Watson Finally Closes the Deal

By Sports NetworkJuly 27, 2003, 4:00 pm
TURNBERRY, Scotland -- Tom Watson parred the second extra hole Sunday to win the Senior British Open. Watson forced the playoff with a 6-under 64 that matched Carl Mason's total of 17-under-par 263.
 
Mason, who had only three bogeys through three rounds, double-bogeyed the 72nd hole to fall back to 17-under. Mason finished with a final-round 3-under 67. The four-round total of 17-under-par 263 smashed the tournament record of 11-under-par 269 set by Bob Charles in 1989.
 
The two players returned to the 18th hole on the Ailsa Course at the Westin Turnberry Resort for the first playoff hole. After both players parred the first extra hole, the duo went back to the 18th tee for a second time.
 
Watson reached the green in two and his birdie putt stopped within inches of the cup. He tapped in for a par and his second major on the Champions Tour.
 
Mason struggled on the hole. His drive found a fairway bunker and he had to pitch out. His third advanced just a few feet and he knocked his fourth on the green, but it was too late.
 
'I got in the playoff with kind of the Watson of old where I made just a lot of long putts,' Watson said. 'I just kind of scrambled around, kind of stayed in the tournament and relied on my short game and my putting to see me through, which it did.'
 
He had previously won the 2001 Senior PGA Championship. Watson, who won five British Opens, out-dueled Jack Nicklaus to win the 1977 British Open championship at this venue. Watson joins Bob Charles as the only men to win the British Open and Senior British Open on the same course.
 
'I consider it a great honor to win this championship, particularly at Turnberry where Jack and I fought out that great battle all that time ago,' said Watson, who earns $255,731 for the victory. 'To be honest, I thought I had lost it. Carl played so great all week, I thought he would finish the job. But he didn't. That's golf, I suppose. It has happened to us all at one time or another.'
 
The win for Watson caps a remarkable eight-week stretch of golf that has seen him finish second at the U.S. Senior Open and tied for second at the Senior Players Championship. He also shared 17th place at the Senior PGA Championship and tied for 28th at the U.S. Open.
 
Watson had it going early during the final round. He opened with a birdie at the first to cut into Mason's three-stroke lead. He continued his climb to the top with a birdie at No. 4.
 
As he neared the turn, Watson found himself down three strokes after Mason posted birdies on Nos. 4 and 7. Watson, however, found the magic the has helped him win 44 titles on the PGA and Champions Tours combined.
 
Watson rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt at the ninth to head to the back nine at minus-14. He then holed a sand-wedge from 112 yards out for an eagle at the 10th to climb back into contention.
 
He headed to the home stretch down by two shots. Watson birdied the 16th and followed that with another long birdie putt at the next to tie Mason for the lead. Things looked bleak though when Watson knocked his second shot over the green and bogeyed the last hole, while Mason birdied the 17th to take a two- stroke advantage.
 
'I've said all week, my putter has been magical all week this week,' said Watson. 'I must have made 10 putts over 20 feet this week. The leader of the tournament made a double-bogey on the last hole to let me have a chance, and its almost destiny that that happened.'
 
Mason found trouble at the last as he double-bogeyed the hole to fall back to minus-17 and create the playoff.
 
'I knew my position on the last hole. That's why I took the iron,' said Mason. 'I was playing for a five at the worst.'
 
Mason, who turned 50 in late June, had already earned a victory at The Mobile Cup on the Senior European Tour, but was unable to hold on despite his recent success.
 
'I don't know what to say,' said Mason. 'I'm proud of the way I played but to get that close and then miss out is extremely disappointing, to say the least.'
 
Bruce Summerhays carded a 5-under 65 in the final round to finish alone in third place at 16-under-par 264. Tom Kite was one of six men to post all four rounds in the 60s, as he ended at 14-under-par 266.
 
D.A. Weibring, who entered the third and fourth rounds trailing Mason by one stroke, struggled to a final-round, 3-over 73. He completed the event at 10-under-par 270. Brian Jones and Mark McCumber shared sixth place at 9-under-par 271.
 
Noboru Sugai, the 2002 champion, was never a factor after an opening-round 67. He closed with a 1-over round of 71 to finish the event at 3-over-par 283.
 
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    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”