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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.”

Watch: Koepka holes out from off the green at 16

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 5:36 am

Brooks Koepka faced a stiff challenge from Gary Woodland on Sunday in South Korea, but eventually, it came time to end the suspense.

Having clung to a slim lead for much of the back nine, Koepka looked as though he was going to have to scramble just to save par when he missed the green at 16. 

Instead, caddie Ricky Elliott was able to leave Koepka's putter in the bag.

That holeout combined with a bogey from Woodland at the 17th but Koepka ahead by three, allowing him to walk to victory and to the top of the world rankings.

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Watch: Koepka nearly aces par-3 13th Sunday

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 4:24 am

Just when it looked like he was facing a legitimate challenge Sunday, Brooks Koepka responded with a near-ace.

Up four to start the final round, Koepka saw his lead disappear as Gary Woodland raced up the leaderboard to tie him at 13 under and then 14 under.

Unfazed, the three-time major winner birdied the par-5 12th to regain his outright lead and then followed up with this tee shot at the 218-yard, par-3 13th.

And just like that, the tap-in birdie put Koepka back ahead by two with five to play.

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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."