Not as suprising as you might think
“This is probably as wide open a major as we’ve seen in a long time,” said Steve Stricker.
How right that’s proving to be. As I write this, 17 players are within four shots of the lead and only three of them have captured major titles: Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, and Vijay Singh. Only one of those three, Furyk, is ranked inside the top 10 in the world.
“When guys see friends or individuals wining whom they consider equals, it’s easier for them to go out and win the first time,” said Padraig Harrington. “There’s no doubt there will be a number of Europeans who have seen Graeme win [the U.S. Open] and believe, ‘We can play golf like Graeme McDowell, so we can win a major,’” Harrington said.
That certainly seems to be McDowell’s fellow countryman Rory McIlroy’s take.
“The major championships have got a lot more wide open, it seems, in the past couple of years,” the 21-year-old McIlroy said Wednesday.
Right now, the Northern Irishman is within a few of the lead.
Five of the last six majors have been won by first-timers. And six of the last seven majors have been claimed by players outside of the top 30 in the world. There’s a lot of golf left to play in the 92nd PGA Championship, but the major that is known for often producing some of the most unexpected champions, is looking like it’s staying on trend. But it’s not exactly a surprise.
Current leader Nick Watney has finished inside the top 10 in two of the year’s first three majors. Dustin Johnson, who is tied for second at the moment, was the 54-hole leader at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. And Matt Kuchar, who led this week after 18 and 36 holes, leads the PGA Tour in scoring average and all-around ranking this year. It’s wide open, yes … but these players definitely have the game.
Fleetwood fires 63, waits to see if score is enough
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.
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.”
Fowler follows 84 with 65, praises Shinnecock setup
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.”
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.”
Phil celebrates par on 13, ducks media after round
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.
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.”
Phil's return to 13 today pic.twitter.com/vxNNEcUxpx— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) June 17, 2018
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.”
USGA slows greens, alters hole locations for Sunday
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.
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.”