#AskLav: Woods, Spieth poised to heat up majors

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 9, 2014, 1:00 pm

Chances are, as you read this you’re socked in by a foot of snow, wind-burned in all the wrong places, wearing a hideous scarf and without feeling in seven of your 10 toes.

Hey, feel your pain, if not literally.

This week in Orlando, I watched an elderly woman walk into the neighborhood grocery store wearing snow boots and what appeared to be her bed comforter. On her grocery list was all of the survival essentials: matches, water, Mentos, map and compass. The temperature outside was a relatively balmy 43 degrees.

So, yeah, those thwacked by Hercules are quite enjoying this Hawaii Swing. And what’s not to love? Warm sun. Low scores. Stunning vistas. Fun tracks. A welcome escape when spring seems so … far … away.

Well, for most of you, anyway. The cold snap here is all but over – high of 83 Saturday. Winter was so glorious.

Your questions for the 2014 debut of the #AskLav mailbag: 

Crazy? No way. Spieth absolutely could win a major this year. He’s said repeatedly that improving his major performance is one of his main focuses this year. There’s a small sample size, of course, but he’s shown that his game translates well on any course. Among other things, he’s a great driver (eighth in total driving a year ago), birdie machine, above-average scrambler (31st) and streaky putter with a knack for finishing strong (fourth in final-round scoring average). He should be a factor in a few majors this year, most likely the U.S. Open and PGA.  

Literally? Or figuratively, as in taking a severe dip in the rankings? If the latter, it’d be an amazing feat if Steve Stricker, currently world No. 9, can keep up his remarkable play once he turns 47; 2013 was arguably his best season ever, and he didn’t even win. Also wouldn’t be surprised by slides from Henrik Stenson (No. 3), who has to crash back to Planet Earth at some point, and Ernie Els (No. 27), who rarely was a factor last year and is in the midst of another equipment change. If you’re literally asking which players will take the largest divots this year, turf-wise, my money is on Sergio Garcia, whose trench-digging with the irons has always impressed. There are beaver pelts in every fairway because of him.

A great question that, unfortunately, is impossible to quantify. Unlike baseball, there is no saves statistic in golf, let alone WHIP or ERA. (Sorry, I’ve being reading too many Hall of Fame stories lately.) Absolutely, the way Johnson closed out the BMW, Tiger’s event and Kapalua was impressive, but I also recall him squandering an opportunity to win the John Deere, where he bogeyed the last hole to drop into a playoff, which he eventually lost. The point is, no player – not even Tiger, as we’ve seen recently – can slam the door every time he has a chance to win. But this tenacious competitor is just about as good as it gets.

The foursome of major venues is favorable for Tiger this year, but the field is far too deep now to assume that he can pick off two majors. Only four times in his career (2000, ’02, ’05, ’06) has he won two or more Big Ones in a season. The only other player to accomplish the feat in the past 15 years is Padraig Harrington (2008). So, yes, a better bet is Spieth winning one, if only because he’s playing so well that he’s bound to be in contention. 

Probably because you’re doing something terribly wrong. 

Appreciate the brevity. Hot: Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Gary Woodland, The Dufners. Not: Jim Furyk, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer.

Absolutely helps. Instead of merely going through the motions at a regular Tour stop, he’s showing up fresher and hungrier at the events he covets most. Smart move for an arthritic golfer heading into his mid-40s. 

That’s a question better suited for, say, @GCA (Golf Channel Academy). But for basic chips, this 7-handicap likes to play the ball off the right foot (assuming you’re a right-hander) with a pitching wedge and use a putting motion, with no wrist break. All other shots around the green, I use the 60-degree.

A few likely candidates: Brooks Koepka (assuming he gets enough U.S. starts to make a dent); John Peterson (tore up Web.com Tour Finals); Graham DeLaet (too talented not to break through); and Hideki Matsuyama (really, choosing the world No. 23 is cheating). Going deeper, Chesson Hadley had two wins last year on the Web.com circuit, and Matt Jones had five top 10s late last season on Tour.

Zach is trending that way, though I suspect he’s underrated (or maybe the word is underappreciated) only because of his style of play – short and straight, strong wedge player, sublime putter. But the dude has 11 wins – only Tiger, Phil and Vijay have more since 2004, Johnson’s rookie year. He’s world No. 7, on the verge of cracking the top 5. He has more than $31 million in earnings. Indeed, he has all the makings of a Tom Kite-type career. 

Hard to top Kapalua, with its wide-open, rollercoaster fairways. But Hulk could also bash away at the Golf Club of Houston, TPC Four Seasons or Firestone.  

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.