Lingmerth steps into starring role at Memorial

By Rex HoggardJune 8, 2015, 12:15 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – On Saturday Tiger Woods needed 85 strokes to round Muirfield Village, his highest card on Tour in 1,158 career rounds, and Phil Mickelson was only slightly better with a 78.

A week ago, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy opened his week with an 80 at the Irish Open.

It has been, in historically relevant terms, a seismic shift in professional golf’s paradigm of influence the last few days, but before the cats and dogs start moving into a shared walk-up together it’s worth revisiting the concept that parity is the new predictability on the game’s top shelf.

McIlroy is still the undisputed alpha male, Mickelson has shown signs of late life in recent starts with his runner-up showing at the Masters and a tie for fourth at the Wells Fargo Championship, and Woods . . . well, let’s just say he certainly seems committed to the process.

But the days of prolonged dominance appear to be on an indefinite hiatus. Chalk doesn’t do it anymore like it did when Woods was in his prime and winning 33 percent of his Tour starts like he did when he was with Hank Haney. Now, the house has the advantage.

No? How many of you took the prop bet that a rookie named Zac Blair would lap Woods by 15 strokes in Round 3 at the Memorial?


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Perhaps David Lingmerth – the last man standing on Sunday at Muirfield Village after enduring the longest playoff in Memorial history for his first PGA Tour title – isn’t the new normal, but he represents a collective face that transcends his position in the Official World Golf Ranking (212th) and his relative experience.

You might remember Lingmerth as a member of Woods’ supporting cast back at The Players in 2013 when he leveraged a 54-hole lead into a runner-up showing.

As competitive fate would have it, it was at TPC Sawgrass, on the adjacent Valley Course, where he regained his Tour card last fall after dropping out of the top 125 in FedEx Cup points, but the 2014-15 season was shaping up to be a similar struggle.

In 26 starts this season he’d missed as many cuts (nine) as he’d made (nine) and his best finish was a tie for 13th place at the other legend’s major, the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

But on Sunday at Jack’s Place, little-known Lingmerth was better than Woods, by 29 strokes for those counting at home, better than Mickelson and finally, after flatlining himself through three playoff holes in even par, better than Justin Rose.

“I've been in a few playoffs; you win some, you lose some. But I didn't feel that it was my turn to lose this time,” said Lingmerth, who closed with a 69 to force overtime.

Rose began the final day three strokes clear of the field, faded three shots out of the top spot with an opening nine of 38 and retook a share of the top spot alongside Lingmerth with an 11-footer for birdie at the penultimate hole.

The Englishman secured his spot in the playoff with a nervy up-and-down from short of the 18th green after hitting a spectator with his approach shot and moments later rekindled that magic with a 19-footer for par to extend the overtime.

But the magic ran out when Rose, a seven-time Tour winner, pushed his drive well right at the 10th hole, the third playoff stop, and misplayed his second shot from a bad lie over the green on his way to a bogey.

“I hit pretty much as good a shot as I could hit from the lie,” said Rose, who bogeyed two of his first four holes and admitted to feeling “uncomfortable” for much of the day. “I just tried to dig out a 3-wood. I was trying to get it in the left bunker, and I couldn't quite get enough cut on it to get it to the left bunker. But I was pretty much aiming 80 yards left of the green.”

Conversely, the unproven Swede was much more resilient than his resume would suggest, holing a 10-footer at the first playoff frame for par and getting up and down at the second to earn the coveted handshake from Nicklaus.

That he secured his first Tour title against one of the year’s deepest fields and with an assortment of A-list types looming only served to magnify the notion that the line between the headliners and the rest of the herd is razor thin.

Jordan Spieth was the highest-profile player to make a run, carding a day’s-best 65 to finish at 13 under some two hours before the leaders were finished.

On Saturday following a sloppy double bogey-6 on the closing hole for an even-par 72 Spieth opined, “[The] golf gods were not on my side today.” A day later after chipping in twice, for birdie at No. 7 and eagle at the 15th hole, the Masters champion took a slightly different approach.

“They were certainly a little nicer today than they have been. But I would call it kind of evening out over the day,” said Spieth, who has seven top-5 finishes since February. “On a course like this, you're going to get some unlucky breaks more than you will catch good ones just given how tough it is.”

It’s a lesson both Woods and Mickelson learned over the weekend. Lefty’s tie for 65th was his worst finish at the Memorial since 1998, while Tiger’s third-round 85 led to his highest four-round total (302) on the Tour and more then a few questions as he now turns his attention to the U.S. Open.

“The guys that have made [swing] tweaks, you have moments where you go backwards and then you make big, major strides down the road. That's just the way it goes,” Woods said. “You have to look at the big picture. You can't be so myopic with your view and expect to have one magical day or one magical shot and change your whole game. It doesn't work that way.”

It’s similar to the notion that these outings follow the hierarchical script that top players always prevail. Sometimes the lead shoots an 85 and tees off first on Sunday and the supporting cast steals the show.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”