Punch Shot: Three questions heading into U.S. Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 17, 2015, 9:49 pm

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Will Tiger Woods make the cut? Will the winner be someone ranked inside the top 10 in the world or outside of it? How much of a story will the golf course be by week’s end? Our team at Chambers Bay debate these three topics.


REX HOGGARD: Despite an air of cautious optimism, this will be a short week for Woods. Even if he can find fairways, which he was unable to do in his last start at the Memorial, Woods’ short game has not exactly been sharp this season and that adds up to his first missed cut at the U.S. Open since 2006.

RYAN LAVNER: Call me crazy – delusional? – but Woods will make the cut this week. Watching him during his practice sessions here at Chambers, it’s clear that his iron game is sharper than it was at Memorial. Yes, Tuesday is a different animal than Thursday, but it’s progress nonetheless. Plus, as erratic as he’s been over his past two starts, Tiger is still making cuts, first at The Players and then at Muirfield Village. That streak continues here.

WILL GRAY: Miss. Walking around Chambers Bay earlier this week, I was struck by how penal this layout becomes when you veer off-target. Woods has been doing plenty of veering in recent weeks, and I don’t expect that to change here. There is no aspect of his game which he can rely on as an anchor, and with 11 double bogeys or worse in his last eight rounds, it seems Woods will log plenty of big numbers. He insists that the end of his “shift” transition is near, but I don’t see any light at the end of this particular tunnel.

JAY COFFIN: Sadly, Woods will miss the cut here this week and question marks will remain. He needs reps, but here he’ll get the weekend off. His game just is not nearly sharp enough to play more than two days. Sure, fairways here are generous, but they’re still extremely missable. If he hits is half as poorly as he did two weeks ago at the Memorial it could be a long 36 holes. Hope I’m wrong, certain I’m not.


HOGGARD: While the uncertainty of Chambers Bay has many predicting a first-time major winner this week, the stars atop the World Golf Ranking have proven themselves particularly adept at challenging conditions and quick adjustments, particularly the trio of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler who have won four of the last eight PGA Tour events.

LAVNER: My top three picks to win are Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy, in that order, so looks like we’re taking a top-10 player by default. That’s the recent trend, anyway; Eight of the past 10 majors have been won by a player ranked inside the top 20. Sure, there may be a few more odd bounces at Chambers, but the difficulty of the course should separate the field. Keep in mind that when the U.S. Amateur was held here in 2010, the No. 1-ranked player in the world won.

GRAY: I’ll take the field vs. the top 10 in this scenario at most Open venues, but particularly one as unpredictable as Chambers Bay. Even the top players in the world will not be immune from the quirks and bounces around these greens, and imagination and skill will have to be supplanted with a little bit of luck to contend. When the field option includes players like Jimmy Walker, Hideki Matsuyama and – dare I say – Phil Mickelson, I’ll side with the “bottom” 146 guys.

COFFIN: Dustin Johnson is my pick to win it all, but I’ll still play the odds and go with someone outside the top 10. Too many studly bombers with tons to prove in major championships all reside outside the top 10 and there are about 60 players who have a legitimate shot at winning. Everything about this week feels unpredictable. Makes sense that we’ll end with an unpredictable winner.


HOGGARD: By Sunday Chambers Bay will be little more than a bit player in this week’s story despite the attention that has been focused on the layout. Executive director Mike Davis and the USGA can’t have it any other way because if the former sand quarry is still the story on Sunday something went terribly wrong.

LAVNER: At the end of the week? Hopefully not much, if Mike Davis does his job properly. He has so many options here that he can make the winning score 10 under or 10 over. With perfect weather in the forecast, there is no excuse for losing this golf course. Fans will enjoy the fact that players have options – off the tee, from the fairway, around the green. OK, so maybe the course will be a significant part of the story after all. It’ll be the stage for some supreme shot making.

GRAY: Much like last year at Pinehurst No. 2, I expect the significance of the course as a story to give way to the actual play as the week progresses. Chambers Bay is a novelty, and there will surely be a few bumps in the road this week that make for an interesting highlight reel, but at the end of the day, the story will be and should be about the player who leaves with the trophy and those he beat out.

COFFIN: It will be an afterthought, unless we have a Shinnecock Hills 2004 moment. Mike Davis is too smart to let that happen. Players have not been effusive in their praise of Chambers Bay, but they haven’t bashed it yet either. It’s likely that the course will push many to their limits, and there will be some goofy things that happen, but it won’t be unfair. Unfair equals complaints. Fair means we only concentrate on the winner by Sunday evening.

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Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

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Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Jordan Spieth

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Bubba Watson

8. Webb Simpson


9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari


5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Ross Fisher

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Matthew Fitzpatrick


5. Ian Poulter

6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello

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Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win

By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 2:30 pm

Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.

Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.

The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.

The second is from Sunday night.

And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.

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Koepka moves to No. 4 in world with U.S. Open win

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:05 pm

After successfully defending his U.S. Open title, Brooks Koepka reached a new career high in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Koepka held off Tommy Fleetwood to win by a shot Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, becoming the first player to go back-to-back in nearly 30 years. As a result, he jumped five spots in the latest rankings to No. 4, six spots higher than he reached with last year's U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills.

Fleetwood finished alone in second place and moved up two spots to No. 10, tying his career-best placement. Patrick Reed moved up two spots to No. 11 by finishing fourth, while fifth-place Tony Finau went from No. 37 to No. 31.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

It was a largely quiet week in the rankings despite the fact that a major championship was contested. Outside of Koepka and Finau, the only other player inside the top 50 to move up or down more than three spots was Jason Dufner, who went from 53rd to 48th with a T-25 finish.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for the second consecutive week, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Jon Rahm dropped one spot to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Fleetwood rounding out the top 10. Hideki Matsuyama fell two spots to No. 12, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since October 2016.

Despite a missed cut at Shinnecock, Tiger Woods actually moved up one spot to No. 79 in the latest rankings. He plans to play the Quicken Loans National and The Open in the coming weeks, which will be his final two chances to move into the top 50 in time to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The event is being held for the final time this summer at Firestone Country Club, where Woods has won eight times.