Tiger Woods reflects on George H.W. Bush

Tiger Woods reflects on fast rounds, long-lasting impact of George H.W. Bush

NASSAU, Bahamas — Known for his proclivity to play golf fast if not well, George H.W. Bush would not slow down the pursuit of an 18-hole round just because he was in the company of Tiger Woods.

On a visit to Bush’s hometown of Houston years ago to work with instructor Butch Harmon, Woods had the occasion to play with the 41st president of the United States. And as tributes poured in after Bush died at age 94 on Friday, Woods chuckled at the memory of their speedy round.

“It was one of those very quick ones,” Woods said at the Hero World Challenge on Saturday. “Eighteen holes in probably under two and a half hours. I met him on numerous occasions. He was fantastic to be around. He was just one of the smartest people I’ve ever been around. So down-to-earth.”

Bush was a big contributor to golf, especially after leaving the White House in 1993. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011 through the Lifetime Achievement category. The United States Golf Association bestowed its highest honor on Bush in 2008, the Bob Jones Award. The PGA of America gave him its Distinguished Service Award in 1997, and the PGA Tour honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

Bush, who played baseball at Yale, did not take up golf until he was in his 20s, but became quite competitive at the sport. He also had family ties to it. His grandfather, Herbert Walker, was USGA president in 1920, and the Walker Cup — an amateur biennial competition between the United States and Great Britain & Ireland — was named after him. Bush’s father, Prescott, was USGA president in 1935.

Bush was the first honorary chairman of the First Tee, a program started in late 1997 that gives golf opportunities and teaches life lessons around the country.

“Obviously his name is synonymous with golf,” Woods said. “Being around him for all these years and getting a chance to be around him at the Presidents Cup and him being involved since its inception in ’94 … he was such a class act. Anyone who’s ever been around him knows how much he loved his golf and how much he supported it and how much we’re going to miss him.”

Bush attended several Presidents Cups and Ryder Cups over the years; he was at the former the first time it ventured outside the United States in 1998.

Jack Nicklaus, who captained the U.S. team that year (the only time it has lost in the competition), took to Twitter on Saturday to share a story from that event, which was played at Royal Melbourne in Australia.

“On the final day, President Bush stood on the first tee to greet all 24 players,” Nicklaus wrote. “From (the) first singles pairing until the last, the temperature dropped 40 degrees & with it came steady rain. President Bush stood in pouring rain & shook every hand — with grace & a big smile. To me, it spoke volumes about his enduring and endearing character.”

For Bush as a player, what stood out to just about everyone who came in contact with his game was the fast pace.

Bush once told a group of kids at a First Tee program that he never wanted to see them plumb-bobbing a 3-foot putt. And as the 41st president told ESPN writer Don Van Natta Jr. for his book “First off the Tee,” the family mantra was: “We’re not good, but we’re fast.”

Woods described Bush’s pre-shot routine as “basically club, ball, one look, gone.”

Bush played a lot of his golf at Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport, Maine, where he became proficient enough to win the club championship in 1947. Perhaps his most famous round of golf came in 1995 as part of the Bob Hope Desert Classic at Indian Wells Country Club near Palm Springs, California. For the pro-am, PGA Tour pro Scott Hoch was grouped with Bush, sitting president Bill Clinton, former president Gerald Ford and Hope. During the round, which was filled with errant shots, Bush hit a couple of spectators, one of whom was bloodied when a shot caromed off a tree and hit her on the nose.

Perhaps most horrifying of all to Bush? The round took more than six hours.

SOURCE: ESPN

Seeking Golf Course Superintendent

After a big year, Tiger Woods needs some rest

After a big year, Tiger Woods needs some rest

PARIS — Tiger Woods is not used to others celebrating at his expense, but there he was on the 17th green Sunday afternoon, helpless. Jon Rahm had knocked his approach shot stiff, a short birdie putt away from putting Woods out of his misery, another Ryder Cup match lost.

One of golf’s great mysteries continues: Why is Woods’ Ryder Cup record so lousy?

He went 0-4 at Le Golf National after what was an inspired effort to even be part of the U.S. team. He came to France off the jubilation of victory at the Tour Championship, a satisfying-yet-emotional win that obviously left him spent, and he departed with the worst record of any player in the competition.

Two more Ryder Cup partners went on his résumé — Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau — adding to a long list of infamy that has seen Woods’ overall record drop to 13-21-3. He’s 9-19-1 with partners, and lost at singles for the first time since 1997.

All manner of explanations have been given over the years, none of which really apply now, if they ever did: he doesn’t care; he doesn’t like playing with a partner; he’s horrible at team events.

Woods might have had his issues 20 years ago, but now as one of the game’s elder statesmen, he has become heavily involved in the U.S. Ryder Cup process that selects the captains and assistant captains. He has already signed on to be the U.S. Presidents Cup captain in 2019 — and why would a guy who doesn’t give a rip do that? — with an eye on a future Ryder Cup captaincy.

And if you want to put Woods down for withering in the moment, that simply ignores his long career body of work, which includes his victory a week ago in Atlanta.

“We all saw his great win last week, and I think that took something out of him,” said Francesco Molinari, who went 5-0 for the Europeans and three times defeated Woods in the team competition. “But he was still hitting great shots. He’s still a really tough competitor.”

Said Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava: “I think he’s frustrated and also disappointed because he knows he was playing well coming into the tournament. But I don’t think he’s going to let it spoil the year that he had. It is going to sting for a while. Didn’t win a match, and that hurts.

“But you know what, better things are ahead.”

First off, there will be rest.

Woods looked as if he could use it. In brief comments after losing his match to Rahm 2 and 1, he was resigned to having cost the U.S. a chance at victory with his play over the past three days. A few hours later, when the entire team conducted a postmatch news conference, Woods looked exhausted, as if he could fall asleep at any moment.

“I played seven out of nine weeks because I qualified for [the WGC event in] Akron, and all of those are big events, starting with the Open Championship, you’ve got the World Golf Championships, you’ve got another major championship, you’ve got the [FedEx] playoffs and then you have the Ryder Cup on the back side.

“So a lot of big events, and a lot of focus, a lot of energy goes into it. I was fortunate enough to have won one, and we were all coming here on a high and feeling great about our games, about what we were doing, and excited about playing this week.”

It never carried over. On Tuesday, Phil Mickelson said, “I honestly think this is the best I’ve seen him swing the club since 2000.” But Woods never brought that same speed and cohesion to the event.

At times throughout the Ryder Cup, Woods appeared to be moving slowly and swinging without much conviction. He had his moments, just not enough of them. On Sunday, he eagled the ninth hole and birdied the 12th, but as LaCava said, “That’s never going to be enough in something like this.”

After posting seven top-7s, climbing from 656th in the world to 13th, winning his first tournament in five years and being part of the Ryder Cup team, Woods, 42, is probably in for a long, extended break.

There is a chance he might play a late fall event on the PGA Tour before his scheduled Thanksgiving weekend match with Mickelson, followed by the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. It makes sense if that is all he does.

“For me, it’s been a lot of golf in a short period,” he said. “I’ll have a better understanding of what my training needs to be for next year so that I certainly can endure the entire season because this year was very much up in the air of how much I would play or if I would play at all.”

As it turned out, Woods played a ton, missing only two cuts and competing in 68 official rounds on the PGA Tour. The Ryder Cup made for a 19th event, a total number of tournaments he has exceeded once in the past 13 years.

So yes, Woods had a lousy Ryder Cup. So did Mickelson. So did No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson. Jordan Spieth lost at singles for the sixth time in six tries in both Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup competition. DeChambeau, in his first Ryder Cup, was shut out.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but Woods’ name will show up at the bottom of the stat sheet, his 0-4 record there for all to see where the scoreboard is the ultimate judge.

And yet, Woods deserves a bigger-picture view. After all he endured to get back here, and after the success he had along the way, the Ryder Cup pain is undeniable. So are the bodily aches he has endured along the way.

But it will pass in time, and just getting here will be celebrated, even if the result will not.

SOURCE: ESPN

Woods, Mickelson, DeChambeau selected for U.S. Ryder Cup Team

Jim Furyk selects Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau for U.S.

PHILADELPHIA — Tiger Woods was one of three golfers named as at-large picks to the U.S. Ryder Cup team by captain Jim Furyk on Tuesday and later this month will make his eighth appearance in the event, but his first since 2012.

Although the at-large pick was expected, it was still the culmination of a remarkable and unlikely run that didn’t seem possible when Furyk named Woods to be one of his vice captains in January.

At the time, Woods, 42, was ranked 656th in the world and had not earned a single Ryder Cup point. He had not played competitive golf in a year, the result of his fourth back surgery.

“Deep down, I wanted to make the team. I really wanted to play on it,” Woods said Tuesday at a news conference where Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau were also added to the U.S. team. “Now I had not started playing golf really yet, but still … it was a goal.

U.S. EUROPE
B. DeChambeau* P. Casey*
R. Fowler T. Fleetwood
D. Johnson S. Garcia*
B. Koepka T. Hatton
P. Mickelson* R. McIlroy
P. Reed F. Molinari
W. Simpson A. Noren
J. Spieth I. Poulter*
J. Thomas T. Olesen
B. Watson J. Rahm
T. Woods* J. Rose
TBD* H. Stenson*
* Captain’s at-large picks

“… As the year progressed, I’ve kind of gained some traction and was somehow able to get some high finishes. And lo and behold, I’m a part of this team. It’s incredible, it really is, to look back at the start of the year and now to have accomplished a goal like that, to be a part of this team, and now to be a player is just — like I said, it’s beyond special.”

Woods, who has five top-10 finishes this year, including a runner-up at the PGA Championship three weeks ago, ended up 11th in the final Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight players after the PGA earning automatic picks.

Mickelson and DeChambeau also received at-large picks Tuesday and will join qualifiers Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.

Furyk will add a final pick Monday following the BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club. Tony Finau is considered the leading candidate. Others who might still be considered are Kevin Kisner, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.

The 2018 Ryder Cup will be played at Le Golf National, outside Paris, on Sept. 28-30.

Mickelson, 48, will be making his 12th straight Ryder Cup appearance.

“It’s obvious that the one thing that has been missing is for our team to go over to Europe and win,” said Mickelson, who has played on three winning U.S. teams — but never overseas. “I’m very excited about the team this year. I’m excited to be a part of this team. We have some incredible players, great leadership and a really special opportunity to do something that we haven’t done in a long time.

“It’s going to be a great challenge because we know how strong the European side is and how well they play at home. But it’s a wonderful chance, an opportunity for us to do something I haven’t done or been a part of in my career, and would very much like to.”

DeChambeau finished ninth in the final standings and was considered a strong possibility for a pick before winning the first two FedEx Cup playoff events. He is a former U.S. Amateur champion and has already developed a bond with Woods, looking to speculation about a possible pairing in France.

uryk said Woods will no longer serve as a vice captain. He named David Duval, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar as assistants to join previously announced vice captains Davis Love III and Steve Stricker.

Love captained the U.S. team to victory in 2016, and Stricker was the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team captain last year.

The European team had eight qualifiers — Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Alexander Noren, Francesco Molinariand Thorbjorn Olesen — decided on Sunday following the Made in Denmark tournament on the European Tour.

Captain Thomas Bjorn made his four at-large selections Wednesday, choosing Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia. Among those not making the team are Rafael Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters and Denmark winner Matt Wallace.

SOURCE: ESPN

Brooks Koepka wasn’t losing to anyone, not even Tiger Woods

Brooks Koepka wasn’t losing to anyone, not even Tiger Woods

ST LOUIS — He could hear the roars. How could he not? It felt, at times, like the Bellerive Country Club was vibrating. Brooks Koepka, however, wouldn’t look in the direction of them. He just kept marching forward, often with his head down and a tiny smirk on his face.

Up ahead, it was obvious Tiger Woods was pouring in birdies. The fairy-tale finish at the PGA Championship that everyone seemed to be longing for was taking shape. It was starting to feel like a remake of the 1986 Masters, with Koepka playing the role of Greg Norman, and Tiger morphing into Jack Nicklaus. The sentimental favorite was going to conjure up some old magic, and the young and brash phenom was going to wilt. The pressure was mounting with each roar.

“Everybody on the golf course could hear it,” Koepka said. “You could hear it trickle down as they changed the scoreboards. You’d hear different roars every three seconds. It was pretty obvious when Tiger made a birdie.”

But this wasn’t 1986. There was one significant difference this time. In this version, the brawny, confident antihero never blinked. You don’t have to love it, but Koepka was so icy and impressive amid the circus, you have to respect it. After holding off Woods for a two-stroke victory, Koepka now has three major championships at the age of 28. He did what Woods used to do in his prime, grabbing the lead and then stepping on the accelerator every time someone got close.

“Other than me and my team, I think everybody was rooting for Tiger,” Koepka said. “As they should. He’s the greatest player to ever to play the game. [Woods] is the whole reason people of my generation are even playing golf. To duel it out with him, I don’t think I ever dreamed of that situation today.”

Historically, it’s always been easy to compare Woods and Nicklaus. They dominated their eras like no one before them or since. And interestingly, there are a lot of similarities between Koepka and Norman. They’re both fitness freaks, both historically great drivers and both walked with a swagger and a chip on their shoulder. There appears to be one major difference, however: Norman tended to melt in big moments, and Koepka seems to live for them.

Need an example? When Woods birdied the 15th hole on Sunday to pull within a shot at 13-under par — nearly dunking his approach from the fairway — it was bedlam. Even if you shouted, you could barely hear your own voice above the din. Woods punched the air in jubilation, seemingly feeding off the gallery’s energy. “I wish we could play in front of crowds like this every single week because this is a true pleasure,” Woods said.

Koepka couldn’t help but smile, listening to it unfold.

“It brought me back to when I was a kid, when I was watching him, and you heard those roars,” Koepka said.

But instead of getting starstruck, Koepka uncorked a 334-yard drive on 15, hit his approach to 10 feet and made the birdie.

“He’s a tough guy to beat when he’s hitting it 340 in the air,” Woods said, talking about Koepka’s game with the same kind of awe Woods’ elders used to talk about his. “[Hitting it] 320 in the air is like a chip shot [for him]. That’s the new game.”

Koepka wasn’t done. He stood on the daunting 16th tee, a 248-yard par 3, and hit arguably the best shot of his entire week, ripping a 4-iron that landed soft and trickled to within 6 feet of the pin.

“That was like a laser,” said Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott. “He had to push the button. He had to give himself a cushion coming down the last few holes. The wedge on 15 was huge too, but that 4 iron, it never left the stick.”

“That’s probably going to go down as one of the best shots I’ve ever hit under pressure,” Koepka said.

When he drained the birdie putt, Koepka’s lead was back to two strokes. A birdie by Woods on 18, and bogey by Adam Scott on the same hole, gave Woods sole claim to second place. But even a final-round 64, Woods’ best Sunday round ever in a major, wasn’t enough.

“Surreal, that’s all I can say,” Koepka said.

It’s hard to surmise, at the moment, just how good, in historical terms, Koepka might be. Only four other players have ever won the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship in the same year. It’s some pretty robust company: Gene Sarazen (1922), Ben Hogan (1948), Nicklaus (1980) and Woods (2000).

You can argue that Koepka, if he keeps this up, could go down as one of the best American golfers ever, a thought he said hadn’t even occurred to him until he was asked about it Sunday night.

“I actually never thought about that,” Koepka said, grinning as he turned that potential reality over in his mind. “Three majors at 28 — it’s a cool feeling. It really is. You know, hopefully I can stay healthy. I’ve kind of had some trouble with that over the past two years, three years. I think I’m much more disciplined now, so I should be able to play every major, making sure my body’s healthy. But I’m excited. I’m excited for the next few years. I mean, as fans — and I’m a fan of golf — you should be excited. I mean, Tiger’s come back. You look at what Dustin [Johnson is] doing, Justin [Thomas], Rory [McIlroy], [Jordan] Spieth. It’s a great time to be a golf fan. I can’t wait to duel it out with them over the next couple years.”

There was a time when Woods — having finished second — would have been on his private jet by the time the last putt dropped. But this time was different. He hung around until Koepka was finished and offered him a hearty bear hug after the winner had signed his scorecard.

“I could hear it!” Koepka said, referencing the roars.

In truth, we all could. It was still special. But the game rolls on, and new faces emerge. The past is fun to revisit, but as Koepka can attest, the present is pretty damn good too.

SOURCE: ESPN

Justin Thomas wins WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Justin Thomas figured out how to win again at just the right time

AKRON, Ohio — The last time Justin Thomas won a golf tournament, he was calling out rowdy spectators in the gallery and getting more attention for that controversial move than for capturing the Honda Classic.

That win was five months ago, not that big of a deal in the overall scheme of things but an eternity to a guy like Thomas, who was getting a bit antsy before closing the deal on Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

A five-time winner during the 2017 season, Thomas, 25, was always going to have a tough time living up to that Player of the Year season. And heading into defense of his PGA Championship this week at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, it was bugging him.

“It’s been hard, too,” Thomas said of trying to temper expectations. “I mean, it feels like I haven’t won in forever.”

Of course, a four-shot win at Firestone and a first World Golf Championship victory will make that angst go away quickly. Thomas took care of that nagging victory question with a final-round 69 to easily win over Kyle Stanley while winning a PGA Tour event for the first time with his grandparents in attendance.

While there was some emotion involved, Thomas might also step back for some perspective.

All he needs to do is ask his good buddy, Jordan Spieth, what it’s been like this year. Spieth has not won since the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale.

And so while Spieth heads to Bellerive trying to complete the career Grand Slam, it is Thomas who takes a good bit of momentum, now having won three times this season to join No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson as the only players to win that often.

Funny, that friendship/rivalry with Spieth — who tied for 60th and shot three rounds in the 70s this week.

Their relationship goes back more than a decade, back to junior golf days and at rival colleges, where each could hold their own share of bragging rights.

But Spieth clearly blossomed more quickly as a pro than Justin Thomas, who always praised his good buddy’s success through an amazing early run on the PGA Tour, including his third major title last year at The Open and into the PGA Championship where he was getting all the hype.

Spieth was gunning for the career Grand Slam and Thomas was … well, searching for his first major championship, which came with a final-round 68, as he overtook a few of the game’s other young stars in the process at Quail Hollow.

Now, three victories later, he has closed the gap on Spieth — 11 PGA Tour victories for Spieth, nine for Thomas. And since the start of 2017, Thomas has won seven times, had a brief time at No. 1 in the world, and now sits No. 2 to Johnson.

“I think what he learned is that he has to play his game and not force it,” said Thomas’ caddie, Jimmy Johnson, who has been working with Thomas for three years after a long stint with Steve Stricker. “Let the course come to him, and play a little smarter. He was trying too hard, maybe. I don’t think he was so much frustrated as he was trying too hard. He’s just letting his potential go through now.”

Thomas had not exactly been dogging it since his Honda victory. He lost in a playoff to Phil Mickelson the next week at the WGC-Mexico Championship and was fourth at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

But his only top-10s since then were a tie for eighth at both the Memorial and the French Open. He was not a final-day factor at the Masters and U.S. Open and he missed the cut two weeks ago at The Open.

“I just want to have more chances to win tournaments,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of really solid finishes, a lot of top-10s, or a lot of top-15s, but a lot of those have been because of a pretty good last day, as opposed to having a chance to win. That’s what I’m out here for.

“These last, what, six events, I really want to try to have an opportunity to win as many of these events as I can going into Sunday and on the back nine, because that’s where I feel like I’m comfortable, it’s where I feel like I thrive, it’s what I enjoy, it’s why I play.”

It is that kind of attitude that quickly drew Rory McIlroy to Thomas when he first came on tour a few years ago. They live near each other in South Florida, so they often practice and play together.

As it turned out, they were grouped in the final pairing Sunday, with McIlroy unable to make a charge and settling for a tie for sixth.

“I like J.T.’s attitude over everything else,” McIlroy said. “He’s got a nasty streak in him, which I think you need out here. He has that. When he gets himself in the hunt, you can see like a little twinkle in his eye and he really enjoys it.”

What made Sunday even better for Thomas was having his grandparents on hand. Both Thomas’ dad, Mike, and his grandfather, Paul, were PGA of America pros — and Paul Thomas played in the 1960 PGA Championship at Firestone. Paul and Phyllis Thomas live in the Louisville, Ky., and this is the first time they saw Justin win in person on the PGA Tour.

“It was pretty special,” he said. “I can’t put it into words, honestly. I saw my grandma and grandpa and just had to put my head down. I never have gotten like that on the golf course before. You just don’t know if they’re ever going to see me win if I don’t win here, so it was pretty cool to get it done.”

SOURCE: ESPN

Sung Hyun Park Wins Women’s PGA Championship

Make it two majors in two years for rising Korean star Sung Hyun Park

KILDEER, Ill. — Sunday’s story lines were swirling like the winds in suburban Chicago for the final round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

But when the day finally ended after a two-hole playoff and a brief storm delay, Sung Hyun Park was the winner. The victory brought the normally steely South Korean to tears on the shoulder of her caddie, David Jones.

It was Park’s second major championship in two years, and it came after she held off compatriot So Yeon Ryu and Japan’s Nasa Hataoka in a playoff following her bogey-free round of 3-under 69. For the week, Park carded rounds of 66-72-71-69 for a finish at 10-under 278.

“Actually, this is my first time feeling this kind of emotion,” Park said when asked about her tears after the round. “I couldn’t help that.”

It was understandable.

After winning last year’s U.S. Women’s Open as a rookie, Park won the CP Women’s Open in Canada and wrapped up 2017 as the LPGA’s top rookie and co-player of the year. But 2018 hasn’t looked like 2017.

Although she won the LPGA event in Texas in May and tied for ninth in March at the ANA Inspiration, she has missed five cuts, including in the U.S. Women’s Open. That’s when the doubters got in her ear.

“The tears came today because she understood how hard it was to win this week,” Jones said. “We’ve missed four of the last six cuts, so she’s felt the pressure. She also had to battle herself to win this one.”

Park started Sunday’s final round trailing Ryu, who built a 3-shot lead surging past Canadian Brooke Henderson and Park on Saturday. Brimming with confidence, Park appeared one round closer to adding another major championship to her collection as she gained momentum Sunday afternoon.

But it was Hataoka who blistered Kemper Lakes Golf Club on Sunday with a round of 8-under 64 to storm from behind and move within one shot of Ryu, who had six holes to play when Hataoka signed her scorecard.

Hataoka recorded two eagles in her round and put a number on the leaderboard that likely got the attention of Park and Ryu.

Hataoka chipped in from a back bunker on No. 7 and added a second eagle on No. 11. The 19-year-old also rolled in birdie putts on holes 12, 15 and 16, saved par from a greenside bunker on No. 17 and again saved par from the back fringe on the last hole.

With a sparkling 64 in her pocket and a chance to win, Hataoka turned and bowed to the Kemper Lakes course out of respect and then headed to the clubhouse to wait an hour for Park and Ryu to complete their rounds.

Meanwhile, out on the course, Park flirted with disaster on the challenging par-4 16th hole. Trying to carry the water hazard on her approach shot into the green, her ball hit the lake bank and bounced back into some tall grass by the water’s edge. Neither she nor Jones could see the ball, but it was a tense walk toward the errant shot.

“I thought the tournament was gone,” Jones said. “I thought the ball was in the water, but when I reached it and saw that it was still above ground, I nearly broke my neck turning around to tell her it was playable.”

Park’s ball landed on a big tuft of grass. It wasn’t clear where the water ended, but Park and Jones discussed how to extract the ball from the pond’s edge, and Park opted to use her 58-degree wedge and play it like a bunker shot.

The ball landed two feet from the hole, and Park converted the putt to save par on what could have just as easily ended her hope to win.

“Actually, that was my first time doing that kind of shot,” Park said.

It was the par-3 17th hole that caught up with Ryu. With a 2-shot lead, her tee shot sailed left of the green into the water hazard. She finished the hole with a double-bogey 5, dropping her into a three-way tie at 10 under with Park and Hataoka.

That misstep was Ryu’s second double-bogey of the day. She took a double-bogey 6 on the second hole but rallied back with birdies on holes 6 and 7. The double on No. 17 forced Ryu to refocus — and quickly, as she was running out of holes.

“I had to let it go,” she said. “I don’t think the [yardage] number was bad, but I just drew it a little too much.”

Park and Ryu matched pars on the 18th to move into a playoff with Hataoka, who watched the telecast from the clubhouse before heading out to prepare.

The three players returned to the 18th hole for the sudden-death playoff. Ryu drained a 16-foot birdie putt to put the pressure on her two fellow competitors.

Putting from the back fringe, Hataoka’s 15-foot birdie effort missed right, and she was eliminated. Last to putt, Park drained an 8-foot downhill putt to stay in the playoff.

“I did feel nerves going [into the playoff], but on the other hand, I haven’t won a major yet, so I felt like I had nothing to lose,” Hataoka said. “When So Yeon made her putt … hats off to her.”

The matched birdies on the first playoff hole sent Park and Ryu to No. 16 to continue their duel. Both players were preparing to putt when thunder rumbled in the distance.

Play was suspended due to lightning. Heavy rain followed, but the storm blew through quickly, and play resumed with the players on the green just 20 minutes later.

Park slammed home a 7-foot birdie putt to win, as Ryu’s birdie effort rolled past the left edge of the cup.

“It was a really long round today, and I still can’t believe that I’m sitting next to this trophy,” said Park, 24, who has four career wins and career earnings of more than $3.1 million in less than two seasons on the LPGA Tour.

Park is still trying to learn to speak English. The success she has experienced in a short amount of time has come faster than her ability to articulate her thoughts. The American media sometimes struggle to connect with the Korean star. On the other hand, the Korean media often expect more than she can deliver.

“She’s still just piecing it all together,” Jones said of Park. “There’s an awful lot expected of her back home in South Korea. After she came out of nowhere last year to win the U.S. Women’s Open, I think the expectation was that she should be winning every week. In golf, for every one you win, there will be many more that you never even sniff.”

But this week, once again, Park sniffed victory.

She had to fight for it. Against herself. Against blazing temperatures and stormy weather. Against a playoff and with a memorable shot beside a pond that was reminiscent of fellow South Korean Se Ri Pak’s storied shot from the water to force a playoff in 1998 to win the U.S. Women’s Open.

It might be only the beginning of Park’s LPGA career, but already, the legend has begun.

SOURCE: ESPN

Foxfire Spotlight – Meet Paul Thomas!

The steps that led to Brooks Koepka winning the U.S. Open

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — History will look at Brooks Koepka and note that he won the same major championship two years in a row. The only similarity in victories between last year and this year is that the name of the courses had the word “Hills” in it. Because, in truth, the U.S. Open he won at Erin Hills a year ago and the one he locked up Sunday at Shinnecock Hills could have not have been more different.

At lush Erin Hills, he took home the trophy after shooting 16 under par over four days in Wisconsin. This time, on a fast and hard Shinnecock Hills course that drew the ire of players this past week, he posted 1 over for the tournament.

How did we end up here, with Koepka becoming the first player to win consecutive U.S. Opens since Curtis Strange did it in 1988 and 1989? We go through all the key moments of Sunday’s final round.

The hole that won the U.S. Open

Koepka made five birdies, but it might have been the par at 14 that lifted him to his second consecutive U.S. Open. Fitting, really, that it was a par at a U.S. Open in which pars were so tough to get. The player with a bad left wrist, playing in the event that most puts that wrist in danger — at a U.S. Open with high, thick, punishing rough — needed to navigate that rough to get home with a pivotal par at 14.

He pounded his tee shot 340 yards, but it found that unforgiving rough up the right side. He advanced it as far as he could, hacking it out 98 yards. With that, he had to get up and down from 62 yards to keep his one-shot lead. His wedge settled 8 feet from the hole. He walked in the putt and kept a lead he wouldn’t give up.

The 63 that wasn’t good enough

Tommy Fleetwood was surprised when he shot 66 in Friday’s second round. Imagine how he felt after tying the U.S. Open record with a 63 on Sunday. He finished at 3:49 p.m. local time, then waited … and waited … and waited.

“Looking at the pins, you knew they were going to be more accessible,” Fleetwood said immediately after his round. “I knew I was kind of in it teeing off, but you still have to get off to that good start. [When I was] 4 under through seven, and it was game on.”

Still, he would have liked to have back the putt that just slid by on the final hole.

“I wanted 62,” he said.

Final-Round 63s At A Major That Didn’t Win

YEAR PLAYER MAJOR
2018 Tommy Fleetwood U.S. Open
2017 Haotong Li Open Championship
1995 Brad Faxon PGA Championship
1993 Payne Stewart Open Championship
1991 Jodie Mudd Open Championship

 

The Grand Slam conversation that wasn’t

Patrick Reed doesn’t lack confidence. He wanted to make a statement, and he did that early. Reed birdied his first three holes, five of his first eight, and went out in 4-under 31. The murmurs started: Maybe Reed could follow his Masters win with a triumph at the U.S. Open. Only seven times a player has opened a calendar year by the winning the season’s first two majors. The last time it happened was when Jordan Spieth won at Augusta and then picked up the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in 2015.

Reed, though, couldn’t keep up the momentum after bogeys at 9, 11 and 12. A missed short par putt at 18 officially ended his hope of the major double.

The quest for a major comeback

In 1975, Lou Graham won the U.S. Open after trailing by 11 shots at the 36-hole mark. Tony Finau and Daniel Berger faced the same scenario. It appeared early they wouldn’t be joining Graham. Finau strung together three consecutive bogeys at Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Berger had back-to-back bogeys at the second and third. They each tried to rally — Finau made four birdies in a seven-hole stretch in the middle of his round, while Berger opened his back nine with a birdie at 10 — but they could not make the long road back from 11 down.

The USGA changed the place

The tone of the day started very early, well before Andrew “Beef” Johnston hit the day’s first shot at 8:21 a.m. local time.

“In preparation for [Sunday’s] forecasted dry and windy conditions and to maintain a challenging yet fair U.S. Open test, we applied appropriate levels of water to all putting greens last night and this morning for turf health and firmness,” the USGA said in a statement. “Similar to the preparation we took for Round 1, green speeds will be, on average, 10-12 inches slower than Rounds 2 and 3. We also adjusted some hole locations in a manner similar to what we did in Round 1, reviewing our initial selections and comparing them against our weather forecast and other agronomic data.”

Our translation: We messed up Saturday. We are going to make up for it. The place is going to play easier. Did it ever. Not only did Fleetwood shoot 63, but the whole field had a better day. The course played nearly a shot easier on average than it did on any other day this past week.

 

SOURCE: ESPN

Bryson DeChambeau wins Memorial

Bryson DeChambeau wins Memorial with birdie on second extra hole

DUBLIN, Ohio — For the fourth straight year, Bryson DeChambeau leaves Ohio feeling like a winner.

This time he had a trophy to show for it, and a handshake with Jack Nicklaus to remember.

DeChambeau finally made it easy on himself the third time playing the 18th hole at the Muirfield Village on Sunday, rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to beat Byeong Hun An and win the Memorial.

“I can’t believe I did it,” said DeChambeau, a winner for the second time on the PGA Tour.

He had played the Memorial only once before, though the 24-year-old Californian has been a regular in central Ohio. He has made it through the 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier each of the last three years, all in the Columbus area.

This was far more rewarding.

DeChambeau watched his putt disappear and raised both arms, pumping them seven times as he yelled above the cheers of fans. Many of them lingered at the 18th green in expectation that this might be the day Tiger Woods returned to winning.

It wasn’t.

Woods was never a serious factor, especially after missing a three-foot par putt on the 10th hole and hitting another tee shot into someone’s backyard on the 13th hole. One of his best weeks hitting the ball ended with an even-par 72 and a six-way tie for 23rd.

The finish was no less entertaining.

DeChambeau went from a two-shot deficit at the turn to a one-shot lead after No. 12, and he kept the lead the rest of the way until a three-putt bogey on the 18th hole from about 55 feet for a 1-under 71. That tied with An, who had closed with a 69 in the group ahead and was the first to reach 15-under 273.

Kyle Stanley joined them in the playoff. He hit into the water on the par-3 12th to fall five shots behind with six holes to play, only to run off four straight birdies, capping the big run with a 30-foot putt on the 17th to tie DeChambeau.

Just his luck, Stanley hit a tree on the right elbow of the dogleg at No. 18, and it shot the ball across the fairway and nearly into a creek, except the ankle-deep rough was thick enough to slow it. Even so, he could only advance the ball 100 yards and made bogey for a 70.

In the playoff, his tee shot was enough to the right that the ball was well above his feet in thick grass. Stanley choked up and took a swing, but the ball squirted out about 30 yards to the right, leading to another bogey, and he was quickly eliminated.

“A couple bad breaks on 18,” Stanley said. “I mean, in the playoff, if I knock that ball 2-3 feet right of where it was, I would have had a shot. But after Hole 12 my chances were looking pretty slim, so to come back and make some birdies coming in … it’s a bit of a sour finish, but proud of the way I hung in there.”

An took some of the pressure off DeChambeau on the second playoff hole, also on No. 18, when he yanked his approach into the gallery. He played a marvelous flop shot out of deep rough to a couple of feet for a certain par, only for DeChambeau to hit his approach 12 feet behind the hole and make the birdie.

“I finally got it right the third time,” DeChambeau said. “It took me a little bit.”

Patrick Cantlay also had a chance Sunday, leading by two shots going to the back nine. But he didn’t make a birdie over his last 10 holes, and he fell back when he went bunker-to-bunker on the 17th and made bogey to fall two strokes behind. Cantlay narrowly missed a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole, shot 71 and finished fourth. Peter Uihlein (66) was alone in fifth.

Joaquin Niemann, the 19-year-old from Chile, birdied the 18th hole to tie for sixth. That was enough for him to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, meaning he can get unlimited sponsor exemptions.

Justin Thomas shot 68 and tied for eighth in his debut at No. 1 in the world. He will keep that ranking going into the U.S. Open.

Woods started five shots behind. He pulled to within three shots with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 fifth hole, but he didn’t make another birdie until he had fallen seven shots behind and only had eight holes in front of him.

Woods was second to last in the key putting statistic among the 73 players who went all four rounds.

“If I just putt normally, I probably would be right there with those guys and up there in the last couple of groups,” Woods said. “If I just keep building on this, with how I’m hitting it right now, I’m in good shape for two weeks from now.”

The next stop for Woods is the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

DeChambeau will be there, too, his confidence higher than ever. He first played the Memorial in 2016 and was coming off four straight missed cuts. He tied for 38th that week, a small victory, but realized his game wasn’t good enough.

Now, he has PGA Tour titles in consecutive seasons. And his victory moved him to No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings.

SOURCE: ESPN