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Jul 19, 2016 | 08:44 am

Major Nations

With his victory at Royal Troon, Henrik Stenson becomes the first Swede to win a major championship, and Sweden becomes the 19th nation to be represented on the list of majors winners. Since the first Open Championship at Prestwick in 1860, a total of 438 majors have been played (80 Masters, 116 U.S. Opens, 145 Open Championships, and 97 PGA Championships), won by 214 players. The great majority of them—263 titles—belong to 125 Americans. Next come the Scots with 55 victories by 31 players (although none in this century and most of them in the 19th century). Then it’s the English—44 majors by 21 players—followed by South Africa (22 by 7 players) and Australia (17 by 11). Jack Nicklaus has thus won more majors than all but four countries. Along with Stenson, the other one-and-done nations are Canada (Mike Weir), France (Arnaud Massy), South Korea (Y.E. Yang), and Wales (Ian Woosnam) while three nations can claim  one player who has taken three titles: Fiji (Vijay Singh), Ireland (Padraig Harrington), and Zimbabwe (Nick Price.)

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Jul 18, 2016 | 06:36 am

Lessons From Troon

It’s pure speculation, of course. But now that a thrilling Open Championship is in the books, what does it tell us about the big events coming in the rest of the year?

Start with the PGA Championship, which will be set up like a U.S. Open course, something that the PGA site—the Lower Course at Baltusrol—has been numerous times. Given how Americans dominated at Oakmont last month, taking 7 of the top 11 spots and winning (Dustin Johnson, lest you forget), maybe it’s an American’s turn at the PGA, too. And Americans continued their fine major play at Troon, taking 5 of the top 11 spots: Phil Mickelson, 2nd; JB Holmes, 3rd; Steve Stricker, 4th; Johnson and Bill Haas, T9.

How about the Olympics? Coming off his Open victory, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (above, smiling) has to be a gold-medal favorite. But most of the other top players at Royal Troon are not Rio-bound: No Mickelson, Holmes, Stricker, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton, Andrew Johnston, Johnson, or Haas. In fact, among the top 11 at Troon, only Stenson, Spain’s Sergio Garcia (T5), and Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen (T9) are in the Olympic field. Going a little further down the leaderboard you find others headed for Rio, including Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo (T12), American Patrick Reed (T12), Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee (T22), and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (T36). All four American Olympians made the cut in The Open, but other than Reed, none had much of a showing: Bubba Watson (T39) and both Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar (T46). Interestingly, the other Olympic teams of more than one player in which all made the Open Championship cut were Belgium (Thomas Pieters and Nicolas Colsaerts), Great Britain (Danny Willett and Justin Rose), and Spain (Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello). However, the Olympics will only feature an individual competition, no team matches.

But speaking of teams, last but not least is the Ryder Cup. The potential U.S. team (based on points earned through early July) acquitted itself quite nicely, with Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Watson, Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Fowler, Reed, Holmes, Zach Johnson, and, of course, Mickelson, playing all four days. For that matter, so did co-captains Stricker and Jim Furyk.

The likely European side didn’t fare too badly, either, led by Stenson plus McIlroy, Willett, Garcia, Cabrera-Bello, Kjeldsen, Rose, Lee Westwood, Hatton, Martin Kaymer, and a few other possible teammates going the distance at Troon.

All of which proves… not very much. But that won’t stop us from debating as the next few months showcase what is likely to be some very exciting international competition.

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Buzz 7.15.16

Jul 15, 2016 | 08:41 am

Two For Troon

Colin Montgomerie, certainly one of the best players to have never won a major, is playing in his final Open, and at the course where he grew up. Monty—who last played in the Open in 2010—went through qualifying for one more chance at Troon, where he first took up the game and where his father, James, was the longtime club secretary. Both father and son are now honorary members of the club, and James, now 86, will become the club president two weeks after the Open finishes. Said Monty, 53, of his 22nd and final appearance, “When the Open comes back to Troon in, say, 12 years’ time, being 65 I won’t be able to play, never mind qualify, because that’s the age limit. So this was the last opportunity to try to get in to play an Open at Royal Troon.”

Playing in his very first Open is 25-year-old American Harold Varner III, who turned pro in 2012 after graduating from East Carolina University and is beginning to hit his stride as a player. Varner has already earned $1.245 million on the PGA Tour this year, with four top 10s including a 7th place finish at the Quicken Loans National three weeks ago, which got him into the Open on what was his last opportunity to qualify. The long-hitting Varner—he presently ranks 20th in driving distance, 6th in total birdies, 4th in par five scoring average, and shot a round of 62 during the OHL Classic at Mayakoba back in November—said of qualifying that “I didn’t even realize what was happening until I was done and my caddie said that he thought I had the last place.”

Both Varner and Monty played yesterday’s first round at Royal Troon in even-par 71. Both remain at even-par through round two, currently 10 strokes off Phil Mickelson's lead.

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Jul 14, 2016 | 09:21 am

Players Take Advantage of Softer Troon

Royal Troon is looking particularly green this July. A wet season has meant that the course is softer and more lush than would typically be expected of the tough links course. Players are spinning wedges, putting aggressively, and working their way under par. At the time of writing, there are 23 players under par.

This isn’t to say that Royal Troon has lost all of its teeth. With more rain and growth, the rough is high and thick. The wind and rain predicted for the weekend will certainly add difficult elements during the finish, but it is admittedly disappointing that the “linksy” aspects of Royal Troon won’t be on show this week. The back nine at Troon is always more difficult than the front, and the numbers bear that out. The seven toughest holes on the course come on the back nine, according to TheOpen.com. The average score on the front nine is 1.3 strokes under par, while the average on the back is 3.1 over par. What do you think about the lack of firm, dry conditions this week? There’s nothing the Scots can do about it, but does it disappoint you at all? Let us know in the comments below.

Watch live coverage from Royal Troon at this link.

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