Controversy didn't diminish Lang's dream win

By Randall MellJuly 11, 2017, 2:50 pm

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – When Brittany Lang came home after winning the U.S. Women’s Open last year, she set the trophy on the breakfast bar in the middle of her kitchen.

The Harton S. Semple Trophy stayed there for pretty much the last year.

Lang’s husband, Kevin Spann, offered to build her a trophy case for it in their McKinney, Texas, home.

“Nah,” Lang told him. “I like it right here.”

Lang liked seeing it first thing in the morning with breakfast. She liked seeing her name engraved on it with Patty Berg, Babe Zaharias, Louise Suggs, Mickey Wright, Betsy Rawls, Annika Sorenstam and so many greats of the game.

She liked the way family and friends got to enjoy it as much as she did.

“People would laugh,” Lang said. “They would ask me, ‘Why don’t you put it in a safe place?’ But I liked seeing it every time I was home.”

The trophy reminded Lang of the power of believing.

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That’s the story she didn’t fully get to tell after she won, because so many of the questions in the aftermath of her victory at CordeValle last year were about the championship’s controversial ending. So many questions were about Anna Nordqvist getting penalized in their playoff after a zoomed-in, slow-motion replay showed she grazed a few grains of sand taking back a 5-iron in a bunker.

The story Lang didn’t fully get to tell is how she knew she was going to win a U.S. Women’s Open someday. Absolutely and unshakably knew it.

“I’m a big believer in the things you want to happen, you should say them aloud,” Lang said. “So, I said it a lot to family. I said, ‘I just know I’m going to win a U.S. Women’s Open.’”

Lang says she knew it the day she walked away from her very first U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills, where she tied for second as a 19-year-old amateur when Birdie Kim won.

The nature of the championship just felt like it suited her.

“That’s because Brittany is a grinder,” said Spann, her husband. “She does well on hard courses, where par is a good score. When she’s in tough situations, she locks in.”

The tougher Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster plays this week, the better Lang’s chances.

“I play with more of a conservative strategy,” Lang said. “I don’t hit it at every pin, which isn’t always great in day-to-day golf, where girls are making a lot of birdies. But I hit it long and straight off the tee. I have a nice, high iron game. I’m good at hitting it in fairways and getting on greens, and my putting has come so far the last few years.”

Lang, 31, believes she is just coming into herself as a player. She became the first player from Duke University to win an LPGA event when she claimed the Manulife Financial in 2012, and she’s hopeful she will add to her two LPGA titles.

It says something about Lang’s priorities that she doesn’t wish she got more acclaim for winning last year.

In her world, she got all she needed and ever wanted.

Luke, her older brother by four years, is her caddie. He has been on her bag from the day she turned pro. They have a special bond, as a team, and it made her victory that much more meaningful.

“I don’t think what happened at CordeValle took away from my win one bit,” Lang said. “My family and friends know I’m the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open champion. If the way it ended is what people wanted to talk about, I could absolutely care less.

“It’s unfortunate what happened to Anna. She’s a good friend, and she’s a great player, but the cool thing about winning there for me was that my family was all there to see it. My husband was there, my mom and dad were there, my brother was there. That almost never happens, with all of us together like that at an event.”

When Lang got home after winning last year, the TPC Craig Ranch threw her a party. That’s the golf club she and Kevin belong to in McKinney. The next night, she celebrated at another party for her with her friends.

That’s all the acclaim she wanted.

“The U.S. Women’s Open is the one tournament Brittany wanted to win her entire life,” Kevin said. “She’s very patriotic. She loves her country. She loves the USGA. So watching her win her national open, I got emotional, because I knew how big a deal it was to her.”

That trophy in the kitchen reminded the whole family of that.

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

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.