#AskLav mailbag: Curing the post-Masters hangover

By Ryan LavnerApril 18, 2013, 2:00 pm

Pass the Advil and throw on the shades – this post-Masters hangover has been especially harsh.

Armchair rules officials are still stewing over Dropgate.

Casual fans can’t watch Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy for two more weeks.

And even the women are bummed out. In 24 hours, they went from hoping that Masters winner and resident golf hunk Adam Scott would be on “The Bachelor,” to learningthat he’s actually in a healthy, happy and committed relationshipwith his former longtime girlfriend, Marie Kojzar, a Swedish interior designer. Life is indeed good for Scotty, if you weren’t already aware. 

But chin up, everyone. We’re only 56 days away from the start of the next four-day rager: the U.S. Open.

In the meantime, enjoy this week’s head-pounding #AskLav mailbag:

One suggestion: Read more GolfChannel.com. We batted this exact question around a few days ago. But since you missed it, here's a recap: A few staffers opined that Scott will be stuck on one major for the rest of his career. I'm not ready to go that far his ball-striking gives him a chance in each major he enters. And on those rare weeks when he marries up his long-game prowess with a hot flatstick (as we saw on the back nine at Augusta on Sunday), then he has asgood a chance as any to bag another major title. Questions linger, however. How will the anchoring ban affect his game? Does he yearn to be one of the game's all-time greats? After playing his entire career in the Tiger Woods era, will Scott be undercut by another up-and-coming star (see: McIlroy, Rory)?

I'll step aside and finally let Brandel Chamblee answer this question just kidding.

Here's my take: The blame falls on the Masters rules officials, who too quickly green-lighted Woods' drop in the second round. It was an illegal drop. Tiger admitted that. But the rules committee threw out the possibility of a DQ as soon as they initially decided that he shouldn't be penalized. There are no mulligans in championship golf. I still believe that a Woods withdrawal would have been a magnanimous gesture, the best P.R, if only to remove himself from a no-win situation and keep from clouding the race to 18 majors. But in the end, hisfinishing four shots behind the difference between a kick-in birdie and triple bogey on the 15th hole was punishment enough.

The East Course at Merion will be set up at 6,996 yards, which will take the big stick out of Tiger's hands. Yet again, that may prove to be his winning major formula much like Hoylake, in '06 for he is one of the game's best tacticians and can bludgeon the course with 2-irons and 3-wood stingers. Also, he's a good bet to win at Muirfield. Don't forget, in 2002, he finished six shots out of the playoff, and that was only after a Saturday 81 when players got blown away in the wind and rain.

No, it was not 14-year-old Tianlang Guan's T-50 at this year's Masters, even if it's forever etched in Masters lore. The gold standard remains Ken Venturi's performance in 1956, when he held a four-shot lead after 54 holes, shot a final-round 80 in windy conditions, and eventually lost by one. Other notable achievements include Matt Kuchar's T-21 at the '98 Masters and Ryan Moore's T-13 in 2005, following up on the hype from a year earlier when he won the NCAAs, Western Amateur, U.S. Publinx and U.S. Amateur, all in the same summer.

Seems Guan and I will see each other in New Orleans. If the 14-year-old doesn't want to engage in a pushup contest, perhaps we will determine who can eat 100 oysters the fastest. Bet on me, always.

Two surprising names who are staggering in the low-200s in the world: Camilo Villegas (No. 278) and Jhonattan Vegas (No. 294). No, I didn't pick them just because their surnames rhyme.

For Villegas, 2008 must seem like a lifetime ago. In 2008, he won back-to-back FedEx Cup playoff events and rose to No. 7 in the world. Now, he has lost his playing privileges on the PGA Tour, doesn't have a top 10 in a full-field event in 20 months, and finds himself just ahead of some guy named Alessandro Tadini in the OWGR.

Surely you remember Jhonny Vegas, too. Great backstory, humble kid, and he won in his fifth career start, at the event formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic. Since then, he has missed the cut in half of his 44 starts (and recorded only four top 10s), and in February announced that he was undergoing shoulder surgery and will miss at least six months. Oy.

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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.”