Punch Shot: Who will win the Open Championship?

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2013, 9:17 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Lee Westwood leads Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan by two strokes entering the final round of the 142nd Open Championship. Seven other players are within five strokes of the lead. We asked our writers on-site at Muirfield to pick a winner.


It’s Lee Westwood’s time to win a major championship.

You may view it as the odds are stacked against him. He’s contended so many times that there are bound to be demons floating through his brain down the stretch. Tiger Woods is hot on his heels as he looks for his 15th major championship and his first in more than five years. A balky putting stroke has plagued him in pressure moments for the better part of his career and it’s bound to catch up with him for the first time this week.

I look at it differently. Westwood has so much scar tissue that one more disappointment can’t possibly do more damage. Woods has never won a major championship while not leading after 54-holes. Westwood is leading the field in putts per round, having used 81 swats with the flatstick. And, the best one, Westwood will have the support of all of Great Britain as it attempts to extend its summer of joy following victories from Justin Rose at the U.S. Open and Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

It’s also better that Westwood isn’t in the same pairing with Woods. Westwood stared him down Saturday and bettered him by two shots, but it’s a blessing not to have to do that again. There will be less pressure playing alongside Hunter Mahan.

Lastly, I believe in trends. Adam Scott and Rose were each first-time major winners this year. Makes sense that the Breakthrough Slam will continue here at Muirfield, and it’ll do so with a Brit leading the way.


The record says Tiger Woods is 0-for-16 in majors since that historic 2008 U.S. Open victory. That he’s never won a Grand Slam while trailing after 54 holes. That he’s broken par on Sunday at a major just once in his last six Grand Slam starts.

But all that ignores the stars that are aligned over Muirfield.

Not since 2006 at a similarly brown and bouncy links has Woods been so prepared, in mind and body, to wrest himself out of his major drought.

The rock hard turf lends itself perfectly to Woods’ affinity for hitting fairway wood and long iron “stingers,” a fact that is made all the more relevant given the fact that he has hit driver just once this week (at the par-5 fifth on Saturday).

He’s also controlling his golf ball better than anyone else in the field, “flighting” shots below the wind and playing the bounces like he was born in Scotland.

It’s also worth noting that just four of the top 10 players through three rounds – Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson – have a major on their mantel. And all of those would-be contenders are trailing Woods.

If ever there was a place suited for Woods to collect major No. 15, it would be Muirfield.


History suggests Lee Westwood will hoist the claret jug on Sunday. After all, he leads by two shots, and since 1972 the 54-hole leader at Muirfield has gone on to win the Open four of the five times it was played.

But I’m still picking Tiger Woods to win.

The reason is simple, really: He is playing better, tee-to-green, than anyone else in the field. He is T-2 in fairways hit (33 of 42), T-9 in greens in regulation (38 of 54) and T-15 in putts per round (90 putts).

Westwood, by comparison, hasn’t been nearly as sharp with his long game, ranking T-52 in fairways hit (24 of 42) and T-62 in greens in regulation (31 of 54). The difference has been with the flatstick; he has an Open-best 81 putts through three rounds, five better than anyone else in the field. But his revamped putting stroke has never faced major Sunday pressure.

I know, Woods has never won a major when trailing after 54 holes. But the best player of his generation, arguably the greatest of all time, can’t possibly go his entire career bagging majors only from the pole position.

The guess here is that changes Sunday.

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S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.

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''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.

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'Caveman golf' puts Koepka one back at CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:12 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Brooks Koepka, recently named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when he shot a 7-under par 65 to move to within one shot of the lead in the CJ Cup on Friday.

At the Nine Bridges course, the three-time major champion made an eagle on his closing hole to finish on 8-under par 136 after two rounds, just one stroke behind Scott Piercy, who was bogey-free in matching Koepka's 65.

With the wind subsiding and the course playing much easier than on the opening day when the scoring average was 73.26, 44 players – more than half the field of 78 – had under-par rounds.

Overnight leader Chez Reavie added a 70 to his opening-round 68 to sit in third place at 138, three behind Piercy. Sweden's Alex Noren was the other player in with a 65, which moved him into a tie for fourth place alongside Ian Poulter (69), four out of the lead.

The best round of the day was a 64 by Brian Harman, who was tied for sixth and five behind Piercy.

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The 28-year-old Koepka will move to the top of the world rankings when they are announced on Monday if he wins the tournament.

Thomas, playing alongside Koepka, matched Koepka's eagle on the last, but that was only for a 70 and he is tied for 22nd place at 1 under.

Koepka's only bogey was on the par-5 ninth hole, where he hit a wayward tee shot. But he was otherwise pleased with the state of his ''caveman golf.''

''I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun,'' Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, said.

''My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it like caveman golf – you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it.''

Piercy, who has fallen to No. 252 in the world ranking despite winning the Zurich Classic earlier this year with Billy Horschel – there are no world ranking points for a team event – was rarely out of position in a round in which he found 13 of 14 fairways off the tee and reached 16 greens in regulation.

''Obviously, the wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20s is quite a big difference,'' said Piercy, who is looking for his first individual PGA Tour win since the Barbasol Championship in July 2015.

''It was a good day. Hit a couple close and then my putter showed up and made some putts of some pretty good length.''

Australia's Marc Leishman, winner last week at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, shot a 71 and was seven behind. Paul Casey's 73 included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole and the Englishman is nine behind Piercy.

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Koepka primed for CJ Cup win and world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 6:00 am

Brooks Koepka wants a 2-for-1 at the CJ Cup. If he can collect his second non-major PGA Tour victory he can become world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

He’s in great position to accomplish his goal.

Koepka eagled the par-5 18th en route to a 7-under 65 in the second round at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea. At 8 under par, he is one back of 36-hole leader Scott Piercy (65).

"Obviously the wind didn't blow. It was a different golf course than it was yesterday, you were able to take advantage of these par 5s," said Koepka, who opened in 71 on Day 1. "Felt like it was a lot more gettable. I putted so well, great ball-striking day, great putting day and very pleased with it."

Koepka, currently ranked third in the world, began the day three shots off the lead, but rapidly ascended the leaderboard. He birdied four of his first eight holes before finding trouble at the ninth. Koepka hooked his tee shot out of bounds, but the ninth is a par 5 and he was able to salvage bogey.

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That was his only dropped shot of the day.

The reigning Tour Player of the Year birdied the 12th and 14th holes in his bid to keep pace with Piercy. Koepka was two back as he played his final hole, where he knocked his second shot to 10 feet. He deftly converted the eagle effort to tie Piercy and earn a spot in Saturday’s final twosome. Piercy later pulled a shot ahead with a birdie at the ninth, his final hole of the day.

Koepka has officially won four PGA Tour events, but three of those are majors (2017, ’18 U.S. Open; 2018 PGA). His lone non-major win was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"Just keep doing what I'm doing," Koepka said of his plan for the final two rounds. "I'm hitting it well and making putts. I felt like I probably could have shot about 7, 8 under on the front side there, missed a couple. You know, doing everything right and that's what you've got to do and hopefully this wind stays away."

He can still reach world No. 1 with a solo second place, assuming Justin Thomas, currently world No. 4, doesn’t win this week.

That will take a mighty weekend effort by the defending champ.

Thomas also eagled the 18th hole to go from 1 over to 1 under. He shot 2-under 70 in the second round and is seven shots off the lead.

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'Go in'? Yes, JT wants an ace at the par-4 14th

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 5:11 am

Justin Thomas didn’t hesitate after hitting his tee shot on the 353-yard, par-4 14th in Round 2 of the CJ Cup.

“Go in,” he immediately said.

“Please go in,” he added.

Thomas’ tee shot was on a great line, but it landed just short of the green. Surprisingly, it took three more shots for his ball to "go in." After birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, Thomas parred the 14th.