A strong field, a weak decision for Pate to play PGA

By Doug FergusonAugust 10, 2011, 12:00 am

JOHNS CREEK, Georgia – There was a charm about John Daly winning the PGA Championship that was more than just his awesome length.

It was his opportunity.

Daly was the ninth alternate 20 years ago, a PGA Tour rookie and the last man in the field when Nick Price withdrew to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. It was an example why the final major of the year might be the toughest to win because it has the strongest field. Even the alternates are good enough to win.

What a coincidence that Daly and Jerry Pate will be in the same group this week at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Pate asked the PGA of America for a special invitation this year as his “farewell to golf” in his home state, where he won his only major back in 1976, when Gerald Ford was still in office.

The PGA of America for some reason obliged.

And because of that invitation, an alternate – like Daly was in 1991 – won’t have a chance to win.

This is ceremonial golf at its worst. The 57-year-old Pate confirmed as much Sunday when he finished the 3M Championship in Minnesota on the Champions Tour, where he tied for 73rd.

“I’m not going there with high expectations about my golf game as far as being competitive in the field,” Pate said. “But I’m going there for the enjoyment of just seeing old friends and playing the golf course.”

Paul Goydos, who shot 59 on the PGA Tour last year, is the first alternate. A little bit farther down the list is Chad Campbell, who tied for fifth last month in the British Open at Royal St. George’s.

Pate isn’t the oldest player at the PGA Championship this week.

Larry Nelson is 63, hasn’t won a Champions Tour event in seven years and stands little chance of making the cut. He didn’t ask for a special invitation because he didn’t need one – Nelson is a two-time PGA champion who is exempt for life, although he stopped playing this major five years ago.

This is the 30-year anniversary of his PGA win at Atlanta Athletic Club. And on Wednesday night, he is being honored with the Distinguished Service Award, the group’s highest honor.

Pate not only didn’t win a PGA Championship, the last time he made the cut in this major was in 1983, the year Herschel Walker left Georgia and signed with the USFL.

The PGA Championship, and to a lesser extent the U.S. Open, is known to celebrate major champions if there is a special connection with either the tournament or the course. There’s nothing wrong with that. What seems out of place with this invitation is that the PGA already gave one to Pate the last time it was in Atlanta.

That was 10 years ago.

“There are a few times in the history of the championship that we’ve looked at players who have won majors connected with a certain venue,” said PGA chief executive Joe Steranka.

He mentioned Hale Irwin in 1999 at Medinah, the Chicago area course where Irwin high-fived his way to a U.S. Open title in 1990 when he was 45. Irwin was four shots off the lead going into the weekend and tied for 41st. When the PGA returned to Medinah in 2006, Irwin did not merit another invitation.

So why is Pate back at Atlanta Athletic Club?

“Jerry asked,” Steranka said. “He said he’d like to make this his farewell to major championship golf, and do it at a place where he had a special relationship. We thought it was a good idea.”

A farewell to major championship golf.

Even in Atlanta, it doesn’t quite evoke the same image as Jack Nicklaus crossing the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews.

When asked if he went to the PGA for an invitation, Pate said, “No, they invited me to play,” and then he shared tales of his U.S. Open win that would have made Johnny Miller proud.

“It was a pretty historical event, being 22 and hitting a 5-iron to 2 feet on the last hole,” Pate said. “They got a plaque out there in the fairway. I would say it’s a historical event for the club. I was born in Georgia. My family moved to Georgia in the 1800s, so I’m a Georgia. It’s like going back home to Atlanta.”

Pate had Hall of Fame talent and never had a chance to fulfill his potential because of injuries to his shoulder and back. Despite his short time with good health, he won eight times, including the U.S. Open and The Players Championship, famous for Pate using an orange golf ball and shoving former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman and TPC Sawgrass architect Pete Dye into the lake on the 18th.

Let’s be clear about a couple of things.

The PGA of America can invite anyone it wants, and past champions who have achieved great things can be more appealing than a tour player hardly anyone knows.

And the alternates – Goydos would be the first to agree with this – have no one to blame but themselves for not being in the field. Of all the majors, the PGA Championship is the most accommodating to PGA Tour players. The PGA uses invitations to make sure it has the top 100 in the world (100 out of 102 this year), it uses what amounts to a PGA Tour money list to take the top 70 players and beyond.

The 156-man field includes 20 top club pros, who also belong in the field. That’s the PGA’s heritage.

But a former U.S. Open champion who already was given a chance to soak up the memories 10 years ago? For a major that promotes the strongest field in golf, that was a weak decision.

Getty Images

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 to 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."

Getty Images

Koepka looking to make hay on Horrible Horseshoe

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:26 pm

The Horrible Horseshoe - Nos. 3, 4 and 5 at Colonial Country Club - annually ranks as one of the toughest three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour.

Consider Brooks Koepka undeterred.

Last year's U.S. Open champ has played the stretch 2 over this week but knows that if he's going to have any chance at catching Justin Rose on Sunday, he's going to need take advantage of the par-5 first and then find a way to pick up shots on the Horseshoe.

"I feel like just need to get off to a good start on this golf course," Koepka said after a third-round 67 Saturday. "If you can get 2 or 3 under through six holes, I think you'll be right there."

Koepka will start the final round four behind Rose, as he looks to win for the first time since his maiden major victory last year.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


The big-hitter missed nearly four months this year with a wrist injury and is progressing quickly in his comeback despite dislocating his wrist on two different occasions over the last two months.

Koepka missed the cut with partner Marc Turnesa at the Zurich Classic in his competitive return before following up with a tie for 42nd at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tie for 11th at The Players Championship.

Now, thanks to a closing birdie Sunday, he finds himself playing alongside Rose in the final group on Sunday.

"I feel like my game is coming around," he said. "[At Zurich], I was five days into touching clubs. I am finally finding a rhythm and feel like I'm getting really close. ...

"Just want to get off to a good start [tomorrow]. That's really all I am trying to do. You put together a good solid round tomorrow, you never know what can happen. The important thing is we were just trying to get in that final group. I thought the putt on 18 was kind of big to get in that final group and play with Rosey."

Getty Images

Rose leads Koepka, Grillo by four at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 9:06 pm

On the strength of a 4-under 66 Saturday, Justin Rose will take a four-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational. Here's where things stand through 54 holes at Colonial Country Club.

Leaderboard: Rose (-14), Koepka (-10), Grillo (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jon Rahm (-8), Louis Oosthuizen (-8), J.T. Poston (-8), Ryan Armour (-8)

What it means: The fifth-ranked player in the world is 18 holes from his ninth PGA Tour victory and his second this season. Up one to start the third round, Rose extended his lead to as much as five with birdies on four of his first six holes. Through 54 holes, Rose has made 17 birdies and just three bogeys. The 2013 U.S. Open winner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist has a history of winning at iconic venues - Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional - and now looks to add Colonial to the list. He'll be chased on Sunday by Grillo, the young Argentinian who won his first Tour start as a member in 2015, and Koepka, last year's U.S. Open winner who continues to impress in his injury comeback despite ongoing wrist issues.

Round of the day: Corey Conners and Ted Potter both turned in 7-under 63. Potter was bogey-free and Conners came home in 6-under 29 on the back nine.

Best of the rest: Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman and Michael Thompson all signed for 64. Rahm called his six-birdie start the best 10 holes he's played so far this year.

Biggest disappointment: Jordan Spieth has finished second-first-second in the last three years at this event, but he's yet to find his normal Colonial form through three rounds. Spieth, who said Friday he was capable of shooting "10 or 12 under" over the weekend, shot even-par 70 Saturday. He sits in T-38 at 3 under for the week, 11 back.

Shot of the day: Rory Sabbatini closed out his third round Saturday with this eagle holeout from 134 yards at the 18th.

His colorful scorecard featured three bogeys, two birdies, a double bogey and that eagle. It added up to a 1-over 71. 

Getty Images

McCarron closes with only bogey, shares lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 8:49 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Scott McCarron, seeking a second senior major title to go with his 2017 Senior Players Championship, made his only bogey of the third round on the final hole to slip into a tie for the lead Saturday with Tim Petrovic in the Senior PGA Championship.

They were at 13 under par after Petrovic, seeking his first major, shot 65. McCarron has shared the lead through three rounds.

England's Paul Broadhurst, the 2016 British Senior Open winner, matched the best third-round score in tournament history with a 64. He was at 11 under.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off his first major championship last week at the Regions Tradition, shot 65 and was 9 under.

Tom Byrum, who made a hole-in-one in shooting a 67, was in a group at 8 under.