From anger to amazement, the Open was entertaining

By John FeinsteinJune 23, 2015, 7:40 pm

When Dustin Johnson’s final putt didn’t go in on Sunday at Chambers Bay, it was only the last of a remarkable series of storylines that unfolded over the course of a week on the shores of Puget Sound. 

Imagine a week in which Tiger Woods shoots 80-76 to miss the cut by about 100 and is little more than a footnote by the end of the weekend. Imagine Phil Mickelson making the cut but being irrelevant on Sunday and Rory McIlroy finally making a couple of putts on Sunday to backdoor to a T-9 after being completely betrayed by his putter for three days. 

Imagine a week in which discussions of the golf course ranged from marveling at the aesthetics of it to Gary Player bizarrely finding it ‘tragic.’ Imagine a week in which Johnson completed a dubious Grand Slam of his own – finding himself in position to win a major championship for a fourth time and failing for a fourth time. 

Imagine Jason Day showing remarkable guts by literally getting up off the mat on Friday and staggering – at times – through Saturday and Sunday and putting himself into position, at least for a while, to pull off the most remarkable Open story since Ken Venturi staggered to victory in 1964.  

And imagine Jordan Spieth backing up his Masters victory by winning the Open on a golf course that could not possibly be more different than Augusta National. 

Wow. That’s a lot to digest in a week. No doubt it will be discussed for a long time to come. 

Let us begin with the golf course because that’s how the week began, with endless discussions about it. There is no doubting that there has never been an Open like this one with a course that looked like a links but didn’t always play like one because of all the elevation changes. It was, unquestionably, the most difficult golf course to walk, for players and spectators, in history. 

But, the whining. Oh goodness, the whining.

To be fair, players whine about the Open every year, it’s as much a tradition as the claret jug is at the British Open. The greens are too fast, the rough is too penal or the rough isn’t penal enough and the greens aren’t fast enough. Moving tees around is a great idea or – ask Jim Furyk circa 2012 – a terrible idea. 

Pinehurst was too brown; the fairways were unhittable at Merion. Heck, Frances Ouimet probably complained about the setup at The Country Club in 1913. 

This though was different. There was clear disdain in the comments being made, not just by players, but by media members and TV analysts. People in golf simply aren’t ever comfortable with DIFFERENT. They would prefer to see the game played the way Old Tom Morris played it and any deviation from what is considered the norm brings gasps and major head-shaking. Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that the thought of letting caddies wear shorts created a scene at the PGA Championship. It’s been three years since Augusta National began admitting women and less than a year since the Royal and Ancient Golf Club followed suit. 

So, the notion of a golf course with funky bounces and backboards on the greens and greens that weren’t terribly green sent people into a tizzy. Player’s reaction during an appearance on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” was especially over the top. In the midst of calling Chambers Bay the worst U.S. Open golf course in history, he called the setup “tragic.” If nothing else, the timing of such a comment, three days after the real tragedy that took place in Charleston, was unfortunate. 



In spite of all the yammering, they played the championship anyway. And, if you happen to like golf, it turned out just fine. 

Not so much for Woods. The script for him has now become familiar: pre-tournament he’s all about process and improvement and sticking to the plan. Which is fine if the plan appears to be moving forward. At the moment, the plan appears to be progressing about as well as New Coke did back in 1985. Remember when the Coca-Cola people insisted it was just a matter of time before people embraced New Coke? Then they brought back Coke Classic. Finally, New Coke disappeared altogether. 

The current Woods plan is working about as well as New Coke. Everyone who knows him well insists there is no way he will ever swallow his pride and go back to Butch Harmon. If that’s the case, it may well be that we will never see a shadow of the player formerly known as Tiger Woods. 

IF Woods does mount a comeback, regardless of how he does it, he may well look back at the 18th hole on Thursday as the low moment literally and figuratively. Already in the midst of a brutal round, he found the fairway with his drive but then cold-topped his second shot right into the bunker known as “Chambers Basement” because it is so deep. 

It may come into play for the amateurs who play the course, but not for the pros. At least not for 155 of them on Thursday. Only one found it and had to walk down, down, down to hit his third shot. To be fair, Woods DID beat Rickie Fowler that day and did shoot 76 on Friday. He missed the cut by 11 shots, beating four players in all. 

Ouch. 

The weekend was filled with drama. Day’s bout with vertigo on Friday was scary and there were moments on Saturday when it appeared unlikely he would finish. Not only did he do so, he birdied four of the last seven holes to tie for the lead by nightfall. The fact that he couldn’t keep up that momentum on Sunday wasn’t surprising. That he hung in the way he did, right to the finish, was inspiring. 

With all due respect to Louis Oosthuizen, whose final three days were amazing, and Branden Grace, who hung in until the finish, the climax of the week was about Johnson and Spieth. 

Very few golfers inspire awe in the locker room. Woods did for years, but it’s understandable because he’s the second best player in history. McIlroy does too because he is the best driver of the golf ball in the game today. 

But Johnson also inspires awe because his talent is breathtaking and yet, now at 31, he still hasn’t lived up to it. Forget the off-course issues, he’s been in position to win majors four times and each time has found a different way to come up short. There was the 82 at Pebble Beach five years ago when he led by three shots after 54 holes. There was the debacle at Whistling Straits that can be blamed, to some degree, on a silly local rule and a rules official who should have reminded Johnson he was in a bunker. Most of the blame though falls on Johnson for not knowing the rule. Then there was the 2-iron that whistled out of bounds on the 14th hole at Royal St. George’s on Sunday four years ago, ending a late charge. 

And, forever more, there will be the three putt at the 18th at Chambers Bay. The shame of it is that few people will remember that Johnson hit two extraordinary shots to find himself a little more than 12-feet from an eagle that would have won the championship. But, even after watching Day’s ball roll well past the hole on a similar line, he still let his first putt get away from him. Then, he appeared to rush the birdie putt and, just like that, it was over. It was completely stunning to watch. 

Johnson’s meltdown on the last green should not affect that way anyone looks at Spieth’s victory. He recovered from an ugly double-bogey at the 17th hole to birdie 18 and that was the margin of victory. The Open always requires huge mental toughness to win and this one was about as tough as it got. 

And, left standing, was a 21-year-old, who will now be the talk of golf from here to St. Andrews. McIlroy won the last two majors of 2014; Spieth the first two of 2015. At this moment, it appears they don’t want to let anyone else in the sport have any fun. 

Or at least any major championship trophies. The next few weeks, months and years are going to be fun to watch. So was the week at Chambers Bay.

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Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

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Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Jordan Spieth

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Bubba Watson

8. Webb Simpson

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9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari

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5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Ross Fisher

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Matthew Fitzpatrick

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5. Ian Poulter

6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello

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Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win

By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 2:30 pm

Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.

Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.

The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.



The second is from Sunday night.



And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.

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Koepka moves to No. 4 in world with U.S. Open win

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:05 pm

After successfully defending his U.S. Open title, Brooks Koepka reached a new career high in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Koepka held off Tommy Fleetwood to win by a shot Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, becoming the first player to go back-to-back in nearly 30 years. As a result, he jumped five spots in the latest rankings to No. 4, six spots higher than he reached with last year's U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills.

Fleetwood finished alone in second place and moved up two spots to No. 10, tying his career-best placement. Patrick Reed moved up two spots to No. 11 by finishing fourth, while fifth-place Tony Finau went from No. 37 to No. 31.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


It was a largely quiet week in the rankings despite the fact that a major championship was contested. Outside of Koepka and Finau, the only other player inside the top 50 to move up or down more than three spots was Jason Dufner, who went from 53rd to 48th with a T-25 finish.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for the second consecutive week, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Jon Rahm dropped one spot to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Fleetwood rounding out the top 10. Hideki Matsuyama fell two spots to No. 12, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since October 2016.

Despite a missed cut at Shinnecock, Tiger Woods actually moved up one spot to No. 79 in the latest rankings. He plans to play the Quicken Loans National and The Open in the coming weeks, which will be his final two chances to move into the top 50 in time to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The event is being held for the final time this summer at Firestone Country Club, where Woods has won eight times.