R&R a must for Tour players

By Ryan LavnerApril 27, 2016, 8:31 pm

AVONDALE, La. – If you can look past the shirtless rounds and the board shorts, the Styrofoam cups and the leaps into the marina, the dancing on the carts and the announcer impressions, there was an unmistakable message emanating from the Bahamas last week:

These guys needed a break.

“It was nice to be able to get away,” Rickie Fowler said Wednesday, “to recharge, reset, and especially to get ready for the stretch that we have coming up.”

The ringleader of #SB2K16, Fowler attempted to downplay the Baker’s Bay boondoggle when he met with the media at the Zurich Classic. That was no surprise. He was back at work.

He had just finished his pro-am round. Corporate sponsors adorned his shirt and hat. A 7:50 a.m. tee time loomed. Party time was over.

But the larger point remains: Top players must find their own ways to hit the refresh button during a marathon season. It just so happened, Fowler said, that their “schedules were friendly” and they could organize a weeklong extravaganza at a luxury golf and beach resort.

“It felt like the right time to be able to get everyone together,” he said.

Of course, they aren't the first or the last players to go on vacation.

Justin Rose flew to the Bahamas after the Masters, as well, though every hour of his trip wasn’t documented on social media.

“I just find it therapeutic,” he said.

It’s nothing new for him to shelve the clubs and get away from the game, whether he’s boating, fishing or snorkeling. When he’s home, he unwinds while chasing after his two kids (ages 4 and 7) on the soccer field or on the range.

Fresh off his only two-week break of the season, Rose said his time away is always a mix of relaxation and preparation.

“I feel like sometimes in a sense we’re actors,” he said, “and at home we’re learning our lines, and then we come out on Tour and we’re delivering a performance. A lot of work is done at home to get ready to compete. It’s not like we play 20 weeks a year and we’re in the Bahamas the other 32 weeks of the year enjoying ourselves. 

“There are certain times of year where I think it’s important to blow off some steam, and certainly after Augusta is one.”

Charley Hoffman, a winner last week in San Antonio, is playing for the eighth time in nine weeks. He has three getaways planned this year, including one next week in – you guessed it – the Bahamas. Unlike Rose or golf’s frat brothers, though, his days will be wide open.

“I’m pretty good sitting around the pool drinking beer and hanging out, to be completely honest with you,” he said. 

But that doesn’t work for everyone. Jason Day prefers to get lost in his work, even when he’s not on Tour.

Yes, he’s in a different place in his life than the spring breakers, with a wife and two young kids, but prior to last week, the world No. 1 had been home in Akron, Ohio, for only 10 days since Dec. 28. (During the West Coast swing, he stays at the Vintage Club in Palm Springs, and when the Tour moves east he sets up shop at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla.) That’s a window into the life of the modern Tour player, who oftentimes still works a 9-to-5 on non-tournament weeks, except his days consist of grueling 90-minute workouts and hours spent on the range, putting green and short-game area.

“If you want to be the best in the world,” Day said, “you have to work harder than everyone else, and you have to be in front of your competition. If I decrease that volume of practice, sooner or later it will catch up to my game. Not straight away, but down the road it will catch up and then my level of play will come down. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is.”

To which there is an obvious follow-up: Isn’t there an inherent danger of pushing too hard, of burning out?

“I know mentally, deep down inside, that if I don’t work, I’m going to play bad golf, and there’s nothing worse in this world right now than me playing bad golf,” he said. “I hate it. I’m trying to win as much as I can. I don’t know if it’s in my nature, but I need to do that. That’s just me.”

Interestingly, it was Day who admitted recently that he was worried about Jordan Spieth, his friend and rival. He said that Spieth’s game hadn’t been as sharp since he spent a few months playing and spreading his brand across the globe; that he didn’t want the 22-year-old to get run-down at such a young age.

And that’s why Spieth’s presence in the Bahamas was so refreshing – he was letting loose, trading in soft spikes for sandals, punching his own refresh button. Though he had a whirlwind stretch to start the new year, Spieth is now in the midst of a full month off between the Masters and The Players. This break couldn’t have come at a better time, either, after his shocking final round at Augusta.

That Smylie Kaufman – who played alongside Spieth on Masters Sunday and shot 81 – rounded out the glamorous foursome in the Bahamas was merely a coincidence. He said he received the invite more than a month ago.

Earlier this year, Fowler had advised Kaufman, a Tour rookie, to find two-week breaks throughout the season: one week of relaxation, the other spent working and training. You probably can guess which week #SB2K16 fell under.

“We had an unbelievable time, decompressed,” Kaufman said. “Obviously the golf world got to see everything we did, and it was really fun for us. But it’s over now, and we’re all looking forward to the rest of the year.”

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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.”