Els on his putting disaster: 'I just couldn't take it back'

By Ryan LavnerApril 7, 2016, 11:27 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ernie Els’ shocking display of putting yips on the first hole Thursday weren’t his only misses from close range.

They were just the only ones that went viral.

In one of the most bizarre scenes in recent major-championship history, Els, a four-time major winner, missed five putts from inside 3 feet on his way to an opening 9 at the Masters. It’s the highest score ever recorded at Augusta National’s first hole. 

“There’s a short up there somewhere and you just can’t do what you normally do,” he said afterward. “It’s unexplainable. A lot of people have stopped playing the game getting that feeling. I couldn’t get the putter back. I was standing there, I’ve got a 3-footer, I’ve made thousands of 3-footers, and I just couldn’t take it back.” 

After missing the first green to the left, Els nestled his chip within a few feet. That's when the trouble started, as he knocked his ball back and forth around the cup, missing putts from 2 feet, 3 feet, 3 feet, 10 inches and 11 inches.

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The 46-year-old has battled putting yips over the past few years, relying on an anchored putter to win the 2012 Open Championship. (That stroke has since been banned.) But Els’ condition has worsened over the past few months, and he had two recent episodes during which he couldn’t shake in a putt from a foot away. 

Els signed for an 8-over 80 Thursday, matching his worst score in 75 rounds at Augusta. He is ranked last in the field in putting, after taking 39 putts. 

"I don’t know how I stayed out there," he said.

Compounding Els’ issue is Augusta’s notoriously difficult greens, which put even more stress on his short putting. 

"I couldn't putt with a stick," he said. "When you have snakes and stuff going up in your brain, it's difficult. ...

"You make some stuff up in your brain. What holds you back from doing your normal thing? I don’t know what it is. I can go to the putting green now and make 20 straight 3-footers. Then you get on the course and you feel a little different and you can’t do what you normally do."

Jason Day, who was in the same group, said Els’ struggles were “the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that.”

“I didn’t realize he was fighting stuff like that upstairs with the putter,” Day said. “You just don’t want to see any player go through something like that, because it can be sometimes career-ending for guys if they really are fighting it that much.” 

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.