PGA Tour victory. A one-shot win over Brooks Koepka led to a euphoric celebration on the 72nd green, and it helped propel Chappell to his first career spot on the Presidents Cup team in October.

Chappell has missed the cut each of the last two weeks, including the Masters, but he also recorded top-10 finishes at the CareerBuilder Challenge, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It's reason enough for Chappell to feel optimistic heading back to a course where he was a runner-up in 2011 and finished T-4 in 2016.

"This year's been a little bit of a strange year for me. I usually don't find form until about here, usually a slow starter," Chappell said. "But having three top-10s before this event, I've kind of found some form. I'm looking to turn those top-10s into top-5s, and the top-5s into wins. That's the challenge moving forward this year."