Kaymer dominates in winning Open

By Ryan LavnerJune 16, 2014, 2:30 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – Never mind the five-shot lead – on U.S. Open Sunday, Martin Kaymer was bracing himself for the most difficult day of his career.  

The suffocating pressure.  

The crippling expectations.  

The dark thoughts.

When he knocked in a 15-foot par putt on the 72nd hole, Kaymer dropped his putter in relief – not because he’d gutted out a taut victory, but because his exhausting, wire-to-wire Open was mercifully over.   

The man who drained all the drama out of this event by 1 p.m. Friday also left little to chance in the final round, extending his lead and burying the field with one of the most dominant U.S. Open performances in history. The top two on the leaderboard read KAYMER -9, COMPTON/FOWLER -1, and, really, it didn’t even seem that close.  

Only the worst U.S. Open collapse in 95 years stood between Kaymer and his second career major – and neither he nor his pursuers bothered to prolong the drama. His eight-shot romp was the second-largest margin of victory in an Open in the past 75 years.

On a stifling afternoon at Pinehurst No. 2, Kaymer was the only player in the last eight groups who broke par, signing for a 1-under 69 and refusing to play the prevent defense that has doomed so many Open frontrunners. For his many awe-inducing attributes – the booming drives, the purely struck irons, the steely putting stroke – this might be his best: The victory here was his sixth in seven attempts when holding a 54-hole lead. He slams the door more often than a whiny teen.

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By day’s end, only three players held their heads above level par, and the only uncertainty down the stretch was whether Johnny Miller, calling his final U.S. Open for NBC Sports, would tear up in the booth. (He did not.)

As for Kaymer, he’d heard and read all the comments about him being a one-hit (major) wonder. Well, he blew that premature reputation to smithereens, his two-year slide from world No. 1 serving as the requisite fuel for his return to the game’s elite. Now, with this victory, he joined Rory McIlroy as the only players under age 35 with two or more majors.  

“It’s quite nice proof,” Kaymer said afterward, “even though I don’t feel like I need to prove a lot to people. But it’s quite satisfying to have two under your belt.”

Realistically, this story might as well have been filed Friday, when Kaymer raced out to opening 65s, set the Open’s 36-hole record at 10-under 130 and put this tournament in a headlock. Sure, he snapped a 30-hole bogey-free streak during Saturday’s 72, but his worst round of the week reduced his lead by only one shot, to five.  

Sunday’s final round proved a mere formality, and he never led by fewer than four. In the process, Kaymer became just the third player in the last 30 years to win a major in wire-to-wire fashion with no ties, and his 9-under 271 was the second-lowest total in U.S. Open history. Poor Mike Brady remains the answer to the trivia question, the only player in Open history to forfeit a five-shot lead (1919).  

So what was Kaymer’s main challenge Sunday?

“To not think too much about that trophy,” he said, “to not think too much about sitting here now, about what you’re going to say, about how you might celebrate on 18. It goes through your head. Not many talk about it, but it is what it is. We are humans; we are not robots.”

Kaymer’s brilliance capped a week in which the only other star was the course. Pinehurst is one of America’s golf meccas, but Donald Ross’ most famous design underwent a radical restoration in 2010, an ambitious project that was bold in its timing, with consecutive Opens only four years away. The most dramatic changes, of course, were the brown, baked-out fairways and also the elimination of the hack-out rough that has come to define the year’s second major. In its place was a sandy waste area that required imagination, a firm wrist through impact and, at times, a bottle of Roundup.

Left largely unchanged by the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were No. 2’s speedy, sloping, turtleback greens, and they proved as sinister as ever. With an assist from a vengeful USGA, several players, even Kaymer, stroked putts that rolled all the way off the green. That embarrassing sight never gets old, not at this major, but Pinehurst served as a more inviting host this week, and not only for one player.

The 2014 Pinehurst Open featured more players under par after 72 holes, a higher percentage of fairways and greens hit, more birdies and eagles made, and better scoring.  

Unlike in 1999, though, there was no defining moment on 18.  

Unlike in 2005, there was no final-group collapse.  

No, what we had here was a 29-year-old who, for the second time in the past 39 days (Players Championship), switched into seek-and-destroy mode. Kaymer showed no weakness, no remorse and, seemingly, no pulse.  

“He kind of killed the event in the first two days,” Henrik Stenson said. “He left everyone in the dust.”

Indeed, left in his grass-stained wake was an A-list cast of characters that included Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Matt Kuchar and Stenson … all of whom exited the village of Pinehurst still major-less.  

Phil Mickelson? Well, he’s still without the major that he covets most, after failing to break par in all four rounds here and finishing joint 28th, a performance that more closely resembled the 2005 Pinehurst Open (T-33) than the one that was relived so often this week, his duel with Payne Stewart in 1999 (2nd). A record six-time runner-up, Mickelson insisted that he still has “three to four” good chances to complete the career grand slam, though certainly not if he again requires 121 swats with the putter.

An even better story than that, of course, would have been a major won by Erik Compton, a 34-year-old now on his third heart, but that incredible tale didn’t come to fruition, either. Kaymer’s closest pursuer for 11 holes Sunday, Compton made three bogeys in a five-hole stretch on the back nine and finished T-2, eight shots back.  

“I don’t think anybody would have ever thought I would do that, not even myself,” he said of his runner-up finish, which earned him a trip to Augusta next spring. “So you can’t ever write yourself off; you just can’t give up.”

Though Compton may have been the feel-good story of the week, the U.S. Open undoubtedly belonged to Kaymer, the 2010 PGA winner who ascended to world No. 1 in 2011, if only for eight weeks. Ill-prepared at the time for the pressures and demands of being No. 1, and lost in a swing change to “become a complete player,” he suffered through a two-year decline that saw his world ranking plunge to 63rd.  

Now, after two huge wins in a month, he has returned to the top 15 in the world. More importantly, the motivation has returned, too.

“He wants to get back there,” caddie Craig Connelly said of being No. 1. “Now, it’s full steam ahead.”

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.