In U.S. Am, Ghim avenges his most painful defeat

By Ryan LavnerAugust 19, 2017, 10:37 pm

LOS ANGELES – They should have celebrated like this three years ago – with fist pumps and hugs and cries of “Masters! Masters! We’re going to the Masters!”

In the summer of 2014, with his father, Jeff, on the bag, Doug Ghim stood on the final tee with a 1-up lead in the U.S. Amateur Public Links. The incoming freshman at Texas was about 400 yards from victory and a spot in the Masters … and then he pumped his tee shot out of bounds and made double bogey. He lost to Byron Meth on the first playoff hole.

Ghim’s explanation that day at Sand Creek?

“Nerves,” he said. “I’d just never been in this position before. But next time, I’ll be ready.”

And so here he was Saturday, in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur at Riviera, with a 4-up lead over Theo Humphrey with five holes to play.

Then Ghim lost the 14th hole with a bogey. Then he lost the 16th, too, after another bogey. And now, after bashing his birdie putt 6 feet past on the par-5 17th, he needed to calm himself down. He patted his chest, hoping to slow down his heart rate, and stared down at the green, taking two deep breaths.

“So many thoughts in your head are going at that moment,” he said. “I’ve got a little bit of demons.”

None worse than his collapse at the Publinx.

The day after blowing the tournament, Doug and his family made the 11-hour drive from Newton, Kan., to Chicago, singing songs and stopping at a rest area for a picnic. “It’s OK,” he told his dad. “I’ve got plenty of time.”

But over the next few months, the loss began to gnaw at him.

Teams that play in Augusta State’s college tournament the week before the Masters receive one-day practice-round tickets, and so all of the Longhorns made their way inside the gates in the spring of 2015.


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They toured the Crow’s Nest, the Masters’ amateur quarters, which could have been Ghim’s home that week.

“I don’t really want to be in here,” he said. 

So he and his teammates ventured out to the eighth tee, to catch up with one of the school’s most famous alums, Jordan Spieth. He was playing with another star, Rory McIlroy. And there was a third player in the group, too.

“Oh, no,” Texas assistant Jean-Paul Hebert said.

Ghim squinted and saw the standard.

Byron Meth.

The player who took advantage of Ghim’s final-hole meltdown at the Publinx.

“This is what I could have been doing,” Ghim said. “This sucks.”

Sensing the awkwardness, Ghim’s teammates steered him to other parts of the course and then toward the range at the end of the day.

The first player they saw there: Meth.

“Don’t worry about it,” one of Ghim’s teammates told him. “You’re going to be back here one day.”

Ghim needed to look no further than Spieth for inspiration.

Four years earlier, Spieth had reached the quarterfinals of the 2011 U.S. Amateur but kicked away the match late on the back nine. When he made the team’s annual trip to Augusta the next spring, he was miserable.

“Coach,” he said, “this is not the way I envisioned being here the first time. I’m going to try to enjoy it, but this really hurts.”

“Doug experienced the same thing,” Longhorns coach John Fields says now. “To have one foot on Magnolia Lane and to have it taken away from you right there at the end, it was just incredible.”

And the Ghims have been looking for closure ever since.

Earlier this summer, Doug, now a 21-year-old senior at Texas, played a casual round at Sand Creek for the first time since the ’14 APL. The 36-hole leaderboard – Ghim was co-medalist – was still hanging in the clubhouse. 

He shot 65 that day.

Reminders were everywhere Saturday, too. In the semifinals, with a Masters berth on the line, Doug wore a black Augusta National hat. His mom, Susan, sported a white bucket hat – with the Sand Creek logo.

“Some people when they have a bad tournament, they get upset and get rid of it,” Jeff Ghim said. “I wake him up. I said, ‘Look at this. You don’t want to do this again.’”

And so he didn’t. Facing a 6-footer for the victory, for a redemptive trip to Augusta, Doug took his father’s advice – “Wrap it up” – and stroked the winning putt, putting away Humphrey, 2 and 1. Three years of emotion poured out. 

“It was the first thing that popped in my head,” Doug said. “We’re going to the Masters.”

So is his finals opponent, Doc Redman, who needed a 13-for-8 playoff Wednesday morning just to advance to the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur. 

The rising sophomore at Clemson is arguably the hottest player in amateur golf. He recorded eight top-10s during his first season with the Tigers and earned two other high finishes in amateur events this summer before taking Norman Xiong to 22 holes in the Western Amateur final.

Playing 145 competitive holes over five days against one of the toughest fields helped convince Redman, 19, that he belonged among the game’s elite. So he didn’t fret earlier this week when it appeared as though his 4-over total might not be good enough to advance. He hung out at the beach. Went to a Dodgers game, too.

“I knew if I could get in match play,” he said, “then it would be a reset button and I would be OK.”

Unlike Ghim, who has played the 18th hole only once this week, Redman has gone down to the wire in four of his five matches.

Saturday’s semifinal against little-known Mark Lawrence Jr. was no different, after Lawrence won the 16th with a par and the par-5 17th with a 20-foot eagle. But Lawrence made a critical error on the home hole, three-putting from just off the back of the 18th green to hand Redman the match.

Was the Masters on his mind?

“Didn’t even think about it,” Redman shrugged.

His reaction was more muted, and perhaps that was to be expected. Afterward, he couldn’t single out an obstacle he’s overcome in his life. He has never suffered a loss as crushing as Ghim’s.

“I’m so happy for Doug,” Fields said, “because there’s been some pain associated with where he’s been.”

There is still so much to play for Sunday – the trophy and the prestige and the exemptions.

But for one family, a dream has already been realized, a painful chapter of their lives now complete.

The Ghims are going to the Masters, together, and it’ll be worth the three-year wait.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."