Points sinks clutch putt, wins Shell by one

By Doug FergusonApril 1, 2013, 2:01 am

HUMBLE, Texas – D.A. Points can always find a ray of light in the darkest clouds.

He arrived at the Houston Open having failed to break 70 in his last nine rounds on the PGA Tour. He had made only two cuts in nine tournaments this year, both times finishing at the bottom of the pack. All that changed Sunday, even after a final round most appropriately delayed by thunderstorms.

Points returned from the long delay by making four pars, and the last one from just outside 12 feet gave him a one-shot victory in the Houston Open.

It also provided another two-year exemption on Tour. He gets to start next year in Hawaii.

And he's on his way back to Augusta National for the Masters.


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Highlights: Points takes second PGA Tour victory at Shell


''I never count myself out,'' Points said. ''I never just chalk it up like, 'Oh, this year is over with.' I've never felt like that. I was just grinding, just trying to wait and try to find that one thing that like, 'Boom! There it is.' And there I go. Fortunately, it was this week and I capitalized on it.''

He made it hard on himself in a final round at Redstone where a dozen guys felt as if they had a chance to win on the back nine. Only in the final hour did Points seize control, and then he had to work hard not to lose the lead.

A 5-iron to the 17th came up 40 yards short of his target, and he chipped up to tap-in range to take a one-shot lead to the tough 18th. He hit a hybrid from 231 yards that nearly went into the bunker, leaving another long chip. This one came up shorter than he wanted, but the putt was true.

''I've been having a really tough year,'' Points said. ''To have a putt to win, you want that starting out every week. I would have liked for it to have been closer.''

Points closed with a 6-under 66, the final putt helping him avoid a playoff with Masters-bound Henrik Stenson and Billy Horschel.

Stenson birdied his last two holes for a 66 before the storms rolled across Houston, and while he came up one shot short, he moved up to No. 42 in the world ranking to earn an invitation to the Masters. Horschel was on the 18th tee when play was halted, and then had to wait some more for his turn to hit on the tough driving hole. He split the middle, found the green and two-putted for par to join Stenson in the clubhouse lead.

They waited around for a playoff that wasn't necessary when Points saved par on his last two holes.

Points, who finished at 16-under 272, picked up his second PGA Tour victory, and this time he had to supply his own comic relief. He won two years ago with actor Bill Murray as his partner in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. When the tension mounted, Points flashed his caddie an exaggerated smile to help keep it all in perspective.

It worked, and now they can smile all the way to Augusta.

''I never not think it's on my radar,'' Points said of his last-minute entry to the Masters. ''I want to win. I want to win more than once. I want to have the opportunity to win majors, and win majors. I want to play in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups. These are things I want to do, and I know I'm capable of doing.''

Twenty players were separated by four shots going into the final round, and it stayed that way for a while, with a dozen players poised to make a run and seize control as the storm clouds gathered.

Phil Mickelson opened his final round with four straight birdies, and he was still in the picture until a three-putt double bogey on the 14th hole. He had a 68, and wound up six shots behind. Dustin Johnson had the lead at one point until he missed a short birdie putt on the 11th, and then hit his 5-wood into the water on the reachable par-4 12th hole, leading to bogey. He wound up with a 65 and finished two shots behind.

Ben Crane, who played alongside Points, had birdie chances on the last two holes that would have dropped if he had hit them hard enough. Crane had a 68 and tied for fourth with Johnson.

Kevin Chappell was briefly tied for the lead. He had a 68 and tied for sixth, along with Brian Davis (67) and Stewart Cink (70).

Cink started the final round tied for the lead. Cink returned from the delay by making a 5-foot par putt, an 18-foot birdie putt and a 10-foot par save on the 17th to get within two shots of the lead. He needed Points to make bogey on the last hole to have any chance, and was on the tee when he heard the cheer for a par. Cink put it into the bunker off the tee and near the green and made his only bogey of the day.

Jason Kokrak needed a birdie on the 18th to have any chance at a playoff and yanked his tee shot into the water. Steve Wheatcroft, the Monday qualifier who started Sunday one shot out of the lead, had a 74 to tie for 22nd. The good news is that the tournament ended on Sunday, giving him time to make the next Monday qualifier in San Antonio.

Rory McIlroy was long gone, on his way north to San Antonio, when all this was going on. The world's No. 2 player closed out his week at the Houston Open by making a 25-foot birdie putt for a 70 and a tie for 45th. McIlroy will play the Texas Open next week before heading to the Masters.

The consolation prize went to Stenson, who figured he would need to finish in the top 10 to crack the top 50 in the world in the final week that Augusta National uses the world ranking to fill out the field. He did even better, nearly winning the tournament.

''I said to my caddie walking up 18, 'No matter what, we're playing for a green jacket in a couple of weeks,''' Stenson said. ''That will be nice.''

It wasn't so nice for Charles Howell III, who rallied with a 66 but still wound up four shots away from where he needed to finish to get into the top 50. Howell, who grew up in Augusta, will miss the Masters for the fourth time in the last five years.

''I'm not going down the road of disappointment,'' he said. ''I played good. I would love to be in the golf tournament. So would 300 million other golfers. I played well this year and I'm going to watch the tournament on TV. It's just horrible to watch on TV, to be honest.''


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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”