USGA to let alternates play U.S. Open practice rounds

By Doug FergusonJune 8, 2017, 10:44 pm

The USGA is relaxing its policy on alternates and will let them practice at Erin Hills even if they're not officially in the field.

Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director of rules and open championships, said recent history at the U.S. Open has shown that with most players practicing in the morning, there would be room to accommodate first alternates in the afternoon.

The U.S. Open starts June 15, the first one held in Wisconsin.

''We haven't been overly public with it,'' Hall said. ''But we've been communicating to the alternates that they will be entitled to play.''

That would apply only to first alternates from each of 12 sectional qualifying sites, or no more than one alternate from each section if the first alternate is not there.

The U.S. Open was the only major that did not let alternates play the course until they were in the championship (the Masters has no alternates). Until this year, alternates were allowed full access to the practice facilities and could walk the golf course; they just couldn't play.

The USGA was concerned that practice rounds for a 156-man field often take more than five hours, and it feared adding a dozen or so players to the tee sheet on Monday through Wednesday would make the course overly crowded.

''We found there were a lot of vacancies in that Monday-to-Wednesday afternoon wave,'' Hall said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Open published its tee times for next week. Defending champion Dustin Johnson will be in the same group with Jordan Spieth and Martin Kaymer, making it a threesome of the most recent winners. Johnson won last year at Oakmont, Spieth won in 2015 at Chambers Bay and Kaymer won in 2014 at Pinehurst No. 2.

They start at 8:35 a.m. on the 10th hole Thursday, and will be in the afternoon wave off the first tee Friday.

Phil Mickelson, who plans to skip the U.S. Open this year because his daughter's high school graduation is at 10 a.m. in California on the day of the opening round, is not withdrawing until he knows there is no way for him to make his tee time.

He was grouped with Steve Stricker and Stewart Cink, two of the more compelling qualifiers for Erin Hills. Stricker grew up in Wisconsin and was no longer exempt for the U.S. Open because of reducing his schedule and going through surgery on his hip in recent years. He led the qualifier in Tennessee. Cink did not attempt to qualify last year because it was just over a month after learning his wife had been diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer.

Lisa Cink is doing well enough to travel with him.

Jason Day, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy make up another strong threesome that will start Thursday afternoon off the first tee.

The USGA awarded the opening tee shot to Jordan Niebrugge, the other Wisconsin native in the field, who was low amateur at the British Open at St. Andrews in 2015.

Still to be decided are six more spots for the 156-man field, which the USGA set aside for those who get into the top 60 in the world ranking this week.

No more than two players are likely to crack the top 60, and one of them would have to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic this week.

Among those waiting to see if he gets in is Dru Love, the son of two-time Ryder Cup captain and PGA champion Davis Love III. Love was the first alternate out of the Georgia qualifier and could be in line for Mickelson's spot depending on how many alternates get in.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“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," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry