Prize fighters: Lovemark, Herman playing for Masters berth

By Will GrayApril 2, 2016, 11:50 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – The race is on for golf’s final golden ticket.

A win at any point in the PGA Tour season is a welcome result, bringing with it a bevy of perks. But this particular week at the Shell Houston Open offers players just one perk - the simplest, yet most coveted perk of all. 

Lift the trophy on Sunday, and your next stop is the front gate at Augusta National.

It’s the kind of stuff that players dream about, a motivator that can drive hours of offseason practice. And for Jamie Lovemark and Jim Herman, it’s tantalizingly close after three rounds at the Golf Club of Houston.

But Lovemark and Herman aren’t just playing for the chance to take their first trip down Magnolia Lane. They’re also playing for their first Tour victory.

The two have taken very different paths to this point. Lovemark, 28, was a can’t-miss prospect who has battled injury and is now beginning to play to the level many expected when he first turned pro in 2009.

Herman, meanwhile, is a 38-year-old journeyman who has bounced between circuits and just last season made the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time.

But now they are united in the spotlight, sharing the 54-hole lead and sitting one shot clear of a potent chase pack.

Lovemark began the day one shot behind Charley Hoffman, but a 2-under 70 gave him a share of the overnight lead for the first time in his career. Seven years after losing a playoff at the Frys.com Open, he is older, wiser, healthier and eager to close the deal.


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“That was my third or fourth event as a pro. Things seemed kind of easy,” Lovemark said. “Hindsight, it’s not too easy after all. I’m not taking much for granted, just going to do what I do.”

Herman moved into contention with a bogey-free 68, channeling form that seemingly came out of nowhere. He had only one top-40 finish in eight starts this year, and Herman hadn’t broken 70 in his last 10 rounds entering the week.

But now he has strung three straight sub-70 scores together, and with only a handful of top-10 finishes to his credit he is on the cusp of a breakthrough victory.

“Houston or any of the other places would be fantastic, just to get one,” Herman said. “I’ve been out here five years, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow. If it goes my way, that would be awesome.”

Lovemark and Herman will have to cope with the crucible that Sunday’s final pairing creates, but their quest is also complicated by the pedigree of players hot on their heels. Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Russell Henley all have multiple Tour wins, and each is eager to add another.

For Stenson especially, it’s a chance to end an 18-month victory drought that has included a myriad of close calls.

“I know I can play my best, and hopefully bring that out on the final days as well,” Stenson said. “I think some of my fellow colleagues might have been more fortunate in those situations, and a few times I haven’t delivered what I need to deliver. It’s been a bit of a combo, but I’d love to get on the No. 1 podium.”

Ever the cool customer, Lovemark strode to the podium after his third round and said all the right things: a win’s a win, whether it comes here or elsewhere. The focus remains on getting the job done, stamping your name as the best for at least one week at the highest level. A Masters invitation is merely icing on the cake.

“Not too concerned about it, honestly,” he said. “If I play next week, that’s great. Obviously a win on any level is very important to me.”

But this isn’t just any other week we’re talking about. Players can use the SHO as golf’s fastest launching pad, teeing it up in the season’s first major before the trophy even has a chance to collect dust.

Plus, you know, it’s Augusta National. It’s the Masters. The place – and the event – speak for themselves.

“You know there’s a lot to play for tomorrow,” Herman said. “You think about it coming into the week. This is your last chance to get to Augusta, but it’s more than that. I’m not going to put any more pressure on myself than I already might.”

For Herman and Lovemark, this could be the point at which their professional career paths pivot. This could be the event that transforms them from “PGA Tour member” to “PGA Tour winner.” It’s a distinction that both covet, and one that can’t be erased.

To do it, they’ll need to outlast each other, not to mention those in close pursuit, under pressures that are largely unfamiliar. But if they manage to pull it off, they’ll not only graduate to a new tier professionally, they’ll get to take the best post-victory trip the game offers.

Golden tickets, after all, come around only so often.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.



Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.