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Look who's leading the Masters: Spieth (66) out front

By Will GrayApril 5, 2018, 11:06 pm

One of the most anticipated Masters is officially off and running, and there's a familiar name atop the early leaderboard. Here's how things look after the opening round at Augusta National, where Jordan Spieth leads by two:

Leaderboard: Jordan Spieth (-6), Tony FInau (-4), Matt Kuchar (-4), Henrik Stenson (-3), Rory McIlroy (-3), Patrick Reed (-3), Haotong Li (-3), Charley Hoffman (-3)

What it means: Spieth is making his fifth career Masters start, but he already has a win and two runner-ups to his credit, along with a T-11 finish last year. His affinity with Augusta National continued in the opening round, where he went out among the late wave and surged to the top of the leaderboard with a surgical second nine and kept the top spot despite making a bogey on the final hole. Finau sits just off the pace after starting the day with doubts about his ability to tee it up, while Kuchar is all too familiar at looking up at Spieth's name on a major championship leaderboard.

Round of the day: Spieth birdied two of his first three holes to move onto the first page of the leaderboard, but he did his best work in the heart of the closing stretch. Five straight birdies on Nos. 13-17 were capped with an impressive approach to the 17th, and it gave him a three-shot lead at the time. After a hooked drive he stumbled to a bogey on No. 18, but still holds at least a share of the lead for the ninth time in his 17 career Masters rounds.

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Best of the rest: Finau woke up uncertain about his ability to make his Masters debut after twisting his ankle during Wednesday's Par 3 Contest. But after undergoing a successful MRI, he decided to tee it up and made the most of his opportunity with four birdies in an eight-hole stretch, from Nos. 2-8. One of the longest drivers on Tour, Finau took advantage of both par 5s on the second nine and now has his best-ever position after the opening round of a major.

Biggest disappointment: Whatever chance Sergio Garcia had at back-to-back green jackets are currently sitting at the bottom of the lake in front of the 15th green. Garcia eagled the hole en route to his playoff win last year, but this time around he dumped five balls into the water en route to an octuple-bogey 13 that set a record for the highest score ever on the hole. Garcia bounced back with a birdie on No. 16, but his 9-over 81 beat only amateur Harry Ellis among the 87-man field.

Main storyline heading into Friday: The biggest story, as it has been in Augusta most days since 2015, is Spieth as he continues his quest for a second green jacket from a familiar position. But don't discount McIlroy, whose quest to complete the career Grand Slam is very much alive after an opening-round 69, while Tiger Woods will need to make a charge after opening with a 1-over 73.

Shot of the day: Amateur Doug Ghim will be taking home some crystal after holing his approach to No. 18 for an improbable eagle. It was actually Ghim's second eagle on the day, following a made putt on No. 13, as the U.S. Amateur runner-up set the pace for the six amateurs in the field with an even-par 72.

Quote of the day: "It's Round 1. I know as well as anybody that anything can happen here at Augusta National, so I'm not going to get ahead of myself." - Spieth

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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.  

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

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:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; 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."