Defending Difficult on PGA Tour

By Golf Channel NewsroomFebruary 15, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 Nissan OpenSix years ago, on the cusp of Tiger Woods historic streak at the Bay Hill Invitational, Tim Herron was the defending champion of the Orlando event.
 
He strolled into the press center as carefree as a man could be. He showed no outward signs of the pressure attached to trying to defend ones title. But in his mind, there was no reason to stress out.
 
I dont think theres a lot of pressure because I dont think a lot of guys successfully defend, Herron said at the time. It doesnt happen very often and I dont know why. So you really dont have real high expectations, which is good.
 
Herron didnt defend his title that year; Woods won. Woods won again the following year, and then again in 2002, and yet one more time in 2003.
 
Winning the same tournament on four consecutive occasions has happened only four times in the history of the PGA Tour. Its as much of an anomaly as there is on the circuit.
 
But even winning two-in-a-row is a laborious and infrequent achievement.
 
Over the last 20 years ' and counting only tournaments on the current PGA Tour schedule ' only 35 times has a player successfully defended his title.
 
That includes Woods three consecutive wins at the WGC-NEC (1999-2001) and at the Memorial (1999-2001), and his four-peat at Bay Hill (2000-03).

Woods is easily the leader in the Department of Defense. Of those 35 successful defenses, Woods has 11 of them to his credit. Phil Mickelson is next in line with three. Corey Pavin and Ernie Els have each done it twice in that parameter.
 
I dont know why its so hard to defend, said Jim Furyk, who won what is now called the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas back-to-back in 98 and 99. You come in with a lot of confidence because youve played well there before. You like the course because youve had success there. I guess it just proves how hard it is to win out here.
 
Mike Weir has done it. He kept hold of the Nissan Open trophy he won in 2003 by holding off Shigeki Maruyama a year ago. Now hes back for an opportunity to join Woods as the only men to have won an event three times in a row over the last 20 years.
 
Woods will get a chance to add to his list of accomplishments in this category the following week, when he vies for his third straight WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
David Toms will also have the opportunity to accomplish the three-peat in May at the FedEx St. Jude.
 
Els had a chance at the Sony, but finished one back of winner Vijay Singh.
 
While history is stacked against him, Weir should have some measure of confidence as he returns to Riviera Country Club. In addition to being the two-time defending champion, the tours second all-time winning left-hander won second place at last weeks AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am ' which was the only competitive race run in Mickelson's runaway victory.
 
'I feel much better about my game, you know, after this week compared to maybe after Phoenix,' Weir said following his final-round 67 in very difficult scoring conditions. 'This round definitely boosted my confidence level going into next week.'
 
History isnt weighted in Woods favor either, but he, too, should like his chances this week.
 
Woods won his first stroke-play event on tour in 15 months in his last outing at the Buick Invitational. That, however, was his third career win at Torrey Pines. Hes never won at Riviera ' or anywhere the Nissan Open has been contested.
 
Woods has played the Nissan ' seven times as a professional ' more than any other tour event without winning. He shot a 7-under 64 ' his lowest score ever in this tournament ' in the final round a year ago to tie for seventh.
 
Woods grew up in the greater Los Angeles area, and competed in his first tour event at Riviera in 1992. He missed the cut that year, and did the same in 93. Hes since never finished outside of the top 20, while posting a pair of runner-up finishes.
 
His best chance for victory came in 1998, when he lost to Billy Mayfair in a playoff at Valencia Country Club.
 
It's frustrating, yes, but it's also one of those things where you have to play good for all four days, and I haven't done that, Woods said after last years final round. In order to win at this track you have to put together four solid rounds of golf, and I haven't done that yet.
 
The numbers back up Tigers words. Since 1997, when Woods first played this event as a professional, Robert Allenby (2001) is the only winner to have posted a single round over par. During the stretch, Woods has had at least one over-par round in five of his seven starts. The only two exceptions came in 2001, when he had two rounds at even par and tied for 13th; and in 1999, when he shot all four rounds under par, but still came up two strokes shy of Ernie Els.
 
This is the 79th playing of the tournament that was, for most of its existence, known as the Los Angeles Open.
 
Its the 43rd time that Riviera has played host. The par-71 venue, which is dubbed Hogans Alley after three-time winner Ben Hogan, who also won the 1948 U.S. Open here, measures 7,246 yards.
 
There is a strong European contingent on hand. Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are on hand; as is Paul Casey, who is making his first start since withdrawing from the Buick Invitational.
 
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    Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

    Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

    Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

    “The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

    Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

    It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.

    Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

    “I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

    Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

    “What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

    Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.

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    1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

    Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

    Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

    Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.


    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


    Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

    Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

    The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

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    Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

    The swing loaded with speed.

    The on-course charisma.

    The big shot in the big moment.

    The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

    Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

    Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

    And did he?

    “I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

    Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

    One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

    “Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

    “It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  


    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


    Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

    On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

    It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

    “He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

    The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

    “It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

    That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

    “I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

    The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

    “He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

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    Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

    By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

    The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

    Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

    According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

    "My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

    Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

    Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.