Stenson Steals the Spotlight

By Sports NetworkDecember 14, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Target World Challenge pres. by CountrywideTHOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Henrik Stenson birdied three straight holes on the back nine Thursday en route to a 6-under-par 66 and the first- round lead at the Target World Challenge.
 
Tournament host Tiger Woods and U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy share second place at 4-under-par 68.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is two back after the first round of his own tournament.
Fred Couples posted a 3-under-par 69. He is tied for fourth place with Paul Casey, John Daly and Colin Montgomerie.
 
Stenson trailed the leaders most of the day, but a late surge on the back nine at Sherwood Country Club gave him the first-round lead.
 
Ogilvy was atop the leaderboard most of the first round before Stenson pulled through in the end. Ogilvy opened with birdies on one and three, but dropped a stroke on the second.
 
The Australian carded three more birdies on the front side to make the turn atop the leaderboard in minus-4. Ogilvy climbed to 6 under with a birdie at 13 and a 12-foot birdie putt at the 17th.
 
However at the par-4 18th, Ogilvy missed the green right and had a terrible lie. He hit his third shot about 3 feet before pitching his fourth to 20 feet. Ogilvy two-putted from there for double-bogey which dropped him to minus-4 and a share of second with Woods.
 
'I played fairly well. I birdied the first hole and bogeyed the second, and after that it was pretty good, for the next 15 holes,' Ogilvy said. 'I hit it quite nicely, had a few bad shots I guess on the back nine, but I was chipping very well. I hit it in a bad spot on the 18th and made a double, which was annoying.'
 
Woods birdied the first and got to 2 under as his 8-footer for birdie at the fourth found the bottom of the cup. He came right back with a two-putt birdie on five.
 
The 30-year-old parred five straight before draining a five-foot birdie putt on 11 to tie Ogilvy in the lead at minus-4. Woods fell back to minus-3 with a bogey on 15. He rebounded with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th to share second.
 
'I had two careless three-putts. I really didn't have control on the speed of the greens at all,' Woods admitted. 'I made a lot of came-backers and left some short. It was kind of a struggle on the greens.'
 
Stenson meanwhile was biding his time. He collected his only front-nine birdie on the par-3 second. Around the turn, Stenson birdied Nos. 10 and 13 to move to minus-3.
 
The Swede flew up the leaderboard from there. Stenson converted a birdie try on the par-3 15th and made two straight as he birdied 16. He capped a run of three straight birdies at the 17th as he sank a 12-foot putt.
 
All of a sudden, Stenson was in the lead thanks to Ogilvy's double-bogey at the last. Stenson two-putted for par from 15 feet at the last to maintain the first-round lead.
 
'I just changed equipment about three weeks ago and finished second in Sun City and I'm having a a good start here,' said Stenson, who won twice on the European Tour in 2006. 'I played a lot last week at the World Cup, so things are going good.'
 
Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal opened with a 2-under-par 70. He was joined in eighth place by Chris DiMarco.
 
David Howell is the final player in red figures at minus-1. Defending champion Luke Donald struggled to a 4-over-par 76 and is alone in 15th place out of 16 golfers.
 
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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.

     

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    Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

    The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

    Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

    Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.