Punch Shot: Player with best chance at first major?

By Jay CoffinJuly 16, 2013, 7:41 pm

Adam Scott (Masters) and Justin Rose (U.S. Open) each got off the major schneid this season. Who has the best chance to continue the Breakthrough Slam at this week’s British Open? We asked our writers on-site at Muirfield for their predictions:


By JAY COFFIN

Dustin Johnson is the only man in the world who has collected top-15 finishes at the British Open each of the last three years; No one else has done it twice in that span. He’s my pick to continue the trend of first-time major winners this year.

Johnson’s best chance at this championship came two years ago at Royal St. George’s, when he trailed Darren Clarke with five holes remaining. Johnson was in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 14th and grabbed a 2-iron. Instead of reaching the green Johnson blew the shot wildly right and out of bounds. He made double bogey and tied for second place with Phil Mickelson, three shots behind Clarke.

That was a devastating blow for Johnson – he’s had his share of major disappointment – but the point is, he puts himself in position more regularly than people think. In 18 major starts, Johnson has collected five top-10 finishes.

Johnson’s record this year has not been particularly stellar. That’s a bit of a concern. After winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to open the year he has only recorded two other top-10 finishes in 14 events.

Form matters this week, certainly, but it’s more than that on this side of the pond. For a player to win, the stars must align. Johnson is good enough to win, he’s been in position often enough to win, he should win eventually. All this is the perfect elixir for Johnson to collect his first major title and continue the trend of first-time major winners this year.


By REX HOGGARD

Eighteen of the last 20 major champions have been first-time members of the Grand Slam club, and the next player to take his seat at that table will be Brandt Snedeker.

Some players appreciate links golf, but Snedeker has fashioned himself a genuine aficionado of the ancient layouts.

Before each of his first four Open Championships, the American has secured a practice round with five-time Open champion Tom Watson. Think of it as a playing lesson that last year Snedeker nearly parlayed into a claret jug.

Through 36 holes Snedeker was pacing the field at Lytham but struggled on the weekend to finish tied for third. He took another step in April at the Masters when he slept on his first 54-hole lead at Augusta National only to come up short again.

Throughout his major trials, Snedeker learned.

“I learned a lot in the last four majors, really,” he said on Tuesday at Muirfield. “Playing with Tiger (Woods) last year on Sunday, I learned a lot watching him play around Lytham. Learned a lot from watching Adam (Scott’s) win at the Masters. I learned a lot watching Justin (Rose) the first two days at the U.S. Open.”

And now it’s time for the student to take his place among the major champions.


By RYAN LAVNER

Lee Westwood.

For the better part of a year, the Englishman has been working on his game alone. That plan hasn’t exactly worked – he’s winless in his last 30 events.

That’s why it’s encouraging to see Westwood, now 40, seeking out a second pair of eyes for his game. And in this case, two pairs.

In recent weeks he has enlisted the services of both Ian Baker-Finch (putting) and Sean Foley (full swing). Where some see a golfer searching, I see a man determined to keep his major window cracked open.

As an Open venue, Muirfield has almost always crowned the best ball-striker in the field. Guys like Watson and Nicklaus and Player and Faldo. Westy isn’t yet in that league, but he’s one of the best on Tour in ball-striking. It’s always simply a matter of whether he can make enough putts. At least now he has some assistance.

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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by GolfChannel.com. "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.

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With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

He didn’t even make it that far.

Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.