Cantlay (64) rallies from 4 back to win Memorial

DUBLIN, Ohio — Jack Nicklaus is a gracious tournament host at the Memorial who doesn’t mince words, and it paid off for Patrick Cantlay.

When they bumped into each other earlier in the week in the grill room, Nicklaus told him he had to learn how to finish. And then when Cantlay saw him again at lunch going into the weekend, Nicklaus told him how.

Nicklaus said to have fun, to look around at all the fans having a great time, to relax and to go win the golf tournament.

Cantlay had a blast Sunday with the best closing round by a winner in the 44 years of the Memorial. He rallied from four shots behind with an 8-under 64, a round so under control that Cantlay’s longest putt for par was from 8 feet on the final hole, with Nicklaus watching behind the 18th green.

He poured it in to secure a two-shot victory over Adam Scott.

“I finished it,” Cantlay said to Nicklaus as he walked off the green.

Martin Kaymer, trying to end five years without a victory, started with a two-shot lead and never recovered from a four-hole stretch on the back nine when he made consecutive bogeys and failed to birdie the par-5 15th. He closed with a 72 and finished third.

Scott was the last player to have a chance and ran off three straight birdies until narrowly missing birdie putts on the final two holes. He shot 68.

“Being able to win on this golf course, in front of Jack, making that putt on the last hole, I can’t tell you how good it feels,” he said.

Engaging in private, Cantlay doesn’t smile much on the golf course and isn’t about to force one. But the advice from Nicklaus — Cantlay first met him when he won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation’s best college player in 2011 — stuck with him.

Look around, soak it up and enjoy it.

“I definitely said that to myself down the stretch today on the back nine,” said Cantlay, who finished at 19-under 269. “It put me a little more at ease, and I hit a lot of really nice, quality shots with the lead.”

Cantlay first caught Kaymer with a 3-wood to 10 feet for a two-putt birdie on the 11th. Kaymer, in the group behind him, matched the birdie. That was his last one. Cantlay followed with an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 14 and a 5-iron that set up a long two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th.

By then, Kaymer was making bogeys and Scott was stuck in neutral until it was too late.

“I knew that you can’t really make any mistakes coming down the stretch,” said Kaymer, whose last victory was by eight shots in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. “But all credit to Patrick. He played a great round of golf. He deserved to win — 19-under par is amazing.”

Scott finished at 19 under at Torrey Pines and lost by two to Justin Rose. He was 17 under at the Memorial — only six players have done better at Muirfield Village, one of them being Cantlay on Sunday.

“It’s disappointing not to win, for sure,” Scott said. “I really played good golf this week, and it just wasn’t good enough.”

Cantlay’s only disappointment was that it took him 19 months to win for the second time on the PGA Tour. But then, he hasn’t been around as long as it seems. Cantlay was low amateur in the 2011 U.S. Open, and the next week he shot a 60 at the Travelers Championship.

But his career took a severe turn on and off the golf course, first with a back injury that kept him out of golf entirely for two full years and left him wondering if he would ever make it back. Then, he was out for dinner one night with his best friend and caddie, Chris Roth, when Roth was stuck by a car and killed.

Cantlay says it changed him as a person, but he keeps that separate from his golf.

His golf has been good for a long time, and this was a big step.

There was some atonement at Muirfield Village for Cantlay. A year ago, he took a two-shot lead to the back nine and didn’t make a birdie the rest of the way, missing a playoff by one shot. This time, he putted for birdie on every hole on the back nine until the 18th.

“I was looking for a little redemption this week,” Cantlay said. “And that has to do with me feeling really comfortable on the golf course and liking it a lot. Not to mention I’ve been playing really well, so it feels like a win has been coming. You always have to put yourself in contention. And you start winning a couple, and you figure out how to do it, and hopefully it keeps happening.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

 

 

SOURCE: ESPN

Tiger and the Masters victory even he never saw coming

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Before Jack Nicklaus authored the most iconic moment in Masters history, when he charged back from 4 shots down and shot 6-under 30 on the second nine to win his sixth green jacket in 1986, he was considered nothing more than a long shot at age 46.

Nicklaus arrived at Augusta National Golf Club that season having missed the cut in three of seven tournaments and withdrawing from another. He was 160th on the PGA money list. He hadn’t won a major in six years. He hadn’t won the Masters in 11.

Sound familiar?

While Tiger Woods might be three years younger than Nicklaus was 33 years ago, and while he hasn’t yet reached the same golden age as the Golden Bear in 1986 because of improved technology and the marvels of medicine, what he accomplished in the 83rd edition of the Masters on Sunday is every bit as remarkable.

For the first time in his career, Woods came from behind to win a major championship. He started Sunday’s final round trailing Italy’s Francesco Molinari by 2 shots, and sat 3 behind after 11, but chased the reigning Open champion down with a 2-under 70.

Woods won the Masters for the fifth time — second to only Nicklaus’ six titles — and claimed his 15th major championship, which trails only Nicklaus’ 18.

Woods also became the second-oldest man to win a green jacket at 43 years, 3 months and 15 days. Nicklaus was the oldest Masters champion at 46 years, 2 months and 23 days.

Twenty-two years ago, at the age of 21 and less than a year after he turned pro, Woods became the youngest Masters champion, winning the 1997 tournament by a staggering 12 strokes. He won his second Masters at 25, his third at 26 and his fourth at 29.

Woods waited 14 years to win his fifth, the longest gap between green jackets in Masters history. The last one might have been the most extraordinary achievement in his most extraordinary career.

Yes, Woods is ranked 12th in the Official World Golf Rankings. Yes, he won the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta in September, was runner-up at the PGA Championship in August and tied for sixth at The Open in July.

Yes, Woods was among the betting favorites this week. He’s always a factor at Augusta National, where the club lengthened half of the holes to “Tiger-proof” the course after his 2001 victory.

In an effort to keep Woods from continuing to dominate the most fabled golf course in the world, Masters officials moved back tees. They added trees to the sides of fairways to make them narrower. They watered greens less to make them firmer and less receptive.

Woods was a very young man in 1997. Now, the most famous golfer in the world is battling time and decline, just like Nicklaus did more than three decades ago.

To truly appreciate what Woods did on Sunday, you have to consider where he was two years ago.

In April 2017, Woods’ career was in jeopardy because of a debilitating back injury. Before Woods arrived at Augusta National to take his seat at the champions dinner, he needed a nerve block to endure sitting in a chair.

Immediately after the dinner, Woods flew to London to meet with specialists, who recommended spinal fusion surgery to alleviate back spasms and pain and discomfort in his leg. He had surgery in Texas later that month, the fourth back surgery of his career.

Some of his problems have been self-inflicted. On May 29, 2017, Woods was arrested on DUI charges near his home in Jupiter Island, Florida. Officers found him asleep in his car. He pleaded guilty to reckless driving and entered a treatment program. That incident followed a very public divorce in 2010 from his wife, Elin Nordegren, which revealed details of his infidelity.

“It was not a fun time,” Woods said earlier this week, after receiving the Ben Hogan Award, given to the comeback player of the year, at the Golf Writers Association of America dinner in Augusta. “It was a tough couple of years there. But I was able to start to walk again. I was able to participate in life.

“I was able to be around my kids again and go to their games and practices and take them to school again. These are all things I couldn’t do for a very long time.”

Woods faced months of rehabilitation and recovery. He didn’t play golf competitively for months. The first time he hit a driver again, it went 90 yards. He was afraid to take a swing. He had to rebuild his game from scratch.

“Golf was not in my near future or even the distant future,” Woods said. “I knew that I was going to be a part of the game, but play the game again, I couldn’t even do that with my son Charlie. I couldn’t even putt in the backyard.”

By December 2017, the player who spent a staggering 281 consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 in the world was ranked 1,199th.

While others might have wondered whether Nicklaus was finished when he won his last green jacket, even Woods questioned whether his professional career was over.

“I was done,” Woods said.

Now, two years later, Woods is a Masters champion again. The 14-year gap between his 2005 victory at Augusta National and the title on Sunday is the longest in Masters history. Gary Player went 13 years between winning green jackets in 1961 and 1974.

Before Sunday, Woods hadn’t won a major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — a span of 3,954 days. It’s the fifth-longest drought in majors history. He had gone 0-for-28 in majors he had played since then.

Since Woods previously won the Masters in 2005, 55 majors had been played and 35 different players — including 32 first-timers — had won. It seemed that younger players like Molinari, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spiethand Rory McIlroy had evened the playing field or even surpassed him.

In his younger years, Woods routinely outdrove opponents by 30 or 40 yards. At the Masters, it might not have mattered if he was teeing off from the Kroger parking lot across Washington Road. Compared to Woods, it seemed as if everyone else was playing with hickory shafts.

This week, Woods didn’t even rank among the top 40 players in driving distance. He relied on his course knowledge, iron play and short game to come out on top. He was No. 1 in greens in regulation and ranked in the top 15 in putting.

For four days in Augusta, Woods played like a champion again. And his play resembled the great Masters champions before him.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a man that had as much talent,” said Player, a three-time Masters champion. “He had his difficulties to encounter, and I always said if Tiger never had the problems he had, which were numerous, he would have won at least 20, 21 majors. I don’t think there’s a debate about that. I don’t think anybody would ever deny that.”

The question now is whether the most talented golfer in history can become the greatest player in history. Nicklaus never won another major on the PGA Tour after winning the Masters for the final time.

Was Sunday also Woods’ final crowning achievement, or is there more to come?

SOURCE: ESPN

2019 Players Championship odds, field: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy co-favorites at TPC Sawgrass

It should come as no surprise that the two golfers who duked it out a few weeks ago at the WGC-Mexico Championship are the favorites for this week’s 2019 Players Championship. Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy share the honors at 12-1 even though neither has ever won at TPC Sawgrass.

The duo has combined for exactly zero top-10 finishes at this tournament in the last three years it has been played, and their most recent top 10 was a T8 by McIlroy back in 2015 when he finished four strokes out of a three-way playoff. Still, TPC Sawgrass is expected to play soft and long this year, which will benefit both. Also, it helps that they’ve combined for nine top 10s and a pair of wins (both Johnson’s) in 11 worldwide starts this year. You could make a reasonable argument that these two — Nos. 1 and 2 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained by a wide margin — have been the two best players on the planet so far in 2019.

Here’s a look at everyone with 45-1 odds or better for the Players this week.

  • Dustin Johnson: 12-1
  • Rory McIlroy: 12-1
  • Justin Thomas: 16-1
  • Justin Rose: 20-1
  • Rickie Fowler: 20-1
  • Brooks Koepka: 22-1
  • Francesco Molinari: 22-1
  • Tiger Woods: 22-1
  • Bryson DeChambeau: 25-1
  • Jon Rahm: 25-1
  • Xander Schauffele: 25-1
  • Tommy Fleetwood: 28-1
  • Sergio Garcia: 33-1
  • Adam Scott: 40-1
  • Hideki Matsuyama: 40-1
  • Jason Day: 40-1
  • Patrick Cantlay: 40-1

Did you notice whose names weren’t on there? How about three-time major winner Jordan Spieth (50-1), major champions Henrik Stenson (50-1) and Patrick Reed (66-1). Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson (66-1) and last year’s champ Webb Simpson (50-1) are absent, as well.

There are certainly good reasons all are 50-1 or worse, but it’s still pretty shocking to see written down on paper. Thomas is likely going to end up being my pick, and I think even at 16-1 odds he has value. He and Schauffele are two of just four players gaining two or more strokes per round on fields this year (McIlroy and Johnson are the other two), both have longer odds than the top dogs and both have had a lot of success at TPC Sawgrass in the past.

Dustin Johnson wins WGC-Mexico Championship for 20th career PGA Tour victory

By Josh Berhow

FEBRUARY 24, 2019

Johnson had a big lead heading into the final round, but his Sunday at Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City was drama-free.

Dustin Johnson had a big lead heading into the final round of the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, but his Sunday at Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City was drama-free. Here’s what you missed.

Who won: Dustin Johnson (five-under 66, 21 under overall)

How it happened: This one was never in doubt. Johnson led Rory McIlroy by four after 54 holes and made the turn on Sunday leading McIlroy and Paul Casey by five. The back nine was nothing more than a victory parade to the clubhouse. Johnson, 34, made birdies on 10, 11, 14, 15 and 16 to sign for a 66. McIlroy, who made six back-nine birdies, was second at 16 under, five back of Johnson. The three players who tied for third were five back of McIlroy.

Key hole: The lead was still four when McIlroy and Johnson reached the par-5 6th. They both found tree trouble, although Johnson was awarded a free drop while McIlroy wasn’t. Johnson made birdie and McIlroy made bogey, which increased the lead to six.

Why it matters: It’s Johnson sixth career WGC victory, and he’s second to only Tiger Woods’s 18. Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy are tied for third with three WGC titles. The victory was also DJ’s 20th of his PGA Tour career, which gives him lifetime member status.

Best round: Justin Thomas made nine birdies in his first 12 holes (to one bogey) and shot a nine-under 62. He missed a 14-footer for birdie on the final green that would have broken his own course record.

Best greenside magic: Tommy Fleetwood.

As for Tiger?: He closed with a two-under 69 and tied for 10th. He’s now off for a week until he plays back-to-back at Bay Hill and The Players.

Up next: Thomas defends his title at The Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka also headline the field. Woods tweeted earlier this week he would not be playing, despite the proximity to his home.

SOURCE: GOLF.COM

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

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

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

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 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