Best of 2001 - Turning Pro
Bryce Molder was one of the most decorated collegiate players in recent memory, a four-time first-team all-American at Georgia Tech. He was twice a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team and the holder of the lower career and season stroke averages in NCAA history.
He turned pro after the Walker Cup in August, then turned a sponsors exemption into a third-place finish at the Reno Tahoe Open. Although Molder failed to advance past the second stage of the PGA Qualifying tournament, his focus continues to be on the big picture.
My goal is to be ' at one point in time ' the No. 1 player in the world, he said.
The resume of 23-year-old Luke Donald is a veritable plethora of amateur success 1999 NCAA individual medallist; three times an all-American at Northwestern University; and twice a member of the Walker Cup team of Great Britain and Ireland.
Donald turned professional in August and won just over $80,000 in seven PGA Tour events. And by the end of the 2001 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, he had earned a card for 2002.
Its hard to put into words how I feel right now, said Donald at the end of Q-School. Its just been such a long week. Im glad Im inside that top 35. It feels good. Real good.
Eighteen-year-old Natalie Gulbis left the University of Arizona after her freshman season, a year in which she earned first-team all-American honors. But so far, so good for Gulbis in the professional ranks. She was medallist at the LPGA Tour sectional qualifier, and earned fully exempt status for 2002 at the final stage of qualifying at what she considers to be the perfect time.
It was something I wanted to do out of high school ' try to go through Q-School, said Gulbis. I didnt want to be 30 or 35 and look back and say that I never gave college a try. I tried and had a good time. But I was ready to move on, from the golf standpoint.
But perhaps the greatest story out of this foursome comes from 17-year-old Ty Tryon. The legend continues to grow. He successfully made two cuts on the PGA Tour in 2001 as a high school student, then made the critical decision ' turn professional. And he did it ' advancing through all three stages of Q-School to become the youngest player ever to earn a PGA Tour card.
He acknowledged after the qualifying tournament that everyone does not agree with his decision to turn pro. But its his decision, he said, and he will live with it.
Everybody has their opinion, he said. And I totally respect it, because it was very strange, me turning pro. But hopefully I gained a few fans this week after doing this.
'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.
Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.
“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”
Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.
The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.
“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”
Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.
“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”
Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.
“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.
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Ball headed O.B., Stone (68) gets huge break
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brandon Stone knew it when he hit it.
“I knew I hit it out of bounds,” the South African said following his opening round in the 147th Open Championship.
Stone’s second shot on the par-4 18th, from the left fescue, was pulled into the grandstands, which are marked as O.B. But instead of settling in with the crowd, the ball ricocheted back towards the green and nearly onto the putting surface.
Stone made his par and walked away with a 3-under 68, two shots off the early lead.
“I really didn’t put a good swing on it, bad contact and it just came out way left,” Stone said. “I feel so sorry for the person I managed to catch on the forehead there, but got a lucky break.
“When you get breaks like that you know you’re going to have good weeks.”
It’s been more than just good luck recently for Stone. He shot 60 in the final round – missing a 9-foot birdie putt for the first 59 in European Tour history – to win last week’s Scottish Open. It was his third career win on the circuit and first since 2016. It was also just his first top-10 of the season.
“A testament to a different mental approach and probably the change in putter,” said Stone, who added that he switched to a new Ping Anser blade model last week.
“I’ve been putting, probably, the best I have in my entire life.”
This marks Stone’s sixth start in a major championship, with his best finish a tie for 35th in last year’s U.S. Open. He has a missed cut and a T-70 in two prior Open Championships.