Plenty Have Won the 71-Hole Open
Phil Mickelson will remember this one vividly when he is 90. The vision of a tree standing between him and the green, then the sight of his ball lying plugged in a bunker. Colin Montgomerie will remember it, too. Unfortunately, they will go down in history with a couple of other great players ' Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer.
More on that pair in a moment. But first, about 2006, and Montgomerie making double from the fairway on the 72nd hole; and then, even more excruciating, Mickelson scoring the same when a par would have won it, a bogey would have given him a playoff.
Dottie Pepper gently reminded everyone a couple of hours after the carnage ended what everyone should probably have realized when he came to the 18th - that Mickelson was unbelievably fortunate to have been in that position in the first place. If he had somehow weaseled out a par on the final hole and won, THAT would have been the upset, considering the way he had slashed the ball around on closing day. Geoff Ogilvy was the deserving winner considering the way he played the last couple of holes, and a Mickelson victory would have been an upset.
That, however, will be the subject for debate for many years to come. For now, hear what Mickelson said about the final hole:
Firstly, he chose driver for his tee shot because he thought he could get it in the fairway with his bread and butter shot, a baby carve slice on 18. He didnt carry a 3-wood. He did have a 4-wood, but I felt like if I hit 4-wood and missed the fairway, I'd be too far back to do any good, to be able to chase one down there (to the green). Mickelson had, in effect, lost confidence that he could hit the sliver of a fairway with any club.
The fairways, remember, were baked out and extremely hard and fast ' Mickelson had tried to hit a 4-iron off the tee on No. 15, had hit what he described as the perfect shot, and watched it bound into the rough. Factoring in all this information, he decided to go with the driver, even though he knew that it had been uncontrollable all day. He felt that his best chance at par, though, was his bread and butter shot. And he decided if he was going to miss, at least he would miss it further down the fairway than if he had hit the 4-wood.
He knew immediately, of course, that he had overcut the drive, and fortunately it bounced off the hospitality tent to leave him a shot back to the fairway. Heres the point where I really fault him, not so much in his club selection off the tee.
He may have been suckered into going for the green from his distance of 201 yards because the ball was sitting up so nicely. I had a good lie, he said. I had to hit a big carving slice around the tree and overcut it, just like I overcut the tee shot and some of the other shots.
It didnt work, his shot plunking the tree. Visibly shaken now, he played his third shot from just 25 yards ahead. Forget it ' it would have taken Houdini himself to scrape out something resembling a bogey at this point. Lets see ' off the tent, off a tree, then plugging in the bunker, in the rough across the green, finally a chip and a putt ' six strokes and bye-bye U.S. Open.
Montgomerie did his bit of unpleasantry from 172 yards away, after he had already achieved the difficult ' placing the tee shot in the middle. After wavering back and forth, however, he chose a 7-iron instead of a 6, and the shot came up way short. I thought adrenaline would kick in, he said. I usually hit the ball ten yards further in that circumstance. I caught it slightly heavy and it went slightly right. It was a poor shot, no question about that.
Palmer is acutely aware of the difficulties ' he led the 1966 U.S. Open by seven strokes with only nine holes remaining. With such an imposing lead, Arnold let his thoughts drift to Ben Hogan and the Open record of 276. And he wanted to set the record there in the San Francisco bay area where his good friend lived ' Ed Douglas, who was an executive with Pennzoil.
It, of course, was a huge mistake ' understandable since he had such an overwhelming lead, but a mistake nonetheless. Billy Casper was playing strictly for second place, even admitted same to Palmer on the 10th tee. And with only four holes to play, Arnold still was five shots ahead.
Then it happened. Palmer, the record still playing in his mind, tried to hit the perfect shot on the par-3 15th instead of the safe shot. He went straight for a pin cut near a bunker, missed, and made another bogey, while Casper was running in a long putt for birdie. And on 16, Palmer played his driver on the par-5 when a 1-iron would have served him better. The result ' he ended up in the rough and made another bogey, while Casper made another birdie.
One shot was all that separated the two now, and when Palmer bogeyed the 17th, the advantage was completely gone. Now, the two DID go into a Monday playoff, but Casper won that by four strokes.
Snead, though, had only a par-5 left and needed just a par to win the U.S. Open in 1939. Like Mickelson, a bogey would still have gotten him into a playoff.
Alas, it never happened. Snead snap-hooked his drive, topped his second into a bunker 100 yards from of the green, couldnt get out of the bunker with his third, then blasted the ball into a greenside bunker with his fourth.
Now, needing to get up-and-down to get into a playoff with three others, he got onto the green but 30 feet away. He missed the 30-footer (knocking him out of a playoff), then missed a three-foot comeback putt. It took him eight strokes to finish the hole, and he never did win a U.S. Open.
Those are pretty good names to cough up the U.S. Open when they had it practically gift-wrapped. But that wont sooth the feelings of Phil Mickelson ' just like it never did sooth the feelings of Palmer or Snead. There are an awfully lot of people who have won the 71-hole U.S. Open. But unfortunately they have to play one more to make it an official win. Hole No. 72 will live forever in Phil and Montys minds.
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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.”
Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic
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.
''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.''