Mistakes dash US Open hopes of Big 3

By Associated PressJune 21, 2010, 7:53 am

2010 U.S. Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – They go on a first-name basis: Tiger, Phil and Ernie.

On Sunday, they all went home empty.

When the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach was over, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els could all say they had their chances. None, however, could convert, which is how a little-known European named Graeme McDowell found himself holding the trophy.

That’s three players with 20 majors between them, and none could figure out a way to make it 21.

Els, playing some of the best golf of his life of late, got tantalizingly close to his first major championship since the 2002 British Open, but went bogey-double-bogey on Nos. 9 and 10 to throw away his chance. He finished third, two shots out of the lead.

Mickelson, the Masters winner searching for the second leg of the Grand Slam, made birdie with a putt from off the green on No. 1, but didn’t make another one the rest of the day. He tied for fourth with Woods, who, like Mickelson, shot a 66 earlier in the tournament to put himself in position to win.

“I thought when I made that putt on the first hole, it was going to be a great day,” said Mickelson, who found the greens getting bumpier and more unpredictable as he worked his way around on a cool, breezy day at Pebble.

As did Woods.

Tiger Woods
Woods spent much of his Sunday in trouble en route to shooting 4-over 75. (Getty Images)

“Every putt I missed was from above the hole,” he said. “Yesterday I made everything because it was all below the hole. These greens are bumpy enough where putts above the holes, it’s just pot luck.”

While Woods found himself on the wrong side of the hole for most of the day, Mickelson and Els each watched their title hopes slip away on the so-called “Cliffs of Doom” – the stretch of holes 8, 9 and 10 that run along the Monterey Peninsula. They are as beautiful and treacherous as they come.

Els was at 3-under par, tied with McDowell for the lead, when he came up short on his approach on No. 9, then chipped up short, as well, and needed two putts to get down. Bogey.

Then, the real killer: a tee shot that went off the course, over the edge, almost certainly matted in the thick grass that leads down to the beach. It’s the Pacific Ocean – the biggest water hazard in the world – and Els had the common sense to ask a rules official if he would be penalized for touching the ground as he picked his way down the hill, trying to keep his balance.

No problem there. But he never found his ball. And when he came back onto terra firma to drop, he chunked it, hit that ball into the tall grass, as well, and was lucky to make a 6 from there.

A decent save for most – just not when you’re trying to win the U.S. Open.

Meanwhile, it was down below near that same water two days earlier that beachgoers wrote “Go Phil!” in the sand. A great scene, and fitting on Friday, when Mickelson was figuring out his putter, going low, shooting his 66.

It turned him into a favorite heading into the weekend. But Saturday, he was teetering precariously on the same hill after an awful approach on No. 9 – Lefty forced to turn his club around and hit righty. He made a double-bogey there that marked the official end of his hot streak.

Mickelson spent all day Sunday playing catch-up, a reality captured best when, trailing McDowell by three with three holes left, he went pin hunting on No. 16 and left the ball buried in the deep rough, en route to a bogey.

“I took a chance, it didn’t pay off,” he told his caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay.

No way to argue with that one.

Had any of these Big 3 won, it would have made for a great story.

Woods, of course, is returning from an embarrassing winter of discontent, his personal life turning him into the butt of jokes, his invincibility being questioned more than ever. He enjoyed nine holes of good golf – the back nine on Saturday – but couldn’t keep it going Sunday.

“It’s a process,” Woods said, after adding this tie for fourth to the same result at the Masters. “It’s a long process, but I’ve put some of it together, and I hit some shots this week that I haven’t hit in a long time.”

Els is on a resurgence of late, 10 years after all but waving the white flag when Woods beat him by 15 shots on this same course at the U.S. Open. It was embarrassing, he admitted, and Woods, he said, wasn’t playing the same game as everyone else. That’s not true anymore, though Els, who played the final 10 holes in 5-over par, didn’t stick around long enough after Sunday’s round to discuss it.

Then there was Mickelson. Few will soon forget the tear that trickled down his face after his win at the Masters earlier this year – a poignant celebration with his wife, Amy, who is overcoming breast cancer and was in Augusta to celebrate the moment. A win at Pebble Beach would have given Mickelson the second leg of the Grand Slam, vaulted him past Woods to No. 1 in the world rankings and given him his first U.S. Open after a record five second-place finishes.

Instead, he finished fourth and was trying to see the glass as half full.

“For me, yeah, I wanted to win,” he said. “But I’m glad that it wasn’t a second.”

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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.

Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open

Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."