The U.S. Open Winner Is ...

By Jason SobelJune 9, 2011, 9:11 pm

I know who is going to win the U.S. Open.

It’s simple math, really. An easy formula. Crunch a few numbers, calculate some averages and – voila! – there’s your next major champion.

It all has to do with recent history. The last year has seen a changing landscape in professional golf, with major titles no longer the entitlement of the elite.

A charmer from Northern Ireland, an up-and-comer from Germany and a pair of South African farmboys are currently the four reigning champions, each having “shocked the world” in the past 12 months. None were undeserving nor unqualified, but they were hardly household names when they claimed their hardware.

It’s led to a prevailing sentiment that majors have become anybody’s ballgame. So what is the prototype for winning one?

“There isn’t one,” said 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman.

“Anybody can win,” maintained 1997 PGA Championship winner Davis Love III.

“I can tell you what it’s not,” 2003 PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel said. “It’s not a seasoned, veteran player anymore.”

In the past, the quintessential major champion was a straight driver with a deadly putting stroke. Or a big bomber with a sublime wedge game. Or a Seve-like scrambler. Or, well, Tiger Woods.

Those days are over – for now, at least.

“We’re kind of removed from a decade ago, when Tiger was winning every major,” Immelman said. “At that point, everybody thought that you had to have 5 percent body fat and bench press whatever and hit a million golf balls.

“We’re at a point where there’s so many guys who have an opportunity to win. It’s amazing when you look at it – between the Westwoods and the McIlroys and McDowells, the guys we see contending all the time – they all have different actions, they’re all different shapes and sizes and heights. … I think that’s the fascinating thing right now that’s so nice for fans – everybody is a little different.”

With all due respect to Immelman and his fellow major champions, there still is a prototypical player for winning majors.

You just have to know the secret formula. (For my full list of top 25 finishers at this year's U.S. Open, click here.)

Actually, it’s not such a secret. It’s all about just examining the four current major champions and finding commonalities between them.

Graeme McDowell is 5 foot 11, 168 pounds. He was 30 years old at the time of his U.S. Open triumph, ranked 37th in the world and owned five international victories, but none in the U.S.

Louis Oosthuizen is listed at 5 foot 10 and a generous 170 pounds. He was 27 when he prevailed at St. Andrews, then ranking 54th with six international titles, but none in the U.S.

Martin Kaymer seems much bigger, but his bio numbers show him at 6 foot, 165 pounds. He was 25 when he won the PGA Championship and ranked 13th, with seven international wins, but – you got it – none in the U.S.

And lastly, there’s Masters champ Charl Schwartzel, who’s 5 foot 11 and 140 pounds soaking wet. At 26 and ranked 29th when he won, he owned six international victories, but – altogether now! – none in the U.S.

It only appears on the surface like there is no prototype for winning majors, but the statistics show it’s very much the opposite. All recent champions have been within two inches and 30 pounds of each other. They were between 25 and 30 years old. They ranked between 13th and 54th in the world. And perhaps most tellingly, they owned five to seven career wins, but never had any of ‘em in the good ol’ U. S. of A.

So here he is, folks. Your 2011 U.S. Open champion is … 5 foot 11 and weighs 161 pounds … 27 years old … ranked 33rd in the world … owns six career international victories … and has surprisingly never won on the PGA Tour.

Now all we’ve got to do is plug some players into our U.S. Open supercomputer and we’ll actually have a name for this predestined winner.

Let’s try Justin Rose. At 30 years old, ranked 29th in the world and with six international wins, he’s pretty close, but a pair of PGA Tour victories and his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame means he’s too big to fill these shoes.

Next up is Robert Karlsson.  He’s never won in the U.S. and his world ranking of 23rd is close, but he’s too big, too old and has too many wins around the globe.

How about Alvaro Quiros? The long-hitting Spaniard is 28, ranked 24th and has five international wins with none in the U.S. Could be our newest major champion, but at 6 foot 3, 182 pounds, he’s another guy who’s too large to be in charge.

Check out Francesco Molinari. He’s 5 foot 8, 159 pounds, 28 years old, ranked 20th in the world and has two international wins. So close, but not victory cigar.

If there was only someone else in the Molinari family …

Well, there is. And he just happens to be your prototypical major champion.

Edoardo Molinari is 5 foot 11, the exact average height of the recent major champions. He weighs 163 pounds – 32 ounces heavier than we wanted, but hey, he easily could lose a few in the Congo heat. He’s 30 years old – close enough. He’s ranked 35th – close enough. He owns two worldwide wins and none on the PGA Tour – close enough and perfect.

If pure numerology isn’t enough to get you excited about Edoardo’s chances, there’s some personal history at work, too. He’s already a U.S. Golf Association champion, having prevailed at the 2005 U.S. Amateur on Merion, another difficult East Coast course. In his first U.S. Open start as a pro last year, he was T-16 at Pebble Beach entering the final round before an 8-over 79 pushed him down the leaderboard.

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that he fits the recent champion trend. An elite-level player who has yet to make a name for himself at a major, he’s just the type of guy who’s been winning these things lately.

See, there really is a prototypical major champion. For the upcoming U.S. Open, his name is Edoardo Molinari – and much like McDowell, Oosthuizen, Kaymer and Schwartzel before him, he’s about to “shock the world,” too.

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Runner-up McIlroy: 'I should have closed it out'

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 5:18 pm

After taking the 36-hole lead by three and taking a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round, Rory McIlroy failed to keep pace with Francesco Molinari on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship.

Struggling with a two-way miss throughout the weekend, McIlroy fell four down to Molinari through 10 holes.

The Ulsterman attempted to mount a late charge, with birdies at 12 and 17, but when his eagle putt at the 72nd hole came up inches short, and when Molinari's ball opted not to spin back into the water, the comeback bid came to an end.

His final round of 2-under 70 left him in solo second, two shots behind the champion.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

"I’m just disappointed I didn’t play better over the weekend," McIlroy said. "I was in a great position after two days and struggled yesterday and sort struggled today again, as well. I just couldn’t get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead of me, and I couldn’t claw that back.

“I played some good golf coming down the back nine, hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward."

McIlroy ended an 18-month worldwide winless drought earlier this year with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but hasn't claimed victory on the European Tour in two years, since the Irish Open in May of 2016.

"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week," McIlroy said. "But that’s not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing. He deserved the win, I need to do a little more work, and I’m looking to forward to getting right back at it at Memorial next week."

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Francesco Molinari's path to the biggest win of his career at the BMW PGA Championship was drama-free until he sized up his approach to the 72nd hole.

Rory McIlroy, his closest rival three strokes back, had just hit to 20 feet to set up an eagle chance. Molinari was between clubs for his third shot and faced a delicate wedge over the water protecting Wentworth's pretty 18th green.

His ball landed short of the pin and span back toward the water. The spectators held their collective breath - so did Molinari - but it came to rest on the fringe, just short of trouble.

''Just a bit of luck at the right time,'' Molinari said, with a smile.

After McIlroy came up inches short with his eagle putt, Molinari rolled in for par from 6 feet for a 4-under 68 that secured a two-stroke victory at Wentworth on Sunday. It was the fifth win of his career, and his most satisfying.

''If I could pick one tournament to win in my career, it would be this one,'' the Italian said at the prizegiving ceremony.

A Sunday shootout between Molinari and McIlroy at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

They entered the final round tied for the lead on 13 under but while McIlroy sprayed his drives left and right, Molinari was the model of consistency and established a three-shot cushion by the turn after birdies at Nos. 3, 4 and 8.

From there on, it was a clinic in front-running from Molinari, who laid up when he needed to and picked up his only shot on the back nine with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 12th.

McIlroy birdied the par 5s at Nos. 17 and 18 but mounted his victory charge too late.

''I didn't feel intimidated at all,'' Molinari said of his head-to-head with the former world No. 1. ''It's just the last couple of holes, he's basically thinking eagle, eagle. I'm thinking par, par, and that makes the whole difference.

''Sometimes I just get too drawn on what the other guy is doing, and I was really good today, hitting good shots and focusing on my process and not worrying about anything else.''

Molinari played his final 44 holes bogey-free. He only dropped two shots all week, one of them coming on his first hole.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

He will likely climb into the world's top 20 on Monday and has moved into the automatic qualifying places for the European team for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

''I'm playing well enough that I shouldn't really worry too much about that,'' Molinari said. ''I should just keep doing my own thing and hopefully things will take care of themselves.''

Molinari previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Alex Noren last year.

On that occasion, Noren closed with a 10-under 62 and the Swede embarked on another last-day charge 12 months later, a fifth birdie of the day at No. 12 briefly drawing him to within two shots of Molinari.

It was the closest he came, with a bogey at the next virtually ending his bid for victory.

With a 67, Noren was tied for third with Lucas Bjerregaard (65), a stroke back from McIlroy.

McIlroy, the 2014 winner at Wentworth, played what he described as one of his best rounds of 2018 on Friday, a bogey-free 65 that left him with a three-shot lead.

He struggled off the tee in shooting 71 on Saturday and started the final round with errant drives on Nos. 1 and 3 (both right, into spectators) and No. 4 (left). After a bogey at No. 10, he was the only player in the top 10 over par but he birdied the three par 5s coming home to salvage what was otherwise a disappointing Sunday.

''With a 36-hole lead,'' McIlroy said, ''I should have closed it out this week.''

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”