Tour journeymen shine in the rain at Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 28, 2016, 8:03 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Every PGA Tour player is looking for a spark.

It’s why some change putters.

And why others change perspective.

And why a few even change caddies.

That’s the common thread among a few of the early contenders here at the weather-delayed Zurich Classic. Brian Stuard, Derek Ernst and J.J. Henry haven’t played well this season, but they all made a slight tweak entering this week, hoping it would change their fortunes.

And they all shot 67 or better Thursday.

Start with Stuard, who leads after a bogey-free 64 at TPC Louisiana. With only conditional status on Tour, he’s played just six events this calendar year. It hasn’t gone well – he had five consecutive missed cuts before a tie for 55th last week in San Antonio.

But Tuesday of Texas Open week, he grabbed a different Odyssey putter next to the practice green, stroked a few putts and put it in his bag. In the opening round here, he took a career-best 21 putts and holed 176 feet worth of putts, with six makes over 10 feet.

When asked how his putter heated up, Stuard shrugged.

“I wish I knew,” he said.

After finishing last season at No. 128 in FedEx Cup points, Stuard’s schedule has been unpredictable. That he’s played poorly when he actually did get a chance has only hurt his priority ranking.

“It’s definitely tough, not sure what your schedule is going to be even next week,” he said. “But you’ve just got to deal with it.”

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Ernst hasn’t been getting many reps, either – the Zurich is just his sixth start this season, after graduating from the Tour Finals last fall.

Next week is the three-year anniversary of his victory at Quail Hollow, which remains one of the most surprising wins in recent memory. Then a 22-year-old rookie, Ernst was the fourth alternate that week who prevailed in a playoff.

Since then, he has recorded only four top-25s with 46 missed cuts.

“I’ve learned,” said Ernst, who opened with 67. “It’s not frustrating if you’re learning. I’ve got a free ride. I won a golf tournament. Instead of being in mini-tour stuff, I’m on the PGA Tour. I haven’t played any other Tour than the PGA Tour. I’ve gotten a free ticket to learn from all the best guys in the world.”

That includes time management and how to “be smart about everything.” Soon, the 25-year-old can pick his peers’ brains about being a father, as his wife is expecting the couple’s first child, a girl, in July.

“It puts golf in perspective,” he said, “where golf isn’t really anything at all. Who cares about golf? My wife and my new baby are going to be the most important thing to me.”

Henry, in his 16th season on Tour, has been through that phase and knows all about weathering the inevitable peaks and valleys of a pro career.

Since winning the opposite-field Barracuda Championship last August, he has gone 16 events without a top-30. For Henry, 41, his spark perhaps came from bringing in longtime friend and coach Justin Poynter as his caddie this week.

“It’s nice to have another set of eyes on you as opposed to just talking to him about what’s going on,” Henry said. “He can actually see it.”

And it all looked good Thursday, with Henry matching his best round of the season (67).

Though he’s still cashing a check most weeks, he hasn’t finished better than 63rd in his last seven appearances.

“It can wear on you,” he said. “You feel like you’re doing something right, but for whatever reason it doesn’t go as planned on the weekend. And I always say, it’s not how you start, but it’s how you finish out here. Every week a guy scrapes along, barely makes the cut, gets hot on the weekend and posts a top-five or a top-10. I just haven’t been able to do that.”

Which is why, for this trio at least, the excitement of seeing an improved score is tempered by the reality that this form could be fleeting; that on Friday, or this weekend, they could revert to their season-long norm. This season, after all, they have accounted for zero top-40 finishes in 20 combined starts.

“I know what to expect with all of the time I’ve been out here,” Henry said, “and it’s just that one round or that one week to get the momentum and you ride it for a long time.”

That’s the hope, anyway.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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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  

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; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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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.