Flanagan Stepping on the Gas
Still, Flanagan told me Tuesday, Id like to get it out on the road and play with it a little bit. Ive never really owned a car.
Life is good right now for the 22-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion. Never mind that he failed to advance out of Mondays local qualifying at Pinewild (near Pinehurst) in North Carolina because his 1-under-par score for 18 holes wasnt good enough by two shots. And never mind that disappointment means he wont get to go back to Oakmont (the site of his 2003 U.S. Am victory) where theyre staging the U.S. Open next month.
Flanagan has won his last two starts on the Nationwide Tour. One more in calendar 2007 and he automatically earns an instant promotion to the PGA TOUR. Finishing in the top 25 on the money list is a virtual certainty which means, he said, he can play to win without worrying about money.
Thats my goal for the rest of the year, he said of the very real prospect of winning three Nationwide events. Theres no pressure to get in the top 25.
The last player to win three straight Nationwide Tour events was Jason Gore during his memorable 2005 season. Flanagan will try and duplicate that feat this week at the Mellwood Prince Georges County Open in Maryland.
TWO GLOVES, NO SPOT:
Speaking of the Nationwide Tour, tournament director Teo Sodeman confirmed that Tommy Two Gloves Gainey requested an unrestricted sponsors exemption for this weeks event.
Gainey emerged as the winner of GOLF CHANNEL's Big Break VII: Reunion in the final episode broadcast Tuesday night. Through 54 holes at the BMW tournament last week he shared the lead. A Sunday 77 dropped him out of the top 25 which cost him an automatic berth at Mellwood.
Sodeman turned down Gaineys request and opted instead to invite two local golfers, former Naval Academy standout Billy Hurley and former University of Maryland player Del Ponchock.
His spectacular crash and burn at the Open Championship in 1999 at Carnoustie is still the signature moment of Frenchman Jean Van de Veldes career.
Now Van de Velde has confirmed he hopes to return to the scene of his infamy at this years British in July.
Earlier this year, R&A Secretary Peter Dawson announced his organization would not extend a wild card invitation to Van de Velde for Carnoustie. That means Van de Velde, currently ranked No. 179 in the world, will have to qualify.
All indications are that he will attempt to do so at the European International Final Qualifying set for July 2 at Sunningdale in England. As many as 120 players will play 36 holes that day at Sunningdale with spots going to no fewer than 12 players and no more than 20.
Im not playing very well at the moment, Van de Velde told The Daily Mail last week after rounds of 76 and 79 shut him out of weekend play at the Irish Open.
As to a return to Carnoustie: Of course I want to be there, Van de Velde said. Who would not be keen to play in a major championship? I have to qualify and I think I have got as good a chance as the vast majority of players. Would there be a hullabaloo around me? I dont know. But if so, it wouldnt be a distraction. I would be encouraged by it.
At Carnoustie in 1999 Van de Velde squandered a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole before losing a three-way playoff, that included Justin Leonard and Scotlands Paul Lawrie, the eventual winner.
Lawrie is in the field at Carnoustie by virtue of being a past champion. But its interesting to note that his current world ranking, 248, is 69 places worse than Van de Veldes.
U.S. Open purse payout: Koepka clears $2 million
Brooks Koepka successfully defended his title at the U.S. Open and he was handsomely rewarded for his efforts. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Shinnecock Hills.
|T25||Charles Howell III||+12||$79,200|
|T36||Rafa Cabrera Bello||+13||$54,054|
|T48||Luis Gagne (a)||+16||$0|
|T48||Matt Parziale (a)||+16||$0|
|66||Will Grimmer (a)||+23||$0|
|67||Byeong Hun An||+26||$23,470|
What's in the bag: U.S. Open winner Koepka
Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive U.S. Open title on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills. Here's a look inside the winner's bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70 TX shaft
Fairway woods: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (16.5 degrees), with Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80 TX shaft
Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3), with Fujikura Pro 95 Tour Spec shaft; Mizuno JPX-900 Tour (4-PW), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts, PW with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shaft
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 Raw (52, 56 degrees), SM7 Raw TVD (60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Repeat U.S. Open win gives Koepka credit he deserves
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In an ironic twist Sunday, the last man to win consecutive U.S. Opens was tasked with chronicling Brooks Koepka’s final round at Shinnecock Hills.
Carrying a microphone for Fox Sports, Curtis Strange kept his composure as the on-course reporter. He didn’t cough in Koepka’s downswing. Didn’t step on his ball in the fescue. Didn’t talk too loudly while Koepka lined up a putt.
Instead, Strange stood off to the side, clipboard covering his mouth, and watched in awe as Koepka stamped himself as the best U.S. Open player of this next generation.
And so after Koepka became the first player in 29 years to take consecutive Opens, Strange found himself fourth in the greeting line near the 18th green. He was behind Koepka’s playing competitor, Dustin Johnson. And he was behind Koepka’s father, Bob. And he was behind Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott.
But there Strange was, standing on a sandy path leading to the clubhouse, ready to formally welcome Koepka into one of the most exclusive clubs in golf.
“Hell of a job, bud,” Strange barked in his ear, above the din. “Incredible.”
That Koepka prevailed on two wildly different layouts, and in totally different conditions, was even more satisfying.
Erin Hills, in Middle of Nowhere, Wis., was unlike any U.S. Open venue in recent memory. The wide-open fairways were lined with thick, deep fescue, but heavy rain early in the week and the absence of any significant wind turned golf’s toughest test into the Greater Milwaukee Open. Koepka bashed his way to a record-tying score (16 under par) and over the past year has never felt fully appreciated, in large part because of the weirdness of the USGA setup.
Koepka doesn’t concern himself with that type of noise, of course, but when he arrived at Shinnecock earlier this week he felt a sense of familiarity. The generous fairways. The punishing venue. The premium on iron play.
“It’s a similar feel,” Elliott said. “We said it all week.”
A new, quirky venue like Erin Hills might not have been held in high regard, but the rich history of Shinnecock? It demanded respect.
“He’s some player,” Strange said, “and I’m proud of him because there was some talk last year of Erin Hills not being the Open that is supposed to be an Open. But he won on a classic, so he’s an Open player.”
“This one is a lot sweeter,” Koepka said.
Those around the 28-year-old were shocked that he even had a chance to defend his title.
Last fall Koepka began feeling discomfort in his left wrist. He finished last in consecutive tournaments around the holidays, then underwent an MRI that showed he had a torn ligament in his left wrist.
Koepka takes immense pride in having a life outside of golf – he never watches Tour coverage on off-weeks – but he was downright miserable during his indefinite stint on the sidelines. He said it was the lowest point of his career, as he sat in a soft cast up to his elbow, binge-watching TV shows and gaining 15 pounds. The only players he heard from during his hiatus: Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.
“You just feel like you get forgotten,” Koepka said.
During the spring, Elliott would occasionally drive from Orlando to Jupiter, Fla., to check on his boss. “He was down in the dumps,” he said. “That sort of injury he had, it didn’t seem like there was going to be an end. There was no timeframe on it, and that was the most frustrating thing.”
After the Masters, Koepka told Elliott that his wrist was feeling better and that he was going to start hitting balls. Elliott brought his clubs to South Florida, and they played a few holes at The Floridian.
“He was hitting it right on the button,” Elliott said. “I said, ‘Are you sure you haven’t been practicing?’ He hadn’t missed a beat. I have no idea how he does it. He’s just a tremendously talented guy.”
In limited action before the Open, Koepka fired a trio of 63s, at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial. He’s never been short on confidence – as a 12-year-old he once told his dad that he was going to drop out of school in four years and turn pro – and he recently woofed to swing coach Claude Harmon III that he was primed to win sometime in May or June.
“I said to him on the range this morning, ‘You were on your couch in January and February, not really knowing if you were going to be able to play here,’” Harmon said. “I think that’s why it means so much to him. That’s one of the reasons that he kept saying no one was more confident than him, because to get this opportunity to come back and play and have a chance to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, he was going to take advantage of it as best he could.”
Koepka carded a second-round 66 to put himself in the mix, then survived a hellacious third-round setup to join a four-way tie for the lead, along with Johnson, the world No. 1 and his fellow Bash Brother.
As much as Johnson is praised for his resilience, Koepka has proven to be equally tough in crunch time, especially in this major. There’s no better stage for Koepka to showcase his immense gifts than the Open, an examination that tests players physically, mentally and even spiritually. But Koepka, like Johnson, never joined the growing chorus of complainers at Shinnecock. The closest he came to criticizing the setup was this: “I think the course is very close.”
Rather than whine, he said that he relished the challenge of firing away from flags. He accepted bad shots. He tried to eliminate double bogeys. Even after his wrist injury, Koepka showed no hesitation gouging out of the deep fescue, his ferocious clubhead speed allowing him to escape the rough and chase approach shots near the green, where he could rely on his sneaky-good short game.
“He has the perfect game to play in majors,” Harmon said. “He probably plays more conservatively in majors. We’re always joking that we wish he would play the way he does in majors every week. I just think he knows how important pars and bogeys are. It says a lot about him as a player.”
Johnson has many of the same physical and mental attributes, and they’ve each benefited from the other’s intense focus and discipline. They both adhere to a strict diet and are frequent workout partners, which even included a gym session on Sunday morning, before their penultimate pairing. They made small talk, chatting about lifting and how many of the Sunday pins were located in the middle of the green, but after they arrived at the course they barely said two words to each other.
“They’re good friends on and off the course,” Harmon said, “but they definitely want to kick the s--- out of each other.”
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Strange said. “If they’re best buddies, well, you’re standing between me and the trophy. You don’t care much for him for 4 1/2 hours.”
There was much at stake Sunday, but none more significant than Koepka’s march on history. Squaring off head-to-head against the game’s best player, Koepka outplayed Johnson from the outset, going 3 under for the first 10 holes to open up a two-shot lead. And unlike at Erin Hills, where he pulled away late with birdies, it was his par (and bogey) saves that kept Koepka afloat on Nos. 11, 12 and 14.
In the end, he clipped Fleetwood (who shot a record-tying 63) by one and Johnson by two.
“You’ve got to give him a lot of credit,” Strange said, shaking his head. “He’s got a lot of guts.”
As Koepka marched away to sign his card, Strange was asked if it was bittersweet to know that he’s no longer the answer to the trivia question, the last guy to go back-to-back at the Open.
“Heck no!” he said. “What are they going to do, take one away? I’m a part of a group. And it’s a good group. I hope it means as much to him as it has to me.”
This time, Dad gets to enjoy Koepka's Father's Day win
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – When Brooks Koepka won his first U.S. Open last year at Erin Hills the celebration was relatively subdued.
His family didn’t attend the ’17 championship, but there was no way they were missing this year’s U.S. Open.
“This year we booked something about five miles away [from Shinnecock Hills]," said Koepka’s father, Bob. "We weren’t going to miss it and I’m so glad we’re here.”
The family was treated to a show, with Koepka closing with a 68 for a one-stroke victory to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back U.S. Opens.
Koepka called his father early Sunday to wish him a happy Father’s Day, and Bob Koepka said he noticed a similar confidence in his son’s voice to the way he sounded when they spoke on Sunday of last year’s championship.
There was also one other similarity.
“Two years in a row, I haven't gotten him anything [for Father’s Day],” Brooks Koepka laughed. “Next year, I'm not going to get him anything either. It might bring some good luck.
“It's incredible to have my family here, and my dad loves golf. To be here, he loves watching. To share it with him this time, it will be a little bit sweeter.”