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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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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."

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Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.