Woods starts year with 69 and trails by five strokes
Looking for a new start after a disastrous year on and off the golf course, Woods felt little stress Thursday in the Farmers Insurance Open with a 3-under 69 on the North Course that left him five shots behind South Korean rookie Sunghoon Kang.
If the setting was familiar for Woods, so was his middle-of-the-pack position. In four of his six wins at this tournaments, he has been at least five shots behind after the opening round.
“I’m happy with the way I played, absolutely,” Woods said. “I could have been a lot better if I took care of the par 5s a little bit more, but obviously, I didn’t do that.”
Kang, a 24-year-old rookie, finished with back-to-back birdies on the North Course for an 8-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over fellow rookie Chris Kirk, Alex Prugh and Rickie Fowler.
Phil Mickelson shot 32 on the back nine for a 5-under 67 to match the best score on the tougher South Course, which hosted the 2008 U.S. Open that Woods won in a playoff. Also at 67 on the South was John Daly, whose last win came in 2004 at this tournament. He is the last player to win at Torrey Pines when Woods was in the field.
“This place means a lot to me,” Daly said. “The top golfers play here every year. That says something.”
Woods no longer is No. 1 – he has slipped to No. 3 in the world ranking and can’t improve on that this week – but he has not played the public course he has practically owned since that U.S. Open in 2008. He missed the next year because of knee surgery, and last year while in a Mississippi addiction clinic after being caught in extramarital affairs.
“Welcome back to Torrey,” was a popular phrase from the gallery throughout his round, in which Woods played solidly except on the greens. He made only two putts longer than 3 feet – a 10-foot par save on No. 8, and a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 sixth that bounced along until catching the right corner of the cup.
“I didn’t leave myself any putts,” Woods said. “I kept leaving myself above the hole. And I didn’t take advantage of the par 5s.”
The North Course is not the pushover it has been in past years because of some new length, and not just in distance. Along with being some 90 yards longer, the rough was allowed to grow and is thicker than the grass found on the South Course.
“I didn’t know the North was as long as the South,” Ben Curtis said after a 70. He knows better, but it felt that way if tee shots did not stay in the narrow, canted fairways.
Woods was in shorter grass on half of his 14 tee shots, although four of those misses came on the par 5s. He couldn’t get to the green in two, and didn’t make the birdie putts.
Even so, he looked more like the Woods who ended last year with a playoff loss at the Chevron World Challenge, not the guy who played so poorly for so much of the year that he didn’t win on the PGA Tour for the first time in his career.
It felt like a typical season-opener for Woods, including his position on the leaderboard. In his last four trips to this PGA Tour event, he has trailed by seven, six, five and two shots after the opening round and went on to win them all.
Even so, scoring on the North was lower, and Woods will need to pick up the pace on the South Course. He is playing the first two days with Anthony Kim and Rocco Mediate, whom Woods defeated in that epic U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines.
Mediate was chattering away, as usual, but there wasn’t much conversation about that 19-hole playoff from 2008.
“We didn’t play that golf course,” Woods said.
Kim was among those at 68, a tribute to his great scrambling. He chipped in from 40 feet for par, holed a 30-foot par putt from the fringe and made two other par saves outside 10 feet.
The top of the leaderboard was filled with youth, starting with Kang, who earned his card through Q-School. Fowler was voted the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2010 on a ballot that included Prugh. Kirk finished second on the Nationwide Tour last year, when he hurt his wrist and couldn’t play the last two events.
On the South Course, rookies Fabian Gomez of Argentina and Keegan Bradley were among those at 67
Kang had the recipe on the North Course that Woods couldn’t find.
“This course, all the par 5s are reachable, so I really tried to keep to the fairways and it worked really well,” Kang said. “And I really had a good chance on the par 5s. That’s why I played very well today.”
He played them in 4 under, including an eagle on No. 14 when he chipped in from 25 feet.
Daly has special memories of Torrey from his playoff win in 2004, but he wasn’t in such a great mood a year ago. He missed the cut after rounds of 79-71, and told a Golf Channel television crew that was taping a documentary that he was done. Some media outlets construed that to mean he was retiring, although Daly had made similar comments right after a bad performance.
“You get frustrated,” Daly said.
That wasn’t the case Thursday, a spectacular day of sunshine along the Pacific coast.
Watching Koepka, Fleetwood knew he was one shot short
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In the end, even a record-tying performance wasn’t enough for Tommy Fleetwood at the U.S. Open.
Fleetwood started the final round at Shinnecock Hills six shots off the pace, but he quickly moved up the board with a run of four birdies over his first seven holes. He added four more in a row on Nos. 12-15, and he had a 9-footer for birdie on No. 18 to become the first player to ever shoot a 62 in the U.S. Open.
He missed, and that proved to be the difference – for both the record and the tournament.
Fleetwood waited around in player hospitality for the next three hours while the leaders finished, alternating between watching the golf (with sandwich in hand) and playing with his newborn son, Frankie. He was on the chipping green when Brooks Koepka completed play at 1-over 281, successfully defending his title and finishing one shot ahead of Fleetwood.
“Brooks kept giving me like a little bit of hope, and then he’d hole a putt just to stab you in the stomach a little bit,” Fleetwood said. “I always just had that feeling that I was one shy, so I never really got massively, massively excited.”
This was the first year the U.S. Open would have gone to a two-hole, aggregate playoff, so Fleetwood needed to stay loose for a possible overtime that in previous years would have instead been an 18-hole playoff on Monday. He emerged from the locker room and headed to the range to warm up after Koepka birdied No. 16 to take a two-shot lead with two holes to play.
“I just thought, 'I should really go up, because you never know,'” Fleetwood said. “I mean, the worst thing that could happen is if something did happen and I wasn’t really ready, so it’s better warming up with that intention.”
The solo runner-up is a career-best major finish for Fleetwood, who also finished fourth last year at Erin Hills. He now shares a piece of tournament history, becoming just the sixth player to shoot a 63, joining a list that includes Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Miller, Vijay Singh and Justin Thomas.
And after torching a demanding layout to the tune of eight birdies, he insisted he won’t dwell much on the final putt that got away – even though Koepka’s closing bogey meant that it ultimately made the difference.
“The putt on 18, I actually wanted more for the 62 at the time, and then it became a thing for the tournament,” Fleetwood said. “Obviously, that’s the putt that will play on your mind because that was the last shot you hit and that was your chance. But I missed some putts in the week, and I made some putts. I think everybody did. And your score is your score. And for me, just getting that close to winning a major again, I think that is the ultimate thing I’ll take from it.”
DJ and more congratulate Koepka on social media
Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive U.S. Open title at Shinnecock Hills. Dustin Johnson, his friend and playing competitor on Sunday, was quick to congratulate Koepka. And he wasn't alone.
Just wasn’t my day but ended on a high note. Congrats to @BKoepka on a well deserved win!— Dustin Johnson (@DJohnsonPGA) June 17, 2018
Final round 73 (total +7 T10) Enjoyed the @usopengolf test as always. Congratulations @BKoepka on back to back #USOpen wins. Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there, and thank you #teamfor all the support and messages. JR pic.twitter.com/21wlFFsY8f— Justin Rose (@JustinRose99) June 17, 2018
Congratulations @BKoepka— Thomas Bjorn (@thomasbjorngolf) June 17, 2018
Amazing performance to go back to back...
Firefighter Parziale ties for low am with dad on bag
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Leaning on his club, Matt Parziale crossed one leg over the other and placed the free hand on his hip. His caddie mirrored his position and used Parziale's bag as his source of support. The two looked almost identical, just one older than the other.
Being related will do that.
Parziale's dad, Vic Parziale, has been with his son throughout his entire U.S. Open journey, starting Monday and ending Father's Day. Matt finished 5 over par Sunday to tie for low amateur at 16 over for the tournament.
''We do stand alike out there,'' Vic said. ''It's funny.''
Said Matt: ''I don't like it, but that's how life goes.''
He's kidding. The idea of turning into his dad doesn't scare him.
''He's the best guy I know,'' Matt said. ''If I can be half that good, I'll be doing all right.''
It's a classic like father, like son relationship.
Matt, 31, is a full-time firefighter back home in Brockton, Massachusetts. Vic retired from the same station last year after 32 years.
The two, obviously, also share a love for golf.
''He stinks now,'' Matt said. ''I'd have to play pretty bad to let him win. He used to be much better than he is now.''
Matt says he was 14 the first time he beat his dad. Vic says his son was 15. Either way, once Matt beat Vic's 73 by a stroke as a teenager, it was game over.
Vic never beat his son again.
''Golf skipped a generation for sure,'' Vic said. ''Because I don't play like him.''
As the first mid-amateur to make a cut at the U.S. Open in 15 years, Matt's second round was his best, carding a 73 with a birdie on No. 18 that guaranteed him a spot in the final rounds.
On the last day, Matt shot a 75 to end up at 296, the same mark fellow amateur Luis Gagne scored. Will Grimmer was the only other amateur to make the cut, and he finished 23 over at 303. The tournament started with 20 amateurs.
This was Matt's first U.S. Open. He played at the Masters earlier this year, but did not advance after two rounds. Vic was his caddie there, too.
''Mostly, I just carry the bag and keep my mouth shut,'' Vic said.
His specialty is wind: Matt does go to his dad for advice there. It helped this week.
''I don't get paid,'' Vic said. ''I don't want to be, of course. I just love doing it.''
The two have worked alongside each other for as long as either can remember. After college at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, Matt turned pro but called it quits after a couple years when it didn't pay off financially. That's when he became a firefighter.
But Matt never fully gave up golf, regaining his amateur status and going on to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship back in October. Vic caddied, of course.
''It's not something that happened over night,'' Vic said. ''He just wasn't lucky getting here. He really worked hard on his game.''
Being a firefighter actually allows him to practice and compete often. Matt works two 24-hour shifts a week.
He's not returning straight to his full-time job immediately, though. His upcoming golf schedule is packed. Starting Wednesday, Matt will compete in the Northeast Amateur tournament. Then he'll have the U.S. Amateur - after he gets married on Aug. 3 - and more.
Wherever and whatever, Vic will be standing nearby.
''He's always given me the opportunity to succeed,'' Matt said. ''None of this is possible without his support and his help.''
Koepka wins U.S. Open for second straight year
Brooks Koepka on Sunday shot a final-round 68 to become just the seventh man in history to win the U.S. Open in back-to-back years. Here’s how Koepka managed to conquer a schizophrenic Shinnecock Hills and the field:
Leaderboard: Koepka (+1), Tommy Fleetwood (+2), Dustin Johnson (+3), Patrick Reed (+4), Tony Finau (+5)
What happened: Tied for the lead to start the day and playing in the second-to-last group with his good friend Johnson, Koepka raced out in front with birdies on three of his first five holes en route to a front-nine 2-under 33. Up one at the turn over Johnson, Reed and Fleetwood - who was already in the clubhouse following a round of 7-under 63 - Koepka birdied the par-4 10th and then pulled off a series of saves that ultimately won him the championship. He holed a 13-footer to save bogey at No. 11, saved par via a deft flop shot from the back of the green at 12, and then – after letting a birdie opportunity slip by at 13 – managed to get up and down from 67 yards for par at the 14th. Following a par at No. 17, the victory march was briefly in doubt when Koepka hooked his approach to the 18th green nearly into the grandstand. Unshaken, he pitched on to 14 feet, lagged his par putt, and tapped in for bogey to finish 1 over.
One clear of Fleetwood through 15, Koepka stuffed a wedge from 122 yards to inside 4 feet at the par-5 16th and cleaned up the birdie putt to go up two with two to play.
What it means: This is only Koepka’s third PGA Tour victory, but of course it’s his second major title and second U.S. Open. The 28-year-old, who missed four months this year with a wrist injury, joins Willie Anderson (1903-05), John McDermott (1911-12), Bobby Jones (1929-30), Ralph Guldahl (1937-38), Ben Hogan (1950-51) and Curtis Strange (1988-89) as the only men to successfully defend their U.S. Open titles.
Round of the day: Six back to start the final round at 9 over par, Fleetwood took advantage of a literally watered-down golf course to tie the U.S. Open single-round scoring record with a 63. Last year’s Race to Dubai winner made eight birdies and lone a bogey. The 62-watch was on after Fleetwood circled Nos. 12-15 for four birdies in a row. Unfortunately for Fleetwood – and fortunately for Johnny Miller – the Englishman missed birdie putts from 13 feet, 20 feet and 9 feet on his last three holes, with his final attempt on the 72nd hole losing speed and missing low.
Told after the round that he was just the sixth player in history to record a round of 63 in the U.S. Open, Fleetwood was quick to answer, “Yeah, but I wanted 62.” He would wait another three hours to watch Koepka best him by one.
Biggest disappointment: In a way, it’s Fleetwood, who came thisclose to history on two fronts and walked away with neither the outright record nor the U.S. Open trophy. That said, it’s hard to fault the guy who shot 63. And so, this category has to belong to Johnson, the 2016 champion at Oakmont who entered the weekend ahead by four and closed with 77-70 to lose by two. He mixed four birdies with four bogeys Sunday, his final birdie at the last proving too little, too late. His biggest issue? The 72 putts he took over the weekend on Shinnecock's browned greens. This is the third U.S. Open in the last eight years (2010, 2015, 2018) to slip through his fingers on Sunday.
Other names of note: Reigning Masters champion Reed got off to a blistering start with birdies on five of his first seven holes to tie for the early lead. But a bogey at No. 9 would prove the beginning of his end. He paired a front-nine 31 with a back-nine 37 to shoot 2-under 68 and finish solo fourth. Conversely, the two men in the final pairing, Finau and Daniel Berger, both stumbled out of the gate, each playing the first six holes in 2 over, surrendering a lead they would never get back. Finau (71) fought back to even on the day but made an expensive double at No. 18 to drop from T-3 to solo fifth. Berger (73) parred 18 to stay in a three-way tie for sixth. Both men recorded their best career finishes in a major.