Reed, Fowler battling for Barclays, Ryder berths

By Will GrayAugust 27, 2016, 11:41 pm

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – It’s the type of scenario that should catch the attention of any American golf fan.

Two weeks removed from representing the U.S. in the Olympics, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed now find themselves in the final group at The Barclays with another chance to don the red, white and blue at stake. To add a little flavor, the setting happens to be Bethpage Black – a former U.S. Open and future Ryder Cup venue.

Perhaps the only thing missing is a little patriotic face paint.

Sunday’s finale on the Black Course is shaping up like a Ryder Cup primer. Both Reed and Fowler entered the week with their status for Hazeltine somewhat uncertain, but both have more than risen to the occasion in the final week of automatic qualification.

For Fowler, the task was steep. Entering at No. 12 in the standings and with only one top-10 finish in his last nine starts, he needed to find something at the buzzer after a last-ditch detour to the Wyndham Championship didn’t pan out as hoped. But just as he responded when his back was against the wall last year at TPC Sawgrass and this year in Abu Dhabi, Fowler has delivered the goods through 54 holes.

He holds a one-shot lead over Reed, an advantage largely built by a stellar short game. Fowler leads the field this week in scrambling, and despite three trips around one of the most brutish layouts the PGA Tour has to offer, his lone dropped shot stems from a 4-foot putt that horseshoed back in his face during the opening round.

“It’s a little bit of the putter starting to show up a bit. I’ve always been a good putter,” Fowler said after a third-round 68. “To have a few putts go in, to be able to get up and down for par and saving all those shots to keep momentum going, it makes all the difference.”

Fowler has now gone 45 straight holes without a bogey – an impressive feat on your local muni, let alone a major-caliber venue. It puts him in great position for a potential captain’s pick from Davis Love III, but Fowler hopes to make that option a moot point with his play during the final round.

The Barclays: Articles, photos and videos

“I think it’s pretty simple. We’ve just got to go take care of business tomorrow,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in this position, but we have a pretty good track record of in the past year or so since the Players win. Looking forward to it.”

For Reed, things weren’t quite as sharp. After starting the day with a two-shot cushion, he struggled to find a groove and bogeyed three of his first six holes. But he managed to keep the round on track, playing his final 12 holes in 2 under to give himself a spot in the tournament’s final pairing alongside Fowler.

“It was one of those days that I hit no fairways,” he said. “Every driver I seemed to hit was in the right rough or right bunkers, and I just felt like I had to hack out of the rough all day.”

Reed entered the week at No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after this week automatically qualifying for Hazeltine. While Fowler still has work to do to punch his ticket, Reed now appears likely to make the team on merit.

Although Reed would relish an opportunity to rekindle some of the Ryder Cup magic of two years ago, his main focus this week is on snapping a victory drought that extends back to the 2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

“I’m ready. I’ve been ready, felt like all year. I need to put four rounds together,” he said. “To only be one back, I feel like I’m in great position. I’m in the final group tomorrow. Go in and put some pressure on Rickie, and hopefully both of us kind of separate ourselves on the back and play some good golf.”

While the tournament is hardly a two-man race on a course as treacherous as Bethpage – especially with former world No. 1 Adam Scott lurking just two shots off the pace – all eyes will be focused on the all-American duo in the anchor pairing.

“We’re going to have some fun,” Fowler said. “I saw him on the putting green before I left the tee since he was playing behind me. Told him to have a good one and let’s go get in the final group tomorrow. We’ve done that, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Fowler and Reed have been playing against each other for more than a decade, dating back to their earliest meetings in junior golf. But more recently, they’ve become two of the more prominent faces of American golf.

They’re bold, they’re confident and they embody the culture change needed to kick-start a U.S. side that's lost six of the last seven Ryder Cups.

While only one can claim the trophy, both men could very well leave New York with updated travel plans to Hazeltine. It should be a memorable battle on an iconic venue, and one whose biggest winner could turn out to be the old red, white and blue.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 9:20 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 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.