Everything's the same for co-leader Jones, yet different

By Bailey MosierJanuary 31, 2014, 11:57 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – In an era where PGA Tour players make more changes in coaches, caddies and equipment than wardrobe changes at a Cher concert, Matt Jones, who co-leads the Waste Management Phoenix Open through two rounds, is a welcome reprieve.

The 33-year-old Sydney, Australia, native who went to Arizona State University and has made his home in Scottsdale has had the same swing coach since he was 15. Winless on any tour since turning pro in 2001, when he left ASU after his junior year, the Sun Devil’s day in the sun may finally be dawning.

“It’s years of work,” Jones said of his time with swing coach Gary Barter, who lives and teaches at the Australian Golf Club in a suburb of Sydney. “We do the same thing, trying and improve the same areas and they are probably starting to come together.”

Barter isn’t on-site this week in Scottsdale, but was Stateside a “few weeks ago” and “will be here on Monday in Pebble” to connect with Jones for next week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

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Jones’ 6-under 65 on Friday was bested by only one player (Brandt Snedeker, 64), and matches his lowest round ever (Thursday’s 65) in the WMPO. That wouldn’t ordinarily be difficult to believe, except Jones is no stranger to TPC Scottsdale’s bends and Bermuda. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“I play (TPC Scottsdale) a lot, actually,” Jones said. “I do a lot of practice here, and then I do a lot of playing in the afternoons.”

It seems curious, then, that in five previous starts in the event, he’s made the cut just once – in 2012 – where he went on to finish T-40.

“I have never played well here. … I always struggle to break par here for some reason.”

Fair enough. But there has to be some reason.

“The golf tournament is so different tournament week than it is when you play out here regularly. It’s a lot harder, a lot faster. The greens are a lot quicker. The pins are a lot more tucked out here. So it’s like a new golf course.”

A new golf course, but an old approach.

It seems a winning formula for Jones as of late. After seven years on Tour (Jones has also spent time on the Australasia and Web.com tours), things are finally starting to come together. He came in second at last year’s Greenbrier Classic – his lowest showing on Tour - was a career-best 32nd in the FedEx Cup standings and was 48th on the money list (also a career high). He made 18 cuts in 24 starts in 2013.

His stats will tell you he’s playing better, too. He was ranked 12th on Tour in total driving and 30th in ball-striking in 2013  – both career lows for the Australian.

And he knows it.

“My driving (has gotten better),” Jones said. “I’m not having the misses that I used to have. My wedge game, took years for me to be able to control the ball, trajectory, spin of the wedges how we wanted. They’re starting to get better.”

While his ball-striking has improved, last year’s strokes gained putting statistic (he ranked 66th) shows that he continues to struggle in that area. Alas, self-awareness is the first step toward advancement.

“The putting is always the one that I need to improve on or become more consistent at.”

The course is finally showing some warmth and welcoming to Jones in this event, but that doesn’t mean the fans at 16 are.

“None [reaction on 16], really,” Jones said. “As long as I’m playing well, it doesn’t bother me if there are people supporting me or not. I have plenty of friends and family out in the crowd. I know they are watching and supporting.”

While everything in Jones’ routine and swing is the same as it always has been, by week’s end there might be something very different about him. He might finally be a PGA Tour winner.

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Ryu wins Meijer Classic by 2 shots

By Associated PressJune 17, 2018, 9:46 pm

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - So Yeon Ryu won the Meijer LPGA Classic on Sunday for her first victory of the season and sixth overall, closing with a 5-under 67 for a two-stroke margin.

The 29-year-old South Korean player birdied the par-5 16th and par-4 17th and parred the par-4 18th to finish at 21-under 267 at Blythefield Country Club.

Two strokes behind Anna Nordqvist and Lee-Anne Pace entering the round, Ryu had six birdies and a bogey in the final round.

Full-field scores from the Meijer LPGA Classic

Caroline Masson was second after a 68. Lydia Ko shot a 67 to finish third at 18 under.

Nordqvist and Pace each shot 73 - after each had a 64 on Saturday - to tie for fourth at 17 under with Jacqui Concolino (66), Azahara Munoz (68) and Angela Stanford (70).

U.S. Women's Open winner Ariya Jutanugarn shot a tournament-record 62. She birdied five of the first seven holes, eagled No. 8 and added three more birdies to finish 12th at 15 under.

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Fleetwood fires 63, waits to see if score is enough

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2018, 8:52 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Tommy Fleetwood became the sixth player to shoot 63 at the U.S. Open, and just the second to do it in the final round. Now he waits.

Fleetwood teed off almost 2 ½ hours before – and six strokes behind – the leaders at Shinnecock Hills on Sunday, but stormed into the hunt thanks to four consecutive birdies starting at the 12th hole. The Englishman’s round was even more impressive considering he didn’t birdie either of the layout’s par 5s.

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Fleetwood finished at 2 over par – after missing a 9-foot putt for birdie and 62 at the 18th – which was tied for second place and one stroke off the lead held by Brooks Koepka when he completed his round.

After speaking with the media, Fleetwood went to the locker room to await a possible playoff, which was changed this year from an 18-hole overtime to just two holes of aggregate play.

“We'll go and relax a little bit and just see,” said Fleetwood, who rolled in 159 feet of birdies putts. “Only time will tell what's going to happen today at the course. If it was like yesterday, I'd feel a little more comfortable than now.”

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Fowler follows 84 with 65, praises Shinnecock setup

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2018, 5:44 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – As promised, the USGA dialed back Shinnecock Hills for Sunday’s final round, watering the greens overnight and deferring to more user-friendly hole locations.

The evidence of this was on the leaderboard, with four early finishers having shot under-par rounds, including Rickie Fowler, who closed with a round-of-the-week 65. There were just three under-par cards on Saturday.

“That's the golf course I enjoy playing. Obviously, pin placements were a lot safer,” said Fowler, who had just one bogey on Sunday and opened his day with a 4-under 31 on his opening nine. “The pins today will definitely allow for the greens to firm up and get fast, and we'll see how much they dry out. It was definitely more receptive this morning than yesterday, that's for sure.”

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It was a 19-stroke turnaround for Fowler, who ballooned to a third-round 84 on Day 3 during what most contend were the week’s toughest conditions. Fowler had put himself into contention going into the weekend thanks to a second-round 69, but struggled on Saturday afternoon like much of the field.

Fowler said the setup was vastly different to what players faced on Saturday and that even if the winds increase for the afternoon tee times the course will remain playable, unlike Round 3 when many players said the USGA “lost” the golf course.

“They did a good job of staying safe,” Fowler said, “because if it does dry out, it will still be very playable.”

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Phil celebrates par on 13, ducks media after round

By Ryan LavnerJune 17, 2018, 5:35 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Phil Mickelson didn’t have another meltdown at the U.S. Open.

Back on the 13th green Sunday – less than 24 hours after taking a two-shot penalty for hitting a moving ball and recording a sextuple-bogey 10 – Mickelson poured in a 10-footer and raised his arms in mock triumph, as if he’d finally won that elusive major title.

Not quite.

He’d simply made par.

“It looked like he won the Masters,” said playing partner Rickie Fowler. “He didn’t jump, but he had a little celebration there.”

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The par save and the final-round 69 were one of the lone bright spots during what was an adventurous week for Lefty, even by his unpredictable standards. Mickelson’s shocking swat was still the talk of this Open, especially after USGA executive director Mike Davis revealed Saturday night that Mickelson had called him to ask for more clarification on the rule he said that he knew he’d broken.

Despite some calls for him to withdraw from the tournament, Mickelson displayed his usual cheerful demeanor inside the ropes with Fowler.

“He joked about it right as we went down the first hole,” Fowler said.

Fowler said that he didn’t know “if I would have had the wits like Phil to run after it” on 13, but added that it never should have come to that in the first place.

“He could have saved himself a shot by just letting it go and taking unplayable, but then that would still look pretty funny too,” he said. “The course shouldn’t play that way.”

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.”