Johnny Miller previews U.S. Open at 'home' course

By Randall MellMay 24, 2012, 10:53 pm

Johnny Miller is still taking dead aim at the U.S. Open.

All these years after his 63 in the final round won at Oakmont in 1973, Miller’s enthusiasm for the U.S. Open hasn’t dulled.

The NBC analyst’s eagerness to call this year’s U.S. Open is ratcheted up with his favorite championship being played at the home course where he grew up. His affection for the event and The Olympic Club’s Lake Course outside San Francisco doubles his anticipation of the U.S. Open’s start in three weeks.

“I could cover the U.S. Open in June from my bedroom in Utah, and you guys wouldn’t notice,” Miller said Thursday in a media conference call. “I know the course so well.”

Fifty-one years ago, Miller was made the first “merit” member of The Olympic Club. He was 14.

“The first [junior] whose father wasn’t a member of the club,” Miller said. “It was a big break for me.”

Miller was signed up to be a caddie with the U.S. Open coming to Olympic in 1966 when he was 19, but he qualified for the championship instead. He played with Lee Trevino in the first two rounds and Jack Nicklaus in the third round and ended up tying for eighth, winning low-amateur honors.

“Pretty naive, but I wasn’t overly impressed that I finished eighth, believe it or not,” Miller said.

With all his course knowledge, Miller said he thought he should have won. When the U.S. Open returned to Olympic in 1987, Miller was past his prime and missed the cut.

Miller credits his famed iron play to his training at Olympic, where sidehill, downhill and uphill lies required precision ball striking. He learned to work the ball hitting fades and cuts off lies that didn’t always fit the shape of those shots.

“The course pushed me the way it does,” Miller said. “When I went on Tour, I thought, `Wow, these courses are huge they have out here.’ So that was really important, to basically train running up a mountain, versus flat ground. When I went on Tour, I thought everything was flat ground after playing the mountain, the super tough course Olympic Club was.”

Miller can’t wait to see how today’s best players navigate the layout.

Here are some highlights from Miller’s U.S. Open media conference call that weren’t about Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Rory McIlroy (See GolfTalkCentral for those highlights):

On Olympic’s key holes: “The real standout thing about the U.S. Open at Olympic Club is going to be the first six holes. With No. 1 being a par 4, it's probably the hardest opening six holes, maybe, in the history of major championship golf, with no wind. They are brutal holes. They are banked the wrong way. So you need to hit cuts, and you need to hit draws, and you've got some wind coming over the top of the trees. But with No. 1 being a four par, that opening run is just absolutely amazing. The big story is going to be, really, how well you do on the first six holes. I think the field is going to average 3 over par through (No.) 6, so they are going to have to somehow play great golf, not that the holes coming in after 6 are that easy, because they aren't.”

On players whose games fit Olympic: “Rory is a good pick . . . Jason Dufner is a really good pick. Guys that can hit the ball well, hit the greens in regulation, and hit the ball well like Jason Dufner, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Rickie Fowler, Rory. Those are some of the really good picks, guys that hit a lot of greens in regulation. With those tiny greens, it's tough to get the balls up and in with the slopes on the greens, and you’ve got to miss it on the proper side. One thing about Tiger, he knows Olympic Club, and it would not surprise me to see him, if he could somehow get his game together.”

On the temperament required to tame Olympic: “Open players are usually guys that hardly have a pulse. You look at Scott Simpson year ’round, he's a very pleasant guy, but he's not an up-and-down guy mood wise. Emotionally, same with Lee Janzen. You look at [winners at Olympic Club] – I don't know Jack Fleck as well  – Billy Casper, of course, is in that category. You hardly get a pulse, a lot like Jason Dufner, who is playing so well right now. He fits right into the U.S. Open mold of a guy who has learned to temper his emotions totally, like Ben Hogan did, and Jack Nicklaus did. Those are the guys that seem to flourish in a U.S. Open, not the flamboyant types that are smiling and giving gestures and that kind of thing.”

On evolving U.S. Open setups: “The only thing that players have in their favor, if you call it favor, is the rough is not like the rough was in my era. These new players, they have no idea what U.S. Open rough was. You look at the picture of Hogan in '55, it took him three swings to get back to the fairway on 18. I mean, these guys are pampered. At Winged Foot, when Irwin was 7 over and won there, if you hit a hundred balls in the rough, the longest you could average it out of the rough was about 75 yards, hitting the hardest shot you could hit, with all your might. So, these guys have no clue what rough is. They lost that word. They don't even know what the word ‘rough’ is, in my opinion.”

More on USGA setups: “The Open is supposed to be a tough test. Congressional, I was a little scared for the USGA, that somebody would do what Rory did last year, with the scoring. They were opening it up, to really getting well under par, and you know, that just wasn't the U.S. Open all those years. I started watching the Open in '55, when I was a kid, an 8-year-old, and the Open was supposed to be different than any other test, with possibly the British Open being a brother to that. But the new thinking, I don't know why the USGA went that direction.”

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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 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 an 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.”