Donald, McIlroy, Westwood struggle on Day 1

By Jason SobelJune 15, 2012, 3:28 am

SAN FRANCISCO – The world’s three top-ranked golfers exchanged halfhearted handshakes and sheepish smiles on the final green at Olympic Club, then let out a collective sigh as they trudged up the makeshift stairs to sign their scorecards – professional golf’s version of a death march if there ever was one.

There is nothing random about U.S. Open tee times. There is no computer-generated software that spits out player permutations, no dart-throwing, coin-flipping or picking out of a hat.

To refer to any specific group as divine intervention is to call the USGA divine, as the organizing committee intervenes in order to proffer the most entertaining – or enigmatic or eclectic – trios over the first two rounds of its annual grindfest.

And so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood found themselves sharing a tee time, the first three names atop the Official World Golf Ranking side by side by side in a physical sense, too.


Video: Disastrous start for big names


What should come as a surprise is how they fared in the opening round of the 112th edition of the event.

Donald posted a 9-over 79; McIlroy shot a 7-over 77; and Westwood carded a 3-over 73.

To paraphrase an old John Lennon line, it was instant carnage right from the beginning. The group tallied two bogeys and a double on the opening hole and failed to recover during the remainder of the round.

Their combined total of 19 over par may not sound too ghastly on a day when only a half-dozen competitors broke par, but check out the world’s top three in comparison to some other, well, less ballyhooed triumvirates:

• Shane Bertsch, Tommy Biershenk and Martin Flores – all little-known PGA Tour pros – beat them by five strokes.

• Marc Warren, Michael Allen and Anthony Summer – a European Tour regular, a Champions Tour regular and a former toilet cleaner – beat them by nine.

• Scott Langley, Steve Lebrun and Beau Hossler – two fringe pros and a 17-year-old amateur – beat them by 10.

• Jason Bohn, Rafael Jacquelin and Jae-Bum Park – three pros with varying degrees of moderate success – beat them by 17.

That’s right, golf fans. If you had Bohn, Jacquelin and Park giving 16 strokes in the opening round against the world’s three top-ranked players, congratulations. You’re a winner.

All together, Donald, McIlroy and Westwood totaled 20 bogeys and a double – against just three birdies for the day.

“Well, the top three in the world and we make three between us,” said Donald, who didn’t contribute a single birdie. “It shows how tough it is. There aren't that many opportunities out there.”

The world’s top-ranked player, Donald forged a symmetrical round of nine pars and nine bogeys. It marked the seventh straight time he opened a U.S. Open with a score in the 70s – and that was only thanks to a pair of pars to close. The stat of the day from Olympic? Andy Zhang, at 14 years old the youngest competitor in tournament history, tied the man with No. 1 next to his name.

“The U.S. Open, the margins are that much smaller and if you're just a little bit off, which I was today, it's tough,” Donald admitted. “And then you have to really rely on chipping it close and making some putts and I didn't do that. My putter kind of went cold today, otherwise I could have probably ground out some more respectable score. But this place is tough. I feel like even from yesterday it got a lot tougher and I didn't hit the shots when I needed to.”

In his title defense after cruising to an eight-stroke victory a year ago at Congressional, McIlroy didn’t fare much better. After compiling just four over-par individual hole totals last year, he doubled that number on Thursday, with eight bogeys against just a lone birdie.

“It was a combination of things,” he said afterward. “You hit your first shot out of position. It's hard to get your second shot back into position. If you hit one bad shot on any of the holes, it's very hard to recover from that. And that's what I found today.”

For his part, Westwood may be getting unfairly lumped in with the poor play of his partners. His 73 was actually more than two full strokes below the field scoring average for the round, and after starting with a double bogey on the first, he played the final 17 holes in just 1 over.

Still, he was at least an eyewitness to the carnage if not an outright contributor. The halfhearted handshakes, the sheepish smiles, the collective sighs – they were all the result of a long, unsatisfying day that left the world’s top three players trudging off the course when it was finally complete.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship


With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."