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Analysts: USGA should toughen U.S. Open setup

By Randall MellJune 7, 2018, 6:11 pm

Count former world No. 1 David Duval among those eager to see if the USGA returns to its more traditional formula for setting up the U.S. Open next week at Shinnecock Hills.

“I think it’s lost its bearings a little bit the last few years,” Duval said.

Duval joined fellow TV analysts Brandel Chamblee and Justin Leonard in a Golf Channel media conference call Thursday.

“I think the challenge for the USGA is to try to reclaim the identity of the U.S. Open,” Duval said.

Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open at Erin Hills last year, pounding driver just about everywhere on an inland links-like setup with some of the widest fairways in the championship’s history. With the high winds expected at Erin Hills never fully arriving, Koepka took advantage, posting a 16-under total that equaled the championship record set by Rory McIlroy at Congressional in 2011.

Three years ago, Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay on another course that broke from the longstanding USGA setup formula.

“I’m excited to see a proper U.S. Open again,” Duval said. “I’m hoping that the golf course is fair but severe and penal. I hope it puts a premium back on driving the golf ball and putting it in play, making you choose how you want to attack each hole, because of that. Do you want to lay back, make sure you get it in play? Do you want to try to get it farther down? Things of that nature.”


Full-field scores from the FedEx St. Jude Classic

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Chamblee agreed that the U.S. Open test has changed significantly in how players are able to hit more drivers.

“They sort of changed the concept of testing you through the bag,” Chamblee said. “They're letting you get away with inaccurate drives, to some extent off of the tee, owing to the inaccuracy of a lot of today's best players.”

Leonard said he is eager to see how today’s best young power players handle Shinnecock Hills, should the USGA go back to a more traditionally penal setup with high rough.

“There was no strategy off the tee,” Leonard said of the Erin Hills’ setup. “You hit driver, and you hit it as hard as you could, and went on to attack it from there . . . I’m looking forward to that not being the best option available, and it should not be the best option next week.”

Leonard wants to see players think twice about hitting driver.

“I agree with both Brandel and David, that the severity of the rough will, hopefully, be enough to where it will create doubt in players’ minds,” Leonard said. “That, to me, was what the U.S. Open was all about.

“Yes, you had to hit all the shots. The physical tools had to be there, but, maybe more importantly, were the mental tools, to understand when to take on a flag, and when you need to hit a pitching wedge 20 feet right or left of a flag, to have the mental discipline to do the right things, when it’s not always the obvious choice. That kind of strategy also comes on the tee at Shinnecock, especially when you have long rough.”

Chamblee believes Shinnecock Hills is perfectly suited to a traditional U.S. Open test.

“The golf course is a star, universally loved by players,” Chamblee said. “It’s exactly what you think about when you think of a U.S. Open. It’s a very stern test, even a stronger word than stern, it’s brutal.”

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U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.

Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.


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They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.

The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.

Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  


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On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open


Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)


Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


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"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."