Month: <span>May 2021</span>

Thanks for the memories?

first_imgUNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Memories fade, but this may take some time. Regardless of which side of the dusty divide one finds themself when it comes to Chambers Bay and the USGA’s Pacific Northwest experiment, an expansive void that ranges from outright repugnance to lukewarm respect, the post-U.S. Open narrative is littered with warning signs of a championship gone awry. The rule of thumb when it comes to a U.S. Open venue, particularly an unproven first-time stop like Chambers Bay, is that the course can be the story in the pre-championship build up, but if the conversation hasn’t changed by the time Sunday’s final putt drops – or in Dustin Johnson’s case slides painfully by the left edge of the cup – then something went terribly wrong. It only compounds the after-action reporting that the litany of problems that plagued Chambers Bay spans the sprawling property – from some greens that were an unsightly combination of dead and dying fescue, poa annua and dirt to an alarming number of “obstructed views” for the area’s ravenous and record crowds. “They are putting better now. They are basically not living anymore,” Ernie Els said of the greens on Sunday. “The greens are gone. It’s when they had that green growth [poa] coming out of the turf. That’s gone now.” Billy Horschel was not nearly as subdued in his assessment of the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, stepping to the microphone on Sunday poised to pounce. “I’ve been waiting for this moment all week,” he smiled. Although most players offered begrudging respect for the layout from tee to green, the agronomic collision of fescue, poa and unusually high temperatures coalesced to create the worst putting surfaces in a major championship since Shinnecock Hills at the 2004 U.S. Open. “I’m not going to criticize the design. I was talking about wine last night and some guys like certain types of wine and some people don’t. It’s the same for golf course design,” Els said. What is certain, Chambers Bay was not most players’ glass of merlot. “The U.S. Open is a great tournament with incredible history. The USGA should be ashamed of what they did to it this week,” tweeted Chris Kirk. “The course wasn’t overly difficult, just tricked up.” There was no sugar coating this for most players, the condition of some greens, specifically Nos. 4 and 12, was enough to dislodge players from what has become a politically correct desire to avoid overt criticism. To be fair, the elevated level of vitriol wasn’t universal. Geoff Ogilvy, normally one of the calmer heads in the locker room particularly when it comes to golf course architecture, took the long view when asked his thoughts following the final round. “I told someone earlier in the week, whoever wins is going to be a quality player,” said Ogilvy, a nod to a leaderboard that included Spieth, runner-up Johnson and even Rory McIlroy with a late Sunday cameo. “You have to move the ball both ways, you have to use your brain, which is a rare thing in modern golf and something we’re not very good at.” The truth is it wasn’t the dead and dying greens or USGA executive director Mike Davis’ increasingly creative use of wildly varying teeing grounds that prompted the greatest amount of push back from players. Despite record crowds and stunning views, Chambers Bay proved to be a particularly demanding venue for fans. The rolling layout was such a difficult and dangerous walk that the USGA advised those attending this year’s championship it was best to find a seat in a grandstand, and some holes, like the par-5 eighth, were virtually void of any gallery. “From the fans’ point of view it’s been a strange atmosphere out there this year, because they can’t get close to the action and on some holes there aren’t any [fans],” Lee Westwood said. “From a fan’s point of view it must have been an even harder trek than it was for us players.” With the U.S. Open booked out to 2021 and little interest, at least from the players’ perspective, in returning to Chambers Bay, it would be easy to write off the USGA’s first trip to the Pacific Northwest as the wrong execution of the right idea. Late Sunday, however, an impromptu moment stood out amid all the course criticism and competitive chaos. Midway through the leaders’ closing nine Davis was asked about the issue with the 12th green when Steve Lesnik – the chairman of KemperSports, which manages Chambers Bay – assured the executive they would remedy all of Chambers Bay’s agronomic woes. While the USGA and Davis, who marked his 10th U.S. Open as the association’s top setup man last week, remained non-committal regarding Chambers Bay’s future status as a U.S. Open course it seems a publically-owned Pacific Northwest venue is a powerful draw to powerful people in the USGA. For most players still stinging from a long and dusty week along the shores of Puget Sound it was too soon to consider a return engagement. “I think a lot of players, and I’m one of them, have lost some respect for the USGA and this championship this year for the greens,” said Horschel, echoing a familiar locker room theme from the week. Despite the cascade of criticism, it’s seems too soon to label Chambers Bay as a one-and-done venue. Again Ogilvy with the long view: “It’s obviously a fantastic city. Along with New York and Chicago, it seems like one of the best sports town in the U.S. It’s logistically got issues, but there’s nothing that in 15 or 20 years they can’t work that out, I’m sure. I’m sure they’ll come back. I don’t know when, but I’m sure they’ll come back.” Ultimately, Chambers Bay’s future will depend on how players and the public remember the 2015 Open, either as a misguided and mistake-riddled championship or the site of one of the most memorable major finishes in recent memory. Only time will tell.last_img read more

Knox’s WGC win brings Ryder Cup (almost) into play

first_imgSHANGHAI – Russell Knox was the center of attention after winning the HSBC Champions, and not just with the sponsors. After his press conference, he posed with four flight attendants from Emirates Airlines. Next up was a photo with the owner and executive staff of Casillero del Diablo, which supplied the wine for the week. When he sat back down to sign flags and caps for HSBC, another man approached whom Knox did not recognize. ”Hello, Russell. I’m Keith Waters with the European Tour.” Waters is the chief operating officer, and he was equipped with all the answers Knox did not know and was too overwhelmed to ask at the moment – mainly, the process of becoming a European Tour member and how that relates to the Ryder Cup. Sensing that the 30-year-old from Scotland was still trying to digest his first big win – a World Golf Championship, no less – Waters gave him a business card with his mobile number and told him he would be available any time. And there was one more thing. ”Also just so you know, Darren Clarke is going to be calling you,” Waters said. ”We’ll be in touch for sure,” Knox replied with a grin. Clarke is the European captain for the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Odds are, he has been on the phone with Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters and any other European who appears to have even a remote chance of qualifying. To be realistic, Knox barely has that. Is he interested in the Ryder Cup? Of course. Even though he has lived in Florida his entire professional life, he grew up in Inverness and is proud of his Scottish heritage. His sister, Diane, is a popular radio DJ in Scotland. ”Obviously, it’s going to be a goal of mine to make the European Ryder Cup team, and this obviously springboards me to a place where … I mean, yesterday I was nowhere near it,” Knox said. ”I have no idea where I stand on making the team or what I need to do. But I look forward to finding out and giving it a run, that’s for sure.” Much will depend on what European Tour chief Keith Pelley announces next week in Dubai on a new membership policy. One of the options is to require a minimum of five European Tour events (down from 13), but that number would not include the majors or WGCs. So it really would be no change at all, except for making it practical for players who have slipped out of the top 50 – such as Luke Donald andGraeme McDowell – and no longer are automatically eligible for the eight biggest events in world golf. For Knox, that would mean adding four tournaments to what he already plays. Knox is among dozens of Europeans who live in America and play the majority of their golf on the PGA Tour. But his career is more closely in line with the likes of Carl Pettersson and Martin Lairdthan with McDowell, Ian Poulter or a resurgent Paul Casey. Pettersson was born in Sweden and moved to North Carolina when he was in high school. Laird is from Glasgow, played at Colorado State and never went back to Europe until he already had his PGA Tour card. One year he played the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, and a local radio reporter aware only of his accent innocently asked Laird why it had taken so long for him to do well on his home soil. ”This is my first event,” Laird said. Knox played 99 times on either the PGA Tour or the Tour before making his European Tour debut last year in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, not far from where he grew up. He played his first British Open this year – he was the alternate who replaced Rory McIlroy when he tore up his ankle playing soccer. Knox was the only player keeping the third round from being completed Saturday evening at Sheshan International because he thought it was too dark to play the final hole. That led some in the British press to jokingly refer to him as the ”American” because of the minor inconvenience. When he returned the next morning and made birdie, and then never lost the lead on Sunday, he became a Scot again. It was all in good fun, but to be fair, only the diligent golf press in the U.K. knew much about Knox, and for good reason. This was his first win on any of the six main tours around the world. Knox had never been remotely close to the top 50 in the world until he won the HSBC Champions and shot all the way up to No. 31. Now he’s the 10th-highest European in the world ranking. He is guaranteed two majors (Masters, PGA Championship) and a WGC, and he’s likely to get in the other two WGCs. Whether he takes up European Tour membership and makes a run at the Ryder Cup, Knox ultimately concluded that ”it’s a great problem to have.” Besides, it beats the alternative. ”I always joked with my caddie that if I ever won,” he said, ”I was going to retire.”last_img read more

Match play giving women’s college golf its due

first_imgEUGENE, Ore. – The NCAA Women’s Championship – a niche of a niche of a niche – was a top-10 trending topic on Twitter on Wednesday night. That hasn’t happened since … well, this time last year. Despite the initial handwringing, match play has been a game-changer for women’s college golf. The most stubborn critics will point to the fact that the No. 1-ranked team hasn’t yet won the national title; that the top seed in stroke play hasn’t also swept the match-play bracket; that Stanford (2015) and Washington (2016) needed a format change to bring home the program’s first NCAA Championship. All true, but that perspective is shortsighted: Most importantly, the new-look NCAAs are smashing perceptions of the women’s game. The past two championships have produced some of the most riveting golf of the year, at any level. “It’s showed people that girls can do it, too,” Washington senior Charlotte Thomas said. “Some people don’t believe that, and it kind of sucks, but it’s just as thrilling watching the women’s game as it is watching the men. We may not be able to hit it as far, but we can deal with the same things.” Thomas is right, unfortunately: There is a stigma attached to women’s golf, especially at the college level. They don’t play very fast. They don’t hit it very far. They don’t create much spin. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of producing thrilling golf. Last year, clinging to a narrow lead in the pivotal match, Baylor’s Hayley Davis slashed a 9-iron out of a muddy hazard to 7 feet. It was a brazen play, one of the shots of the year, an unlikely birdie that appeared to give the Bears the title. Then Stanford’s Mariah Stackhouse birdied the final two holes of regulation, including a gut-check 15-footer on the last, and prevailed in a playoff. “I thought last year was drama and it could never be topped and never be matched,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said, “and then this happened.” The shots Washington pulled off at Eugene Country Club were so clutch, and so unpredictable, that Walker was convinced there was a “bigger force at play.” In the semifinals against UCLA, Washington freshman Sarah Rhee won four holes in a row, slam-dunking a long bunker shot on the first playoff hole to send the Huskies to the finals. It was just the beginning. In the championship match, Washington senior Ying Luo birdied the 17th hole against the previously unbeaten Casey Danielson, then nipped her 61-yard pitch shot perfectly, with the ball tracking into the cup and touching off a wild celebration around the 18th green. For the second consecutive day, Rhee won three holes in a row late on the back nine to square her match against Stackhouse, Stanford’s team leader, before eventually falling in the playoff. Dean & Deluca Invitational: Articles, photos and videos And then there was the wild ride of fellow freshman Julianne Alvarez. She coughed up a 3-up lead against Stanford’s Lauren Kim, three-putting the final green from 25 feet because of nerves, and then hooked her drive into a fairway bunker on the first extra hole. After laying up, she stuffed her 81-yard wedge shot to 18 inches to save par, then hit what turned out to be the decisive stroke – a tricky chip up and over a slope for a conceded par. “Any of these girls up for hire on a couple short-game lessons this week?” tweeted Wake Forest star Will Zalatoris. “My goodness … impressive.” Even in defeat, Kim took a big-picture approach to another memorable performance on the biggest stage in the sport. “It puts women’s golf in such a positive light,” she said, “that women can make it exciting, as exciting as the men, and we can make those shots under pressure.” And the match-play heroics are sure to overshadow a sublime four days from Duke freshman Virginia Elena Carta, who shattered the NCAA scoring mark with a 16-under performance and won the individual race by eight. “Maybe they can’t hit it as far,” Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said, “but that doesn’t mean they can’t get it in the hole just as well.” Match play has been used to determine the men’s team champion since 2009. It was announced five years later that the women would follow suit, though the majority of coaches were against the move. Like most sports, the postseason might not always crown the best team that season – that’s why they play the games and the matches, after all – but it has created a more exciting finale that keeps more squads emotionally invested. A few years ago, the big question tournament week was whether Arizona State, Duke or Southern Cal would win by 10, 25 or 50 strokes. “When I was on a team,” said Walker, who played for Cal, “we weren’t really playing for first. We made it to the national championship, but that was like a participation medal. There was usually 24 teams showing up and one, maybe two or three were thinking about winning and the rest were just taking a week off from school to go play a great golf course. “This week, we had 24 teams show up, and I guarantee there wasn’t a coach or a kid in the field that wasn’t thinking, Gosh, we could be the ones in there with that trophy, and I think that’s pretty cool.” Some of the perennial powerhouses might disagree, of course. USC and Duke – winners of eight of the past 15 NCAAs – have failed to reach the finals each of the past two years, and top seed UCLA fell to Washington in a taut semifinal. But much like the players, coaches have needed to adjust their styles, as well. In four years at Stanford, Walker has developed a reputation as one of the sharpest minds in the game. Along with Stackhouse and Kim, Walker has helped shape the culture in Palo Alto, becoming more family-oriented and placing an emphasis on strong communication, respect and a passion for the game. It’s been crucial to the team’s success in the match-play format; Stanford was a hole away from becoming just the fourth program to win back-to-back titles. “To succeed in this format,” Walker said, “you have to know your players really well. We’ve had some success because I feel like I have a strong connection and the players are willing to tell me what they need in that moment.” Washington assistant coach Andrea VanderLende, a former NCAA runner-up at Florida, realized early that one of the advantages of this format was a strong mental game. “They’re all skilled,” she said, “so who can pull off the clutch shots?” And so during the tense final hour, VanderLende worked to keep Luo and Rhee in the moment. She asked them to close their eyes and listen to their surroundings, and they reported hearing cameras, a plane, feet traipsing through the grass. “They were thinking about the here and now,” VanderLende said, “and not what had happened before or after.” The tactic worked. After sizing up the pitch shot on 18, VanderLende told Luo that she could make it. A few moments later, she did. “Five years ago,” VanderLende said, “I wasn’t the same coach.” The move to match play – and the national TV exposure – has also turned what would be anonymous players into recognizable stars. Now, when Stackhouse or Luo reach out to sponsors for tournament exemptions this summer, they’ll already know all about the players’ exploits in college. “I’ve heard it over and over again, that I can’t believe how good these female golfers are in college,” Walker said. “Women are driven socially, and when you can be a part of a team and not just see it as an individual sport, it’ll keep young girls in the sport. They put a face with a name and remember what they did. I think that’s a positive.” Strongly opposed to match play when it was first introduced, Mulflur might never have won a national title without the format change. For 31 years, her teams never came particularly close. In Year 2 of match play, they won it all. Not that Mulflur seemed to care, as she hoisted the NCAA trophy high above her head, whooping and hollering, after one of the most dramatic finishes in college golf history. “I have a saying,” she said late Wednesday night, “that it doesn’t matter what they say, as long as they’re talking about you. And people are talking about women’s college golf.”last_img read more

Newlywed Mullinax leads Puerto Rico Open

first_imgRIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico – Five days after getting married, Trey Mullinax ran off nine birdies and saved par with a 15-foot putt on his last hole for a 9-under 63 to take the lead at the Puerto Rico Open. The first round Thursday was suspended when showers turned into heavy rain at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club and the course was too wet to continue. Mullinax was coming off consecutive missed cuts in Florida when he got married Saturday to Abi Essman, whom he has dated since high school. Several of his Alabama teammates were at the wedding in Birmingham, Alabama, including Justin Thomas. And then it was off to Puerto Rico, and Mullinax posted his best round of the year. He had a one-shot lead over D.A. Points. ”Obviously, to shoot the score I shot today you have to putt well,” Mullinax said. ”But it was nice to hit the ball like I feel I’ve been playing. I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball well, just haven’t been scoring. But today I hit the ball nice and it was a good result.” Points finished his round of 64 with a 9-iron that he holed from the ninth fairway for an eagle. ”Today was the calmest day I’ve ever seen here, so it was pretty much a perfect 9-iron,” he said. ”I knew I had a little backstop and I could hit it as hard as I want, and I threw it 149 yards and it spun back and went right in.” It was an important start for Points, who has a low priority this year on the PGA Tour and has had trouble getting into tournaments. He last played seven weeks ago at Pebble Beach, where he won in 2011 with Bill Murray as his amateur partner. Points has tried Monday qualifying for some PGA Tour events. ”I’m proud of myself for not just sitting on my butt and not doing anything,” he said. ”I’ve been playing and practicing and trying to stay sharp and I think that paid off today.” Former Las Vegas winner Bill Lunde, playing for the first time in five months, and Xander Schauffele were at 65. The group at 66 included Harold Varner III, David Hearn of Canada and Jonathan Randolph, who still had three holes remaining. The first round was to resume Friday morning. Former Puerto Rico Open winner Scott Brown was at 67. San Juan native Rafa Campos was at 5 under with four holes remaining when the rain arrived. A year ago, Campos opened with a 64 and eventually tied for eighth. The Puerto Rico Open is opposite the World Golf Championships event in Texas this week, meaning a winner does not earn an automatic spot in the Masters. Wesley Bryan would need to win to have any chance of moving into the top 50 in the world ranking and qualifying for Augusta National. Bryan opened with a 63.last_img read more

Zhang, 14, wins Girls Junior PGA

first_imgST. ALBANS, Mo. – Rose Zhang won the Girls Junior PGA Championship by six strokes Friday with a record-tying 72-hole total of 268. The 14-year-old Zhang, from Irvine, California, shot a 4-under 68 to match Kristen Gillman’s 2014 tournament mark. Zhang opened with rounds of 69, 65 and 66 and finished at 20 under on the Country Club of St. Albans’ Lewis and Clark Course. ”When I first came, I didn’t have any expectations,” Zhang said. ”I was just trying to play my own game and complete the four-day tournament. I think I played well under pressure and allowed myself to be in this position. … Overall, I’m just extremely humbled and blessed to be here.” Yealimi Noh of Concord, California, was second after a 70.last_img read more

In U.S. Am, Ghim avenges his most painful defeat

first_imgLOS ANGELES – They should have celebrated like this three years ago – with fist pumps and hugs and cries of “Masters! Masters! We’re going to the Masters!” In the summer of 2014, with his father, Jeff, on the bag, Doug Ghim stood on the final tee with a 1-up lead in the U.S. Amateur Public Links. The incoming freshman at Texas was about 400 yards from victory and a spot in the Masters … and then he pumped his tee shot out of bounds and made double bogey. He lost to Byron Meth on the first playoff hole. Ghim’s explanation that day at Sand Creek? “Nerves,” he said. “I’d just never been in this position before. But next time, I’ll be ready.” And so here he was Saturday, in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur at Riviera, with a 4-up lead over Theo Humphrey with five holes to play. Then Ghim lost the 14th hole with a bogey. Then he lost the 16th, too, after another bogey. And now, after bashing his birdie putt 6 feet past on the par-5 17th, he needed to calm himself down. He patted his chest, hoping to slow down his heart rate, and stared down at the green, taking two deep breaths. “So many thoughts in your head are going at that moment,” he said. “I’ve got a little bit of demons.” None worse than his collapse at the Publinx. The day after blowing the tournament, Doug and his family made the 11-hour drive from Newton, Kan., to Chicago, singing songs and stopping at a rest area for a picnic. “It’s OK,” he told his dad. “I’ve got plenty of time.” But over the next few months, the loss began to gnaw at him. Teams that play in Augusta State’s college tournament the week before the Masters receive one-day practice-round tickets, and so all of the Longhorns made their way inside the gates in the spring of 2015. U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos They toured the Crow’s Nest, the Masters’ amateur quarters, which could have been Ghim’s home that week. “I don’t really want to be in here,” he said.  So he and his teammates ventured out to the eighth tee, to catch up with one of the school’s most famous alums, Jordan Spieth. He was playing with another star, Rory McIlroy. And there was a third player in the group, too. “Oh, no,” Texas assistant Jean-Paul Hebert said. Ghim squinted and saw the standard. Byron Meth. The player who took advantage of Ghim’s final-hole meltdown at the Publinx. “This is what I could have been doing,” Ghim said. “This sucks.” Sensing the awkwardness, Ghim’s teammates steered him to other parts of the course and then toward the range at the end of the day. The first player they saw there: Meth. “Don’t worry about it,” one of Ghim’s teammates told him. “You’re going to be back here one day.” Ghim needed to look no further than Spieth for inspiration. Four years earlier, Spieth had reached the quarterfinals of the 2011 U.S. Amateur but kicked away the match late on the back nine. When he made the team’s annual trip to Augusta the next spring, he was miserable. “Coach,” he said, “this is not the way I envisioned being here the first time. I’m going to try to enjoy it, but this really hurts.” “Doug experienced the same thing,” Longhorns coach John Fields says now. “To have one foot on Magnolia Lane and to have it taken away from you right there at the end, it was just incredible.” And the Ghims have been looking for closure ever since. Earlier this summer, Doug, now a 21-year-old senior at Texas, played a casual round at Sand Creek for the first time since the ’14 APL. The 36-hole leaderboard – Ghim was co-medalist – was still hanging in the clubhouse.  He shot 65 that day. Reminders were everywhere Saturday, too. In the semifinals, with a Masters berth on the line, Doug wore a black Augusta National hat. His mom, Susan, sported a white bucket hat – with the Sand Creek logo. “Some people when they have a bad tournament, they get upset and get rid of it,” Jeff Ghim said. “I wake him up. I said, ‘Look at this. You don’t want to do this again.’” And so he didn’t. Facing a 6-footer for the victory, for a redemptive trip to Augusta, Doug took his father’s advice – “Wrap it up” – and stroked the winning putt, putting away Humphrey, 2 and 1. Three years of emotion poured out.  “It was the first thing that popped in my head,” Doug said. “We’re going to the Masters.” So is his finals opponent, Doc Redman, who needed a 13-for-8 playoff Wednesday morning just to advance to the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur.  The rising sophomore at Clemson is arguably the hottest player in amateur golf. He recorded eight top-10s during his first season with the Tigers and earned two other high finishes in amateur events this summer before taking Norman Xiong to 22 holes in the Western Amateur final. Playing 145 competitive holes over five days against one of the toughest fields helped convince Redman, 19, that he belonged among the game’s elite. So he didn’t fret earlier this week when it appeared as though his 4-over total might not be good enough to advance. He hung out at the beach. Went to a Dodgers game, too. “I knew if I could get in match play,” he said, “then it would be a reset button and I would be OK.” Unlike Ghim, who has played the 18th hole only once this week, Redman has gone down to the wire in four of his five matches. Saturday’s semifinal against little-known Mark Lawrence Jr. was no different, after Lawrence won the 16th with a par and the par-5 17th with a 20-foot eagle. But Lawrence made a critical error on the home hole, three-putting from just off the back of the 18th green to hand Redman the match. Was the Masters on his mind? “Didn’t even think about it,” Redman shrugged. His reaction was more muted, and perhaps that was to be expected. Afterward, he couldn’t single out an obstacle he’s overcome in his life. He has never suffered a loss as crushing as Ghim’s. “I’m so happy for Doug,” Fields said, “because there’s been some pain associated with where he’s been.” There is still so much to play for Sunday – the trophy and the prestige and the exemptions. But for one family, a dream has already been realized, a painful chapter of their lives now complete. The Ghims are going to the Masters, together, and it’ll be worth the three-year wait.last_img read more

Otaegui stuns Siem to win Paul Lawrie Match Play

first_imgBAD GRIESBACH, Germany – Adrian Otaegui came from behind to beat home favorite Marcel Siem, 2 and 1, on Sunday, clinching the Paul Lawrie Match Play for his first European Tour title. The Spaniard was three down at the turn, and was two down to the German with five holes to play. Otaegui won the 14th hole with a par and had three straight birdies on Nos. 15-17 to clinch victory. Otaegui won six of the eight holes after the turn on the Beckenbauer Course at Bad Griesbach, including the final four, to claim his first win in his 123rd event. Johan Carlsson of Sweden defeated Spain’s Alejandro Canizares, 3 and 2, to win the consolation match.last_img read more

ZJ, Moore co-lead Texas Open through 36

first_imgSAN ANTONIO – Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt. He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore. ”You just never know. That’s the beauty of this game,” Johnson said. ”I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn’t getting rewarded, and you’ve just got to stay in it. You’ve got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.” Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135. They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67). Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139. Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs. Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut. It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart. Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker. The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon. Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th. ”That was a huge momentum putt there,” Moore said of the 14th. ”It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and … yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.” The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine. ”So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,” he said. The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.last_img read more

Reed says U.S. team has ‘moved past’ Ryder Cup, but controversy lingers

first_imgNASSAU, Bahamas – With three birdies over his final five holes on Thursday at the Hero World Challenge, Patrick Reed marched off the course with a share of the lead and the look of a man without a care in the world. Tiger Woods’ personal member-member on this posh slice of Caribbean paradise is Reed’s fourth event since the U.S. Ryder Cup team took a TKO in Paris. For Reed, the matches and whatever madness the biennial event created is ancient history. “It’s been, I don’t know how many weeks, but it’s been, in the golf world, it’s been a long time, a long time ago,” Reed said. “All of us on our side have moved past that. You know, basically when the tournament was over, all of us moved past it and we’re just kind of getting ready for hopefully two years.” For Reed there’s nothing worth seeing in the rear-view mirror. You know the deal, onward and upward. But there’s a good chance that not everyone has “moved past” the American’s comments in the ugly aftermath of the U.S. team’s 7-point loss. While the other members of Team USA took the high road in defeat, Reed vented in an interview that cut deep into a locker room that was supposed to be unified. “The issue’s obviously with Jordan [Spieth] not wanting to play with me. I don’t have any issue with Jordan. When it comes right down to it, I don’t care if I like the person I’m paired with or if the person likes me as long as it works and it sets up the team for success,” Reed told the New York Times, adding, “For somebody as successful in the Ryder Cup as I am, I don’t think it’s smart to sit me twice.” Your browser does not support iframes. Full-field scores from the Hero World Challenge Hero World Challenge: Articles, photos and videos Specifically Reed didn’t like captain Jim Furyk’s decision to pair Spieth, who had teamed with Reed to go 8-1-3 in previous Ryder and Presidents cups, with childhood friend Justin Thomas or the skipper’s decision to limit Reed – who had earned the title “Captain America” for his inspired play in previous matches – to just two starts in the team frame. Never mind that Reed badly lost both of those team matches while paired with Woods, or that Spieth and Thomas combined to go 3-1-0 and were the U.S. side’s most productive twosome. Reed confirmed on Thursday in Albany that he hasn’t spoken to either Furyk or Spieth since the Ryder Cup, telling the New York Post, “[Spieth] has my number.” It’s exactly the kind of dogged attitude that makes Reed such a formidable opponent that can also explain why he’s decided to double down on his take that communication from the top down was poor for the U.S. team. Reed has spoken to Woods, who will captain next year’s Presidents Cup team, about what may have or have not gone wrong at Le Golf National. “We spoke after the Ryder Cup for a long period of time and, you know, we talked amongst us and it will stay between us,” Woods said on Thursday. Ryder Cups tend to create these types of evergreen tales precisely because of this kind of locker room mentality. It’s simply the nature of the news vacuum – where facts are scarce, speculation flourishes. What we know is that Reed was told he was not going to play with Spieth before the matches, and according to other members of the U.S. team, Furyk was an engaging and open captain. What we know is that Reed was sent out alongside Woods, his childhood hero who he still emulates on PGA Tour Sundays by wearing Tiger’s signature red and black attire. It should have been a privilege, not a penance. What we know is that Reed struggled on the rough-choked course like the vast majority of U.S. players. “We got outplayed from top to bottom,” Reed said. “They played some amazing golf and at the end of the day whoever’s playing the best, especially with how deep our teams are on both sides, is going to win the cup,” Reed said. What remains unknown is the path forward. It’s up to Woods now as captain of next year’s U.S. team to put this right. The relationship between Reed and Spieth, which was always driven by an intense desire to beat each other as well as their opponents, is now fractured, perhaps beyond repair. Asked on Day 1 in the Bahamas if he felt like the issue needed to be resolved, Reed didn’t offer much daylight. “I don’t think anything needs to be resolved,” Reed said. “I’ve seen all the guys and we’ve talked to all the guys and we’ve all moved past that.” Reed has “moved past” the Ryder Cup, that much is clear. Whether Spieth and the American team’s leadership have reached similar epiphanies remains to be seen. Captain America explained in the immediate aftermath of the matches that you don’t have to like someone to work with them, but you do have to trust them. Reed’s actions may have violated that all-important truth.last_img read more

Rory’s repertoire receives boost from refreshed attitude

first_imgMEXICO CITY – In a lighthearted moment following his opening round at the WGC-Mexico Championship, a reporter referred to Rory McIlroy as a four-time major champion. “That was a long time ago,” he laughed. The moment of hyperbole quickly passed, but for the 29-year-old, the 2014 PGA Championship, his last pull from the Grand Slam, certainly feels like a long time ago. This wasn’t false modesty; that wouldn’t be Rory’s style. He was simply acknowledging what everyone else has been whispering about since that PGA at Valhalla. It’s the price one pays when you win four majors in four years.  What makes McIlroy’s fate so compelling isn’t that a player who once appeared invincible has now become an enigma. No, he leaves that type of instant analysis to social media. What’s truly compelling is how at ease he is with his fate and how steadfast he is that he’s on the right path. In other sports they’d call it a process, the methodical approach singular athletes take to perfect their craft. For McIlroy, it’s “the little things.” “Winning is a byproduct of doing all the little things well and I feel like I’m on a really good journey of doing that. I think it’s just a matter of time,” he said Thursday at Chapultepec Golf Club. “I can’t put pressure on myself, I can’t push it.” Full-field scores from the WGC-Mexico Championship WGC-Mexico Championship: Articles, photos and videos It would be easy to dismiss McIlroy’s measured assessment of his game following an 8-under 63, which was just one shot off of the course record. But Rory has been preaching patience, in good times and bad. Just last week at the frigid slog that was the Genesis Open, McIlroy was on a similar trajectory. When he chipped in from a bunker on the 70th hole on Sunday he was just two strokes off the lead with the par-5 17th hole looming. But he made par at the 17th hole and bogeyed the 18th to finish in a tie for fourth place. Players of McIlroy’s ilk don’t have much interest in moral victories and would consider their finish at Riviera Country Club a missed opportunity at best. Not McIlroy. “I’m happy enough. I just sort of keep preaching patience, and I didn’t have my best stuff this week,” he shrugged on Sunday. “So I managed my game well this week. I didn’t have it all, but it’s another top-5 and a step in the right direction.” The Northern Irishman took solace in an iron game that was less than his best and the notion that his putting, which has been his primary concern in recent years, showed serious signs of life in Los Angeles. It really should have been no surprise that his upward movement would spill over to this week’s World Golf Championship gathering. McIlroy is 3-for-3 in top-5 finishes this season on the PGA Tour with fourth-place showings at the Genesis Open and Sentry Tournament of Champions to go along with a tie for fifth place at the Farmers Insurance Open. He’ll talk of areas of concern, like last week’s iron play, but for McIlroy, this is really as simple as keeping things in perspective. Players of Rory’s ability and talents have a tendency to inflate expectations – you know the deal, four majors are nice but five would be better. But this version is content to keep making progress. “I love where my attitude’s at,” he said. “My attitude on the golf course is fantastic and my putting is good. If I’m excited about anything with my game, it’s my putting and my attitude have been probably the best they’ve been in a long time.” On Thursday, that attitude added up to a one-stroke lead over Dustin Johnson. It was textbook Rory. After playing a flawless opening nine (he started on No. 10) and turning at 4 under he launched a 2-iron high into the thin Mexican air at the 305-yard first hole that rolled out to 6 feet for an eagle. When McIlroy is in full flight, it’s those kinds of shots that make a good player great. Your browser does not support iframes. “I didn’t land the ball exactly where I wanted to. It landed on the fringe and trundled up there,” he said. “I was trying to sort of land it maybe 3 or 4 feet on the green. But I got away with it.” So, a 2-iron from 305 yards that missed its mark by two paces? If we could all be so reckless. He wasn’t perfect on Day 1, but even his miscues produced a mischievous smile. Like at the par-5 sixth hole when he pulled his drive left of the fairway and into a row of trees. McIlroy’s second shot was a bold attempt through the trees that caught a branch and led to his only bogey. “It’s really like hitting through this tree here, right?” smiled McIlroy as he waved his arms above his head. “It looks pretty thin and you know you’re going to miss this big limb on the bottom and you’ve got a nice window, and it just kind of hit that sort of medium size branch and it just hit it straight on. The one branch it could not hit, it hit.” It was the definition of patience that a potentially round-ending miscue produced little more than a shrug. McIlroy has always been a five-tool player when he’s at his best, but this version has added a new club to his bag – a refreshing attitude.last_img read more