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This Week in Golf - July 18th through July 22nd

This Week in Golf - July 18th through July 22nd

This Week in Golf - July 18th through July 22nd
July 16th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - BRITISH OPEN - 136TH BRITISH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Carnoustie Golf Club (Championship Course), Carnoustie, Scotland - The season's third major, the British Open Championship, returns to Carnoustie for the first time since Jean van de Velde's collapse in 1999.

Eight years ago, Van de Velde carried a three-shot lead onto the 72nd hole and -- yada yada yada -- he needed to make a seven-foot putt for a triple-bogey just to get into a playoff with Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard.

The yada yada yada, of course, included a stunning array of inept shots and bad decision by Van de Velde, video of which lives on year after year at British Open time.

Lawrie eventually won -- he remains the last European to win a major -- but his story rides shotgun to the greatest, most shocking and best-known collapse in golf history (it beats Mickelson at Winged Foot).

Borrowing from the movie Tin Cup: Years after that British Open, no one remembers who won or lost, but they remember Van de Velde's seven.

This year, accommodations were made to assuaged criticism over what many players deemed an unfair layout at Carnoustie last time around. Tiger Woods, on his Web site, called Carnoustie in '99, "probably the hardest British Open course I have ever played ... The set-up was unfair and ridiculous."

This year, Woods enters the Open as the two-time defending champion. He edged Chris DiMarco by two strokes last year at Royal Liverpool, memorably breaking down on 18th green following his first major victory since the death of his father, Earl, that spring.

Woods enters the week as an overwhelming favorite to win again, followed by the usual big-names everyone likes to throw around for the majors: Phil Mickelson, who stumbled and finished runner-up at the Scottish Open last week; Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen, who have never won the British; Ernie Els, who has shown signs he can win again; and players like Jim Furyk, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Colin Montgomerie, who each finished well in their last British Open starts.

TNT will have extensive coverage of the first two rounds, as well as split coverage with ABC on the weekend.

Next week on the European Tour is the Deutsche Bank Players Championship, which was won by Robert Karlsson last year. The PGA Tour will have the Canadian Open next week, where Jim Furyk claimed his last victory this past September.

PGA TOUR

THE U.S. BANK CHAMPIONSHIP, Brown Deer Park Golf Course, Milwaukee, Wisconsin - This year, the U.S. Bank Championship is in the unenviable position of being the simultaneous event to the British Open.

Last year, that distinction fell to the B.C. Open, which no longer exists on the PGA Tour schedule.

Cory Pavin won the last U.S. Bank Championship, cruising to a two-shot win last July for his 15th PGA Tour title and first since the 1996 Colonial. Pavin fired a tour-record 26 on the front nine Friday on the way to a course-record- tying 61 in the first round. He will be back to defend his title.

Brown Deer Park Golf Course will be hosting this event for the 14th time, and the tournament will celebrate its 40th anniversary. Dave Stockton won the first event in 1968.

The Golf Channel will have coverage of all four rounds from 4-7 p.m. (et) on each day.

LPGA TOUR

HSBC WOMEN'S WORLD MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP, Wykagyl Country Club, New Rochelle, New York - Last year, 39th-seeded Brittany Lincicome earned her first LPGA Tour victory with a 3 & 2 win over eighth-seeded Juli Inkster in the World Match Play final.

Both of the finalists had knocked off stiff competition to get there.

Inkster, the eighth seed, squeezed out a 1-up victory over top-ranked Annika Sorenstam in the quarterfinals, the same day Lincicome bested second-ranked Michelle Wie, 4 & 3.

In Sunday's semifinals, Inkster knocked off the always tough Paula Creamer by a 5 & 4 score, while Lincicome barely handled Lorena Ochoa in 19 holes.

In the final, Lincicome birdied early and often to build up a lead. The win was a long time coming for the former amateur standout, who held a first-round lead at the 2004 U.S. Women's Open before she turned pro.

A week prior to last year's Match Play, Lincicome shared the 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open, but ultimately finished seventh.

"Hopefully great things are to come," Lincicome said of her Match Play win. "It's a huge confidence booster."

The Golf Channel will have coverage of the first two rounds, and CBS will broadcast the weekend. Next up for the women is the Evian Masters, where Karrie Webb won last year.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

PRICE CUTTER CHARITY CHAMPIONSHIP, Highland Springs Country Club, Springfield, Missouri - Doug LaBelle was one of eight players to shoot a round of 63 in last year's Price Cutter Charity Championship, using the week's low number to help his win his first Nationwide Tour title on the way to a promotion to the PGA Tour.

Of course, going low at this event is necessary. Last year, no less than 12 players carded four consecutive rounds in the 60s. LaBelle was one of them, eventually finishing with a 27-under 261 for the win.

Paul Claxton leads this year's money list, but he could be surpassed this week if Nick Flanagan, who trails him by $16,404, has a good finish. Claxton is not in the field.

Next week's event is the Cox Classic, where Johnson Wagner beat Craig Bowden by four shots last year for his second win of the season.

CANADIAN TOUR


CANADIAN TOUR INTERNATIONAL TEAM MATCHES, Scarboro Golf & Country Club, Toronto, Ontario - This week, the top eight Canadian players will compete against a team from the United States and a team of international players in a specialty event ahead of the Canadian Open next week.

Eight groups of threesomes comprise the main draw of the tournament, to be held on Wednesday at Scarboro Golf & Country Club.

There are nine points available per hole: five points for the winner of the hole, three points for second and one point for third. The team with the most points at the end of the day will win.

DURAMED FUTURES TOUR


ALLIANCE BANK GOLF CLASSIC, The Links at Erie Village, Syracuse, New York - Last year's winner, Ha-Na Chae, has climbed to sixth place on this season's money list following three top-10 finishes in just four events.

Chae made $24,545 on the Futures Tour last year, bolstered by her win at the Alliance Bank Golf Classic.

Following this week, the Futures Tour is off until the USI Championship begins August 3, where Charlotte Mayorkas won last year.

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Re: This Week in Golf - July 18th through July 22nd

Golf Betting News: Carnoustie No Longer a Major Pain
By: BoDog Sportsbook     

The Open Championship returns to the site of a historic collapse to find it kinder and gentler.

No matter what happens in Scotland this week, Carnoustie will not shake the mark Jean Van de Velde left on the sole of its shoe. The distinction of hosting one of the most infamous collapses in sports history gets you labeled as notorious, not majestic, and that's a problem for a group of officials who don't blink at the title of their association: Royal & Ancient.

Majors are expected to be difficult, but they're not supposed to be a joke. Van de Velde, who triple-bogeyed the 18th at Carnoustie in 1999 then lost to Paul Lawrie in a playoff, had such an awful experience that it's tainted the golf course. The host of the British Open should be known for its champions, not its losers.

In an effort to reshape the image of the Angus County landmark, which sits in a town whose golf history dates back to 1527, the Royal & Ancient has gone easy on the 156 competitors preparing to walk the grounds of the links course near the sandy shores of the North Sea.

Golfers who tested Carnoustie over the weekend reported the roughs gone, the fairways wide and their breathing relieved.

"The rough was very thick. You were having a hard time getting it to the green," Steve Stricker said, recalling the "Carnastiness" of eight years ago. "Now, the rough is not bad at all. You can actually aim at the rough on some of the holes."

Retief Goosen, who finished 10th in 1999 with an 11-over par, smiled on Sunday when he assessed the 2007 British Open Championship course: "You have nothing silly like last time," he remarked.

Although the golfers will still have to contend with the Scottish weather (the forecast calls for temperatures in the high 50s and intermittent light rain through the weekend), most will have the opportunity to put up low scores - something they could only babble about wistfully at Oakmont last month. Handicapping the Open Championship then means narrowing in on golfers who can reach the greens in regulation on a course that measures 7,421 yards and then finish their putts. We all know one guy who fits that tee.

136th British Open Championship

When:     Thursday, July 19 to Sunday, July 22
Where:     Carnoustie Golf Club, Scotland
TV:     TNT (Thursday, Friday) ABC (Saturday, Sunday)
Favorites:     Tiger Woods (3/1); Field (5/1); Ernie Els (12/1); Phil Mickelson (14/1)

"It's playing great," Tiger Woods said after a practice round on Sunday. "It's really nice, really fair."

What the Royal & Ancient has done is obvious. Carnoustie, like any course, wants to be associated with Woods, not Van de Velde, and it's been set up to unravel that way. The course has been laid out like fresh kill; Tiger just has to go out there and get it.

Questions still surround Woods' state of mind, however. He's four weeks into fatherhood, so there's a chance he will be distracted or overtired as he aims to win the Claret Jug for a third straight year. If he isn't as sharp as usual, another long shot could follow Zach Johnson and Angel Cabrera as a surprise champion of a 2007 major. Or, one of the broad selection of golfers who figure to play well under par this week could emerge. That possibility is perhaps the most significant reason why the Field has overtaken Woods as the favored betting option.

With 118 players lumped in, golf bettors almost have to wager on the Field, especially when it includes the likes of K.J. Choi, one of the hottest players on the PGA Tour. At British Open odds of 11/4, the Field is a slight favorite over Woods (3/1). The other 37 individuals who will enter Thursday's first round with a betting line beside their names range from 12/1 second choice Phil Mickelson to Chad Campbell at 100/1.

"I have a feeling that this Open could be very open, but I have an 'unless'," Thomas Bjorn (80/1) said during play at the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond on Sunday. "It could be very open unless Tiger has spent the last couple of weeks how he normally does before a major. If he has, then he could blow everybody away again."

For one competitor, Carnoustie has gone too far in its reinvention. "A bit too easy," is how David Frost described the course. "I think the fairways are very wide and there's no rough," he said. "So, it's a little bit of a total opposite to what it was in '99."

And that's by design, created with both a dream outcome and the memory of a nightmare in mind.

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Re: This Week in Golf - July 18th through July 22nd

British Open Betting Preview
by T.O. Whenham

The British Open starts on Thursday. That means we have to get ready to make some bets. After all, what good is a major if you don't have some money on it? The British Open is always an interesting tournament - for betting and also for pure entertainment. The history and tradition of the courses is rich and intriguing, but the courses are of an unfamiliar style, and they are often ridiculously difficult and, frankly, kind of ugly. It's definitely a tournament I watch more for the drama and the storylines than for the quality of the golf itself.

If those are my complaints about the tournament then they are especially true at Carnoustie, this year's host course. The Open was last there in 1999 when Jean Van de Velde famously collapsed down the stretch, allowing Paul Lawrie to close from 10 strokes back to win in a playoff. The 1975 Open at Carnoustie must have been a classic to watch, with Tom Watson holding off hard charges by both Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller. It is widely viewed as the hardest links course in the world, and it will be set up with tight fairways and nasty rough. Lawrie won with a six-over score last time, and there is no reason to believe that the players will be significantly under that this time out. It's reportedly a fairer course this year, but even at it's kindest this is far from an easy layout.

So, will this year's British Open winner be one of the big two, one of the close contenders like Ernie or Vijay, or someone out of left field, as Zach Johnson and Angel Cabrera have been so far this year? Here's a quick look:

Tiger Woods (3/1) - Figuring out what the greatest living golfer will bring to the table is an interesting challenge. On one hand he is the two time defending champion of the tournament, and he's always deadly dangerous in a major. On the other hand, we have no idea what kind of form he's in. He was disappointing in the U.S. Open, but his daughter was born just two days after the tourney, so it is no wonder his mind didn't seem to be into it.

The only tournament he has played since is the AT&T National, and since he was hosting as well, it's unreasonable to expect he was at his best. To add an extra twist, Woods was very critical of the layout at Carnoustie last time they were there (it's not a wonder - his 294 is his highest 72-hole score ever, even though he finished seventh), and his lack of accuracy off the tee could be a disaster on the narrow, unforgiving course. That all adds up to the same problem usually presents for me - he doesn't provide any value at the price, but I am very hesitant to discount his chances of winning.

Phil Mickelson (14/1) - This is a pretty juicy price for Mickelson, but I still don't think I like it. Lefty seems to be as hungry as we have seen him in a long while, but the renewed determination just isn't leading to positive results. Since winning the Players Championship in May he has withdrawn once and missed the cut twice, including the U.S. Open, in three PGA appearances, and he collapsed down the stretch and then lost in a playoff last weekend at the Scottish Open. The biggest concern in the last outing was that his drives were all over the place. That could be disastrous at Carnoustie.

Mickelson knows all about disaster at the host course - he missed the cut by a stroke last time the Open was here. Mickelson certainly can win it, but there is probably better value for money elsewhere on the board.

Ernie Els (12/1) - The Big Easy isn't in top form, but he's always very comfortable at the British Open. He has won it once, and been in the top 10 on seven other occasions. He finished 24th at Carnoustie in 1999, but that whole season was a bit of a disaster - he missed the cut in the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. Ernie could obviously win, but this price is much less than I would prefer to see.

Luke Donald (28/1), Paul Casey (40/1), Justin Rose (28/1) - Lawrie was the last European to win a major, so I lump these three guys together because they offer the same basic thing - good form, talent and comfort with the style of play that could end that unbelievably long streak of futility. Rose hasn't missed the top 10 in any start on the European Tour this year. He is accurate and strong out of the sand, and his biggest weakness, a lack of length, will not be an issue on this course. Casey has been in the top 10 in both majors this year, and seems poised for a breakthrough.

Niclas Fasth (40/1) - If you are looking for intriguing value for your money, look no further than Fasth. He has been red hot since just before his fourth place finish at the U.S. Open, with a win, a second and an eighth. Though he doesn't have a ton of major experience, he doesn't seem to be bothered by the pressure - he was second to David Duval in his first British Open, which was also his first major, in 2001.

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Re: This Week in Golf - July 18th through July 22nd

Olazabal pulls out of British Open
July 18th, 2007

Carnoustie, Scotland (Sports Network) - Jose Maria Olazabal has withdrawn from the British Open Championship.

Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion, has not played since last month's U.S. Open at Oakmont. He has battled a knee injury that forced him to withdraw from events in France and Scotland the last two weeks.

His best finish at the British Open was a third in 1992 and a tie for third two years ago at St. Andrews. In 1999 when the British Open was last played at Carnoustie, Olazabal missed the cut.

The Spaniard was replaced in the field by Tom Pernice Jr., whose best previous finish at a British Open was a tie for 65th at Royal St. George's in 1993. Last year, the 47-year-old from Kansas missed the cut by a shot.

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