Piller endures the disappointment of defeat

By Jay CoffinAugust 21, 2016, 12:53 am

RIO DE JANEIRO – Gerina Piller signed her scorecard, did a couple brief television interviews and ducked outside the ropes to receive comfort from her parents.

The day didn’t go anything like Piller envisioned, and she just wanted a few moments to get over her disappointment in private.

That task wasn’t so simple.

Fans wanted autographs. Some wanted photos with the woman who had America’s best chance to track down Inbee Park for a gold medal at the start of the day. So Piller, nicely, sweetly, wiped away tears and did her damnedest to give them all what they wanted.

Then she looked toward her mother, Rita, and stepfather, Alan Stevenson. Rita threw her arm around Gerina. Alan, a strapping man, softly held Gerina’s hand and the family wandered off to a quiet area near the clubhouse.

No words were spoken. None were necessary.

“What would you say?” Rita said to reporters who asked.

There was pain. There was hurt. But mostly, there was love.

It was a powerful moment.

Gerina began the day within two shots of the lead at the Olympics, an event she’s watched passionately for two decades. She’s never won a professional tournament and this one was within reach. Hey, even if a victory wasn’t in the offing, a medal for a top-three finish seemed highly likely.

None of the above happened.

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Piller got off to a shaky start, rebounded but eventually missed key putts down the stretch and shot 74 to miss the podium by four shots.

“We’re heartbroken with her,” Stevenson said, himself struggling to hold back tears. “We’re just as emotional as she is, because she’s our daughter and we care about her. We want what she wants but some days you don’t get that.”

This seemed like it finally was going to be the day Piller was going to get what she wanted. Only four days prior she sat in front of assembled media from all over the world and was brought to tears when asked what it would mean to win a gold medal for the red, white and blue.

Piller, 31, played progressively better over the first three days. A third-round 68 in blustery conditions that produced winds of over 30 mph was one of the best rounds of the week. It allowed her to join Park and Ko in the last grouping on the last day with history on the line.

To add to the dramatics, Martin Piller, Gerina’s husband, had missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship on Friday, meaning he’ll have to go through the Web.com Tour Finals in order to secure his PGA Tour card for next season.

Throw all those elements into one neat package and the stage was set.

But the emotions, which Gerina said she would use to her advantage on the eve of the final round, got the best of her.

“I didn’t even think I had a chance to be here, so to come and to be in contention is all I can really ask for,” she said. “Just going to learn from it and move on."

Just five weeks ago Piller wasn’t on this U.S. Olympic team. A player must be ranked inside the top 15 of the world rankings to qualify and Piller had hovered just outside that mark all summer. Finally, at the U.S. Women’s Open, the last tournament before the Olympic field was set, Piller shot a final-round 70 to tie for eighth place. The result vaulted her barely inside the qualification line.

To put it lightly, the last month has been a roller coaster of emotions for Piller and her family.

“The thing about Gerina in her heart, she’ll keep coming back,” Stevenson said. “She’ll keep showing up, she’ll step up on the tee box and keep swinging at it. She wants to win. Someday she will win. Today wasn’t that day, but she competed and she put her heart and soul into it.”

Said fellow American Stacy Lewis: “Gerina is going to get over this hump pretty soon. She needs the experience of being in these final groups. It’s a different pressure and it’s a different mentality, especially when you have Inbee that’s going crazy. She’s got the game and she’ll get there soon.”

Piller does have the game, that’s the thing. This isn’t a player who just isn’t good enough to close the deal. Sure, the emotions got the best of her this time, but she has eight top-10 finishes on the LPGA this season and is 13th in earnings.

She’s also the single biggest reason why the U.S. defeated Europe last year in the Solheim Cup in Germany. With the cup on the line, Piller drained a key 8-foot par putt to defeat Caroline Masson late in Sunday singles. If she had missed that putt, Europe would’ve won for the third consecutive time.

“It’s tough, just because there’s just so much on the line with golf being back in the Olympics for the first time,” Piller said.

Stevenson matter-of-factly said that his family, Gerina in particular, is not defined by winning or losing, trophies or medals.

“We care about it, that’s why we’re here, that’s why we compete,” he said. “It does break our hearts to see her hurt, but we know that life is bigger than golf. You can learn a lot of life through golf.”

Piller plans to stick around Rio for another couple days and will walk in the Closing Ceremony since she wasn’t able to walk in the opening festivities two weeks ago. She’s bound to feel more emotions – both happy and sad – just like the ones she experienced over the last four days on the golf course.

As the day was drawing to a close, Piller had collected her belongings and had just stepped outside the clubhouse. She was asked one last time if she could attempt to explain what happened during the final round.

Tears began to fall. She couldn’t speak. She was spent.

Piller then looked at Rita and Alan for comfort, just as she had 20 minutes earlier. It was time to leave.

“She’ll shake it off, she’ll be fine,” Martin Piller told reporters in North Carolina. “She ain’t going to let it bother her.”

Her family will make sure that it doesn’t.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry