Connect with us

News

Five things we learned: Thursday at the British Open

Published

on

Morning coffee with the Royal and Ancient returned on this morrow with the 149th playing of the Open Championship. When last we saw Royal St. George’s, we welcomed one of the most favorable tournament resolutions of this generation: the coronation of Darren Clarke.

Prior to that, in 2003, the the course greeted the most unlikely winner in Ben Curtis, after Thomas Bjorn gave away late a two-shot advantage. To summarize, we might witness a complete dark horse drink from the Claret jug on Sunday, or we might see a favorite son finally break through. In each player’s case, the Open at RSG was his only major title. Today, however, tells us nothing more than the 18-hole leader, so let’s have a look at five things that we learned on Thursday at the Open Championship.

1. The putting at RSG is the thing

One thing that might go unnoticed is the points at which putts begin to break on these beguiling putting surfaces. One minute, a putt turns left two inches off the clubface, confusing the golfer beyond words. At a second, the evaluation suggests a trace a full 1.5 cups less than needed. As considered by an English journalist “Some of the undulating slopes on the greens and fairways feel more like a creation of Zaha Hadid than that of Dr Laidlow (sic) Purves in 1887.” Laidlaw Purves, much like Henry Fownes at Oakmont, designed precisely one course in his lifetime, and it is this one. There are no other Purves putting surfaces with which to compare his work in Kent. Thus, find the caddie with the best eyes for greens, and hold on to that looper for the week.

2. Put Shane in the … and he’ll make magic

One of my regular playing partners is known wide and far as The Scrambler. It’s an affliction, more than a compliment. The lad simply loves recovery shots. Give him a flat, fairway lie and lord knows how bad he’ll play it. Place his ball in spots favored by the world’s devils and he’ll seize the moment for glory. On Thursday, Shane Lowry hit some brilliant shots from the thick stuff. As defending Champion Golfer of the Year, his work merits some attention today. Lowry made two birdies from healthy grama, but could not avoid bogey at the last for 71 and much ground to make up to defend his title.

3. Our man Louis

The 2010 Champion Golfer of the Year has been the top major-event competitor of 2021. Oosthuizen has a pair of runner-up finishes in the past two months, at both Kiawah Island and Torrey Pines. He certainly played well enough to win each, but some other golfer found a way to play better. Perhaps if Louis had attended Arizona State University (school of the two golfers that defeated him) he might have another major or two. Enough with the daydreams; on to the performance. Louis Oosthuizen played 18 holes at RSG with no bogey on his card. Staring bogey in the face at the last, he smartly pitched out of the left fairway bunker, hit a full wedge to the back shelf, and deftly holed the putt for par. His 6-under tally had him one ahead of USA compatriots Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman at the close of the morning session.

4. Webb and Heb lead PM posse

The afternoon wave of golfers dealt with good weather and slowing greens, and Webb Simpson and Ben Hebert were the cream of that crop. The American parlayed five birdies against one bogey (on a par five, no less!) in hiss 66, while the Frenchman turned in a clean card. Hebert had two birdies on each half, and a passel of pars to sit two behind Louis Oosthuizen, in a tie for fourth with Simpson and three others. In many an Open championship week, either round one or round two features a morning or afternoon wave of unrelenting atmospheric influence. Ardent supporters of the vagaries of links golf, simply shrug their shoulders when weather impacts half the field. Precious little time remains to make up for Mother Nature’s inconsistencies, making it a shame for half the field to suffer a fate not felt by the other 80-odd golfers.

As mentioned earlier, a pair of American golfers sit one behind first-round leader Oosthuizedn. Jordan Spieth ran consecutive birdies from the fifth through the eighth, then added two more late in the round, after making bogey at the third early on. Brian Harman notched birdie at four of his opening five holes, then fell back with two bogeys around the turn. The Georgia resident regrouped and had birdie coming home at 13 and 18 to match Spieth’s 65.

5. Those penal bunkers

We would be remiss if we did failed to mention the reveted bunkers that make Sandwich such a demanding layout. The sandy declivities are pot bunkers in the horrific sense of the feature, but their lofty faces preclude a full recovery to the green. Most golfers accept the punishment that their errant tee balls meted out, and pitch partway home. Day one saw a number of golfers loft a third shot close enough to the hole to save par. When a golfer tried for too much, as US Open champion Jon Rahm did below, things turned against the player. As golfers march through the coming 54 holes, it will be interesting to watch and see if anyone is able to reach the putting surface from a fairway basement, and precisely how much pressure was on the shot’s execution.

Your Reaction?
  • 7
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW1
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

News

3M Open betting tips and selections

Published

on

Welcome to the first week of a new installment of betting tips from Andy Lack, staff writer and host of the Pick of the Pup Golf Show, a weekly golf betting podcast.

We’ll kick things off with the 3M Open. The PGA Tour travels to the TPC Twin Cities this week in Blaine, Minnesota, a course known for its generous fairways and an abundance of water hazards. That’s right, water comes into play on 14 holes on TPC Twin Cities, so avoiding big numbers and still taking advantage of scorable opportunities will be of paramount importance.

Let’s dig into my outright selections.

Bubba Watson (35-1, DraftKings)

The 12-time PGA Tour winner is quietly putting together a run of some incredibly impressive golf. Watson has now made seven cuts in a row, with four top-20s, including a contending performance at the Travelers, and a sixth-place finish at the Rocket Mortgage.

The main reason for optimism is the return of his approach play. Watson gained 5.3 strokes on approach in his most recent start, good for his best iron week since October. Iron play has proven to be paramount at TPC Twin Cities, with top-10 finishers gaining an average of 4.5 strokes on approach across two editions.

35-1 is a fair number on the two-time Masters champion, who is trending positively in the ball-striking department.

Emiliano Grillo (40-1, William Hill)

Emiliano Grillo fits a similar profile of Watson, a ball-striking extraordinaire who has shown recent top-end ability on approach. Over his last 36 rounds, the former Frys.com Open champion ranks second in strokes gained approach, ninth in proximity from 200 yards plus, and third in birdies or better. In my cumulative ranking of approach stats, Grillo laps the field as the best iron player teeing it up this week.

As is always the case with Argentina native, the putter is a concern, yet Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa may have shown Grillo the roadmap by finishing first and second here with nuclear irons and a field average putter.

Keegan Bradley (50-1, BetMGM)

While Grillo might slightly outpace Keegan Bradley in iron play, the former PGA champion is not far behind. Over his last 36 rounds, Bradley ranks third in strokes gained approach, fifth in proximity from 200 yards plus, and third in opportunities gained.

Prior to the Open, where he missed the cut by a stroke, Bradley gained 5.5 strokes on approach at the Rocket Mortgage, and 4.3 at the Travelers in his prior two starts. The Vermont native has lost strokes on approach just once this season.

Bradley has a bankable skill-set I can trust, and 50-1 feels a fair price in a field lacking an abundance of elite talent.

Doug Ghim (66-1, BetMGM)

Find a narrative. Stick with it. I’m selecting the best iron players in this field and praying that one of them putts well. One of them has to right?

Over his last 36 rounds, Ghim ranks fourth in strokes gained approach, first in proximity from 175-200 yards, and first in greens in regulation gained. The University of Texas product was a highly touted amateur who feels primed for a breakthrough on a larger stage.

The irons have been elite from day one, and we’ve seen slow, yet progressive improvements with his driver and putter. I’m willing to bet this is the week it all clicks.

Jhonattan Vegas (70-1, DraftKings)

While Vegas is known more-so for his off the tee prowess than his iron play, I have a hard time passing up on the big-hitting Venezuelan on a wide open track where he can really let the driver loose.

Over his last 36 rounds, Vegas ranks 22nd in birdies or better gained, ninth in greens in regulation gained, and fourth in driving distance. While he may not possess the same approach chops as Grillo, Bradley, or Ghim, Vegas’ irons are certainly trending in that direction.

The three-time PGA Tour winner has gained over 3.5 strokes on approach in three consecutive starts. Sign me up.

Scott Stallings (150-1, BetMGM)

This feels like a big number for Scott Stallings, who was 70-1 just a week ago at the John Deere Classic, and a popular selection at that.

While the 55th-place finish at the John Deere might have disappointed some, his ball-striking remained solid and he simply couldn’t buy a putt. Stallings has gained strokes off the tee and on approach in three consecutive starts.

Unlike some of my other selections, the three-time PGA Tour winner carries a more reliable putter as well. Stallings’ position on the betting board had the biggest discrepancy from my numbers. This was a must-bet for me.

Your Reaction?
  • 1
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

News

Morikawa solves Royal St. George’s for 2021 Open Championship title

Published

on

It’s known that Ian Fleming wrote a great bit of his James Bond series of tales from a cottage near Royal St. George’s, in Sandwich, England. It’s less known that the selected site for the pivotal match between Bond the hero and Auric Goldfinger the villain, took place at a renamed RSG. Fleming christened his links Royal St. Mark’s. Finally, on a sad note, the elected club captain Fleming passed away mere weeks before he would assume the position, and so his portrait does not hang on the walls of the RSG clubhouse. On this 18th day of July, 2021, a new captain did not play his way in. Instead, a Champion Golfer of the Year was recognized for the 15th time at this links and for the 149th time overall.

It would be interesting to ask the competitors if they considered Sandwich to be a putter’s course. My guess is that they would say “no.” More than that, it played this week as an approach course, and then as a driving course. Since writers and fans lead mundane lives, they like to fish around for a weakness in a player, forgetting that every golfer that tees it up is world-class.

With Collin Morikawa, they suggest that putting is not his strong suit. They forget that he worked with Mark O’Meara months back, adjusting his grip on shorter putts. He ultimately adopted the modified pencil, or modified saw, grip that he used with great success all week.

On Sunday, as his playing partner and others struggled around him, and as Jordan Spieth surged, Collin Morikawa made putt after putt of all lengths, shapes, and flavors. At week’s end, his average of 1.54 putts per green in regulation was exactly .01 behind the tournament leaders. So much for a weakness.

Flip the script to Morikawa’s perceived strength: his approach play. Over the course of the week’s four rounds, the eventual champion hit this percentage of greens in regulation: 72-83-66-77. Over the 72 holes, he putted for birdie or better three-quarters of the time. Unless you’re the world’s worst short-game practitioner from off the green, and on it, for that matter, those numbers are in your favor.

Morikawa knew instinctively when to land a ball dozens of yards shy of the putting surface, and when to fly it to the crevice. He found shelves and hollows all week long, and he was one of two golfers all week to post four rounds in the 60s. For the unfortunate Jordan Spieth, his quartet of sub-70s was not enough to sequester the Claret Jug for a second time.

Intangibles? He had them, too. Deep breaths, closed eyes, anticipated trajectories — it all led to trust and execution. When he got in trouble, as happens with champions, Morikawa joined his vision with the land, found a trace, and followed it back to safety.

Congratulations to the 2021 Champion Golfer of the Year, on his second major tournament victory. Let the pundits predict if and when Collin Morikawa will complete the career grand slam, and how difficult it will be for him to win a U.S. Open and a Masters.

For now, leave them to their augury and their conjecture. There is no better walk in golf than this one, and Louis Oosthuizen, who lost out to Morikawa this year, does know. He walked it in 2010, at the home of golf. Today, it was the turn of someone else, someone we may be fortunate to watch play and smile for many years.

Your Reaction?
  • 19
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW1
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

News

5 things we learned Saturday at the British Open

Published

on

For a third consecutive day, Royal St. George’s golf course provided ample opportunity for golfers to make moves up the leaderboard. As with all potions and recipes, knowing the proper amount of each ingredient was critical. For many, knowing which ingredients to leave out, and which ones to incorporate, was also decisive. Too many drivers, too much draw, too great a risk into a particular green, all resulted in lost shots and descents. By day’s end, most of the expected players were still in contention, ensuring that Sunday’s march across the storied links of RSG, sandwiched between Prince’s and Royal Cinque Ports, will be memorable.

Our memory is fading, but we do know five things that we learned today. Share them with us, won’t you?

1. Driving Suez

As Bryson DeChambeau continued his search for a new realm of golf performance, his climb up the leader board stalled. He made a double at nine and a bogey at 13 and stepped to the tee of the 14th at Sandwich at 3 over on the day. With nothing to lose, the scientist proceeded to bang driver OVER the crossing hazard known as Suez Canal. The carry was measured at 340 yards to find fairway, and DeChambeau’s tee ball ended 366 from its point of origin. His wedge approach barely missed its tiny target front left, ending in the guarding bunker. With a deft touch, Bryson got up and down for his first birdie on the day. Given the glee of the online announcers, we bore witness to a first-ever event with that swing of the driver.

2. Louis, Collin, not fade away

Louis Oosthuizen and Collin Morikawa began day three in the same pairing, separated by a pair of strokes. Morikawa began to fade with bogeys on two of his first five holes. Recalling that he was a PGA champion just a few years back, the young Californian reset and rebounded. He played the final 13 holes in minus 4, posted 68 on the day, and made up a stroke on the leader.

Oosthuizen’s front nine was ideal. He turned in 33 thanks to birdies on seven and nine. At that point in the round, the top challenge to the South African’s lead was Jordan Spieth, who also turned well on day three. Oosthuizen struggled a bit coming home carding two bogeys and one birdie, but Spieth struggled more. That will be discussed further on. As for Louis, the 2010 Open champion, his birdie at 16 renewed his lead over Morikawa. The two will partner for a second consecutive day on Sunday, and odds favor one of them to depart with the Claret Jug’s suitcase.

3. Who else remains?

Despite closing with three bogeys on his last eight holes, Jordan Spieth sits just three behind the 54-hole medalist. He has been the most impressive when it comes to making birdies of all the leaders. What he needs to solve for Sunday is how to continue this while eliminating that. “That” would be the bogeys, the lost shots, the anxious, hurried swings. His three major titles suggest that he knows how to do this, but it has been since 2017 that he hoisted major hardware. On Sunday, he might do so again.

Corey Conners and Scottie Scheffler are the most intriguing new names on the leader board. Each has played with composure and expertise — not just this week but over the past 18 months. And they’ve done so in other major championships. They’ve suffered the lumps, bumps, and bruises of also-rans and almost-weres along the way, and both appear ready to shed that baggage at Sandwich.

4. Who went away?

Dustin Johnson did. As quickly as he ascended on Friday, he derailed on Saturday. Not in fabulous, dramatic fashion, but little by little. He ended 3 over on the day and minus 4 for the week. As little as 2 under on the day would have seated him in one of the final two groups on Sunday, but 2021 was not to be DJ’s year at the Open. Rory McIlroy came and went even quicker. He was 4 under on the front nine, and 3 over on the back. His woe-ridden face, sagging shoulders, and quickened pace said it all: The tournament was his for the taking, and he forgot how.

Brooks Koepka, Emiliano Grillo, and Andy Sullivan also struggled on Saturday, as did the aforementioned Bryson DeChambeau. The common thread was trying too much and not accepting what the course offered. The wind was up, but not to a flamboyant degree, just enough to topple wayward strikes toward sand and higher grass.

5. Who wins on Sunday?

This guy. Two Open titles in the same year.

Your Reaction?
  • 7
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK4

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending