Punch Shot: Three questions heading into U.S. Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 17, 2015, 9:49 pm

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Will Tiger Woods make the cut? Will the winner be someone ranked inside the top 10 in the world or outside of it? How much of a story will the golf course be by week’s end? Our team at Chambers Bay debate these three topics.

TIGER: MAKE OR MISS CUT?

REX HOGGARD: Despite an air of cautious optimism, this will be a short week for Woods. Even if he can find fairways, which he was unable to do in his last start at the Memorial, Woods’ short game has not exactly been sharp this season and that adds up to his first missed cut at the U.S. Open since 2006.

RYAN LAVNER: Call me crazy – delusional? – but Woods will make the cut this week. Watching him during his practice sessions here at Chambers, it’s clear that his iron game is sharper than it was at Memorial. Yes, Tuesday is a different animal than Thursday, but it’s progress nonetheless. Plus, as erratic as he’s been over his past two starts, Tiger is still making cuts, first at The Players and then at Muirfield Village. That streak continues here.

WILL GRAY: Miss. Walking around Chambers Bay earlier this week, I was struck by how penal this layout becomes when you veer off-target. Woods has been doing plenty of veering in recent weeks, and I don’t expect that to change here. There is no aspect of his game which he can rely on as an anchor, and with 11 double bogeys or worse in his last eight rounds, it seems Woods will log plenty of big numbers. He insists that the end of his “shift” transition is near, but I don’t see any light at the end of this particular tunnel.

JAY COFFIN: Sadly, Woods will miss the cut here this week and question marks will remain. He needs reps, but here he’ll get the weekend off. His game just is not nearly sharp enough to play more than two days. Sure, fairways here are generous, but they’re still extremely missable. If he hits is half as poorly as he did two weeks ago at the Memorial it could be a long 36 holes. Hope I’m wrong, certain I’m not.


WINNER: INSIDE OR OUTSIDE TOP 10?

HOGGARD: While the uncertainty of Chambers Bay has many predicting a first-time major winner this week, the stars atop the World Golf Ranking have proven themselves particularly adept at challenging conditions and quick adjustments, particularly the trio of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler who have won four of the last eight PGA Tour events.

LAVNER: My top three picks to win are Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy, in that order, so looks like we’re taking a top-10 player by default. That’s the recent trend, anyway; Eight of the past 10 majors have been won by a player ranked inside the top 20. Sure, there may be a few more odd bounces at Chambers, but the difficulty of the course should separate the field. Keep in mind that when the U.S. Amateur was held here in 2010, the No. 1-ranked player in the world won.

GRAY: I’ll take the field vs. the top 10 in this scenario at most Open venues, but particularly one as unpredictable as Chambers Bay. Even the top players in the world will not be immune from the quirks and bounces around these greens, and imagination and skill will have to be supplanted with a little bit of luck to contend. When the field option includes players like Jimmy Walker, Hideki Matsuyama and – dare I say – Phil Mickelson, I’ll side with the “bottom” 146 guys.

COFFIN: Dustin Johnson is my pick to win it all, but I’ll still play the odds and go with someone outside the top 10. Too many studly bombers with tons to prove in major championships all reside outside the top 10 and there are about 60 players who have a legitimate shot at winning. Everything about this week feels unpredictable. Makes sense that we’ll end with an unpredictable winner.


CHAMBERS BAY: HOW MUCH OF A STORY?

HOGGARD: By Sunday Chambers Bay will be little more than a bit player in this week’s story despite the attention that has been focused on the layout. Executive director Mike Davis and the USGA can’t have it any other way because if the former sand quarry is still the story on Sunday something went terribly wrong.

LAVNER: At the end of the week? Hopefully not much, if Mike Davis does his job properly. He has so many options here that he can make the winning score 10 under or 10 over. With perfect weather in the forecast, there is no excuse for losing this golf course. Fans will enjoy the fact that players have options – off the tee, from the fairway, around the green. OK, so maybe the course will be a significant part of the story after all. It’ll be the stage for some supreme shot making.

GRAY: Much like last year at Pinehurst No. 2, I expect the significance of the course as a story to give way to the actual play as the week progresses. Chambers Bay is a novelty, and there will surely be a few bumps in the road this week that make for an interesting highlight reel, but at the end of the day, the story will be and should be about the player who leaves with the trophy and those he beat out.

COFFIN: It will be an afterthought, unless we have a Shinnecock Hills 2004 moment. Mike Davis is too smart to let that happen. Players have not been effusive in their praise of Chambers Bay, but they haven’t bashed it yet either. It’s likely that the course will push many to their limits, and there will be some goofy things that happen, but it won’t be unfair. Unfair equals complaints. Fair means we only concentrate on the winner by Sunday evening.

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.