Nobilo, Chamblee U.S. Open Q&A

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 12, 2012, 12:30 pm

With U.S. Open week here, Golf Channel analysts Brandel Chamblee and Frank Nobilo open up in a Q&A, with their thoughts on the season's second major championship at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Give us a couple names of who could play the role of Jack Fleck this week at The Olympic Club?

Chamblee: When Jack Fleck beat Ben Hogan in the 1955 U.S. Open, Hogan had won four of the last six U.S.Opens he had played and was in the middle of 12 consecutive top-10s in our national championship. He was considered the most accurate player in history, golf’s most intimidating man and by most, the greatest player of all time. Jack was a middle-aged war veteran who had spent 10 years upon his return from WWII, playing professional golf, with no hint of success and no reason to be playing. Tiger Woods is step-for-step today what Ben Hogan was then and it is almost unimaginable someone as obscure as Jack Fleck was in 1955 beating Tiger head-to-head in a playoff at the U.S. Open. The likes of Kevin Streelman, Shane Bertsch or Charlie Wi come to mind, none of whom have won on Tour and have had very little success in majors. Problem is, none of them are on the Nike staff alongside Tiger, which of course was the footnote of all footnotes to Fleck’s victory over Hogan, with clubs hand delivered to him earlier in the week by Mr. Hogan himself. That’s why my money is on Kevin Chappel this week.

Nobilo: Fleck was 33 when he won the U.S. Open and winless on the Tour. One guy who fits the bill is Steve Marino (32), who played just about every tour imaginable before getting on the big tour and has played in enough majors to have an inkling of what to expect. Wouldn't be an unthinkable thing for his first win on the PGA Tour to be a major. Peter Hanson (34) is another that hasn't taken the direct route to success, playing Swedish, Challenge, European and now PGA tours. He’s playing the best golf of his life right now and looking for first U.S. win.

Olympic CC 

How does The Olympic Club set up vs. traditional U.S. Open venues and whom does it favor?

Chamblee: Olympic has in each of the four U.S. Opens played there, allowed two players to separate themselves by week’s end because it demands of players what few courses do. In order to find the fairways there, a player cannot just play “their” shot. On some holes it is a must to shape the ball only one way to find the fairway and then an opposite way to find another. Olympic will intimidate early and then keep players off balance throughout the round with small greens, uneven lies and a return to a more traditional U.S. Open setup. Tiger Woods, with his newfound accuracy will have few challengers, but straight driving Graeme McDowell and Keegan Bradley could add to their major cache this week.

Nobilo: Olympic, while being a great test, has a very unbalanced flow. The course puts both hands on your throat early (the first six holes) then, when you can hardly breathe, lets off ever so gently and gives you three very birdiable holes to finish. It requires a very strong mind to deal with the hardship up front and often being over par early. Small firm greens require soft, high accurate iron play. Thick juicy rough around the greens means chipping out of poor lies will be a regular issue. Slopes on fairways running opposite of the direction to the dogleg gives even the straightest drivers a problem. No surprise it suits the two players playing the best right now Luke Donald and Tiger Woods.

Phil Mickelson 

Will Phil Mickelson ever win a U.S. Open?

Chamblee: Phil Mickelson’s style of play has never been a good fit for the U.S. Open, so while some may be surprised that he has never won our national championship, one of the most baffling things about Phil, to me, is that he has managed to finish second place five times. In 2006, at Winged Foot, Phil’s most famous collapse, he only hit 29 fairways for the week; I suppose if he had hit 30 he would’ve won. The last time the U.S. Open was at Olympic Phil only hit 30 fairways and still finished in the top 10. There is a sense that his time has come and gone in the U.S. Open and like Sam Snead, his legacy, in part, will be that he was one of the best of all time who failed to win this major.

Nobilo: Tough to win a U.S. Open in your prime let alone in your 40s. Not only is time running out for Phil but all the things that make him great - the go for broke mentality and desire to hit driver more often than most - doesn't lend itself to running out the string of pars often required to win a U.S. Open. Like Snead, he will more than likely forever be snakebit at golf's toughest test.

Tiger Woods 

How will Tiger Woods fare?

Chamblee: Tiger Woods’ newfound accuracy and confidence will make him the favorite at Olympic and by Sunday, I doubt if there are more than a few players who will have a chance to beat him. He is in ONE way better than he was for two of his three U.S. Open wins. He is a better driver of the ball than he was, by quite a bit, in 2008 and by a little bit in 2002. In no other way is he better, and in a few notable ways he will struggle at Olympic. Shaping the ball both ways off the tee, a must at Olympic, is still hard for Tiger and with his short irons he has never been worse. With stiffer penalties for a missed green this week, he will pay a penalty for those short-iron misses. He resorts to mechanics when he misses a shot or makes a bogey now far more than ever before, hence the reason he is 136th in the bounce-back stat, which, is the worst of his career. When he played more by feel in 1999-2002 he owned this stat. All of these issues are the larger part of why his scoring average is much higher than it was in ’08, ’02 and ’00, the three years he won the U.S. Open. Still, if not him, then who? The answer to that question is a small list and none of them has the accumulated advantages of owning 14 major titles.

Nobilo: Tiger Woods has a great chance to add to his major haul this week. Improved tee to green play plus his ability to hit the high soft landing iron approach will be well suited to Olympic’s small greens. Two recent wins on tough courses will continue to add confidence to his short game, which had been down a notch or two from his halcyon years.

Rory McIlroy 

Is Rory McIlroy more likely to defend his U.S. Open title or miss the cut?

Chamblee: Willie Anderson, John McDermott, Bobby Jones, Ralph Guldahl, Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange are the only men to successfully defend a U.S. Open so just from a historical standpoint, Rory McIlroy is a bad bet to win back-to-back titles. The infrequency of the occurrence is testament to the difficulty of having fate kiss you on the shoulder two years in a row. On the other hand, McIlroy’s early success in majors is reminiscent of Bobby Jones and perhaps he will show us all again just how special he is.

Nobilo: In the last 60-plus years only two players have ever successfully defended their U.S. Open wins. The easy money is for the weekend siesta as opposed to the defense for Rory. But if there is one thing we learned about Rory last year is that he became a better player after the Sunday at Augusta than before. Consequently there is no reason to think his latest play won’t add more steel to the machine. Last year is a tough act to follow but I don't see him taking an early exit.

What will the lead headline be Sunday evening when it’s all over?

Chamblee: Olympic, Giant Killer, Again

Nobilo: Brit Takes the Torch at Olympic

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Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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Gustafson shares stuttering success video

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

She did so without stuttering.

And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

“I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

“If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

Make way for Jin Young Ko.

The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

“I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

Ko finished at 14 under overall.

It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.

Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.