Cut Line An Eventful Offseason

By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2009, 9:29 pm

No PGA Tour event this week, no 36-hole cut, no worries. From Doug Barron to Michelle Wie’s breakthrough, the “off-season” has never been so eventful.

Made Cut

The Tom Watson accord. Say what you will about the hard-line elders at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, but they know a good show when they see one and aren’t afraid to tinker with the rules to make magic happen.

Watson’s historic run at Turnberry last July created an interesting dilemma since the would-be champion was 59 years old and would have just a single year of eligibility left to play the Open Championship had he survived the 72nd hole and ensuing playoff. As a result, the R&A added a clause that would make aging champions eligible for five additional years after they turn 60 if they finish in the top 10.

Good stuff, but we challenge the R&A to go one better. Imagine the possibilities if officials could woo Jack Nicklaus out of retirement and back to St. Andrews in 2010?

Wie win. The LPGA Tour and its new commish needed a “W” from the Big “W” like Bill Belichick needed a Sunday mulligan.

No one, however, needed the breakthrough more than the 20-year-old Stanford student. Earning her tour card last winter was a good start and her Solheim Cup heroics gave her reason to be optimistic, but getting off the victory schnied to finish her rookie year is like Christmas in November.

Even on a bum wheel, Wie put a decade’s worth of bad decisions and bad breaks behind her.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

New grooves, schmooves. After Doug Barron’s legal bout with the Tour, the buzz on the Disney practice range last week was all about the new rules governing grooves on Tour next year.

“Some guys are in for a rude awakening,” said one Tour player.

Sunday’s scoreboard, however, suggests the hype over the rollback is much ado about nothing, or, at least, much ado about nothing much.

Among Sunday’s winners and almost winners were Stephen Ames, Justin Leonard (Children’s Miracle Network Classic) and Tiger Woods (Australian Masters), who were all playing conforming Nike irons and wedges.

LPGA 2010 schedule. In an ultimate good news/bad news deal, the circuit released its 2010 lineup to mixed reviews, although given the general state of the economy and the circuit’s perception issues with former commissioner Carolyn Bivens, most consider the 24-event docket a victory of form, if not function.

But there is still work to do. The ’10 schedule is the lightest since 1971 and features just two tournaments during a nine-week run starting in April.

The schedule also is heavy with international stops. The first event in the United States will be the LPGA Classic at La Costa Resort in California in late March and there are 17 “off” weeks after things get going.


Missed Cut

Doug Barron v. PGA Tour Inc. Make your own judgment on the merits of the case and, in a macro way, it really doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. From a perception point of view all that matters is that golf has been dragged into the doping era.

Whether the Tour started down the anti-doping path as a result of its Olympic aspirations or simply as a byproduct of the world we live in, golf – perhaps the only sport that could have avoided doping scrutiny – is now part of the conversation, and for what?

A 40-year-old journeyman whose only crime may be his unshakable belief in his own innocence and a naïve approach to the anti-doping process? Golf in the Olympics may end up being a boon for the game, but at what cost?

PGATour.com. No word of the Barron law suit, or his request to play the second stage of Q-School, but the Tour-driven Web site was quick to post the story when a U.S. magistrate denied Barron’s request for an injunction.

The Tour is a business that is keen to protect its own interest, but hand-picking news that’s convenient is dangerous and transparent. The Tour should take a page from Major League Baseball’s Web site, which may spin the news but it does not censor it.

Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson tweeted it best, “(PGATour.com) should change name to TASS.com.”

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This time, Dad gets to enjoy Koepka's Father's Day win

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2018, 1:39 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – When Brooks Koepka won his first U.S. Open last year at Erin Hills the celebration was relatively subdued.

His family didn’t attend the ’17 championship, but there was no way they were missing this year’s U.S. Open.

“This year we booked something about five miles away [from Shinnecock Hills]," said Koepka’s father, Bob. "We weren’t going to miss it and I’m so glad we’re here.”

The family was treated to a show, with Koepka closing with a 68 for a one-stroke victory to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back U.S. Opens.


U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


Koepka called his father early Sunday to wish him a happy Father’s Day, and Bob Koepka said he noticed a similar confidence in his son’s voice to the way he sounded when they spoke on Sunday of last year’s championship.

There was also one other similarity.

“Two years in a row, I haven't gotten him anything [for Father’s Day],” Brooks Koepka laughed. “Next year, I'm not going to get him anything either. It might bring some good luck.

“It's incredible to have my family here, and my dad loves golf. To be here, he loves watching. To share it with him this time, it will be a little bit sweeter.”

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Koepka reveals he injured his ribs last week

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2018, 1:19 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – There was a time when Brooks Koepka didn’t even know if he was going to be able to play this week’s U.S. Open as he recovered from a wrist injury that had sidelined him for 3 ½ months.

He didn’t start hitting full shots until the Monday after the Masters, which he missed, and returned to the PGA Tour in late April at the Zurich Classic. His return to competitive form accelerated from there with a runner-up finish last month at the Forth Worth Invitational.

But if Sunday’s victory at Shinnecock Hills, where he became the first player to win back-to-back U.S. Opens since Curtis Strange in 1989, appeared to be an official return to full strength, it wasn’t exactly that seamless.


U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


Koepka, who closed with a 68 for a one-stroke victory over Tommy Fleetwood, revealed that he suffered a rib injury last week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

“My rib kind of came out last week. It bugged me a little bit,” he said. “Right when we got here, [Koepka’s trainer] worked on it, knew what it was. It was pretty sore, but I had no problems since then.”

In 2015, Koepka withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a similar rib injury.

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In the battle of bros, Koepka 1-ups DJ

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2018, 1:12 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – It’s a scene that occurs on a regular basis at the Joey D Golf Training Center, frenzied workouts driven by an intense combination of competition and desire.

Under the watchful eye of longtime PGA Tour trainer Joey Diovisalvi, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson will turn even the most mundane elements of their workouts into winner-take-all contests – from the duo’s warmup on stationary bikes to the various exercises that have turned the twosome into a pair of the game’s most imposing figures.

It was during one of these hyper-fueled sessions a few months ago when Koepka suggested he could become No. 1 world.

“I think Brooks was 11th in the world at the time, and Dustin said, ‘Yeah, if you add a ‘1’ to that,’” Diovisalvi recalled. “Brooks said, ‘You wait and see; you want to come to my party and put the banner up?’ Dustin just laughed, ‘Not while I’m alive, it’s not happening.’”

That rivalry, which is a friendly as it is genuine, was taken to a new level on Sunday at the U.S. Open when the duo set out for the final lap in the day’s penultimate group. Golf’s undisputed Bash Brothers going head-to-head after having traded titles at the last two U.S. Opens, the prototype of the modern professional playing on golf’s most demanding stage.

To the New York masses, the twosome must have looked like the guy most likely to ask how long you’re going to be using the bench press at your local gym, a pair of golfing unicorns who have combined unrelenting power with wildly under-rated precision.


U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


With apologies to all those who set out for the final round at Shinnecock Hills with the greatest expectations, this was always going to come down to either Koepka or Johnson.

Koepka won his first U.S. Open in dominant fashion last year at Erin Hills and Johnson got on the board in 2016 at Oakmont, so it should have been no surprise that, as the duo went through their normal “game day” workout early Sunday together, there was the unspoken realization that the day’s competition was just beginning.

“[Koepka] likes to beat DJ,” said Claude Harmon III, the swing coach for both men. “We’re in an era now where it’s a great time in golf that all the guys are friends and there are great friendships, but trust me – all these guys want to win. Brooks wants to beat everybody, including DJ who is his closest friend out here. He wants to beat him in the gym, in everything they do.”

Even in the Official World Golf Ranking, which currently features Johnson atop the pack?

“Absolutely, he tells him all the time,” Harmon said.

Koepka won’t climb to No. 1 in world on Monday, but he did one-up his South Florida stablemate by becoming the first player since Curtis Strange, in 1989, to win back-to-back U.S. Opens.

It was a perfectly Koepka performance.

A day that began with a no small measure of apprehension following Saturday’s inexplicable setup snafu – that prompted some players to contend that the USGA had “lost” the golf course for the second consecutive championship at Shinnecock Hills – quickly settled into the kind of competitive grind for which the U.S. Open is known.

Koepka broke out of a four-way tie for first place with a 20-footer for birdie at the second, added another at the third to go two strokes clear and appeared to be on cruise control. But then U.S. Opens, real U.S. Opens where par is a good score and the USGA dances dangerously close to the edge, are never that easy.

The first crack came at the par-3 11th hole when Koepka airmailed the green and needed to convert a 12-footer for bogey. He scrambled again at the 12th with a 6-footer for par and salvaged his advantage at the 14th hole after finding the fescue with his drive.

With Tommy Fleetwood – who became the sixth player to shoot 63 in a U.S. Open to settle into the clubhouse lead at 2 over par – watching from the range, Koepka walked to the 72nd tee with a two-stroke advantage. There was no suspense, no moments of anxiety, no reason to think he would allow this opportunity to slip away.

For all the complaints about Saturday’s setup, which even USGA CEO Mike Davis said were justified, this was the kind of U.S. Open Koepka relishes.

“This week is just back to a typical U.S. Open, where 1 over par wins the golf tournament,” said Koepka, who closed with a 68. “It's just a lot of grinding. But I couldn't be happier with the way I played.”

Picking your favorite major is often like picking your favorite child – they are all special in their unique way – but Koepka had no problem giving his second turn as U.S. Open champion its proper place.

This was special. Special because he outplayed Johnson, who closed with a 70 to finish in third place at 3 over. Special because of the workmanlike performance Shinnecock Hills demanded. And special because the last year hasn’t exactly been a celebration.

Toward the end of 2017, Koepka began to feel pain in his left wrist. He would miss the Masters with a partially torn tendon and spend 3 ½ maddening months on his couch recovering.

“We were worried that he wasn’t even going to be able to come here and defend,” said Koepka’s father, Bob. “I’m just thankful that he’s been able to recover. It’s been a long three months for him.”

Although he didn’t start hitting full shots until the Monday after the Masters, his return to competitive form was nothing short of meteoric, even by modern standards. And when he finished runner-up at last month’s Fort Worth Invitational, just his fourth event back, his confidence quickly returned.

“He’d never really been a golf nerd and I think he fell in love with golf again,” Harmon said. “When he came back there was something I hadn’t seen with him wanting to play again. He watched the Masters. He never watches the Masters.”

He also was back in the gym, alongside Johnson, rekindling the duo’s ongoing bout of one-upmanship. Early Sunday during their pre-round workout it was the status quo for Koepka and Johnson, friendly banter that both lightens the mood and inspires excellence.

But it was different once the two set out for the final round. There were no jokes, no trash talking, no talking of any kind, in fact.

“I love Dustin. He's one of my best friends,” Koepka said. “To play alongside him, it was fun today. I was excited about it. I figured he would be the guy to beat. But I didn't talk to him today. Maybe I said something on [No.] 3, and that was about it.”

There will be plenty to talk about next week when they renew what is one of the game’s most unique friendships and rivalries. Koepka won’t ascend to No. 1 in the world just yet, but he will hang a banner in Diovisalvi’s gym – 2018 U.S. Open champion – and Johnson wouldn’t miss that moment.

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Balky putter dooms DJ's run for second U.S. Open

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 12:31 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – While the course conditions during the final round of the U.S. Open were decidedly different than the day before, Dustin Johnson’s struggles on the greens remained the same.

Johnson appeared in command of the tournament at the halfway point at Shinnecock Hills, building a four-shot lead as the only player under par. But he, like many of the leaders, fell victim to borderline third-round conditions and struggled to a 7-over 77.

That still left him with a share of the lead at 3 over heading into the final round and a great chance to earn his second U.S. Open title in the last three years. Instead, he couldn’t keep pace with playing partner Brooks Koepka, shooting an even-par 70 to finish alone in third while Koepka went two shots better to successfully defend his title.


U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage


Johnson declined to speak with media following his round.

Johnson was 2 over for the week heading to the back nine on Sunday, only one shot behind Koepka. But he made three bogeys on the inward half, including dropped shots on Nos. 11 and 14 that effectively ended his title chances.

The culprit for Johnson’s regression was clear. After leading the field in strokes gained: putting through the first two rounds, he couldn’t get comfortable on the greens on the weekend.

Johnson needed 38 putts to complete his third round, T-64 among the 67 players who made the cut, and his 35 final-round putts were T-63 in the same category.

Despite the putting woes, Johnson has now finished T-4 or better at the U.S. Open four times in the last five years. In addition to his third-place showing this week and his win at Oakmont in 2016, he also tied for second at Chambers Bay in 2015 and was T-4 at Pinehurst the year prior.