Trio Share Top Spot at Shinnecock

By Sports NetworkJune 18, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- The first round of the 104th U.S. Open Championship was completed Friday morning after afternoon thunderstorms led to the suspension of play on Thursday.
Angel Cabrera stood at 4-under par when play was halted and returned to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club early Friday to finish his opening round.
While Jay Haas and Shigeki Maruyama each grabbed a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday with matching rounds of 66 before the weather conditions deteriorated, Cabrera ran off four birdies over his first nine holes to join them atop the leaderboard. Upon his return to the course, Cabrera picked up a birdie at the par-4 14th to break free at minus-5.
The Argentine found trouble with a double bogey at the very next hole, however. After fighting back to birdie the par-5 16th, he parred his final two holes to join Haas and Maruyama in a tie for the first-round lead.
Phil Mickelson, who earned his first major title in April at the Masters, also had to come back to Shinnecock Friday morning to finish off his opening round. Mickelson had birdied the par-5 fifth before calling it a night on Thursday, and stumbled to a bogey at the tough par-3 seventh when he returned.
The left-hander responded with a birdie at the very next hole en route to a round of 68.
Haas made his U.S. Open debut in 1974 at Winged Foot. He competed at Shinnecock and missed the cut in 1986, but made an impressive return in 1995 with a tie for fourth. Now, back on the eastern tip of Long Island in 2004 and already on his way to the Champions Tour, this might prove to be his best effort yet.
'People asked me if this is the best I've played,' said Haas, a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour whose last title came at the 1993 Texas Open. 'I'm hitting the ball longer than I ever have. I feel more confident with my putting, my chipping, my short game is better because of my putting, I believe. But until I win, I won't say it's the best I've played.'
Haas got off to a quick start on the opening hole and hit a sand wedge to 3 feet for a birdie. He stumbled to a bogey at the second, but recovered at the par-4 fourth after his approach stopped within 5 feet of the cup.
The 50-year-old added a birdie at the fifth and ran home a 12-foot putt for a birdie at the par-3 11th. At the par-3 17th, Haas held the green, but had a lengthy effort left for birdie. He drained the long putt to reach 4 under and match Maruyama in the lead.
Haas cited the records of the past champions at Shinnecock, his playing partner Ray Floyd, who won in 1986, and Corey Pavin, who titled in 1995, as examples of the type of game needed to find success at Shinnecock.
'You look at the two winners, Corey and Raymond, wonderful shot makers and wonderful short games, and I think that - not that I put myself in that category, but I think it allows most everyone here, length-wide, to be in the hunt,' said Haas, who also shot a 66 in the second round of the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills.
Maruyama had his best U.S. Open finish two years ago at Bethpage. After missing the cut last year at Olympia Fields, Maruyama returned to New York and found it to his liking.
'I just can't explain how happy,' said Maruyama. 'I'm very happy.'
Maruyama shared the stage with Tiger Woods in the opening round and was flawless with a birdie at the fifth and back-to-back birdies from the 10th.
At the par-5 16th, Maruyama chipped his third shot to 10 feet and converted for birdie to take the lead at 4 under. He parred his way in to join Haas in the early lead.
'I'm just trying to make a cut now, and I don't have much experience in that position in a major tournament,' said Maruyama, who is making his fourth U.S. Open appearance. 'I'll try to play my golf the rest of the three days, see how my golf works in a major.'
While there were plenty of birdies early on at Shinnecock, not everyone was able to escape the difficulty of the layout. Woods, who played along with Maruyama and Chad Campbell, tallied a birdie at the fifth, but gave that shot back with a bogey at the unforgiving par-3 seventh.
At the ninth, Woods left his second shot well short of the green in a mess of long grass. He flopped his third shot to 10 feet, but was unable to save par. Woods missed the green again at the par-3 11th, but this time the 28-year- old was able to get up and down.
Woods could not find the fairway off the tee at the 14th and sent his approach from the rough into a greenside bunker en route to another bogey. Woods was in trouble again at the very next hole, but hit a remarkable shot from just off the green to three feet and was able to save par.
The two-time U.S. Open champion then played his third shot to 7 feet at the par-5 16th, but failed to make birdie on his way to a first-round 72.
'There's an awful long way to go,' said Woods, who withdrew as an amateur in the first round of 1995 Open at Shinnecock after injuring his wrist. 'We haven't seen the wind up yet. If that ever happens, if it ever comes up, this golf course is pretty tough.'
So far in the early goings Friday, the wind was starting to make its presence known.
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    Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

    The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

    Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

    It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

    “It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

    Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

    According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

    “I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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    Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

    And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

    As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

    He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

    “I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

    Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

    “I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

    Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

    Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

    “If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

    Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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    Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

    After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

    With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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    “Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

    “I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

    Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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    Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    “I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

    “I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

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    On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

    Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

    Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

    “We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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    Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

    SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

    The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

    Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

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    Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

    Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

    • Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

    • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

    • Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1