Ranking the 113th U.S. Open field: Nos. 1-20

By Jason SobelJune 11, 2013, 10:48 pm

ARDMORE, Pa. – Here at the 113th U.S. Open Championship, the big hitters are going to own an advantage, because they can leave driver in the bag on 6,996-yard Merion Golf Club.

On second thought, the advantage goes to the short, accurate hitters, since this isn’t a lengthy course and there will be a premium on getting the ball into the fairway.

No, wait. This tournament – like so many others – often turns into a putting contest, so the guy who rolls the rock best will triumph.

Phew.

If golfers can suffer from paralysis by analysis, can the rest of us suffer from paralysis by overanalysis before major championships?

The fact is, the best golf courses tend to produce eclectic leaderboards rather than playing to only one type of player – and this golf course is undoubtedly one of the best. Of course, that makes predicting a final order of finish even tougher. But let’s try it anyway.

1. Matt Kuchar

On a collision course to win the year’s second major, the game’s most consistent player went and did something dumb a few weeks ago: He won The Memorial Tournament. Picking him now is akin to filling out your NCAA bracket sheet with a team that just rolled through its conference tourney, but Kuchar has the stuff to go back-to-back.

2. Graeme McDowell

It takes patience to contend at a U.S. Open and McDowell has proven he’s amongst the field leaders in that category. He has a win, a share of second and a T-14 in this event over the past three years. On the heels of a victory at Harbour Town two months ago, it’s hard to imagine McDowell not finding himself in contention again this week.

3. Adam Scott

Poor Adam. Fresh off his first career major victory at the Masters two months ago, he arrived on site at Merion and the first question asked of him was whether he’ll feel like a third wheel in a grouping with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. With seven finishes of 15th or better in his last nine major starts, Scott shouldn’t be considered a third wheel in any group.

4. Martin Laird

There are no discernible U.S. Open numbers which should suggest Laird will contend this week, but he’s a solid ball-striker who isn’t unfamiliar with slogging through the mud. Truth is, he evokes memories of Graeme McDowell before his 2010 title – an international player who knows how to win and is ready to make the next step.

5. Phil Mickelson

We’ve all heard the analysis: You’ve got to hit it straight at Merion. You can’t be in the rough at Merion. Well, there’s one thing getting overlooked: You’ve got to be a creative shotmaker. No player of this generation is more creative than Mickelson, although placing him in this spot could be bad karma. He already owns five career U.S. Open runner-up results.

6. Jason Dufner

If Retief Goosen had the proper mindset to win a few U.S. Open titles, then Dufner certainly qualifies, as well. But forget the mental part of the game – he’s also amongst the best ball-strikers around, at 29th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy and 31st in greens in regulation. Flew under the radar with a fourth place finish last year.

7. Tiger Woods

This Sunday will mark the five-year anniversary of Woods’ last major championship victory. Perhaps the only thing more remarkable than that fact is that at age 37, he still has a chance to overtake Jack Nicklaus someday. Some pundits contend that leaving the driver in the bag will suit him well this week, but it’s not the same advantage that it was a decade ago.

8. Matteo Manassero

It says more about our desensitization to success at a young age that Manassero isn’t a bigger story right now than it says about the 20-year-old’s success itself. He already owns four professional victories, including the BMW PGA Championship just a few weeks ago. Known as a tremendous wedge player, this could be a perfect venue for him.

9. Brandt Snedeker

His recent results haven’t been as awe-inspiring as those of the season’s first two months, but Snedeker still sounds confident in his game. Perhaps nobody in the field is cursing the weather more than him, though, because on a fast, firm golf course with speedy greens, he just might be the man to beat. As it stands, he’ll still be one of those men.

10. Kevin Streelman

Tough. Gritty. Determined. Those are words that often describe U.S. Open contenders and words that also describe Streelman, who claimed his first career PGA Tour title at the Tampa Bay Championship earlier this year. He may not be the most talented player in the field, but he can grind out pars and throw in a few birdies, too.

11. Jason Day

The last time a U.S. Open was played on a waterlogged course, he finished in a share of second place.

12. Steve Stricker

Now a part-time player, but still a threat here, with top-20 finishes in each of his last two U.S. Open starts.

13. Rory McIlroy

This just in: His “awful” season to date has included four top-10s in 11 starts. Not so awful after all, is it?

14. Luke Donald

It goes to show how consistent he’s been the last few years that the slight bit of inconsistency is seen as a major issue.

15. Rickie Fowler

Merion will require shot-making skills and Fowler is one of the better shot-shapers left on the PGA Tour.

16. Ian Poulter

One of the game’s more confident players gained an extra dose of confidence with a few solid rounds in Memphis last week.

17. Francesco Molinari

Hey, it’s the City of Brotherly Love – and his brother Edoardo won the U.S. Amateur here at Merion back in 2005.

18. Jim Furyk

Still has some unfinished business left from last year’s poor finish – and a few other ones, too.

19. Carl Pettersson

Root for him – if only to hear the conversation between the anchorer and the USGA’s Mike Davis during the trophy ceremony.

20. Justin Rose

On a course where competitors may be hitting wedge into as many as half of the greens, nobody has been better with a wedge this year.

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain fired a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).


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Local favorite Yu Liu was in sole possession of seventh place after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

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

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.


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"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

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Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.


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"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.