Slocum, Loupe familiar with extra pressure

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2014, 9:03 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Two-minute drill. Bottom of the ninth. Crunch time.

Whichever sports metaphor you prefer, it can be applied to this week’s Wyndham Championship.

Players have one final chance to jockey for FedEx Cup playoff position, although many in the field are simply trying to secure playing privileges for next season.

Given only 72 holes to improve their season-long standing, some will wilt under the pressure. Others, though, have been under a similar spotlight before and continue to thrive.

Heath Slocum knows what this feels like. It was only two years ago that Slocum came to Sedgefield Country Club at No. 128 in the FedEx Cup standings, on the outside looking in. He tied for 31st, which was enough to propel him to No. 124 in points and punch his ticket to the playoffs. He remains the most recent player to crack the top 125 in the final regular-season event.

Slocum also knows the value of simply earning a spot at the dance. It was five years ago that he entered the postseason at No. 124, only to hold off the likes of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker to win The Barclays at Liberty National. The win vaulted him up the standings, and he went on to make the 2009 Tour Championship.

This week, Slocum’s hole is a bit deeper. At No. 158 in points, he likely needs a top-three finish to make it to The Barclays, but he’s halfway there after rounds of 65-65 put him atop the leaderboard with Scott Langley in Greensboro.


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The key for dealing with do-or-die pressure, according to Slocum? Just let go.

“That’s been one of my biggest things, sometimes it’s just getting out of my own way, just stop trying to do too much,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to take a step back and just go, ‘Have fun with it. Go play.’”

Slocum has done just that through two rounds at Sedgefield, grabbing the pole position heading into the weekend as he looks to win on Tour for the fifth time, and first since the 2010 McGladrey Classic. He missed the cut in each of his last two starts, but the 40-year-old claims to have found a spark during practice last week.

“I said, ‘You know what? It’s all here. See if you can’t go play golf and enjoy it,’” he said. “I mean, sometimes you just go and enjoy yourself and you play some of your best golf.”

Like Slocum, Andrew Loupe is in familiar territory. Loupe has become a poster child for last-minute comebacks in recent years, a trend that began when he holed a 6-foot putt to make it through the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School in 2012. After a debut season on the Web.com Tour in 2013, Loupe needed to hole a putt of similar length at the final regular-season event to qualify for the inaugural Web.com Tour Finals.

Drained it.

Then after missed cuts in each of the first three Finals events, he came to the Web.com Tour Championship in dire need of a big result. After four straight rounds in the 60s, he left with a T-6 finish and a PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season.

Now he’s at it again, entering the week at No. 145 in the FedEx Cup standings and likely in need of a top-six finish to crack the top 125 and sew up a PGA Tour card for 2015.

“I’ve been in this position before. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s pretty similar,” Loupe said. “That’s something I tell myself to remind myself, for security and confidence. You have to believe in yourself, and do your best to stay in the present. I know people say that all the time, but it’s true.”

Loupe has had no trouble staying in the present this week, and after rounds of 65 and 68 he sits three shots behind Slocum. The pressure-cooker that causes trouble for so many players is one that Loupe is comfortable with, and as a multi-sport athlete growing up he enjoys competing when the stakes are high.

“It’s an enjoyable stress level, I guess,” he said. “There’s nothing better than playing in front of a bunch of people with something on the line. It’s a great feeling.”

For Slocum, the goal is still maintaining his full-time status with a high finish this week, but the Web.com Tour Finals serve as a suitable back-up plan. Last year, he joined Loupe as one of 25 players to survive the four-event gauntlet and earn cards for this season.

His plan, then, is to build momentum – whether his destination beyond this week is New Jersey for the playoffs, or Fort Wayne, Ind., for the Finals – and enjoy the opportunity to be back in the mix over the weekend.

“No matter win, lose or draw, I will go have fun the next two days,” he said. “I do miss this feeling of being in contention. So not being in contention for a while, I’m going to savor it.”

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Links to the past: Tiger's return revives Open memories

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 12:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods rekindles his love affair with links golf this week at Carnoustie, which seems about right considering his introduction to the ancient ways of the game began here on the Angus coast.

It was here on the most brutal of the Open Championship rota courses that a 19-year-old Tiger first played links golf at the 1995 Scottish Open, an eye-opening and enlightening experience.

“I remember my dad on the range with me, saying, ‘Are you ever going to hit the ball past the 100 yard sign?’” Woods recalled on Tuesday at Carnoustie, his first start at The Open since 2015. “I said, ‘No, I'm just enjoying this. Are you kidding me? This is the best.’”

During this most recent comeback, Tiger has been all smiles. A new, relaxed version of his former self made calm and approachable by age and the somber influence of injury. But this week has been different.

During a practice round with Justin Thomas on Monday he laughed his way all the way around the brown and bouncy seaside layout. Much of that had to do with his return to the unique ways of links golf, the creative left side of his brain taking the wheel from the normally measured right side for one glorious week.

He talked of game plans and strategic advantages on a parched pitch that has seen drives rolling out over 400 yards. At his core, Tiger is a golf nerd for all the right reasons and this kind of cerebral test brings out the best of that off-the-charts golf IQ.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Although there are no shortages of defining moments in Tiger’s career and one can make all sorts of arguments for what would be his seminal moment – from the 1997 Masters to the 2008 U.S. Open –the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool stands out, based on near-perfect execution.

In ’06 at Liverpool, which played to a similar shade of dusty yellow as Carnoustie will this week, Tiger hit just a single driver, opting instead for a steady diet of long irons off tees. For the week he hit 48 of 56 fairways, 58 of 72 greens and rolled the field for a two-stroke victory and his third, and most recent, claret jug.

This Open has all the makings of a similar tactical tour de force. For this championship he’s put a new 2-iron into play that’s more like a strong 1-iron (17 degrees) and imagines, given the conditions, a similar low, running menu.

“It could be that way,” Woods said when asked the similarities between this week’s conditions and the ’06 championship. “I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees, just because I hit a 3-iron on Monday, down 18, I went 333 [yards]. It can get quick out here.”

If Tiger ever needed a major championship confidence boost the Carnoustie Open would be it, an inspiring walk down memory lane to a time when he was the undisputed king of golf.

“[The ’06 Open] is the closest you can compare to this,” David Duval said. “But I struggle to remember that golf course being as fast as this one. It was close, but this one is something else.”

Ernie Els had a slightly different take, albeit one that was no less ominous to the rest of the field this week.

“Liverpool is on a sand hill, this has a bit more run to it,” Els said. “But it’s got the same feel. It’s almost like St. Andrews was in 2000. Very, very fast.”

It’s worth noting that Tiger also won that ’00 Open at the Home of Golf with an even more dominant performance. It is the unique challenges of the links test that make many, even Tiger, consider the Open Championship his best chance to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

More than any other Grand Slam gathering, The Open is blind to age and the notion of players competing past their prime. In 2008 at Royal Birkdale, then-53-year-old Greg Norman flirted with the lead until the very end, finishing tied for third; a year later at Turnberry, Tom Watson came within one hole of history at 59 years young.

“It certainly can be done,” Woods said. “You get to places like Augusta National, where it's just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately. That's just the way it goes. But links-style golf courses, you can roll the ball. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”

Whether this is the week Tiger gets back into the Grand Slam game depends on his ability to replicate those performances from years past on a similarly springy course. As he exited the media center bound for the practice putting green on Tuesday he seemed renewed by the cool sea breeze and the unique challenges of playing the game’s oldest championship.

Coming back to Carnoustie is more than a reintroduction to links golf; for Tiger it’s starting to feel like a bona fide restart to his major career.

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Woods: New putter should help on slower greens

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 11:35 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods’ ice-cold putting showed at least a few signs of heating up earlier this month at The National, where he switched putters and ranked seventh in the field on the greens.

The mallet-style putter is still in the bag as Woods prepares for The Open, and he’s hoping the heavier model with grooves will prove valuable at Carnoustie.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“To be honest with you, I’ve struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career,” Woods said Tuesday. “So for me, it’s going to help on these greens, for sure.”

To combat the slower greens, Woods usually applied a strip of lead tape to his putter. But this heavier model of putter doesn’t need the extra weight, and the grooves on the putter face allow the ball to get rolling faster and hotter.

“You don’t necessarily have to do that with the grooves,” he said of the lead tape. “When I putted with the Nike putter, I didn’t have to put lead tape on the putter to get a little more weight to it. I could just leave it just the way it was. This is the same type.”  

For all of the talk about his putting woes this season, Woods still ranks 56th in strokes gained: putting. More crucial this week: He’s 102nd in approach putt performance, which quantifies how well a player lag putts.

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Woods: Open best chance for long-term major success

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 11:26 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods is more than a decade removed from his last major title, but he said Tuesday that The Open is the major that gives him the best chance for long-term success.

“I would say yes, because of the fact that you don’t have to be long to play on a links-style golf course,” Woods said during his pre-tournament news conference. “It certainly can be done.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Woods pointed to the late-career success for both Greg Norman (2008) and Tom Watson (2009), both of whom challenged for the claret jug deep into their 50s.

“Distance becomes a moot point on a links-style golf course,” he said.

That’s certainly not the case, however, at the Masters, where bombers long have thrived, or the U.S. Open, which places a premium on long and straight driving.

“You get to places like Augusta National, which is just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately,” he said. “But links-style courses, you can roll the ball. I hit a 3-iron that went down there 330. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”

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"Vantage Point with Mike Tirico" set to debut Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 17, 2018, 10:15 am

Special Hour Complementing the Network’s Week-Long Golf Central Live From The Open News Coverage; Premiere Scheduled to Include Interview with 2014 Open Runner-Up Rickie Fowler On-Site from Carnoustie

Features Include Tirico and Curtis Strange Re-watching ’99 Open at Carnoustie & Jim “Bones” Mackay Facilitating Exclusive Conversation with Caddies Michael Greller, John Wood Recounting Final Round Pairing at 2017 Open

To help set the table ahead of The 147TH Open at Carnoustie, Golf Channel will premiere Vantage Point with Mike Tirico on Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET. An extension of the network’s week-long Golf Central Live From The Open comprehensive news coverage, Vantage Point will revisit landmark moments in The Open’s history, uncover personal stories relevant to the fabric of the week and feature a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year” on golf’s original championship.

“It’s a thrill to be going back to The Open again this year, which is a fitting setting to launch this new opportunity,” said Tirico, NBC Sports host who this week will celebrate his 22nd consecutive year covering The Open. “I love being a part of the Golf Channel team during golf’s biggest weeks, and anticipate contributing to our commitment to great storytelling with Vantage Point.”

Kicking off the premiere of Vantage Point will be Tirico’s exclusive interview with 2014 Open runner-up and 2015 PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler on-site from Carnoustie. One of Fowler’s favorite events, he has missed just one cut in eight previous appearances at The Open. Other highlights within the show include:

  • Jim “Bones” Mackay facilitating an exclusive conversation between caddies Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth) and John Wood (Matt Kuchar) recounting the final round pairing at The Open last July.
  • Tirico hosting a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year”: David Duval, Tom Lehman and Justin Leonard.
  • A recollection of one of the most unforgettable collapses in major championship golf, when Jean van de Velde surrendered a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole in 1999 at The Open. Tirico and Curtis Strange – both on the live tournament broadcast that year for ABC/ESPN – recently re-watched the telecast together for the first time since calling it live.

 

“This is harder to watch than I thought it was going to be. I’ve never seen anything like

that in my life. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that again.” – Curtis Strange

 

“I think I got caught up in the whole deal and felt human for the guy.” – Mike Tirico

 

Vantage Point with Mike Tirico will complement the network’s Golf Central Live From The Open, which will feature nearly 60 hours of comprehensive news coverage from Carnoustie. In total, NBC Sports will dedicate more than 350 hours to showcasing the third men’s major championship of the year, including nearly 50 live hours of the network’s Emmy-nominated tournament coverage – annually the most live hours of coverage from any golf event – spanning from Thursday’s opening tee shot to Sunday’s final putt.