Mickelson, Kuchar paired Thursday at Humana Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2013, 1:15 pm

While the top two players in the world are playing in the Middle East, a strong field has gathered once again in the California desert for the Humana Challenge. In its second year under a 72-hole format, the event will again pair amateurs with pros across three courses.

While you can see a full list of tee times for the whole field here, below are a handful of groups that you may want to keep an eye on during Thursday's opening round (all times local):

8:30 a.m. PT (Nicklaus Private, 10th tee): Harris English, Bud Cauley

Two of the top Tour rookies from 2012 find themselves paired together for the first round. While fellow Georgia Bulldog Russell Henley was running away with the Sony Open, English was busy rallying from the cut line to a T-9 finish, largely thanks to an 8-under 62 on Saturday. Cauley will look to bounce back from a missed cut in Waialae as he looks to secure his first career trip to The Masters later this year.

8:40 a.m. (La Quinta, 1st tee): Brandt Snedeker, Mark Wilson

The defending FedEx Cup champion joins the defending Humana champion. Snedeker will be playing for the first time since a T-3 at Kapalua, while Wilson will look to replicate last year's performance, where he followed a missed cut at the Sony Open with a two-shot win at PGA West.

9:10 a.m. (La Quinta, 1st tee): Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar

Perhaps the biggest draw for fans in this week's field, Mickelson will be making his 2013 season debut in an event that he has twice won before (2002, '04). He will play the first round alongside the reigning Players champion in Kuchar, who began the new year with a pair of top-10 finishes in Hawaii.

9:40 a.m. (Palmer Course, 1st tee): Zach Johnson, Davis Love III

The last American Ryder Cup captain will play with a man who may be in line for the job a few years down the line. Johnson won twice last year, while Love is still adjusting to life outside the fishbowl of the Ryder Cup; both men will look to bounce back from disappointing performances at Waialae, where Johnson missed the cut by a shot and Love failed to make a single birdie in 36 holes.

10:10 a.m. (Palmer Course, 1st tee): Webb Simpson, David Toms

This is not a pairing that is likely to elicit many verbal outbursts or club throws. Few have more experience in this event than Toms, who finished T-6 a year ago and will be making his 14th appearance this week. Simpson, meanwhile, has started his season well with a pair of top-20 finishes in the year's first two events and finished T-13 in 2011, his last appearance in La Quinta.

10:10 a.m. (Nicklaus Private, 10th tee): Russell Henley, Bo Van Pelt

Humana marks the first week of a new career arc for Henley, whose birdie barrage last week in Honolulu helped to re-shape his playing schedule for this year and beyond. He will be paired in the first round with Van Pelt, who will make his 2013 season debut after closing his 2012 campaign with four consecutive top-10 finishes.

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Fleetwood fires 63, waits to see if score is enough

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2018, 8:52 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Tommy Fleetwood became the sixth player to shoot 63 at the U.S. Open, and just the second to do it in the final round. Now he waits.

Fleetwood teed off almost 2 ½ hours before – and six strokes behind – the leaders at Shinnecock Hills on Sunday, but stormed into the hunt thanks to four consecutive birdies starting at the 12th hole. The Englishman’s round was even more impressive considering he didn’t birdie either of the layout’s par 5s.

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Fleetwood finished at 2 over par – after missing a 9-foot putt for birdie and 62 at the 18th – which was tied for second place and one stroke off the lead held by Brooks Koepka when he completed his round.

After speaking with the media, Fleetwood went to the locker room to await a possible playoff, which was changed this year from an 18-hole overtime to just two holes of aggregate play.

“We'll go and relax a little bit and just see,” said Fleetwood, who rolled in 159 feet of birdies putts. “Only time will tell what's going to happen today at the course. If it was like yesterday, I'd feel a little more comfortable than now.”

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Fowler follows 84 with 65, praises Shinnecock setup

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2018, 5:44 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – As promised, the USGA dialed back Shinnecock Hills for Sunday’s final round, watering the greens overnight and deferring to more user-friendly hole locations.

The evidence of this was on the leaderboard, with four early finishers having shot under-par rounds, including Rickie Fowler, who closed with a round-of-the-week 65. There were just three under-par cards on Saturday.

“That's the golf course I enjoy playing. Obviously, pin placements were a lot safer,” said Fowler, who had just one bogey on Sunday and opened his day with a 4-under 31 on his opening nine. “The pins today will definitely allow for the greens to firm up and get fast, and we'll see how much they dry out. It was definitely more receptive this morning than yesterday, that's for sure.”

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It was a 19-stroke turnaround for Fowler, who ballooned to a third-round 84 on Day 3 during what most contend were the week’s toughest conditions. Fowler had put himself into contention going into the weekend thanks to a second-round 69, but struggled on Saturday afternoon like much of the field.

Fowler said the setup was vastly different to what players faced on Saturday and that even if the winds increase for the afternoon tee times the course will remain playable, unlike Round 3 when many players said the USGA “lost” the golf course.

“They did a good job of staying safe,” Fowler said, “because if it does dry out, it will still be very playable.”

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Phil celebrates par on 13, ducks media after round

By Ryan LavnerJune 17, 2018, 5:35 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Phil Mickelson didn’t have another meltdown at the U.S. Open.

Back on the 13th green Sunday – less than 24 hours after taking a two-shot penalty for hitting a moving ball and recording a sextuple-bogey 10 – Mickelson poured in a 10-footer and raised his arms in mock triumph, as if he’d finally won that elusive major title.

Not quite.

He’d simply made par.

“It looked like he won the Masters,” said playing partner Rickie Fowler. “He didn’t jump, but he had a little celebration there.”

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The par save and the final-round 69 were one of the lone bright spots during what was an adventurous week for Lefty, even by his unpredictable standards. Mickelson’s shocking swat was still the talk of this Open, especially after USGA executive director Mike Davis revealed Saturday night that Mickelson had called him to ask for more clarification on the rule he said that he knew he’d broken.

Despite some calls for him to withdraw from the tournament, Mickelson displayed his usual cheerful demeanor inside the ropes with Fowler.

“He joked about it right as we went down the first hole,” Fowler said.

Fowler said that he didn’t know “if I would have had the wits like Phil to run after it” on 13, but added that it never should have come to that in the first place.

“He could have saved himself a shot by just letting it go and taking unplayable, but then that would still look pretty funny too,” he said. “The course shouldn’t play that way.”

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

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USGA slows greens, alters hole locations for Sunday

By Ryan LavnerJune 17, 2018, 3:29 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – After admitting that it went too far with the setup Saturday at the U.S. Open, USGA officials made some modifications for the final round.

In a statement released Sunday morning, the USGA said that it watered Shinnecock Hills’ greens an “appropriate level” and slowed down the surfaces nearly a foot on the Stimpmeter.

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That was in anticipation of a sunny, dry forecast that calls for temperatures to reach 80 degrees and wind gusts up to 20 mph.

They said the setup for the final day is similar to what was used in Round 1, when officials braced for 30-mph winds.

Some of the hole locations were also adjusted based on the forecast – changes, the USGA said, that were meant to “maintain a challenge yet fair U.S. Open test.”