Donald, McIlroy, Westwood struggle on Day 1

By Jason SobelJune 15, 2012, 3:28 am

SAN FRANCISCO – The world’s three top-ranked golfers exchanged halfhearted handshakes and sheepish smiles on the final green at Olympic Club, then let out a collective sigh as they trudged up the makeshift stairs to sign their scorecards – professional golf’s version of a death march if there ever was one.

There is nothing random about U.S. Open tee times. There is no computer-generated software that spits out player permutations, no dart-throwing, coin-flipping or picking out of a hat.

To refer to any specific group as divine intervention is to call the USGA divine, as the organizing committee intervenes in order to proffer the most entertaining – or enigmatic or eclectic – trios over the first two rounds of its annual grindfest.

And so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood found themselves sharing a tee time, the first three names atop the Official World Golf Ranking side by side by side in a physical sense, too.


Video: Disastrous start for big names


What should come as a surprise is how they fared in the opening round of the 112th edition of the event.

Donald posted a 9-over 79; McIlroy shot a 7-over 77; and Westwood carded a 3-over 73.

To paraphrase an old John Lennon line, it was instant carnage right from the beginning. The group tallied two bogeys and a double on the opening hole and failed to recover during the remainder of the round.

Their combined total of 19 over par may not sound too ghastly on a day when only a half-dozen competitors broke par, but check out the world’s top three in comparison to some other, well, less ballyhooed triumvirates:

• Shane Bertsch, Tommy Biershenk and Martin Flores – all little-known PGA Tour pros – beat them by five strokes.

• Marc Warren, Michael Allen and Anthony Summer – a European Tour regular, a Champions Tour regular and a former toilet cleaner – beat them by nine.

• Scott Langley, Steve Lebrun and Beau Hossler – two fringe pros and a 17-year-old amateur – beat them by 10.

• Jason Bohn, Rafael Jacquelin and Jae-Bum Park – three pros with varying degrees of moderate success – beat them by 17.

That’s right, golf fans. If you had Bohn, Jacquelin and Park giving 16 strokes in the opening round against the world’s three top-ranked players, congratulations. You’re a winner.

All together, Donald, McIlroy and Westwood totaled 20 bogeys and a double – against just three birdies for the day.

“Well, the top three in the world and we make three between us,” said Donald, who didn’t contribute a single birdie. “It shows how tough it is. There aren't that many opportunities out there.”

The world’s top-ranked player, Donald forged a symmetrical round of nine pars and nine bogeys. It marked the seventh straight time he opened a U.S. Open with a score in the 70s – and that was only thanks to a pair of pars to close. The stat of the day from Olympic? Andy Zhang, at 14 years old the youngest competitor in tournament history, tied the man with No. 1 next to his name.

“The U.S. Open, the margins are that much smaller and if you're just a little bit off, which I was today, it's tough,” Donald admitted. “And then you have to really rely on chipping it close and making some putts and I didn't do that. My putter kind of went cold today, otherwise I could have probably ground out some more respectable score. But this place is tough. I feel like even from yesterday it got a lot tougher and I didn't hit the shots when I needed to.”

In his title defense after cruising to an eight-stroke victory a year ago at Congressional, McIlroy didn’t fare much better. After compiling just four over-par individual hole totals last year, he doubled that number on Thursday, with eight bogeys against just a lone birdie.

“It was a combination of things,” he said afterward. “You hit your first shot out of position. It's hard to get your second shot back into position. If you hit one bad shot on any of the holes, it's very hard to recover from that. And that's what I found today.”

For his part, Westwood may be getting unfairly lumped in with the poor play of his partners. His 73 was actually more than two full strokes below the field scoring average for the round, and after starting with a double bogey on the first, he played the final 17 holes in just 1 over.

Still, he was at least an eyewitness to the carnage if not an outright contributor. The halfhearted handshakes, the sheepish smiles, the collective sighs – they were all the result of a long, unsatisfying day that left the world’s top three players trudging off the course when it was finally complete.

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U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.

Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.

The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.

Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open


Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)


Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."