Van Sickle: Live blogging the first round, part 1

Thursday July 17th, 2008

Van Sickle Gary Van Sickle, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, live blogged the early rounds today. Alan Shipnuck is blogging now.

11:15: TNT is pretty much proving that eight hours of golf coverage is way too much. Paul Azinger provided some spark, and so did venerable Peter Alliss when he signed on after 11. Azinger and Alliss make a difference because they actually have things to say. Allis came on the air and immediately said, "Par at 70 is slightly ridiculous but that is the modern trend, knock a couple strokes off so nobody makes our course look foolish. And nobody has." Alliss is a gem. In answer to Tom's question about Norman's logo-less hat and divorce, my guess is he's holding off on any potential endorsements until after the divorce is final so his ex-wife doesn't get a piece of the deal.

In response to Ronan's comment about David Duval's 73, yeah, that's a pretty good start. Less face it, at his current weight, he's going to more stable in high winds than anyone in the field other than reigning fat man John Daly.
With that wisdom, I sign off until 11 o'clock tomorrow. Thanks for coming to Lame Blog Central. It was great being had.

10:25: No word on whether the British Open is still in progress. TNT has brought the telecast to a screeching halt with some gimmick called Lexus At the Turn. What turn? Have we finished nine holes?
Terry Gannon and Ian Baker-Finch talked over a few early highlights, including Phil Mickelson's early triple bogey, and now they're stuck in memory lane as IBF relives his '91 Open win at Royal Birkdale. Some nice old footage of IBF in his bright pink shirt but it went on way too long. I tuned in to watch the Open, not a couple of boring talking heads.
Finally, as I'm writing this, we're back to golf. Peter Hanson is still tied for the lead with Adam Scott and has yet to be seen.

10:15: Two interesting things about Greg Norman. One, he's playing well and is at even par, one shot behind co-leaders Adam Scott and Peter Hanson. Two, he's wearing all black, including a black, apparently logo-less ball cap. Can you imagine the Shark, the king of corporate empire-building, playing without a logo? I wonder if it's related to his divorce proceedings?

9:50: It's an ominous start for Sergio Garcia. He hit a perfect tee shot, pulled his second and played a beautiful bump-and-run shot to four feet. Then he put a familiar tentative stroke on his par putt and watched it die across the right edge and stay out. Bogey. That was the old Sergio, not-so-confident stroke. He can do better. The bad news is, with a bogey on No. 1, he's on pace to shoot 18 over. Maybe I'm getting punchy watching TNT. 9:47: Anthony Kim is the new Open leader at one under par, although TNT missed his birdie. Kim is the only player under par. Karlsson, meanwhile, went bogey-bogey. His bunker shot at the seventh didn't find the green, either. He had to make an excellent pitch to save bogey for the second straight hole.
Phil Mickelson missed a long birdie putt at the 18th and face a short putt to shoot 79. That's not a disaster, analyst Paul Azinger said on TNT. "Tiger shot 77 here in '98 and only lost by one. He's (Phil) not out of it. When he looks at the scores, he'll be in the middle of the pack. He'll have to play fantastic the next three days." 9:38: Red numbers have temporarily vanished from the Open. Leader Robert Karlsson made a mess of the sixth hole, a tough par 4 into the wind. He found a greenside pot bunker, then blew his bunker shot over the green. He chipped to four feet and made bogey (although No. 6 might as well be a par 5 today in this wind), dropping back to even par. No player is currently under par.

9:22: TNT does a terrible job of following anything up. Almost half an hour ago, we saw Ernie Els chip to 15 feet on the 18th green and face a par putt he needed to hole to shoot 79. He missed, which TNT never showed, and none of the announcers ever told us the outcome. They keep talking about how tough the conditions are, it might be a good idea to mention some of the early high scores.
Els shot 80. So did Vijay Singh, a three-time major winner. I had to look up their scores on a website to find out. Jerry Kelly shot 83. There are lots of 77s and 78s. The early scores look like they're from your local club championship. 9:15: Paul Azinger just joined the TNT telecast at the top of the hour and said more interesting things in his first five minutes than the whole broadcast crew said in the first two hours. Azinger talked about how brutal the conditions are and about the whole no-Tiger Open setup. We had  15-year stretch before Tiger, Azinger said, where he didn't know if any pre-tournament favorite won a major and he didn't know who should even be the favorite this week. "It's a free for all," he concluded.
Asked about Kenny Perry and whether he thought the three-time winner should at the British Open this week instead of Milwaukee, Azinger didn't blink. "He should be where he wants to be, he's almost 48 and we're all independent contractors."
The telecast has been dull and lifeless until Azinger stepped in. This is a big step forward.

9:00: Jean Van de Velde lives. Everyone's favorite almost-Open champion is back this week and he just ran in a 12-footer to remain at even par through eight holes. It's a long way to the clubhouse from the eighth but golf writers have to be salivating for another interview chance with the Frenchman. He's funny, he's smart and he can fill a notebook with great quotes. Plus he's got that tragic-comic factor of fouling up the '99 Open already built in and every writer likes a good comeback story. 8:37: TNT just did something good. I stand in awe. After David Duval birdied the impossible sixth hole, TNT put up a great graphic showing the dogleg right routing of the hole, moving arrows indicating the diredtion of the blustery wind, and where all the tee shots are ending up, which is mostly short of the dogleg or in the left rough. You don't have to know anything about golf to look at that graphic and think, wow, that's a hard hole.
Angel Cabrera just smoked a good, low drive into that wicked crosswind at the sixth. Funny, I thought he quit smoking. He's also at one under par, tied with Karlsson for the lead. Put Cabrera down on your early-warning-he-could-win list. The former U.S. Open champ hasn't been playing well of late but he's got the power to handle big winds, he's got the low shots and he's better on slower greens.

8:25: The Open has a new leader. Robert Karlsson just birdied the first hole to go one under par. Five players, none of whom has played past the fifth hole, are at even par. That's how tough the wind and rain is. Retief Goosen just finished with a one-over 71 and that's going to be a good score if conditions stay the way they are. One thing about British weather, though, is that it usually isn't static. It could get better, it could get worse. But if it stays this tough, players who shoot seven or eight over par may not be out of it. Mickelson just hit a par-3 green in regulation (hold the applause, please) and if he can avoid any more mistakes and finish at 77 or 78, it won't be as bad as I previously thought.
Ernie Els, another guy expected to have a chance with Tiger missing, was seven over par at last report. 7:58: Apparently, Justin Rose and I have different agendas. He finished his round before 8 o'clock, which is disconcerting even though we all know about the five-hour time difference, and was being interviewed by Jim Huber, who asked about the trying conditions. "We always hope the Open gives us decent weather," Rose said as he began his answer. Noooo! We, as in media and fans, always hope for crazy weather. It's a much better show. Just keep the rain, sleet and hail off the camera lens. NASCAR has crashes. Golf has the Open. Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow.

7:50: If prison inmates were sentenced to four hours of TNT golf coverage, there would be a lot less crime in the U.S. I don't know how TNT, in the past responsible for some of the worst golf productions ever, got a piece of a major championship this week but it's getting grim already. In 50 minutes of on-air coverage, we've seen surprisingly few golf shots and in no apparent order or any apparent reason. I realize part of that is the BBC being in control of the cameras, and its aim is simply to show golf shots. American networks prefer to show a player completing a hole, so that's why I just Mark O'Meara hack a shot out of the rough, having no idea how he got there and no idea what he did after he hacked out. Meanwhile, announcer Terry Gannon just gushed over Ernie Els hitting a bunker shot close. "Hey, how about that bunker shot Ernie hit at Muirfield a few years ago?" Gannon asked his cohort, Ian Baker-Finch. I'm glad it wasn't Larry Mize playing a chip shot because I guess he would've asked, "Hey, how about that chip-in Larry Mize had at the Masters a few years ago?" I'd give IBF (Baker-Finch) $20 if he would've answered Gannon, "Yeah, how about that?" 7:27: Breakfast isn't even over here and it looks as if Phil Mickelson is in danger of playing his way out of the Tiger-less British Open. He just missed a short putt for par at the 15th hole to drop to eight over par for the day. Eight over? The wind is gusting to 35 mph and Phil has always been a high-ball hitter. Plus, it looked like the wind may have moved his ball on that short putt. See what you're missing, Tiger?
Meanwhile, Retief Goosen just bogeyed, too, which means nobody on the course is under par.

7:18: The British Open has been on the air since 7 o'clock and it's taken TNT this long to show me a leaderboard and tell me that Retief Goosen is leading the Open at one under par. Michael Letzig is second at even par.
I had to sit through a highlights package of Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose hacking out of the hay while announcers Ernie Johnson and Ian Baker-Finch described how miserable the conditions are at Royal Birkdale--very windy, rainy and chilly. If Kenny Perry is watching in Milwaukee, he's looking at the blurry shot where TNT's camera is smeared with rain and thinking, That's why I'm not at the British Open--hah!

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