Punch Shot: What to expect from Tiger at Hero?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 1, 2014, 11:30 pm

Tiger Woods competes for the first time since the PGA Championship, in this week's Hero World Challenge. The 18-man field will compete on Tiger's old home course at Isleworth Country Club. GolfChannel.com writers offer up what they expect from Woods this week:

By JASON SOBEL

When it comes to Tiger Woods' game, I don't think any of us know what to expect anymore. He could return to the glory days with dialed in approach shots and plenty of birdie putts dropping into the cup; he could continue to miss fairways in a big way and scramble for pars.

There is one thing I do expect this week, though: He'll be healthy once again.

Why? Because there's no reason to risk it if he's not. I had no problem with Woods playing through pain at the year's final two majors because they mean so much to him. But he's shown in the past that he'll skip a non-major - even one hosted by him - if he's not fully healthy.

Just the fact that Tiger is competing this week should tip us off to the progress he's made with that back injury. As for his results, well, that's still anyone's guess.


By RANDALL MELL

We should expect to hear that Tiger is following all his protocols, and he’s getting stronger. That his “fast twitching” is coming along, and he’s starting to get some of his explosiveness back, but it’s a process, and he still needs to knock off some rust.

Tiger has a language all his own, and whether you like his lingo or not, he knows how to talk to himself as well as anyone who has ever played the game. That’s part of what we should expect to hear in news conferences and after his rounds; Tiger talking to himself as much as he’s talking to us. We should expect to hear Tiger’s confidence and ambition and his resolve.

What will we see? We should expect to see some wild drivers, because taming that club with his new consultant/coach is going to be a real challenge with or without this layer of rust. We should expect to see Tiger upset at his bad shots, because, well, he’s Tiger, and he gets upset at bad shots. Ultimately, we should expect to see enough really good shots to wonder if Tiger will have a really good year, and enough bad shots to wonder if he won’t. We should expect to see what amounts to an inconclusive rehab start.


By REX HOGGARD

Seventy-two holes. Nothing more, nothing less should cloud anyone’s expectations this week for Tiger Woods.

To be fair, Woods’ return from the DL this week at the Hero World Challenge is his first competitive round since back-to-back 74s at the PGA Championship and after a season marred by injury it would be unreasonable, if not wildly unrealistic, to expect the host with the most to produce more than that.

In fact, as Woods embarks on a new era with “swing consultant” Chris Como it would be advisable to temper expectations for the next few months.

The fact is just three times in his last seven seasons has Woods been able to play a full dance card on the PGA Tour and this year’s seven-start outing has all the markings of rock bottom.

But as 2013’s five-win season proved, if healthy Woods can still dominate, which makes this week’s start at Isleworth more pivotal than it would appear.

This is less about picking apart the dynamics of Woods’ new action than it is a chance to see if he spent his time since the PGA resting and rehabilitating, per doctor’s orders.

Playing 72 holes at the no-cut event, regardless of score, should be the primary goal, anything beyond that is a bonus.


By RYAN LAVNER

I expect a good bit of rust. Tiger Woods hasn’t played competitively in nearly four months. He’s breaking in a new swing coach, his third since 2010. He’s going up against 17 of the top-26 players in the world. And he’s playing a tough, albeit familiar, course in Isleworth. So it might not always be pretty.

To be fair, I had similarly low expectations this summer when he returned at his event in D.C. Playing his first tournament in four months, he shot rounds of 74-75 and missed the cut. Yes, Woods should be healthier now than in July, but he has just 21 competitive rounds under his belt this season. Whether he finishes fourth or 14th, it doesn’t much matter for his long-term prospects. 

Realistically, we should view Woods’ appearance this week in Orlando as a minor-league rehab assignment – an opportunity to play four rounds, get the competitive juices flowing again and (hopefully) emerge injury-free. Getting into contention would be a bonus.

Essentially, it’s a warm-up for what Woods hopes will be a healthier and more successful 2015 campaign.  

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U.S. Open purse payout: Koepka clears $2 million

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 18, 2018, 12:09 pm

Brooks Koepka successfully defended his title at the U.S. Open and he was handsomely rewarded for his efforts. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Shinnecock Hills.

1 Brooks Koepka +1 $2,160,000
2 Tommy Fleetwood +2 $1,296,000
3 Dustin Johnson +3 $812,927
4 Patrick Reed +4 $569,884
5 Tony Finau +5 $474,659
T6 Daniel Berger +6 $361,923
T6 Henrik Stenson +6 $361,923
T6 Tyrrell Hatton +6 $361,923
T6 Xander Schauffele +6 $361,923
T10 Justin Rose +7 $270,151
T10 Webb Simpson +7 $270,151
T12 Matthew Fitzpatrick +8 $221,825
T12 Zach Johnson +8 $221,825
T12 Russell Knox +8 $221,825
15 Kiradech Aphibarnrat +9 $190,328
T16 Paul Casey +10 $163,438
T16 Haotong Li +10 $163,438
T16 Hideki Matsuyama +10 $163,438
T16 Louis Oosthuizen +10 $163,438
T20 Rickie Fowler +11 $122,387
T20 Brian Gay +11 $122,387
T20 Charley Hoffman +11 $122,387
T20 Dylan Meyer +11 $122,387
T20 Steve Stricker +11 $122,387
T25 Aaron Baddeley +12 $79,200
T25 Bryson DeChambeau +12 $79,200
T25 Jason Dufner +12 $79,200
T25 Branden Grace +12 $79,200
T25 Russell Henley +12 $79,200
T25 Charles Howell III +12 $79,200
T25 Francesco Molinari +12 $79,200
T25 Alex Noren +12 $79,200
T25 Matthieu Pavon +12 $79,200
T25 Ian Poulter +12 $79,200
T25 Justin Thomas +12 $79,200
T36 Rafa Cabrera Bello +13 $54,054
T36 Bill Haas +13 $54,054
T36 Brian Harman +13 $54,054
T36 Pat Perez +13 $54,054
T36 Gary Woodland +13 $54,054
T41 Sam Burns +14 $43,028
T41 Ryan Fox +14 $43,028
T41 Patrick Rodgers +14 $43,028
T41 Jhonattan Vegas +14 $43,028
T45 Patrick Cantlay +15 $34,716
T45 Marc Leishman +15 $34,716
T45 Scott Piercy +15 $34,716
T48 Ross Fisher +16 $27,952
T48 Jim Furyk +16 $27,952
T48 Luis Gagne (a) +16 $0
T48 Phil Mickelson +16 $27,952
T48 Matt Parziale (a) +16 $0
T48 Brandt Snedeker +16 $27,952
T48 Peter Uihlein +16 $27,952
T48 Tim Wilkinson +16 $27,952
T56 Dean Burmester +17 $25,426
T56 Mickey DeMorat +17 $25,426
T56 Tyler Duncan +17 $25,426
T56 Chris Naegel +17 $25,426
T56 Jimmy Walker +17 $25,426
61 Calum Hill +18 $24,629
62 Andrew Johnston +19 $24,448
63 Brendan Steele +20 $24,203
64 Cameron Wilson +21 $23,959
65 Kevin Chappell +22 $23,714
66 Will Grimmer (a) +23 $0
67 Byeong Hun An +26 $23,470
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What's in the bag: U.S. Open winner Koepka

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 18, 2018, 11:24 am

Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive U.S. Open title on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills. Here's a look inside the winner's bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70 TX shaft

Fairway woods: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (16.5 degrees), with  Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80 TX shaft

Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3), with Fujikura Pro 95 Tour Spec shaft; Mizuno JPX-900 Tour (4-PW), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts, PW with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shaft

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 Raw (52, 56 degrees), SM7 Raw TVD (60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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Repeat U.S. Open win gives Koepka credit he deserves

By Ryan LavnerJune 18, 2018, 2:08 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In an ironic twist Sunday, the last man to win consecutive U.S. Opens was tasked with chronicling Brooks Koepka’s final round at Shinnecock Hills.

Carrying a microphone for Fox Sports, Curtis Strange kept his composure as the on-course reporter. He didn’t cough in Koepka’s downswing. Didn’t step on his ball in the fescue. Didn’t talk too loudly while Koepka lined up a putt.

Instead, Strange stood off to the side, clipboard covering his mouth, and watched in awe as Koepka stamped himself as the best U.S. Open player of this next generation.

And so after Koepka became the first player in 29 years to take consecutive Opens, Strange found himself fourth in the greeting line near the 18th green. He was behind Koepka’s playing competitor, Dustin Johnson. And he was behind Koepka’s father, Bob. And he was behind Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott.

But there Strange was, standing on a sandy path leading to the clubhouse, ready to formally welcome Koepka into one of the most exclusive clubs in golf.

“Hell of a job, bud,” Strange barked in his ear, above the din. “Incredible.”

That Koepka prevailed on two wildly different layouts, and in totally different conditions, was even more satisfying.

Erin Hills, in Middle of Nowhere, Wis., was unlike any U.S. Open venue in recent memory. The wide-open fairways were lined with thick, deep fescue, but heavy rain early in the week and the absence of any significant wind turned golf’s toughest test into the Greater Milwaukee Open. Koepka bashed his way to a record-tying score (16 under par) and over the past year has never felt fully appreciated, in large part because of the weirdness of the USGA setup.   


U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


Koepka doesn’t concern himself with that type of noise, of course, but when he arrived at Shinnecock earlier this week he felt a sense of familiarity. The generous fairways. The punishing venue. The premium on iron play.

“It’s a similar feel,” Elliott said. “We said it all week.”

A new, quirky venue like Erin Hills might not have been held in high regard, but the rich history of Shinnecock? It demanded respect.

“He’s some player,” Strange said, “and I’m proud of him because there was some talk last year of Erin Hills not being the Open that is supposed to be an Open. But he won on a classic, so he’s an Open player.”

“This one is a lot sweeter,” Koepka said.

Those around the 28-year-old were shocked that he even had a chance to defend his title.

Last fall Koepka began feeling discomfort in his left wrist. He finished last in consecutive tournaments around the holidays, then underwent an MRI that showed he had a torn ligament in his left wrist.

Koepka takes immense pride in having a life outside of golf – he never watches Tour coverage on off-weeks – but he was downright miserable during his indefinite stint on the sidelines. He said it was the lowest point of his career, as he sat in a soft cast up to his elbow, binge-watching TV shows and gaining 15 pounds. The only players he heard from during his hiatus: Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.

“You just feel like you get forgotten,” Koepka said.

During the spring, Elliott would occasionally drive from Orlando to Jupiter, Fla., to check on his boss. “He was down in the dumps,” he said. “That sort of injury he had, it didn’t seem like there was going to be an end. There was no timeframe on it, and that was the most frustrating thing.”

After the Masters, Koepka told Elliott that his wrist was feeling better and that he was going to start hitting balls. Elliott brought his clubs to South Florida, and they played a few holes at The Floridian.

“He was hitting it right on the button,” Elliott said. “I said, ‘Are you sure you haven’t been practicing?’ He hadn’t missed a beat. I have no idea how he does it. He’s just a tremendously talented guy.”

In limited action before the Open, Koepka fired a trio of 63s, at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial. He’s never been short on confidence – as a 12-year-old he once told his dad that he was going to drop out of school in four years and turn pro – and he recently woofed to swing coach Claude Harmon III that he was primed to win sometime in May or June.

“I said to him on the range this morning, ‘You were on your couch in January and February, not really knowing if you were going to be able to play here,’” Harmon said. “I think that’s why it means so much to him. That’s one of the reasons that he kept saying no one was more confident than him, because to get this opportunity to come back and play and have a chance to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, he was going to take advantage of it as best he could.”

Koepka carded a second-round 66 to put himself in the mix, then survived a hellacious third-round setup to join a four-way tie for the lead, along with Johnson, the world No. 1 and his fellow Bash Brother.

As much as Johnson is praised for his resilience, Koepka has proven to be equally tough in crunch time, especially in this major. There’s no better stage for Koepka to showcase his immense gifts than the Open, an examination that tests players physically, mentally and even spiritually. But Koepka, like Johnson, never joined the growing chorus of complainers at Shinnecock. The closest he came to criticizing the setup was this: “I think the course is very close.”

Rather than whine, he said that he relished the challenge of firing away from flags. He accepted bad shots. He tried to eliminate double bogeys. Even after his wrist injury, Koepka showed no hesitation gouging out of the deep fescue, his ferocious clubhead speed allowing him to escape the rough and chase approach shots near the green, where he could rely on his sneaky-good short game.

“He has the perfect game to play in majors,” Harmon said. “He probably plays more conservatively in majors. We’re always joking that we wish he would play the way he does in majors every week. I just think he knows how important pars and bogeys are. It says a lot about him as a player.”

Johnson has many of the same physical and mental attributes, and they’ve each benefited from the other’s intense focus and discipline. They both adhere to a strict diet and are frequent workout partners, which even included a gym session on Sunday morning, before their penultimate pairing. They made small talk, chatting about lifting and how many of the Sunday pins were located in the middle of the green, but after they arrived at the course they barely said two words to each other.

“They’re good friends on and off the course,” Harmon said, “but they definitely want to kick the s--- out of each other.”

“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Strange said. “If they’re best buddies, well, you’re standing between me and the trophy. You don’t care much for him for 4 1/2 hours.”

There was much at stake Sunday, but none more significant than Koepka’s march on history. Squaring off head-to-head against the game’s best player, Koepka outplayed Johnson from the outset, going 3 under for the first 10 holes to open up a two-shot lead. And unlike at Erin Hills, where he pulled away late with birdies, it was his par (and bogey) saves that kept Koepka afloat on Nos. 11, 12 and 14.  

In the end, he clipped Fleetwood (who shot a record-tying 63) by one and Johnson by two.

“You’ve got to give him a lot of credit,” Strange said, shaking his head. “He’s got a lot of guts.”

As Koepka marched away to sign his card, Strange was asked if it was bittersweet to know that he’s no longer the answer to the trivia question, the last guy to go back-to-back at the Open.

“Heck no!” he said. “What are they going to do, take one away? I’m a part of a group. And it’s a good group. I hope it means as much to him as it has to me.”

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This time, Dad gets to enjoy Koepka's Father's Day win

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2018, 1:39 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – When Brooks Koepka won his first U.S. Open last year at Erin Hills the celebration was relatively subdued.

His family didn’t attend the ’17 championship, but there was no way they were missing this year’s U.S. Open.

“This year we booked something about five miles away [from Shinnecock Hills]," said Koepka’s father, Bob. "We weren’t going to miss it and I’m so glad we’re here.”

The family was treated to a show, with Koepka closing with a 68 for a one-stroke victory to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back U.S. Opens.


U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


Koepka called his father early Sunday to wish him a happy Father’s Day, and Bob Koepka said he noticed a similar confidence in his son’s voice to the way he sounded when they spoke on Sunday of last year’s championship.

There was also one other similarity.

“Two years in a row, I haven't gotten him anything [for Father’s Day],” Brooks Koepka laughed. “Next year, I'm not going to get him anything either. It might bring some good luck.

“It's incredible to have my family here, and my dad loves golf. To be here, he loves watching. To share it with him this time, it will be a little bit sweeter.”