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Scott Stallings has no expectations heading to Open Championship

By Jesse Smithey, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 10--Scott Stallings will use a mulligan on the British Open next week.

The 29-year-old Knoxville resident underwent a two-round baptism during his first start in an Open Championship last year. He shot rounds of 76 and 78, missed the cut by four shots at Muirfield and headed back to the United States.

He'll give that style of golf another whirl next week at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

"You can't have any expectations going over there," said Stallings, who won for the third time on the PGA Tour in late January at the Farmers Insurance Open. "You have to learn how to deal with it shot for shot and hole for hole and take what it gives you.

"I didn't do a good job of that last year. I was like, 'This is the way I'm going to play the course, and this is the only way I'm going to play the course.'

"Obviously, it didn't work very well."

Stallings found out last week that his World Golf Ranking, which is 86th, was high enough to get him into the field at Hoylake. Tiger Woods won the Open Championship the last time it was held at Hoylake in 2006, using his driver only one time across four rounds to win by two shots over Chris DiMarco.

That approach isn't lost upon Stallings, who also has picked 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink's brain on how to be more fluid each day -- especially dealing with the tournament's fickle weather.

"I hit irons off the tee farther than I hit my driver," Stallings recalled about last year's Open Championship. "I've never dealt with that before. You take the yardage book for what it is. But for the most part, it's all about feel. It doesn't matter how you're swinging but how you manage your game and keep it out of bunkers and give yourself opportunities to get up and down for par and hopefully sneak a few birdies in.

"(And) everyone talks about the weather and how dry it was. All we've heard the last few weeks is how wet it is over there. Anything can happen over there. I've heard it's going to dump rain over there and I've heard it's going to be warmer than it was last year. You don't know until you get over there."

Stallings will be making his eighth major championship start. He has made the cut three times: the 2012 Masters, 2013 U.S. Open and 2013 PGA Championship. His best finish in a major was a tie for 27th at the 2012 Masters.

After a midseason slump this year, Stallings looks to be peaking. He has made the cut in five of his last six starts, and eight of his last 12 rounds have been 70 or below.

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"That's golf," Stallings said. "Golf is the most gratifying game and frustrating at the same time. Sometimes I feel like I'm the best in the world. Sometimes I feel like I don't even know what club to hold.

"I'm progressively getting better, week in and week out. As a player, that's all you can really ask for. Results are going to come when they come. You can't go out there and try and force it."

Stallings must first play the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill., before heading overseas, and TPC Deere Run offers not a single glimpse into Open Championship golf.

Conforming to a vastly different time zone as quickly as possible Monday will be first on Stallings' game plan.

"You have to try and get on their time as quick as possible," he said. " I think we get to Liverpool at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. I try to stay awake as long as I can. It's pretty crazy that it stays light over there for so long. It doesn't get dark until 11 o'clock.

"But it's the most historic event in golf. It's an honor to play, and I'm excited to get over there."

___

(c)2014 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)

Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at www.knoxnews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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