Thinking Out Loud at The Open Championship

July 19th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

openjugFor awhile there I thought we had a battle of The Young Guns brewing. It turned into an exhibition of The One Gun. Rory was magnificent.

Dustin Johnson was true to his major championship form again today. But instead of one big blow up hole he spread it over three straight birdies to take him out of the mix.  darren clarke 14 open

Rory’s buddy Darren Clarke shoots low round of the day with Jordan Spieth both with a five under 67. See what losing fifty pounds can do for a golfer.

The Open Championship has succumbed to technology. Cell phones have been there for awhile but now they have those digital scoreboards all around the course. It’s a great move. Maybe the USGA will take notice.

I, like many were disappointed by the two tee start. It was the first time ever at the Open and the right thing to do. Safety of the fans and the golfers had to be considered. And an additional benefit is I can get on the course a few hours earlier.

The line of the day. Judy Rankin calling notoriously slow Jim Furyk’s putt, “He wasted little time with this one.” Curtis Strange shot back, “That’ so unlike Jim Furyk.”

rickie fowler 14 openIs Royal Liverpool near Sherwood Forest? I thought I saw Robin Hood out there…or was that Rickie Fowler.

Fowler will be in the final group of a major for the second straight time. Tied for second at Pinehurst and tied for fifth at Augusta. Butch Harmon is the god of swing coaches.

One side effect of the early start is that I couldn’t get my Guinness on so early. Oh well, I’ll make up for it later.

With no wind at Liverpool the old girl has been defenseless, except for those “vacuum cleaner bunkers.” Vacuum cleaner because they seem to just suck the ball right in.

Someone at ESPN or the BBC or Skysports, whoever was calling the shots deserves some credit for actually not showing Tiger Woods all morning.

Tom Watson isn’t threatening for the lead but the 64 year old icon has amazed us by being around for the weekend. It’s not links golf or the Open without Watson. Maybe there’s still a bit of magic left in him for next year at St. Andrews.

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Rory McIlroy & The Big Tease

July 19th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

openjugRory McIlroy is a big tease. He played with us and Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia and everyone else who teed it up or watched The Open Championship from their couch.

Rory started with a four stroke lead and the chatter was that it will be another run away win for the young man from Northern Ireland. He was going to streak out to a bigger lead and get another step closer to his third major victory.

But a bogey at the first and a lackluster front nine of even par actually had Rory backing up to the field. Even though the weather was predicted to be mean Royal Liverpool’s lack of wind allowed the course to be taken once again today.

While Rory was treading water his competitors were making a charge at him. Fowler opened with four birds in six holes. Garcia shot a front nine of 32, three under par and started the back with three straight birdies. Victor Dubuisson had four birdies in five holes on the front nine.

When Rory followed his birdie at eleven with a bogey at twelve he had fallen into a tie for the lead with Fowler, the field was back in it and the game was on, but not for long.

As Rory failed to get any further into red numbers I began to wonder if we could actually call an even par round a meltdown. But Rory soon extinguished any need for that thought. rory open 14 3rd

It appeared that Rory needed some time to warm up because he started to put the heat on mid-way through the back nine. He sank a monster birdie putt at fourteen then eagled sixteen. During that run Fowler had stumbled with three bogeys in four holes and Garcia was stuck in neutral. And Rory, the big tease was easily back in the lead.

A hiccup of a bogey at the seventeenth still had him with a five stroke lead over Fowler but the best part of the Rory Show was yet to come. He killed a drive (340 yds) to the center of the par five eighteenth fairway and fired a laser of a five iron (237 yds) to the green leaving him a makeable eagle putt.

As calmly as we had seen him all day he stroked it dead center and he was in the house with a six shot lead. Two eagles in three holes with shots few professionals could make had our heads spinning at what just happened.

Needless to say I think Rory is over that equipment change and that breakup and that lawsuit and all the rest of the stuff that has been holding him back.

He was candid about what waits for him Sunday. “A lot to play for tomorrow. It’s a huge day for my career. I feel like I am up to the task.”

He knows what a win here would mean, “An awful lot at stake …first Open Championship. Three quarters of the way to the career Grand Slam. That would be nice going into Augusta next year.”

Yes, it would but he has one more round of links golf left. But I don’t think he’ll be teasing anyone tomorrow. This one is in the books.

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Dan Jenkins Stays Home, Eats BBQ, Breaks Streak

July 19th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

History is made at every major championship. This week at the Open Championship a bit of history came to an end. A streak that may never be broken ended as the dean of sportswriters, Dan Jenkins was absent from the Open Championship.

Jenkins had been to every Open Championship for the past 45 years. It started at the 1969 Open Championship and he had been to everyone since.

His string of consecutive majors ended at 179…that’s 179 majors! We are talking 45 years of majors! Will any writer, will anyone ever come close to that.

His streak of 179 came to an end at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst.  I happened to be in the Media Center at Pinehurst when Jenkins was spending some time with the USGA’s video crew. I snapped this shot of him as they got ready. 

Mike O’Malley pays tribute to his friend and gives us the facts on Jenkins’s record. 

The apple didn’t fall far from the Jenkins Tree. Here is a column from the Washington Post by his sportswriter daughter, Sally Jenkins.  

The British Open is better in Texas because you can watch it with barbecue. This is how my father has consoled himself while missing his first golf major championship in 45 years. jenkinsIt seems his doctor felt the bracing air of northwest England might not be good for him, but the medical community said nothing about smokehouse ribs. The fact that Dan Jenkins, 84, stayed home from the British constitutes not just a concession, but some kind of historical event, because the last time he was absent from a major the club heads were made of persimmon, and not every Tour wife was a blonde.

Forty-five straight British Opens is a lot of trips to the firths and forths, a lot of gorse and whin under the quaint old footbridges. My father had covered the past 179 majors consecutively for either Golf Digest or Sports Illustrated, and overall he has witnessed 222 majors (counting one he saw as a kid in 1941), a feat that helped put him in the World Golf Hall of Fame.   

So you can see how he might be a little sentimental about breaking his streak, and skipping a tournament that has always been equal part pleasure and discomfort. “I’ll be tweeting Hoylake from Fort Worth, where we have reliable plumbing, bath towels bigger than a wash cloth, and food I can identify,” he told his more than 41,000 followers on Twitter.
Instead we’re doing our best to simulate the experience of golf on the links of Hoylake inside the family home. On Thursday morning we rose at 3 a.m. central time to watch the telecast from overseas. I staggered into the living room, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, to find him sitting upright in a chair, wearing a heavy windbreaker and black cashmere Ben Hogan golf cap. My brother explained, “It’s his game face. Like the guy who wears the Eagles jersey in front of the TV.” 

It’s a bit sad to see such an amazing run come to an end. There are few men with the wit of Jenkins and even fewer that could stay at the top of their game for so long.

Click here for Sally’s full column it’s a must read. 

Click here for The Ancient Twitterer’s Twitter feed and get ready to laugh like hell. He is absolutely hysterical.

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The Open Championship & Ian McShane: “Jackets”

July 18th, 2014 No comments

It’s Déjà vu All Over Again at The Open Championship

July 18th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Rory McIlroy’s back to back 66’s have given him a four stroke lead over Dustin Johnson at The Open Championship and positioned him well in his chase for his third major championship. If you think you have seen this act before you’re right.  rory

At Congressional in 2011 Rory had a six stroke lead at the end of the third round. He went on to win his first major championship by eight strokes.

At the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island Rory won by eight strokes again. But he didn’t take the lead until the end of the third round. He lead by three then went out Sunday and shot 66, that number again, and won by eight shots again.

There was talk of dominance and a new challenger to Jack Nicklaus’ record of eighteen majors. But Rory’s major chase has been sidetracked by a few things: equipment change, celebrity, management changes, lawsuits and s very public love life ended by a very public break up. But Rory says he’s more at ease on the golf course than anywhere else now. The first two days at Hoylake have been Exhibit A to prove that.

But it is not like Rory hasn’t had issues with holding a lead. At The 2011 Masters he had the lead after each of the first three rounds and went into Sunday with a four stroke lead. He imploded and struggled to a shocking 80. But bounced right back to win two months later at Congressional.

We don’t have to look too far back to see another similar situation. At Pinehurst at the U.S. Open just one month ago Martin Kaymer pulled his own version of hide and seek.

Kaymer toasted the field with consecutive 65’s over the first two rounds and had a six shot lead. He went on to win by eight shots, Rory’s lucky number, in a run away. But as Kaymer was working his magic over the brown turf of Pinehurst No.2 there were cries of how boring a tournament it was.

As if watching this brilliant golfer make shots no one else could wasn’t enough. “Drama, we need drama” was what the public screamed for. Even Johnny Miller remarked what a great tournament it would have been if Kaymer hadn’t showed up. I thought it was shameful.

But I don’t think there will be any cries for more drama if Rory goes on to lap this field. We’ll probably here how he’s back on Jack’s trail and how he’s the best golfer in the world.
I think the difference here is that McIlroy has lived a life in the media both on and off the course and Kaymer has not.

Rory is one of the most recognized golfers in the world and has lived his life embracing all the new media. We all know so much about Rory.

Martin on the other hand doesn’t Twitter or Instagram or live his life in front of anyone but himself. He did no “world tour” after his Open win. He chooses to live a quiet life in Germany, watch soccer and eat barbeque.

I am not saying either is better than the other. What I am saying that if Rory wins in a runaway it will be hailed as a great tournament. Where Martin’s win was simply called boring.

If Rory does withstand the pressure, the challengers and the weather to win by his lucky eight strokes again, no one will call it boring. It’s a shame that most couldn’t have seen the greatness in Martins’ win.

 

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Winners & Losers at The Open Championship

July 18th, 2014 1 comment

by Jeff Skinner

Winners:

Rory McIlroy looks to be over his Freaky Friday issues. He’s threatening to run away and hide like he did at his U.S. Open and PGA victories. Back to back 66’s and a four stroke lead puts young Rory in great position for his third major and at the same time has those naysayers eating their words.

Italy: The Molinari Brothers and Matteo Manessero for awhile had plenty of Italian flags on the top of the leaderboard.Open-Championship-Flags

Dustin Johnson’s seven under 65 has put him where many have thought he should be, on the brink of winning his first major. He needs help from Rory.

Sergio Garcia continues to be one amazing striker of the golf ball. And he is in great shape but we have seen this picture before.

Rickie Fowler has had good success in the majors this year and the Open is no different. Butch Harmon’s work is paying off.

South Africa: Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and George Coetzee all in contention. Gary Player just did 1,000 sit-ups in their honor.

Royal Liverpool or Hoylake, whatever you call it has come out looking great so far. And Liverpool looks awesome too.

Peter Alliss gets better each time I hear him. He’s the wittiest to them all. And his Twitter feed tops anything he says over the air. Check it out.

Losers:

It’s difficult when your championship is over after one swing. And that is what happened to Ernie Els. He never recovered from hitting a spectator with his opening drive and it cost him the hole, the round and any chance at the championship.

Tiger Woods: For mere mortals making the cut barely three months after back surgery would be miraculous. For Woods it is unacceptable. No matter what he says his game isn’t there yet. How could it be?

Phil Mickelson: Phil’s rosy assessment of his game is borderline delusional. He says he is hitting it well and he may be, but the results are just not there, especially with the putter.

Lee Westwood is 41 and still looking for that first major. The former world number one will have to live with being the Colin Montgomerie of his generation.

The amateur Ashley Chesters didn’t make the cut but that is the best name of the championship. That’s the classiest “stripper name” I ever heard.

Miguel Angel Jimenez won’t earn any Ryder Cup points with a missed cut. He’ll just have to count on the fact that he’s still the coolest guy in the game.

At least we have one Watson playing the weekend and it’s not Bubba. 64 year old Tom Watson out played Bubba by two shots and will makes two more trips around Hoylake. This is what experience, patience and focus…along with a lot of skill can do for you. Bubba needs to learn that.

Not a loser at all: 

John Singleton, the now famous factory worker and my longshot to make the cut just missed the weekend by two shots. He had a very respectable 70 today and birdied three of his last four to end his fairytale on a positive note. He may be disappointed but this week has been a dream come true for him. Maybe he’ll walk away with some sponsors after all this attention.

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The Good, Bad & Ugly at the Open Championship

July 17th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Good things at day one of the Open Championship:

Rory McIlroy’s bogey free 66 was as good as it can get on Thursday. Now comes Freaky Friday. This will be Rory’s toughest mental test.

Tom Watson shows that links golf will always be his golf. The 64 year old shoots one over, 73. That’s great stuff.

Jim Furyk’s four under 68 has him in great position to continue the sting of forty-something winners at the Open. Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson showed that experience can pay off at The Open. Furyk is hoping it’s his time.

Sergio Garcia is once again in the mix at a major. He has some high finishes at The Open but his worst enemy is that space between his ears. Open-Championship-Flags

The Molinari Brothers, no that’s not a circus act, its Edoardo and Francesco playing the links in matching 68’s today. That would be something if they can keep it up and get a chance to be paired together.

There is plenty of youth on that leaderboard. Rory, 25 of course, but Matteo Manassero playing in his fourth Open is 21 and sits in second. Brooks Koepka (T3) is 24 and Rickie Fowler (T3) is 25.

How about Ashley Chesters, the amateur who shot two under, 70 and is T19. Steve Elling had the Tweet of the day “Amazingly, amateur Ashley Chesters is the lone English player under par. Sounds like a name from an LA escort service.”

Tiger Woods played very well after a poor start had him looking like the Tiger of old.  Not the circa 2000 Tiger but 2013 Tiger where he wins but still sprays the ball.

The weather ay Royal Liverpool looked more like the tropics than England. I bet there are some heavy duty cases of sunburn tonight.

Bad things at day one of the Open Championship:

Bubba Watson once again shows that he can lose focus at anytime. He looked distracted and annoyed and links golf hasn’t sunk in to that hard head of his yet. He still has some maturing to do. His game is too good to be sidetracked by mental mistakes.

Phil Mickelson’s 74 wasn’t pretty but it could have been much worse. But Phil has some heavy duty rose colored glasses on. He says he never has it better. And he thinks he was putting well. I must have been watching another Open I guess. 32 putts Phil…32 putts!

My longshot pick John Singleton was a bit of both good and bad today. He had a solid front nine of 36 but felt the pressure of the moment and ballooned to 42 on the back. He said he loved the entire day but I need him to right the ship so he can make the cut and be the only factory worker playing the weekend at the Open.

Ugly things at day one of the Open Championship:

Poor Ernie Els and the poor bloke that took his opening tee ball in the jaw. Ernie was shaken up after seeing the man being tended to and went on to take a seven on the first hole. He three putted from two feet and missed a backhanded tap in. The injured man was admitted to the hospital and was expected to be released after treatment.   That one hole may have cost Ernie any shot at another Claret Jug.

 

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Adam Scott Shines In the Afternoon Sun at Hoylake

July 17th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

Open-Championship-FlagsThey say the wind never really came up this afternoon at the Open Championship but it’s hard to tell from the leaderboard.

The breeze at Hoylake was less than normal but world number one Adam Scott was the only afternoon starter to put together a significant round. His four under 68 has him tied for third with five other players, all who had the advantage of the morning start.

Rory McIlroy’s 66 survived the weak attempt by the afternoon flight and he leads by one over Matteo Manassero. Brooks Koepka, The Brothers Molinari, Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia are the players tied with Scott at -4.
A slew of players sit three off the lead including Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.

Scott was the only player to give us any real excitement in the afternoon out of the two premier groupings.

The marquee grouping of Phil Mickelson (+2), Bubba Watson (+4) and Ernie Els (+7) were a combined 13 over par, hardly entertaining to watch.

The group got off to a tough start when Ernie hit a spectator off the first tee and had to deal with the sight of the poor lad being tended to with a bleeding jaw injury. He looked shaken as he three putted from three feet including a missed backhanded one footer. He took a triple bogey seven and was never on track.

Bubba was flummoxed by the severe bunkers at Hoylake and lost his focus on numerous occasions resulting in him missing short putts also.

Phil the Thrill was only thrilling when he needed to recover from one of his wayward shots. He only hit half the fairways but was able to hit 13 of 18 greens. And even though he insisted afterwards he played and putted well he still missed two very short, very makeable putts that could have certainly put him in better position.

He saved his biggest thrill for the final hole when he pulled his second shot into the par five out of bounds. After walking up to his ball he was astounded to see it had gone through the boundary and the double fence. Clearly upset he faced the lonely walk back to his previous spot to hit his fourth shot. Luckily a rules official gave Phil a lift and saved him some time and embarrassment.

Phil then sliced it left of the green into the knee deep fescue. But then Phil the Thrill turned it on with a towering wedge to about 20 feet. Then Phil, being Phil sunk the unlikely putt to salvage a bogey six. It wasn’t his best hole but it may have given him some juice going into tomorrow.

The other afternoon marquee group included Scott whose masterful 68 was the best of the afternoon, Justin Rose and Jason Dufner.

Dufner played his round hardly showing one once of emotion and tee to green he was a master. He hit 12 of the 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens. He carded three birdies to a lone bogey at the last and if his putter was working he would have threatened McIlroy.

Justin Rose may be running on fumes this week. After an exciting win at The Scottish Open it is difficult to keep the pedal to the metal. But still an even round of 72 is nothing to discount. He’ll be out early tomorrow and if the weather moves in as predicted he’ll have the advantage there.

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Rory Leads with Tiger Close at The Open Championship

July 17th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

openjugIf the morning flight at The Open Championship is any indication we are in for one heck of a tournament.

Clear skies, warm temperatures and a lack of wind made the Royal Liverpool course so very gettable this morning. And excuse the grammar, but it was got.

So far there are 34 rounds in the house at par or better and another dozen ready to close out under par.

The big names did their share to add so much excitement to the opening day. Rory McIlroy sizzled with a six under 66 to hold the lead as of now and Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk are two back at -4.

To many the biggest story of the day was Tiger Woods carding a three under 69 in his return to majors championship after an 11month hiatus. Woods started off horribly by going bogey, bogey but battled back with a 33, four under par on the back nine.

He is currently tied for eighth with Rickie Fowler among others.

Hoylake wasn’t easy for everyone as Woods’ playing partner Angel Cabrera struggled to a four over 76 and Patrick Reed blew up with a six over 78 which included a painful triple bogey eight on the eighteenth.

rory 14 open

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The Open Championship: Great Stuff from Liverpool

July 17th, 2014 No comments

by Jeff Skinner

openjugIt is finally time for the Open Championship to start and if you are reading this you are probably missing some of the Open telecast on ESPN. It starts at 4:00am EST and there is even more coverage on the The Open.com. 

But television coverage isn’t the only way to stay connected to the Open. It’s the printed word (internet included)  that goes so much deeper than the TV coverage and there are no commercials! Here are some great links to some of the best coverage of The Open Championship.

Geoff Shackelford shares some pictures of Liverpool, the course and the city. He also ran into a few “buddies” of his as he made his way around town to put some cash down on his favorite golfers.

My enthusiasm spilled into the local economy when I ran into my old friend Paddy Power (not the Irish televangelist) who offered to reimburse me seven places deep into the top 10, cajoling each/way bets out of me on Mickelson (25-1), McDowell (28-1) and the house special, Martin Kaymer at 28-1. Yes, that fellow who won the U.S. Open. While I was catching up with Paddy, minor wagers were also placed on Mikko Ilonen, Jimmy Walker, someone named K. Brosberg (2nd Scottish Open, 150-1) and at 250-1, a sympathy bet for Paddy’s countryman, Darren Clarke. 

Martin Dempster in The Scotsman tell us that plotting not power is the key to taming Hoylake.  

It is, indeed, a different-looking golf course from 2006, though, just as Woods did on that occasion, the winner this week will more likely have plotted his way around rather than overpowering the Hoylake course. “I don’t walk on to this golf course and kind of sigh and say, ‘Here we go again, this is a 330-yard hitters paradise’,” said 2010 US Open champion Graeme¬ McDowell, a self-confessed “short knocker” compared to the game’s legions of big-hitters. 

“It’s not that type of course; it’s a placement course,” he added. “Look at the way Tiger won here in 2006. He can dominate with length, but he didn’t have to. This golf course doesn’t ask that question. It asks you to play a game of chess more than ¬anything.” 

Jim White in The Telegraph has us and the town on a “George Clooney” watch.

The last time Britain’s leading golf tournament was staged here, Hollywood’s most celebrated heart throb sent the pulses of local ladies of a certain age racing when he was seen out and about in town, after a day spent observing on the links.  

Clooney went for a pint in the Ship, an event which landlord Owen Hird has immortalised in a miniature golf leaderboard he has stationed behind the bar.  

I think I have found Shackelford’s counterpart from across the pond. James Corrigan writes just like Shackelford, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. Here’s his take as to why the Open is the best sporting event in Britain…and more. 

You will see this week what makes the Open Championship not only Britain’s best sporting event for individuals, but the world’s best sporting event for individuals. You will also see why it is the most democratic.  

That’s right, ‘democratic’, not a word normally associated with professional golf and certainly not with the clichéd view of British golf as being elitist, sexist, racist… (add in your own ‘ist’ here). But cut through all that lazy stereotyping, through all that faux outrage and understand what makes the Open unique.  

Here is Dempster’s take on Bradley Neil the British Amateur Champ who passed up his drivers’ license test to play at The Open.  

He was scheduled to sit his driving test yesterday. Instead, he was standing on the putting green in front of the Royal Aberdeen clubhouse being grilled by some Scottish scribes. “The highlight of my day,” he quipped. 

And here is a piece by Edward Malnack in The Telegraph on the most famous factory worker in Liverpool.   John Singleton works a regular job by day but in his heart he’s a professional golfer. The Open is his big chance and he’s also my longshot pick to make the cut this week.

On Wednesday evening John Singleton’s colleagues at his factory workplace in the Wirral were producing gallons of specialised varnish for the electrical industry.   But on Thursday morning many will be following him around the 18 holes of the prestigious Royal Liverpool golf club in Hoylake as he fulfils his lifetime ambition.

Mr. Singleton, whose day job is mixing chemicals and driving a forklift, will tee off in The Open, alongside some of the sport’s greatest professional players, among them Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

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