Els Barely Hangs On for Win

By Sports NetworkFebruary 8, 2004, 5:00 pm
VICTORIA, Australia -- Ernie Els struggled to a 2-over 74 on Sunday but managed to hold on and win the Heineken Classic in wire-to-wire fashion. Els finished at 20-under-par 268 for his third consecutive victory at this event.
Adam Scott, who found himself eight shots off the lead to start the final round, shot a 5-under 67 to finish one shot back at 19-under-par 269.
The same venue that saw Els flirt with 59 and establish a new 36-hole scoring record earlier in the week finally showed its teeth on Sunday.
'Conditions were tough,' said Els, who won for the 16th time on the European Tour. 'Right now, I'm just happy it is over.'
Els began his round on the Composite Course at Royal Melbourne in complete control at 22 under par but a treacherous front nine was all it took to bring his competitors back into the tournament.
Els stumbled out of the gate with a bogey at the opening hole but recovered with a birdie at the par-5 second.
At the par-3 third, Els found thick grass off the tee en route to another bogey. Trouble then met up with the South African in a major way on the following hole.
Els played his approach into a bunker at the par-4 fourth and sent his third from the sand through the green. Now chipping from the other side of the putting surface, Els left his fourth shot short and watched as the ball rolled back to his feet.
He then played his fifth inside 18 feet and two-putted for a triple bogey to fall back to 18 under.
Over the course of four holes, what had once been an insurmountable advantage for Els had been cut in half.
On the other end of the spectrum, Scott dropped his second shot inside 12 feet at the par-4 fifth and drained the putt to pull within three of the lead.
Els found trouble again with a bogey at the seventh and tossed his second into the thick grass at the par-5 ninth. He scrambled to a bogey while Scott got up and down for a birdie to grab a share of the lead.
'It was a bad break after another,' said Els. 'It was kind of laughable there at nine.'
Els countered with a birdie at the 10th but Scott matched him with a birdie of his own.
The young Australian had caught the 3rd-ranked player in the world momentarily, but Els was not ready to hand the tournament over.
'He saw I was playing quite solid and could keep going with him,' Scott said of Els. 'I think it made him get back into the groove on the back nine.'
Els landed his approach inside eight feet for a birdie at the 12th and ran home a six-foot putt for a birdie at the 13th.
At the par-4 14th, Els knocked his second shot within a foot of the hole for his third consecutive birdie to move to 20 under.
Scott tried to keep pace with a birdie at the 14th and got within one of Els with a birdie at the 17th.
In the end, however, the brilliant play that Els displayed over the first three rounds proved enough to secure the win for the Big Easy.
'On the back nine when it really counted, I put my head down and I played,' said Els. 'It was almost easier in some ways having a fair battle on the back nine with Adam. It is definitely not the way I planned it but that's the way it turned out.'
Australia's Peter Fowler posted a 2-under 70 to finish alone in third place at 15-under-par 273. Peter Hanson of Sweden was one shot further back at 14-under-par 274.
Michael Campbell, who is a two-time winner of this event, carded a 70 to finish seven shots off the lead at 13-under-par 275. The New Zealander was joined by Scotland's Stephen Gallacher in a tie for fifth.
Gareth Paddison, who played in the last group along with Els and Scott, joined Mahal Pearce, Greg Owen and Paul Sheehan in a tie for seventh at 12-under-par 276.
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    Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

    The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

    The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

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    This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

    After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

    “I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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    Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

    Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

    “I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

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    Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

    To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

    “More punishment,” he said.

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    DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

    Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

    Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

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    Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

    It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

    With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

    Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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    TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

    By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

    • Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

    • This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

    • Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


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    • In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

    • At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

    • Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

    • My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.