Par 5: Major predicament

By Randall MellJune 7, 2011, 4:16 pm

 Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for tournament golf at large ...

Will Lee Westwood peak a week early again?

A lot of players wrestle with how to best prepare for major championships.

Do you play the week before? Do you rest the week before? Do you travel to the major championship site the weekend before to get in extra prep? Do you wear lucky socks from great rounds in your past?

Who knows? There are nearly as many formulas for winning majors as there are major championship winners.

Still, there is one rule that ranks above all others when preparing for the U.S. Open.

A player should never, ever win the week before the U.S. Open.

Why? Because nobody in the modern era has won the week before the U.S. Open and gone on to win the U.S. Open the same year.

It’s as befuddling as The Masters’ Par 3 jinx. It makes little sense.

So will Westwood make the same mistake twice? If he gets himself into contention in defense of his title on Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, you bet he’ll try. It makes little sense to play the week before a major without trying to win. No Player of integrity in this week’s event takes any such jinxes seriously. Every player in the field wants to be the guy who breaks the jinx.

Will Westwood welcome the extra pressure to perform?

It may not be possible to feel extra pressure in Westwood’s situation. He’s already loaded up with pressure by virtue of the fact that he ascended to No. 1 in the world without having won a major. He’s 38 with some close calls in majors that either embolden his bid or weigh it down. He sounds like the emboldened type as a No. 2 trying to regain his top ranking.

Still, Westwood’s decision to skip The Players Championship last month puts extra scrutiny on his run up to the U.S. Open.

Even though the PGA Tour changed its rules to give Westwood more flexibility to compete in The Players and also defend in Memphis, he passed on the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He said the 11 opportunities allowed him as a non-member playing the PGA Tour weren’t enough to make it worth the trip to The Players if he couldn’t supplement the trip with one more start. He wanted to play Quail Hollow the week before The Players and still defend in Memphis.

NBC’s Johnny Miller called Westwood’s skipping The Players as world No. 1 an affront to the championship.

“If he wins the U.S. Open, everyone will say, `Well, he got it right,’” said Chubby Chandler, Westwood’s agent. “If he misses the cut at the U.S. Open, everyone will say, `Well, why didn’t he play [The Players]?’ But you can only expect to tee it up in good shape. You can’t expect to win, only to give yourself a shot. I will be amazed if he doesn’t give himself a shot at Congressional.”

So what are the chances Robert Garrigus takes a three-shot lead to the 72nd hole this year?

It was hard to watch Garrigus blow a three-shot lead at the final hole at TPC Southwind last year, but who wouldn’t mind seeing him get another chance to win this event?

Garrigus pulled his tee shot into the water at the 72nd hole last year, took a drop and then yanked his next shot off a tree in a finish that would have made Jean Van de Velde turn his head(well, maybe not). Garrigus made triple bogey and then lost in a playoff.

Garrigus ended up being one of 2010’s feel-good stories when he redeemed himself bouncing back to win the Children’s Miracle Network Classic in Orlando. Given his spectacular defeat in Memphis, it was a popular victory. A win this week would be equally popular.

Who’s trying to play their way into the U.S. Open through St. Jude?

Not Sergio Garcia, thanks to his sectional qualifying effort Monday.

If there’s such a thing as karma, Garcia deserves a little golf god love at the U.S. Open after playing himself into the championship through the sectional at Tunica National in Memphis. He advanced through a playoff to earn a spot. Originally, Garcia didn’t plan on trying to qualify, but he said he found extra motivation with news his sister and her boyfriend were planning a trip from Spain to attend the U.S. Open at Congressional next week. Garcia will have more than family rooting him on after making the extra effort, which will extend his major championship appearances to 47 consecutive.

J.B. Holmes and Steve Marino weren’t so fortunate. They both missed making it through sectionals, but they can still play their way into the U.S. Open through the FedEx St. Jude Classic this week. Holmes (ranked No. 55 in the world rankings) tweeted Monday that he’d likely withdraw from Memphis so his chances are slim. Marino, No. 59, can still gain a spot in the U.S. Open by moving among the top 50 in Sunday night’s newest ranking.

Is Suzann Pettersen poised to become the No. 1 player in the world?

With all the talk about revolving No. 1s in the men’s game, it’s worth noting the women got this hot-potato theme rolling last year at the top of their world rankings.

After withdrawing from the ShopRite LPGA Classic last week with lingering effects of the flu, No. 2 Pettersen’s back in action at this week’s LPGA State Farm Classic. So is No. 1 Yani Tseng. With the event losing State Farm as its title sponsor for the last 19 years, LPGA pros will be looking to put on a good show in a bid to help woo a new title sponsor. Nine of the top 10 in the world rankings are playing this week.

Pettersen eliminated No. 1 Tseng from the Sybase Match Play Championship’s quarterfinals three weeks ago. She also knocked off Na Yeon Choi in the semifinals and Cristie Kerr in the finals in an impressive stream roll to the title. Pettersen’s run bumped her to No. 2 in the world, where she’s poised to try to become the fifth player in the last year to hold the No. 1 ranking.

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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.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."