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Fowler next in line to shed major-less title?

Rickie Fowler not getting ahead of himself after fast U.S. Open start

ERIN, Wis. — Here’s the problem with hype: It has an expiration date. At some point, it overstays its welcome, lingering in the air like month-old milk.

Perhaps no young golfer in recent years has been more hyped than Rickie Fowler. Consider it a combination of his sponsors’ initiative and his supporters’ loyalty. Since his early days on the PGA Tour, the orange-tinted frenzy around Fowler continued to peak until, well, it expired.

It’s not his fault. Not even close. Younger players with similar hype, notably Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, won major championships right away, emulating the early-career ascendancy of Tiger Woods.

Fowler has never won a major. Not yet, anyway. In 29 career major appearances, he still hasn’t raised any hardware above his head on a Sunday evening. He has come close, with five career top-5 finishes, including at all four majors three years ago. Unlike McIlroy and Spieth and other elite players, though, he has never experienced the mixed sense of delight and relief that comes with winning one.

And that’s perfectly all right.

Dustin Johnson, this week’s defending champion at the U.S. Open, didn’t claim a major until he was 32. Phil Mickelson was famously shut out until he was 33. Sergio Garcia didn’t get the monkey off his back until he was 37 at the Masters in April.

All of which explains why, after an opening-round 7-under-par 65 on Thursday, the 28-year-old Fowler wasn’t anxious or nervous about the prospect of going after the victory this weekend. In fact, he couldn’t have seemed calmer.

“The first thing is getting off to a good start Thursday, keeping that rolling and getting ourselves in contention Sunday,” he explained. “There’s a lot of golf to be played. But yeah, I’m ready to be out there. Having a win this year at Honda, being in contention at majors in the past, and having the Players win has definitely done a lot for me.”

Granted, this year’s edition of the U.S. Open, so far, appears easier than usual, but Fowler handled the first round like it was Tuesday morning at the local muni. He posted seven birdies, 11 pars and no bogeys in matching the lowest opening score in relation to par in modern-era tournament history.

His caddie, Joe Skovron, called it a “stress-free” day of golf, which previously would’ve sounded like a U.S. Open oxymoron.

“Just how you draw it up,” he said with a smile. “He just kind of dissected the golf course.”

Skovron has been alongside Fowler every step of the way, from a near miss at Royal Liverpool in 2014 in the Open Championship to another at Valhalla the next month to a torrid three-round start at this year’s Masters that ended in disappointment. He has seen the hype around his boss, but more importantly, understands the long-term view of the journey.

They both know that anyone in a rush to just win majors is probably focusing on the endgame more than the process.

“We still only have four PGA Tour wins,” Skovron continued. “We’re just trying to get wins at this point, you know? Obviously, he wants majors; that’s a big thing to him — he’s made that clear. I think it’s just a process to get there. You’ve got to be around these things and do it a bit. Some guys take longer. You look at how long it took Phil, and he still got five of them.

“Everybody is a little bit different. I think because we haven’t won 10, 12, 15 times, we’re still trying to get wins. It would be great to get a major in there while we’re trying to get them.”

Trying to focus on that process while everyone else keeps asking about the end result must be like driving the speed limit in the right lane on a highway while a procession of cars flash their bright lights behind you.

Now that Garcia has claimed a green jacket, Fowler is being hailed by some as the best player in the world without a major championship — golf’s version of the ultimate backhanded compliment.

He was asked after Thursday’s round whether he considers that more homage or burden. His answer was revealing.

“I take it as a compliment,” Fowler answered. “There are a lot of really good players out here that haven’t won a major. So it would be nice to get rid of that at some point. I’m not saying that this is the week or isn’t the week. But I like the way this golf course suits me, and we’re off to a good start.”

The hype surrounding Fowler has expired. He’s no longer the next big thing, no longer a young kid among the seasoned veterans.

What he understands, though, is that winning a major championship has no expiration date. He’d love for it to happen this week, but he knows — even after an opening 65 — there’s no race to the finish line.

“It’s cool, but it’s just the first round,” he said. “I’d rather be remembered for something that’s done on Sunday.”

SOURCE: ESPN

Jason Dufner Erases 4-Stroke Deficit, Wins At Memorial

Jason Dufner erases 4-stroke deficit, wins at Memorial

DUBLIN, Ohio — Jason Dufner never lost sight of the big picture even after losing a big lead. It paid off when he made a 30-foot par putt on the final hole that wrapped up his victory in the Memorial.

Dufner lost a five-shot lead Saturday. He started Sunday four shots behind. And then he kept his composure through two rain delays and closed with a 4-under 68 to get that handshake with host Jack Nicklaus.

Four players had at least a share of the lead in a final round in which seven players were in the hunt. Dufner saved his best golf for the back nine. Not only did he hit every green until the 18th, all but one of his birdie chances were from 12 feet or in.

SOURCE: ESPN

 

Summerhays Takes Advantage Of Dufner Collapse At Memorial

Summerhays takes advantage of Dufner collapse at Memorial

 

Dufner missed the second green to the left from the rough and made bogey. He missed a 6-foot par putt on the third, then hit into the right bunker on the par-3 4th and made another bogey. And then he three-putted the par-5 fifth for a fourth straight bogey.

Dufner was still tied for the lead when his wedge on the par-5 11th spun back down the green and into the water, leading to double bogey. It was a three-shot swing when Summerhays made birdie, and Dufner never caught up.

He had said his breathing exercises over putting didn’t mean he would always have good days, and this was a bad one. Dufner had a pair of three-putts, and he twice missed birdie putts from 6 feet. He capped off his day by pulling his tee shot into the water and making another bogey.

“The tournament is not over,” Dufner said. “It will be over tomorrow.”

“Today was pretty pathetic on all accounts, so have to play better tomorrow,” he said.

 At least he was still in the game, along with plenty of company.

Summerhays was at 13-under 203. Matt Kuchar, who won the Memorial four years ago, ran off three straight birdies on the back nine and shot a 67. That put him in the final group with Summerhays as Kuchar tries to end three years and 82 starts without a victory on the PGA Tour.

“I’m excited to have another chance here,” Kuchar said. “It looked like after 36 holes that none of us were going to have a chance at it.”

Bubba Watson overcame a heckler on the 18th hole with one last birdie for a 68. He was four shots behind along with Justin Thomas (69) and Dufner. Rickie Fowler (72) salvaged an up-and-down day and was five behind.

Watson turned and acknowledged the heckled after his birdie putt.

“Obviously, not a Bubba Watson fan,” he said. “It started about 50 yards short of the green. He kept going. I’m taking a guess, he wasn’t drinking water like I was all day. But it’s one of those things.”

This is a rare chance for Watson, the two-time Masters champion who hasn’t been a factor all year. He has gone 14 months without finishing in the top 10 at a PGA Tour event with a full field.

But even for Watson, it all started with Dufner’s bad day.

Dufner missed the second green to the left from the rough and made bogey. He missed a 6-foot par putt on the third, then hit into the right bunker on the par-3 4th and made another bogey. And then he three-putted the par-5 fifth for a fourth straight bogey.

Dufner was still tied for the lead when his wedge on the par-5 11th spun back down the green and into the water, leading to double bogey. It was a three-shot swing when Summerhays made birdie, and Dufner never caught up.

He had said his breathing exercises over putting didn’t mean he would always have good days, and this was a bad one. Dufner had a pair of three-putts, and he twice missed birdie putts from 6 feet. He capped off his day by pulling his tee shot into the water and making another bogey.

“The tournament is not over,” Dufner said. “It will be over tomorrow.”

Summerhays wasn’t thinking about cutting into the lead when he started. He wasn’t thinking much about anything except the shot at hand, and he kept hitting good ones in the midst of Dufner’s streak of bogeys.

“A train wreck can happen at any moment,” Summerhays said. “And that’s why it’s such a great golf course because it does test everything. Legitimately from the first hole to the 18th hole, there’s a double bogey somewhere in there.”

Jordan Spieth knows the feeling. He was right in the mix until catching a downhill like in the bunker left of the par-3 eighth. He tried to play a perfect shot and barely got it out, then chipped down to 5 feet and missed the putt, making double bogey. Spieth started the back nine with two straight birdies only to follow with two straight bogeys. It added to a 71, and he was six shots behind.

The biggest surprise this week at Muirfield Village has been the weather — sunshine for three straight days, which has made the course fast and opened up more possibilities of little mistakes turning into big numbers.

Storms have been in the forecast for Sunday, though not early enough for the PGA Tour to move up the tee times. Another dry day, and anything can happen.

The last three winners of the Memorial had never won on the PGA Tour, and Summerhays fits that mold. The 33-year-old from Utah is in his seventh year.

“I really don’t have any goals tomorrow besides give all my efforts into each shot,” Summerhays said. “And I feel like I did that today.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SOURCE: AP

 

 

 

Jason Dufner Has Another 65, Opens Big Lead At Memorial

Spieth’s Strong Finish Puts Him In The Mix At Memorial