Tampa Bay Sports Day

Golf Notebook: O’Meara Misses Cut in Final Open Championship

Mark O’Meara felt honored when the R&A asked him to hit the first shot of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, where he won the tournament in 1998.

Then the 60-year-old from Mission Viejo, Calif., and Long Beach State was reminded of how humbling golf can be when he hit the shot out of bounds and had to re-tee on his way to a triple-bogey 8 on the first hole, later signing for an 11-over-par 81.

“My name is on my golf bag, I’ve won the Open Championship, I’m in the Hall of Fame … and when you hit one straight right off the first tee out of bounds, it’s the equivalent of standing on the first tee on Ballybunion and hitting the graveyard,” said O’Meara, who won his only other major earlier in 1998 at the Masters. “My day was toast after that first tee shot.

“But, look, at one point I felt like I was going to shoot 90 out there and I came away with an 81. It’s not like I haven’t shot 81 in my life. But I don’t care if you’re 30, 40, 50, 60, whatever age you are, you really play a lot for your pride. And I’m not very proud of what I accomplished out there today. I should have played better. I expect better.”

The honor turned out to be not such an easy assignment because it was 6:30 a.m., it was raining and there was a strong wind blowing from left to right that carried O’Meara’s ball out of bounds.

Of course, it was of no consolation that a few of the younger players also hit their first shots in the same place.

O’Meara shot 81-70–151 and missed the cut by six strokes.

“I felt the warmth of the crowd (in round two), obviously, coming up the 18th hole,” said O’Meara, playing in the Open for the 31st and last time. “I’m not Tom Watson. I’m not Jack Nicklaus. I’m not Arnold Palmer. I’m just a guy who in ’98 was lucky to win the championship and hoist the Claret Jug and be proclaimed Champion Golf of the Year.

“I just wanted to play respectably. I didn’t really have a set score. Obviously, I knew that after four or five holes (in round one) that the cut was going to be kind of out of the equation. But to hang in there and battle in there and make some good pars and then a few birdies, you know, I hit some better shots (in round two), I really did.

“So did I hit it great? No. But if I had hit it really good, I would be playing on the weekend.”

O’Meara, who first played in the Open in 1981 at Royal St. George’s, gets another chance this week against guys his own age in the Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Bridgend, Wales.

James Hahn flew 5,000 miles from his home in California to the United Kingdom in hopes of landing a spot in the Open Championship, even though he had no guarantees.

Hahn’s trip was made worthwhile when Brandt Snedeker withdrew from the third major of the season because a rib injury, and Hahn was in the field in Southport, England, as the first alternate.
Immediately taking to Twitter, the 35-year-old Hahn posted a selfie of himself with a big smile and the caption, “The moment you find out you’re playing in the Open Championship! Let’s go!”

Hahn, from Alameda, Calif., and the University of California, earned PGA Tour victories in the 2015 Northern Trust Open and the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship, winning both in playoffs.

Hahn opened with a 2-under-par 68 before struggling to a 76 in the stormy weather of the second round, but he still made the cut by two strokes and finished in a tie for 74th.

As for Snedeker, he wrote on Twitter, “Unfortunately I have been forced to withdraw this week. I had a rib issue pop up last week, and it didn’t respond to treatment as I had hoped. The Open Championship is one of my favorite tournaments, and (Royal) Birkdale is such a great test.

“I am gutted I won’t be able to compete and look forward to getting healthy as quick as possible. I will reevaluate with my doctors when I get back to Nashville and hopefully some rest will do the trick.

“Thanks for all the support and wish all the players a great Open!!”

Snedeker, 36, has nine top-10 finishes in the majors, including a tie for third at the 2012 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He tied for ninth at the U.S. Open last month.

LPGA Tour players reacted to an email outlining new dress code regulations for players, some expressing bewilderment.

The code forbids racerback tank tops without a collar, short skirts, plunging necklines, leggings as pants, and joggers. Some defended the crackdown, while others were puzzled.

“The only point I agree with is that there should not be low-cut tops, but I’ve never really seen that be an issue,” Sandra Gal of Germany said. “I think racerbacks look great on women, and I think short skirts have been around forever, especially in tennis, and I don’t think it’s hurt that sport at all, considering they play for the same prize money as the men.

“Our main objective is clear, to play good golf. But part of being a woman, and especially a female athlete, is looking attractive and sporty and fit, and that’s what women’s tennis does so well. Why shouldn’t we? I’ve talked to a few other players and, like me, they don’t agree with it, either.”

Some said the strict no-nos for golfers’ apparel doesn’t mesh with pro golf’s stated mission to modernize the game and appeal to millennials.

Michelle Wie and others on the LPGA Tour compete in trendy, athletic-looking clothing, appealing to younger fans who might see golf as old-fashioned and stuffy.

But again, there was a mixed reaction among LPGA Tour players.

“I may sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but this is our place of business and I think players should look professional,” Christina Kim said. “Do you really need ventilation for your side-boob? It’s not going to make your score better. …

“There were a couple events earlier this year where we didn’t have our strongest fields and some players came from other tours or developmental tours and they’re not necessarily under contract with clothing companies, and so there was some non-traditional outfits.”

Added Jane Park: “Most of us keep things pretty conservative, so this only really applies to a few people. Honestly, I don’t see why everyone is making such a big deal about it.”

LPGA Tour sources said the policy amendments were suggested by players and have been a topic of discussion for some time.

The LPGA Tour announced that the purse for the 2017 Evian Championship, the fifth and final major of the season, was raised $300,000 to $3.65 million. The increase brings the 2017 LPGA season purse to a record $67.65 million.

The Evian Championship will be played Sept. 14-17 at Evian Resort Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, France.

Last year, In Gee Chun of South Korea set a scoring record for majors, male or female, at 21-under 263 en route to a four-stroke victory and later was selected as winner of the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award.

“When the 2017 season began, the Evian Championship had already agreed to increase the purse by $100,000, but recently they decided to take it up an additional $300,000,” LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan said.

“While the overall Evian experience consistently sets the standard for unique and special on Tour, it’s great to see Evian continue to be a leader in growing the economic opportunity for the best female golfers in the world.”

The $67.65 million at stake in 2017 is up $4.65 million from 2016, and 16 LPGA Tour events this season have purses of $2 million or more, double the amount from six years ago.

Sergio Garcia almost knocked himself out of the Open Championship.

The Masters champion, frustrated after a chip shot came up short of the green at the par-3 fourth hole in round two, took another swing with his wedge and hit the nearby gorse bush that had restricted his swing.

Garcia immediately grabbed his right shoulder in pain.

After receiving on-course treatment from a therapist and taking “a good amount of pills to make it feel better,” he finished his round and underwent more treatment afterward.

“Obviously I’m not happy about it because I almost screwed up my British Open,” said Garcia, who claimed his first major title at Augusta National in April. “It wasn’t very smart. To be totally honest, I thought I was done.

“Fortunately for me, I didn’t (have to withdraw). But obviously it’s not what you want to do. But sometimes you’re out there and you’re trying your hardest, and when you can’t do it, it gets a little frustrating. We’ve all had those moments.”

Actually, Garcia started feeling better almost immediately.

After making a bogey on the fourth hole, Garcia hit his tee shot through the fifth green but sank his 40-foot eagle putt from off the green en route to a 1-under-par 69 after opening with a 75.
Garcia eventually finished in a tie for 37th.

Defending champion Henrik Stenson was playing the first round of the Open Championship in Southport, England, when the home he was renting was burglarized.

Stenson’s personalized Boss clothing was stolen along with cash, credit cards and electrical items, according to Merseyside Police.

“It is obviously very special for me to be playing here in front of the fantastic Birkdale crowds as the defending Open champion, so I am going to try not to let this spoil the week in any way,”

Stenson said in a statement. “I am extremely grateful that my family were not in the house at the time.”

Police said they believe Stenson’s rental home was targeted because he was on the golf course at the time of the robbery.

The Claret Jug, the most famous trophy in golf, was not at the home because Stenson already had returned it to the R&A.

“We are determined to identify those responsible and as with every burglary victim, we are carrying out a thorough investigation, offering reassurance and crime prevention advice,” Detective Inspector Simon Vaughan said.

“The Hugo Boss clothing taken is very personal to the victim and can be identified by a distinctive NETJETS sponsorship logo, so if anyone is offered such clothing, please contact us immediately.”
Added Stenson: “They were clearly targeting me, because they were there when I was out playing, and they figured out that the house was empty when I was away, and they stole all my (Boss) gear.

“If you see people Bossed up in this way, feel free to ask what they were doing between 12 and 4 (on July 20).”
Stenson tied for 11th in his title defense.