PGA Championship Kiawah Island

Island in the sun

Carl Petterson/Kinnaird/Getty Images

Carl Pettersson leads the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island with -6 under par round of 66. Carl  has a one shot advantage over a group of four  players who are at  -5 under par, Gary Woodland, Gonzalo Fernandez-Costano, Alex Noren and one of the favorites for the title this week,  Rory McIlroy.

Carl was determined to take advantage of the good conditions, before the wind got up;

“There really wasn’t much wind on the front nine, so I knew I had to keep going low because I figured the wind would get up. The wind started blowing a little bit on the back nine, and I carried on solid play. So it was a great day for me.”

There is a large group on -4 under par, these include Major winner John Daly, who has found some form of late, and Adam Scott, who had a great chance to win The Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes. Tiger Woods is another shot further back, and in a good position after the first round.

John Daly said he played freely;

“To just free wheel it is the only way I can get my confidence back instead of worrying about bad breaks and worrying about this and worrying about what somebody else is doing. I only need to worry about what I’m doing and go out and attack and play golf and enjoy it.” 

Tiger was really happy with his start to the tournament;

“Anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship, and I’m right there.”

Adam Scott was also very pleased with his opening effort;

“So far, so good. It would be great to put two more rounds together and be coming here Sunday with a good look at the championship. If I don’t, then I’ll really feel like I’ve let it all slip this year for me. So I’d love to use this opportunity while I’m playing well to get in there and have a sniff on Sunday.”

Phil Mickelson shot a 71 to be at -1 under par, after spending most of the day scrambling from all over the course, he said;

“I fought hard today and I kept myself right in it for the most part and should get a bit of a weather break tomorrow morning. It actually felt a little bit closer than it has in a long time. I felt good on the green. My touch was back. I started hitting some shots at some pins.”

Among those who will be struggling to make the cut, currently projected at +2,  are World number one Luke Donald, and Rickie Fowler  who both  had a miserable day at +2 over par for the first round. Luke making his customary slow start to a tournament this year. Surprisingly Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open Champion is already out of the hunt, shooting a +7 over par round. Lee Westwood is another who is unlikely to make to cut this time around.

I still can not believe that the USGA have ordained that the bunkers are not hazards for this tournament. It is really strange to watch a player in a green-side bunker taking practice swings in the sand to get the feel of how the ball will come out, madness.

R&A upset over Carlos Tevez as Caddy, not too bothered about long putters.

Carlos Tevez, the renegade Manchester City striker made an unscheduled appearance on Sunday at Royal Lytham as caddy to fellow Argentinian Andres Romero. The move did not help Andres too much, he finished with a last round of  82, which left him at the bottom of the leaderboard of those players who made the cut and contested the final rounds. Looking at the picture he does not appear to be too upset at falling apart on the golf course.

Carlos Tevez (L) acted as caddie for Andres Romero (R) during the final round of The Open at Lytham

Carlos Tevez and Andres Romero/Sky

 Royal and Ancient committee chairman Jim McArthur was incensed;

” He never put the bag down, even when he was standing on the green, it’s just absolute madness. I think we need to look at this particular case. We normally get a list of caddies at the start of the week.”

This apparently is what is most important to him, not the long putter debate. Luckily for the genuine golf fan the R&A chief executive Peter Dawson managed to put a positive spin onto the strange but golfwise harmless occurrence;

“It was pretty interesting. I thought, because of the big crowd following the group, that golf fans and football fans may overlap a little more than I had realised. It’s not a bad thing, perhaps.”

Lets all hope that Peter Dawson’s clear thinking will prevail when they finally get around to debating the anchoring issue. As I reported yesterday even Ernie Els knows anchoring is cheating, he said before he swapped to the belly putter;

“It’s become such an easy way to putt. Nerves and skill in putting is part of the game. Take a tablet if you can’t handle it.”

And then after he had switched;

“As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”

The question is, do YOU believe anchoring is cheating, or is it now just part of the game ? What do you think?

R&A going to call time on Anchoring

R&A

Ernie Els/ The Open Champion 2012/ Getty Images

The dust had hardly settled over the Royal Lytham & St Annes course, scene of  The Open 2012 and Ernie Els anchoring assisted win on Monday when Peter Dawson of the R&A issued a statement about how soon they would be addressing the problem;

“This decision has not been taken, but I think we are going to say something in a few months rather than years. Anchoring is what we’re looking at, method of stroke, and it’s all about putting around a fixed pivot point, whether that fixed pivot point is in your belly or under your chin or on your chest, I don’t distinguish.”

Mr Dawson said that data shows 14-15 percent of the field regularly use a longer putter, and at the Open Championship, that number increased to 27.5 percent. Any future ruling would not invalidate the wins of  The Open champion Ernie Els, PGA champion Keegan Bradley and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, officially or unofficially.

“It doesn’t detract in any way from the winner as long as he obeys the rules of play at the time. Bobby Jones used concave-faced clubs for some of his major championships and they were outlawed later.”

 USGA executive director Mike Davis remains focused on a decision that is best for the entire sport;

“Together with the R&A, we remain deliberate in our review, and are keen on getting any decision right for the long-term, for the game and for all golfers, rather than rush to judgment.”

Strange fact, is what Ernie Els said after Trevor Immelman had won the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open Tournament Players Championship of Europe, using a belly putter;

“It’s become such an easy way to putt. Nerves and skill in putting is part of the game. Take a tablet if you can’t handle it.”

After switching to the belly putter, his demeanor had changed to if you can’t beat them, join them;

“As long as it’s legal, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.”

I guess The Big Easy found out the hard way, there is no tablet to help you win at golf.

What do you think, is anchoring “cheating? “

The Open, Ernie Els wins at Windy Royal Lytham

 

Ernie Els/ AFP/Getty Images

Ernie Els won the The Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes in windy conditions on Sunday. Ernie shot a last round -2 under par for a tournament total of -7 under par, and a one stroke victory over Adam Scott. Ernie was on the putting green when told of his win;

“I’m a little numb at the moment. First of all, I feel for Adam Scott. He’s a great friend of mind. Obviously, we both wanted to win very badly. But you know, that’s the nature of the beast. That’s why we’re out here. You win, you lose. It was my time for some reason.”

Adam Scott completely collapsed on the inward nine, from a commanding position he somehow managed to bogey the last four holes to end his championship hopes with a last round of +5 over par, 75, and a total of -6 under par. Peter Alliss, the TV commentator remarked after Adam had missed the last putt just to tie and head towards a play-off, ” He will be scarred for life.”  With the experience of Steve Williams on the bag you have to ask the question, why did Adam not play some irons off the tee, just to avoid those hungry bunkers.

Adam simply said;

“I’m pretty disappointed,I had it in my hands with four to go, I managed to hit a poor shot on each of the closing four holes. Look, I played so beautifully for most of the week. I shouldn’t let this bring me down. Surprisingly I was incredibly calm and I still am. I thought I could roll that last putt in, but I didn’t and that’s golf.”

Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker finished tied for third place at -3 under par, with World number one Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell tied in fifth at -2 under par. Luke had another slow start to a tournament, something he needs to address for the future.

It is no coincidence that on a windy day the two main contenders were guys who employ anchoring in their putting stroke, and this is another Major title going to the long putter brigade. The pressure is growing for the authorities to address the problem of anchoring. It was proved today that anchoring is definitely an advantage in these windy conditions, stabilizing the player as he leans against the putter while addressing the ball.

The Open, third round, Great Scott

williams650

Adam Scott & Steve Williams/ photo AP

Adam Scott has taken control of  The Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes with a third round of -2 under par, 68, to lead the championship at -11 under par and by four strokes going into Sunday’s final round. What a great coup it would be for his caddie, Steve Williams, who was unceremoniously sacked by Tiger Woods, and strangely Tiger has not been the same player since then. Adam was pretty satisfied with his solid day’s play;

“It was all pretty solid stuff, considering the circumstances and how much trouble there is on this golf course. A four-shot lead doesn’t seem to be very much this year on any golf tournament that I’ve watched, that doesn’t mean a lot. The good part is if I play a solid round of golf tomorrow, it will be very hard for the others to beat me, and that’s all I’m thinking about.”

Brandt Snedeker, who lead at the start of play simply imploded, but managed to hang on tied for second at -7 under par, having suffered a +3 over par round, he said of his day;

“It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to find out if you have some guts or don’t. I could have packed up and gone home today, but I didn’t.”

Graeme McDowell is tied with Brandt in second place, at -7 under par , four shots adrift of Adam Scott. Graeme is hoping the conditions  will change and make Adam work for his expected win;

“It will be in Adam’s hands tomorrow if the conditions are as straightforward as they have been the last few days. Throw a bit of wind across this course like perhaps they are forecasting, he will have to go and work a lot harder and he will have to go win it. I kind of felt the tournament perhaps slipping away from me a little bit and really had to dig deep for some patience. From about the 14th tee onwards, it’s probably about as good as I’ve swung the club all week.”

One shot further back on -6 under par is Tiger Woods, who could only muster a par round today and from five shots back thinks his best chance is for Scott to struggle with his nerves while going for his first major.

“He’s been out here a long time, and he’s won a Players Championship. I don’t think he’s really done probably as well as he’d like to in Major championships. But I think that he’s maturing in his game, and I think over the last year or so he’s really improved his game.”

There is only two other players who might have an outside chance in this championship, and they are; Ernie Els, who played well in the third round, with a -2 under par on the day and a total of -5 under par,and six shots back. Joining him on that total is Zach Johnson who fired a -4 under par third round.

I am sure that everyone who is chasing Adam is aware that he  is the fourth Australian to have a 54-hole lead in a Major, and none of the other three, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley or Greg Norman, left with the trophy under those circumstances.

Luke Donald, world number one, and Lee Westwood ranked at three in the world, have performed very poorly at Royal Lytham & St Annes, and will have to wait until the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island for their next chance to achieve Major glory.

World number two Rory McIlroy stumbled again in the third round and is now way behind at +5 over par for the tournament.

The Open, Snedeker in 36 hole Open Championship history

Snedeker enters record books with brilliant 64

Brandt Snedeker (Getty Images)

Brandt Snedeker claimed his place in The Open Championship history and in the process set a commanding clubhouse target at Royal Lytham & St Annes. Brandt shot a second round -6 under par 64, for a total of -10 under par. He leads by one shot from Adam Scott who had a -3 under par 67 on Friday, and is comfortably placed at -9 under par. Brandt now joins Sir Nick Faldo sharing the lowest 36 hole score of 130, Faldo also shot rounds of 66 and 64 at Muirfield in 1992.

Brandt said was only thinking of trying to keep a bogey off his card as he played the 18th, not about joining Nick Faldo in the record books.

” That was not even on my radar coming into Thursday morning, I was just hoping to make the cut. The golf course is playing more Americanised now, its soft with not a lot of wind, and I have a different mentality this time, I’m playing away from a lot of pins. I tried to just get the ball on the green all day, even if it was 100 feet away. When you’re putting the way I have been the first two days you want to get it on the green as fast as you can.”

Tiger Woods finished the day birdie,par,birdie, for a tournament total of -6 under par and four shots adrift of the lead, not an unsurrmountable mountain for him to climb, especially over two rounds.

Thorbojorn Olesen of Denmark is in fourth spot at -5 under par and Scotland’s Paul Lawrie is also still in contention, tied in fifth place at -4 under par.

Paul thinks he still may have chance, despite being six shots behind;

” What am I now, six shots at the moment? So you’re looking to claw a few of them back tomorrow and give yourself a chance. There’s 36 holes to go and obviously Brandt has played phenomenal golf to be ten under par, that is world-class to be fair.You’ve got to keep going and keep grinding away and keep doing what you’re doing. Hopefully you have a couple of under par scores over the weekend and you’re in there roughly with a chance.”

World number one Luke Donald, at -2 under par, still thinks he still has a chance;

“I’m certainly feeling more and more comfortable. It’s nice to string a couple of solid rounds together in a Major.Obviously where I am in my career I need to be contending and this was a good solid two rounds and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

Big names failing to make the cut include; Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel, Sergio Garcia, Stewart Cink, Darren Clarke, Martin Kaymer, Davis Love 111, Ben Curtis, and a very sad Phil Mickelson, who finished at +11 over par. You have to wonder if Phil’s career is over, he seems more interested in big business deals these days, time will tell.

The Open Championship, Royal Lytham & St Annes G.C.

 

Adam Scott/ getty images

Birthday boy Adam Scott lead The Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes G.C. by just one shot after the first round on Thursday. Adam celebrated his birthday a couple of days ago, receiving a strange present from his family, he said;

“I was given an interesting present from my family, a golf bag. A very nice golf bag, I have to say. And I will use it at home, if I carry my clubs. But, a golf bag ! “

Adam spoke about the possibility of shooting a 62, he actually finished at -6 under par for round of 64.

“I know there has never been a 62, I was waiting to use the bathroom, going to the 17th tee, and had a look up at the leaderboard. I realised then that it was a par 70, and also probably that I wasn’t going to be the guy to shoot 62. It’s one of those things that you don’t want to go through your mind, thinking about your final score.”

“I would say I haven’t achieved what I wanted until I win a major, or more. It’s something that at any time could help me, a guy with experience like Steve. We have talked about my mindset because I was playing well at the time of all the majors this year, then shooting myself in the foot in the first round. I was leaving myself too much work to get back in. Steve wanted me to go to the 1st tee today like it was the 72nd hole and I needed three to win, to switch myself on from the 1st hole. That was a good trigger he helped me with it.”

Paul Lawrie is tied in second place with a -5 under par round of 65, and that despite a poor start where he  chipped in twice and holed a putt from off the green within his first six holes, then topped of the round using only 23 putts. The 1999 Open champion said of his start;

“It was probably the strangest start of my career, I didn’t really hit many good shots and I was three under. I heard my name quite a lot today. Down in England, you can be a wee bit surprised at that, I guess. It’s nice; it’s The Open and everyone is here to support the British players. I have won a couple of tournaments when the weather has been particularly nasty, but I can play when it’s flat calm and play when it’s nasty. Nowadays the bad weather doesn’t just suit the British or Scottish players, all of these American boys can play in the wind, it doesn’t make any difference.”

Joining Paul on that -5 under score is American Zach Johnson and Nicolas Colsaerts from Belgium, Nicolas happily reported;

“It’s really cool, but then we’ve only played one round. So being in contention, that word wants to be used only when you get to Saturday and Sunday. I hit a lot of very good shots in succession early on, so it really got the momentum of the round going, and I just didn’t really hit any bad shots today. When you play that way, you go through the elements without thinking how hard they get.”

Most of the big name players are at par or better and should all make it to the weekend, those who are struggling include;

Ian Poulter and Davis Love 111, who are at +1; Sergio Garcia, John Daly, Louis Oosthuizen and Jim Furyk at +2. Lee Westwood +3 and Justin Rose +4.

Sadly the defending champion Darren Clarke definitely looks to be missing the cut, he said he was ” Disgusted” with his opening round of 76.

I have a soft spot for Darren, he and I share a liking for Irish Whiskey, although I can not afford 25-year-old Bushmills.

The Open, Rory McIlroy is confident of competing well at Royal Lytham.

World number two Rory McIlroy is confident he will be able to compete with the best at Royal Lytham and St Annes golf course, his practice rounds have gone well and he is buoyant after a tenth place finish at the Irish Open last time out.

Rory McIlroy  (Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy (Getty Images)

“Preparation has gone well. I played the course Thursday and Friday last week, got two really good looks at it. Went back out Monday and played 18 holes, so I’ve got a few good looks at the place and feel like I know what I’m doing out there now. I’m excited to get started. It will just be nice to get going on Thursday, because I feel like I’ve been waiting for it for almost a week now.
I feel like I’m hitting the ball great. I think it’s the best I’ve swung the club all year and I’ve done a lot of work on that. It’s a case of keeping the ball in play, keeping it out of the bunkers and out of the rough. Not only if I can do that, but if anyone can do that in this field, they’ve got a great chance.”

With precision from the tee going  to be a key factor, Rory acknowledges he may have to rein in his aggressive instincts at times to try and avoid the 206 bunkers on the course.

” The thing I like about this course is that it gives you a lot of definition. You have targets to hit at and you’ve got targets to work it off, and it’s one of the great things about this course. I think it’s just knowing the times when to be aggressive and when not to be. With the way the conditions are at the minute with the greens being slightly softer, there are more chances out there to be aggressive. You’re going to have to be very smart off the tees here and plot your way around, just to navigate your way through all these fairway bunkers. If you can do that and put your ball in the fairway, you do have chances to be aggressive going into some of the greens.”

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Rickie Fowler /Getty Images

Someone else from the younger group Rickie Fowler also likes playing on Links courses. Rickie was in a tie for 5th place at Royal St. George’s last year, which was one of only two top-five finishes for him in 2011. The year before, 2010, he finished in a tie for 14th spot at St. Andrews, this was despite shooting a 79 in his first-ever Open round. Rickie said on Wednesday;

” I love links golf, probably my favorite, I just like the amount of options you have while out playing a links golf course.”

Rickie is also spurred on by the fact that the last three Major’s have been won by Americans, young ones at that;

” It’s been a lot of fun to watch, but also just kind of a kick in the butt to get out and make me want it more. It is fun to watch them win and watch some of your good friends win, but at the same time you’d rather be there than them.”

Woods, Westwood and Donald, @ The Open

Tiger Woods /ROSS KINNAIRD/GETTY IMAGES

Tiger Woods has said he is not worried about any nagging thoughts he will never win another Major, or indeed being number one in the world again. He could accomplish both tasks this week with a win at The Open. He remarked about the many bunkers there are to contend with, knowing that it is almost impossible to get any distance out of them;

“At any links you’ve got to stay out of the bunkers, because you can’t get to the green, that’s just a fact. If you hit the ball in there, it’s going to go up against the face, because it goes in there with some steam, and you’re pitching it out sideways or sometimes even backwards. But the neat thing about the bunkers here is how they’re raised up so that you can see them and then shape the ball off of them. That’s different from, say, St. Andrews, where you can’t see a lot of bunkers. But here they’re raised up high enough where you can hit a fade or draw and use them as starting points for shots.”

He also thinks that the unusually soft conditions will not change too dramatically the unpredictability of links golf;

” The ball is not chasing as much, so, yes, this is different. It’s a slower golf course. Which is something we players are going to have adapt to. We’ll have to plot our way around. What will be interesting to see is which way the wind blows because it changes the whole golf course. I’ve played in two different winds in the three days I’ve been here. One day I hit driver, 7-iron to the 7th green, and the next day I hit driver, 3-wood and a wedge. So it can play lots of different ways. This is one of the more difficult courses in the Open rotation. As far as shot-making goes, it tests us a lot because we have to shape the ball both ways. It’s not like playing Troon where you have right-to-left wind all the way out, then left-to-right all the way home. Here you have a lot of different angles. Lytham really examines your ability to hit shots the proper distances, more so than most links courses.”

Englishman  Lee Westwood could easily have won his elusive first major by now, had he not hit a tee shot into a tree on the fifth hole in the final round of the U.S. Open at Olympic Club last month. There are no imposing tree’s to contend with at Royal Lytham & St Annes. Lee said that kind of thing does not happen too often;

Lee Westwood/ getty images

Lee Westwood

” You make your own luck a lot of times, but that was an unfortunate time for that to happen. It’s happened only three times in my career; once there when I was only one shot off the lead going into the last two holes in Dubai, and once in a playoff in the Malaysian Open. It’s picked its times to happen.”

Lee also alluded to the many bunkers deep rough;

“I think that’s part of the game of golf. There should be penalties for hitting it off line. I think my game suits most places, that’s why I contend most weeks in Major championships recently. They’re the ultimate test, and every aspect of your game has to be strong. I think because they are such a tough test, it’s hard to press in major championships. You sort of have to edge your way in there and play sort of conservatively and get in position for the weekend, and Sunday afternoon on the back nine see where you are and then judge whether you should have a go for it or not. I know my game is good enough to win when I play well enough. That’s what I try to do. After that it’s out of your hands.”

Luke Donald/ Reuters

Luke Donald

World number one Luke Donald says watching some of the video clips of the late Seve Ballesteros winning The Open 1979 at Royal Lytham has given him inspiration to win the title himself;

”I have watched some of it, the iconic chip, playing from under the car on 16. I think that should give me some heart, that I’ve not always been known as the guy who hits it consistently tee-to-green but I have a great short game. I have great skills to get the ball in the hole no matter how I’m playing. Seve was known as someone that would hit it wild off the tee and use his short game to get out of trouble. I’ve got to go into this tournament with that kind of fun attitude, that no matter how I’m hitting it, there’s always a way to make a score”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westwoods Wonky Knee wont keep him away from The Open

Lee Westwood/Google images

Lee Westwood has declared his wonky knee along with the stain of his groin that he injured when slipping on his way to the first tee at the Alstom Open de France, will not keep him from competing at The Open. Royal Lytham and St Annes is his intended destination, so he will rest the injuries this week, which means missing  this weeks Scottish Open.

Lee tweaked the knee and strained his groin when he slipped walking to the first at Le Golf National before the third round in Paris. The minor tweak was responsible for him  shooting a 76 after his fall, and he dropped out of contention at the tournament, which caused concern that  his injuries could prevent him for competing at the season’s third major, The Open. Lee will be there a week on Thursday as he once again looks to secure that elusive first Major title. Lee spoke about the incident;

” It’s not the only place that it rains, England, it rains in France as well and I had a little slip last Saturday walking to the first tee and just strained my groin a little bit and hurt my knee. But it seems to have worn off and I’ve played my way through it and should be okay for The Open next week. It’s never good to be injured, but especially when there’s something big coming up and it’s right in the middle of the season like The Open. It happened two years ago when I injured my leg and I couldn’t play for most of August and September and picked it up again at the Ryder Cup. So you never want injuries but occasionally silly things happen and you just have to get on with it “