A big break, a broken dream

By Jason SobelJune 8, 2014, 3:49 am

If there’s ever been a professional golfer who needed a big break, it’s Jason Millard.

Two years ago, he missed reaching the final stage of Q-School by one measly stroke. This year, he owns conditional status on the developmental Web.com Tour, but hasn’t gotten into a single event. He’s tried to Monday qualify, but is 0-for-7 so far.

That’s hardly the extent of his heartache, though.

Last year, his father, Eddie, passed away at 60 after a year-long battle with leukemia. “He was my best friend,” Jason says of the man who introduced him to the game.

That left the 24-year-old to care for his mother, Debbie, all alone. Right around the time Jason was born, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. About two or three years ago, her condition worsened to the point where she can no longer walk. He still lives with her in his childhood home and though she has a daily caretaker, his responsibilities include buying her groceries, paying her bills and ensuring her medications are filled.

“He’s got a lot more on his plate than any 24-year-old should have in regard to the things he’s been through with his family,” says Whit Turnbow, head coach at Middle Tennessee State University, where Millard was a two-time All-America selection. “But his mom and dad did a wonderful job raising him. He’s got a strong sense of family and he’s a high-character, high-moral kid.”

So yeah, this is a kid who could use a big break. And he finally got one this past week, shooting scores of 68-68 at the Memphis, Tenn., sectional to earn a spot in the upcoming U.S. Open.

Until five days later, when that big break turned into another big disappointment.

After nearly a week of constantly thinking about it, nearly a week of guilt, of questioning himself, of not wanting his big break to come under false pretenses, Millard disqualified himself from the biggest tournament of his life.

Playing the 18th hole on the North Course at Colonial Country Club – his 27th of the day – he hit an approach into a greenside bunker. As he played the shot, doubt crept into his mind as to whether he’d grounded his club in the hazard.

“I got in the bunker and looked up at the flag and back down, then back at the flag,” he recalls. “I looked down the last time before I took my swing and I think I feel the club hit the sand. I may never know. I think I see a little indentation from where the club hit it, but it happened so fast. I was actually in the act of making my swing when I thought I saw it. It was like a blur. That image keeps popping in my head.”

Millard notified playing partner Tommy Gainey, but he was on the other side of the green and didn’t see anything. He told a rules official, who informed him that it was his call and his call alone.

It was a decisive call. When the 36-hole qualifier was over, he’d earned a spot in the field by one stroke. If he’d given himself a two-stroke penalty, he would have missed a playoff by one.

For five days, he thought about it. All the time.

“I literally thought about it for every single second of the day,” he says. “I just kept asking myself what to do. I kept saying, ‘I’m not 100 percent sure,’ so I never did anything. But it kept on eating at me inside.”

On Saturday morning, Millard packed up for Pinehurst and started driving from his Murfreesboro, Tenn., home with his caddie. They’d driven about an hour, halfway between Murfreesboro and Knoxville – “in the middle of nowhere,” he calls it – when he had a change of heart.

He called a USGA official and explained that he couldn’t compete with the uncertainty weighing on him.

Those who bemoan the impact that television replays have had on professional golf should take note of Millard’s lasting desire toward the situation.

“I wish there was a camera there,” he says, “so I could see it.”

Instead, the guy who can’t catch a break dealt himself another cruel blow.

Instead of playing alongside the game’s best players, he’ll be watching from afar – as much as it will pain him. Instead of trying to make the cut and play a U.S. Open final round on Father’s Day, one year after his father died, he’ll be mourning at home.

The story should recall that of Blayne Barber, who two years ago needed eight days before disqualifying himself from Q-School for a similarly undetermined infraction. And it should be noted that Barber – in a karmic twist of what goes around comes around – will be a full-fledged PGA Tour member next season.

“His break is coming, man,” Turnbow insists. “He’s too good a player to not rebound from something like this.”

After calling a USGA official and disqualifying himself and turning around from the middle of nowhere, Millard returned to his childhood home and told his mother about his decision. Despite her physical limitations, Debbie’s mind is still as sharp as ever.

A tear fell down her cheek as she listened to her son’s story. Then she responded.

“She said she was proud of me, proud of the decision that I made,” he says. “Then she told me, ‘You’ll get ‘em next year.’”

Let’s hope so. He could use a big break. 

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Kang 'going with the flow,' one back of A. Jutanugarn

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 am

SHANGHAI – Ariya Jutanugarn shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai tournament on Thursday.

The Thai player had six birdies in a bogey-free round, including three straight on Nos. 4, 5, and 6.

''I always have so much fun when I play in Asia,'' said Jutanugarm, who added her key was ''just not to expect anything. Just go out have fun and enjoy everything.''

Sei Young Kim and Danielle Kang (both 67) were one shot back, with six other players only two shots off the lead.


Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

Kang credited her improved play to new coach Butch Harmon.

''We just kind of simplify the game a lot,'' the American said. ''Just trying to calm it down and get back to how I used to play. Just more feel golf. Thinking less mechanics and going with the flow.''

Kang tied for third last week at the KEB Hana Bank championship in Incheon, South Korea.

''Today's round went very smooth,'' Kang said. ''Coming off very good momentum after last week, and I've been hitting the ball really well, playing great. I've just been trusting my game and just keep giving myself birdie chances. They kept rolling in.''

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Sharpshooting Reavie (68) leads tough CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 9:34 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Chez Reavie overcame cool, windy conditions for a 4-under 68 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on Thursday.

In the breezy conditions, the back nine of the course posed the most difficulty, but the 36-year-old American made two birdies and negotiated it in 35 after starting on the 10th tee, and then picked up three shots on his final nine.

Danny Willett and Si Woo Kim shot 69 while the large group at 70, and tied for fourth, included Ian PoulterNick Watney and Michael Kim.

Brooks Koepka, playing in his first tournament since being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year, shot 71 and was in a group three strokes behind and tied for 11th, which included Paul Casey and Hideki Matsuyama.

Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Defending champion Justin Thomas had a 73, as did Jason Day, Ernie Els and J.B. Holmes.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


Marc Leishman, who won last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and Adam Scott had 75s.

Reavie's only PGA Tour win came at the 2008 Canadian Open, and he finished second in back-to-back starts last year in Phoenix and Pebble Beach, losing at Phoenix in a playoff.

''It was a great day, I hit the ball really well,'' Reavie said of Thursday's round. ''The wind was blowing really hard all day long so you had to really start the ball well and keep it out of the wind. Luckily, I was able to do that.''

Despite the windy conditions, Reavie found all 14 fairways off the tee and hit 15 out of 18 greens in regulation, which he felt was the key to a good score.

''It's tough because once you get above the hole with this wind, it's really hard to chip it close,'' he said. ''The more greens you can hit, the better and that was key to my game.''

Willett, who has struggled with injuries and form since winning the 2016 Masters and has dropped to No. 342 in the world, made five birdies and two bogeys in his 69. Willett has just one top-five finish since finishing second in the Italian Open in September 2016.

Having committed to play on the PGA Tour by taking up membership this season, Willet said it was important to make a quick start to the season.

''I've done two tours for a couple of years, and it's very difficult,'' Willett said. ''We committed to play on the PGA Tour, to play predominantly over here this year and next. It's nice to kind of get in and get some points early if you can.''

The second of three PGA Tour events in three weeks in Asia has a 78-player field and no cut. Only 19 players broke par on Thursday.

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Koepka takes edge over Thomas in race for world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:50 am

Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.

Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.

Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.

Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.

One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.

On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.

"I felt like I played good. I hit some good shots, missed a couple putts early and kind put myself in a little bit of trouble on the back nine, my front, but rallied pretty nicely," Koepka said. "I felt like I found a bit of rhythm. But it's a difficult day, anything under par, level par is a good score out there today. I'm pleased with it."

Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.

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Watch: Thomas' approach takes wild ride on CJ Cup green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 5:17 am

Two over par with one hole to play in Round 1 of the CJ Cup, Justin Thomas eyed an eagle at the par-5 ninth [his 18th].

And he nearly got it, thanks to his ball beautifully navigating the curves of the green.

Thomas hit a big draw for his second shot and his ball raced up the green's surface, towards the back, where it caught the top of ridge and funneled down to within 6 feet of the hole.



Unfortunately for Thomas, the defending champion, he missed the eagle putt and settled for birdie and a 1-over 73.