#AskLav: It's a parity party; cry if you want to

By Ryan LavnerApril 17, 2014, 12:09 pm

We caught a glimpse of golf’s future last week at the Masters.

Assuming, of course, that you watched. 

Final-round ratings were the second-lowest (2004) in two decades, and down 24 percent from 2013. It was a TV exec’s worst nightmare: no Tiger (injury), no Phil (missed cut) and no back-nine drama (Bubba made par on the final five holes to win by three).

And viewers didn’t just ignore Sunday’s telecast, either: Ratings were down 40 and 30 percent, respectively, on Friday and Saturday.

Worse, we can reasonably assume that a few more big tournaments will also take a hit, with Woods likely on the sidelines until at least July, perhaps longer.

Golf, much like tennis, skiing, swimming or any other individual pursuit, thrives when it has two things: a dominant star and a rivalry. Right now, well, it has neither.

Since Woods last won a major, at the 2008 U.S. Open, 19 different players have won a Grand Slam event. Only four players (Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Mickelson, Watson) have won multiple majors.

The lack of repeat winners underscores the fact that it’s harder than ever to win on the PGA Tour. There are younger, stronger, more fearless players who are not battered and bruised from Woods’ decade-long oppression. Dimpleheads don’t mind parity in the short term, with new stories and players emerging each week, but a dominant star can thrust the sport from niche sport to the mainstream, if only four times a year.

OK, so with no world-beater at the top, at least the game could flourish with competitive friction. But today’s great rivalry is … what, exactly?

Tiger vs. Phil? Incredibly, these aging warriors have never even had a major Sunday showdown. 

Ditto for Tiger and Rory, despite their equipment company’s best attempts to sell the generational tussle.

Rory vs. Jordan Spieth? Patrick Reed vs. The World? 

Granted, the sport’s current dynamic could change in a matter of weeks or months. For now, the 2014 Masters provided a glimpse into golf’s uncertain future.   

Your mailbag questions: 

 

 

Not buying them at all, to be honest. You can’t protect a course from a “freak show” – his caddie’s words, not mine! – who can not only drive the ball absurd distances and frighteningly straight, but also possesses a deft touch around the greens. When he’s on, it’s almost unfair. Even so, the winning score at the Masters was 8-under 280, when the weather conditions were perfect (80 degrees, sun, little wind). That should tell you a firm-and-fast ANGC still has some bite – something even Bubba Ball must respect.


Instagram#AskLav: After Snedeker’s 5-putt and Kuchar’s 4-putt on No. 4, does Augusta say, ‘Hmm, maybe we shouldn’t put the pin there next year?’ Kuchar three-putts once every three rounds. You could make an argument that No. 4 prevented him from truly making a run at a green jacket.” – Luke Wilkening, via Instagram

Their putting woes on No. 4 were on different days (Saturday and Sunday, respectively), but I understand your point. At 240 yards and with a wildly undulating green, the fourth was the second most-difficult hole last week. It played nearly four-tenths of a stroke over par, and the hole yielded just 12 birdies all week. There’s nothing wrong with a brute of a par 3, but no one at the club wants to see the world’s best players – heck, the world’s best putters – embarrassed on the biggest stage. If the greens are that lightning-fast again next year, perhaps those on-the-edge hole locations will be revisited. 


 

 

World-ranking projections show that Adam Scott could overtake Tiger with a solid performance at next month’s Players Championship. Given the fact that the world No. 2 hasn’t finished outside the top 25 since September, that prospect seems rather likely. It’s a good bet Scott will be No. 1 heading into Pinehurst. 


Instagram#AskLav: If you are Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson and three picks are today, who makes the U.S. team? – J.A. Solomonson, via Instagram

If the race ended today – thankfully, it does not – the nine automatic qualifiers would be: Bubba, J-Walk, DJ, Spieth, P-Reed, Kooch, Phil, Duf and Harry. Yes, the complexion of the U.S. Ryder Cup team figures to look a bit different this year. My wild-card picks, then, would be: Zach Johnson, the squad’s resident bulldog; Webb Simpson, a lights-out putter and team-first guy; and Keegan Bradley, because who else will keep Phil engaged? The Americans’ B Team wouldn’t be too bad, either: Rickie, Woodland, Hunter, Sneds, Stricker and, oh yeah, Tiger. 


 

 

As much as I’d like to do a tale-of-the-tape breakdown here, suffice to say that both chaps bring a lot of cuteness to the table. If forced to choose, though, I’ll take the kid with the two-time major-champion father. When I was a boy, I went everywhere with my tattered Barney blanket. If the mansion at Isleworth ever gets drafty, Caleb can simply wrap himself up in the green jacket. He wins. 

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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