Hooks & Cuts: The girl and Garcia

By Rich LernerFebruary 27, 2014, 3:32 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – We’re in sunny Florida. Well, it’s a bit overcast and wet at the moment. Still, here are some Hooks & Cuts to brighten your day.

• Tiger owns the burning, peeling bullet fade. From now until Augusta, it’s a good bet he’ll work to hone a reliable right-to-left shot that’s so important yet has eluded him in recent years at the Masters.

• Last year’s Honda walk-off in a fit of immaturity could end up being the best thing that ever happened to Rory McIlroy. He learned the power of his actions, realizing that’s not the man he wants to be. Since then, he’s shown humility and respect for the game. They go hand-in-hand. He owned his mistake, took the heat and went to work.

• Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño has known Sergio Garcia for more than 20 years, since they were boys growing up in Spain. “I was talking to my wife,” he said.  “And I said, ‘I think this is going to be Sergio’s breakthrough year.’ He’s happy, he’s enjoying life again and he’s enjoying golf again.” The principal reason, as Gonzalo sees it, is Sergio’s girlfriend, Katharina Boehm, from Germany. “She speaks her mind,” Gonzalo said with a laugh. “She’s not afraid to tell Sergio to behave! Hopefully she’s the one. They make a fantastic couple.”

• Everywhere I go people want to know, “Is Victor playing this week?” He’s not.  Tiger, Phil and Rory will have to pick up the slack in Dubuisson’s absence.

• Billy Horschel on PGA National: “You can’t fake it around here.”

• Graeme McDowell’s as lean and fit as he’s been in years. “How you’d do it?” I asked. “I got married,” he cracked.

• Granted, this has not been the standard Tiger start to a season, but let’s see where we are in two weeks before drawing any conclusions.

• The mighty Thor, 24-year-old Thorbjorn Olesen from Denmark, looks like an Olympic gymnast. Hard at work on his short game at PGA National, he stopped to chat about the rise of a new class of young European talents lead by Dubuisson.  “Keep an eye on Lucas Bjerregaard,” he told me. “He’s a big dude, long off the tee and really good.” Bjerregaard’s a 22-year-old, 6’3” Dane who won the European Amateur Championship in 2010, a year after Dubuisson won it.

• Fernandez-Castaño on Sergio’s ability: “I’ve played with Tiger, Phil, Ernie, Vijay and just about all the recent greats, and the two most talented guys I’ve ever seen are Tiger and Sergio, by a mile.”

• Rookie Hudson Swafford and his good pal Harris English look like brothers. “We play that card a lot,” Swafford joked. Like English, Swafford’s 6’3” and a University of Georgia product with a degree in consumer economics. Like English, he’s immensely talented.

• Only when he turns around does it hit you just how serious Tiger’s been about weight lifting. His back and shoulders are hulk-like.

*Sean O’Hair is back with Sean Foley. O’Hair enjoyed his best year under Foley in 2009, with a win and nine top-10s.

• According to Honda tournament director Ed McEnroe, attendance this year could reach 200,000 for the week. In 2006, the last year at Mirasol, it was 56,000. No event on Tour has revived its fortunes as dramatically as the Honda Classic. 

• Outright dominance and invincibility are no longer Tiger’s, and yes  he now occasionally wrestles with self-doubt, like any golfer, but he did win five times last year. That’s as many as Tom Lehman won for his career; as many as Luke Donald and Bubba Watson.

• Fernandez-Castaño on Dubuisson: “He doesn’t give too much importance to what he’s doing. It’s hit it, find it, and hit it again. He’s a fantastic player.”

• Saw a clip of a Golf Channel documentary on Arnold Palmer, airing over three nights beginning Sunday evening after the final round of the Masters. Arnold’s the ultimate alpha male but an alpha you feel comfortable around. Most alphas give off a vibe that makes it hard for ordinary people to be in their company. Not Arnold. Not ever. 

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”