The Starter: Tiger Hits 50, Jack’s Record Seven, Plus Glen Abbey, Royal Portrush, and Whatnot

Tiger Woods 2018 British Open, Round 4
Tiger Woods on the sixth green at Carnoustie Golf Club in the final round of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Matthew Lewis/R&A via Getty Images

Though it perhaps lacked a splash of bold color, Francesco Molinari painted a masterpiece at Carnoustie. It was a positive for Tiger Woods, too, whose parting gift is one of his favorite stops.

Meantime, The Starter wonders how many seconds Jack Nicklaus would trade for a Canadian Open win.


THREE HEADLINES

Francesco Molinari 2018 British Open, Round 4
Francesco Molinari celebrates with caddie Pello Iguaran after winning the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Francois Nel/Getty Images

1. Francesco Molinari outshines Carnoustie’s Sunday star power. While all the buzz swirled around Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, the 35-year-old Italian was the one who didn’t blink. Molinari is the first Open winner in 31 years to go without a final-round bogey. A birdie finish was icing.

2. Tiger Woods briefly leads on Carnoustie’s back nine. A front-side 34 lifted Woods to 7-under as he made the turn, where he stood alone at the top before a double bogey/bogey sequence at Nos. 11-12. It was the first time Woods held a Sunday lead at a major since the 2012 PGA, as he edges closer to a win.

3. Brittany Lincicome falls short in her PGA Tour turn. An opening 78 doomed Lincicome’s hopes of making the Barbasol Championship cut, though the damage came on just two holes – double and triple bogeys. She followed up with a 1-under-par 71, highlighted by a 116-yard holeout for eagle.


THIS WEEK’S LINEUP

John Daly 2018 Senior Open Old Course St Andrews
John Daly hits a shot on the 1st tee during Monday’s Rolex ProAm in advance of the 2018 Senior Open at The Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland. Credit: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open
Course: Glen Abbey GC
Where: Oakville, Ontario
Defending: Jhonattan Vegas

PGA Tour Champions: Senior Open Championship
Course: St. Andrews Links (Old Course)
Where: St. Andrews, Scotland
Defending: Bernhard Langer

LPGA Tour: ASI Ladies Scottish Open
Course: Gullane GC (Composite)
Where: Gullane, Scotland
Defending: Mi Hyang Lee

European Tour: Porsche European Open
Course: Green Eagle GC
Where: Hamburg, Germany
Defending: Jordan Smith

Web.com Tour: Price Cutter Charity Championship
Course: Highland Springs CC
Where: Springfield, Mo.
2017 champion: Ben Silverman


RANKINGS REPORT

Though Tiger Woods fell short of notching what would have been a storybook 15th major title, Sunday brought a silver lining. His share of sixth at Carnoustie was good enough to get him back to Firestone CC – barely – for the final World Golf Championships stop to be played there.

Tiger Woods 2018 British Open, Round 4
Tiger Woods on the fifth green at Carnoustie Golf Club in the final round of the 2018 Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Harry How/Getty Images

Woods rose to No.50 in Monday’s world rankings, cracking the top 50 right at the first of two cutoffs to qualify for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. He’s won eight times at Firestone, a mark he shares with himself (Torrey Pines, Bay Hill) and Sam Snead (Greensboro).

In a way, Woods can thank Jordan Speith for his Firestone ticket, as the Texan’s bogey at No.17 turned a four-way tie for sixth into a three-way share. The shift was worth 0.75 of a world ranking point – enough to nudge Woods past Russell Henley.

Henley turns out the big loser in the shuffle, since he’s not entered at this week’s RBC Canadian Open and unlikely to move up for a last-chance berth.

WORLD TOP 50 BUBBLE

POS-PLAYER-(LAST WK)-AVG
45. Luke List (47) – 2.467
46. Cameron Smith (44) – 2.453
47. Kevin Chappell (61) – 2.439
48. Charl Schwartzel (46) – 2.409
49. Zach Johnson (52) – 2.382
50. Tiger Woods (71) – 2.377
51. Russell Henley (48) – 2.364
52. Si Woo Kim (50) – 2.315
53. Russell Knox (49) – 2.310
54. Jason Dufner (51) – 2.308
55. Adam Hadwin (53) – 2.304


STAT OF THE WEEK

Francesco Molinari produced the first bogey-free Sunday by an Open Championship winner in more than three decades, since Nick Faldo captured the first of his three Claret Jugs in 1987 with 18 pars at Muirfield.

Francesco Molinari 2018 British Open, Round 4
Francesco Molinari reacts after making birdie on the 18th hole in the final round of the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club in Carnoustie, Scotland. Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty

And that was only half the story. Molinari also went without a bogey on the way to a 65 in Saturday’s third round. He finished the weekend on a run of 37 consecutive holes without giving a shot back to par, going back to a double bogey at No.17 on Friday.

Remember, too, this was accomplished at Carnoustie – the Open’s toughest track where each of its three previous turns as host wound up in playoffs after the man who led on the 72nd tee walked away with a bogey or worse.


STAT OF THE WEEK II

Carnoustie showed once again it’s no friend of front-runners, even with three men sharing the lead heading into Sunday’s finale.

Neither Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner nor Xander Schauffele wound up in possession of the Claret Jug by nightfall, though all three held a share of the lead at some point on the back nine. Only once in eight Opens at Carnoustie has a 54-hole leader walked away with the trophy.

That would be Ben Hogan, who shared the three-round lead with Roberto De Vicenzo in 1953, then closed with a 68 for a four-shot romp in his only Open Championship visit.


HOLE OF THE WEEK

No.18, Glen Abbey GC
Par 5, 524 yards
2017 average: 2.97 (4th easiest)

Built for closing drama, Glen Abbey’s finishing hole has provided plenty in recent years, on both sides of the emotional spectrum.

RBC Canadian Open Glen Abbey 18th Hole
A general view of the 18th green during the final round of the 2017 RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Canada. Credit: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

No.18 is where Tiger Woods in 2000 struck one of his more scintillating shots, a daring 6-iron from a fairway bunker – nearly all carry over a pond – that found land and came to rest on the back fringe. It set up a clinching birdie to complete the “Triple Crown” of U.S., British and Canadian open titles.

Four years later came a moment of Canadian heartbreak, when Vijay Singh dashed Mike Weir’s hopes of becoming the Open’s first homegrown winner in 50 years. Singh birdied No.18 to get into a playoff, and the duel ended three holes later when Weir’s third shot splashed into the pond.

Jhonattan Vegas had a fortunate twist of fate in last year’s playoff – clipping the grass atop the lip of a fairway bunker but not enough to keep the ball from finding the green some 190 yards away. Vegas wound up with a two-putt birdie, while Charley Hoffman could not convert from a greenside bunker.

2017 RBC Canadian Open: 16 eagles, 186 birdies, 192 pars, 58 bogeys, 11 double bogeys, none higher


HISTORY SPOTLIGHT

Glen Abbey Golf Club, which opened in 1977 as Golf Canada’s new headquarters, was Jack Nicklaus’ first solo design and hosts the Canadian Open this week for the 30th time.

Jack Nicklaus Canadian Open
Jack Nicklaus poses with a cake in advance of the 1977 Canadian Open. The cake represents the 18th hole at the Nicklaus designed Glen Abbey GC. Credit: Dick Darrell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Even so, that kind of intimate course knowledge never made Nicklaus a winner in Canada. In 25 starts, the best he could do was runner-up – seven times, which stands as a PGA Tour record for one event.

“My wife kept saying to me, ‘I’m sending you back until you do it right,’ ” Nicklaus told reporters last year. “I never could quite get it right.”

Nicklaus already had been runner-up four times by the time Glen Abbey opened, including a playoff loss to Tom Weiskopf in 1975 at Royal Montreal. He also was a distant second in 1976 behind Jerry Pate at Essex G&CC.

The one he’d love to have back, though, came at Glen Abbey in 1984. Greg Norman won that year, aided by some missing out-of-bounds stakes on the final day to accommodate a parking issue.

Norman’s approach at No.17 overshot the green, coming to rest underneath a parked car. A volunteer moved the vehicle; Norman saved par and went on to win by two.


DID YOU KNOW

Though the Senior Open Championship dates back to 1987 and frequently is held on courses in the rota used to hand out the Claret Jug, there’s one place the old guys surprisingly have yet to play.

Vijay Singh 2018 Senior Open Old Course St Andrews
Vijay Singh during Monday’s Rolex Pro-Am ahead of the 2018 Senior Open at The Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland. Credit: Phil Inglis/Getty Images

The Old Course at St. Andrews finally takes its place this week when the Home of Golf opens its fairways to the senior circuit’s best.

“To play Carnoustie and St. Andrews back to back, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than that,” said Bernhard Langer, who defends his title this week.

Tom Lehman, who missed the cut by one at Carnoustie, also will cross the Firth of Tay this week along with fellow former Claret Jug holders Sandy Lyle and Mark Calcavecchia.

For those without exemptions as former champions, Fred Couples and David Toms haven’t seen the Old Course since 2005. For Corey Pavin, the absence goes back to 2000. Scott McCarron and Kevin Sutherland never made an Open there.


BREAKING FROM THE NORM

Rarely does The Open Championship deviate from its tight rota of host venues, though Royal Liverpool was brought back into the fold in 2006 after a 39-year hiatus.

Graeme McDowell Royal Portrush Golf Club 2019 Open Championship
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell at Royal Portrush Golf Club as part of a promotion ahead of the 2019 Open Championship in Portrush, Northern Ireland. Credit: Charles McQuillan/R&A via Getty Images

That wait, though, pales in comparison with the Claret Jug’s return to Royal Portrush next year. The Northern Ireland gem, consistently rated among the world’s five best links courses, has been waiting 68 years since its only turn as host in 1951.

“I am inspired by it,” said Graeme McDowell, who was raised nearby. “For a guy who grew up in Portrush playing golf, I dreamed this as a young boy. It is going to be a dream realized.”

After Max Faulkner won the 1951 edition, circumstances precluded a Northern Ireland return. First came “The Troubles” – a sometimes violent 30-year conflict between Catholic loyalists seeking unification with the rest of Ireland and Protestants loyal to Britain.

After a truce was enacted in 1998, concerns were raised that the Open had by then outgrown Portrush’s infrastructure. Though the Senior Open has come to Ireland’s northernmost coast six times, the Open’s popularity has prompted the R&A to cap ticket sales next year.


END QUOTE

“Serena (Williams) and I are good friends. I’m sure she’ll probably call me and talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective. She just had a baby and lost the Wimbledon final. Just keep it in perspective, and the same thing with me. I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I’m at now – I’m blessed.”
– Tiger Woods

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