Westwood off to best start in major

By Ryan LavnerAugust 7, 2014, 8:34 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The outcome has often been agonizing, but at least Lee Westwood can take comfort in this: He’s off to his best-ever start in a major.  

It remains to be seen, of course, whether his opening 6-under 65 Thursday at the PGA Championship was the beginning of a most unexpected breakthrough or yet another major frustration.  

No player in the past 80 years has come so close so often – his eight top 3s in majors are the most of any player without a victory.

“It’s a frustrating game,” he conceded.

That he summoned nine birdies in his opening round here at Valhalla surprised many, but not Westwood.  

Despite entering the Bridgestone Invitational with four consecutive missed cuts, he fired his lowest round of the year (by two) during a Sunday 63 at Firestone that helped salvage a top-20 finish. If you thought something clicked that day, during that torrid round, you’d be wrong.  

Westwood said he grooved his swing not at the tournament but on his home range at Old Palm. That’s where he was two weeks ago with coach Mike Walker, pounding balls in the South Florida summer heat, developing “a few good feelings” in his swing.  

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During that round at Firestone, he said, “It was just nice to turn good swing and good technique into a good score.”

On Thursday, Westwood closed with four birdies in a row (and five in his last six holes) to share the early first-round lead with Kevin Chappell. Even with a double bogey, the 65 matched Westwood’s lowest-ever round in a major, and it gave him just his second first-round lead (2012 Masters) with the afternoon wave still to finish.

That opening 67 at Augusta proved to be the start to yet another T-3 finish, but those hoping Westwood gets off the major schneid here needn’t look further than Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy, both of whom won majors this season in wire-to-wire fashion.  

To Westwood, it’s far from hardware-or-bust this week, not with so much else on the line.

In recent weeks European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has urged Westwood to “try and show some form” over the final few weeks of qualification, and the Englishman has answered the bell by throwing down the closing 63 in Akron and now holding a share of the first-round lead here.  

“I’m ticking that box for him,” he said.

Having made eight consecutive teams, Westwood admitted that he doesn’t even know where he stands in the rankings, but knows that he doesn’t want to rely on a captain’s pick – too much pressure.

“You’ve got to try and sort of justify your pick,” he said. “I don’t want to be in that position. I’d rather qualify for the team.”

After his best-ever start in a major, there seems only two outcomes: Westwood will either break his duck or, once again, break his heart.

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Watch: Koepka highlights from the Travelers

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2018, 3:30 pm

U.S. Open hangover? Not for Brooks Koepka. The two-time national champion has carried over his form and confidence from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands.

Koepka began his round with a par at the par-4 10th and then reeled off four consecutive birdies, beginning at No. 11.

And here is the capper at the 14th

Koepka turned in 4-under 31. Here's more action from his opening nine holes.

After a par at the first, Koepka added a fifth birdie of the day at the par-4 second.

A bogey at the par-4 fourth dropped him to 4 under, but just one off the lead.

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Lyle going through 'scary' period in cancer recovery

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:58 pm

MELBOURNE, Australia – Jarrod Lyle's wife says the Australian golfer is struggling through a ''really scary'' period in his third battle with cancer.

Lyle, 36, underwent a bone marrow transplant last December following a recurrence of acute myeloid leukemia.

''It's been 190 days since Jarrod's stem-cell transplant and we are going through a really rough patch at the moment,'' Briony Lyle wrote on jarrodlylegolf.com. ''I'm typing this blog on his behalf because he's not able to do it. Jarrod's not able to drive, struggles to prepare any food for himself, can't read stories to the girls and is not able to offer much help at all around the house.

''He is also starting to look like a very frail, sick person.''

Briony Lyle added: ''We are both very aware of the amount of drugs and medication that has gone into Jarrod's body over the years but things are starting to get really scary at the moment. It looks as if this recovery is going to be the longest and hardest one so far.''

Lyle has twice beaten acute myeloid leukemia, in 1998 and 2012, and was able to return to play professional golf.

He made an emotional comeback to the golf course during the 2013 Australian Masters in Melbourne before using a medical exemption to play on the PGA Tour in 2015. He played four seasons on Tour, where he earned $1.875 million in 121 tournaments.

Lyle has since returned to Australia permanently to be with Briony and daughters Lusi and Jemma.

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Vermeer wins PGA Professional; 20 make PGA Championship

By Associated PressJune 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

SEASIDE, Calif. – Ryan Vermeer won the PGA Professional Championship on Wednesday, overcoming front-nine problems to top the 20 qualifiers for the PGA Championship.

The 40-year-old Vermeer, the director of instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, closed with a 1-over 73 on the Bayonet Course for a two-stroke victory over Sean McCarty and Bob Sowards.

The PGA Championship is in August at Bellerive in St. Louis.

Three strokes ahead entering the day, Vermeer played the front in 4 over with a double bogey on the par-4 second and bogeys on the par-4 seventh and par-4 eighth. He rebounded with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-4 11th and also birdied the par-5 18th.

Full-field scores from the PGA Professional Championship

Vermeer finished at 5-under 283. The former University of Kansas player earned $55,000. He won the 2017 Mizuno Pro/Assistant Championship and finished ninth last year in the PGA Professional to qualify for PGA at Quail Hollow.

McCarty had a 68, and Sowards shot 69. Sowards won the 2004 title.

David Muttitt and Jason Schmuhl tied for fourth at 1 under, and 2012 and 2015 champion Matt Dobyns, Jaysen Hansen, and Johan Kok followed at even par.

Marty Jertson, Brian Smock and Ben Kern were 1 over, and Zach Johnson, Craig Hocknull, Matt Borchert and 2016 winner Rich Berberian Jr. were 2 over. Nine players tied at 3 over, with Shawn Warren, 2017 champion Omar Uresti, 2014 winner Michael Block, Craig Bowden and Danny Balin getting the last five spots at Bellerive in a playoff. Balin got the final spot, beating Brian Norman with a par on the seventh extra hole after Norman lost a ball in a tree.

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Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”