Perseverance pays off for Stanford grad

By Doug FergusonJune 16, 2010, 4:59 am

2010 U.S. OpenPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Joseph Bramlett was a freshman when he first sat in Tiger Woods’ living room with the rest of the Stanford golf team, peppering the world’s No. 1 player about everything from the short game to course management.

They were together again last October, in the days leading up to the Presidents Cup in San Francisco, when Woods visited his alma mater and got into a putting contest with Bramlett.

Nothing could top Tuesday, though.

The lesson was familiar – short game and course management. The classroom could not have been more spectacular.

Woods and Bramlett stood behind the green on the par-3 fifth hole at Pebble Beach, easing their way through a practice round for the U.S. Open. Woods pointed to various spots on the green to show the kid what to expect.

“It’s been an amazing week already,” Bramlett said quietly.

Getting to this stage was not easy.

In a sport still lacking in diversity – Woods remains the only player of black heritage on the PGA Tour – there was reason to believe Bramlett could join him one day.

He grew up outside San Jose in a multiracial family – his father is black, his mother is white – and endured the odd stares at junior events when his parents followed him along. He plastered posters of Woods on his bedroom wall after Woods won the 1997 Masters, and he later competed in the Junior World Championship in San Diego with a team sponsored by the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Bramlett put in the work and was proud of his results.

When he was 14, he became the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Amateur in 1992. He was an All-American his freshman year at Stanford, when he helped lead the Cardinal to an NCAA title. Bramlett flew straight home to California to try to qualify for the U.S. Open, losing out in a playoff.

Surely, there would be other chances.

The first setback came in the middle of his sophomore year when Bramlett slipped on a wet mat in the weight room and injured his right wrist. It turned out to be a bone bruise, but it kept him from competing.

Just as he was beginning to recover – he twice shot 60 in the fall of his junior year – Bramlett was riding his bike when he took a spill over the handle bars, braced for the fall with his hands and injured ligaments and tendons in the same wrist.

“The second one hurt,” Bramlett said, speaking more of the emotional damage than the injury itself. “As soon as it happened, I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I went 13 months not knowing what was wrong and how to fix it. I just had to wait. Surgery wasn’t going to help. It was a little bit frustrating, but it was over and you move on.”

Walking along with Bramlett on Tuesday were his father, Marlo, and Stanford golf coach Conrad Ray, who could appreciate the experience. Ray, who played for the Cardinal on the same team as Woods, qualified for his only U.S. Open in 2005 at Pinehurst No. 2, and spent a practice round with Woods.

It was hard to determine who was more proud.

Marlo Bramlett still remembers the day his son beat him for the first time, at age 12. They were tied at San Jose Country Club when the kid got up-and-down from a bunker by holing a 6-foot putt, turned to point at his father with a wide smile and said, “I got you.”

“I’ve never been more proud as a parent, and I’ve never been more mad as a parent,” the father said with a laugh. “I put my clubs away and went to the office to cool off. And I realized, ‘You’re not going to beat him much more.”’

Marlo Bramlett figures the injuries that slowed his son only made him stronger. To see him at Pebble Beach was proof.

“It means a lot to see him achieve this because he worked so hard at it,” the father said.

Ray arranged the practice round with Woods, sending him a text not long after Bramlett qualified. Woods remembered him well and replied immediately.

“It’s great to see him healthy again,” Woods said. “He’s been struggling with a bad wrist for the last couple of years, and to see him out there and not flinching, not in pain – he’s such a great kid – it’s good to see.”

What impressed Ray the most was how Bramlett insisted on being part of the Cardinal team even when he wasn’t healthy enough to play. His teammates voted him captain for his senior year, and while Bramlett struggled at times, he came through in the clutch.

Stanford, Arizona State and San Diego were in a playoff at the NCAAs for the final spot in the match play portion of the tournament. San Diego had finished its playoff holes in 2 under. Stanford avoided elimination when Bramlett made a 25-foot birdie putt, and it advanced to the final round on the next hole.

“It was a reasonably big fist pump,” he said.

Bramlett was just getting started. He flew back to California after the NCAAs and shot 65-71 at Del Paso in Sacramento to make it by one shot into his first U.S. Open. He might have expected to be here sooner. Then again, he never expected to miss parts of two years with injuries that could have ended all his dreams.

“It helped me grow as a person and understand that it’s not always going to go your way,” he said. “It’s not always going to be easy and it’s not always going to be fair. But you work through it. You take what you get and make the most of it.”

That he has done.

Two days before his practice round with Woods, he graduated from Stanford.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."