Greg Norman could not have realized at the time that Sunday afternoon in the 2005 British Open would be his last round at St. Andrews.
Norman told the BBC that he will not return to the Old Course for his final year of eligibility. The two-time Open champion last played golf’s oldest championship at Turnberry in 2009. Norman said he doesn’t have time to prepare, and it wouldn’t be fair to take a spot from someone who can win.
”For me to get ready to go and play at St. Andrews, I need to practice. And I don’t have time to practice because I’m doing two USGA events for Fox,” said Norman, the analyst for the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open. ”I’m not going to walk to the first tee and feel like I’m taking up the space of some young kid who could actually learn a heck of a lot more from it. I don’t believe in doing that. I think it’s so unfair to do that.”
In that respect, Norman speaks from experience.
He was scheduled to play at St. Andrews in 2010 but withdrew on the Friday before the Open because of lingering pain from shoulder surgery. He was replaced in the field that year by some young kid who made his British Open debut at St. Andrews – Jason Day.
Bubba Watson has played only nine times this year, tied with Rory McIlroy for the fewest of any player among the top 75 on the PGA Tour money list.
Watson played the Cadillac Championship at Doral and took off four weeks before the Masters. He is in the middle of a four-week break before showing up at the U.S. Open. The two-time Masters champion is simply trying to find the right balance to be a golfer, husband and father while keeping up his energy when he does play.
”We all know theories are just theories,” Watson said Tuesday. ”But when you look at it on paper, I’m trying to figure out my life. I’m looking at it going, `How do I get my best energy level? How do I get the most positive thoughts?”’
The U.S. Open is the start of three straight weeks (Travelers, Greenbrier) before he gets a week off ahead of the British Open. And starting with the Bridgestone Invitational, he plays six out of eight weeks.
He played only one round from Doral until the Masters last year – an 83 in the opening round before he withdrew with an allergy problem – and won another green jacket. He had four weeks off this year and tied for 38th.
Watson figures no matter how much time he takes off or how often he competes before a major, ”It doesn’t mean I’m going to play well.”
He’ll at least be in Seattle a week ahead of the U.S. Open. Watson said a friend has a city church in the area and he’ll spend the week with him. He already has played Chambers Bay during a charity event hosted by Ryan Moore.
”I don’t know the rules of the USGA, but I’m going to try to play the week before,” he said.
BUBBLE WATCH: The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial are the last tournaments for players to crack the top 50 in the world and receive an exemption into the British Open.
Most of the attention is on Luke Donald, who is No. 60 and playing at Wentworth, which is assured of big points as the European Tour flagship event. Others outside the top 50, such as Thongchai Jaidee, George Coetzee and Shane Lowry, already are exempt for St. Andrews.
Squarely on the bubble is Ben Martin, who is No. 50 and playing Colonial. Charley Hoffman also is at Colonial is on the outside at No. 53.
As for the U.S. Open, the top 60 are exempt for Chambers Bay after next week’s tournaments – the Byron Nelson Championship and the Irish Open. The U.S. Open has another cutoff June 15.
NICK OF TIME: Danny Kim of Toronto narrowly advanced to U.S. Open sectional qualifying, a close call measured by seconds instead of strokes.
Kim played his 18-hole local qualifier Monday at Mendon Golf Club outside Rochester, New York.
Texas sophomore Gavin Hall shot 63 on his home course to earn one of two spots. Kim appeared to be in good shape to finish second. He was 5-under par playing the ninth hole when he drove right into the trees, the same place where he lost a ball during a practice round Sunday. Storms moved in and halted play for nearly an hour.
According to Rochester television station WROC, Kim was walking in when he noticed a ball in the fairway about 30 yards away. He thought nothing of it, returned after the delay and saved par from the trees.
On the next tee, however, Kim realized the ball he played was the one he had lost in the practice round. The ball in the fairway was his tee shot – it apparently bounced out of the trees. He discovered the mistake just in time.
Because he had not started his next hole, Kim was able to play his tee shot from the fairway with a two-shot penalty. If he had teed off, he would have been disqualified. He made double bogey (with the penalty), survived a triple bogey later in his round and shot 68 to advance.
”Pretty relieved to be going to the next site,” Kim said.
TIGER & RORY: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are the only players since 2004 who have twice posted scores that were at least 10 shots better than the field.
McIlroy shot a 61 in the third round at the Wells Fargo Championship, which was 10.16 strokes better than the field average. He shot a 62 in the final round at Quail Hollow in 2010, which was 10.72 shots better than the field.
Woods did it at two courses. He closed with a 62 in the Honda Classic in 2012, which was 10.11 shots better than the field that Sunday. A year later, he shot a 61 in the second round of the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, which was 10.19 shots better than the field.
DIVOTS: Arizona State junior Jon Rahm of Spain has won the Ben Hogan Award, given to the top college golfer based on his performance in amateur golf the past year. Rahm is the first European to win the award, and the fourth straight winner from the Pac 12. … Pinehurst No. 2 will have held four big USGA event in six years when it hosts the 2019 U.S. Amateur. The Donald Ross design had the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in successive weeks last year, and it will host the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in 2017. Bandon Dunes was selected for the 2020 U.S. Amateur. … Rory McIlroy hit 43 out of 56 (77 percent) full tee shots over 300 yards at the Wells Fargo Championship. The field average for drives longer than 300 yards was 36 percent. … Webb Simpson earned $624,800 for his runner-up finish in the Wells Fargo Championship, making him the 50th player in PGA Tour history to surpass $20 million in career earnings. He has four victories dating to his rookie season in 2009.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Phil Mickelson is now 0-for-12 at Quail Hollow. The only courses on the PGA Tour he has played more times without winning are Muirfield Village (14) and Cog Hill (13).