Am Tour: Champions crowned in Championship and Hogan flights

By Mike BaileySeptember 13, 2014, 2:29 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Paul Erdman had a good plan going into the final round of Golf Channel Amateur National Championship. With a five shot lead in the Championship flight, the 2011 title holder figured all he had to do was play steady, and it would be difficult for anyone else to catch him.

The only problem was that golf doesn't always follow the script. After two holes, he was already 3-over-par and now even par for the tournament, not exactly what he envisioned. He couldn't chalk it up to nerves – he had a good night's sleep - especially after his Baltomore Ravens beat the Steelers on Thursday Night Football – and he wasn't nervious. But he has a history of trouble on the first two holes of the Raptor Course at Grayhawk Golf Club, most recently at a Golf Channel Am Tour Major held on the Raptor.

"I just can't play the first two holes here," said Erdman, who is originally from Baltimore, but moved to Denver a few years ago. "I don't know what to do. The bunkers are in the perfect landing area."

The second was particularly troubling. Hitting 3-wood off the tee, he didn't get his normal fade and instead tugged his drive into a small bush. He wound up taking an unplayable en route to 6.

"It was a wakeup call," he said.

Fortunately for Erdman, his fellow competitiors were also struggling on the front nine, so nobody closed the margin. After the third, he righted the ship, and when a few of his friends, who were also competing in the event, showed up on the eighth hole to show their support, he drew inspiration from them. His final-round 2-over-par 74 left him at 284, 1-under for the tournament and seven shots clear of second-place finisher, Jose Favela of Chula Vista, Calif. Still for a while it was uncomfortable, until his friends showed up.

"All of a sudden I make a nice par save, another nice par save and get on the back and started making putts," said Erdman, 46, who works for State Farm Insurance during the day. "And then I go birdie, birdie on 12 and 13, and I'm like 'All right, here we go.'"

Erdman finished with a back-nine 34, including another birdie on the par-5 18th. With only 180 yards left to the hole on his second shot, he flushed a 7-iron right over the lake and the stick, just off the back of the green. From there he two-putted for birdie, which he punctuated with a fist pump.

"I was going for the middle of the green (short of the pin)," he said. "That was the hardest 7-iron I hit all week."

Erdman, who has his sights set on the Champions Tour in four years when he's eligible, will continue to play as much high-level amateur golf as possible. Next week, he will tee it up in the Colorado State Mid-Amateur ar River Valley Ranch in Carbondale.

Blackwood storms to Hogan title


In the Hogan flight (handicap 8-11.9), it was a totally different story. Jeff Blackwood of Dallas came out of nowhere to win the title. He got a little help from third-round leader James Sheppeard of Tomball, Texas near Houston, but Blackwood deserves most of the credit for not only firing a 76 in the final round but overcoming a terrible start to the tournament.

Blackwood started the day nine shots off the lead set by Sheppeard who fired three rounds in the 70s before carding a disappointing 87 on the final day to wind up in a tie for second. Playing in the group behind Sheppeard, Blackwood had no idea he had won when he finished his round, but thought he might be close or at least higher on the leaderboard. It wasn't until a friend pulled up the scores on the Golf Channel Am Tour app on his phone that Blackwood thought he won. Minutes later, tour officials confirmed it.

For Blackwood it capped a remarkable week, especially after he shot an 85 on the first day. But he improved with every round afterwards, recording scores of 78 and 77 to go with his final round of 76.

"I started off horribly, but I just kept pushing," said Blackwood, who is originally from Midland, Texas and works in the trucking industry. "It's four days, so I just kept playing and having fun."


Getty Images

Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
Getty Images

Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

Getty Images

Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

Getty Images

Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”