New Talent and New Challenge

By Tom AbbottJuly 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
What a pleasure it was to watch the final three days of the Open de France Alstom in the hosts chair and witness the arrival of Pablo Larrazabal. A week earlier the production team and I had expected an easy Sunday of sitting back and enjoying Martin Kaymer cruise to victory as he led by six going into the final round. But the 23-year-old German kept us on our toes all morning, eventually winning in a playoff over Anders Hansen.
No such problems for Larrazabal. He was a joy to watch and his demeanor was Seve-esque ' wearing his emotions on his sleeve, putting like a genius and going after every shot as if it were his last. I found it marvelous to watch, a breath of fresh-air. The celebrations were fitting as his fellow countrymen from the European Tour tossed him in the lake. If you held your breath for a second when they let go of him, so did I; some of those lake arent very deep and it would be devastating for a player to get hurt, something to consider as the celebrations get more and more boisterous.
Thats for another discussion, though; Larrazabal is the talking point and so he should be. The French Open was just his 17th European Tour start in this his rookie season. He has plenty of time to develop as a player and its hardly as if hes been steadily building a career. He did represent Spain at boys and youth levels, but didnt grab any large piece of amateur silverware like his brother Alejandro, who won The Amateur Championship in 2002.
Pablo featured a handful of times on the Challenge Tou,r having done a stint on the family fish-farm, then went to Q-school and qualified for the main tour. Coming into the Open de France his best finish was T15, not bad for a rookie but hardly a warning sign of what was to come at Le Golf National ' which, by the way, is a terrific course and should be considered as a potential Ryder Cup venue. Well watch young Pablo ' hes 25 but looks 17 ' with eager eyes over the rest of the season and see whether he can delight us once again with that wonderful form in the coming few months.

Taylor to Return This Week:
On January 9, 2008, Ladies European Tour professional Kirsty Taylor was due to return from Spain having played a pro-am with some fellow LET professionals. The day would change her life. Taylor suffered a mystery fit. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor and nine days later was having surgery. Further procedures followed as did six weeks of radiotherapy.
The recovery process has been tough. Taylor has still not received the all-clear yet, and is unable to drive. Recently though, shes been able to cycle to the her local course, Minchinhampton, trying bravely to resume a normal course of action. That includes teeing it up at the Oxfordshire English Ladies Open this week. Its more of a test to see where I am fitness wise and concentration wise; to enjoy the week and see everybody, she says.
Hubby Alistair will be on the bag; hell also act as chauffeur on the hour-and-15-minute drive from home. If I get tired and get a headache Alistair will encourage me to come in as it will be daft to carry on.
Kirsty will undergo further tests in August to see how shes progressing. If things go well then she hopes to make an appearance at the S4/C Wales Ladies Championship of Europe where she was champion in 2005.

Around Europe:
The European Tour visits a new venue for the European Open this week, The London Club, which is not in London at all but south east of the capital in the county of Kent, nicknamed the Garden of England. Colin Montgomerie defends.
The Challenge Tour is in France at the AGF-Allianz EurOpen de Lyon. Seve Benson is now leading the standings.
The European Seniors Tour heads east to Russia for the Russian Seniors Open at the Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club. Ian Woosnam, Sam Torrance and Jim Colbert are in the field; however, no Russian players are entered.
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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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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?’”