Conditions at Sawgrass far different than last year

By Rex HoggardMay 9, 2017, 8:15 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – By many accounts, TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course is in the best condition it’s been in years, groomed to agronomic perfection by a particularly warm winter in north Florida and a few architectural nip/tucks.

Twelve months removed from one of the most comical – or cruel depending on one’s point of view – chapters in the tournament’s history, it doesn’t even seem like the same layout to many who played Round 3 at last year’s Players Championship.

James Hahn shutters when he recalls that Saturday at the 2016 Players when winds gusted to 20 mph and the course’s greens took on a brownish hue and the rigid consistency of a pool table.

“I’m going to say unfair,” Hahn said when asked about the greens on Day 3 at the ’16 Players. “They were the fastest and with certain pin locations, if you are expecting the greens to be 15 [on the Stimpmeter] you can’t put them in the same pin locations we’ve had for the last 20 years.”

Like many of his Tour frat brothers, Hahn wasn’t happy with the conditions. Unfair, unplayable, unbearable, pick your poison, everybody had something to say about the Stadium Course.

Sawgrass played to a 75.59 stroke average that fateful day which was the third highest single-round total last season and highest for a non-major.

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Tour officials prepared the greens for Saturday’s round the same as they had all week by double cutting and double rolling them, but were caught off guard by the wind and unexpectedly low humidity.

The result was a round that quickly turned into a free-for-all.

Kevin Streelman three-putted his first hole from 18 feet on his way to an 80; as did Steve Wheatcroft to kickoff a round of 79, and Hahn thought his 27 footer for birdie at his first hole (No. 10) was a perfect chance to get off to a good start before he raced that attempt by 9 feet.

Hahn was paired with Ken Duke that black Saturday and Duke remembers Hahn and Jon Curran, who were on opposite sides of the hole, both about the same distance, essentially trade places with their first attempts at the group’s first hole.

“They both three-putted right out of the gate, and you’re thinking, ‘Oh boy,’” Duke said.

Hahn wanted to be angry with the PGA Tour staff for a poor setup that embarrassed the players, but he kept watching Duke roll in putt after putt on his way to a 7-under 65, which was by far the day’s best and more than 10 strokes better than the field average.

“It was the most impressive round I’ve seen in my life, he not only hit it close, he was making 18, 20 footers that had 2 or 3 feet of break and he was jarring them. His speed, if he didn’t make the putt his ball would roll by 5 or 6 feet at times,” Hahn said. “He knew it was going in the hole, but for me I was always worried about the second putt.”

Duke took just 24 putts on Day 3, made one bogey (at No. 11) and was 16-of-17 on putts from 10 feet and in. It was a clinic within a competitive catastrophe.

“I hit it in the right spot where you could make putts,” Duke said. “I got ahold of the speed of the greens early, and that was the difference.”

What Duke lacks in hyperbole he makes up for with his southern simplicity, but his take on that surreal Saturday really doesn’t do it justice.

No one was immune to greens that most say were faster than Augusta National’s, faster than even Oakmont during the U.S. Open.

“My caddie [James Edmondson] kept telling me, ‘Hit it softer,’” Ryan Palmer recalled, “ and I’m like, ‘I’m trying.’”

Eventual champion Jason Day needed 32 putts on Day 3 on his way to a 73 and a tie for third that week in total putts.

“It was miserable,” said Hudson Swafford, who recalled running his chip at his first hole 4 feet by the hole. “And then I watched Freddie Jacobson, who is a notoriously good putter, almost putt it off the green from 12 feet and I was like, wow. It was comical.”

Golf is hard, but this was something bordering on cruel and unusual.

For Hahn, the tipping point came at the sixth hole and a 3-footer for birdie that he estimated had about a half foot of break, which he missed on the low side and that rolled out 5 feet. To this day, the California-Berkeley graduate still doesn’t know how he could have made that putt.

“For perfect [Dave] Pelz speed, 17 inches past the hole, where would you putt that putt? What would the line be?” Hahn said. “I couldn’t do the math on it because I’ve never really thought about greens like that other than it just being illegal.”

The greens may not have been illegal, but most agree they were wrong. Wrong for everyone, that is, except Duke.

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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.''