Spieth needs to know the Old Course ... quickly

By Ryan LavnerJuly 14, 2015, 5:44 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Tiger Woods loved the Old Course as soon as he saw it in 1995 – all of the history, all of the strategy, all of the creativity. He was drawn to the challenge.

Bernhard Langer’s relationship with the venerable links started in 1978 and was a bit more complicated.

“I didn’t like it at all,” he said Tuesday while standing next to the 18th green. “I thought, ‘This is not golf.’”

Granted, in those days, his task of learning the course was even more difficult. Langer had to create his own yardage book; he couldn’t just flip through detailed pages with yardages to pot bunkers and out-of-bounds stakes.

In the ’78 Open, Langer was 19 years old, and he had never played links golf before: “I’m going, ‘What the heck is this?’ I’m looking and I can’t see a thing but a couple of bushes.”

Langer missed the cut that year, but it wasn’t long before he came to appreciate the design of the craggy old links that overlooks the North Sea.

He came to understand why there are certain humps and bumps in front of the massive greens.  

He came to understand how bunkers that seem as though they’re out in the middle of nowhere all of a sudden come into play.

He came to understand why the greens are shaped the way they are, with subtle slopes that kick the ball away from the hole instead of funneling toward it.   

He came to understand why sometimes it’s wise to play down an adjacent fairway, not just because it lops off some yardage but also because it might be the best angle of attack.  

“It didn’t take me long to catch on,” Langer said, “and now I love it.”

How long it takes Jordan Spieth to catch on is the major storyline heading into the 144th Open Championship.

The 21-year-old is the oddsmakers’ favorite at St. Andrews, but never have there been so many question marks about a player gunning for his third consecutive major.

This is just his third Open start, and other than a Walker Cup appearance at Royal Aberdeen in 2011, Spieth doesn’t have much links golf experience. Of more concern this week: Prior to Monday’s evening spin around St. Andrews, he had seen the course only once in person. He spent the past few weeks playing the Old Course on his home simulator, the kind of new-school move you’d expect from a player born in 1993. 

When Woods won here in 2000 and ’05, he played practice rounds with experienced players to pick their brains about how to attack St. Andrews. Spieth has adopted a different approach, at least so far, after going out alone late Monday and then playing alongside Ryan Palmer and amateur Ollie Schniederjans (part of the heralded high school class of 2011) in Tuesday’s three-ball.

Part of the Old Course’s unique challenge is that it’s a shifting target, and what Woods pays attention to most during practice rounds is the wind direction. On Monday, it came out of the north. On Tuesday, it blew out of the west. The rest of the week, it’s expected to vary from the east to the west to the northwest to the southeast. The thinking goes that the more rounds a player has logged on the Old Course, the more prepared he is for when the wind inevitably shifts direction.  

“A five-degree wind change here changes the whole golf course completely,” Woods said.

Players anticipate that one nine-hole stretch will play easier while the other is more difficult – they just don’t know whether they’ll be able to score going out or coming home. They try to make as many birdies as they can on the holes when the wind is helping, then hang on for dear life when it turns back against them.

“Playing in the different winds and having to hit the different shots, shaping shots completely different from one day to the next on the same hole, it does help seeing the golf course under different winds,” Woods said.  

Added Justin Rose: “The more you go around, you do get to know those little nuances.”

Which is why these three practice-round days are so significant for Spieth, who is developing a game plan with caddie Michael Greller and swing coach Cameron McCormick. It’s information overload, trying to process wind direction and angles and slope, all with the relentless hype of potentially capturing the third leg of the Grand Slam swirling around him.

When asked what guidance he would give to players touring the Old Course for the first time in a competitive setting,Langer said to expect drastically different hole locations than what they’d practiced for, and that they’re never fully prepared for how dramatically the course changes with a simple shift in wind direction.

“But they’re all experienced players and caddies here,” Langer said. “It doesn’t take them long to figure out a place. It might take them a little longer to figure this place out, but not too long. That’s what we do. That’s what we do for a living.”

We’ll soon find out how well Spieth has crammed for an Open exam at St. Andrews.   

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Chamblee: Like Tiger in '13, Mickelson should've DQ'd self

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 2:46 pm

Two days after Brooks Koepka left Long Island with the U.S. Open trophy, the third-round antics of Phil Mickelson are still garnering plenty of discussion.

Mickelson became a lightning rod of opinion after he intentionally hit a moving ball on the 13th green Saturday at Shinnecock Hills, incurring a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification. In the aftermath, he explained that he made a conscious choice to take the penalty to avoid playing back and forth across the crispy putting surface, and he tied for 48th after a final-round 66.

Speaking Tuesday on "Morning Drive," Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee shared his view that Mickelson would have been well-served to disqualify himself ahead of the final round. He also compared it to Tiger Woods' incident at the 2013 Masters, when he took an incorrect drop and, like Mickelson, received a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

"I think Tiger, at least it's my opinion that his year would have been less distracting if he had done so," Chamblee said. "And I think the same of Phil Mickelson. If he had withdrawn from the championship and said, 'Look. This is a little sketchy. It didn't play out the way I thought. I've given it some thought and it's in the best interest of the championship that I withdraw.'"

Chamblee added that Mickelson's antics were "really distracting" on a day filled with drama as the USGA lost control of course conditions, noting that Mickelson and playing partner Andrew "Beef" Johnston were the only tee time where both players failed to break 80 despite the difficult conditions.

But having had time to review the situation and having surveyed a number of peers, Chamblee is as convinced as ever that Mickelson made a mistake by showing up for his final-round tee time.

"What Phil did, I haven't run into a single person that hasn't said he deserved to be disqualified," Chamblee said. "Under any interpretation, a serious breach - if gaining an advantage is not a serious breach, I don't know what is. And he clearly said he was gaining an advantage and doing it for strategic reasons."

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Norman to pose in ESPN's 'Body Issue'

By Grill Room TeamJune 19, 2018, 2:05 pm

Professional golfers have, from time to time, appeared in ESPN's "Body Issue," which features athletes strategically posed in the nude. The list includes: Belen Mozo, Carly Booth, Gary Player, Camilo Villegas, Sandra Gal, Christina Kim, Anna Grzebien, Suzann Pettersen and Sadena Parks.

And now, Greg Norman.

Modesty has never been an issue for Norman, who has an affinity for posing without a shirt (and sometimes without pants) on his Instagram account.

He joins a list of athletes, in this year's edition, ranging from professional wrestlers (Charlotte Flair) to Olympians (Adam Rippon) to WNBA stars (Sue Bird). Click here for a full list of the athletes to appear.


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DJ listed as betting favorite for The Open

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 2:00 pm

With the U.S. Open officially in the books, oddsmakers quickly turned their attention to the season's third major.

Minutes after Brooks Koepka holed the winning putt to successfully defend his title at Shinnecock Hills, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook published its first set of odds for The Open. Jordan Spieth, who opened at 14/1, will defend his title as the tournament shifts to Carnoustie in Scotland for the first time since 2007, when Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a playoff.

Joining Spieth at 14/1 is 2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy, but they're both listed behind world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Johnson, who was a runner-up at the 2011 Open at Royal St. George's and just finished third at the U.S. Open, opened as a 12/1 betting favorite. Koepka, now a two-time major winner, is listed at 20/1 alongside U.S. Open runner-up Tommy Fleetwood.

Here's a look at the first edition of odds, with The Open just five weeks away:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

14/1: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy

16/1: Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas

20/1: Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm

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

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama

40/1: Phil Mickelson, Branden Grace, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Marc Leishman

50/1: Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Tyrrell Hatton

60/1: Matt Kuchar, Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick

80/1: Tony Finau, Zach Johnson, Thomas Pieters, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson, Shane Lowry

100/1: Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker

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Golf Channel, Loch Lomond Partner on Claret Jug Tour Ahead of 147TH Open

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJune 18, 2018, 9:35 pm

Award-Winning Independent Scotcb Whisky Sponsoring Tour to Select U.S. Cities; Will Include Special Tastings and Opportunities for Fans to Engage with Golf’s Most Storied Trophy

Golf Channel and Loch Lomond Group are partnering on a promotional tour with the Claret Jug – golf’s most iconic trophy, first awarded in 1873 to the winner of The Open – to select U.S. cities in advance of the 147TH Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Loch Lomond Whisky’s sponsorship of the tour further enhances the brand’s existing five-year partnership with the R&A as the official spirit of The Open, initially announced in February.

“We are proud to partner with Golf Channel to support this tour of golf’s most iconic trophy,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group. “Whisky and golf are two of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world, and following the news of our recent partnership with the R&A for The Open, being a part of the Claret Jug tour was a perfect fit for Loch Lomond Group to further showcase our commitment to the game.”

“The Loch Lomond Group could not be a more natural fit to sponsor the Claret Jug tour,” said Tom Knapp, senior vice president of golf sponsorship, NBC Sports Group. “Much like the storied history that accompanies the Claret Jug, Loch Lomond’s Scottish roots trace back centuries ago, and their aspirations to align with golf’s most celebrated traditions will resonate with a broad range of consumers in addition to golf fans and whisky enthusiasts.”

The tour kicks off today in Austin, Texas, and will culminate on Wednesday, July 11 at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe one week prior to The Open. Those wishing to engage with the Claret Jug will have an opportunity at one of several tour stops being staged at Topgolf locations in select cities. The tour will feature a custom, authentic Scottish pub where consumers (of age) can sample Loch Lomond’s portfolio of whiskies in the spirit of golf’s original championship and the Claret Jug. The Claret Jug also will make special pop-up visits to select GolfNow course partners located within some of the designated tour markets.

(All Times Local)

Monday, June 18                    Austin, Texas              (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, June 19                    Houston                      (Topgolf, 5-8 p.m.)

Wednesday, June 20               Jacksonville, Fla.        (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Monday, June 25                    Orlando, Fla.               (Topgolf, 6-9 p.m.)

Wednesday, July 4                 Washington D.C.        (Topgolf, 5:30-8:30 p.m. – Ashburn, Va.)

Monday, July 9                       Edison, N.J.                (Topgolf, Time TBA)

Wednesday, July 11               Lake Tahoe, Nev.       American Century Championship (On Course)

Fans interacting with the Claret Jug and Loch Lomond during the course of the tour are encouraged to share their experience using the hashtag, #ClaretJug on social media, and tag @TheOpen and @LochLomondMalts on Twitter and Instagram.

NBC Sports Group is the exclusive U.S. television home of the 147TH Open from Carnoustie, with nearly 50 live hours of tournament coverage, Thursday-Sunday, July 19-22. The Claret Jug is presented each July to the winner of The Open, with the winner also being given the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year” until the following year’s event is staged. The Claret Jug is one of the most storied trophies in all of sports; first presented to the 1873 winner of The Open, Tom Kidd. Each year, the winner’s name is engraved on to the trophy, forever etched into the history of golf’s original championship. It is customary for the Champion Golfer of the Year to drink a favorite alcoholic beverage from the Claret Jug in celebration of the victory.