Columbus U.S. Open qualifier was democracy in action

By Rex HoggardJune 3, 2014, 2:03 am

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Democracy in action.

That’s the lesson the U.S. Open teaches us each year and Monday’s sectional qualifier in Columbus for the national championship was as democratic as golf gets.

With no special exemptions, no backdoors, no safety nets, a two-time heart transplant recipient, an aging veteran and an up-and-coming Korean highlighted the list of Pinehurst-bound participants.

Only at the U.S. Open.

For the likes of Erik Compton Monday’s 36-hole marathon, which lapsed into a 38-hole day, is more than a test of golf. Following two heart transplant surgeries the physical toll is profound.

“Long days for me you can feel it in my chest,” said Compton, who endured a five-for-three playoff to decide the last of 16 spots into the U.S. Open. “You can see me all day like that (holding his shaking hand out).”

Because of Compton’s suppressed immune system he has struggled lately with allergies, weakness and last week at the Memorial Tournament he started losing his hearing in his left ear.

So when he started his day 3 over through two holes things didn’t look promising, but he rallied to shoot a 69 at Scioto Country Club, by far the more difficult of the two qualifying venues, and finished with a 71 to join the playoff at 2 under.

After missing a 10 footer at the first extra hole that would have secured him his second start at the U.S. Open, Compton calmly scrambled for par in the second playoff frame by rolling in a 6 footer in near darkness at Brookside Golf & Country Club.

“My goal at the beginning of the year was to play in more majors,” he said.

Ken Duke had a similar goal, but so far this year his putter had not been cooperative.

In 18 Tour events this season he doesn’t have a single top-10 finish primarily due to poor putting. Luckily, he didn’t need to rely on his putter in the playoff when he hit his approach shot at the first extra hole from 98 yards to 2 feet.

“I’d been putting so bad the last six months I watched that Travelers Championship (which he won in 2013) 100 times this weekend,” said Duke, who finished with rounds of 68-71. “I wasn’t as nervous over the (putt to win) the Travelers as I was over that one in the playoff.”

Ryan Blaum will join Duke and Compton at Pinehurst thanks to a charging 30 footer for birdie at the first extra hole, while Cameron Tringale and Michael Putnam – who also finished at 2 under – had to settle for alternate status at next week’s Open.

Justin Thomas knows the feeling. He had been here before – the same green, the same position, the same pressures. The only thing that was different this time for the 24-year-old second-year PGA Tour player was the outcome.

With a trip to Pinehurst on the line, Thomas played his last two holes in even par at Brookside to share medalist honors with Justin Leonard and Seung-Yul Noh at 5 under par.

Down the same damp stretch last year at the Columbus qualifier, Thomas closed with back-to-back bogeys to miss by a shot. This time he found himself in the same position on the 18th green.

“I hit my approach into the exact same spot, right up against the collar where I three-putted from last year,” said Thomas, who carded rounds of 67-70. “I’m like, here we go again. I looked forward to it this time. Figured it was a chance to try it again.”

For Leonard, the 41-year-old veteran, rounds of 69-68 served a dual purpose. The 12-time Tour winner hasn’t played his national championship since 2010 and figures Pinehurst – where he finished tied for 23rd in 2005 and tied for 15th in 1999 – is among the best Open venues for his fairways-and-greens game.

There was also the more immediate need for redemption that gave Leonard hope on Monday following a closing 78 a day earlier at the Memorial Tournament to drop into a tie for 57th place.

“To get there and getting the opportunity to play Pinehurst again that makes it a little more special,” said Leonard (69-68). “I had a horrendous day yesterday, so it was nice to come out here and get that taste out of my mouth.”

Noh, who won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans earlier this year, may have had the most interesting day, starting his second round after an opening 68 at Brookside with back-to-back bogeys. He played his next three in 4 under, including an ace at the fourth with a 5-iron on his way to a 69.

But for every story of relief and redemption on Monday in Columbus, there were 104 stories of regret. Some more painful than others.

Morgan Hoffmann stepped to the 18th tee at Brookside in fading light needing to birdie the last for a spot in the playoff. His 5 footer for birdie never touched the hole.

Danny Lee’s plight was even more painful to watch. Through 28 holes he was tied for the lead and seemingly locked to return to Pinehurst, the site of his 2008 U.S. Amateur victory.

But Lee played his last seven holes in 6 over par, including double bogeys at Nos. 12 and 16 at Scioto, and finished at 1 over and three strokes out of the playoff.

Lee and Hoffmann’s only solace was that the U.S. Open plays no favorites. It was democracy in action.

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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, 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 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 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