My Favorite Major
It is my favorite major because par, at times, becomes an endangered species. Like at Winged Foot 32 years ago when Hale Irwins winning total for 72 holes was seven over.
They called it a massacre back then. Today we are more politically correct. But I can give you the names of 156 players'Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson included'who would take even par 280 for 72 holes right now and walk tiptoe delightedly to the clubhouse.
Next Thursday it will be dj vu all over again when balls go in the air at the 2006 U.S. Open. It will be survival of the fittest'physically and mentally. Short hitters will be penalized by attrition. Bombers will be penalized for hubris. The best putters will be forced to do so defensively. The best iron players will display their skills consistently only from the fairway.
Players are another reason the U.S. Open is my favorite major. Approximately half the field will arrive at Winged Foot having qualified through stern 36-hole Sectional tests staged all over the world earlier this week.
Jay Haas, 52, made it out of a Monday Ohio Sectional after winning three straight weeks on the Champions Tour, and playing all four days at The Memorial.
Haas was a wide-eyed 20-year-old amateur at Winged Foot in 1974 when he made the cut. He barely broke 300 for the week. Asked what he learned, he said, I learned that low score wins.
This is another reason the U.S. Open is my favorite major. The PGA TOUR is home to the best players in the world. These guys ARE good. But for one week out of the year they will not make birdies with impunity.
In Hawaii a 15-year-old boy named Tadd Fujikawa advanced from a Sectional where only one spot was available. Fujikawa needed a three-hole playoff to do so. He is listed at 5-1 and 110 pounds.
Michelle Wie, who is closer to six feet tall, is also Hawaiian but has never played golf with Tadd Fujikawa. She is also a girl and only 16 years old. She failed to survive the field of 153 players at Canoe Brook in New Jersey where 18 spots were available.
But she drew unprecedented crowds in Jersey, commanded live updates from both ESPN and The Golf Channel, and wound up with her picture on the front page of the New York Times.
The names of the players who didnt survive Sectional play are almost as fascinating as the list of the players who did:
Jason Gore, who captured our hearts at Pinehurst in last years Open. Brad Faxon. Aaron Baddeley. Jesper Parnevik. Peter Lonard.
At Canoe Brook, Buddy Marucci, the car dealer who gave Woods all that trouble in the finals of the 1995 U.S. Amateur, didnt advance.
If you pay close attention to golf, you will know these names: Spencer Levin, Gary Wolstenholme, Paul Lawrie, Joel Kribel, Trip Kuehne, Mitch Voges, Clay Ogden and George Zahringer. None of them made it to Winged Foot.
These players did: Michael Derminio, Dustin White, Oliver Wilson, Stephen Woodard, Benjamin Hayes, Chad Collins and Andy Bare. If you know a little about each of them, you have been paying too much attention.
Mickelson will be looking to win his third straight major at Winged Foot. Woods will be playing competitively for the first time since the passing of his father. And a lot of guys will just be happy to break 80 in any round.
The U.S. Open, bless its diabolical and egalitarian heart, is my favorite major.
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Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose shot a 7-under 65 Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship.
The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for an overall 15-under 201. The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.
Rose is chasing his second Race to Dubai title but leading rival Tommy Fleetwood is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.
U.S. Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit crown, is tied for 13th on 10 under.
Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.
Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey
If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.
She says she always gets nervous starting a round.
You don’t believe it, though.
She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .
Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .
Or disarming ticking bombs . . .
“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.
Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.
Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.
Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.
At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.
She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.
She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.
There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.
It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.
Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.
Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.
“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”
About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.
Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.
“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”
David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”
Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.
Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . .
“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.
“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”
Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.
“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.
Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.
National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.
The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.
Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.
These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:
Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.
This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.
“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”
Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.
In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.
If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.
“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”