McGirt making most of Ohio opportunity

By Will GrayJune 30, 2016, 10:24 pm

AKRON, Ohio – When William McGirt laid out his 2016 playing schedule, he saw an opening.

While the game’s upper echelon would be cramming in one high-profile event after another during a seemingly endless summer, McGirt eyed a break: a five-week stretch where he could pull the plug, unwind a bit and recharge before heading into the season’s final stanza.

Funny how plans can change.

In the midst of what McGirt thought would be the third leg of that five-week hiatus, he is instead part of an elite field at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He also happens to be atop the leaderboard after a hot putter led him to an opening 6-under 64.

The season’s quartet of WGC events, with no cut and no shortage of world ranking points, can become old hat for many of best in the world. They’re even so commonplace that guys like Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia opted to skip a potential money grab in Akron rather than get caught up in a scheduling squabble between the PGA Tour and European Tour.

For McGirt, though, simply showing up this week is a prize in and of itself.

He qualified for this event by virtue of his breakthrough win this month at the Memorial Tournament, some 125 miles down the road in Dublin, Ohio. The victory was the first of his professional career, and at age 37 he is making his first career start in a WGC event.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

A player who embodies an old-school approach to the game, he couldn’t help but smile once he got a look at the time-tested layout of Firestone’s South Course upon arrival on Sunday.

“I fell in love with the place,” McGirt said. “I love it because you can’t stand up there and just hit it as hard as you want, go find it and hack it on the green. It’s an old, traditional style golf course, which I absolutely love.”

That passion was apparent in McGirt’s opening round, a bogey-free effort where he needed only 24 putts. It was his work on the greens that moved him to the top of the standings, and it’s the same club that has led to a career-best run of results this summer.

A few new putting drills during the RBC Heritage in April yielded immense results, as McGirt stated that the last three months have been the longest stretch of confident putting in his 12-year-career. It’s a trend that continued in Thursday’s opener.

“It’s just one of those days where it seemed like the farther I got from the hole, the bigger it looked,” he said.

McGirt admits that things still haven’t returned to normal since his win at Muirfield Village. He remains in the midst of trying to send a note of thanks to everyone who texted, tweeted or emailed him a note of congratulations following the win – a process he expects could take five weeks.

“If somebody took the time to send me something, I want to take the time to send them a personal note back,” he said. “I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to sit there and type out a message and hit cut and paste 500 times. That’s just not me.”

His life inside the ropes also remains an adjustment. The U.S. Open, he said, was a bit of a blur as friends and peers alike offered their praise of his playoff win. But as the weeks go on, he’s becoming more accustomed to the fact that he is now a PGA Tour winner, and equipped with a three-year exemption.

It’s a confidence boost that he has put to work this week, where a star-studded field of entries didn’t deter his sense of self-belief.

“I think the biggest thing I took away from Memorial is the confidence in the fact that I know that I can do it now,” he said.

This week’s event has, in many ways, gotten lost in the shuffle – stuck in between a hectic run of three major championships, and in recent days overshadowed by Olympic roster changes. But none of that lessens the fact that for a rank-and-file player like McGirt, this tournament offers a variety of opportunities.

It’s a shot at money and points, yes. But it’s also a chance to show that his win, in his words, “wasn’t a fluke” – to turn one trophy into two. It’s a chance to join a list of players to win the Memorial and the Bridgestone in the same year that currently includes exactly one name: Tiger Woods.

It’s a chance that McGirt didn’t expect to have when he laid out his schedule at the start of the year, but it’s one he’s ready to embrace with open arms now that he’s here.

“I was dreaming about these opportunities, and now they’re here,” he said. “I’ve got to take advantage of them.”

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.