Short game propels Senden to second Tour title

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2014, 12:09 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – In this era of titanium-denting bombers and bold, brash youngsters, 42-year-old John Senden has come to realize this:

“You really have to do everything great to win.”               

Funny thing, then, because in the final round of the Valspar Championship, one of the game’s pre-eminent ball-strikers needed to rely on a sublime short game to notch his first PGA Tour title in nearly eight years.

“When a good ball-striker starts putting good,” said his caddie of 12 years, Josh Cassell, “it’s a pretty nice combo.”

No kidding. 

Struggling with his long game on Innisbrook’s claustrophobic Copperhead Course – he hit just five fairways and 10 greens in the final round – Senden was able to summon the short-game magic that for some many years has been missing.   

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Coming down the stretch, he rammed home a 15-foot birdie putt on 14, chipped in on 16 and then sank a 21-footer on 17. He played the downwind 18th conservatively, taking iron off the tee and finding the middle of the green with his approach. From 37 feet he nestled his birdie putt within a few inches, leading to a stress-free, tap-in par for his first (and only other) Tour victory since the 2006 John Deere Classic. 

At 42, Senden is the oldest winner on Tour this season by five years. He also punched his ticket to the Masters for the third consecutive year. 

“I’ve been doing a lot of things great,” said Senden, who is expected to move to about No. 60 in the world rankings, “it’s just about continuing to believe that I can actually do it.”

Senden has always known how to dissect a golf course – he was ranked inside the top 12 in ball-striking for a decade (2002-2012). But what has held him back has been his work around the greens. Since the Tour began keeping the strokes gained-putting statistic in 2004, he has finished outside the top 100 seven times. He’s never been better than 64th. 

Recently, though, he enlisted the help of seemingly every putting guru with an opinion – Ian Triggs, Pat O’Brien, even Ian Baker-Finch has offered a few tips. His posture improved. He lightened his grip pressure. But most important was a mental adjustment. 

“I had to believe that I’m hitting good putts all the time, rather than just some of the time,” said Senden, who entered this week No. 11 in putting.

Sure, it helps too that he is healthy after dealing with an assortment of injuries in the past 16 months. 

He suffered a rib injury in either late 2012 or early 2013, making it difficult for him to fire through the ball. As a result he overcompensated with his hands, and soon he developed wrist soreness. He wound up 120th in 2013 earnings.  

“It was hard work last year,” he admitted.

The last seven-plus years haven’t been easy either, as Senden fought to rediscover that championship form. 

So, he was asked: Is the thrill of victory any different now than it was back in 2006? 

“It is something that makes you believe that you can get it done more than just once,” he said. “Thinking back in 2006, was it something of a flash in the pan? I don’t believe so. It feels good to do it again after seven years. Lots of good things to come.”

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McIlroy 'committed to everything ... ran out of holes'

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 7:08 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy summed it up: “I don’t really feel like it’s a defeat. I feel like it’s a good week.”

McIlroy, in search of his fifth major, tied for the lead at The Open late on Sunday at Carnoustie when he made eagle on the par-5 14th hole. An hour later, he had made five consecutive pars to close out a 1-under 70 and tie for second place with Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

That group ended two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. McIlroy thought it was realistic to squeeze one more shot out of his round, but he never though it was possible to squeeze out two.

“I committed to everything,” he said. “I hit the shots when I needed to. I made good swings on 17 and on 18. I just ran out of holes.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy hasn’t played poorly this year, but this hasn't been a year that would rank as a total success. He took the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and collected a second-place finish at the BMW PGA Championship. He had a legitimate chance to win the Masters before a terrible Sunday round, and then missed the cut at the U.S. Open last month at Shinnecock Hills.

Sunday at Carnoustie, McIlroy bogeyed two of his first five holes and quickly became an afterthought. When others faltered, McIlroy birdies Nos. 9 and 11, then eagled 14 to vault back into the picture.

“I’m happy with how I played,” he said. “I didn’t get off to a great start, but I hung in there, and I battled back.

“So I’ll look back at this week and be very encouraged about what I’ve done and the golf that I played. I feel like that will stand me in good stead for what’s coming up.”

McIlroy is scheduled to play the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks, followed by the PGA Championship and the FedExCup Playoffs.

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Edoardo, other pros congratulate Francesco on Twitter

By Grill Room TeamJuly 22, 2018, 6:54 pm

Francesco Molinari played a bogey-free weekend at Carnoustie to claim Italy's first claret jug.

His rock-solid performance in the final round earned him his share of social media plaudits.

Here's a collection of Twitter hat-tips, and we start off with Frankie's brother, Dodo.

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Woods: Fan who yelled had 'tipped back a few'

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 6:37 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods stood on the 18th tee and thought he needed birdie to have a chance to win The Open. He pulled driver out of his bag, a sign he wanted to boot the ball as far down the fairway as possible.

Woods took a mighty swat and - right in the middle of his downswing - someone yelled. Woods flinched.

Luckily his ball still found a decent spot just off the right of the fairway.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I’ve had things like that happen a lot in my career with people who just tried to time it,” Woods said Sunday at Carnoustie after shooting 71 to tie for sixth place. “They tipped back a few, and it’s late in the day.

“Unfortunately, that’s part of what we have to deal with in today’s game. People are trying to yell out things to try to be on TV or be in social media or whatever it may be. That was too close to the game of play.”

Woods hit his approach to 6 feet and missed the birdie putt. He tapped in for par to shoot even par and finish 5 under for the week, in a tie for sixth.

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Pros melt down on Twitter as they watch Tiger

By Grill Room TeamJuly 22, 2018, 6:30 pm

Tiger Woods mounted a final-round charge and, for a little while, took the outright lead at Carnoustie on Sunday.

His fellow pros were watching and tweeting like your average fans.

We compiled some of their missives below:

Woods would go on to finish in a tie for sixth at 5 under par for the week.