Simpson's win continues first-timer trend

By Jason SobelJune 18, 2012, 5:12 am

SAN FRANCISCO – Good news for the roughly 6,884,909,953 people around the world who have never won a major championship golf tournament: Your time is coming.

These trophies used to be the exclusive property of singular-named superstars. From Bobby to Ben. Arnie to Seve. Jack to Tiger. It took a major pedigree to win a major title back in the day – and by “back in the day,” we’re talking all the way back in 2008.

Perhaps the greatest reason for those erstwhile prosperous 1 percenters is that winning begot more winning. The way it worked was that once a player broke through and collected his first, it meant he had developed the mettle to prevail again and again and again. The result was fewer major champions, each claiming a bigger piece of the major championship pie.

Ah, the good ol’ days.

Well, we live in a new era, golf fans. An era in which the last 15 majors have been won by 15 different golfers. That number dates back to Padraig Harrington’s win at the 2008 PGA Championship, extends to Webb Simpson’s victory at this U.S. Open, and includes a veritable cornucopia of eclectic winners, from Hall of Fame inductees to top-10 stars to second-tier talents to one-hit wonders.

This isn’t a competitive environment anymore. It’s a deli line.

Actually, based on the sheer volume of players who have come through the major championship turnstile lately, it more closely resembles a line at the DMV, with customers impatiently waiting their turn as the line backs up out the front door.

Simpson was the latest to hear his number called, stepping to the window and picking up his trophy and oversize check at The Olympic Club. To hear him analyze it, though, even he didn’t know he was ready to win a big one.

“If I was honest with you, I believed in myself I could win a major,” he said after beating Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson by a stroke, “but maybe not so soon.”

While Simpson’s victory may leave certain veterans without a major depressed over their misfortune, it should actually serve the opposite purpose, instead buoying their confidence that next time may be the chance for which they’ve been waiting.

Apparently, the world’s best without a major are without one not because of any lack of talent or intestinal fortitude or good luck. Maybe they are without a major for the sole reason that it simply hasn’t happened yet. Their number hasn’t been called.

Yes, this means you, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald and Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson. All players who have come so close and yet have failed to puff that victory cigar.

It’s an intriguing phenomenon – and one which left the most recent recipients grateful for their good fortune.

“Thank you, Vijay, Phil and Tiger,” said Paul Tesori, caddie for Simpson who claimed his 16th career win, but first major on Sunday. “Is that right? Is that who’s stolen all of them in the last however many years? I think it’s a great time in golf, to be honest with you. Obviously, Tiger is back to playing great golf. He’s going to win more majors. But it’s fun to have all these different guys, because you know every time you tee it up that you’ve got a chance to win the golf tournament. It’s a great feeling.”

There used to be a prevailing feeling that a list of contenders at any major would run maybe 20-30 players deep. Sure, there were certain occasions to refute that notion, but the majority of these tournaments would be claimed by the game’s upper echelon of elite talent.

That isn’t the case today. Simply put, the list of contenders mirrors the entry list for any given event. Which is to say, anybody can win.

Consider this strange confluence of events at the U.S. Open: Fourteen-time major champion Tiger Woods finished 17 places behind John Peterson, who doesn’t own status on any major tour; meanwhile, four-time major champion Phil Mickelson trailed low amateur Jordan Spieth by 44 spots on the leaderboard.

“One of my thoughts on the back nine was, ‘I don't know how Tiger has won 14 of these things, because the pressure,’” Simpson confided. “I couldn't feel my legs most of the back nine. It grew my respect for Tiger all the more. But I think the prime age 10, 15 years ago was mid 30s. Now it's moving closer to the mid 20s or late 20s. There's so many young guys.

“If I see Keegan Bradley win a major, I respect his game a ton, but I feel like, Keegan Bradley won one, I want to go win one. All these guys that won before me, I thought, ‘I played with these guys all my life. I want to win a tournament.’ They're great players, but I want to do what they're doing. Everybody is so competitive in this world that we just kind of feed off of each other.”

The truth is, they are. In fact, it’s becoming a feeding frenzy at these major championships, with every player even hungrier for a victory, because, well, everyone else is doing it.

It should send a positive message to those who have yet to break through that barrier: Your time is coming. In today’s era, everyone gets a chance to have their number called.

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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.  

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

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:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; 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."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.