Clarke Goes Strait to the Top

By Sports NetworkAugust 12, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipHAVEN, Wis. -- Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland fired a 7-under-par 65 on Thursday to take the lead during the first round of the PGA Championship.
Ernie Els, who has had a chance at each of the season's first three majors, and Justin Leonard, who finished second to Davis Love III in 1997, are tied for second at 6-under-par 66.
Vijay Singh, the 1998 champion, Briny Baird, Luke Donald and American Ryder Cup hopeful Scott Verplank are tied at 5-under-par 67.
Most reports indicated that Whistling Straits would be one of the most difficult venues in major championship history. The course measured 7,514 yards and with eight holes on the shores of Lake Michigan, a heavy wind could cause scores to be very high.
As the players greeted Whistling Straits Thursday morning, tees were moved up and the course was shortened by almost 200 yards. The wind was relatively calm despite lower temperatures that forced most players to don a sweater.
Even though Whistling Straits, hosting its first major, yielded low scores, not everyone took advantage.
Tiger Woods, a two-time former champion who has not won a major since the 2002 U.S. Open, struggled to an opening-round, 3-over-par 75.
Woods began on the 10th tee and flew out with a birdie. He ran into trouble immediately after that when his drive at the 11th hooked into the rough. Woods could only advance his ball 100 yards into more rough and when he finally reached the green, he three-putted for a double bogey.
Woods, who won in 1999 and 2000, missed a 4-foot par putt at the 12th, then missed the green at the 13th. Woods two-putted from 35 feet for another bogey and a 3-over start through four holes.
He calmed down and made three birdies and three bogeys the rest of the way for his 75, which tied him for 104th. That score matched Woods' highest round at the PGA Championship, which he also posted in the final round of the '97 event at Winged Foot.
'Well, I got off to a nice start and then ran into a little bit of a problem there for a little bit,' said Woods. 'I just didn't hit the ball all that poorly, but I sure putted bad.'
Woods' major streak is at nine and if he is to erase that, he'll have his work cut out for him. He spotted Clarke 10 strokes after one round.
Clarke hit a lob-wedge to 12 feet for a birdie at the first. He missed the green with his second at the par-5 second hole, but lagged his eagle putt to 3 feet and rolled it in for birdie No. 2.
At the third, Clarke knocked an 8-iron to 18 feet to set up birdie. He made it four birdies in a row at four when his 9-iron stopped 12 feet from the flag.
'We had the better conditions this morning,' said Clarke, who is majorless in his career with two good chances at the British Open. 'The wind was blowing a little bit, but not that hard, and the wind eased for us on the back nine. But the greens were soft, and some of the pin positions were, I would not say generous, but reasonable to get at.'
Clarke rattled off two consecutive birdies from the seventh, but dropped his first shot of the championship at No. 9. He pulled a 6-iron into one of the 1,400 bunkers at Whistling Straits, then blasted his third through the green. Clarke chipped to 2 feet and tapped in his bogey putt.
The 35-year-old rebounded nicely from the mishap at nine with back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11, both from inside 10 feet. Clarke mis-hit an 8-iron at the 13th and plugged into a bunker. He could not go at the flag, instead hitting out sideways to the front of the green. Clarke made bogey, but once again wasted little time in atoning for his mistakes.
At the 14th, Clarke hit a pitching-wedge to 5 feet and sank the birdie putt to go one clear of Leonard and Els.
Clarke, a European Tour veteran and three-time Ryder Cupper, knows that there is a lot of golf left on a demanding course.
'I think if the wind keeps blowing, the greens firm up, then we are going to see a real challenge,' said Clarke. 'Not that it's not now, but if the wind keeps blowing, the greens dry out, then I think there won't be that many low scores this week.'
Els started on the back nine Thursday and was 1 under par through five holes. He drained a pair of 8-footers for birdie at 15 and 16, then ran home a 50-footer for birdie at 17, to make it three in a row and a 4-under-par 32 on the first nine.
The No. 2 player in the world reached the green with a 6-iron at the par-5 second and two-putted for birdie from 45 feet. Els hit a 9-iron at the par-3 third and made the subsequent 5-footer for birdie. He parred out for his 66.
'I wasn't sure what to expect scoring wise today because the practice rounds were pretty difficult,' said Els, who finished second at the Masters and British Open. 'I'm not sure if we expected to shoot 6 under around this course, but that was nice.'
Leonard, the 1997 British Open winner, mixed a birdie and a bogey over his first three holes. He birdied seven and 10, then tallied three in a row from the 12th, including a 25-footer at the 13th.
Leonard came up short of the green with his second at 16. He pitched to 5 feet and made birdie for his 66.
The 32-year-old has struggled in 2004 with one top-10, but credited his group with his first-round success.
'Watching Darren (Clarke) and K.J. (Choi) birdie the first hour that we played, it was fun,' said Leonard. 'I think they were playing so well, I kind of got sucked into it on the back nine. I think we all definitely fed off each other, and it was just a fun day, a fun group to be a part of.'
Choi, Chris DiMarco, 50-year-old Jay Haas, Stephen Ames, Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, Tim Petrovic, Loren Roberts and Padraig Harrington are knotted in eighth at minus-4.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson flew out of the gate Thursday afternoon with three birdies in his first three holes. He played even-par the rest of the way for a 69 and shares 17th with Carlos Franco, Paul McGinley, Chris Riley and Duffy Waldorf.
Defending champion Shaun Micheel posted a 5-over 77 and is tied for 129th place.
John Daly, who won this event in 1991 and played with Woods and Singh on Thursday, played poorly. He made an eight on 18 en route to a 9-over-par 81, which is good for a share of last place.
Related Links:
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”