The next major looks like the last one

By Doug FergusonAugust 10, 2010, 3:22 am

2010 PGA ChampionshipSHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Paul Goydos isn’t one who rushes to judgment, especially in the case of Tiger Woods.

Three months ago, after Woods withdrew from The Players Championship with a neck injury while languishing at the bottom of the leaderboard, Goydos said it was too early to say how much Woods was affected by the turmoil in his personal life. He suggested waiting until Woods played courses that he historically dominated – Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Firestone.

“That didn’t work out too well, did it?” he said Monday at Whistling Straits.

Woods did tie for fourth at the U.S. Open, even if he stumbled badly in the final round. He was never in the hunt after the first day at St. Andrews, tying for 23rd in the British Open. And in the worst tournament of his career, Woods beat only one player in the 80-man field with an eye-popping score of 18-over 298 at Firestone.

Goydos still isn’t ready to rule him out.

Not for the PGA Championship, which starts Thursday on this links-styled course along Lake Michigan. Not even for the Ryder Cup, less than two months away, with Woods probably needing to finish in the top 10 to have any chance of qualifying.

“The game is hard,” Goydos said. “Obviously, he’s struggling. But sometimes we judge how far away someone is by the scores they shoot, and that’s not necessarily true. I’m a good example of that.”

Remember, it was only a month ago that Goydos shot 59.

“Let’s talk about how poorly he’s played,” he continued. “Since 2008, he’s the No. 1 player in our world ranking. Not by as much as he used to be, but he’s still No. 1 since the PGA two years ago. My point is, the demise of Tiger Woods might not be what it seems. Is he playing poorly? Yes. But he’s still No. 1.”

Woods finished so far behind at Firestone, and finished so early, that he arrived at Whistling Straits on Sunday afternoon, well ahead of most of the players. Only his caddie, Steve Williams, was seen walking the course.

They were out early on Monday, with Williams spending most of his time holding the end of a club against Woods’ head as a reminder to keep it still through the swing. Then came a long practice session on the range before leaving.

Before leaving Firestone on Sunday, Woods twice said toward the end of his interview, “I need to be ready by Thursday.”

Hunter Mahan, who won the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday and finished 30 shots ahead of Woods, was among dozens of players who began arriving for the final major championship of the year.

Those who were at Firestone spent time on the practice range. Some played nine holes.

Most came to the same conclusion.

The last major of the year looks a lot like the last one.

The key word, of course, is “looks.” Whistling Straits, which Pete Dye built along the bluffs of Lake Michigan, offers some of the most inspired views in golf. It rolls along through manmade dunes, with native grass that is yellow and wispy.

“It’s like a British Open with good weather,” Carl Pettersson said. “Some of the bunkers can be quirky, but that’s part of links golf. There’s a lot of blind tee shots, like you get in links golf. I don’t think it would be much fun to play in 20 mph in.”

The comparisons end there.

The soil is nothing like links golf, and Stephen Ames was quick to note that his 4-iron was rolling only about five yards in the fairway.

As for the bunkers? The PGA of America only tells the players that there are about 1,200 of them, although not nearly that many are in play. There are so many bunkers that the gallery often stands in them behind the ropes. A notice in the locker room again reminded players that a hazard does not end in the rope. Even if the ball is in someone’s foot print or the tire track from a cart, it’s still a bunker.

Stuart Appleby found that out the hard way in 2004 by removing a loose piece of grass and grounding his club during a practice swing. That cost him four shots.

Among the changes is a pot bunker in front of the green on the 355-yard sixth hole, which Kevin Sutherland said could make any player feel claustrophobic. Ames said it reminded him of the Road Hole bunker on the 17th at St. Andrews, yet another British comparison.

“It’s going to be hard,” Goydos said. “It’s got a little Scottish feel to it. You’re aiming at the bunkers. And there’s blind shots, but the blind shot is overrated. That’s all you have at St. Andrews. If a course was built after 1960, blind shots are bad. Anything built before 1960, and it adds character. I don’t get it.”

Goydos was not around in 2004 when the PGA Championship last came to Whistling Straits, although he pays attention. The fact Vijay Singh, a power player, won in a playoff over Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco told him that the course does not suit one particular style.

He’s not sure there is a favorite, especially in this climate of golf.

“With Tiger struggling, it’s wide open,” Goydos said.

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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.”

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USGA slows greens, alters hole locations for Sunday

By Ryan LavnerJune 17, 2018, 3:29 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – After admitting that it went too far with the setup Saturday at the U.S. Open, USGA officials made some modifications for the final round.

In a statement released Sunday morning, the USGA said that it watered Shinnecock Hills’ greens an “appropriate level” and slowed down the surfaces nearly a foot on the Stimpmeter.


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That was in anticipation of a sunny, dry forecast that calls for temperatures to reach 80 degrees and wind gusts up to 20 mph.

They said the setup for the final day is similar to what was used in Round 1, when officials braced for 30-mph winds.

Some of the hole locations were also adjusted based on the forecast – changes, the USGA said, that were meant to “maintain a challenge yet fair U.S. Open test.”