Grand Slam Still Alive - for Immelman

By Associated PressApril 15, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods can forget about the Grand Slam for another year. And dont even bother bringing it up to the only guy at the moment with a chance.
So, Trevor Immelman, think you can win the next three majors?
No, probably not, the South African replied, breaking into a toothy grin that blended quite nicely with that green jacket he was wearing Sunday evening.
Immelman could be forgiven for wanting to soak up his first major title before he worries about winning another. Besides, on a day when the wind howled and par was a good score at imposing Augusta National, even the newest Masters champion looked more relieved than joyous.
After tapping in at No. 18 to win with a closing 75'thats 3 over par' Immelman leaned over to retrieve his ball and wearily raised his arms. As victory celebrations go, this hardly compared to a defiant Woods fist pump or Phil Mickelson leaping joyously in the air.
The course was the real winner. Already facing a 7,445-yard behemoth and those devious greens, the worlds best players didnt stand a chance when gusts up to 30 mph shook the trees, rattled the flagsticks and played havoc with those little white balls.
Heck, Paul Casey lost a stroke standing over a putt. The Englishman was forced to call a penalty on himself when his ball rocked ever so slightly in the breeze whipping across the sixth green. He waved the white flag in the form of a 79. Steve Flesch hung on a little longer, going down for the count when he dunked his ball in Raes Creek at No. 12.
If you were looking for someone who best epitomized a final round that turned into an episode of Survivor, skip the guy wearing the green jacket. Look to Brandt Snedeker, bawling his eyes out after shooting 77 in the final group with Immelman.
It was just a rough day out there, the 27-year-old Tennessean said, sounding as though he has just listened to a tearjerker of a country song. You know, its hard to put that much effort into something and get so little out of it.
Not even Woods could mount the sort of back-nine charge that used to make this place so special on a Sunday afternoon.
Sure, he rolled in a 70-foot birdie putt at No. 11, the patrons erupting with a passion that was missing most of the week. It didnt last long. Woods missed a 5-footer at No. 13, took bogey at the next hole and that was it. When he did sink a birdie with his final stroke of the tournament, he simply waved his hand in disgust as if to say, Thanks for nothing.
I just didnt make any putts all week, Woods said. I hit the ball well enough to contend. I hit the ball definitely well enough to put pressure on Trevor back there, but I just didnt make any putts.
He regrets that confident assessment of his Grand Slam chances, which he described earlier this year as easily within reason. Sure, he finished second to Immelman, three strokes away from the winners 8-under 280, but there was no serious challenge from the guy with 13 major titles'none of them won from behind in the final round.
For 2008, Woods hopes of doing something grand are one and done. From now on, his lips are sealed.
I learned my lesson, he said. Im not going to say anything.
Immelmans final-round score was the highest for a winner since Arnold Palmer won with the same number in 1962. There was precious little drama, even when the leader inexplicably dumped his tee shot into the drink at No. 16 and took double-bogey.
He still went to the final two holes needing only to avoid a Van de Velde of a collapse, and those only happen once a lifetime. Immelman made an up-and-down par from the bunker at 17, then got safely down at the 18th despite driving into a massive divot in the middle of the fairway.
I didnt hear many roars out there, Immelman said. Its just so damn difficult.
Maybe the green jackets at Augusta National went a little overboard with their redesign a few years ago, which was called a Tiger proofing but has basically turned this into an U.S. Open wannabe. Forget about shooting 31 on the back side to win, as Jack Nicklaus did in 1986. Now, its just a matter of who makes the most pars and avoids the calamitous mistake.
While the tournament itself provided few compelling storylines, Immelmans journey to the major championship club was a rather interesting one.
He fell in love with golf at an early age, and his parents gave liberally of their time and resources to make sure the boys obvious talent was nurtured. The icon of South African golf, three-time Masters champion Gary Player, took an interest as the youngster was coming up through the ranks, telling anyone who would listen that this kid had the purest swing since Ben Hogan.
Player stuck to his guns, even when criticized for taking Immelman with a questionable captains pick for the 2005 Presidents Cup. The two played a practice round at Augusta, and Player called with encouraging words when Immelman went to the final round with a two-stroke lead.
Take your time, Player said in a voice mail message that his protegee got late Saturday. Keep your eyes on the ball an extra second on the putts. There will be bad breaks, but I know youre going to win.
Aside from Players rah-rahs, Immelman didnt look like much of a contender when he got to Augusta. He had a good excuse, though.
Back in December, shortly after winning a tournament in his native country, he had trouble breathing and felt a severe pain in his ribcage. He went to see his doctor, who noticed a tumor on his diaphragm. He waited five frightening days to undergo surgery'it was a holiday weekend in South Africa'but the growth turned out to be benign.
He was left with a 7-inch scar across his lower back and a game that needed a lot of work. He missed the cut in half of his first eight events this year, and hadnt finished higher than 40th in stroke play on those rare times he make the weekend.
This has probably been the ultimate roller-coaster ride, and I hate roller coasters, Immelman said. Here I am after missing the cut last week, and Im the Masters champion. Its the craziest thing Ive ever heard of.
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    USGA-player relationship at a breaking point?

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 8:00 pm

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For seven days each year, the American game’s preeminent governing body welcomes the best players in the world with open arms. They set up shop at one of the premier courses in the country, and line it with grandstands and white hospitality tents as far as the eye can see.

    The players arrive, first at a slow trickle and then at a steady pace. And once they’ve registered and clipped their player medallions over their belts, they’re told how this year is going to be different.

    How this time around, be it in a Washington gravel pit or on a time-tested piece of land on the tip of Long Island, the USGA will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That the process of identifying the best players in the world will not veer into the territory of embarrassing them.

    Like a college sweetheart in search of reconciliation, the powers-that-be preach a changed attitude and a more even-handed approach. Then, inevitably, they commit the same cardinal sins they promised to avoid.

    So year in and year out, the scar tissue builds. Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and, for most of the players not named Brooks Koepka, he ends up on his butt in a cloud of dust and fescue.

    After letting Shinnecock Hills plunge into avoidable yet all-too-familiar territory over the weekend – before being doused back to life – one thing is clear: in the eyes of many players, the USGA can’t be trusted.

    “When are they going to get it right? I just feel like they disrespect these historic golf courses,” said Scott Piercy, a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open who got swept away this week during a crispy third round en route to a T-45 finish. “I think they disrespect the players, I think they disrespect the game of golf. And they’re supposed to be, like, the top body in the game of golf. And they disrespect it, every aspect of it.”

    Piercy, like several players in this week’s field, had a few specific gripes about how Shinnecock was set up, especially during the third round when USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted his organization lost control in a display that echoed the mistakes of 2004. But this was not an isolated case.

    Players went with skepticism to Chambers Bay three years ago, only to encounter greens that were largely dirt and got compared to produce. Mismatched grass strains, they were told. Whoops.

    The next year the USGA threw a dark cloud over a classic venue by allowing much of the final round at Oakmont to play without knowing the leader’s actual score as a rules fiasco reached a furious boil. Last year’s Erin Hills experiment was met with malaise.

    At this point, the schism runs much deeper than a single error in setup. It threatens the core competency of the organization in the eyes of several of the players it looks to serve.

    “They do what they want, and they don’t do it very well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship (between players and the USGA),” said Marc Leishman. “They try and do it. They do it on purpose. They say they want to test us mentally, and they do that by doing dumb stuff.”

    By and large, players who took issue with the USGA’s tactics had a simple solution: put more of the setup choices in the hands of those who oversee PGA Tour and European Tour venues on a regular basis. While some of those personnel already moonlight in USGA sweater-vests for the week, there is a strong sentiment that their collective knowledge could be more heavily relied upon.

    “I know (the USGA) takes great pride in doing all this stuff they do to these golf courses, but they see it once a year,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Let those guys say, ‘Hey, we see this every week. We know what the edge is. We know where it is.’ We can’t be out there playing silly golf.”

    That’s not to say that a major should masquerade as the Travelers Championship. But the U.S. Open is the only one of the four that struggles to keep setup shortfalls from becoming a dominant storyline.

    It all adds up to a largely adversarial relationship, one that continues to fray after this weekend’s dramatics and which isn’t helped by the USGA’s insistence that they should rarely shoulder the blame.

    “They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”

    But this wound festers from more than just slick greens and thick rough. There is a perception among some players that the USGA gets overly zealous in crafting complicated rules with complex decisions, a collection of amateur golfers doling out the fine print that lords over the professional game on a weekly basis – with the curious handling of whatever Phil Mickelson did on the 13th green Saturday serving as just the latest example.

    The gripes over setup each year at the USGA’s biggest event, when it’s perceived that same group swoops in to take the reins for a single week before heading for the hills, simply serve as icing on the cake. And there was plenty of icing this week after players were implored to trust that the miscues of 2004 would not be repeated.

    “To say that the players and the USGA have had a close relationship would be a false statement,” Snedeker said. “They keep saying all the right things, and they’re trying to do all the right things, I think. But it’s just not coming through when it matters.”

    It’s worth noting that the USGA has made efforts recently to ramp up its communication with the top pros. Officials from the organization have regularly attended the Tour’s player meetings in recent months, and Snedeker believes that some strides have been made.

    So, too, does Zach Johnson, who was one of the first to come out after the third round and declare that the USGA had once again lost the golf course.

    “I think they’ve really started to over the last few years, last couple years in particular, tried to increase veins of communication,” Johnson said. “When you’re talking about a week that is held in the highest regards, I’m assuming within the organization and certainly within my peer group as one of the four majors and my nation’s major, communication is paramount.”

    But the exact size of the credibility gap the USGA has to bridge with some top pros remains unclear. It’s likely not a sting that one good week of tournament setup can assuage, even going to one of the more straightforward options in the rotation next year at Pebble Beach.

    After all, Snedeker was quick to recall that players struggled mightily to hit the par-3 17th green back in 2010, with eventual champ Graeme McDowell calling the hole “borderline unfair” ahead of the third round.

    “It’s one of the greatest holes in world golf, but I don’t really know how I can hit the back left portion of the green,” McDowell said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible.”

    Surely this time next year, Davis will explain how the USGA has expanded its arsenal in the last decade, and that subsequent changes to the 17th green structure will make it more playable. His organization will then push the course to the brink, like a climber who insists on scaling Mount Everest without oxygen, and they’ll tell 156 players that this time, finally, the desired balance between difficult and fair has been achieved.

    Whether they’ll be believed remains to be seen.

    @bubbawatson on Instagram

    Bubba gets inked by Brooks, meets Tebow

    By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 5:40 pm

    Bubba Watson missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills following rounds of 77-74, but that didn't stop him from enjoying his weekend.

    Watson played alongside Jason Day and eventual champion Brooks Koepka in Rounds 1 and 2, and somehow this body ink slipped by us on Thursday.

    Got autographed by defending @usopengolf Champ @bkoepka!! #NeverShoweringAgain

    A post shared by Bubba Watson (@bubbawatson) on

    And while we're sure Bubba would have rather been in contention over the weekend, we're also sure that taking your son to meet the second most famous minor-league baseball player who ever lived was a lot more fun than getting your teeth kicked in by Shinnecock Hills over the weekend, as just about everyone not named Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood did.

    Already in Hartford, Watson will be going for his third Travelers Championship trophy this week, following wins in 2010 and 2015.

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    Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

    By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

    There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

    The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

    Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

    If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

    “The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

    The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

    Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

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    Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

    There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

    Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

    While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

    Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

    1. Brooks Koepka

    2. Dustin Johnson

    3. Patrick Reed

    4. Justin Thomas

    5. Jordan Spieth

    6. Rickie Fowler

    7. Bubba Watson

    8. Webb Simpson


    9. Bryson DeChambeau

    10. Phil Mickelson

    11. Matt Kuchar

    12. Brian Harman

    On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

    Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

    European Points

    1. Tyrrell Hatton

    2. Justin Rose

    3. Tommy Fleetwood

    4. Francesco Molinari


    5. Thorbjorn Olesen

    6. Ross Fisher

    World Points

    1. Jon Rahm

    2. Rory McIlroy

    3. Alex Noren

    4. Matthew Fitzpatrick


    5. Ian Poulter

    6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello