Notes: Caddie flashes back to win in 1987 Open
GULLANE, Scotland He returned to Muirfield to caddie for Ashun Wu of China, mostly as a way of celebrating a great memory – the 26th anniversary of his win on Nick Faldo's bag at the 1987 Open. It opened the door to two more Open wins and three Masters titles and it remains an unforgettable one for both Faldo and Andy Prodger.
As he watched Faldo come down the 18th to finish his 36-hole try, Prodger was asked his favorite memory of that 1987 triumph. There was a twinkle in Prodger's eyes, then he laughed. He remembers sitting in the grandstands in the early morning, watching players putt, so he was prepared when Faldo called him to read a birdie try at the crucial final hole. Now Faldo didn't often ask for help, but he did with the Claret Jug on the line, perhaps needing Prodger to reinforce his line.
Sure of what he had seen that morning, Prodger told Faldo "it would hook (left), definitely it will hook." Instead, Faldo's putt "kept going right and right" and the caddie was horrified. "The hump (in the left portion of the green) swallowed me up," Prodger said.
Fortunately, Faldo converted the next putt for what was his 18th consecutive par, a memorable performance worthy of his first Claret Jug.
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AMONG HONORABLE COMPANY: Things you might have missed during the Open Championship, given all that golf played while you were fast asleep:
• Remember Shiv Kapur? Of course you don't. But the onetime collegiate star at Purdue who hails from India made quite a splash Thursday afternoon. Playing in just his second Open, all he did was go out and make six birdies in his first seven holes, make the turn in 30 and storm into the lead. Sadly, the 31-year-old played his next 63 holes in 21 over to settle into a tie for 73rd.
• You putt for dough, remember? Henrik Stenson led in fairways hit (45, or 11 more than Phil Mickelson, who was T-37) and greens in regulation (57, to 46 for Mickelson, who was 27th). Yet he was three strokes behind the lefthander. Why? Simple. Mickelson required just 117 putts to Stenson's 127.
• Whither Luke Donald? Just when you thought that perhaps the classy Englishman had figured out links, ouch. He shoots 80-72 and misses the cut. Donald hadn't shot 80 since his debut in the Open, but that was way back in 1999 at Carnoustie, which was about a par-79 golf course that year. Besides, back then Donald was a youngster; he missed the cut in each of his first five Opens. In six of the last seven, he had made the cut and three of his last four finishes had been T-5, T-11, and T-5, so this had to be a huge disappointment.
• Darn that 16th! Ernie Els will lament his heartache at the demanding par-3 in Round 1 when he left two shots in the bunker and made a triple-bogey. He had been level par at the time, so when he shot 74 it got his championship off to a miserable start. In 2002, Els had the lead late in Round 4, only to make a double at that same 16th. He recovered dramatically at 17 and 18 to win a playoff that year, but no such luck this time around.
• He needed split tees: Graham DeLaet might have fared better had the R&A started at one and 10, but in the Open, everyone goes off No. 1. Bad news for the Canadian, because he played the front in 17-over. He was just 2-over on the back.
• Quick out of the blocks, anyway: Dustin Johnson is 7-under in the three first rounds of the majors this year. But he's 32-over in Rounds 2-4 of the Masters, U.S. Open, and Open Championship. At Muirfield, he made four birdies in his first nine holes, but just four over the weekend 36.
• Knows his way around: Justin Leonard recorded a T-13, halting a skid of three consecutive missed-cuts in a championship he won in 1997. Proving how different Muirfield played than last time it visited, in 2002, Leonard 11 years ago shot 281 and that was good for T-14. This time around, 281 won.
• Keep him in mind for 2014: Brandt Snedeker missed the cut in each of his first three Opens, but he was T-3 a year ago and T-11 this time around. "Trending," you could say. Only two players broke 70 twice – Phil Mickelson, who won, and Snedeker who was 4-under for three of his rounds, but undone by a Friday 79.
• That's amore. Francesco Molinari finished T-9, just his second top 10 in a major championship. He was T-10 at the 2009 PGA.
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CLERICAL ERROR: Josh Teater's first Open Championship had a few highlights, plus the expected bumps. He opened well, a 72, but only made one birdie over his final 54 holes to finish 82nd.
Making matters worse, Teater had hoped to take the charter back that was for those entered into this week's RBC Canadian Open. "Unfortunately, I forgot to commit. I thought I did, but I didn't," Teater said.
When he heard the news, Mike "Fluff" Cowan, the veteran caddie who is good friends with Teater's caddie, Mike Hicks, offered consolation. He told Teater that at one time or another, virtually every PGA Tour player had done the same thing.
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TOUGH ON BEGINNERS: Nearly a quarter of the Open Championship field (34 of 156) called it their Open Championship debut, but proving how difficult a challenge links is, only 12 of them made the cut.
The list included six who play on the PGA Tour: Jonas Blixt, Jordan Spieth, Bud Cauley, Russell Henley, Teater, DeLaet, and Russell Henley.
At the other end of the spectrum, Scott Piercy's debut was forgettable. His second-round 88 started with five bogeys and a double on his first six holes.