Round 4: Open Championship
July 22 2012
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Critical strokes: Over the course of four days there are dozens of shots on which a tournament can swing. Two stand out from Sunday’s play.
The 16th hole was playing the easiest on the course. It had a stroke average of 3.84 and had given up 124 birdies. Adam Scott three-putted the hole for the second of his four straight bogeys to finish the round.
A few moments later, Ernie Els made his birdie putt at the 18th. It had not been a good week on the greens for Els prior to that putt. He was ranked 75th in putting as he stood over his birdie attempt.
Divots: You can get a pretty good read on any player’s swing by looking at his divots. Starting Thursday, Adam Scott’s divots resembled the length and width of a dollar bill and were pointed straight at his targets. That’s an indication his swing was on plane and the clubface square at impact.
Long putters: There is no doubt the long putter has revived both Els’ and Scott’s career.
Els was seventh on TOUR in greens in regulation during 2011 but a woeful 181st in strokes gained-putting last season. This year, he is ranked 68th. Following his first-round victory at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, Els told me he was putting so well with his belly putter he was contemplating a return to the regulation putter. I doubt that is now a consideration.
At the 2010 Shell Houston Open, I watched as Scott looked at the cup while putting as opposed to watching the ball. That’s a drill some players practice but rarely use during actual competition.
Since switching to the long putter, Scott’s stats have gradually improved. Starting in 2008, Scott has ranked 178th-180th-186th-143rd in strokes gained-putting. In 2012, Scott is ranked 76th.
Revenge: Tiger Woods had birdied the sixth hole in each of the first three rounds. Not on Sunday. The 492-yard par 4 got its revenge when Tiger posted a triple-bogey 7. He hit a 5-iron into the greenside bunker, took two to get out and then three-putted. The mistake essentially closed out his chances to win. Woods wasn’t alone in his struggles at the sixth. The hole was the toughest in the tournament playing to a stroke average of 4.477
Distance Control: Woods has made so much improvement in his swing but there is still one area that lags behind. He is 129th on TOUR in approaches between 50-125 yards. That’s critical since it’s a player’s scoring zone. Woods averages 19 feet 9 inches when hitting a shot between 50-125 yards. There is nothing wrong with his direction, it’s the distance control that is missing. Woods tends to get vertical with his wedges, taking deep divots, which makes it difficult to control distance. He repeatedly lost scoring opportunities this week with ordinary wedge play and yet still finished in a tie for third.
Hole location: The wind never blew more than 15 miles per hour this week, so officials toughened the course with hole locations. In 72 holes of competition, there was one cup cut in the middle of the green. All the rest of the hole locations were on the edges of green complexes.
Course conditions: It was remarkable to watch golf balls not only hold the putting surfaces this week but actually spin and back up. The British Open usually features a biscuit brown golf course. We are used to seeing a puff of dust at impact and golf balls racing more than 50 yards after landing. The unusually wet year in England made for a very different British Open.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.