Els (70) in the mix 20 years after last U.S. Open win

By Ryan LavnerJune 15, 2017, 8:31 pm

ERIN, Wis. – It’s been 20 years since Ernie Els won his second of two U.S. Open titles. His father, Neels, reminded him of that Thursday morning, sending the Big Easy a photo of their family on the final green at Congressional.

“We both said that it’s crazy that 20 years has gone by so quickly,” Els said. “In many ways, it feels like yesterday. In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago.”

Now 47, Els is playing what could be his final U.S. Open this week. It’s the last year of the five-year exemption he received for winning the 2012 Open Championship. Two months after saying goodbye to the Masters after 23 tries, he is prepared for what might be another farewell tour at the Open.

That part hasn’t even really crossed his mind, and that’s to be expected. It has been an “awful” season; in his past 17 starts, he has 11 missed cuts, one withdrawal and just one finish better than 35th. His age has also caught up with him, as he battled through lower back, hip, shoulder and knee injuries.

“You try to still play the schedule that I’ve played for 20-something years, but it gets tough to go out there and play,” he said. “You can’t quite do what you have done or are trying to do because of some kind of little niggle. It gets frustrating.”

Indeed, his year has been so rough that he wasn’t even terribly disappointed by his bogey-bogey finish to his opening round Thursday at Erin Hills. When he signed his card for a 2-under 70, he was tied for 10th, five shots back of Rickie Fowler.

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Erin Hills wouldn’t seem to be an ideal venue for Els. At 7,845 yards, it is a massive ballpark, and the rolling hills and long walks from green to tee are physically taxing for even the fit youngsters he’s competing against. In a practice round, Els marveled at the power displayed by amateur Cameron Champ, who blasted 340-yard drives on seemingly every hole. Els never possessed that much firepower during his Hall of Fame career, but he was always among the game’s biggest hitters. Now, he is struggling to keep up with the modern player and the modern courses that allow the bombers to freewheel it off the tee.

“These types of golf courses might be the future,” he said.

And that leaves Els in an awkward place, as he tries to remain competitive, to remain relevant, while also looking ahead to the next chapter of his life. In 2015, he received the Tour’s Payne Stewart Award, given to the Tour pro who best demonstrates sportsmanship and character. For his work with the Els for Autism Foundation, he was recently named as one of four finalists for the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award. Soon, that will be his primary focus.

How much game does he have left? The answer could come this week. To make another Open appearance next year, Els must finish in the top 10, otherwise the two-time champion will need to go through sectional qualifying like the rest of the dreamers.

“Like I said at the Masters: 23 (appearances) there, 25 here, it would be nice to keep going, but if not, it’s also fine,” he said. “I’ve had a good time.” 

Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.