Putnam qualifies for trip home to Chambers Bay

By Rex HoggardJune 9, 2015, 2:20 am

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Each morning, Dan Putnam awakes and follows the well-worn path from his house in University Place, Wash., and around the former gravel pit and back home. All in, it’s a 4 1/2-mile journey.

In two weeks, the same journey along the shores of the Puget Sound will be a much more meaningful stroll.

On Monday at the U.S. Open sectional qualifying site in Columbus, Putnam’s son, PGA Tour player Michael, completed a circular journey of his own, scorching the course at the Lakes Golf & Country Club with an 8-under 64 for a share of medalist honors and a spot in the field at Chambers Bay, the links-like layout that frames those daily walks for Dan Putnam.

Putnam was born in Tacoma, Wash., and now lives in University Place, about a mile and half away from Chambers Bay. In fact, he was the first to play the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design and boasts that he briefly held the course record.

“I shot 70,” Putnam smiled. “Maybe that’s why they made it harder.”

But for Putnam, that 70 couldn’t compare to his afternoon round on Monday at the annual 36-hole marathon for U.S. Open hopefuls. After an early bogey at No. 2, he played his final 16 holes in 9 under, including an eagle at the par-5 third and three consecutive birdies starting at the 14th hole.

Putnam finished at 12-under 132 and tied with Sam Saunders, who carded matching rounds of 66 to earn his second start at the U.S. Open, for medalist honors.

Considering USGA executive director Mike Davis’ comments that players would need extra preparation to compete at this year’s championship, Putnam jokingly figured himself an early favorite.

“Apparently I’m going to win because I’ve played it more than anyone else,” laughed Putnam, who estimated he’s played Chambers Bay 40 times.

Full results: U.S. Open sectional qualifying

Putnam will also have the advantage of having his brother, Joel, caddying for him at the U.S. Open. Joel Putnam worked at Chambers Bay as a caddie and has looped more than 500 rounds on the rolling course.

He will be joined at the year’s second major by Bryson Dechambeau, the NCAA individual champion who held the lead for much of the day after making birdie at five of his first six holes in his afternoon round, but cooled following an hour and a half weather delay.

“I got off to a hot start and that kind of propelled me,” said Dechambeau, who carded rounds of 66-67 to tie for third place with David Hearn. “I knew my game was good enough, it was just about believing and trusting myself.”

Putnam also struggled with the delay with players at the Lakes course unable to warm up before play resumed, but at least he avoided the five-players-for-three-spots playoff at Brookside Golf & Country Club that lasted past 9:30 p.m.

D.A. Points, Robert Streb, Alex Cejka, Kevin Chappell and Danny Lee finished tied for 13th place at 7 under par. At the first extra hole, Brookside’s par-4 opener, Cejka needed five strokes to reach the green and was eliminated.

After trading pars at the second extra hole, No. 9 at Brookside, the group returned to No. 1 where Chappell three-putted for bogey, missing his par attempt from 1 1/2 feet, and will be the Columbus site’s first alternate. 

The group finished the event in almost complete darkness after all four players agreed to play on. 

But then it could have been much worse. Monday’s forecast in Columbus called for an 80 percent chance of severe thunderstorms throughout the day and players arrived for their first-round tee times braced for a long day.

“I told myself, ‘Man, you need to get off to a good start because this might be an 18-hole deal,’” said Bo Van Pelt, who finished tied with five players at 8 under to earn his ninth trip to the U.S. Open. “We weren’t sure how much we’d get in.”

The foreboding forecast prompted many players (28) to withdraw before play began on Monday, and after the weather warning horn sounded at 4:45 p.m. (ET) another 39 bolted.

For a handful of those who did challenge the woeful forecast and a long day, however, the reward is a trip to Chambers Bay. For Putnam, it’s a trip home.

“This has got to be up with one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Putnam said.

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

Getty Images

Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm