Golf

Tiger stumbles again at Quicken Loans National

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Tiger stumbles again at Quicken Loans National

GAINESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Troy Merritt couldn't miss Saturday in the Quicken Loans National. Tiger Woods couldn't make anything.

Merritt shot a tournament-record 10-under 61 to top the leaderboard even before the leading contenders teed off. It held up, too, as several players made runs at joining him at 14 under, but only Kevin Chappell, another veteran seeking a breakthrough victory, didn't fade in the searing heat at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.

Chappell had a 67. Rickie Fowler (68) was a stroke back, and Jason Bohn (67), Whee Kim (67), Charles Howell III (67) and David Lingmerth (68) followed at 12 under.

Woods, who seemed to signal a return to contending golf Friday with a 66 that moved him within three strokes of the lead, was errant off the tee early and had several birdie putts slide by the hole.

While Merritt had 11 birdies and a bogey on the par-5 eighth, Woods didn't make his first birdie until a 17-foot putt dropped on the par-4 15th. He hit his tee shot on the 187-yard 16th to inches, flashing a huge smile on the tee box, and then made a bogey at the par-4 18th to finish with a 74. He'll start Sunday nine shots back.

"I was waiting for the one moment, the one shot. I couldn't find it," Woods said, adding that after starting with seven consecutive pars, he thought it might come at the par-5 eighth when his tee shot finally found the fairway.

Instead, his 3-wood approach sailed over the green and he made a bogey.

"I was dead back there, compounding the problem," he said.

Merritt had long since finished and went into the final round as the leader for the second time this season. He had the lead to himself after the second and third rounds of the RBC Heritage, but finished third.

Merritt had missed five consecutive cuts coming into the week.

"The big thing is we put ourselves into contention for tomorrow and that was the goal," he said. "I wanted to have a good week this week and I've been taking weekends off for two months now."

Chappell wasn't as spectacular, but started the day tied for third and more than kept pace with the field.

"You know, I've done a really good job of functioning this week," he said. '"That's the grass. That's the sky. That's the hole. That's my ball.' Shoot the lowest score tomorrow and I win the golf tournament."

Fowler, starting in the group ahead of the last two, has already won The Players Championship and the Scottish Open this year and hopes to give the leaders something to think about as quickly as possible.

"I'm looking forward to being out in front and making some noise, see if we can chase the guys down early and get things going," he said.

Charles Howell III, playing with Woods, followed his near-ace at 16 by knocking his tee shot just to just inches, giving them both tap-in birdies, but with larger implications for Howell; the 15-year pro is seeking his first victory since the 2007 Nissan Open.

"I made some birdies and they're out there," Howell said. "Got to keep the pedal down tomorrow."

There was no shortage of players making big moves attacking soft greens and with no wind.

Carl Pettersson and Bill Haas shot 64s to move to 11 under, and Vaughn Taylor had a wild day with 10 birdies and three bogeys in another 64 that moved him into a tie for 15th at 9 under.

No one took greater advantage that Merritt, seeking his first victory in 96 career starts.

"I finally made putts," he said. "It's really frustrating the first few days hitting the ball really, really well and having good proximity to the hole and not getting much out of it. Today I hit the ball really well and got a lot out of it."

He started with five consecutive birdies and six in the first seven holes, and had four birdies in a row and five in six holes in another stretch on the back nine. He closed with a par on the par-4 18th.

Starting fast isn't unusual, Merritt said, but sustaining it has been challenging.

"Making birdie at No. 12 was a huge momentum gain," he said, speaking of the 490-yard par 4, that hardest hole on the course through three rounds. "Then went on to birdie 13, 14 and 15 making good putts."

Defending champion Justin Rose shot a 65 and was among four tied at 11 under. With conditions expected to be similar in the final round, "It's going to take something I would imagine in the realm of 63" to win, Rose said.

2018 Open Championship Preview: Predictions, picks, fades, fantasy golf

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USA TODAY Sports

2018 Open Championship Preview: Predictions, picks, fades, fantasy golf

Golf's oldest major, the Open Championship, returns to Carnoustie in Scotland for the 147th edition of the prestigious links golf tournament.

As the best golfers in the world head to the United Kingdom for what is likely to be a challenging weekend of golf, there is no clear-cut favorite. But with Tiger Woods back in the fold, and Rory McIlroy still the face of European golf, the picks and predictions vary from popular superstar to unheralded golfers. 

The panel of golf experts offering their predictions, picks and analysis are:

Chris Garosi, The Fantasy Fix
Geoff Feinberg, Fantasy Golf Expert
Garrett Johnston, NBC Sports Washington
Kenny Kim, Fantasy Golf Degenerates Podcast
Doug McKinney, NBC Sports Washington/Sports Junkies
Matt "Valdez" Myers, 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies

2018 Open Championship Picks

Geoff Feinberg: Rickie Fowler
Picking Rickie is either met with one of two responses. The first being "ugh, you're crazy he has no business being included in this part of the odds board, he can't event win normal tour events anymore" Or like-minded people who believe his time is NOW. He checks two very important boxes for me that once again have me all-in, current form and scrambling. 

Chris Garosi: Tyrell Hatton
I wouldn’t blame you if you pick favorite Dustin Johnson. He checks all of the boxes. However, I’m going with Tyrell Hatton based on his work on at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (which includes Carnoustie as one of the courses) where he’s won twice. His Open Championship record is abysmal with just one made cut (a T5 in 2016) in six starts which may speak to the poor fit his temperament has when paired with a course which requires patience and an even-keeled nature. He’s comes in with three straight top 10 finishes including a T9 at last week’s Scottish Open.

Garrett Johnston: Justin Rose
He nearly won the US Open and his distance with driver and accuracy with the irons make his second major win a formality.

Plus, look at the age of winners here in 99 (Paul Lawrie) and 07 (Padraig Harrington), this course is for no spring chickens. Rose is a vet like they were.

Kenny Kim: Tiger Woods
If Tiger is going to win a Major this year, this week looks like his best chance. His iron game and scrambling have been near the best on Tour for the last couple of months. His big weakness this year has been off the tee but that should be muted this week with less than a driver in his hands off most tee boxes at Carnoustie. The last time we’ve seen an Open Championship this baked out and dry was at Royal Liverpool in 2006. The winner, Tiger Woods.

Doug McKinney: Marc Leishman
I spent more time trying to filter through who I liked for this week's Open than actual work this week. 

Dustin Johnson. Rickie Fowler. Paul Casey. Brooks Koepka. It's ThunderDome just trying to pick one. 

So I'm going to stick with my gun - Marc Leishman - who was my call to win this event at the start of the season.  I can bore you with the stats, course/tourney history, and recent form...but I do enough of that in the rest of my picks.  Cliff notes version: his stats are sexy, he has plenty of Top 10's in this major and he's playing solid golf.  His game fits The Open and as I've mentioned countless times when talking about the Virginia Beach resident; he is one of the best wind players in golf.  So bring on the gusts and let's go Team Leishman. I'm also one day older than he is, so there's that.

Matt Valdez: Brooks Koepka
Has the length to hit iron off the tee since fairways are so baked.  Two-time U.S. Open winner actually made his chops on the European Tour.  Sneaky familiar with links style golf and always plays well at majors.

 

2018 Open Championship Sleeper Picks

Geoff Feinberg: Patrick Reed, Tyrell Hatton 
I might be overstepping my bounds on what constitutes a sleeper but in these stacked fields of 2018 it seems like anyone who isn't publicly considered a 'super elite' and with that, I present our 2018 Masters champion who also managed to finish with a big performance at the US Open Patrick Reed. Reed is quickly becoming one of the top "big game hunters" on tour and his current odds of 40/1 is flat out disrespectful. As much as I am the guy banging the drum for Fowler I can admit his betting number is way too low but this Reed # is equally egregious to be this high. 

Ty Hatton at 50/1 is also someone I expect to represent well this week, he's a two time Alfred Dunhill Links champion and is also flashing some very good current form. 

Chris Garosi: Zach Johnson
It seems odd to make Zach Johnson a sleeper, but his odds are far too long for a golfer with an Open Championship record like his. Carnoustie was the site of ZJ’s first cut made at the Open in 2007 and he’s made every cut since. Johnson has three straight top 15s at the Open and five of his last six starts at this major have put him in the top 15 including a win in 2015. 

Garrett Johnston: Tony Finau
Top 30s in both his Open appearances. Says he absolutely loves Links golf and he believes his game is built to WIN major championships.

Kenny Kim: Jason Day
It’s not often we can call Day a sleeper but it seems like no one is mentioning him this week. This could be due to his less than stellar finishes at The Open over the years but being the best in the field in scrambling and putting can go a long way this week especially if the weather turns bad. His last Top 10 at The Open came in 2015 when he was playing lights out all season. He’s been playing exceptionally well this year and it could lead to a surprisingly high finish at Carnoustie.

Doug McKinney: Francesco Molinari
It depends on how you define a sleeper pick, because Molinari is inside the Top 15 in world rankings and it'd be a shame if the golf world would sleep on a Top 15 player.  For the point of this exercise, we will allow it because it seems that our dear Italian friend is not getting the pub and love he deserves...even if he is one of the hottest golfers in this solar system.  His last 5 appearances read: 1-2-t25-1-t2.  Sweet Christmas.  Really the only thing he has going against him is that Kenny Kim picked to fade him this week (I don't usually like going against KK's advice).

Matt Valdez: Russell Knox
Knox was in top form and won two weeks ago the Irish Open.  He's a hometown favorite, but I'm a bit skeptical since he's playing with Tiger Thursday and Friday.

 

2018 Open Championship Longshot Picks

Geoff Feinberg: Emiliano Grillo
The books don't seem to afraid of anyone pushing triple digits this week and its hard to blame them when considering recent major history  (minus my friend Willet of course) so this has led to some incredible drift up the odds boards for some guys that I couldn't resist laying it on but my favorite of the bunch is my Grillo 250/1 ticket. 

*Keep an eye on the status of Bryson if we get positive health reports that 100-125/1 must get tickled. 

Chris Garosi: Danny Willett
2016 Masters winner Danny Willett seemed to fall off the face of the Earth soon after his first major win. Some of that could be attributed to a hangover (both from winning and celebrating that victory). However, Willett struggled with injuries in 2017 and could never get untracked. Is he back (see what I did there)? He’s made back to back cuts for the first time since late 2017 (and those were T68 and T57). He has two top 10s in his last five tourneys and was T19 at the Scottish Open last week. He has two top 15s in his six Open starts.

Garrett Johnston: Bernhard Langer
The course will be playing fast. Remember when Turnberry played fast on 2009? 59 year old Tom Watson had a putt to win on the 72nd that week, Langer is older and has the patience for The Open’s hardest course.

Kenny Kim: Matthew Southgate
Southgate might not be too well known on this side of the pond but he is an extremely talented links player. He finished 6th and 12th at The Open the last two years, came in 2nd last year at the Irish Open, and has a TP Tour win at Royal St. Georges a few years back. He was at or near the top of the leaderboard after round 1 the last two weeks at the Irish and Scottish Opens and is ranked 15th in greens in regulation on the Euro Tour this season.

Doug McKinney: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Lee Westwood
I know it's been 26 years since the last time an Englishman has won this event, so that's why the aforementioned are paired in the "Longshot picks" category.  With that said, I expect both to place in the Top 25 this weekend.  Fitzpatrick, isn't a long striker, but he should be in good position often with the fast fairways in play.  Including The Masters, Fitzy has placed inside the Top 40 in 7 of 8 cuts where he saw the weekend (including a t38 @ Masters, t8 @ BMW PGA Championship and t12 @ U.S. Open) in his last overall 9 events.  His track record is okay at Open Championship, but I'm expecting the good form to continue.  As for Westy, Americans haven't heard much from the well-traveled vet this past year, as he has opted to play on the European Tour.  Westwood will be teeing it up in his 80th major of all-time, with 0 wins to show for...but plenty of near-misses.  He has a remarkable 18 Top 10 finishes in Majors, including 5 at this tournament.  The 45-year old has a decent course history here, has been playing pretty solid golf as of late and should be motivated to remind people of just who he is.

Matt Valdez: Haotong Li
Li plays mostly on the European Tour and has 6 wins at 22.  Outdueled Rory at the Dubai Desert Classic this year.  Finished 3rd at The Open last year.  T32 and T16 in the Masters and US Open this year.  

 

2018 Open Championship Fade Picks

Geoff Feinberg: Jordan Spieth 
Seems like the easy call for some nowadays but lets not forget who was banging that drum very early so I cant not stay on brand, dont worry if he wins ill be wearing egg on my face to go w my empty pockets. 

Chris Garosi: Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson looks like a new man with three wins this calendar year. Perhaps he’s worth a look based on his rejuvenated form. However, he’s never enjoyed the Open Championship irrespective of where it’s held. His best finish in nine starts is a T23 back in 2012 and is his only top 25 in nine starts.  

Garrett Johnston: Dustin Johnson
He’s the fade specialist in recent majors. Led by 4 at US Open through 36 and faded and also faded after leading through 36 in this championship in 2015.

Kenny Kim: Francesco Molinari
This is a tough one for me because I have made a bunch of money rostering Molinari the last month or so but I won’t be rostering him this week. First off I expect his ownership to be very high on DraftKings which automatically makes him less appealing. Secondly, his great performances the last month and a half have come on easier courses with a high birdie rate. I think the difficulty of this course and lack of true birdie-able holes will hurt him.

Doug McKinney: Henrik Stenson
Health and that's really the only factor.  He missed the cut here back in 2007, but I really wouldn't take that much into consideration seeing his good form as of late.  There are safer options out there to pick with the 2016 Champion Golfer of the year not 100% right now.  (Also tip of the cap to yours truly: last time I faded Stenson was in 2017 U.S. Open, where he missed the cut)

Matt Valdez: Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson
Bubba HATES links golf.  It's hard to shape and curve a shot with lots of wind.  He's never finished better than 23rd at an Open Championship.  

Phil is in a weird place. He peaked with his win in Mexico and so lost, he violates a rule every other week.

 

2018 Open Championship DraftKings "Price is Right" Bargain Picks

Geoff Feinberg: Dylan Frittelli ($6,800), Emiliano Grillo ($6,800) 

Chris Garosi: Matthew Southgate ($6,900), Eddie Pepperell ($7,000), Stewart Cink ($6,600), George Coetzee ($6,700)
I imagine everyone is going to be on Matthew Southgate as the bargain or sleeper pick of the week. But, if you want to win, you can’t go with the crowd. If it’s a links course I’m always on Eddie Pepperell and I’m usually on an island by myself with him.

He’s a late entrant to the DK game as he got into the Open Championship after finishing second at the Scottish Open (a links course). Oh, he also won the Doha Qatar Masters earlier this year (certainly a links-style course if only based on the past winners and certainly because of the exposed nature of the course).  Throw in a T7 at the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2017 (in which Carnoustie is one of the courses in the rotation) and I’m all over Eddie.

Stewart Cink looks like the free space of the week. He won at Turnberry in 2009, finished T6 at Carnoustie in 2007. He’s in excellent form with two top-five finishes in his last three events on Tour. 

South African George Coetzee is another interesting, inexpensive option for GPPs based on his work in Doha (four top 15s in six starts).

Kenny Kim: Zach Johnson ($7,200)
Zach Johnson at $7,200 seems very cheap to me. You’re looking at a guy whose game fits a links style golf course. He’s accurate off the tee, good with his irons, has a tremendous short game, and is an above average putter. His track record at Open Championships speaks for itself with six Top 16s in the last seven years including a win in 2015.

Doug McKinney: Paul Casey ($8,700), Patrick Reed ($8,400), Matthew Fitzpatrick ($7,600), Lee Westwood ($7,200)
I already talked about Fitzpatrick and Westwood.  My money is on Casey to finish inside Top 10, so the fact he is available for under 9 grand is a steal.  Patrick Reed, for whatever reason, is going to continue to be severely under-owned...and I love that trend.  

Matt Valdez: Emiliano Grillo
Not long off the tee, but won't matter with fairways like glass.  Didn't play well at majors last year but had a lingering injury.  Didn't play well at Shinnecock but no one did.  Just think the course sets up well for Grillo.  Fairways and Greens should keep him on the leaderboard.

2018 Open Championship Preview: Schedule, How to watch

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USAT

2018 Open Championship Preview: Schedule, How to watch

It's wide Open.

This week's 147th Open Championship in eastern Scotland at treacherous Carnoustie Golf Links boasts as deep a field of stars as we've seen in this championship since 2015 at St. Andrews.

Of course, it certainly helps to have three-time champ Tiger Woods back for his first start in The Open since he missed the cut at St. Andrews, a course he had won at in 2000 and 2005.

But this appears to be a different Tiger. He's healthier and he's coming in hot off a top 4 at Quicken Loans National a couple weeks back.

Make no mistake, Tiger Woods in a major championship is always must-watch material.

Even his former swing coach Hank Haney said on his SiriusXM Radio show this week that he's expecting Woods to win.

If he does so it would be his first major in 10 years. No small task with the strength of this year's field.

Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth figure to be some of the major challengers. U.S. Open runner-up Tommy Fleetwood also happens to own the course record at Carnoustie (63), which shouldn't surprise anyone considering his experience on links golf courses. There are a couple guys who aren't quite household names to watch out for just because of how in-form they are. Kevin Na, who just won in West Virginia and Francesco Molinari. Molinari won at Quicken Loans National in Bethesda convincingly and brings plenty of links golf experience to this week.

Remember the last time Carnoustie held The Open?

Sergio Garcia missed a 10-foot par putt on the 72nd hole and Padraig Harrington made a closing double bogey after finding the famous burn (water hazard) and both went to a 4-hole playoff.

People are quick to tell you Sergio whined after losing in that playoff, calling out the golfing gods as being against him, but let's remember that he hit the flagstick from 260 yards on the par 3 in that playoff.

How many players can say they did that in the history of Open playoffs?

Both are back this year along with the man who threw this championship away in 1999, Jean Van De Velde. Though he's not officially competing this time around.

Should be another instant classic this year.

RELATED: Open Championship predictions and picks

2018 Open Championship Information:

What: The 147th Open Championship

When: Thursday, July 19- Sunday, July 22, 2018

Where: Carnoustie Golf Links, Angus, Scotland

TV Channel: Golf Channel, NBC

Livestream: TBA

2018 Open Championship Odds, Betting Information:

DraftKings and FanDuel have tournaments open for The Open Championship, as does GolfChannel.com's Fantasy Golf game.

World number 1 Dustin Johnson just barely clipped 2014 champ Rory McIlory as the betting favorite, with 11-1 odds.

Johnson comfortably led the U.S. Open by four through 36 last month before a 77 brought him back to reality.

Rory McIlroy, who is in the midst of a relatively strong season though still looking for his first major since the 2014 PGA, has 12-1 odds of winning.

Then you have defending champ Jordan Spieth at 16-1 who is a great pick because he plays well in this championship. Remember when he finished one stroke out of a playoff here in 2015? Justin Rose is a good pick at 16-1 as well, coming off yet another close call at the U.S. Open. He's got a second major in him. Lastly, Rickie Fowler played in the final group at The Open in 2014. Bad news, it was with Rory McIlroy who was on fire, but with the pressure on Fowler didn't miss a putt inside ten feet all day. Look for his steely nerves to help again this year.

2018 Open Championship Betting Favorites

Dustin Johnson: 11-1
Rory McIlroy: 12-1
Jordan Spieth: 16-1
Rickie Fowler: 16-1
Justin Rose: 16-1
Tommy Fleetwood: 16-1
Tiger Woods: 20-1
Brooks Koepka: 20-1
Justin Thomas: 20-1
Jon Rahm: 20-1