Lowry leads U.S. Open by four through 54

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2016, 12:39 pm

OAKMONT, Pa. – The early-morning wakeup call was worthwhile for Shane Lowry, who extended his U.S. Open lead from two shots to four heading into the final round at Oakmont.

With only four holes to finish in his third round, Lowry made a pair of birdies and a key par save on 18 to polish off a 65 and move to 7-under 203, the lowest 54-hole score at an Oakmont U.S. Open.

“I would have taken four pars and went home for a little rest,” said Lowry, who was assessed a penalty in his second round on Saturday. “It was a really good morning’s work for me, and I’m looking forward to getting out there this afternoon and seeing what I can do.”

After beginning his morning with a pair of bogeys, Andrew Landry closed his round with back-to-back birdies, including a 45-footer on 18, to cap an eventful round of 70 and move into the final group.

The last group will tee off at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Dustin Johnson played his remaining five holes in 1 under to move into a share of second place, four shots back, with Lee Westwood and Daniel Summerhays another stroke behind.

In a preview of this afternoon’s final round, there were plenty of thrills and spills after the restart.

Lowry pushed forward with birdies on 15 (11 feet) and 17 (7 feet), but perhaps even more important was his two-putt from 70 feet on the final green to stay four clear.

“That’s one of the best rounds of my career,” said Lowry, 29, who has three career titles, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last summer.

The last player to lose the U.S. Open after holding a 54-hole lead was Payne Stewart in 1998.  

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Landry, who was only two shots back when the horn blew, found three bunkers in his first two holes. But he two-putted for birdie on 17, then canned a 40-footer on the last to join Lowry in the last group.

Landry, ranked 624th in the world, would become the first player to win the U.S. Open in his major-championship debut since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

“I’m confident with my game and the setup of the golf course,” he said. “It suits my game perfectly. I drive the ball well. I putt the ball well. Get a hot driver today, and who knows what can happen.”

The early start wasn’t as kind to Sergio Garcia (72), who made a pair of bogeys coming home and is now seven behind.

Sleeping in Sunday morning were Branden Grace and Jason Day, who polished off third-round 66s late Saturday afternoon. Day, the world No. 1, could become the biggest comeback winner of a major, after opening with 76 and sitting in a tie for 100th after the first round. But with Lowry’s late-round surge, Day will need to erase an eight-shot deficit in the final round.

Despite nearly three inches of rain in a 36-hour span earlier in the week, Oakmont has surrendered only six under-par totals through three rounds. That number should dwindle by day’s end, with tucked hole locations and lightning-fast green speeds expected in the final round.

Lowry has only one top-10 in 12 worldwide starts this year, but he enjoys some historical symmetry with Angel Cabrera. When Cabrera won at Oakmont in 2007, he was ranked 41st in the world. Lowry’s world rank entering this week: No. 41.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x