Historic test awaits women at Pinehurst No. 2

By Randall MellJune 16, 2014, 11:50 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – The stage belongs to the women now.

In this historic experiment with the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open being played in back-to-back weeks for the first time on the same venue, the men have exited, leaving Pinehurst No. 2 to the women in Monday’s practice rounds.

Sunday’s transition was highly visible with the women’s arrival.

Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr, Lydia Ko, Sandra Gal, Brittany Lincicome and Katherine Kirk were among dozens of women who walked inside the ropes following the men in Sunday’s U.S. Open final round.

While there was some scattered grumbling among men and their caddies over the timing of the women’s arrival, with the most important moments of the U.S. Open unfolding, the scene was heartwarming for fans of the women’s game. The images brought home the historic nature of the championships.

“I thought the women’s arrival was awesome,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “It was terrific.”

Davis knows he wasn’t alone thinking that. He was walking with Martin Kaymer and Rickie Fowler in the final pairing with a handful of LPGA pros following inside the ropes.

“Martin and Rickie both told me they thought it was the neatest thing,” Davis said. “It was funny, because Rickie knew some of the women pros, and he’s chit-chatting with them. I said, `Hey Rickie, this is the final round of the U.S. Open. You need to focus.’”

Davis was joking, but Kaymer and Fowler both applauded the women’s high-profile arrivals.

“I did like it,” Kaymer said after his eight-shot runaway victory. “Some of them are very pretty. I’m sure a lot of guys out here enjoyed the view as much as we did.”

U.S. Women’s Open: Articles, videos and photos

Rory McIlroy gave Yani Tseng a hug when she arrived on the range Sunday. Their reigns as world No. 1s overlapped. Sergio Garcia gave Ko a hug.

“It's cool to run into the girls,” McIlroy said. “I would like to see it happen more often. I think it's a good thing for women's golf to give them a little bit more exposure. Even though they get to play some of the best courses in the world, I'm going to tune in on and watch next week just to see how they get on around here and see how they fare.”

Danielle Kang, the two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, got some extra help from Dustin Johnson. Kang is friends with Johnson’s fiancée, Paulina Gretzky, daughter of hockey great Wayne Gretzky. Kang had dinner with Dustin and Paulina Saturday night in Pinehurst.

“Dustin gave me a hole-by-hole breakdown, where to miss and where not to miss at the different holes,” Kang said. “He told me it would probably be easier after I saw the course and then talked to him. So I’m probably going to talk to him later today.”

Johnson did more than give Kang advice. He gave her his yardage book.

“I like to play as aggressively as he likes to play with my ball-striking, but he told me how you can save shots and that you really need to let the birdies come to you here.”

The women got their first chance to play Pinehurst No. 2 in practice rounds on Monday. While Sunday’s setup for the men’s finish was severe, any women concerned they would be greeted with a harsh, burned-up test were pleasantly surprised.

The USGA had Pinehurst’s grounds staff water the greens for 12 minutes on Sunday night, in cycles of three to four minutes spread over two hours.

“We came back this morning, and we were very happy with the where the course is,” said Ben Kimball, championship director of the U.S. Women’s Open. “We are thrilled where we are going into the rest of the week. We don’t think we were at any point on the edge during the U.S. Open to where we didn’t think we could get the course ready for the U.S. Women’s Open.”

Kimball said women can expect consistent conditions through the week with the possibility the weekend gets firmer and faster.

“It was soft today,” Azahara Munoz said. “We were stopping balls.”

Kang played 18 holes Monday with Johnson’s yardage book.

“I actually thought the course was in tremendous shape,” Kang said. “I’m not saying that just to say that.”

Rolex world No. 1 Stacy Lewis played nine holes on Monday.

“It was playing harder when I came here three weeks ago to play the course,” Lewis said. “The greens are definitely softer than they were then.”

Lewis said the fairways are still firm and fast and could be an issue if they get any quicker.

The U.S. Open was played at 7,562 yards on the scorecard. The U.S. Women’s Open will be played more than 900 yards shorter, at 6,649 yards on the scorecard. The course was set up almost all the way back in Monday’s practice. 

“It’s a long golf course,” said Scott Thompson, Lexi Thompson’s father.

Lexi is the LPGA’s biggest hitter, leading the tour in driving distance at over 275 yards per drive, and yet Scott said she hit 4-iron Monday into the 16th green, a 458-yard par 4.

“It wasn’t the only 4-iron she hit today,” Scott said.

Julieta Granada hit a 3-wood into the 11th hole, a 447-yard par 4. With the turtle-back greens here, it’s a lot to ask to hold fairway woods into them.

“It’s going to favor a high ball into these greens,” Lewis said.

Munoz played 15 holes Monday.

“Visually, it’s very open off the tee, I really, really like that,” Munoz said. “Obviously, the shots to the green are really, really tough, but I like that, too. You have to hit your targets. It’s the same for everyone.”

It’s going to be the same historic test for all the women.

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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