Getty Images

Many pros wary of new venue for Byron Nelson

By Will GrayMay 16, 2018, 8:45 pm

DALLAS – Take one look around Trinity Forest Golf Club, and it’s clear that the PGA Tour has left the Four Seasons Resort in its rear-view mirror.

Gone are the verdant fairways and manicured greens of TPC Las Colinas, which hosted the AT&T Byron Nelson for more than 30 years. In its place is a sprawling expanse of scraggly hills, sandy dunes and exactly zero trees. It's either a gem of a links layout or a wasteland, depending on who you ask.

Tour pros are famous for becoming creatures of habit, and this week’s venue change marks one of the biggest shifts in recent years among the Tour’s regular stops. It’s no surprise, then, that many of them approached this tournament with a sense of trepidation.

Even Jordan Spieth, a Trinity Forest member and de facto ambassador for the tournament, offered a tepid assessment when asked about the layout last week.

“It’s grown on me a lot over the past six months,” Spieth said.

His endorsements became more full-throated once he got back on property, but there remains a lingering sentiment that Trinity Forest is not meant for everyone. Unpredictable bounces lie around every corner, and players will encounter shots here that they may see nowhere else this year outside the majors.

As he readied the course to take center stage, Trinity Forest director of grounds Kasey Kauff appeared keenly aware that his layout is about to take some blowback from players who get blown sideways by the Texas winds.

“We are ready to showcase this place on TV,” Kauff tweeted Tuesday. “Nothing like exposing yourself to criticism from others.”

Still less than two years removed from its official opening, the Coore-Crenshaw layout offers plenty of unique features: from the blind, uphill approach to the 630-yard 14th hole to the double green shared by Nos. 3 and 11 that measures more than 100 yards from one side to the other.


Players will have to negotiate some huge fairway bunkers. (Photo courtesy of Trinity Forest)


“Majorities just don’t like different, do they? This is just different than what we normally roll out and play,” said Adam Scott. “The greatest players have all managed to succeed out of their comfort zones, and learn to love links golf or parkland golf to succeed. … Whoever is going to win here this week will be someone who really embraces the different challenges of this golf.”

Scott is making his first return to this event in several years, but he is headlining a relatively weak field as far more regular participants opted to stay home for Trinity Forest’s debut. That list includes Dustin Johnson, who played each of the last four years in Irving; Jason Day, who made this event his first Tour win in 2010 and lost last year in a playoff; and 2012 champ Jason Dufner, who had played each of the last eight years.

After Billy Horschel netted 50 world ranking points for his win last year, the winner from this week’s watered-down field will receive only 34 points.

Part of that steep decline surely has to do with the hectic pre-U.S. Open schedule and the return of the Wells Fargo Championship to Quail Hollow, but part of it is also steeped in a “wait and see” approach many top names have adopted.


AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“I’m sure some of them are. There’s no doubt about it,” said two-time champ Sergio Garcia. “When you come to a new venue, there’s always a little bit of a question mark.”

While many stars will be watching from home this week, those that have ventured across town for Trinity Forest’s debut have, by and large, seemed to like what they see.

“If you go play the great courses in the world, there’s something here. From St. Andrews to Royal Melbourne to any kind of links to Pine Valley. It’s here,” said Ernie Els. “If they played a U.S. Open at Erin Hills and Chambers Bay, they can play one here. You can tuck flags away. It’s a wide open course, which is nice. But the second shot is where you miss shots, and that’s the mark of great architecture.”

For their part, tournament officials seem to have softened the edges of this unique layout to ensure its debut doesn’t fly off the rails during a week with steamy temps and no rain in the forecast. Several players were surprised by how soft the course was playing early in the week, with a belief that it would present a more true – albeit more difficult – test given firm and fast conditions.

“I think the course is probably going to play slower than it’s intended to play, being the first year and being this course is still growing,” said Trinity member Hunter Mahan. “I think the true vision of this golf course isn’t going to be quite realized just yet.”


The course may have 'forest' in its name, but it has no trees. (Photo courtesy of Trinity Forest)


The vast expanse of Trinity Forest is sure to expose players, both literally and figuratively. Opinions on its merits, already varied, are sure to become only more polarizing once the scores begin to count.

But while the challenges it presents are certainly different and unique, that’s nothing but a positive in the eyes of many.

“We get coddled in the way we get treated, but variety is one of the best attributes golf has, I think,” said Geoff Ogilvy. “I think this course will stand the test of time. It will be kind of one of those courses that go strength to strength. People will enjoy it every year they play it more and more. Getting guys out of their comfort zone, I think, is a good thing.”

Getty Images

They came, they saw and Molinari conquered The Open

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 8:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – From a perch above the 17th tee, next to a three-story grandstand that may well be the tallest structure on the Angus coast, the 147th Open Championship unfolded with more twists and turns than a Russian novel.

It was all there like a competitive kaleidoscope to behold. In quick order, Rory McIlroy’s title chances slipped away with a whimper, a par at the last some 100 yards to the left of the 17th tee. Tiger Woods, seemingly refreshed and reborn by the Scottish wind, missed his own birdie chance at the 16th hole, a half-court attempt near the buzzer for a player who is 0-for-the last decade in majors.

Moments later, Kevin Kisner scrambled for an all-world par of his own at No. 16 and gazed up at the iconic leaderboard as he walked to the 17th tee box, his title chances still hanging in the balance a shot off the lead.

Francesco Molinari was next, a textbook par save at No. 16 to go along with a collection of by-the-book holes that saw the Italian play his weekend rounds bogey-free. He also hit what may have been the most important drive of his life into what a Scot would call a proper wind at the 17th hole.

Xander Schauffele, who was tied with Molinari at the time at 7 under par, anchored the action, missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 16th hole. Moments later the Italian calmly rolled in a 5-footer for birdie at the last to finish his week at 8 under par.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


All this unfolded over a frenzied final hour of play at Carnoustie, offering just a taste of what the other four-plus hours of play resembled.

“I couldn't watch Xander play the last two holes, to be honest,” said Molinari, who became the first Italian to win a major. “That's why I went to the putting green, because I probably would have felt sick watching on TV,”

Carnoustie may not be the fairest of the Open rotation courses, but it certainly delivers the dramatic goods regularly enough.

Woods’ prediction earlier in the week that this Open Championship would come down to no fewer than 10 would-be champions seemed hyperbolic. It turns out he was being conservative with his estimate.

All total, 11 players either held a share of the lead or moved to within a stroke of the top spot on a hectic Sunday. For three days Carnoustie gave, the old brute left exposed by little wind and even less rough. Earlier in the week, players talked of not being able to stop the ball on the dusty and dry links turf. But as the gusts built and the tension climbed on Sunday, stopping the bleeding became a bigger concern.

If most majors are defined by two-way traffic, a potpourri of competitive fortunes to supercharge the narrative, this Open was driven in one direction and a cast of would-be champions with a single goal: hang on.

A day that began with three players – including defending champion Jordan Spieth, Kisner and Schauffele – tied for the lead at 9 under, quickly devolved into a free-for-all.

Kisner blinked first, playing his first three holes in 3 over par; followed by Spieth whose poor 3-wood bounded into a gorse bush at the sixth hole and led to an unplayable lie. It was a familiar scene that reminded observers of his unlikely bogey at Royal Birkdale’s 13th hole last year. But this time there was no practice tee to find refuge and his double-bogey 7 sent him tumbling down the leaderboard.

“I was trying to take the burn out of the equation by hitting 3-wood to carry it. It was unlucky. It went into the only bush that's over on the right side. If it misses it, I hit the green and have a birdie putt,” Spieth said.



Schauffele’s struggles coincided with Spieth’s, with whom he played on Sunday, with a bogey at the sixth sandwiched between a bogey (No. 5) and a double bogey (No. 7).

This opened the door to what the entire golf world has awaited, with Woods vaulting into the lead at 7 under par, the first time since the ’11 Masters he’d led at a major, and sending a low rumble across the course.

Since Woods last won a major, that ’08 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on one leg, Spieth and Schauffele, who Tiger spotted four strokes on Sunday, graduated from high school; McIlroy went from phenom to four-time major winner and Donald Trump was transformed from being a TV celebrity to the President of the United States.

But the fairytale only lasted a few minutes with Woods playing Nos. 11 and 12 in 3 over par. They were the kind of mistakes the 14-time major champion didn’t make in his prime

“A little ticked off at myself, for sure. I had a chance starting that back nine to do something, and I didn't do it,” said Woods, who finished tied for sixth but will have the consolation prize of moving into the top 50 in the world ranking to qualify for the last WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in two weeks.

But as Woods faded, McIlroy made a familiar move, charging in an eagle putt at the par-5 14th hole to tie Molinari and Schauffele at 6 under par. The Northern Irishman would run out of holes, playing the final four in even par to finish tied for second, but the moment wasn’t lost on him.

“It was great, just to be a part of it and hear the roars. Tiger being back in the mix. You know, everything,” McIlroy said. “There's a lot of big names up there. It was nice to be a part of it. For a while, I thought Tiger was going to win. My mindset was go and spoil the party here.”

By the time the final groups reached Carnoustie’s finishing stretch it was a two-man party, with Molinari proving for the second time this month that boring golf can be effective.

Although he’d won the European Tour’s flagship event in May, Molinari decided to add the Quicken Loans National to his schedule because of his precarious position on the FedExCup points list (122nd) – he won that, too. The week before the Open, he fulfilled his commitment to play the John Deere Classic, a requirement under the PGA Tour’s new strength of field rule, and finished second.

Although his track record at The Open was nothing special – he’d posted just a single top-10 finish in his first 10 starts at the game’s oldest championship – his machine-like game was always going to be a perfect fit for a brown and bouncy links like Carnoustie and a topsy-turvy final round.

“I told his caddie earlier this week, because I didn’t want to say it to [Molinari], I have a good feeling this week,” said Molinari’s swing coach Denis Pugh. “It was the perfect combination of clarity and confidence.”

With the sun splashing against the baked-out fairways, Molinari emerged from the clubhouse, wide-eyed and a little dazed after what could only be described as a major melee, his no-nonsense, fairways-and-greens game the perfect tonic for an Open that defied clarity until the very end.

Getty Images

Spieth and Schauffele were put on the clock Sunday

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 8:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Contending in a major championship on what is largely considered the toughest major championship course can be hard enough, but as Jordan Spieth reached the 10th tee box, he was given another layer of anxiety.

Spieth, who was playing with Xander Schauffele on Sunday at Carnoustie, was informed that his group had fallen behind and been put on the clock. On the next tee, he was given a “bad time” for taking too long to hit his drive.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I handled it OK, but looking back, you know, that was a turning point in the round,” said Spieth, who played Nos. 10 and 11 in even par and finished tied for ninth after a closing 76. “If you get 1 under on those two holes with a downwind par 5 left [No. 14], it's a different story.”

Spieth, who began the day tied for the lead with Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under, had dropped out the top spot with a double bogey-7 at the sixth hole. He was tied for the lead when officials put his group on the clock.

“I took over the allotted time on the tee on 11 to decide on 3-iron or 3-wood, but throughout the day, I think I played the fastest golf I've probably ever played while contending in a tournament,” he said.

Getty Images

Woods (T-6) qualifies for WGC-Bridgestone via OWGR

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 7:43 pm

After narrowly missing out on a 15th major title at Carnoustie, Tiger Woods can take solace in the fact that he earned a return to Firestone Country Club by the thinnest of margins.

Woods was ranked No. 71 in the world entering The Open, and the top 50 in the rankings on both July 23 and July 30 will earn invites to the upcoming WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Despite missing a short birdie putt on the 72nd hole, Woods' three-way tie for sixth was enough to lift him to exactly 50th in the updated rankings.

It means that Woods will return to Akron in two weeks despite starting the year ranked No. 656. Firestone's South Course is the site of eight of Woods' 79 career PGA Tour victories, including his most recent worldwide victory back in 2013 when he won by seven shots. He has not played the invitation-only event since withdrawing in 2014 because of injury.

That's also the last time that Woods played in any of the four WGC events.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Woods had stated for several weeks that he hoped to return to Firestone this summer, given that the tournament will permanently shift to TPC Southwind in Memphis beginning next year. While he had the option to play next week's RBC Canadian Open to bolster his world ranking, Woods reiterated in recent weeks that his status for Akron would simply hinge on his performance in The Open.

"One of my goals is to get into Akron one last time before we leave there," Woods said at The Players Championship in May. "I've won there eight times and I'd love to get there with one more chance."

Speaking to reporters after a final-round 71, Woods explained that he thought he needed a top-4 finish to qualify and had fallen short. Instead, his 5-under total and best finish in a major since the 2013 Open at Muirfield proved to be just enough.

Woods will now take a week off before teeing it up in Akron Aug. 2-5, followed by an appearance the following week at the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.

Getty Images

Spieth shrugs off his worst final round in a major

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 7:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth was the 54-hole co-leader of The Open. He was looking for his fourth career major and second consecutive claret jug. He also has been in the biggest victory drought of his career, extending back to last year at Royal Birkdale.

Spieth shot 5-over 76 - his worst final round in a major - failed to make a birdie - the first time he's failed to pick up any strokes in a major - and tied for ninth place, four shots behind Francesco Molinari. He got over it quickly.

“I’ve already gone through the frustration,” Spieth said, about 20 minutes after his round. “I’m kind of on acceptance now.”

Spieth said all week that he was burned out after having played so much golf in a stretch that ended two weeks ago at the Travelers Championship. The two-week rest did him good and he was eager to see where his game was after diligent practice at home in Texas.

Being in the hunt was a good enough result for Spieth this week.

“When you put yourself in position enough times, it goes your way sometimes, it doesn’t go your way sometimes,” he said.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Bogey on the fifth hole was followed by a nasty double bogey on the sixth when Spieth hit his drive right and flew his second shot into a gorse bush well short and right of the green. He took a drop, hit a wedge onto the green, then three-putted for double-bogey 7. He also made bogey on the 15th and 17th holes.

Some major disappointment stings more than others. This wasn’t one that Spieth was going to worry about. In fact, he’s more interested in looking forward to an important stretch that includes a WGC event, a major and a playoff run on the PGA Tour.

“My (putting) stroke is there, it’s back, which feels awesome,” Spieth said. “My game all together is back. I’ve had different parts of every single part of my game being at kind of a low point in my career, not all at the same time, but enough to where I haven’t really been able to compete. It’s all there, and it’s moving in the right direction.”