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.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''