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Woods, Spieth play practice round at Shinnecock

By Doug FergusonJune 10, 2018, 11:51 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Shinnecock Hills was a lot bigger than Graeme McDowell expected.

But not too big.

McDowell was among those who began preparing Sunday for the U.S. Open on a course where golf first was played in 1891, and where the U.S. Open was last played 14 years ago. He had never been out to the Hamptons - ''Only as far as Bethpage, if that's even considered part of Long Island,'' he said - and his imagination told it would be a golf course tucked in among high-end real estate, like Pebble Beach.

More than the size of Shinnecock Hills was the way it played.

''It's back to being a pure U.S. Open with serious discipline in your iron play,'' said McDowell, the 2010 Open champion at Pebble Beach. ''I don't look at it and say, 'I'm not long enough to win here.' And that excites me. I haven't seen anything that has upset me.''

Tiger Woods, playing the U.S. Open for the first time since 2015, arrived late Sunday afternoon and teed off with Jordan Spieth. Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama were also on the course.


U.S. Open: Tee times | Full coverage


Only 19 players from the 2004 U.S. Open are back for this year's edition at Shinnecock Hills, a short list that includes Scott. Just don't get the idea that Scott needed to be reacquainted with Shinnecock. He has played what he said was a ''fair bit'' of golf, including a course-record 63 from the championship tees in 2013 (a record broken the following year by Kevin Stadler).

Shinnecock, which had fairways that averaged 26 yards wide in 2004 for the U.S. Open, went through a restoration project to widen the fairways to about 65 yards, and restore the angles and shot values architect William Flynn intended. But after wide-open Erin Hills allowed for record scoring last year - seven players finished at 10 under or better - the USGA decided to replace some 200,000 square feet of short grass with fescue to bring the fairways in to about 40 yards.

The last time Scott played was in October, right before the Presidents Cup, and right when the fairway shrinkage began.

''I played the day they were transplanting the fescue,'' he said. ''I saw that was going to happen. It's considerably wider and more generous off the tee than it was in '04. It's very fair off the tee. And it's very penal if you miss.''

That's what the USGA hopes for, especially after criticism last year that Erin Hills was far too generous off the tee. Brooks Koepka won at 16-under 272, matching the record to par at a U.S. Open.

The U.S. Open has a history of not having successive years of low scoring.

The year after Johnny Miller had the only 63 in the final round of a U.S. Open, Hale Irwin won at Winged Foot with a score 7-over par. The last time at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 was one year after Jim Furyk matched the record score (at the time) of 272 at Olympia Fields. And the year after Rory McIlroy set the record of 268 at Congressional, no one broke par at The Olympic Club.

''I think they've got the balance right,'' Scott said. ''It's a great course. You don't have to do much.''

Difference about the course 14 years later is the closely mown areas around the greens, which will cause golf balls to roll 15 yards or more away. Kevin Kisner tried a few shots behind the green on the par-3 11th by using a hybrid to roll it up the slope so deep he couldn't see the green.

''Where is that going?'' he asked his caddie, Duane Bock.

''In the bunker,'' Bock replied, reaching over with a wedge to keep the ball from rolling off the front of the green.

Kisner hit another one.

''Where is that one going?'' he asked.

''In the bunker,'' Bock said.

The forecast was for mostly dry conditions with perhaps not as much wind as this part of Long Island typically gets in June. But after walking the back nine Saturday evening and playing the front nine Sunday afternoon, McDowell was convinced of one thing.

''I think we're back to a U.S. Open mentality,'' he said.

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Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.

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Sergio leads by 4 entering final round at Valderrama

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

Sergio Garcia closed with three straight birdies to shoot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, taking a four-shot lead into the third and final round of the Andalusia Valderrama Masters.

The tournament, which Garcia has won  twice (2017, 2011), was reduced to 54 holes because of numerous weather-related delays.

With his bogey-free round, Garcia moved to 10 under, four shots clear of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who shot a 1-under 70.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


"Hopefully we'll be able to play well tomorrow and get another win at Valderrama," Garcia said. "Hopefully I can finish it in style."

Chesters, however, is conceding nothing. "There's always a chance," he said. "There's not a lot of pressure on me."

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''


Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."