Category Archives: Golf

Westwood up 2; Tiger, others in hunt

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GULLANE, Scotland — Nobody expected it to take this long, certainly not him.

Through scandal, scorn, injury and athletic redemption, Tiger Woods has re-emerged as the No. 1 player in the game, with only a major championship keeping him from a full return to glory. That is now within his grasp at the game’s oldest tournament, a 15th major championship one day away in the land of golf’s birth.

More 2013 Open Champ. Coverage

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The stakes are high in the final round of the Open Championship for many big names. Bob Harig asks: What’s on the line for each of them? Story


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Woods has not been this close through 54 holes of a major since his life imploded nearly four years ago. An excellent opportunity awaits Sunday at Muirfield.

But he will have to chase down third-round leader Lee Westwood, whose own journey to major glory has been longer and far more painful. And he’ll have to hold off those around him, including Hunter Mahan, who along with Woods — and recently Westwood — employs Sean Foley as coach.

Mahan matched the best round of the day with a 3-under 68. He is two strokes behind Westwood and tied with Woods, who will play his final round with Masters champion Adam Scott, who employs Woods’ former caddie, Steve Williams.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Woods, whose 1-over 72 included a bogey at the par-5 17th, the same hole Westwood birdied to take a two-shot lead. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of it. I’ve been in this position before in the past five years, and I’ve been in the hunt. And I’m in it again. Hopefully tomorrow I can play well and win the tournament.”

Each of Woods’ 14 major titles has come when he’s held at least a share of the 54-hole lead, a trend he hopes to break Sunday. Of his 78 PGA Tour titles, 14 have come when he was two strokes or more behind the leader entering the final round.

Perhaps of more concern is his recent weekend play in the majors. Although his third-round 72 came on another treacherous day on the hard, fast-running links at Muirfield, it was also the 13th straight weekend round in a major that he’s failed to shoot in the 60s. But seven of the last 13 majors winners have come from multiple strokes behind, including last year’s Open winner, Ernie Els, who was six back.

In truth, given the severity of the test and the possibility of danger lurking, any number of players have a chance to hoist the Claret Jug. Some 17 players are within six strokes of the lead, including major winners Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson.

Second-round leader Miguel Angel Jimenez shot a 77 and dropped into a tie for 11th, six shots back in a group that includes Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker.

Celebrating 40?

With a win on Sunday at the Open Championship, Lee Westwood would become the fourth player since 1970 to claim his first major championship after turning 40. Here’s the list he’ll be looking to join:

Major Champion
2011 Open Champ. Darren Clarke
1998 Masters Mark O’Meara
1992 U.S. Open Tom Kite
— Westwood turned 40 in April
— ESPN Stats & Information

This will be the sixth time Tiger Woods has entered the final round of a major either 1 or 2 shots back. Here’s how he’s fared on Sunday:

Major Deficit R4
2007 U.S. Open 2 72
2007 Masters 1 72
2006 Masters 2 70
2003 Open Champ. 2 71
1999 U.S. Open 2 70
— Never won a major while trailing
— ESPN Stats & Information

Westwood forged ahead with a 1-under 70 that was buoyed by a crucial 12-foot bogey putt at the 16th followed by the birdie on No. 17. The No. 1 player in the world for a time, the 40-year-old Westwood has 22 European Tour victories. He moved to Florida earlier this year in hopes of giving himself better preparation for the majors.

“You try to picture yourself winning the Open Championship tonight, but forget about it tomorrow and go and tee off down the first and focus on it in the middle of the fairways with the first tee shot and then go from there,” he said. “The way this golf course is set up, it is a very strategic golf course. You have to plot your way around it. Most major championships are like that. They grind you into the ground. Mentally and physically, it’s draining, and you just have to focus on the job at hand and pile the pars up and try to make birdies whenever you can.”

Mahan made five of them Saturday en route to a 68 that ultimately put him in the final group with Westwood. Last month at the U.S. Open at Merion, he was also in the final group along with Mickelson, but he shot 75 to finish in a tie for fourth.

“I’m just trying to play golf,” Mahan said. “I’m not trying to add to anything or make it more than it is, just enjoying kind of the opportunity of playing in a major, playing in a British. I enjoyed it playing in the U.S. Open. I enjoyed playing with Phil. I didn’t think that was a distraction or a hindrance or anything. You just kind of accept things and appreciate them.”

Scott was the hard-luck loser at the Open a year ago, bogeying the final four holes at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s to lose by a stroke to Els. He bounced back to win his first major in a playoff over Cabrera at the Masters, and now is in position to become the first player since Woods in 2005 to win a green jacket and a Claret Jug during the same year.

“It’s a good feeling to sit here in this position, absolutely,” Scott said after a 70. “It’s completely different. I think I go out there not carrying the weight of the lead or not having won a major. So it’s a different feeling. Hopefully, I can play enough quality shots to give myself chances to be in the hunt right at the end.

“But it’s a long way off. The course, it can turn around on you in a heartbeat out there, if you’re not careful. I’ll be treading cautiously tomorrow.”

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That appears to have been Woods’ game plan from the start. He’s hit just one driver in the tournament and has done his best to stay out of trouble. He hit 12 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens on Saturday and probably should have gotten more out of the round for as well as he struck the ball. He needed 33 putts, but the crucial error came at the 17th, where he hit his second shot into a bunker and had to play it out sideways, leading to the bogey.

“I’m pleased where I’m at; I’m only two back,” Woods said. “There’s only one guy ahead of me, and we’ll see what they do.

“I’ve got 14 of these things and I know what it takes to win it. He (Westwood) has won tournaments all over the world; he knows how to win golf tournaments. He’s two shots ahead, and we’re going to go out there and both compete and play.

“It’s not just two of us. There’s a bunch of guys who have a chance to win this tournament. And all of us need to really play well to win it.”

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It’s Going To Happen A 15th major has been a long time coming. Here’s why Tiger gets it done on Sunday.

The Open Championship July 18-21, 2013 MUIRFIELD – East Lothian, Scotland | Par 71 7,192 Yards

Round 2 – In Progress

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Leaderboard
POS START CTRY PLAYER TO PAR TODAY THRU R1 R2 R3 R4 TOT
1 1 Zach Johnson -5 10:07 AM 66 66
2 2 Rafael Cabrera Bello -4 E 5 67 67
T3 4 Brandt Snedeker -3 9:12 AM 68 68
T3 4 Miguel Jimenez -3 E 6 68 68
T5 9 Phil Mickelson -2 9:45 AM 69 69
T5 9 Angel Cabrera -2 10:18 AM 69 69
T5 15 Henrik Stenson -2 -1 F 70 70 140
T5 27 Lee Westwood -2 -3 F 72 68 140
T5 4 Dustin Johnson -2 +1 2 68 68
T10 15 Gonzalo Fdez-Castano -1 9:34 AM 70 70
T10 15 Ken Duke -1 10:29 AM 70 70
T10 15 Martin Laird -1 E F 70 71 141
T10 9 Tiger Woods -1 +1 17 69 69
T14 21 Hideki Matsuyama E 9:45 AM 71 71
T14 21 Jimmy Mullen E 10:51 AM 71 71
T14 21 Gareth Wright E 11:13 AM 71 71
T14 27 Ryan Moore E -1 F 72 70 142
T14 15 Bubba Watson E +1 2 70 70
T19 27 Ian Poulter +1 9:23 AM 72 72
T19 27 Tim Clark +1 9:56 AM 72 72
T19 27 Camilo Villegas +1 10:18 AM 72 72
T19 27 Mark Calcavecchia +1 10:29 AM 72 72
T19 27 Josh Teater +1 10:51 AM 72 72
T19 27 Steven Tiley +1 10:51 AM 72 72
T19 9 Jordan Spieth +1 +3 F 69 74 143
T19 27 Darren Clarke +1 E F 72 71 143
T19 77 Charl Schwartzel +1 -3 F 75 68 143
T19 21 Adam Scott +1 +1 F 71 72 143
T19 47 Webb Simpson +1 -1 16 73 73
T19 9 Francesco Molinari +1 +3 16 69 69
T19 4 Shiv Kapur +1 +4 14 68 68
T19 27 Stewart Cink +1 E 7 72 72
T33 47 Shingo Katayama +2 10:07 AM 73 73
T33 47 Thomas Bjorn +2 10:07 AM 73 73
T33 47 Kyung-tae Kim +2 11:02 AM 73 73
T33 59 Justin Leonard +2 -1 F 74 70 144
T33 27 Hunter Mahan +2 +1 F 72 72 144
T33 59 Ben Curtis +2 -1 5 74 74
T33 27 Jonas Blixt +2 +1 4 72 72
T33 27 Martin Kaymer +2 +1 3 72 72
T33 47 Jason Day +2 E 3 73 73
T33 27 Jason Dufner +2 +1 3 72 72
T43 59 Ernie Els +3 9:12 AM 74 74
T43 59 Billy Horschel +3 9:23 AM 74 74
T43 59 Scott Piercy +3 9:56 AM 74 74
T43 59 Kevin Streelman +3 9:56 AM 74 74
T43 59 John Huh +3 10:40 AM 74 74
T43 59 John Wade +3 11:13 AM 74 74
T43 47 Johnson Wagner +3 +1 F 73 72 145
T43 2 Mark O’Meara +3 +7 F 67 78 145
T43 4 Tom Lehman +3 +6 F 68 77 145
T43 59 Harris English +3 E F 74 71 145
T43 59 Jamie Donaldson +3 E 17 74 74
T43 59 Branden Grace +3 E 16 74 74
T43 92 Gregory Bourdy +3 -2 14 76 76
T43 15 Oliver Fisher +3 +4 11 70 70
T43 9 Todd Hamilton +3 +5 10 69 69
T43 27 Mikko Ilonen +3 +2 8 72 72
T43 21 Bernd Wiesberger +3 +3 8 71 71
T43 27 Marc Warren +3 +2 4 72 72
T43 59 Carl Pettersson +3 E 3 74 74
T62 77 Justin Rose +4 9:12 AM 75 75
T62 77 Keegan Bradley +4 9:23 AM 75 75
T62 77 Richard Sterne +4 9:34 AM 75 75
T62 77 Nick Watney +4 9:34 AM 75 75
T62 77 Estanislao Goya +4 10:18 AM 75 75
T62 92 Stephen Gallacher +4 -1 F 76 70 146
T62 77 Graeme McDowell +4 E 17 75 75
T62 21 Thomas Aiken +4 +4 9 71 71
T62 47 Richard McEvoy +4 +2 7 73 73
T62 59 Shane Lowry +4 +1 5 74 74
T62 77 Tom Watson +4 E 1 75 75
T62 77 Fred Couples +4 E 1 75 75

Projected Cut: +4

T74 92 George Coetzee +5 10:29 AM 76 76
T74 92 Hyung-Sung Kim +5 10:40 AM 76 76
T74 92 Steven Jeffress +5 11:02 AM 76 76
T74 77 Danny Willett +5 +1 F 75 72 147
T74 47 Marcus Fraser +5 +3 F 73 74 147
T74 27 Freddie Jacobson +5 +4 F 72 75 147
T74 59 Matt Kuchar +5 +2 F 74 73 147
T74 47 Eduardo De La Riva +5 +3 13 73 73
T74 59 Peter Senior +5 +2 11 74 74
T74 77 Chris Wood +5 +1 8 75 75
T74 27 Jimmy Walker +5 +4 6 72 72
T74 112 John Senden +5 -1 4 77 77
T74 77 Nicolas Colsaerts +5 +1 2 75 75
T87 119 Y.E. Yang +6 -1 F 78 70 148
T87 92 Sandy Lyle +6 +1 F 76 72 148
T87 47 Padraig Harrington +6 +4 F 73 75 148
T87 77 Sergio Garcia +6 +2 F 75 73 148
T87 59 Bud Cauley +6 +3 9 74 74
T87 92 K.J. Choi +6 +1 6 76 76
T87 92 Graham Delaet +6 +1 4 76 76
T87 92 Garrick Porteous +6 +1 3 76 76
T95 119 Brendan Jones +7 10:40 AM 78 78
T95 119 Luke Guthrie +7 11:02 AM 78 78
T95 47 Matthew Fitzpatrick +7 +5 F 73 76 149
T95 119 Russell Henley +7 E F 78 71 149
T95 77 Marcel Siem +7 +3 15 75 75
T95 112 Mark Brown +7 +1 14 77 77
T95 112 Robert Karlsson +7 +1 10 77 77
T102 134 Rory McIlroy +8 9:45 AM 79 79
T102 59 Boo Weekley +8 +5 F 74 76 150
T102 134 Thongchai Jaidee +8 E F 79 71 150
T102 92 Richie Ramsay +8 +3 F 76 74 150
T102 149 Paul Lawrie +8 -2 F 81 69 150
T102 77 Geoff Ogilvy +8 +4 F 75 75 150
T102 92 Bo Van Pelt +8 +3 16 76 76
T102 134 Darryn Lloyd +8 E 12 79 79
T102 92 A-Shun Wu +8 +3 8 76 76
T102 92 Brooks Koepka +8 +3 8 76 76
T102 92 Scott Stallings +8 +3 7 76 76
T102 119 Robert Garrigus +8 +1 4 78 78
T102 134 David Lynn +8 E 3 79 79
T102 134 Nick Faldo +8 E 1 79 79
T116 59 Oscar Floren +9 +6 F 74 77 151
T116 92 Marc Leishman +9 +4 F 76 75 151
T116 150 Kyle Stanley +9 -2 F 82 69 151
T116 112 Alvaro Quiros +9 +3 F 77 74 151
T116 27 Michael Thompson +9 +8 F 72 79 151
T116 112 Bill Haas +9 +3 F 77 74 151
T116 92 George Murray +9 +4 14 76 76
T116 143 Steve Dartnall +9 E 12 80 80
T116 92 Ben Stow +9 +4 10 76 76
T116 92 David Duval +9 +4 8 76 76
T126 112 Niclas Fasth +10 +4 F 77 75 152
T126 119 Jim Furyk +10 +3 F 78 74 152
T126 143 Luke Donald +10 +1 F 80 72 152
T126 119 Hiroyuki Fujita +10 +3 F 78 74 152
T126 119 Toru Taniguchi +10 +3 16 78 78
T126 119 D.A. Points +10 +3 15 78 78
T126 119 Daisuke Maruyama +10 +3 12 78 78
T126 134 Lloyd Saltman +10 +2 11 79 79
T126 27 Kiradech Aphibarnrat +10 +9 9 72 72
T126 143 Brian Davis +10 +1 4 80 80
T136 119 Gareth Maybin +11 +4 13 78 78
T136 92 Kenichi Kuboya +11 +6 13 76 76
T138 152 Makoto Inoue +12 11:13 AM 83 83
T138 112 Vijay Singh +12 +6 F 77 77 154
T138 119 Thorbjorn Olesen +12 +5 F 78 76 154
T138 119 Rickie Fowler +12 +5 F 78 76 154
T138 134 Brett Rumford +12 +4 15 79 79
T138 119 Justin Harding +12 +5 14 78 78
T144 134 Thaworn Wiratchant +14 +6 F 79 77 156
T144 143 Lucas Glover +14 +5 F 80 76 156
T144 143 Scott Jamieson +14 +5 14 80 80
T147 119 Steven Fox +15 +8 F 78 79 157
T147 92 Matteo Manassero +15 +10 F 76 81 157
T147 134 Scott Brown +15 +7 13 79 79
T150 143 Satoshi Kodaira +16 +7 13 80 80
T150 150 Tyrrell Hatton +16 +5 13 82 82
152 47 Grant Forrest +17 +15 F 73 86 159
153 153 Rhys Pugh +19 +6 F 84 77 161
154 Peter Hanson +2 WD
155 Louis Oosthuizen +4 WD
156 Alexander Noren +12 WD 83 83

Live video, radio and text coverage as American Zach Johnson attempts to defend his lead around the Muirfield links

Open 2013: Ian Poulter & Phil Mickelson criticise Muirfield set-up

Ian Poulter and Phil Mickelson have criticised Open organisers for making Muirfield almost “unplayable”.

The Scottish links, already firm from the recent warm spell, was playing even faster in the hot sun and drying wind of Thursday’s first round.

Poulter, who carded a one-over 72, said some of the pin positions were a “joke” and the 18th needed a “windmill and a clown face”, like a crazy golf course.

Mickelson hopes organisers the R&A “let go of their ego” after he shot a 69.

Analysis

Image of Mark James Mark James Former European Ryder Cup captain and BBC Sport summariser

“Phil Mickelson made his comments on the state of the course from a position of strength because, apart from being one of the best players in the world, he was out there and shot a good score so there was no temper involved after posting a bad round. I think they got the course set-up right today, but only just. I think the greenkeepers will publicly say that they will put the same amount of water on the course tonight but will more than likely give the greens an extra swoosh with a hosepipe. I don’t think Muirfield is a patch on the US Open last month where I thought some of the greens at Merion were farcical to play on.”

But Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, said the course was difficult but not impossible.

And veteran BBC commentator Peter Alliss accused Poulter of “childish” comments.

“It’s not what anybody wants to hear,” he said. “I think they are very foolish to express their views like that. They all talk about links golf and how wonderful it is to come here and play on the course.

“Mickelson went round in 69 and is very much in the hunt and Poulter is only one over. You could say it is better to criticise when you have made a good score than it is when you have done a bad score.

“Poulter’s remarks are just childish. You can’t say stuff about windmills and clown’s faces. It’s just ridiculous. I never heard Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer come out with comments like that.

“A lot of others give up before they even get going. It’s a PhD not an O-level.”

Ryder Cup team-mate Lee Westwood laughed off Poulter’s comments, telling the BBC: “He’s always moaning, ‘Poults’, you can’t pay too much attention to him.”

Mickelson, among the morning starters with Poulter, signed for a two-under-par round but said: “Hopefully they (the R&A) will let go of their ego and set it up reasonable, but you just never know.”

Dawson responded: “We’re conscious of player comments and have taken note as we plan how to set up the greens [on Friday].

“I do understand some players get frustrated. Ian Poulter bogeyed four of the last five holes – he was bound to get frustrated. It’s a very testing, tough Open championship. It is far from unplayable.”

Muirfield Open winners

  • 1948: Henry Cotton Evens
  • 1959: Gary Player Evens
  • 1966: Jack Nicklaus -2
  • 1972: Lee Trevino -6
  • 1980: Tom Watson -13
  • 1987: Nick Faldo -5
  • 1992: Nick Faldo -12
  • 2002: Ernie Els -6

Since the Second World War

Four-time major winner Mickelson claimed the later starters would face an impossible task because of the conditions.

“I got very lucky to play early today because as the day wore on and we got to the back nine, about a third of every green started to die and became brown,” said the American, who is yet to win the Open but was second in 2011 and won last week’s Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, another links course.

“The pins were very edgy too, on slopes and what. The guys that played early had a huge, huge break because even without any wind here it’s beyond difficult.

“Playing early gave us a fighting chance. I love the fact I shot under par because it’s a very challenging course. I don’t expect anyone to beat the lead from the morning wave, I just don’t think it’s possible.”

Speaking before the tournament, England’s Tony Jacklin, the 1969 Open champion, said the key was to be patient and deal with adversity.

“You can get the worst of the weather or the best of it,” he told BBC Sport. “Many championships have been won and lost like that. You have to accept your lot. If it’s windy in the afternoon after being calm all morning when the course was four shots easier, you’ve got to suck it up. You’re not going to get anywhere feeling sorry for yourself.”

Late starter Shiv Kapur of India appeared ready to prove Mickelson’s theory wrong when he moved ahead of clubhouse leader Zach Johnson to reach six under after seven but he fell back to three under at the end.

And American veteran Mark O’Meara, the 1998 champion, denied conditions were unfair after returning a 67 in the afternoon to finish as one of only 20 players to card an under-par score.

“You have to be cautious on the greens and be aggressive, but not too aggressive,” he said.

“I don’t think the pin positions are unfair. If the wind had got up to 30mph then fair enough, but the wind wasn’t blowing that hard. I’ve played in 25-plus Open championships and I’ve seen conditions far worse.

The Open 2013: Tiger Woods favourite at Muirfield

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The 142nd Open Championship gets under way at Muirfield on Thursday with the game’s best golfers vying to lift the famous Claret Jug.

In what promises to be one of the most open tournaments in recent years, 156 players will aim to add their names to an illustrious list of champions at the East Lothian course.

Muirfield’s roll call of winners reads like a who’s who of golf with Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo (twice) and Els among those to have claimed the title over the iconic Scottish links.

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Woods ‘good to go’ ahead of Open

World number one Tiger Woods is favourite with bookmakers, while Ernie Els of South Africa is the defending champion and the last man to win the Open at Muirfield in 2002.

England’s Justin Rose leads the British charge after clinching the US Open in June, while Australia’s Masters champion Adam Scott is keen to make up for his collapse over the last four holes at Royal Lytham 12 months ago.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, the world number two, is seeking a first Open title to add to his US Open and US PGA wins, but a poor season following a switch to a new equipment supplier has dampened expectations.

American Woods has not won a major for five years following scandal, injury and a loss of form, but he has won four times this season to get back to the top of the rankings and is expected to mount a strong challenge on the banks of the Firth of Forth.

Woods, 37, won the last of his three Opens at Hoylake near Liverpool in 2006 but is stranded on 14 major titles as he chases Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18.

Woods’s victory on the Wirral was built on a strategy of irons off the tee for position on a fast-running, sun-baked course, and the recent hot weather and good forecast for the rest of the week should ensure similar conditions at Muirfield.

Tiger Woods

“This is a fantastic championship on one of the best venues,” said Woods, whose bid to win a third major in a row was blown severely off track in a fierce storm on the Saturday of the 2002 Open at Muirfield.

Woods tees off with Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa at 14:45 BST on Thursday.

Rose won his maiden major at Merion last month to climb to world number three, but only four players since the war – Woods (2000), Tom Watson (1982), Lee Trevino (1971) and Ben Hogan (1953) – have won the US Open and Open in the same season.

“The challenge for me is going to be staying in this tournament, not being dragged back to Merion every five minutes,” said Rose, who gets his campaign under way with Els and American Brandt Snedeker at 09:11 BST.

Rose, who finished fourth in the Open as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998, became the first Englishman to lift the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970.

Play media

Muirfield from the air

Guide to the course with BBC Sport’s Andrew Cotter

And the 32-year-old is among those striving to become the first English player to win the Claret Jug since Faldo, coincidentally at Muirfield, in 1992. Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke won the Open two years ago, while Paul Lawrie was the last Scot to triumph when he won at Carnoustie in 1999.

The build-up to the tournament has not been without controversy, given Muirfield’s staunch male-only membership policy.

Open organisers the R&A have been criticised for taking the event to the club, run by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, while conducting a global campaign to grow the game.

R&A chief Peter Dawson defended the club’s right to make its own membership decisions and rejected the view that staging the open at single-sex clubs harms participation.

The first group to tee off at 06:32 BST on Thursday will be England’s Oliver Fisher, Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman and Australian Peter Senior.

Live video, radio and text commentary as Open champion Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Nick Faldo take to the course.

Is Tiger Woods showing signs of panic?

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Respected golf psychologist Dr Bob Rotella has said that Tiger Woods is showing tell-tale signs of panic is his quest to secure a 15th major title.

Rotella, who is credited for the work he has done with leading players such as Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, said it was possible that Woods “is starting to be nagged by the question, in chasing all his dreams and ambitions, of: ‘What if I fall short?’ ”

Woods has been back to nearly his best form this season but when it has come to the majors he has failed to replicate this. “In the last bunch of majors he doesn’t appear to be in the same place,” Rotella said. “He probably has a greater concern, in terms of ‘When am I going to win one again?’

Referring to a botched bunker shot at the 2012 Open, Rotella said what would previously have been a routine stroke was messed up.

“You sensed that he got in the bunker and thought: ‘I’ve got to do something incredible’. That’s the first time you saw him panic, put pressure on himself a little, and try to force something. Given that he had been so patient throughout his career, that moment was very interesting,” he said.

Rotella also said that Rory McIlroy will not be in contention until he shows he has overcome a miserable few months since he switched to Nike clubs.

“When he finally gets his equipment to his liking he won’t have to think so much, then he can go back to being ‘unconscious’ with his long game,” Rotella added.

Spieth: U.S. golf’s new kid on the block

ImageYou might not have heard of him yet but you might well soon.

Jordan Spieth had thought he’d be back in school studying hard — now he’s on his way to compete against the world’s best at the British Open.

The 19-year-old is ready to take on the world’s best at Muirfield, Scotland after becoming the youngest winner on the PGA Tour in 82 years following his success at the John Deere Classic Sunday.

Spieth, who turns 20 in a fortnight, won a fifth hole playoff to see off David Hearn and former Masters champion Zach Johnson.

The U.S. star is the first teenager to win a PGA title since Ralph Guldhal won the Santa Monica Open in 1931.

“A year ago we had just won a national championship, and I thought I’d be back at school right now,” he told reporters after being informed that Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy all had to wait until the age of 20 to win their first PGA event.

“I had a plan. I guess the plan got exceeded.

“I wanted to just earn my Tour card for next year this year somehow.

“Now to be able to have it for a couple of years and to be able to have an exemption to Augusta (and) all the stuff that comes with it.

“It hasn’t hit me yet, and it will, but I’m just happy to go compete with those guys mentioned.”

Only last April, Chinese teenager Guan Tianlang made history after making the cut at The Masters at the age of 14 years and five months.

But age is not a factor for Spieth — not in his mind anyway.

“I don’t think of my age as my age,” he added.

“I just think of playing and competing with these guys as my peers. The guys in this event, each week, week to week, I don’t think of myself as younger than them.”

His success has fired him up to 59th in the world rankings, while he has also secured invitations to The Open, the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship, next year’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Masters.

A check for $820,000 came following a tense putt at the 18th green on the fifth hole of a playoff much to his delight as he booked his place at Muirfield.

He added: “I just got so lucky. That’s what it is. But right now I’m extremely pleased, and a little worried about only having short sleeves going to Scotland.”

Scottish Open: Phil Mickelson ends 20-year Euro win drought

Castle Stuart (United Kingdom): Phil Mickelson heads to the British Open in the best form possible after ending a 20-year European winless drought with a play-off victory in the Scottish Open on Sunday.

Mickelson, and the highest world ranked player in the field, captured his 50th pro career success after defeating South African Branden Grace with a birdie at the first extra hole.

Both players had ended regulation play tied at 17-under par with Grace posting a 69 and finding his way into the play-off when Mickelson horribly three-putted the last hole for bogey in a round of 68.

However Mickelson then brilliantly played one of his trademark wedge shots landing his 45-yard third shot a few feet past the hole before the ball spun back to some six inches from the cup for the easiest of birdies, while Grace missed his birdie putt from 25-feet.

Mickelson had lost the event in a play-off six years ago at Loch Lomond but has finally captured the event in his ninth Scottish Open appearance.

“I`ve been coming to Scotland now for quite some time and I`ve enjoyed my stay every year. I`ve had some opportunities before and I almost let it slide away today,” he said.

“So to come out on top feels terrific and this Castle Stuart golf course is just wonderful and I`ve had so much fun here the last three years, so to win means a lot to me.”

“I was so mad at myself for losing my focus and three-putting the last hole in regulation play so I went back to the 18th hole for the play-off pretty focussed to make a four.”

Mickelson, who collected a first prize cheque for $742,800 (580,000 euros), now will stand firm as a favourite at the 142nd British Open championship starting Thursday at Muirfield to the east of Edinburgh.

The American was third in the 2004 British Open at Royal Troon and joint runner-up two years ago at Royal St. George`s.

“This week has been very valuable for next week as I did a lot of things well and also there are a few things I still need to work on,” he said.

“But then today was a great day for us to have this type of windy weather as the first three days were very benign and it didn`t have the teeth this golf course can have on a day like today.”

“So I am anticipating this kind of weather next week at Muirfield, and if we (do) have it (then) today was very important for me getting ready.”

Mickelson`s only victory in Europe prior to the Scottish Open was in 1993 when he captured a secondary Challenge Tour event near Euro Disney in Paris.

“Mickelson is a great player and he`s not going to mess it up on the last,” said Grace.

“I`m still pleased, played well, put myself in contention and it`s a good week heading into next week.”

“I was playing maybe for third or something, and it just shows how quickly things can change out there.”

Danish rookie J B Hansen and Sweden`s Henrik Stenson both shot 71s to share third place on 15-under par.

Hansen dropped four shots with a quadruple bogey at the second hole and then raced into a share of the lead with seven birdies over his next eight holes.

After three years at the Castle Stuart course in Inverness, the tournament is moving in 2014 for just one year east to Aberdeen and Royal Aberdeen that hosted the 2011 Walker Cup.