Notes: Chappell on to the Masters; International leaderboard

By Associated PressJune 19, 2011, 8:15 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – The top eight finishers at the U.S. Open qualify for next year’s Masters, and that’s a big deal for someone like Kevin Chappell.

Chappell was just as hot as Rory McIlroy over the final three rounds of the championship, shooting rounds of 67, 69 and 66. It helped compensate for an opening 76 and lifted him into a tie for third Sunday.

“There’s a lot to soak in,” said Chappell, whose best career finish on the PGA Tour is a second place at this year’s Texas Open. “Hopefully lock up my card for next year, which is also a big relief, and just really try and enjoy it. I played some really good golf the last three rounds, and I really do need to enjoy it.”

Chappell also matched Robert Garrigus as the top American in the field.

“I don’t think the state of American golf is where everyone expects it to be,” Chappell said. “But I think it shows that someone like myself can play out here, and I think it’s definitely going to end up going in the right direction here sometime soon.”

MAYBE IT’S JUST TIGER: Not only it is five straight majors now without an American winner, but the final U.S. Open leaderboard contained few stars and stripes.

Eight of the top 10 came from outside the United States. Kevin Chappell and Robert Garrigus were the exceptions, and Germany’s Martin Kaymer had a simple theory to explain it.

“It says, I think, that the Americans struggle a little bit, since Tiger has been on a, how do you say, a little down?” Kaymer said. “Since then nothing has really happened. We’ve just become so much stronger.”

Kaymer also invoked another big name, Padraig Harrington, who won back-to-back majors in 2008.

“I think it started with Padraig, that was the British Open and the PGA,” Kaymer said. “That gave us at least the belief that we can win here in America as well.”

ROCK ROLLS TO A HALT: Robert Rock can finally get some rest.

The Englishman whose visa troubles caused him to arrive at Congressional barely in time to play the U.S. Open actually had a good tournament. He not only made the cut, but he shot a 68 Sunday to finish at 1 over, tied for 23rd.

“It’s going to slow down right now,” Rock said. “My caddie and I are going to have a beer now and chill out before our flight tonight. I’ve got a week off to do very little. There won’t be much practice done, I don’t think.”

Rock was playing his first U.S. Open, and he had never laid eyes on the Blue Course until he was playing the first round on just a few hours of sleep.

“I had better hopes after overcoming the hardest part, which was the first round,” he said. “I’m disappointed because I thought I’d play better golf, but not knowing enough about the place just cost me.”

FROM CHARL TO RORY: As it usually does, the U.S. Open put a quick end to thoughts of a Grand Slam. What was unusual was the surreal scene that played out Sunday involving the last major winner and the newest one.

Masters champ Charl Schwartzel arrived at the 18th green just as Rory McIlroy was getting to the No. 10 tee box across the lake. The holes are close enough so that the galleries often roar as one.

The reception for McIlroy was deafening; Schwartzel waited for it to die down before putting. When McIlroy put his tee shot within a foot of pin on the par 3, the place went nuts.

“That was pretty spectacular there,” Schwartzel said. “I saw him on the tee and I obviously stopped and watched and that was a pretty decent roar that went up there. That was pretty cool to see.”

Schwartzel, by the way, made his putt, celebrating with a fist pump a 15-footer for par that kept his round bogey-free. His 66 put him at 4 under for the championship, a U.S. Open score that often would have been good enough for a Masters champion to make it two majors in a row.

Schwartzel, though, said he began the tournament thinking 10 under would be the winning score.

“I played pretty spectacular today, actually,” he said. “I wish I had four of these.”

Schwartzel and McIlroy will always be linked by what happened at Augusta, when McIlroy blew a four-shot, final-day lead to give the South African the opening to win.

“The way he reacted, the way he handled it afterward, it looked like it was going to be around the corner,” Schwartzel said. “He put it behind him very quickly.”

The last player to win The Masters and U.S. Open back-to-back was Tiger Woods in 2002.

PHIL’S ALL WET: Phil Mickelson’s U.S. Open ended where it began, in the same body of water.

On his last hole of the championship Sunday, Mickelson stood in a greenside bunker launched a rainbow that splashed on the fly, some 15 feet beyond the other side of the peninsula green. Even the adoring gallery that had cheered so loudly during his walk up the fairway couldn’t help but let out a collective giggle.

After two unsuccessful drops on the steep lakeside slope, he had to place the ball and chip back toward the pin, where he made a 6-footer for double bogey to finish an even par round of 71 and a 7-over total of 291.

“That bunker’s not an easy spot to be in today,” Mickelson said, “and I hit a poor shot on top of it.”

The lake also received Mickelson’s opening shot in his first round on Thursday, when he started on the nearby par 3 10th and left his tee shot well short. He double bogeyed that hole as well.

Mickelson’s 69 on Friday was his only round under par on a course receptive for U.S. Open scores lower than the norm.

“I thought that the soft conditions obviously made it a little bit easier than everybody had hoped, but the setup was wonderful,” he said. “I just didn’t play how I’d hoped.”

After his round, Mickelson walked past the putting green and spotted runaway leader Rory McIlroy, who had yet to tee off for the final round.

“Play well,” said Mickelson, who then gave McIlroy’s caddie a thumbs-up.

“You could tell that Rory’s had this type of talent in him for some time now,” Mickelson said, “and to see him putting it together is pretty neat to see.”

KID SENSATION: The top amateur at the U.S. Open was Patrick Cantlay, who shot a 72 Sunday to finish tied for 21st at even par – while learning just how taxing a major championship can be.

“I’m really tired,” he said. “I felt it on the back nine. But you know, it’s such a great experience to be here, and it’s been an amazing week. I’m really excited, and adrenaline kind of kept me in it.”

Cantlay, 19, just completed his freshman year at UCLA, where he plans to stay until he earns his degree. He won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation’s top college golfer earlier this month.

“I can work on everything,” he said. “My attitude can improve. I get down on myself sometimes. And definitely my short game can improve. I think that’s the weakest part of my game, and I think this week showed it. I had some spots where I could have gotten up-and-down and I unfortunately didn’t.”

Two other amateurs made the cut. Russell Henley shot a 75 Sunday to finish at 4 over. Brad Benjamin carded back-to-back 80s over the weekend and ended up at 21 over.

WRONG HOLE, RIGHT RECOVERY: Gary Woodland is from Kansas, but he must have felt as if he’d landed in Oz after he hooked his tee shot at par-5 ninth hole Sunday at the U.S. Open.

Woodland had to venture all the way to the edge of the No. 4 fairway to play his second shot. He lifted it over a bank trees, only to have the ball land on the edge of the right rough along the ninth fairway.

At least he was back on the right hole. His third shot landed precariously on the front of the green and started rolling toward the deep ravine before coming mercifully to a stop.

The pin was at the back of the green, but he putted within 6 feet and made it from there. All that work for a par.

Woodland received words of encouragement from fans as he walked to the 10th, including that most ultramodern of greetings: “I’ll tweet you later.” He then proceeded to make one of the best shots of the day at the tricky par-3 No. 10. He stuck his tee shot within 2 feet and made birdie on his way to a round of 68.

Getty Images

The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

A post shared by theCHIVE (@thechive) on

Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

A post shared by Under Armour Golf (@uagolf) on

The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

Getty Images

Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

Getty Images

Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)