Day 1 recaps from the WGC-Accenture Match Play

By February 22, 2012, 10:16 pm

Thirty-two winners. Thirty-two losers. That's the simple math on Day 1 of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Ryan Ballengee wraps up all 32 matches Wednesday at Dove Mountain. (Click for: Tiger Tracker | Running blog | Scoring)

HOGAN: Y.E. Yang (14) d. Graeme McDowell (3), 2 and 1 - In a match filled with birdies early, Yang took advantage for good at the seventh. McDowell is bounced by Yang for the second straight year.

SNEAD: Ryo Ishikawa (14) d. Bill Haas (3), 1 up – Down three with five to play, Ishikawa made three birdies in four holes and a par at the last to take down the Riviera winner.

SNEAD: Paul Lawrie (11) d. Justin Rose (6), 1 up – Rose led for one hole the entire match, but managed to keep close with the Qatar winner. A par at the last locked up the Scot’s win.

PLAYER: Charl Schwartzel (3) d. Gary Woodland (13), 4 and 2 - Schwartzel never trailed in this match, taking three of the first five holes. A conceded closing birdie at the par-3 16th finished Woodland.

HOGAN: Hunter Mahan (6) d. Zach Johnson (11), 19 holes – After testy pars to get to extra holes, a flared drive by Johnson at the first hole of sudden death left him unable to recover.

PLAYER: Sang-Moon Bae (11) d. Ian Poulter (6), 4 and 3 – Never trailing, Bae won four of five holes after being All Square through 10 holes – just one requiring a birdie.

JONES: Dustin Johnson (3) d. Jim Furyk (14), 20 holes - A pair of chip-ins by Johnson at 13 and 16 won holes and helped chip away at a 3 Down drought. Taking an unplayable after his drive at the 20th hole, Johnson recovered for the winning par when Furyk left himself short-sided with his approach. It is Johnson’s first ever win in the event.

HOGAN: Steve Stricker (2) d. Kevin Na (15), 2 and 1 – Neither player was more than 1 Up in the match until a birdie at the par-4 15th gave him enough for the final margin.

JONES: Francesco Molinari (11) d. Thomas Bjorn (6), 20 holes - After missing a short par putt at the first hole of sudden death, Molinari chipped in for eagle at the par-5 2nd – the 20th hole of the match – for the sudden victory over the Great Dane.

SNEAD: Matteo Manassero (15) d. Webb Simpson (2), 3 and 2 – The Italian teen took three of the first four holes, then Simpson took a pair to slash the lead before Manassero made a pair of winning threes at Nos. 15 and 16 to win the match.

HOGAN: Louis Oosthuizen (7) d. Aaron Baddeley (10), 2 and 1 – A back-and-forth match and close the whole way, a 2-foot miss for birdie at No. 15 by Baddeley opened the door for Oosthuizen to win the match with a par at No. 17.

JONES: Mark Wilson (10) d. Bo Van Pelt (7), 3 and 2 – Falling down early by one, Wilson won six holes in an eight-hole stretch against BVP. Three of those wins came with birdies on par-5 holes.

SNEAD: Martin Laird (10) d. Alvaro Quiros (7), 1 up – After both players bombed their tee shots to the last hole, Laird stuck his approach to within two feet. A Quiros three-putt left Laird with a conceded birdie for the win.

PLAYER: John Senden (10) d. Simon Dyson (7), 4 and 3 – The Aussie took four of the first five holes against Dyson, never looking back. After winning the 11th to go 5 Up, Senden made four straight pars to end the match.

JONES: Robert Rock (15) d. Adam Scott (2), 1 up – Battling back and forth, Rock took the 15th and 16th with birdies to take the lead. Scott pushed his approach to the last, which opened the door for a cozy Rock win.

SNEAD: Nick Watney (4) d. Darren Clarke (13), 5 and 4 – This was never a contest. Watney was 4 Up before Clarke won a hole at the eighth – his only win of the match.

HOGAN: Bubba Watson (5) d. Ben Crane (12), 3 and 2 – Watson putted and chipped spectacularly against his fellow Golf Boys member. A chip-in at the par-3 16th sealed the win for last year’s semi-finalist.

PLAYER: Jason Day (2) d. Rafael Cabrera-Bello (15), 19 holes – Cabrera-Bello had the upset in hand with three holes to play. The Spaniard’s poor play into the house gave Day the final three in regulation. A birdie at the first hole of sudden death capped the unlikely comeback.

HOGAN: Matt Kuchar (4) d. Jonathan Byrd (13), 1 up – The Sea Island residents traded waves of momentum, ultimately leading to a showdown at No. 18. Kuchar made birdie at the last after being bunkered to take the match from Byrd.

JONES: Kyle Stanley (13) d. K.J. Choi (4), 2 and 1 – Just eight holes in this match were won. Stanley took two to start the match, lost three to lose the lead, then won the last three to advance past Choi.

PLAYER: Keegan Bradley (5) d. Geoff Ogivly (12), 4 and 3 – Bradley was in control throughout, winning in blocks – three of the first five and from Nos. 10-12. Bradley was 8-under par on his own ball in the match.

SNEAD: Tiger Woods (5) d. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (12), 1 up – This was a match filled with ups and downs and, frankly, poor play from both players. Woods opened the door frequently - going 2 Down through two holes -  for the Spaniard and didn’t walk through too many reciprocated for him.

HOGAN: Martin Kaymer (1) d. Greg Chalmers (16), 4 and 2 – Last year’s runner-up only had to win five holes in the match to take down the Aussie. Chalmers didn’t win a hole until the 14th, but Kaymer won the last two to end it and to shoot 5-under par on the round.

PLAYER: Miguel Angel Jimenez (13) d. Sergio Garcia (4), 2 and 1 – The Mechanic and Garcia traded five straight holes in the middle of the round after the 48-year-old secured an early advantage. A closing win at the 17th by Jimenez locked up the match, ending a streak of five consecutive halved holes.

SNEAD: Robert Karlsson (8) d. Fredrik Jacobson (9), 6 and 5 – In the match of Swedes, Jacobson looked rusty in his ’12 PGA Tour debut. Karlsson won seven holes, losing just one and played 5 under as he cruised to the second round.

JONES: Ernie Els (16) d. Luke Donald (1), 5 and 4 – Els probably had his best putting day ever with the belly putter. All Square after eight holes, Els ripped off five wins in the final seven holes to close the match.

HOGAN: David Toms (8) d. Rickie Fowler (9), 1 up – This was, by far, the best-played match of the day. Just five holes in the match were not won. Toms played 7 under compared to Fowler’s 5 under – including five birdies in the last six holes.

SNEAD: Lee Westwood (1) d. Nicolas Colsaerts (16), 3 and 1 – Westwood wins just his eighth match in 12 appearances, and did so comfortably while playing 6 under. The world No. 3 jumped out to a 3-up lead before Colsaerts made a minor comeback that he could not sustain.

JONES: Brandt Snedeker (5) d. Retief Goosen (12), 21 holes – Not a pretty match, more holes were halved (12) than won (9). Snedeker made three fours in the extra frames to secure a reprisal of his playoff with Kyle Stanley from San Diego.

PLAYER: Rory McIlroy (1) d. George Coetzee (16), 2 up - Trading blows for the first six holes, McIlroy secured a big advantage when he won four straight from No. 11.

PLAYER: Anders Hansen (9) d. Kyung-Tae Kim (8), 5 and 3 - Kim made just one birdie in the first 14 holes, leaving himself desperate for a Jason Day-style comeback. It never came. Hansen won with ease against a struggling opponent.

JONES: Peter Hanson (9) d. Jason Dufner (8), 2 and 1 - A match filled with halves, Dufner and Hanson halved the final three holes to close an uneventful match.

Watch live coverage of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Golf Channel, Thursday/Friday 2-6PM ET; Saturday noon-2PM ET; Sunday 8AM-1PM ET. NBC coverage can be seen live Saturday/Sunday, 2-6PM ET.

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Koepka reveals he injured his ribs last week

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2018, 1:19 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – There was a time when Brooks Koepka didn’t even know if he was going to be able to play this week’s U.S. Open as he recovered from a wrist injury that had sidelined him for 3 ½ months.

He didn’t start hitting full shots until the Monday after the Masters, which he missed, and returned to the PGA Tour in late April at the Zurich Classic. His return to competitive form accelerated from there with a runner-up finish last month at the Forth Worth Invitational.

But if Sunday’s victory at Shinnecock Hills, where he became the first player to win back-to-back U.S. Opens since Curtis Strange in 1989, appeared to be an official return to full strength, it wasn’t exactly that seamless.

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

Koepka, who closed with a 68 for a one-stroke victory over Tommy Fleetwood, revealed that he suffered a rib injury last week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

“My rib kind of came out last week. It bugged me a little bit,” he said. “Right when we got here, [Koepka’s trainer] worked on it, knew what it was. It was pretty sore, but I had no problems since then.”

In 2015, Koepka withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a similar rib injury.

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In the battle of bros, Koepka 1-ups DJ

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2018, 1:12 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – It’s a scene that occurs on a regular basis at the Joey D Golf Training Center, frenzied workouts driven by an intense combination of competition and desire.

Under the watchful eye of longtime PGA Tour trainer Joey Diovisalvi, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson will turn even the most mundane elements of their workouts into winner-take-all contests – from the duo’s warmup on stationary bikes to the various exercises that have turned the twosome into a pair of the game’s most imposing figures.

It was during one of these hyper-fueled sessions a few months ago when Koepka suggested he could become No. 1 world.

“I think Brooks was 11th in the world at the time, and Dustin said, ‘Yeah, if you add a ‘1’ to that,’” Diovisalvi recalled. “Brooks said, ‘You wait and see; you want to come to my party and put the banner up?’ Dustin just laughed, ‘Not while I’m alive, it’s not happening.’”

That rivalry, which is a friendly as it is genuine, was taken to a new level on Sunday at the U.S. Open when the duo set out for the final lap in the day’s penultimate group. Golf’s undisputed Bash Brothers going head-to-head after having traded titles at the last two U.S. Opens, the prototype of the modern professional playing on golf’s most demanding stage.

To the New York masses, the twosome must have looked like the guy most likely to ask how long you’re going to be using the bench press at your local gym, a pair of golfing unicorns who have combined unrelenting power with wildly under-rated precision.

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

With apologies to all those who set out for the final round at Shinnecock Hills with the greatest expectations, this was always going to come down to either Koepka or Johnson.

Koepka won his first U.S. Open in dominant fashion last year at Erin Hills and Johnson got on the board in 2016 at Oakmont, so it should have been no surprise that, as the duo went through their normal “game day” workout early Sunday together, there was the unspoken realization that the day’s competition was just beginning.

“[Koepka] likes to beat DJ,” said Claude Harmon III, the swing coach for both men. “We’re in an era now where it’s a great time in golf that all the guys are friends and there are great friendships, but trust me – all these guys want to win. Brooks wants to beat everybody, including DJ who is his closest friend out here. He wants to beat him in the gym, in everything they do.”

Even in the Official World Golf Ranking, which currently features Johnson atop the pack?

“Absolutely, he tells him all the time,” Harmon said.

Koepka won’t climb to No. 1 in world on Monday, but he did one-up his South Florida stablemate by becoming the first player since Curtis Strange, in 1989, to win back-to-back U.S. Opens.

It was a perfectly Koepka performance.

A day that began with a no small measure of apprehension following Saturday’s inexplicable setup snafu – that prompted some players to contend that the USGA had “lost” the golf course for the second consecutive championship at Shinnecock Hills – quickly settled into the kind of competitive grind for which the U.S. Open is known.

Koepka broke out of a four-way tie for first place with a 20-footer for birdie at the second, added another at the third to go two strokes clear and appeared to be on cruise control. But then U.S. Opens, real U.S. Opens where par is a good score and the USGA dances dangerously close to the edge, are never that easy.

The first crack came at the par-3 11th hole when Koepka airmailed the green and needed to convert a 12-footer for bogey. He scrambled again at the 12th with a 6-footer for par and salvaged his advantage at the 14th hole after finding the fescue with his drive.

With Tommy Fleetwood – who became the sixth player to shoot 63 in a U.S. Open to settle into the clubhouse lead at 2 over par – watching from the range, Koepka walked to the 72nd tee with a two-stroke advantage. There was no suspense, no moments of anxiety, no reason to think he would allow this opportunity to slip away.

For all the complaints about Saturday’s setup, which even USGA CEO Mike Davis said were justified, this was the kind of U.S. Open Koepka relishes.

“This week is just back to a typical U.S. Open, where 1 over par wins the golf tournament,” said Koepka, who closed with a 68. “It's just a lot of grinding. But I couldn't be happier with the way I played.”

Picking your favorite major is often like picking your favorite child – they are all special in their unique way – but Koepka had no problem giving his second turn as U.S. Open champion its proper place.

This was special. Special because he outplayed Johnson, who closed with a 70 to finish in third place at 3 over. Special because of the workmanlike performance Shinnecock Hills demanded. And special because the last year hasn’t exactly been a celebration.

Toward the end of 2017, Koepka began to feel pain in his left wrist. He would miss the Masters with a partially torn tendon and spend 3 ½ maddening months on his couch recovering.

“We were worried that he wasn’t even going to be able to come here and defend,” said Koepka’s father, Bob. “I’m just thankful that he’s been able to recover. It’s been a long three months for him.”

Although he didn’t start hitting full shots until the Monday after the Masters, his return to competitive form was nothing short of meteoric, even by modern standards. And when he finished runner-up at last month’s Fort Worth Invitational, just his fourth event back, his confidence quickly returned.

“He’d never really been a golf nerd and I think he fell in love with golf again,” Harmon said. “When he came back there was something I hadn’t seen with him wanting to play again. He watched the Masters. He never watches the Masters.”

He also was back in the gym, alongside Johnson, rekindling the duo’s ongoing bout of one-upmanship. Early Sunday during their pre-round workout it was the status quo for Koepka and Johnson, friendly banter that both lightens the mood and inspires excellence.

But it was different once the two set out for the final round. There were no jokes, no trash talking, no talking of any kind, in fact.

“I love Dustin. He's one of my best friends,” Koepka said. “To play alongside him, it was fun today. I was excited about it. I figured he would be the guy to beat. But I didn't talk to him today. Maybe I said something on [No.] 3, and that was about it.”

There will be plenty to talk about next week when they renew what is one of the game’s most unique friendships and rivalries. Koepka won’t ascend to No. 1 in the world just yet, but he will hang a banner in Diovisalvi’s gym – 2018 U.S. Open champion – and Johnson wouldn’t miss that moment.

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Balky putter dooms DJ's run for second U.S. Open

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 12:31 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – While the course conditions during the final round of the U.S. Open were decidedly different than the day before, Dustin Johnson’s struggles on the greens remained the same.

Johnson appeared in command of the tournament at the halfway point at Shinnecock Hills, building a four-shot lead as the only player under par. But he, like many of the leaders, fell victim to borderline third-round conditions and struggled to a 7-over 77.

That still left him with a share of the lead at 3 over heading into the final round and a great chance to earn his second U.S. Open title in the last three years. Instead, he couldn’t keep pace with playing partner Brooks Koepka, shooting an even-par 70 to finish alone in third while Koepka went two shots better to successfully defend his title.

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

Johnson declined to speak with media following his round.

Johnson was 2 over for the week heading to the back nine on Sunday, only one shot behind Koepka. But he made three bogeys on the inward half, including dropped shots on Nos. 11 and 14 that effectively ended his title chances.

The culprit for Johnson’s regression was clear. After leading the field in strokes gained: putting through the first two rounds, he couldn’t get comfortable on the greens on the weekend.

Johnson needed 38 putts to complete his third round, T-64 among the 67 players who made the cut, and his 35 final-round putts were T-63 in the same category.

Despite the putting woes, Johnson has now finished T-4 or better at the U.S. Open four times in the last five years. In addition to his third-place showing this week and his win at Oakmont in 2016, he also tied for second at Chambers Bay in 2015 and was T-4 at Pinehurst the year prior.

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Closing double bogey on Sunday costs Finau $217K

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 12:18 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Despite a costly final hole, Tony Finau had plenty to smile about after notching a career-best major finish at the U.S. Open.

Finau made it past the 36-hole cut with only a shot to spare, and his third-round 66 came hours before the leaders played on a course that quickly became burnt to a crisp. Finau explained that it was “nuts” watching his name slowly creep up the leaderboard until he had a share of the 54-hole lead and a spot in Sunday’s final pairing alongside Daniel Berger, who, like Finau, shot a third-round 66 in easier conditions.

But Finau struggled out of the gates in the final round, with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 2-4 to fall well off the pace while eventual champ Brooks Koepka birdied three of his first five. Finau eventually steadied the ship, making five birdies in the middle of his round and ultimately stood over a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 17 that would have brought him within a shot of Koepka’s lead.

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

“I don’t know what it is with this golf course. I can never get off to a good start,” Finau said. “It was that way every round. I don’t know what the deal was. I couldn’t get off to a good start any of the rounds.”

Finau headed to the 72nd hole in third place, but a wayward drive led to a closing double bogey that left him in solo fifth at 5 over. It was his first top-5 in a major and paid $474,659, but that was $217,746 less than he would have earned with a par on the final hole to join Dustin Johnson in a two-way tie for third.

Finau has never played in a Ryder Cup before, but he entered this week at No. 16 on the U.S. points race and will improve that standing with his performance at Shinnecock Hills. Throw in a T-10 finish in his Masters debut and the 28-year-old is officially compiling credentials that could give captain Jim Furyk something to think about come September.

“Reflecting on the week, it’s a cool thing. It’s a goal of mine to be on the team,” Finau said. “I haven’t won this year. That’s something I want to do. But hopefully, just proving to the captains, whether I play myself onto the team or not, that, you know, I step up on the big stage and I can compete.”