Jimmy Walker edges Jason Day by 1 shot to claim PGA Championship

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Jimmy Walker did everything required of a major champion on the longest final day in 64 years at a PGA Championship.

And then Jason Day made him do a little bit more.

Walker was standing over an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th hole Sunday when he heard a roar that caused him to twice back off the putt. It was Day, the defending champion and world’s No. 1 player, down to his last chance and delivering with a 2-iron that landed in front of the pin and stopped 15 feet away for eagle.

Walker answered, like he had done all day, with a birdie for a three-shot lead.

Moments later, another roar.

Day made the eagle putt, and the lead was down to one.

“There was nothing easy about the day — really about the week, for that matter,” Walker said. “Especially coming down the last hole.”

He went for the 18th green knowing it was his easiest chance for the par he needed to win. The outcome was still in doubt until Walker missed the green to the right, pitched out of deep rough to 35 feet and rolled his first putt about 3 feet past the cup.

Walker calmly made it to capture the PGA Championship, ending a long and wet week at Baltusrol, and still having just enough strength left to hoist the 37-pound Wanamaker Trophy.

“He really put it on me to make a par,” Walker said. “Sometimes pars are hard. But we got it.”

That par gave him a 3-under 67 and a one-shot victory and made the 37-year-old from Texas a major champion. Even with the silver trophy at his side, Walker still had a hard time letting that sink in.

Because of rain, the 36-hole final was the longest in PGA Championship history since Jim Turnesa won his 36-hole match in 1952. Walker at least had time to rest in his travel bus — he’s a frequent neighbor of Day on the PGA Tour — and get right back out into the final round. Walker, who shot a 68 in the morning for a one-shot lead over Day, didn’t make a bogey over the last 28 holes.

Day, trying to join Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of the PGA Championship in stroke play, came out to the 18th green with his son to watch the finish and quickly found Walker. “Great stuff, mate,” he said.

“It was nice to get the eagle, just to try and make Jimmy think about it,” Day said after a 67. “But obviously, Jimmy just played too good all day.”

In a most peculiar final day at a major, the PGA Championship allowed for preferred lies — that never happens in a major — because of nearly 4 inches of rain during the week that drenched the Lower Course. Desperate to beat the clock and avoid a second straight Monday finish at Baltusrol, the pairings stayed the same for the final round.

Walker and Day were playing with occasional mud on their golf balls on the back nine of the third round Sunday morning as some players behind them were able to lift, clean and place their golf balls in short grass in the fourth round.

But it ended on a happy note for Walker. He is a major champion, completing a sweep of first-time winners in the majors this year. Better yet: It moved him from No. 29 to No. 4 in the Ryder Cup standings, all but assuring him a spot on the team.

He finished at 14-under 266, one shot from David Toms’ record score in the 2001 PGA Championship.

Walker began the back nine by holing a 45-foot bunker shot on No. 10 and making a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 11. The final birdie on the 17th was the most important because he had a cushion. And thanks to Day, he needed it.

“Two-putting from that is pretty difficult, especially trying to go for your first major,” Day said. “But he’s handled himself pretty good.”

British Open champion Henrik Stenson, trying to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win back-to-back majors at age 40, faded with a double-bogey on the 15th hole.

“It was a long day. I never felt like I brought my ‘A’ game,” said Stenson, who started the final round two shots behind and closed with a 71. “I think I hit more poor shots in the two rounds today than in the previous six or seven rounds combined.”

For the second straight major, this became a duel over the final hour.

Day pulled within one shot with a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 11, but he never had another birdie chance closer than 25 feet until the two par 5s at the end. Even so, the Australian battled to the end with the second of two 2-irons at 18 leading him to shout, “Get back there!” And it did.

Thanks to Walker holding his nerves, it just wasn’t enough.

“God, just to be in it and be there and have a chance and then to finish it off is just … it’s so gratifying,” Walker said.

SOURCE: ESPN

PGA of America gambled at Baltusrol — and lost

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Here’s the final tally from Saturday at the PGA Championship: A total of 37 players finished the third round; 39 others teed off without finishing; and 10 never even started.

That was the result of a weather suspension which began at 2:14 p.m. local time and never ended, as heavy rain pelted Baltusrol Golf Club while thunder and lightning punctuated the afternoon sky.

This weather was always in the forecast, though it’s debatable whether the radar showed this much rain coming down for this long. Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America’s Chief Championships Officer, explained that the forecast was similar to the first two tournament days, which included just one short delay. But they knew the storms were coming. Everyone knew they were coming, in some shape or form.

For an organizing body running a golf tournament with impending weather, there are two potential options: The first is to move up tee times and try to get as much golf played as possible before any suspension of play. The second is to try to get lucky.

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In Saturday’s scenario, the PGA of America chose the second option.

“It’s a major championship, and we certainly try and look at starting from one tee wherever we can,” Haigh said. “Unfortunately, the weather didn’t help us.”

It’s all hindsight now, but simple math shows us that if officials had chosen the first option, then the entire third round could have been completed — or at least close to it — before the heavy rain began.

There were 86 players who made the cut this week, a massive number considering the cut line was top 70 and ties. Massive, but hardly untenable in this situation.

The first course of action would’ve been to play in groups of three off split tees.

Based on the numbers, there’d be 26 threesomes and four twosomes. That’s a total of 30 groups, which means 15 off the first tee and the other 15 off the 10th tee, just as players were sent out during the first two rounds. Haigh admitted the prospect of a two-tee start was “not significantly” discussed on Friday evening.

With sunrise at 5:52 a.m., the first tee time on Saturday easily could’ve been 7 a.m., which would’ve given the opening groups plenty of time for preparations prior to the round.

Fifteen groups teeing off each tee in 10-minute intervals would mean the final group teed off at 9:20 a.m. Figuring five-hour rounds, the final groups of the third round would’ve been done by 2:20 p.m.

All of which would’ve worked just about perfectly; The weather suspension began at exactly 2:14 p.m.

Now, if you want to argue that threesomes playing in a major would have taken longer than five hours, or that the crossover between the two tees would’ve caused a bit of a logjam, those are valid arguments. Maybe it would’ve taken longer to finish; maybe that logjam would’ve impacted the pace of play.

But this point is inarguable: No matter what, a lot more golf would have been played if the PGA of America had taken this option rather than the one they did.

They tried to get lucky — and failed.

The plan now is for a long Sunday, during which everything will have to go perfectly to have a champion crowned before sundown.

The third round will resume at 7 a.m., while the final round begins at 8:40 a.m., meaning there will be a confusing crossover on the leaderboard between which players are playing which round.

The final twosome is scheduled to start the final round at 3:25 p.m. Sunday, which means that, if all goes according to plan — if the course is playable first thing in the morning and if there are no further delays — we just might have a champion tapping in his final putt in the gloaming.

“Our primary aim is to try and finish (Sunday) evening,” Haigh explained.

It won’t be so easy. There are more thunderstorms in the forecast, which means there’s a strong possibility of a Monday finish.

It could have, potentially, been avoided. Instead, the PGA of America gambled on getting lucky and lost.

Oh, and here’s the real kicker: The forecast calls for thunderstorms here on Monday, too.

So … Tuesday, anyone?

SOURCE: ESPN

Baltusrol full of surprises at 98th PGA Championship

 

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Fifteen days after he played one of the most flawless rounds of golf in his career, Phil Mickelson stood on the first tee Friday afternoon at Baltusrol Golf Club and proceeded to pound his drive onto one of the few New Jersey streets without traffic.

Hours later, Robert Streb, who hasn’t finished in the top 10 in a year, whose name doesn’t exactly evoke fear when it appears on a leaderboard, became the latest player to shoot 63 in a major championship. And in an interesting bit of trivia, Streb became the fourth to do so here.

Mickelson barely made the cut; Streb is tied for the lead through two rounds of the PGA Championship.

Sometimes, golf is impossible to explain, and two days at Baltusrol shows why it is exceedingly difficult to handicap.

Streb joined Jimmy Walker atop the leaderboard at 9 under par, with Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo 2 shots back along with defending champion Jason Day, who had a stretch of eight holes with seven birdies.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy, who has won this tournament twice and was considered a pretournament favorite, butchered the relatively benign 18th hole to miss the cut. This is the second major championship this year in which he has not qualified for the final 36 holes.

“I think if you had given anyone else in this field my tee shots this week, they would have been up near the top of the leaderboard,” McIlroy said. “It just shows you how bad I was around the greens. I’ve hit the ball really well and I’m walking away not playing the weekend.

“It’s really disheartening. I need to go back to the drawing board and see where we go from here.”

Then there’s 29-year-old Streb, a one-time PGA Tour winner who missed the cut in the previous three major championships this year and who hasn’t finished better than a tie for 20th in his previous 17 starts.

Streb opened the tournament with a 68 on Thursday. Then, beginning on the back nine for the second round, he played nicely, shooting a 33 that included four birdies and a bogey. But he also birdied the second hole, the sixth and the seventh. And all of a sudden, when he knocked in a 20-footer at the ninth, it added up to 63.

“Happy to join the club that seems to be ever-growing,” Streb said.

Going into The Open at Royal Troon, the feat of a single-round 63 at a major had been accomplished 27 times by 25 players.

Now it has been done 30 times by 28 players, with Open champion Henrik Stenson doing it in the final round at Royal Troon when he outplayed Mickelson in their epic duel.

Stenson has maintained his momentum after capturing the Claret Jug, posting consecutive 67s at Baltusrol to be in fifth place, 3 strokes back of the leaders.

“Of course, confidence level is always going to go up when you manage to accomplish what I did at Troon,” the Swede said. “You’re going to feel a bit more confident, and trusting yourself more that you can do it again if you’ve done it once. I guess that’s natural and I do feel that.

“I can’t guarantee that it’s going to happen again, if I’m in a similar situation. But at least you’ve got the belief that you can do it.”

None of the 20 PGA of America club professionals in the field made the cut, which came at 146, 2 over par. So if McIlroy needs a putting lesson, there are plenty of club pros around who have the time to offer some help.

While McIlroy will have to watch the weekend on television, one who will be spending less time doing commentary is Rich Beem. The 2002 PGA champion has a full-time gig with Sky Sports in the U.K., working some 25 events a year.

He had not played a competitive round of golf on a major tour since last year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, where he missed the cut. And due to tendinitis in his right shoulder, Beem, 46, has not played much golf this year. He started to play and practice again only in the past month.

But he shot 69-72 to make it to the weekend. “It means a lot to do this at this point,” Beem said. “But it kind of messes up my job.”

A lot of things seem messed up at the moment.

Three 63s in majors in a matter of 15 days. No. 2 Dustin Johnson, perhaps the hottest player in golf, and McIlroy, missing the cut. No. 1 Day, ill once again on the eve of a big tournament and getting in but one practice round, shooting 68-65 to be in contention. Jordan Spieth with a lengthy rule issue.

And then there’s Mickelson, who won the PGA here in 2005 and came oh-so-close to a sixth major title two weeks at Royal Troon. Over four days in Scotland, Mickelson made just four bogeys, twice going bogey-free for entire rounds.

On Friday, he went 3-over-par on one hole, and it was fortunate it wasn’t worse. His first tee shot found the road, his re-tee nearly went just as far off the fairway to the other side and was fortunate to be in play. From there, he knocked another wayward shot, chipped short of the green, then got-up-and-down for a triple-bogey 7.

“I think in the history of the PGA Championship, that’s the worst start of anyone’s round,” Mickelson said. “I’d have to look that up.”

Actually, about 30 minutes after Mickelson, Nicolas Colsaerts made an 8 at the first hole. But it wasn’t his first hole of the day.

“It was probably after I did it,” Mickelson quipped. “So I had it for a while.”

There is that. Which is strange, yet seemingly normal in the midst of all the other absurdities.

SOURCE: ESPN

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Dustin Johnson, Luke List share Canadian Open lead after Friday

OAKVILLE, Ontario — Dustin Johnson started and finished the day tied with Luke List for the Canadian Open lead.

The U.S. Open champion had to make up a lot of ground to do it.

Johnson had a double bogey and two bogeys on his first holes Friday in windy conditions at sun-baked Glen Abbey. He rebounded with six birdies and had a late bogey in a 1-under 71.

“I really don’t know what happened the first four holes,” Johnson said. “Just got off to a bad start. Hit it in a couple awkward spots. Made some bad bogeys, but fought back and turned it around and felt like I played really nicely from 14 on in.”

Johnson played in the morning after eagling the par-5 18th late Thursday afternoon for a 66.

“The wind today almost feels like it’s a little bit heavier and it’s affecting the ball a little bit more, and it’s a little bit different direction,” Johnson said. “You’ve just got to take advantage of the downwind holes and the into-the-wind holes, just try to get looks.”

List also shot a 71, birdieing the par-5 16th and 18th after making three bogeys in a four-hole stretch early on the back nine.

“Real happy the way I finished up,” said List, winless on the PGA Tour. “It was kind of a battle the middle of the round there and definitely pleased with the way I finished on the two easy par 5s.”

Canadian amateur Jared du Toit, former Arizona State teammate Jon Rahm and Kelly Kraft were a stroke back, also each shooting 71.

Du Toit made the turn tied for the lead at 7 under, then had a triple-bogey 8 on No. 2 and a bogey on No. 5. The Sun Devils senior birdied the next three holes and closed with a par.

“Taking an 8 always hurts, but I just kind of stayed patient,” said du Toit, from Kimberley, British Columbia. “The putter heated up at the right time, and it was all good. Nothing but good things to say.”

Rahm is making his fourth start since turning pro after the U.S. Open. The Spaniard eagled the 16th hole.

“It’s so cool. It’s a great feeling,” Rahm said about du Toit. “Last time we played together and last time we were both on the leaderboard, it was still a college event. He’s still in college. But to see it like that, it’s a great feeling. I have got to say, him shooting low yesterday did motivate me a lot to do a good round.”

Kraft closed with a bogey.

“I played pretty solid. I didn’t make many putts,” Kraft said. “Felt like I gave four shots away there at the end with a double on 14 and then a bogey on 18.”

Ricky Barnes (68), Ben Crane (70), Tyler Aldridge (70) and Brendon de Jonge (71) were 5 under.

Top-ranked defending champion Jason Day was 1 over, following his opening 69 with a 76.

“The day was pretty tough in itself and then I really didn’t have anything going well,” Day said. “Off the tee, was terrible. Hitting the greens, terrible. Chipping was terrible and putting was terrible. So put all that together, you shoot 4 over.”

Du Toit was one of four Canadians to make the cut. Adam Hadwin (70) was tied for 21st at 2 under, amateur Garrett Rank (75) was tied for 36th at even par, and Corey Conners (71) was tied for 62nd at 2 over.

Pat Fletcher, born in England, was the last Canadian winner in 1954 at Point Grey in Vancouver, British Columbia. Carl Keffer is the only Canadian-born champion, winning in 1909 and 1914. Albert Murray, a Canadian also born in England, won in 1908 and 1913.

Canadian Olympic players Graham De Laet and David Hearn missed the cut. DeLaet shot 77-72 and Hearn had rounds of 74 and 75.

“It’s obviously disappointing but it’s another golf tournament, and I’m able to kind of get over it a little bit easier now than I used to be probably,” said DeLaet, who will represent Canada along with David Hearn in the Rio Olympics. “Obviously, I wanted to play well here this week, but there’s more tournaments to play.”

Source: ESPN

 

Tiger Woods withdraws from PGA Championship, done for season

Tiger Woods is pulling the plug on his hopes of playing this season.

The PGA Championship said on Tuesday that he had withdrawn from the major, and his agent Mark Steinberg said that he will not play in a event for the rest of the 2015-16 season.

Harold Varner III will take Woods’ spot at the PGA Championship.

Woods indicated in June that he wasn’t sure whether he would play at all in 2016. He has been rehabbing from back surgery since last year and has undergone three back surgeries since March 2014.

Steinberg said that Woods is continuing to make progress in his rehab, but it didn’t make sense to play this season considering how few events are left. They will assess when to return for next season.

When Woods pulled out of The Open at Royal Troon, it marked the first time in his professional career that he had missed three straight majors. Now it will be four.

Woods last played a PGA Tour event in August 2015, when he finished tied for 10th at the Wyndham Championship.

The PGA Championship will be played July 28-31 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.

The 2015-16 regular season includes three more events and then the four-event playoffs, culminating with the Tour Championship Sept. 22-25. The Ryder Cup is the next week.

Source: ESPN.com news services

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