A quiet day before the U.S. Open storm

By Doug FergusonJune 10, 2012, 11:49 pm

SAN FRANCISCO - Rod Pampling actually used the words ''very enjoyable'' and ''U.S. Open'' in the same sentence.

Then again, it was Sunday before the toughest test in golf gets under way at The Olympic Club.

Pampling was among a few dozen players who took advantage of abundant sunshine and little stress at Olympic on the final day before the gates open to the second major championship of the year.

''At this stage, on a calm day, it is enjoyable,'' Pampling said.

Behind him on the course were Luke Donald and Keegan Bradley, who played a match that went to the 18th hole. Donald is No. 1 in the world and trying to win his first major, while Bradley has won 50 percent of the majors he has played - OK, this is only the third major for the PGA champion, and his first U.S. Open.

Donald finally pulled away by blasting out of a bunker to 4 feet for birdie on the 17th, then getting up-and-down from a far more difficult spot in the bunker right of the 18th green. Bradley had a chance to halve the match, but missed an 8-foot birdie putt.

Also on the course was Graeme McDowell, who won the last time this U.S. Open came to northern California at Pebble Beach two years ago.

The Olympic Club is hosting the U.S. Open for the fifth time, and it has delivered one surprise after another - Jack Fleck rallying to catch Ben Hogan and beating him in a playoff; Arnold Palmer losing a seven-shot lead on the back nine and falling to Billy Casper in a playoff; Scott Simpson running off three straight birdies late in the final round to beat Tom Watson; and Lee Janzen rallying from five shots behind to beat Payne Stewart.

From what some of the players have seen, there might not be any surprises on the golf course.

They expect it to be hard.

''It's a typical U.S. Open - small greens, tight fairways,'' Hunter Mahan said. ''You're going to have to put the ball in play. You can't just hit it anywhere and score. This is going to be more about where your misses are than where your good shots are.''

One difference between Olympic now and in 1998, the last year it held the U.S. Open, is the par.

The 520-yard opening hole is now a par 4, while the 522-yard 17th hole has been converted to a par 5. The low score still wins, though this change could creep into a player's psyche. The change makes the opening six holes one of the toughest stretches anywhere in golf.

''What's unique about this year is that you've got the first six holes that are beyond brutal,'' USGA executive director Mike Davis said. ''They're going to walk to the seventh tee and be 2 or 3 over and think, 'I've got to catch up,' when in reality, they don't.''

Donald played them a couple over par on Sunday, which might actually be par for the course.

''That start of this golf course ... you could be 5 over in five holes and not be that far off,'' Kevin Chappell said.

The finish can be on the softer side.

The players don't see a par 5 until No. 16, and it's the longest hole (670 yards) in U.S. Open history. It is followed by another par 5 that can be reached in two, and then ends with a 344-yard 18th with a fairway that looks not much wider than a country road in Ireland. Even so, players could hit wedges into the green on the last five holes depending on the pin placements and conditions.

''It's not the most intimidating U.S. Open finish ever,'' McDowell said. ''I'd give my left arm for a one-shot lead playing the 17th. You'd fancy your chances. It's not like trying to close it out at Oakmont or Winged Foot, where you're really trying to get the job done.''

But he was not suggesting it would be easy, either.

The green on the par-5 17th is the most severe at Olympic Club. Pampling's caddie, Kevin Fasbender, tossed a ball toward the right one-third of the green and watched it trickle to the right until it ran down the slope and some 15 yards away in a collection area. As for the 18th, McDowell was on the right side of the fairway and hit his wedge slightly to the right of the flag. It caught a cypress tree and dropped down into some of the nastiest rough on the course.

''Someone will make a real mess of 18. I'm predicting that right now,'' McDowell said.

Bradley was able to experience the rough on the par 5s, which was a lesson to keep the ball in the fairway, but not to lose hope when it finds the thick grass. Even in the rough, some shots might not be bad off. The PGA champion found the right rough on the 16th hole and did well to advance it some 80 yards up the fairway. That left him 300 yards for his third shot, and he opted to play well short of the green to give himself a chance.

''I've never played a hole that long in my life,'' Bradley said.

On the next hole, which slopes severely to the right, Bradley went into the right rough. It sat up just enough that he hammered a 3-wood to just short of the green.

And the hardest part of this U.S. Open?

Walking up a steep, massive hill toward the clubhouse. As if Olympic were not hard enough already.

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Fisher becomes first in Euro Tour history to shoot 59

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 21, 2018, 11:29 am

There’s never been a sub-60 score on the European Tour, and Oliver Fisher almost went two strokes better Friday at the Portugal Masters.

Fisher’s 40-footer on the final green burned the edge, but he tapped in the short par putt to record the first 59 in tour history.   

“It feels great,” he said after getting sprayed with champagne. “It was in the back of my mind all day.”

It didn’t look like it.

The 287th-ranked player in the world, Fisher made 10 birdies, an eagle and seven pars during his magical round.

All of the other major pro tours have produced a 59 – nine times on the PGA Tour; once on the LPGA – but this was the first time that a player on the European Tour broke the sub-60 barrier. (There have been 19 rounds of 60.) Earlier this year, at the Scottish Open, Brandon Stone narrowly missed an 8-footer on the final green during the final round. This tournament has produced a few chances, as well, with both Scott Jamieson and Nicolas Colsaerts coming up just short over the past few years.

Fisher went out in 28 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, then made three birdies in a row to start the back nine. He tacked on another birdie on 15 to give himself a shot at history, then played the closing stretch in 1 under. On 16, he needed a 20-footer for par after leaving his tee shot well short of the flag. He two-putted for birdie on 17 and then coolly made par on the last, after his birdie try from 40 feet just missed on the left edge.

Two years ago, he arrived in Portugal needed a good result just to keep his card. He shot a final-round 64. 

On Friday, he made tour history.

“I kept that in the back of my mind, thinking things could be worse,” he said. 

To this point, Fisher had a forgettable season. Ranked 72nd in the Race to Dubai, he didn’t have a top-10 in a stroke-play event since late February. His last four results: MC-T71-MC-MC. He opened the Portugal Masters with a 71 and was in danger of missing the cut.

Now, improbably, he’s in position to score his second European Tour title, after capturing the 2011 Czech Open.

“I tried to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not often that we get a chance to shoot a really low one.”

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Paisley (61) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Web.com Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

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“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”