Woods regains form in opening 66 at The Greenbrier

By Will GrayJuly 2, 2015, 8:32 pm

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – The look on his face was familiar. So, too, was the saunter from fairway to green, and the cheers that echoed across the misty expanse of The Greenbrier Classic.

Tiger Woods was in control of his golf ball – at least for one day.

Woods seemed to expend very little effort during his 4-under 66 on the Old White TPC, a stark contrast to his last three starts that have seen him either sweating cut lines or rocketing toward the bottom of the standings.

There he stood, splitting fairways with his driver and sending approach after approach on a rope toward the pin. As putts began to drop, the sentiment among the ever-growing gallery seemed to vacillate between “Who is this guy?” and “Where has he been hiding all these months?”

When Woods announced his trip to the Mountain State earlier this year, he likely didn’t anticipate the pivotal role the event now plays in his season. This was supposed to be the bonus start, a rare trek to a relatively unfamiliar venue to pile up the competitive reps that eluded him last year.

But following his startling 85 at the Memorial and subsequent bottoming out at the U.S. Open, this tournament became a life raft floating in an expanse of dark ocean. Here was a chance for Woods to lick his wounds, to rack up a few birdies and conjure some much-needed confidence before heading to St. Andrews.

Highlights from Woods' opening-round 66

With his lowest round in more than a year, Woods certainly took a step in the right direction.

Granted, one round at The Greenbrier does not absolve a season’s worth of blunders for Woods. Not even a 66, not after weeks and weeks of frustration, disappointment and rationalization.

But the game that has so humbled him during the first half of the year once again appeared easy. The smooth swing and consistent results that he showed in Wednesday’s pro-am finally showed up when the scores started to count.

This was a seismic shift from his most recent displays, even if Woods insists the product was never as troubling as the results.

“I knew I made that pattern shift at Memorial, and I wasn’t that far off, even though my scores don’t indicate it,” Woods said. “My swings don’t indicate it, but my feels were telling me that I wasn’t that far off. I was proving it to myself time and time again away from a tournament site and on the range, but my feel in my hands and body weren’t far off. It was just a matter of just getting into a little bit of a rhythm and the flow of it, and I found that.”

Buzzwords aside, the value of Woods’ opener was clear.

This was his lowest round since the 2014 WGC-Cadillac Championship, and his lowest opening round since the 2013 BMW Championship. His seven birdies were only one fewer than he compiled across 36 holes here in 2012, when he showed up at The Greenbrier with his game in much better shape but still missed the cut.

Woods found 15 of 18 greens in regulation, and his closing birdie brought him to 4 under – a cumulative score he hadn’t seen in competition since leaving Augusta National in April.

Woods played the opening round alongside friend Steve Stricker and David Lingmerth, who knows a little bit about breaking out of a slump at a moment’s notice. Lingmerth missed four of five cuts before his breakthrough win at the Memorial last month, and the Swede wasn’t shocked to see Woods’ sudden return to form.

“It wasn’t a surprise. He’s Tiger Woods,” Lingmerth said. “Tiger has been through some struggles, but he can turn it around on any given week.”

There were, of course, some costly miscues. Woods blocked his drive into a hazard on No. 17, then made what he described as a “stupid” double bogey on No. 6 following a series of short game errors.

It was following that hole, after he pushed a 3-wood on No. 7 for his third straight missed fairway, that there was a moment to consider if the round could still unravel. That a morning’s worth of progress might be wiped out by a flurry of miscues just before the closing bell.

Rather than let the round turn into a mountain of what-ifs, Woods steeled his nerves and got things back on track with his very next swing.

“I was telling (caddie) Joey (LaCava) that I felt like I was playing so well,” Woods said. “I’m not going to lose this round. I’m playing too well to let it go awry. I’m hitting the ball too well, I’m putting too well.”

And just like that, Woods seemingly began to will his ball into position as he has done so many times before. An expertly-carved approach from the rough on No. 7 barely trickled over a ridge bisecting the green and gently rolled to within 3 feet of the hole.

His birdie putt on No. 8 hung on the lip for an instant, just long enough for Woods to add a little body English and an extra fist pump when it curled in and finally dropped. His final putt on No. 9 was never in doubt, but it did supply Woods with what has lately been a rare commodity – momentum.

“Felt like if we could get it back to 3 (under) would be great,” he said. “I happened to pull off a hat trick coming in.”

Whether this sparks a turnaround or simply gets washed away in a sea of patterns, shifts and feels remains to be seen. But at least for one morning in between the mountains, Tiger Woods started to play like Tiger Woods again.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.