Punch Shot: Who will win the U.S. Open?

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2015, 4:45 am

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – There's plenty to ponder with three rounds of the U.S Open in the books.

Can Jordan Spieth win his second straight major? Can Jason Day author the story of the year by winning his first Big One while battling vertigo? Can Dustin Johnson avenge his past near-misses? Is Branden Grace ready to break though on the big stage? Or will it be someone outside the four co-leaders who crashes the party?

Our writers make their picks for the final round at Chambers Bay:


Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth’s greatest strength is that he has no weaknesses. He’s an above-average driver. He’s a supreme iron player. And he’s the best putter on the planet.

Sure, he took 32 swipes Saturday and has eight three-putts this week, but who would you rather trust with a must-make 5-footer in the finalround of a major: Dustin Johnson, who has a history of major-championship miscues; Jason Day, who was so woozy Saturday that he didn’t speak with the assembled media; and Branden Grace, who before this week didn’t have a top-15 in a major.

Spieth hasn’t been at his best this week, but Chambers Bay is the perfect fit for his game – the fairways are accommodating, and his short game can shine around the large, undulating greens.

The 21-year-old stands out on a ’board littered with mentally fragile players. With unwavering confidence, Spieth will take another step toward history Sunday.


Jason Day

Day's caddie, Colin Swatton, compared his performance on Saturday at Chambers Bay to Tiger Woods’ victory at the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg, and if the Australian is to finally win his first major on Sunday, it will take another heroic performance in Round 4.

But if anyone in the field has proven to have the ability to negotiate an extremely demanding Chambers Bay layout as well as benign positional vertigo, which Day was diagnosed with after collapsing at the end of his second round on Friday, it is the 27 year old.

Hampered by injuries throughout his career, from thumb and back ailments last year to an ankle problem in 2013, Day has still become one of the game’s brightest stars with three PGA Tour titles and numerous brushes at major championships.

Similarly, he withstood multiple bouts with vertigo on Saturday on his way to a third-round 68 which included a closing nine of 31 to claim a share of the lead and a spot in the Sunday’s final pairing.

He will need an equally-inspired performance on Sunday, but after so many near misses and medical issues, Day is poised to end his title drought in style.


Jordan Spieth

Of the top 14 players on the leaderboard only two (Jordan Spieth, Louis Oosthuizen) have won a major championship. Give me the one who has won most recently and is tied at the top. Give me Spieth.

He did not play well Saturday and still managed to shoot 71 and remained tied for the lead. It’s hard to believe he’ll play poorly in this type of pressure-cooker environment for a second consecutive day with so much on the line. He’s a gamer, he understands the significance of this moment and he has experiences to draw upon from his Masters victory just two short months ago.

With Rory McIlroy struggling the past month, Spieth is the best player in the game right now. He has the swagger, he has the game and he has an uncanny ability to get the ball in the hole when he needs to most.

Spieth may not win, but he won’t give it away either. I’ll take my chances with him down the stretch.


Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson will leave Chambers Bay with the U.S. Open trophy – even if, in the event of a playoff, he has to wait until Monday to claim it.

I predicted Jordan Spieth to triumph when the week began, but I’m calling an audible. For my money, DJ is playing the best of the quartet of co-leaders from which a winner is likely to emerge, and he successfully bounced back from a mediocre close to his second round. The bad stuff – the wobbly finish that Spieth just endured during his third round – is already behind Johnson.

Johnson has always been one of the world’s longest drivers, but this week he is also one of the best. After finding each of the 14 fairways during a third-round 70, it’s clear that his swing remains grooved heading into Sunday’s pressure-cooker, where his deft touch around the greens will again prove helpful. He has been here before – whether at Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits or Royal St. George’s – but he now appears strong enough to handle the elements and finally claim his maiden major. 

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.