Ugly finishes highlight Tiger's ability to close

By Doug FergusonJune 4, 2014, 2:20 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – It was hard to read the eyes of Jack Nicklaus behind his sunglasses, and maybe that was a good thing. He was in his customary spot behind the 18th green at Muirfield Village as he waited to see who would win the Memorial.

Or who would do the best job of not losing.

It's rare to get such beautiful weather over four days at the Memorial. An ugly finish? That has become all too common this year.

The Sunday follies of so many top players - most of them major champions - stand out even more in the absence of Tiger Woods, who is recovering from back surgery that has kept him away from golf for the last three months.

Without Woods around, all anyone has are memories, particularly around a place like Muirfield Village. He won his fifth Memorial title two years ago with three birdies on the last four holes. One year he was in a battle with Paul Azinger, tied for the lead early in the final round. Woods ended up winning by seven.

Over the last four months, a list that includes major champions Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson has shown that it's either hard to win on the PGA Tour or that Woods was really, really good at it.

Probably a little of both.

''We've seen a lot of things happen,'' Scott said on the eve of the final round, perhaps a pep talk that his three-shot deficit to Watson going into Sunday was not that large. ''It's not a lot when we've seen a lot of leads go the wrong way recently.''

That was rare with Woods, of course.

He went nearly 15 years before losing a lead greater than two shots going into the final round. Graeme McDowell rallied from four behind to beat Woods in the Chevron World Challenge at the end of 2010.

His conversion rate on the PGA Tour with at least a share of the 54-hole lead is 93 percent. Even though Woods hasn't sustained a full season of great play in five years, his reputation as golf's greatest closer in history takes on a new appreciation in times like this.

Consider the final round at the Memorial.

Watson failed to hold an outright lead for the second time this year because of mistakes on the back nine. He bogeyed two of the last three holes in Phoenix. At the Memorial, it was a pair of tee shots that did him in, particularly that monster drive over the trees, off the property and into a neighborhood.

Scott was in position for his second straight PGA Tour win. He was tied for the lead until he put his tee shot in the water on the 12th (double bogey), took two shots to get out of a bunker on the 14th (bogey), and then had some bad luck when his wedge to the par-5 15th hit the flag and bounced back toward the fairway (bogey).

The winner was Hideki Matsuyama, and here's how he got it done. He hit his tee shot into the water on the 16th for double bogey to lose a two-shot lead. From the 17th fairway, he went over the green and made bogey to fall out of the lead. And then he pushed his tee shot toward the big tree right of the 18th fairway, lightly slammed his driver to the turf (the head broke off), only to find the ball had hit the tree and bounced back to the fairway.

From there, he smashed 7-iron at the flag and made birdie to get into a playoff.

He beat Kevin Na, who hooked his drive into the water and still had 10 feet left for bogey when Matsuyama made the winning putt.

These things happen in golf. They just seem to be happening more than usual this year.

McIlroy had a two-shot lead at the Honda Classic until hitting it fat out of a bunker and into the water for double bogey on the 16th hole, and making bogey from a bunker on the 17th hole. He hit as good a shot that has been struck all year on the 18th, a 5-wood over the water to 12 feet, only to miss the eagle putt and then lose in a four-man playoff. The playoff hole was a par 5. Russell Henley was the only player to make birdie.

Scott, in his first chance to reach No. 1, had a seven-shot lead going into the weekend at Bay Hill. He closed with a 76 and finished two shots behind Matt Every. Matt Kuchar blew two good chances in Texas with mistakes rarely seen from him, and he might have blown another chance to win except for holing out from a bunker on the 18th at Hilton Head. Phil Mickelson was right there at Quail Hollow until missing four putts from the 4-foot range and closing with a 76.

The lesson is it's not easy to win on the PGA Tour. The reminder is Woods made it look that way.

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Casey comes up short (again) to Bubba at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:07 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Staked to a four-shot lead entering the final round of the Travelers Championship, Paul Casey watched his opening tee shot bounce off a wooden wall and back into the middle of the fairway, then rolled in a 21-foot birdie putt off the fringe.

At the time, it appeared to be a not-so-subtle indicator that Casey was finally going to get his hands on a trophy that has barely eluded him in the past. Instead it turned out to be the lone highlight of a miserable round that left the Englishman behind only Bubba Watson at TPC River Highlands for the second time in the last four years.

Casey shot the low round of the tournament with a third-round 62 that distanced him from the field, but that opening birdie turned out to be his only one of the day as he stalled out and ultimately finished three shots behind Watson, to whom he lost here in a playoff in 2015.

Casey’s score was 10 shots worse than Saturday, as a 2-over 72 beat only five people among the 73 others to play the final round.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I mean, I fought as hard as I could, which I’m proud of,” Casey said. “Not many times you put me on a golf course and I only make one birdie. I don’t know. I’d be frustrated with that in last week’s event, but it is what it is.”

Casey led by as many as five after his opening birdie, but he needed to make a 28-foot par save on No. 10 simply to maintain a one-shot edge over a hard-charging Watson. The two men were tied as Casey headed to the 16th tee, but his bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 combined with a closing birdie from Watson meant the tournament was out of reach before Casey even reached the final tee.

Casey explained that a “bad night of sleep” led to some neck pain that affected his warm-up session but didn’t impact the actual round.

“Just frustrating I didn’t have more,” he said. “Didn’t have a comfortable swing to go out there and do something with.”

Casey won earlier this year at the Valspar Championship to end a PGA Tour victory drought that dated back to 2009, but after being denied a second victory in short succession when he appeared to have one hand on the trophy, he hopes to turn frustration into further success before turning the page to 2019.

“I’m probably even more fired up than I was post-Tampa to get another victory. This is only going to be more fuel,” Casey said. “I’ve got 12 events or something the rest of the year. So ask me again in November, and if I don’t have another victory, then I will be disappointed. This is merely kind of posturing for what could be a very good climax.”

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Watch: Gary Player tires people out with sit-ups

By Grill Room TeamJune 24, 2018, 11:33 pm

Well all know Gary Player is a fitness nut, and at 82 years young he is still in phenomenal shape.

That's why it was incredible to see two mere mortals like us try to keep up with him in a sit-up competition at the BMW International Open.

Watch the video below.

The guy in blue makes the smart decision and bows out about halfway through. But give the other guy an "A" for effort, he stuck with Player for about 60 sit-ups, and then the nine-time major champion just starts taunting him.

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Japan teen Hataoka rolls to NW Ark. win

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 11:07 pm

ROGERS, Ark. - Japanese teenager Nasa Hataoka ran away with the NW Arkansas Championship on Sunday for her first LPGA title

The 19-year-old Hataoka won by six strokes, closing with an 8-under 63 at Pinnacle Country Club for a tournament-record 21-under 192 total. She broke the mark of 18 under set last year by So Yeon Ryu.

Hataoka won twice late last year on the Japan LPGA and has finished in the top 10 in five of her last six U.S. LPGA starts, including a playof loss last month in the Kingsmill Championship.

Hataoka began the round tied with Minjee Lee for the lead.

Austin Ernst shot a 65 to finish second.

Lee and third-ranked Lexi Thompson topped the group at 13 under.

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Tour investigating DeChambeau's use of compass

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 10:09 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Bryson DeChambeau’s reliance on science to craft his play on the course is well known, but he took things to a new level this week at the Travelers Championship when television cameras caught him wielding a compass while looking at his yardage book during the third round.

According to DeChambeau, it’s old news. He’s been using a compass regularly to aid in his preparation for nearly two years, dating back to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October 2016.

“I’m figuring out the true pin locations,” DeChambeau said. “The pin locations are just a little bit off every once in a while, and so I’m making sure they’re in the exact right spot. And that’s it.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But social media took notice this weekend, as did PGA Tour officials. DeChambeau explained that he was approached on the range Saturday and informed that the Tour plans to launch an investigation into whether or not the device is allowable in competition, with a decision expected in the next week.

It’s not the first time the 24-year-old has gone head-to-head with Tour brass, having also had a brief run with side-saddled putting earlier in his career.

“They said, ‘Hey, we just want to let you know that we’re investigating the device and seeing if it’s allowable,’” DeChambeau said. “I understand. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.”

DeChambeau won earlier this month at the Memorial Tournament, and the Tour’s ruling would not have any retroactive impact on his results earlier this year. Playing alongside tournament winner Bubba Watson in the final round at TPC River Highlands, DeChambeau shot a final-round 68 to finish in a tie for ninth.

“It’s a compass. It’s been used for a long, long time. Sailors use it,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just funny that people take notice when I start putting and playing well.”