Open poised to present a satisfying Sunday

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2012, 5:02 am

SAN FRANCISCO – The only thing missing from the scoreboard at the 112th U.S. Open is the ubiquitous Fleck or Simpson, surprise potential champions with the ability to turn spectacles into something, well, subdued.

Sure Tiger Woods posted his worst Round 3 score in 15 Opens as a professional and Phil Mickelson celebrated his 42nd birthday with a pedestrian 71 that tied him for, wait for it . . . 42nd, but compared to Olympic Opens past this one through three rounds is a keeper.

This time around we have a Northern Irishman -- there’s always a Northern Irishman at the national championship -- two former Open champions, the best player without a major and a dollop of intrigue by way of a 17-year-old amateur and a man whose nickname is Junkman.

Does it get any better than that?

Final-round tee times

Of course it does. Woods-Mickelson was preferred and Rory McIlroy-Luke Donald would have been a respected Plan B, but the two Euros didn’t make the weekend and the Americans played Saturday like they would rather have missed the cut. But given The Olympic Club’s track record as an Open stage Saturday’s board was nothing short of encouraging.

Graeme McDowell, who won the last NorCal Open down the road at Pebble Beach in 2010, charged into the lead with a 2-under 68 that was capped by a textbook birdie at the last; while Jim Furyk, who in 17 Open starts has missed just two cuts, held serve with an even-par 70.

They lead Fredrik 'Junkman' Jacobson (68) by two strokes with two-time Open champion Ernie Els (68) and world No. 3 Lee Westwood (67) another shot back at 2 over.

On what was widely considered the easiest scoring day of the week – a day that featured 13 sub-par scores compared to just six on Friday – a condensed leaderboard at least gave the impression that after four nondescript Opens the Lake Course was poised to deliver a winner.

What the leaderboard lacks in overt star power it makes up for in possibilities. Seventeen players are within five strokes of the lead heading into what promises to be a demanding day.

“It’s wide open,” said McDowell, who admitted to needing a one-minute pep talk from sports psychologist Bob Rotella before his round. “I look at guys at 2, 3, 4 under par and think they should have a chance.”

That’s good news, at least in theory, for Woods, who played his first six holes in 3 over, The Olympic Club’s two par 5s in 1 over and ended his round with a miss-hit chip at the last that all added up to a third-round 75 and fading chances in fading light at the U.S. Open.

For the day Woods hit 7 of 14 fairways, 11 of 17 greens in regulation but it was his worst putting round in what was already a bad putting week that ultimately cost him. He followed efforts of 29 and 31 putts for Rounds 1 and 2 with a 34-putt effort that featured just one birdie.

“It's just patience. It's just a few birdies here and there. It's not like where you have to go out there and shoot 62 and 63,” Woods said. “This is a U.S. Open. You just need to hang around because anything can happen at the last three holes. . . . I'm definitely still in the ball game. I'm only five back and that's certainly doable on this golf course for sure.”

Woods will begin the day tied with Beau Hossler, a 17-year-old amateur who lapped the 14-time major champion by five strokes on Saturday in just his second Grand Slam start.

To put that in context, Hossler was born the year (1995) after Furyk played his first Open and was 8 years old when Furyk won the championship at Olympia Fields in Chicago.

The Open veteran was as steady, if not spectacular, as anyone on Day 1, rebounding from a bogey at the first hole with birdies at Nos. 7 and 11 and playing the par 5s (Nos. 16 and 17) in even par.

“On a golf course like this you have to go from spot to spot and it doesn't have to look or be fancy, it has to work,” said Furyk, who was paired with Woods on Saturday. “When I'm playing well, that's the kind of golf you play at a U.S. Open usually, especially at a place set up firm and fast like this.”

Atop the list of players that will be trying to run down the leaders would be Westwood, who has finished in the top 3 at two of the last four Opens and is putting like a man with something to prove, and Els, who was similarly solid on the greens on Saturday.

Ultimately, however, it will be U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis and his staff that will decide if Olympic can finally score that show-stopper finish.

The general feeling is after Saturday’s break in the storm the USGA will go light on the watering and heavy with the hole locations for Sunday’s final turn, a concept McDowell called “Rory retribution” following McIlroy’s eight-stroke romp at Congressional last year.

The other concept is to go easy, like officials did on Saturday when birdies and bogeys came with almost equal abandon. “For the first time this week I actually enjoyed a round of golf,” McDowell admitted.

After four pedestrian finishes, the San Francisco faithful may finally be treated to an enjoyable finish.

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.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”