Four-way tie for lead, top-3 MC at U.S. Open

By Doug FergusonJune 17, 2017, 12:08 am

ERIN, Wis. – The biggest surprise at this U.S. Open was not who was leading, but who was leaving.

Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day — the top three players in the world, all of them professing expansive Erin Hills to be perfect for their games — spent Friday cleaning out their lockers after missing the cut.

Left behind was the biggest 36-hole logjam in 43 years at the U.S. Open.

Paul Casey chopped his way to a triple bogey, only to respond with five straight birdies that carried him to a 1-under 71 and make him the first to post at 7-under 137. He set the target early under warm sunshine, and even as the wind tapered in the afternoon, no one could catch him.

Brooks Koepka had the lead until he turned a birdie chance into a bogey on the par-5 first hole after making the turn. He didn’t make a birdie the rest of the way and had to settle for a 70. They were joined by Brian Harman and Tommy Fleetwood of England, who each had a 70.


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Right behind was a trio of players that included Rickie Fowler, who went 28 holes before making his first bogey and then went three holes without making a par. Fowler shot a 73 and was still very much in the hunt at a second straight major.

The four-way tie was the most after two rounds in a U.S. Open since Winged Foot in 1974, back when the names were more familiar for a major — Raymond Floyd, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Hale Irwin, who went on to win his first major.

The last six majors have been won by first-timers, and that cycle has a good chance to continue. The top 18 players on the leaderboard going into the weekend have combined for zero majors. Only a half-dozen of them have even experienced Sunday contention in golf’s biggest events.

“Tomorrow will be a very cool experience,” Fleetwood said. “It’s still Saturday — 36 holes is a very long time in a U.S. Open. Anything can happen.”

Just about everything already has at Erin Hills.

A commercial blimp crashed to the ground and caught fire just outside the course Thursday, about the time the county health department was analyzing samples that confirmed evidence of the E. coli bacteria in water at a hydration station near the 12th hole. The USGA is providing complimentary bottled water the rest of the week. There have been no reports yet of anyone getting sick.

And then Friday, a 94-year-old man at the tournament for the first time stopped breathing while in a grandstand on the sixth hole and died of what Washington County officials said appeared to be natural causes.

Next up is a weekend without most of the biggest names in golf. The cut for the top 60 and ties was at 1-over 145, tying a U.S. Open record set in 1990 at Medinah.

Johnson was hitting it so well that he appeared to be safe even when he was on the cut line. But then he three-putted from long range on the 13th and the 14th, and lost all hope when he missed the green on the 17th while going after the flag. He shot 73 and missed the cut by three.

“I couldn’t have shot any higher,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t possibly shoot any higher than I did. I just struggled on the greens. It’s simple.”

Day never had a chance, following his career-worst 79 in a U.S. Open with a 75. McIlroy came to life when it was far too late. He made four birdies over the last six holes to salvage a 71, but he still missed the cut for the second straight year.

Joining them with a weekend off — Open champion Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Adam Scott. That left only four of the top 12 in the world to play the weekend at Erin Hills.

Fowler has the best chance, even though he lost so much ground over the final two hours. He went from pouring putts into the center of the cup to burning the edges, and his 39 on the back nine cost him the lead, though not his chances of breaking through for that first major.

“We’re in a good spot,” Fowler said. “Looking forward to the next two days.”

Casey discovered how little it takes to make a big number in the U.S. Open — and at this U.S. Open, how a recovery is never too far away.

Casey laid up in the rough, took two chops to get out of more rough behind the 14th green, and staggered away with a triple bogey-8 that might have ruined his day at Erin Hills. Moments later, he began a run of five straight birdies that put him right where he wanted to be going into the weekend.

“Not every day you enjoy a round of golf with an 8 on the card, but I’m a pretty happy man,” Casey said. “Yeah, it was a bit of a roller coaster. I guess it’s rare you get through a U.S. Open or any major without some kind of a hiccup.”

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

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.


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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.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

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

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

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.”


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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.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


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''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''