Notes Levin Going Pro Benepes Back

By Associated PressJune 13, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- California amateur Spencer Levin earned a spot in the U.S. Open by tying for 13th last year at Shinnecock Hills, where he made an ace in the first round.
This time, he can expect a check if he makes the cut.
Levin will announce Tuesday that he is turning pro at Pinehurst, signing a deal with MacGregor Golf. Other players on MacGregor's tour staff include two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, Greg Norman and Aaron Baddeley.
Levin, who turns 21 the day before the U.S. Open begins, won the California State Amateur last year, as well as the Porter Cup and the Scratch Players Championship by 10 shots. His tie for 13th at Shinnecock was the best finish by an amateur in the U.S. Open in 33 years.
U.S. Amateur champion Ryan Moore said he will turn pro after the U.S. Open. Moore would have had to qualify for the U.S. Open if he had turned pro any earlier, because his spot was reserved as the U.S. Amateur champion.
Derek Brown is the only North Carolinian in the U.S. Open field, and the mini-tour player from the small town of Walnut Cove got a surprise Monday.
When he showed up on the first tee for his practice round, John Daly asked to join him. Tour veteran Tim Herron later made it a threesome, giving Brown the round of his professional life.
``It was pretty cool,'' he said. ``They showed me where the pins were going to be over the next few days, and gave me some pointers on how to play the course. I had a lot of fun.''
Of course, Brown has some game, too. He was the medalist in sectional qualifying at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, finishing 9-under 131 total after getting through a six-man playoff in the local stage in Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
This season hasn't worked out that well for Brown, who is 80th on the Hooters Tour money list with slightly less than $5,500. A swing change a couple of weeks ago led to the solid play at East Lake, and his goal is simply to make the cut at the Open.
``I just want to make it to the weekend,'' he said. ``I eventually want to play out here on the PGA Tour, and that would give me two more rounds of experience.''
His caddie for the tournament, John Calarco, was a teammate at UNC-Wilmington and also plays on the Hooters Tour. Calarco thoroughly enjoyed his day on the course Monday, taking time after the round to have Daly sign a ball for him.
``In 1999, I was hiding under those bleachers over there by 18 watching Payne Stewart make his putt to win,'' Calarco said. ``Being out on the course and walking up the fairway today to the green was something else.''
Jim Benepe won on the PGA Tour faster than Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and almost everyone else. Nearly 17 years later, his next victory probably would be even more surprising.
In 1988, as a 24-year-old pro, Benepe made his debut at the Western Open with a sponsor's exemption. He edged veteran Peter Jacobsen by one shot that week to secure his status for the next two years, and his career suddenly appeared set.
It didn't work out that way. He made the cut only 31 times in 89 tournaments over the next three seasons to lose his playing privileges. Now, Benepe is back in the U.S. Open for the first time since 1991, advancing through local and sectional qualifying to get to Pinehurst.
``When I entered the tournament, I felt like I could make it, so it's not a surprise,'' the 41-year-old said Monday, standing by his locker. ``I've been playing pretty good the last couple of years.''
He's played in three tournaments on the developmental Nationwide Tour this season, with a tie for 39th his best result. Last year, Benepe snapped a 14-year cut drought on the PGA Tour at the B.C. Open, and he also played on the weekend at the Texas Open.
Maybe the solid play will continue this week.
``As a past champion, I can get into some tournaments, and my goal is to play well enough so I can play in some more,'' Benepe said. ``And the U.S. Open is one of those tournaments.''
At this stage of his life, he's mostly a part-time golfer, splitting his time with his job as a salesman for a jet fuel company. Jack Nicklaus is one of his customers.
But for now, Benepe is back on the course, looking for a good week at No. 2.
``If you hit the ball in the fairway here, you can have a chance,'' he said. ``Hopefully, I can do that.''
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

  • Tee Times - U.S. Open

  • Photo Gallery from Pinehurst

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    Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

    The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

    Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

    What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

    Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

    Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

    Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

    Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

    Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

    He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

    Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

    Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

    Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

    Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

    "I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

    The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

    Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

    "I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

    McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

    When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

    Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

    Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

    While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

    Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.