Gone But Not Forgotten

By Mercer BaggsJune 14, 2000, 4:00 pm
The 100th U.S. Open will officially begin on Thursday. But before play could commence, a somber ceremony was held early Wednesday morning to pay tribute to the 1999 champion.
For the second time in his celebrated career, Payne Stewart captured the National Open in 1999 at Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Tragically, he perished in a plane crash just four months later.
In the eight months since his passing, tales have been told and memories have been shared. On Wednesday, one last tribute was showcased before the trophy is to be officially handed over to another man.
Some 40 players, including Byron Nelson, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Chris Perry, Phil Mickelson, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia gathered with friends and family at 7:00am PT on a captivatingly poetic oceanfront green to pay homage to the late Payne Stewart.
USGA President Trey Holland spoke first, and then stood aside for Stewart's long-time friend Paul Azinger.
Choking back tears, Azinger said: 'I challenge you not to forget Payne Stewart, not just Payne the golfer, but Payne the person.'
Tracey Stewart, Payne's widow, then followed Azinger. She spoke on the difficulties of coping without her late husband, as well as delivering a message of hope.
After Tracey spoke, the song 'With Hope' was played. Then, 21 players approached 21 tees lined along the fairway facing the Pacific Ocean. On Holland's command, they hit the balls simultaneously into the ocean.
A second wave of players then repeated the 21-shot salute. The silence was punctured by the statement: 'We love you, Payne!'
For the first time since an auto accident sidelined Ben Hogan in 1949, an Open champion will not defend his title. Stewart, who loved Pebble Beach dearly, certainly would have been one of the favorites this week. As it is, that role will be divided among several others.
Tiger Woods heads the list, if for only the fact that he won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February.
There's David Duval, who earned his best finish of the season last week. Duval lost to Dennis Paulson in a playoff at the Buick Classic.
With new vision and a new putter, Vijay Singh could add the Open to his 2000 Masters title. Singh ditched his 3-foot model for the Paul Azinger-style 45'-putter. He also underwent laser eye surgery two weeks ago.
'My putting hasn't changed, but I anchor it into my belly,' Singh said. 'To me, it doesn't feel like a long putter. I've got a normal grip and I'm standing up exactly the same way. It's just the extension that makes the difference.'
As for his corrected eye sight, Singh said: 'Each week it gets better. I didn't see things very well last week, but it's getting to where I can see everything right now.'
Of course, there are the usual U.S. Open suspects to keep an eye out for - Two-time champion Ernie Els, fellow multiple winner Lee Janzen, Lehman, who has four top-5's in the last five years, 1999 runner-up Mickelson, 1996 runner-up Love III and 1994 runner-up Colin Montgomerie.
Statistics show Monty's success is dependent upon his ability to drive the ball into the fairway. On three occasions, the Scotsman has finished the tournament in the top-three in driving accuracy. Each time he's finished the tournament in the top-three.
'I've happened to hit more fairways than anyone else. And that's a good start,' said Montgomerie. 'I feel if I can hit the fairways, then I can hit the greens and then you have a birdie putt. If you don't hit the fairways, you aren't having many birdie putts.'
Montgomerie isn't the only European with a chance to win this week. Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke both have victories over Tiger Woods under their belts this season. However, one European who won't be adding this major championship to his resume is Paul Lawrie. The reigning British Open champion withdrew earlier in the week due to a groin injury. Don Pooley replaced him.
Lawrie joins Steve Elkington on the inactive list this week. Elk withdrew Wednesday because of a sinus and ear infection which kept him from flying. South African Rory Sabbatini replaced the Australian.
While it's easy to be transfixed on the odds-on favorites, you can't overlook players like Nick Price or 5-time AT&T champion Mark O'Meara. Price is an excellent wind player and O'Meara's five wins at Pebble Beach speak for themselves.
Thursday at 6:30am PT the group of Mark Brooks, Brent Geiberger and Bob May will commence the 2000 U.S. Open. Three days later, someone's name will be engraved on the trophy. That will officially end Payne Stewart's reign as U.S. Open champion. And while he won't be there in body to acknowledge or congratulate the 2000 champion, he'll be there in spirit and in mind. As he has and will always be for so many of those associated with the game of golf.
*This year's purse is $4,500,000. The winner will receive $800,000.
*The 2nd hole has been changed from a par-5 to a 484-yard par-4. The overall par for the course is 71.
*At 60-years-old, Jack Nicklaus will be playing in his 44th consecutive U.S. Open championship, dating back to his first in 1957 at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio as an amateur.
*The Open winner will receive an Open exemption for the next ten years, invitations to the Masters Tournament and the PGA Championship for the next five years, invitations to the British Open and THE PLAYERS Championship for the next ten years and exempt status on the PGA TOUR for the next five years.
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Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

"I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

He said his game has long been unpredictable.

''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''