Month: May 2021

Role Reversal

first_imgSAN DIEGO – There was an innocent moment here Wednesday between the 20-year-old star and the man he grew up idolizing. Both Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods sat on a dais, next to the PGA Tour commissioner, to collect their respective year-end awards – Spieth for the Rookie of the Year, after a one-win, nine top-10 campaign; Woods the Player of the Year, after yet another five-win season. When Woods stood up to say a few words, he went out of his way to praise Spieth – how he went from having no status anywhere to winning an event, to reaching the Tour Championship, to earning a spot on the Presidents Cup team, to finishing inside the top 25 in the world rankings. “It’s going to be fun for a number of years battling it out,” Woods said. “I’m going to enjoy it.” Well, the first battle went to the kid – and it wasn’t really a contest. On a course that Woods has owned since the late ’90s, Spieth thoroughly outplayed the world No. 1 in every facet on his way to a second-round, 9-under 63 and the halfway lead at the Farmers Insurance Open. On the easier North Course, Spieth hit all but one green and one-putted six of his last eight holes to take a one-shot lead over Stewart Cink. As for playing with Woods for the first time in competition? “I wasn’t intimidated by any means,” Spieth said. Woods (71), meanwhile, failed to birdie a par 5 for the second consecutive day, three-putted the last for bogey and sits nine shots back, needing an epic weekend comeback to win for a record ninth time at Torrey Pines. Ever the optimist, Woods recalled what he did here in 1999 – 62-65 on the weekend to win by two – and maintained there’s still a long way to go. Spieth, staked to his first solo 36-hole lead on Tour, believes that too, which is why he didn’t much dwell on his eye-opening play over the first two days here. Still, for a kid already brimming with confidence, his start at Torrey can only help, especially given the big-time stage. Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, videos and photos Sure, he had played with Rory McIlroy in San Antonio. And yes, he was paired with Phil Mickelson on the final day in Boston. There was even that Presidents Cup practice round with Woods in October. But this was different. This was Spieth coming into Torrey Pines – Tiger’s personal playground – and beating him handily, looking completely unfazed. “Jordan prefers to play with the best in the world,” said his caddie, Michael Greller. “He loves it. He gets good nerves when there are more people, and he thinks more clearly. He’s more focused in those situations.” Spieth and Greller began working together at the 2011 U.S. Junior. That week, Spieth was listless and looking for a spark, and he found it when Golf Channel cameras came out to watch his match. “It’s time to go now,” Spieth told his caddie, and after a birdie on that hole he was well on his way to becoming the first player since – you guessed it – Woods to win multiple U.S. Junior titles.    For Greller, it’s a surreal experience to be back here at Torrey, a year later, after so much has changed. His boss is now the game’s hottest star, and he’s a multimillionaire, and he’s in commercials … and he’s not even old enough to legally enjoy a post-round beer. “I keep pinching myself,” said Greller, who before hopping on Spieth’s bag was teaching 12-year-olds at Narrows View Intermediate School in Washington. After all, consider where they were a year ago: slamming the trunk after rounds of 72-73 here in the pro debut. At the time, Spieth had no status, anywhere, and his next few months were full of unknowns. Frustrated and disappointed, Greller recalls bumping into Spieth’s father, Shawn, after they missed the cut: “He said, ‘Michael, it’s a marathon. You’re going to have weeks like that.’” Well, they haven’t had many since. Spieth had a win and three runners-up while missing just five cuts in 2013, and already in the new wraparound season he has three top 20s, including a second-place showing at Kapalua, where he shared the 54-hole lead. “He’s got some kind of x-factor,” Greller said. “I don’t know where it comes from, but he has it.” And yes, Woods is a believer too, especially after the first battle went Spieth’s way. “The kid has got talent,” said Woods, providing the early favorite for understatement of the year.last_img read more

Suit and Tie

first_imgPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Missing from this year’s Players Championship proceedings is as iconic a figure as anything at TPC Sawgrass. As ubiquitous as photos of the island-green 17th hole, the palatial clubhouse and even Pete Dye, whose twisted mind gave creation to the Stadium Course, this year’s Players seems strangely incomplete without the stoic figure of Vijay Singh pounding range balls into the bright, blue sky. When he isn’t out making millions of dollars at far-flung Tour events, Singh is a fixture at TPC Sawgrass, almost always digging holes on the far side of the practice tee, the players’ side, in search of answers. But for the first time in more than two decades the Fijian, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., is conspicuously absent from the venue he is most associated with. Instead, Singh will spend this week awaiting answers that don’t seem to be forthcoming. It was a year ago Wednesday that Singh stunned the golf world when he announced on the eve of the 2013 Players that he had sued the Tour for, among other things, the “reckless implementation of its anti-doping program.” The Players Championship: Articles, videos and photos Singh, you may recall, ran afoul of the circuit’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs when he told a Sports Illustrated reporter that he’d used the Ultimate Spray, which contained IGF-1, a growth hormone like HGH that is on the Tour’s prohibited list. Singh was suspended and during the appeals process the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is what the circuit’s PED policy is modeled after, pulled a U-turn, claiming that the use of the spray was not a violation, and the Tour dropped the case against Singh. But Singh wasn’t interested in absolution. He wanted more. He wanted a full accounting for being “labeled by the PGA Tour, media, some fellow golfers and fans as someone who intentionally took a banned substance in an effort to gain a competitive advantage.” At the time, many of Singh’s Tour frat brothers considered the suit, and particularly the timing, bad form. Many believed Singh had been given the ultimate mulligan via WADA’s adjusted stance on deer-antler spray and should be content with the outcome. Twelve months, 75 motions and countless hearings later, we now know why Singh wanted his day in court. Last Friday, for example, we learned via a discovery filing that in a letter dated April 28, 2013, the Tour was trying to interpret WADA’s change of heart in a letter sent to Dr. Olivier Rabin, WADA’s director of science. “Am I correct (that) WADA’s position today is that the ‘use’ of deer-antler spray is not a doping violation?” wrote Andy Levinson, the Tour’s executive director of policy administration. Two days later the Tour announced that Singh had been absolved of any wrongdoing. A year removed from that hectic day, Singh likely isn’t sitting around awaiting his legal resolution or his Players fortunes. He’s currently the third alternate into the field this week and hasn’t missed a Players since 1992, but with each passing day his chances of landing a coveted tee time are dwindling. Similarly, an order filed by New York Supreme Court judge Eileen Bransten in March made it clear his case is on the slow track. According to an adjusted conference order, all of the depositions will be completed by Dec. 19 and the deadline for the discovery phase of the lawsuit is June 30, 2015. The “note of issue,” which is used to have the court’s clerk enter a case into the calendar for trial, is due by Aug. 31, 2015. Which means the lawsuit will not likely go to trial until the end of next year or the beginning of 2016. It is a long, drawn-out process that at least partially explains Singh’s pedestrian play. Since last year’s Players, Singh has just a single top-10 finish on the PGA Tour (he was runner-up at the Frys.com Open) and the episode has clearly taken a toll on the multiple major winner. “It has been going on for a whole year and it kind of messed up my whole season,” Singh said in December at the Australian Masters. “The best thing I told myself to do is just focus on what I know best which is playing golf and let the legal side take care of its own.” The “legal side” will be sorted out eventually, languidly. As for the competitive component, there was a glaring answer in the spot on TPC Sawgrass’ practice range where Singh normally resides. At 51, it seems Singh’s pursuit of legal answers is just beginning, while his dogged quest for competitive clarity may be coming to an end.last_img read more

Four on the Floor

first_imgAKRON, Ohio – Somewhere in America, a golf fan just stepped off a cruise ship, returning from a nice, relaxing vacation. Or perhaps he spent the last week camping, connecting with nature but detaching from modern technology. Either way, the respite might have proven worthwhile. But once he fires up his phone he’ll have some serious catching up to do. Consider all that has transpired in the world of golf in the past seven days: • Dustin Johnson fell from one of the PGA Tour’s brightest stars to perhaps its most troubled commodity. • Tiger Woods moved back to the injury report after another final-round withdrawal, leaving his PGA Championship fate in doubt. • Phil Mickelson explained that a good performance would have to come from “out of nowhere,” and then shot a 62 the next day. • Sergio Garcia knocked the diamond off of one woman’s ring just days after apprently putting one on another woman’s finger. • Rory McIlroy went from one of the game’s best players coming off a big win to … well, maybe that one didn’t change much. PGA Championship: Articles, videos and photos It was a year’s worth of breaking news compressed into a week-long stretch, capped by a shining performance from the new world No. 1. And that was just the appetizer. Now the attention shifts to the Bluegrass State, where the stars have aligned to produce one of the year’s most compelling events. The PGA Championship has long been seen as fourth in prestige and intrigue among golf’s majors, but it now has the opportunity to stand above its championship brethren after the first three majors of the year produced less-than-compelling conclusions. Admit it: the majors this year have been a snooze-fest. Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and McIlroy are all deserving champions, but none of the three had to sweat much coming down the stretch in claiming their respective majors, winning by a combined 13 shots. In fact, golf fans have now toiled through six consecutive majors without so much as a one-shot margin of victory – the longest such streak since 1981. That could all end this week at Valhalla Golf Club, where two previous installments of the season’s final major ended in overtime and where the best in the game enter with some serious momentum. Any pre-tournament conversation will begin with McIlroy, a deserved odds-on favorite after wins at Royal Liverpool and Firestone vaulted him back to the top spot in the OWGR. But he’s not the only big name playing good golf right now. Adam Scott relinquished the No. 1 ranking to McIlroy despite the fact that his entire reign, which dated back to May, featured five starts with no result worse than a tie for ninth at Pinehurst. Garcia and Rickie Fowler are battling each other for the season’s silver medal. Garcia came up short again to McIlroy at the WGC-Bridgestone after sharing second place behind him at Hoylake, while Fowler could become the first player to crack the top five in all four majors since Woods did so in 2005. Then there’s Justin Rose, who had back-to-back wins last month but slacked off by only finishing T-4 in Akron. Players speak about peaking for majors, a notion that is easy to understand but hard to quantify. The leaderboard last week at Firestone was an example that sometimes the best in the game can do that, with four of the top five players in the world in contention heading into the final round. It produced a captivating event, albeit one that was overshadowed by off-course conjecture. A similar scenario could play out this week in Kentucky, with the news cycle focusing on two players who may not tee it up at Valhalla. Johnson’s self-described leave of absence for “personal struggles” will keep him out this week, and for the foreseeable future. Woods’ prognosis is less certain following his Firestone withdrawal, when his bad back reared its head. Those storylines are certainly packed with intrigue, but even if Woods misses another major – his third of the season – there are still plenty of reasons to remain glued to the coverage this week. To recap: the best players are playing their best golf; they’re headed to a venue that has a history of exciting conclusions; and, if we’re lucky, we might see a player standing over a putt on the 72nd hole with a trophy hanging in the balance. Which means you should probably bump that vacation to a different week.last_img read more

Medal Play

first_imgThe Golden Bear collects more golden moments, this time on Capitol Hill, while Cut Line examines the PGA Tour’s Saturday curse and a 54-hole title drought that has been two months in the making. Made Cut                                                                                        Mr. Nicklaus goes to Washington. Let’s just make it a cool 19 majors for the Golden Bear. On Tuesday, Jack Nicklaus became the third golfer awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the United States’ highest civilian honor, in the Capitol Rotunda. Speaker of the House John Boehner called Nicklaus the “gold standard,” the Ohio State marching band performed and CBS Sports commentator Jim Nantz spoke of Nicklaus’ win at the 1986 Masters, the last of his 18 major championships. But it was Nicklaus’ five children and 22 grandchildren, who were all in attendance, who the World Golf Hall of Famer counted as his greatest accomplishment. Nicklaus’ oldest son, Jack Nicklaus II, recalled a phone call the two had after the youngster had won a junior tournament. “When I was done, there was a short silence and I thought it was about time to hang up,” remembered Nicklaus II. “Then he asked, ‘Jackie boy, would you like to know how your dad did? I just won the U.S. Open.’” We measure our athletes by what they accomplish in the field of play – 18 majors, 73 PGA Tour titles. It’s telling that Nicklaus measures success with another set of numbers – five children, 22 grandchildren and one happy wife. Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF) Blown saves. Like the New York Mets, the Tour is in desperate need of a closer. It’s been two months since a 54-hole leader converted that advantage to victory, a run that dates back to Bill Haas at the Humana Challenge. Last Sunday Henrik Stenson, then the third-ranked player in the world, blew a two-stroke advantage through three days. Ditto for Ryan Moore at the Valspar Championship, J.B. Holmes at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and Ian Poulter at the Honda Classic. “They haven’t played well enough. I’m not just a pretty face,” smiled Stenson when asked last Saturday about the 54-hole phenomenon. Twenty-four hours later the Swede learned an even simpler explanation: Winning on the PGA Tour is hard. “Steady improvement.” That was Notah Begay’s take on the progress Tiger Woods has made back home in South Florida the last few weeks. Of course, whether that translates into a start at next month’s Masters, Begay couldn’t say, figuring his friend was “50-50” to play the year’s first major championship. “I think his golf game as a whole is in a great place,” Begay said. “ I think it was good for him to take a step back, to reassess a variety of different things and do things on his timeline.” Whether that timeline includes a drive down Magnolia Lane remains unknown to Begay, and probably even Woods. Missed Cut Don’t mess with … Forget about the 31 players who failed to break 80, the handful (12) who were able to break par and even the 25 “others” (a score higher than double bogey) posted on Day 1 at the Valero Texas Open. The only thing you need to know about Thursday’s action at TPC San Antonio could be summed up in 140 characters. “I shot a million today but have to applaud the golf course set up. Mother Nature was in control today, but the golf course played fair,” tweeted Brian Harman, who actually shot a respectable 79 on a rough and wind-blown day. The scoring split – the morning’s average was 78.61, nearly four strokes higher then the afternoon average (74.86) when the winds subsided slightly – supports Harman’s measured take. Still, this is the same layout that played to a 73.286 scoring average and ranked as the eighth-toughest course on Tour last year. Hard but fair should be the goal of every tournament official, the trick is not letting that fine line become blurred by Mother Nature. Tweet of the week: @JustinThomas34 (Justin Thomas) “As a positive at least I hit a 4-iron 315 [yards] out of a fairway bunker today. That’s about all I got. What a brutal day! #holywind” Got to love Thomas’ half-full take after what was widely considered a half-empty day. Selective enforcement. It’s one of the central themes behind Vijay Singh’s lawsuit against the Tour and the notion surfaced again last week after the circuit warned caddie Duane Bock that his shorts didn’t conform to the Tour’s dress code. Bock, who caddies for Kevin Kisner, was told following the third round that his red shorts were verboten by a policy that states caddies, “are required to wear solid-colored khaki-style long pants . . . or solid-colored, knee-length tailored shorts.” Bock told GolfChannel.com that he had no problem with officials policing what caddies wear, but that he would like to see more consistency in the enforcement of the policy. On Friday, for example, Stenson’s caddie Gareth Lord wore a similar pair of red shorts and told GolfChannel.com that officials said nothing to him about it. It’s this kind of selective enforcement that led some to question the Tour’s motives. Bock is, after all, among 167 caddies who filed a class-action lawsuit against the Tour earlier this year claiming the circuit has engaged in restraint of trade and anticompetitive conduct involving the caddie bib.last_img read more

DeLaet handling yips, aiming for medal

first_imgRIO DE JANEIRO – Graham DeLaet picked up right where Canada left off in the last Olympic golf competition, perched near the top of a leaderboard in his quest to win the country’s second gold medal. That Canada’s reign as Olympic golf champions has stretched 112 years was nothing DeLaet seemed interested in addressing. “We are the defending champions,” DeLaet said with a sly smile after a first-round 66 left him alone in second place early on Day 1 at the Olympic Golf Course. Technically, DeLaet was correct. Canadian George Lyon won the individual competition at the 1904 Games in St. Louis, although the United States took the team gold medal. But even that detail doesn’t stand up to a semantics debate since golf’s return to the Olympics this year doesn’t include a team competition. While the historical significance of DeLaet’s Olympic opening may be an interesting footnote – in fact, it’s why officials sent DeLaet out in the day’s first group alongside Brazil’s Adilson da Silva and Ben An, whose parents were both Olympians –the Canadian’s 5-under card was much more compelling when considered in competitive context. Widely considered one of the game’s best ball-strikers, DeLaet endured the worst of professional hardships this season when a bout with chipping yips ran him away from the PGA Tour and in search of answers. Olympic golf coverage: Articles, photos and videos DeLaet withdrew from the Memorial in June, sending a social media missive afterward: “I’m dealing with incredible anxiety while chipping/pitching right now. It’s not fun.” He took more than a month off and arrived early in Rio unsure how his game would hold up under the Olympic pressure. “Everything is feeling better and better all the time,” said DeLaet, who hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation on a blustery first day in Rio. “I know that when I finally get through the whole thing, it’s just going to be a little blip on my radar when I look back on my career.” DeLaet’s outlook on this week’s competition has taken a similarly “big picture” approach. While some of the game’s top players chose to pass on the Olympic experience, most citing concerns over the Zika virus for their withdrawals, the 34-year-old never wavered on his commitment to playing in Rio. Asked on Thursday if he ever had second thoughts, DeLaet’s answer came quick, “No.” In fact, the father of twins who were born last November said he was already looking forward to 2020 when the Games will be played in Tokyo. “It’s different for a golfer because we played last week, we come down here for a week, we’re in Greensboro [N.C.] next week type of thing and the playoffs start right away,” he said. “But when you see how much this means to the other athletes, they have been working at this for four straight years, you can see how much it means to them, and the pride and the excitement that they have.” If DeLaet was in the minority heading into this year’s Games with such zeal, being a part of the Olympic experience has only solidified his desire to make this more than just a South American cameo. His chipping yips may just be a blip in his career, but winning a gold medal would reach well beyond Rio. Winning a medal may still be an abstract notion to most golfers in this week’s field, but for DeLaet such an accomplishment would transcend his country’s unique history with Olympic golf or the relative uncertainty associated with the game’s return. On Tuesday, he visited the Canada House in the athlete’s village and was joined on the shuttle bus by his country’s rugby sevens women’s team fresh off their bronze medal winning performance. “We got to hold [the medals],” he said. “That’s when it really kind of became real to me how amazing it would be to get that chunk of medal. Obviously gold would be incredible, but I think bringing home anything would be really, really special.” Conditioned as most professional golfers are, DeLaet tempered his excitement after just one round. “I’m only 25 percent done,” he said. But there’s something about this week that undercuts the old cliché. “One shot at a time,” may work on any given week among the play-for-pay ranks, but the Olympic call is hard to ignore when everything around you is a reminder of what awaits. That holds particularly true for a player like DeLaet who has been tested to his competitive core this season by the yips and is considered to be among the best players on Tour without a victory, which is something of a backhanded compliment. Winning a medal – pick a medal, any would do – would qualify as a career-changing, if not life-changing, event for DeLaet. “We do this for a living week‑in and week‑out, but there was something different about that first tee shot today,” DeLaet said. “We said as we were walking off the first tee, this is pretty cool, first time in over a hundred years, and we’re kind of the lead group. It was nice.” Lyon’s victory in 1904 was a similarly unique story. The last Olympic gold medal-winning golfer hadn’t started playing the game until he was 38 years old and declined to accept his gold medal in St. Louis. More than a century removed from that last Olympic exchange not a lot has changed other than the guy from Moose Jaw has every intention of keeping his medal, whatever color it might be.last_img read more

Langer (65) leads rain-halted Sr. PGA by 2

first_imgSTERLING, Va. – Shrugging off fatigue from last week’s victory, Bernhard Langer shot a 7-under 65 Thursday to take a two-shot lead in the first round of the Senior PGA Championship The 59-year-old German could break Jack Nicklaus’ record of eight senior majors with a win at Trump National. He tied Nicklaus last week with a five-shot victory at the Regions Tradition. He would also become the first player to win all five of the current senior majors. Langer started with five straight pars on a cool, misty morning before sparse galleries. The start was delayed 80 minutes because of overnight rain that saturated President Donald Trump’s already-soft course on the shores of the Potomac River, about 25 miles from Washington. ”I was really tired on Monday and Tuesday, really low on energy,” Langer said. ”Today, I felt fine. I got up early at 5 a.m. and went through my stretching routine and stuff and then heard about the delay, so sat around for an hour and a half, got all stiff again, so that part didn’t help.” Langer’s lead held up as afternoon thunderstorms halted play for the day with half of the 156-man field still on the course. Langer pumped his fist when he rolled in his first birdie, an 18-footer at the par-4 sixth hole. That started a run of six birdies in eight holes that tied him for the lead at 5 under. He missed only two fairways and just one green in regulation, leading to his only bogey. ”I hit a lot of good putts,” Langer said. ”There was one or two other ones that actually I thought I made them and they just went over the edge, or one actually lipped out, but I also had two or three that went in that don’t go in every day.” He finished his round by hitting a 2-hybrid from 216 yards to 3 feet for eagle on the par-5 18th. ”I had a very good yardage,” Langer said. ”I knew if I hit it somewhat solid it should land near the hole and it landed perfectly.” The PGA of America allowed players to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways and moved up some tees on the soggy course so that it played at just under 7,000 yards. ”They shortened the course quite a bit and it turned out to be such a nice day, the course played incredibly short,” said Tom Lehman, who was two shots back after a 67. Lehman briefly had the lead until he chunked a 4-iron into the water on 18, leading to a bogey. ”I played very well. I’m not going to dwell on one bad swing,” he said. Lee Janzen, Scott McCarron and James Kingston also were two shots behind Langer. Kingston, a South African who got into the field by finishing among the top 20 in money on the European Senior Tour, tied Langer at 7 under before two late bogeys. Among the players who didn’t finish, Larry Mize had the best round going at 5 under through 10 holes. Miguel Angel Jimenez was among the group at 4 under, playing alongside John Daly and defending champion Rocco Mediate, who were both 1 under. Langer has 31 career victories and $22 million in earnings on the PGA Tour Champions, trailing only Hale Irwin’s 45 wins and $27 million. He has topped the money list eight times in nine seasons. ”I feel like Bernhard is catchable, but you’ve got to play awfully, awfully well,” Lehman said. ”He’s accomplished so much, but yet I think we all still feel that he can be beat. It’s just that you need to play really well to do it.”last_img read more

Stricker wins second straight Champions title

first_imgBILOXI, Miss. – Steve Stricker pulled away on the back nine Sunday at Fallen Oak to win the Rapiscan Systems Classic for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory. The 51-year-old Stricker closed with a 4-under 68, birdieing all four par-5 holes on the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big and fast greens. He finished at 11-under 205 for a three-stroke victory over Billy Andrade. Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship, opposite the senior event in California that Vijay Singh won for his first senior title. Stricker played the front nine in 1 under, with birdies on the par-5 first and sixth and a bogey on the par-4 fourth. He birdied the par-4 10th, bogeyed the par-4 11th, and put away the tournament with consecutive birdies on the par-4 12th, par-5 13th and par-4 15th. Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic The Wisconsin player has seven top-three finishes in nine career senior starts. In addition to the two victories, he tied for second last month in his first Champions start of the year. In December, he teamed with Sean O’Hair to win the PGA Tour’s unofficial QBE Shootout. Stricker has 12 PGA Tour victories and captained the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team last year. He’s playing the PGA Tour event in Houston next week. Andrade closed with a 69. Gene Sauers (66), Scott Parel (67), Jesper Parnevik (68) and David McKenzie (69) tied for third at 7 under. Joe Durant, the first-round leader who began the round a stroke behind Stricker, had a 72 to tie for seventh with Billy Mayfair (67) at 6 under. Bernhard Langer (66) was 5 under. Sixty-year-old Jeff Sluman, a stroke back entering the round, shot a 74 to drop into a tie for 11th at 4 under. Two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 68 to tie for 33rd at even par.last_img read more

Randall’s Rant: Make the U.S. Open great again

first_imgAll those cocky smiles have to go. It’s time the U.S. Open wipes them off the faces of today’s young pros and reasserts itself as the game’s Grim Reaper. Shinnecock Hills is just the course to do it. Of course, we want to see it done in all the best ways this championship historically has done that, because it’s been awhile since we’ve seen this event at its best. While we once relished hearing players grumble and whine about the U.S. Open, the setup was so unfamiliar, so unrecognizable at Chambers Bay three years ago, we actually sympathized with the players who complained. Desolate moonscape wasn’t a good look for a U.S. Open, nor were the dead greens. We sided with the players again at Oakmont two years ago, with the greens pushed to “Fast and Furious” speeds that created a controversy when Dustin Johnson’s ball moved while he was over it with a putter in the final round. We joined the players in their outrage, even as Johnson saved the USGA from a mutiny by going on to win, with the final seven holes played in a fog of confusion and uncertainty over whether he was going to be hit with a penalty. U.S. Open: Tee times | Full coverage And then the scales tipped too far the other way last year. The U.S. Open was so much fun for so many players at Erin Hills, it wasn’t any fun for the rest of us. Yet again, the setup was almost unrecognizable. “It was a fun week to be a part of, but it is definitely not a U.S. Open, in any way,” Webb Simpson, the 2012 champion, said leaving Erin Hills a year ago. He wasn’t alone thinking that. “It just didn’t remind me of a U.S. Open,” Jim Furyk, the 2003 winner, said. “If you came here thinking U.S. Open, you had to adjust your style and game.” Keegan Bradley loved it, but he felt like he was playing another major. “It’s more like a PGA Championship,” said Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA. You didn’t have to see the widest fairways in championship golf to see how unrecognizable the U.S. Open became yet again at Erin Hills. You only needed to see the insolent smirks on big hitters’ faces, delivered so routinely, like waggles in part of their pre-shot regimens. OK, maybe they weren’t smirking insolently, but the mind plays tricks remembering how much fun big hitters had lashing drivers with impunity. Brooks Koepka equaled the U.S. Open record, winning at 16 under. Justin Thomas shot 63 in the third round, his 9 under total the lowest round in relation to par in the championship’s history. So along comes Shinnecock Hills, like a knight equipped to rescue the USGA, to restore the championship’s dignity. Here’s hoping USGA executive director Mike Davis can finally deliver his masterpiece example of why his vision of the U.S. Open as the “ultimate test” works. Shinnecock Hills is an American classic, one of the five founding-member clubs of the USGA. It’s the perfect venue to right what’s wrong with the U.S. Open, but it’s all about setup, conditions and weather this week. It’s all about Davis getting his vision of the championship exactly right. If he does, we’ll have the best idea yet if he’s right in massaging the U.S. Open’s identity, by presenting tests that better reflect the intentions of great American architects, that more thoroughly examine skills through the entire bag, that allow the driver to be a larger part of the test and imagination to be a larger part of the short game. Shinnecock Hills can be a brute, but it can be pushed beyond fair, as we saw at the 2004 U.S. Open, when play was suspended in the final round after the seventh green became unplayable, too firm and too fast. Here’s hoping the brute makes the U.S. Open great again. Here’s hoping it wipes the smile off the face of every player but the winner’s this week, that it does so in a way that won’t allow us to empathize with the grumbling and whining a severe test always brings. Here’s hoping the USGA isn’t the story this week, that the winner’s story is riveting and compelling, and that the action is so dramatic it revitalizes the U.S. Open as worthy of being called the game’s ultimate test.last_img read more

Clark fires career-best 61 to lead WMPO

first_imgSCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Wyndham Clark beat darkness – and everyone else Thursday at TPC Scottsdale. Playing in the second-to-last group off the 10th tee, Clark shot a career-best 10-under 61 to take the first-round lead in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He had eight birdies in a 10-hole stretch from No. 12 to No. 3, added two more on Nos. 7 and 8 and putted out for par on No. 9 just after sunset. “I hit a lot of fairways and I just gave myself a lot of looks and the putter was hot,” Clark said. Waste Management Phoenix Open: Full-field scores | Full coverage Clark was a stroke off the course record of 60 set by Grant Waite in 1996 and matched by Mark Calcavecchia in 2001 and Phil Mickelson in 2005 and 2013. The 26-year-old former University of Oregon player is in his second full season on the tour. He missed the cuts the last two weeks, shooting 69-79 last week at Torrey Pines. “I actually played really well the last two weeks,” Clark said. ”I just wasn’t making putts. I wasn’t capitalizing.” Billy Horschel was second, holing nearly 200 feet of putts in an afternoon 63. Golf Central Horschel (63) leans on hot putter at WMPO BY Will Gray  — January 30, 2020 at 8:59 PM Billy Horschel is in position to finally contend at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and he has his trusty putter to thank after a hot day on the greens. “I looked on the leaderboard and saw I was at 8 under and I saw Billy Horschel was, too,” Clark said. “I said, ‘Man, he’s going to rain on my parade.’ So, kind of to myself I said, ‘All right, let’s go get past him.'” Horschel had an eagle and six birdies. “Any day you shoot 8 under, no bogeys, you can’t complain,” Horschel said. He had the big putting day after working with instructor Todd Anderson. “We made a couple changes, a couple tweaks to the putting stuff that was a little off,” Horschel said. J.B. Holmes was another stroke back after a roller-coaster start – highlighted by a hole-in-one – and big finish in the morning wave. He won the event in 2006 and 2008 for his first PGA Tour titles. Golf Central Holmes’ ace highlights a roller-coaster 64 BY Will Gray  — January 30, 2020 at 4:57 PM J.B. Holmes began his round with a colorful and geometric scorecard, including his sixth career hole-in-one, but found his groove on the back nine to take the early lead in Scottsdale. “I like playing in the desert. I just enjoy being here,” Holmes said. “The greens are always usually in great shape. They’re in great shape this week – they’re quick, they’re firm.” The long hitter from Kentucky played the first five holes in even par, following a double bogey on the second, with a birdie on the third, the ace on the fourth and a bogey on the fifth. He used a 7-iron on the 175-yard fourth. “I didn’t feel like everything was going my way, so I wasn’t thinking it was actually going to go in,” Holmes said. “But I hit it up there. I knew it was a good shot, and I thought I’m going to have a short putt for birdie and then it disappeared.” Holmes birdied the final three holes and seven of the last 10, hitting to 4 feet on 16 and 17 and closing with a 25-footer. He fought right elbow pain, seeking treatment from his trainer at the turn. “It’s been hurting a little bit more lately than it normally does,” Holmes said. Tom Hoge, Harris English, Bud Cauley and Byeong Hun An shot 65, and Nate Lashley, K.J. Choi, Sungjae Im, Adam Long and Hudson Swafford were at 66. Jon Rahm opened with a 67. He can jump from No. 3 to No. 1 in the world with a victory, provided top-ranked Brooks Koepka – tied for 48th in the Saudi International after an opening 70 – finishes out of the top four. “I’ll take four days of playing tee to green as good as I did today,” Rahm said. Grill Room Rahm sports custom Pat Tillman shoes at WMPO BY Grill Room Team  — January 30, 2020 at 11:45 AM Jon Rahm paid tribute to fellow Arizona State Sun Devil Pat Tillman on Thursday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The former Arizona State star wore maroon and gold shoes in honor of late Sun Devils and Cardinals football player Pat Tillman. Playing partner Justin Thomas played the 16th in a Kobe Bryant jersey from the late Lakers great’s high school days at Lower Merion in Pennsylvania. “I’ve played a lot of golf in that, believe it or not, so it felt pretty comfortable,” Thomas said. Getty Images The fourth-ranked Thomas shot 68 following a two-week break. He opened the year at Kapalua with his second victory of the season, then missed the cut in Honolulu. Hideki Matsuyama, the 2016 and 2017 winner, matched Rahm with a 67 in the threesome with Thomas. Defending champion Rickie Fowler had seven bogeys in a 74. Jordan Spieth also shot 74, making four bogeys. Bubba Watson, playing alongside Spieth, bogeyed two of his last three for a 69.last_img read more

Listen: Brandel, Jaime on Reed, Trump, distance

first_imgBrandel Chamblee and Jaime Diaz catch us up on the biggest golf stories of 2021 so far, including Patrick Reed’s controversial win at the Farmers Insurance Open, the 2022 PGA Championship moving on from Trump Bedminster and the USGA’s distance findings.last_img