But after watching most of Tiger's golf over the weekend at Carnoustie, I disagree with Dahlberg's assessment that Woods is the player he describes. No, Tiger is not back to 2000 or 2005 standards nor will he ever be that unbelievably dominant again, but some of Dahlberg's statements are ludicrous given that Woods had a one-stroke lead with nine holes to go on a golf course where the slightest miscalculations by many of the world's best were magnified.
A few of the more excessive lines:
But what felt like old times for a brief moment ended up as just another collapse story, like the ones Woods' fans have seen more recently.
Collapse? Jean van de Velde collapsed. Tiger merely didn't get the job done after putting himself in position to win.
Woods flinched when it mattered most, the nerves of a 42-year-old on display for all to see. Just when he took the lead and everyone's imagination began to swirl about what might be, he kicked away his best chance of breaking a decade-long drought in major championships.
Let's assess where the nerves got to Woods. He stepped on the 11th tee facing a stiff wind, where both he and Molinari missed the fairway. Woods drew a difficult lie, the club face turned and he luckily hit a spectator. On the wedge recovery, Woods definitely got too cute instead of just wedging to 15-or-so-feet past the hole and making bogey at the worst.
A strategic mistake in hindsight when he walked away with double bogey, yes. Nerves getting to him? We'll never know.
Woods had the tournament in his hands after hitting a brilliant fairway bunker shot to make par on No. 10. He walked to the next tee with a one-shot lead.
Brilliant shot it was, but the tournament in his hand with a one-stroke lead, 20-25 m.p.h. winds and so many incredible players right behind him on a firey links? Wow.
Then his tee shot went right, and his second shot veered way left. Woods got a break by hitting someone in the gallery, but then left his pitch hanging precariously on the side of a pot bunker.
When he missed an 8-footer to make double bogey he was out of the lead. Another bogey on the next hole, and he was basically out of the tournament.
It used to be that Woods was steely and superhuman, and no one dared get in his way. Now he's more of a nostalgia act teasing fans with sparks of his past greatness.
Nostalgia act seems like a wildly short-sighted thing to say given how far Woods has come since January. Remember when folks used to debate his swing mechanics, his short game or whether he'd finish a round. Or if we'd ever see him play again? Now he's written off after taking a small lead with nine to go!
It wasn't like the course wasn't gettable.
Wasn't gettable? Did I miss the part where all of the leaders shot 65 and declared Carnoustie vulnerable?
Final round scores of the top 11: 69, 69, 70, 74, 74, 67, 71, 73, 71, 72, 76.
Also, the 67 by Eddie Pepperell was low round of the day and posted well before the leaders.
Another major would have validated years of struggles. A tie for sixth means nothing.
Three strokes is the difference between validation and a meaningless week?
Golf at this level, played with the intensity, difficulty, consistency and precision that was on display at Carnoustie is so much more complicated than the sport Dahlberg describes.
Yes, Woods did not finish off this major the way he or many hoped. I'd argue that the quality of his play under major pressure and after everything else that's happened was not only his greatest career performance without registering a win, but suggests incredible things are to come if he can remain healthy.
A nostalgia act, Tiger Woods most certainly is not.
A similar refrain was repeated many times by players, observers and fans who enjoyed the tough-but-fair and noticeably faster golf, though as I note in this assessment of Carnoustie for Golfweek, the issue is layered but also incredibly simple: green speeds made the difference between complimenting Carnoustie's architecture, and ruining it.
Pace of play was noticeably better and as a "product," The Open proved infinitely more pleasurable to watching without having to spend so much time watching players grind over short putts for four days.
While professional golfers are praising the R&A coming off the U.S. Open setup issues, there were more than a handful of silly hole locations saved only by green speeds in the high 9s when leaders reached them. Had the USGA slowed greens at Shinnecock down to the high 9's, there would have been softer and bumpier conditions that today's spoiled-by-bent-grass players would loathe. But on a seaside links with a blend of poa, fescue and bent, with a links mindset, the players are more accepting of a bumpiness.
And really, the ball goes too far.
On another day we can continue to lament how much course setup manipulation must take place to mask regulatory mistakes and debate how vital it is for golf to slow greens down.
In the meantime, I'd prefer to celebrate a magnificent week at Carnoustie made special by Mother Nature baking out an outstanding course. As I note in the Golfweek piece, Carnoustie has had a troubled relationship with the rota at times, but brilliant maintenance management by Craig Boath's team, mostly great work by the R&A and a hot, dry summer allowed the links to remind people of its great strategic character.
It was a thriller at Carnoustie! Maybe not quite one that will be mentioned with Hogan in '53 and Van de Velde in '99, but the 2018 Open Championship was a good, solid test of skill with brilliant performances from a wide array of players. I hope the theater at home was as splendid as the in-person viewing.
House and I discuss it all, plus a shocking fashion rant from my co-host!
Speaking of Tiger, he captivated Carnoustie Saturday and no matter what happens, many fans here went home very happy getting to enjoy some Tiger roars as he topped a major leaderboard for the first time in years. Dan Kilbridgeon Tiger's strong 66 that leaves him four back of Jordan Spieth.
Ian O'Connor gives us all permission to root for Tiger, even sportswriters who are not supposed to. I certainly didn't fight the goosebumps yesterday seeing the reaction and thrills he provided in playing like the 14-time major winner most remember.
Tiger played Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, likely explaining round one's big increase on Golf Channel.
For Immediate Release:
MOST-WATCHED ROUND 1 OF THE OPEN ON GOLF CHANNEL EVER:
Golf Channel’s Round 1 coverage of The Open posted a Total Audience Delivery (TAD: Live Linear + Streaming) of 1.024 average viewers, up 27% vs. 2017 and the most-watched Round 1 at The Open in its three years on Golf Channel (8:01 a.m. – 4 p.m. ET).
It also became Golf Channel’s most-watched Thursday ever, and the fifth-best Total Day on record (2006-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 1 cable sports network for Total Day by 9%. And from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel was No. 1 cable sports network by 314%, and third for all 114 Nielsen measured cable networks.
MOST-WATCHED EARLY ROUND TELECAST OF THE OPEN EVER ON GOLF CHANNEL:
Golf Channel’s Round 2 coverage of The Open (8 a.m. – 3:58 p.m. ET) posted a Total Audience Delivery (TAD: Live Linear + Streaming) of 1.141 million average viewers, up 4% vs. 2017 and the most-watched Early Round telecast at The Open in its three years on Golf Channel. Friday’s Round 2 TAD was up 11% vs. Thursday’s Round 1 (1.024 million average viewers) and became Golf Channel’s most-watched weekday telecast since the 2016 Ryder Cup Friday coverage (1.3 million).
It's a simple question! Here is the leaderboard in case you have questions. Spieth, Schauffele, Kisner lead at -9, while Chappell is two back, Molinari three back and Woods and friends four back. Winds are forecasted to be up and from the west. Cheers!
About what we hoped for on day one, though the R&A's decision to go all final round on us with the hole locations probably prevented even better scoring. However, with the weather forecast turning a bit nastier for Sunday, they may have been saving a few more reasonable locations should the wind really blow.
Tiger's opening 71 at Carnoustie would have looked at lot better had he taken advantage of 8-irons into both par-5s, but with afternoon conditions turning fierce and fast, Woods displayed many positive signs.
And while he's not the first player to say this in the history of golf, it's still great to read:
I haven't played this championship for a few years now, and I've always loved playing over here. This is -- to me, this is where I got introduced to links golf. I played here in '95, and then follow that up with St. Andrews. That was my introduction to links golf. It doesn't get much better than that.
And I've always loved playing this championship. I've been able to win it a few times. I've just always enjoyed -- this is how the game should be played. It should be creative. It should be played on the ground. You can utilize the ground as an ally. When we play home in the States, that's not the case. Everything is going straight up in the air, but this is very different. It's amazing the shot -- the creativity. I mean, you can roll the ball 100 yards if you wanted to, or you can throw it straight up in the air. I like having those shot options.
As noted in the Golfweek exclusive, the restrictions on presentation and information allowed will be made to protect the art of green reading. But there are also slow play considerations as players have begun to study the books on all parts of the course. Hole locations are calculated for players the night prior, which has never exactly exuded a sense that golfers are playing the course as they find it.
The move is fascinating in the context of other issues facing the governing bodies on distance and de-skilling. By going after a technological advance that they view as de-skilling the game, the stage is set to consider an array of factors that have led to major distance increases. Could this lead to considering a reduction of driver head size or some other restriction to restore skill?
While I've never been offended by players using the books from a play perspective, the books become are offensive when players are not penalized for taking longer than 40 seconds.
For the sport, defanging green reading books will impact only elite players and college golfers, but will certainly lay the groundwork for future discussions on the de-skilling topic.
Alistair Tait of Golfweek sums upR&A Chief Martin Slumbers' explanation of driver testing conducted at Carnoustie and notes that the random effort looks like it's part of a more proactive approach.
The R&A has had capabilities at previous Opens to test drivers for COR (coefficient of restitution) and CT “characteristic time.” In laymen’s terms, the spring-like effect of driver faces. But the governing body is becoming more proactive this year.
“We’ve always had an equipment test capability down on the range, certainly since I’ve been involved in the Open,” Slumbers said. “It’s been an option for players or the manufacturers to take their equipment in and have it tested. We felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players’ drivers straight out of the bag.”
And from the transcript, it's worth noting that Slumbers sees the players as having a positive impression of the R&A. Whether that means in contrast to the USGA or in general, I'm not sure.
It was a request to players, and I think many of you underestimate, we have a very good relationship with our players, and it's a very collaborative relationship, and we had absolutely no problems with the players coming and were interested in what we're doing. A lot of them actually wanted to know how does the test work, and what is it really testing for?
I'm sure they loved giving up their drivers and their caddies to go find out if their club is conforming!
I'm restricted from rewatching this one online here in the UK, but if you missed this from last night's Vantage Point with Mike Tirico, check out Michael Greller and John Wood talking to Bones Mackay about the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale.
For those tracking at home, Ladbrokes will be getting my each-way win bets on Fowler and Noren, some missed cut bets on...oh let's not go there...and a winning score bet, several small shots at first round leaders favoring early players Thursday (Willett, Pieters, Hatton, Fowler, Stone, Pepperell). Oh and a BernhardLanger top 20 at 14-1 too. Just trying to help the local economy!
Reading between the lines, I was not surprised to hear Tiger suggest The Open is his best major opportunity over the next few years. I was, however, surprised to hear that a player averaging 304 off the tee this year can see the day coming where Augusta is too long for him.
Thirty players were greeted with letters from the R&A ordering them to offer up their drivers for a COR test. It's not clear if the tests were random or if the players were specially chosen by their manufacturer affiliation or driving distance average.
Keegan Bradley, Brendan Steele and Brooks Koepka all confirmed that their drivers all passed the COR test (coefficient of restitution, or spring-like effect) administered by the R&A.
This was the first time the R&A took measures that were not part of the distance insight project being done in conjunction with the USGA.
There are two ways of looking at this.
The sunny side up take would believe this is just part of normal monitoring and amidst some rumblings that this year's distance increase could be fueled by hot drivers.
The cynical take says this is the act of a desperate governing body looking for something to blame this year's increases on, instead of simply anticipating that a combination of technology, athleticism, fitting and a generation of players reared on modern clubs have passed the testing procedures by. AKA, anything not to do something about the Joint Statement of Principles.
We break down all things Open Championship, including some picks for who will win, comparisons between this year and Hoylake in '06, my insights from Gullane and players to keep an eye on throughout the tournament.
As always we're brought to you by Callaway, who have a couple of swell offerings mentioned in the show.
There is the auction from Callaway Create for special Seamus-made headcovers benefitting the incredible work of Bunkers In Baghdad.
Here is what Stone had to say after about hickories:
Q. And you have a wedding present now of Hickory Golf Clubs. Is that correct?
BRANDON STONE: I do indeed. I don't think it's going to last until the wedding, though, if I'm brutally honest. I think I'm going to get home; I just had a Southwest green put in my house and probably picked up the purist putter I've ever seen in my entire life. It's probably got about 12 degrees of loft on it, 29 inches, but it just sits so flush. So I'm going to be on that. My fiancée was under no illusions that when she bought them for me that they wouldn't be boxed and wrapped up until the wedding. But hey, what are you going to do?
Q. How did that come about? What prompted that?
BRANDON STONE: Just drove past the store, if I'm brutally honest. I mean my fiancée is always giving me a little bit of sticks in that she can't buy someone who has everything something. So when we drove past the Hickory store on Monday afternoon, I said, that would be quite cool. So she was like, perfect. So we went and popped in there yesterday afternoon, and obviously I went to college at the University of Texas, and there was just this beautiful set of burnt orange, untreated leather-gripped Hickories, and I was like, bang, go, 400 pounds later, smiling. Been chipping in the garden at the house all week. I think that might have been helping me because that wedge has got zero bounce on it, so the moment you get a little bit of bounce you feel like you can conquer the world.