Floyd Stares Down Field Shinnecock

By George WhiteJune 17, 2004, 4:00 pm
In June of 1986, Curtis Strange was still a couple of years away from the first of his back-to-back U.S. Open victories. Jack Nicklaus had just thrilled the golfing world by winning the Masters in April at age 46. Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman were locked in a struggle for the world No. 1 designation.
And Shinnecock Hills was about to hold its first U.S. Open since 1896. One hundred years had passed since the tournament, in its infancy, was contested primarily by English and Scottish pros. The United States Golf Association had come to the sleepy little hamlet of Southampton, N.Y. - to the horror of the bluebloods who resided there.
This was the scene as Raymond Floyd came to Shinnecock in 1986. He was already 43 years old. Most observers thought his best golf was already behind him ' and it was. He was still dangerous, but the current crop had seemingly passed him by.
And the Long Island weather in June of 1986 was at its worst at the stat of the week. It would be quite difficult for a 43-year-old to stay loose. The mid-week weather was cold and wet with the area experiencing a noreaster. The winner, it was for certain, would be a golfer who could jab and parry with the course, who could stay patient in the cool climate, and who could accept a final score that would be right around even par.
For a long time, it appeared that player was Greg Norman. The first round he opened with a 71, one off the lead of Bob Tway. Floyd was back in the field with a 75, but his score was bettered or tied by just 46 players. The average score for the round was almost 78. Par at Shinnecock is 70, and no one bettered that in the opening frame.
The weather that opening day? It was in the upper 40s with a 30 m.p.h. wind and a course that had been raked by heavy rains. But the weather was clear the next three days and didnt play nearly as big a part as the first day.
But ' the course still played very difficult. Norman took the lead the second day with a nifty 68. He led by as many as five strokes, but in the third round 47-year-old Lee Trevino came up alongside to grab a share of the lead. And at the end of play on Saturday, Norman had reclaimed the lead with a score of even-par.
The final day, however, a logjam developed which had never been seen at a U.S. Open. Twenty players were within six shots of Norman ' Floyd included. But still no one could foresee Floyd in the winning mix. Norman had already lost his lead by the time he teed off ' Trevino birdied the first hole to hop into a first-place tie. Then Ben Crenshaw reeled off four straight birdies to gain a share of the lead. By 4 p.m., there were no less than nine players tied for the lead. A playoff appeared a dead-lock certainity.
Would it be Norman, or Trevino or Crenshaw? Would it be Tway, Payne Stewart or Mark McCumber? Hal Sutton, Chip Beck or Lanny Wadkins?
The answer ' none of them. Slowly, the vagaries of Shinnecock began to shake out the field. And by the time the field had reached the back nine, sanity prevailed again. The leader was Stewart, who was the first player to get into red figures by making birdie at 11 and 12.
Lurking close behind, though, was a very determined Floyd. Stewart said the Floyd stare got to him. The two were paired together, and as it developed, the eventual leaders would come down to that duo.
Floyd birdied the 13th to gain a tie with Stewart. At the next hole ' 14 - Stewart bogeyed while Floyd made par and took the lead. And Floyd never again was headed from his final destination, which was victory at Shinnecock.
Stewart would make two more bogeys coming home. Floyd, who was now in cruise control, almost holed his 8-iron at the 16th hole, eventually making birdie. He now had a three-shot lead, and he finished it off with a two-shot win over Beck and Wadkins.
Floyd felt his 75 the first round was, surprisingly, the key to the victory.
I played terribly and had no feel, but somehow I survived, he said. Another winning factor ' he played bogey-free golf in the second and fourth rounds.
I had to believe that was my last best chance (for a U.S. Open) ' maybe not, but probably, Floyd said. And he was right. He was at the time the oldest Open champion at 43 years, nine months and 11 days.
Floyd won a Masters and two PGAs in addition to his Open. He also won four majors on the Champions Tour. But Shinnecock remained his only U.S. Open.
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.