Greenbrier headed for a free-for-all finish

By Will GrayJuly 4, 2015, 11:39 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Even after the final sparkler fizzles out on the lawns near the Old White TPC, there will be plenty of fireworks still to come at The Greenbrier Classic.

A Sunday shootout looms, with a packed leaderboard set to battle it out on a course synonymous with low scores and final-round theatrics.

Eight players are separated by a single shot through 54 holes, with another 23 names within four shots of the lead. Each will wake up with realistic thoughts of hoisting the trophy, from rookies seeking a breakthrough to veterans looking for validation.

Granted, the winner will not have to slay a murderer’s row of recent champions. Of the top eight players, only three have won on the PGA Tour. The most recent of those victories was Bryce Molder’s win at the 2011 Open.

Sean O’Hair had a victory that year too, the latest of his four career wins. He holds a tenuous grip on a share of the lead, alongside Molder, Jason Bohn and S. J. Park, with one round separating him from a victory that would complete his return to the top levels of the game.

O’Hair had just turned 29 when he captured the RBC Canadian Open, seemingly set to enter a golfer’s prime with equal parts accomplishment and potential. Instead he watched his game desert him, bottoming out with a two-year stretch in 2013-14 that cost him his card.

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Equipped once again with full-time status, the 32-year-old has flourished this season, with six top-25 finishes including a playoff loss to Jordan Spieth at the Valspar Championship.

“I feel like I’ve got my best golf ahead of me. I really do,” O’Hair said. “I just felt like the last couple years when I’ve struggled, I haven’t really owned my game. I’ve tried a lot of different things, a lot of different methods, and really just got back to me hitting a lot of balls and just going back to basics and kind of, like I said, just owning it.”

O’Hair’s four victories are one more than the combined total of his seven closest competitors, but he plans to draw inspiration from an unexpected source.

“I think your failures actually help you better than your successes,” O’Hair said. “Going into tomorrow, I know what I’m probably going to feel like when I wake up in the morning. I know what I’m going to feel like when I step up on the practice tee and on the first tee, so it’s not like I haven’t been in this situation before.”

At age 42, Bohn is one of the few players near the top with more seasoning than O’Hair. He likely didn’t expect to add to his dossier of high finishes after barely scraping past the 36-hole cut. But then again, a third-round 61 can change expectations considerably.

“I just wanted to sleep in, to be honest,” said Bohn, who will play alongside O’Hair in Sunday’s final pairing. “Now I don’t have to get up early in the morning.”

Bohn has two wins, most recently the 2010 Zurich Classic, while the final member of the foursome at the top is an unheralded rookie. But Park’s record of one top-25 finish in 20 starts this season doesn’t dampen his confidence entering what could be the biggest round of his career.

“I think I’m going to really have fun tomorrow,” said Park, who was a runner-up at the Humana Challenge in January. “I’ve had this situation before, been in this position, so it’s always going to be the same. It’s going to be another round for me.”

The Greenbrier has rewarded rookies in the past, notably Scott Stallings in 2011 and Ted Potter Jr. the following year, and Park isn’t the only freshman in the mix. Justin Thomas headlines the group of players at 10 under, just one shot off the pace, eyeing a title that would cement his status as one of golf’s latest can’t-miss prospects.

“I’ve been ready to win since I was playing as an amateur,” Thomas said. “I’ve just put myself in more positions now. Just whenever it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.”

Within these West Virginia mountains, it’s often better to come from behind than to try to protect an advantage. Stuart Appleby set that tone with a final-round 59 en route to victory in 2010, with similar late heroics from Stallings, Jonas Blixt and (nearly) George McNeill in the years since.

There will be plenty of final-round roars, and perhaps even more fluctuations to the leaderboard.

“I just feel like this field every week is just so strong, and it’s really anybody’s game any given Sunday,” said O’Hair. “It’s exciting.”

“It’s becoming more and more common out here, I think,” added Molder. “If nobody decides to run off and leave everyone, then you kind of get that bunched-up feeling.”

It should prove difficult to separate from the pack during the final trip around the Old White TPC, where nearly half the field remains in the mix. The only certainty seems to be that someone will emerge with enough final-round fireworks to earn what could be a watershed victory.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.