From anger to amazement, the Open was entertaining

By John FeinsteinJune 23, 2015, 7:40 pm

When Dustin Johnson’s final putt didn’t go in on Sunday at Chambers Bay, it was only the last of a remarkable series of storylines that unfolded over the course of a week on the shores of Puget Sound. 

Imagine a week in which Tiger Woods shoots 80-76 to miss the cut by about 100 and is little more than a footnote by the end of the weekend. Imagine Phil Mickelson making the cut but being irrelevant on Sunday and Rory McIlroy finally making a couple of putts on Sunday to backdoor to a T-9 after being completely betrayed by his putter for three days. 

Imagine a week in which discussions of the golf course ranged from marveling at the aesthetics of it to Gary Player bizarrely finding it ‘tragic.’ Imagine a week in which Johnson completed a dubious Grand Slam of his own – finding himself in position to win a major championship for a fourth time and failing for a fourth time. 

Imagine Jason Day showing remarkable guts by literally getting up off the mat on Friday and staggering – at times – through Saturday and Sunday and putting himself into position, at least for a while, to pull off the most remarkable Open story since Ken Venturi staggered to victory in 1964.  

And imagine Jordan Spieth backing up his Masters victory by winning the Open on a golf course that could not possibly be more different than Augusta National. 

Wow. That’s a lot to digest in a week. No doubt it will be discussed for a long time to come. 

Let us begin with the golf course because that’s how the week began, with endless discussions about it. There is no doubting that there has never been an Open like this one with a course that looked like a links but didn’t always play like one because of all the elevation changes. It was, unquestionably, the most difficult golf course to walk, for players and spectators, in history. 

But, the whining. Oh goodness, the whining.

To be fair, players whine about the Open every year, it’s as much a tradition as the claret jug is at the British Open. The greens are too fast, the rough is too penal or the rough isn’t penal enough and the greens aren’t fast enough. Moving tees around is a great idea or – ask Jim Furyk circa 2012 – a terrible idea. 

Pinehurst was too brown; the fairways were unhittable at Merion. Heck, Frances Ouimet probably complained about the setup at The Country Club in 1913. 

This though was different. There was clear disdain in the comments being made, not just by players, but by media members and TV analysts. People in golf simply aren’t ever comfortable with DIFFERENT. They would prefer to see the game played the way Old Tom Morris played it and any deviation from what is considered the norm brings gasps and major head-shaking. Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that the thought of letting caddies wear shorts created a scene at the PGA Championship. It’s been three years since Augusta National began admitting women and less than a year since the Royal and Ancient Golf Club followed suit. 

So, the notion of a golf course with funky bounces and backboards on the greens and greens that weren’t terribly green sent people into a tizzy. Player’s reaction during an appearance on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” was especially over the top. In the midst of calling Chambers Bay the worst U.S. Open golf course in history, he called the setup “tragic.” If nothing else, the timing of such a comment, three days after the real tragedy that took place in Charleston, was unfortunate. 



In spite of all the yammering, they played the championship anyway. And, if you happen to like golf, it turned out just fine. 

Not so much for Woods. The script for him has now become familiar: pre-tournament he’s all about process and improvement and sticking to the plan. Which is fine if the plan appears to be moving forward. At the moment, the plan appears to be progressing about as well as New Coke did back in 1985. Remember when the Coca-Cola people insisted it was just a matter of time before people embraced New Coke? Then they brought back Coke Classic. Finally, New Coke disappeared altogether. 

The current Woods plan is working about as well as New Coke. Everyone who knows him well insists there is no way he will ever swallow his pride and go back to Butch Harmon. If that’s the case, it may well be that we will never see a shadow of the player formerly known as Tiger Woods. 

IF Woods does mount a comeback, regardless of how he does it, he may well look back at the 18th hole on Thursday as the low moment literally and figuratively. Already in the midst of a brutal round, he found the fairway with his drive but then cold-topped his second shot right into the bunker known as “Chambers Basement” because it is so deep. 

It may come into play for the amateurs who play the course, but not for the pros. At least not for 155 of them on Thursday. Only one found it and had to walk down, down, down to hit his third shot. To be fair, Woods DID beat Rickie Fowler that day and did shoot 76 on Friday. He missed the cut by 11 shots, beating four players in all. 

Ouch. 

The weekend was filled with drama. Day’s bout with vertigo on Friday was scary and there were moments on Saturday when it appeared unlikely he would finish. Not only did he do so, he birdied four of the last seven holes to tie for the lead by nightfall. The fact that he couldn’t keep up that momentum on Sunday wasn’t surprising. That he hung in the way he did, right to the finish, was inspiring. 

With all due respect to Louis Oosthuizen, whose final three days were amazing, and Branden Grace, who hung in until the finish, the climax of the week was about Johnson and Spieth. 

Very few golfers inspire awe in the locker room. Woods did for years, but it’s understandable because he’s the second best player in history. McIlroy does too because he is the best driver of the golf ball in the game today. 

But Johnson also inspires awe because his talent is breathtaking and yet, now at 31, he still hasn’t lived up to it. Forget the off-course issues, he’s been in position to win majors four times and each time has found a different way to come up short. There was the 82 at Pebble Beach five years ago when he led by three shots after 54 holes. There was the debacle at Whistling Straits that can be blamed, to some degree, on a silly local rule and a rules official who should have reminded Johnson he was in a bunker. Most of the blame though falls on Johnson for not knowing the rule. Then there was the 2-iron that whistled out of bounds on the 14th hole at Royal St. George’s on Sunday four years ago, ending a late charge. 

And, forever more, there will be the three putt at the 18th at Chambers Bay. The shame of it is that few people will remember that Johnson hit two extraordinary shots to find himself a little more than 12-feet from an eagle that would have won the championship. But, even after watching Day’s ball roll well past the hole on a similar line, he still let his first putt get away from him. Then, he appeared to rush the birdie putt and, just like that, it was over. It was completely stunning to watch. 

Johnson’s meltdown on the last green should not affect that way anyone looks at Spieth’s victory. He recovered from an ugly double-bogey at the 17th hole to birdie 18 and that was the margin of victory. The Open always requires huge mental toughness to win and this one was about as tough as it got. 

And, left standing, was a 21-year-old, who will now be the talk of golf from here to St. Andrews. McIlroy won the last two majors of 2014; Spieth the first two of 2015. At this moment, it appears they don’t want to let anyone else in the sport have any fun. 

Or at least any major championship trophies. The next few weeks, months and years are going to be fun to watch. So was the week at Chambers Bay.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.