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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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Watch: Hahn slam-dunks ace on 11th hole

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:20 pm

There are aces, and there are slam-dunk aces. No question which one this one by James Hahn on the 154-yard 11th hole was.

It was Hahn's first ace on the PGA Tour.

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Els' nephew Rebula wins Amateur Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:05 pm

Ernie Els is one proud uncle.

His nephew, Jovan Rebula, won the Amateur Championship on Saturday at Royal Aberdeen to become the first South African to capture the title since Bobby Cole in 1966.

Rebula, a junior at Auburn, will join his famous uncle in Carnoustie next month for The Open. He also will get invites to the 2019 Masters and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Rebula defeated Ireland's Robin Dawson, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final.

"It’s unreal," Rebula said. "It’s really something that is hard to describe. I feel like many have been in this position before but it’s an unreal feeling. It hasn’t sunk in quite yet but hopefully tomorrow morning I can wake up and I will feel a little different."

Rebula received plenty of texts from Els throughout the week, and the encouragement paid off. Rebula opened a 1-up lead after 18 holes, and he extended his advantage by winning the 26th and 27th holes. He was 5 up with six to play before finally closing out Dawson on the 16th hole with an up-and-down from the bunker.

"It’s been a long week and especially today," Rebula said. "I should have finished maybe a couple of holes earlier, but it’s been awesome. A very tiring week. I’m standing here right now and there’s so much adrenaline pumping through me."

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Squirrel gets Rory's round off to a rocky start

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 6:42 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy’s third round at the Travelers Championship got off to a peculiar start before he even hit a shot.

McIlroy had just been introduced on the first tee at TPC River Highlands and was ready to unload on his opening drive of the day when a squirrel ran across the tee box a few feet in front of him.

McIlroy stopped his swing and laughed it off, but the squirrel continued to linger for several seconds, criss-crossing from one side of the packed tee box to the other. And while this was no black cat, the pump-fake to start his round didn’t exactly help the Ulsterman.

McIlroy ultimately blocked his drive into the right rough after enduring his brief rodent delay en route to an opening bogey, and amid soft conditions at TPC River Highlands he played his first five holes in 2 over. McIlroy started the day at 7 under, three shots behind leader Brian Harman.

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Kaymer in six-way tie for BMW International lead

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 5:29 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - Danish golfer Lucas Bjerregaard shot a 5-under 67 to equal the week's lowest round for a six-way share of the lead after the third round of the BMW International Open on Saturday.

Bjerregaard had eight birdies, a double bogey and a bogey to finish on 5-under 211 - jumping 23 places and joining local favorites Martin Kaymer and Maximilian Kieffer, England's Chris Paisley and Aaron Rai, and Australia's Scott Hend at the top of the leaderboard.

Bjerregaard was fortunate to play before the wind picked up again later in the afternoon.


Full-field scores from the BMW International Open


Kaymer, the 2008 champion, delighted the home supporters with two birdies in his last three holes for a 71.

Finland's Mikko Korhonen and Chile's Nico Geyger were one shot off the lead after rounds of 69 and 73, respectively.

Defending champion Andres Romero equaled the week's best round (67) to be among a large group two shots off the lead going into Sunday, including three-time European Tour winner Andy Sullivan.

Romero is bidding to be the first player to retain the title.