2 down with 2 to play, Redman rallies for U.S. Am title

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2017, 2:25 am

LOS ANGELES – No town does drama like LA, but even by Hollywood standards this was a finish that no one saw coming.

OK, except John Redman.

Conspicuous in a Clemson orange fishing shirt, he had spent the past eight hours pacing Riviera Country Club and puffing on an e-cigarette. But with his son Doc’s U.S. Amateur title hopes fading, the elder Redman felt compelled to emerge from the trees. On the 17th hole, he sidled up to Clemson assistant coach Jordan Byrd and dismissed any notion of impending doom.

“This is not over,” Redman said. “This is not over yet.”

And sure enough, the next 45 minutes produced some of the most thrilling and gut-wrenching action in the 117-year history of this championship.

With a red-hot putter and stone-cold demeanor, Doc Redman walked in a 60-footer for eagle on 17, stiffed his approach into the final hole and then made a conceded birdie on the first playoff hole to steal the U.S. Amateur title and stun Doug Ghim in 37 holes.

“I don’t want to overdo it,” John Redman said later, clutching the gold Havemeyer Trophy, “but Doc could have missed 15 putts in a row and if there’s one person I need to make a 10-footer to win a tournament, I’d substitute Doc every time.

“Dude is super clutch.”

There’s no doubt about that now.

Little was known about the 19-year-old from Raleigh, N.C., until the recent Western Amateur, where he steamrolled the best field in amateur golf en route to the finals. In the championship match against Norman Xiong, Redman fell 4 down at the turn, but he chipped away at his deficit, lipped out a putt to win on the 18th hole and ended up taking Xiong to 22 holes before eventually falling.

“A lot less dramatic,” he said with a wry smile.


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But watching from outside the ropes that week was U.S. Walker Cup captain Spider Miller, who was enthralled with Redman’s “bulldog” mentality.

“This is the toughest match-play guy I’ve ever seen,” Miller said.

During his first year at Clemson, Redman worked with two sports psychologists and devoured a handful of mental-game books. Recently accepted into the school’s Honors College with an emphasis in mathematics, Redman takes a methodical approach to his game, but a message this spring from the coach of the New Zealand rugby team – “Pressure is a privilege” – seemed to resonate.

“He just thrives in that situation,” Byrd said. “It narrows his focus. The moment isn’t too big for him.”

It seemed unlikely that Redman would even be in position to win the U.S. Amateur after qualifying. He was fortunate just to land in a 13-for-8 playoff, and his par was enough to secure his spot in match play.

All week, Clemson head coach Larry Penley and Redman have had a running joke: S&A. Survive and advance.

After the playoff, Redman texted his coach: “I guess I survived. Now I need to advance.”

And then he did, taking four of his five opponents to the 18th hole before hanging on to win. On the eve of the championship match, Penley tapped out a final pep talk: “You have survived. You cannot advance any further. Now go out and let’s win this darn thing.”

All it took was one of the wildest performances ever.

After a shaky double-bogey start, Redman had 12 consecutive one-putts and shot a back-nine 30 to take a 1-up lead over Ghim into the lunch break.

Eight of the first 10 holes in the afternoon were halved with par, but Ghim began his comeback with a birdie on the 29th hole to square the match, then took a 2-up lead after pars on the 31st and 34th holes.

Two up with two to play, and with only a single bogey all day, the Texas senior seemed on the verge of a redemptive performance. Just three years ago, he stood on the final hole of the U.S. Amateur Public Links with a 1-up lead, then blasted his tee shot of bounds. He made double bogey, then lost in the playoff, and he vowed not to make the same mistake twice.

But this loss was even more agonizing.

With Ghim looking at about 5 feet for birdie on 17 to seal the match, Redman eyed a must-make 60-footer for eagle.

“I’d reminded him all week that he was the best putter I’d ever seen,” said his caddie, Dean Emerson.

Playing at least 3 feet of break, Redman stroked his putt and began walking down the line.

His ball slammed into the back of the cup.

One down.

“His putting was insane,” Emerson said, and indeed it was – Redman sank four putts of at least 30 feet, and he holed countless testers inside 10 feet.

“He is a great putter,” Byrd said, “but today was epic.”

Then it was Ghim’s turn to gather himself.

Ghim’s father and caddie, Jeff, reminded him that he still was in control with a 1-up lead, but he opened the door with an approach shot into 18 that expired short of the green. Wasting little time, Redman carved a 9-iron up and around a tree that finished 9 feet away.

Of course that one found the bottom of the cup, too.

“Those were two really heavy blows,” Ghim said.

What came next seemed inevitable, with one player sprinting toward the finish line, the other stumbling.

Redman smashed his 3-wood into the perfect spot, just short of the diabolical 10th green, while Ghim rope-hooked his tee shot into the hay left of the green. With no shot to go at the tucked flag, Ghim caught too much ball and sent his pitch shot screaming over the green, into a bunker. He had no shot from there, either, and he couldn’t hold the green with his bunker shot. After another mediocre bunker shot and missed 10-footer, he conceded Redman’s birdie. Redman played the last three holes in 4 under par.

“What can I do?” Ghim said.

The finish was awkward, with all of the contrasting emotions.

Redman barely cracked a smile all day, but he finally allowed himself to soak in the adulation. On the other side of the green was Ghim, who waited nearly three minutes to be interviewed on TV and then stared vacantly as the trophy presentation was hastily assembled.

This was no Hollywood ending, at least not for Ghim.

“I gave everything I had,” he said, shaking his head, “and it just wasn’t enough.”

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

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

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.