Prime cuts: Torrey takes its toll on big names

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 30, 2016, 1:04 am

SAN DIEGO – A strange thing happened here Friday at Torrey Pines.

The three highest-ranked players in the field and one of the game’s most popular stars all missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open – and none were discouraged. 

Seems no missed cut is alike.

Start with world No. 2 Jason Day, who was primed for an inspired title defense after striping shots during long practice sessions last week in Palm Springs. Then he came down with the flu last Friday, ran a fever for five days, made two trips to the hospital to receive fluids and didn’t pick up a club until an hour before his 9:20 a.m. tee time Thursday. He sniffled his way to a 72 in the opening round, but didn’t have a game that was nearly sharp enough for a U.S. Open-type setup. His eventual missed cut, given the circumstances, wasn’t all that shocking.

Day described the past few days as “annoying.” This virus has run through his entire family and lingered for a week. He had trouble focusing. He had no energy, even losing his breath while climbing up hills. And he couldn’t string together enough birdie opportunities, because he couldn’t figure out how far his shots would fly.

“It’s just frustrating and obviously annoying to come into a week and not be prepared for a golf course like this,” he said. “I mean, it’s a U.S. Open golf course. So you’ve got to come in very sharp and very ready to play.”

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

Rickie Fowler’s early exit had a reasonable explanation, too: No one traveled farther to get to San Diego. After a stirring victory last Sunday in Abu Dhabi, his fourth in his last 18 starts, the new world No. 4 boarded a plane at 12:30 a.m. the next morning, flew more than 8,000 miles and 17 hours across 12 time zones, arriving in time for a junior clinic at Torrey Pines.

Did fatigue play a factor in his rounds of 73-71? Fowler said no, that he wasn’t about to make excuses. But consider that he was below his usual average in virtually every statistical category, especially on the greens.

“It just seemed like the ball was scared of the hole,” he said.

World No. 7 Justin Rose’s 2016 debut lasted only two days, but that wasn’t completely unexpected, given his track record at Torrey Pines; in seven career starts, he’s still looking for his first top-20.

That Phil Mickelson joined the parade of trunk-slammers was the most surprising development on Day 2.

After a six-birdie 69 on the treacherous South Course, Lefty believed that he was ready to “light it up” on the North side Friday. Perhaps it was the bad juju that lingers following his failed redesign bid, but his second-round 76 (which included three consecutive bogeys to finish) was his worst-ever round on the easier North Course. It was also the fourth time in five years that he didn’t play the weekend in his hometown event.

“I don’t have a good explanation,” he said afterward, adding that he’s not “overly concerned.”

A week after keeping his mistakes to a minimum during a desert shootout at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Mickelson made six bogeys and a double during a wild second round on a course that was yielding plenty of low numbers.

Odd timing, too, because just a day earlier, Mickelson praised his patient approach. On Fridy, he admitted to pressing and trying to force the issue. 

“It just kind of slipped,” he said. “I wasn’t as mentally sharp as I needed to be.”

Maybe not, but he was anything but dull.

On the par-5 18th (his ninth of the day), Mickelson pushed his approach toward the parking lot on the left. His ball came to rest next to the boundary fence, nearly out of bounds. Unable to get relief, he used the toe of his hybrid to pop the ball out of trouble but still recorded a double bogey.

He was in the middle of the fairway on 4 with a pitching wedge. Bogey. 

He was in the middle of the fairway on 7 with a lob wedge. Bogey.

“It’s just dumb things like that,” he said. “I don’t really know what to say, because the score is not how I feel like I’m starting to play.”

A similar refrain was uttered by all of the stars who left early, but the result remained the same for the defending champion, last week's winner, the fan favorite and the world No. 7.

“It’s not going to be the last cut I’m going to miss,” Day said. “But hopefully it’s the last cut I’m going to miss this year.”

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.