Cut Line Mobspeak and Merriment
Or, as co-architect of the sprawling layout Bob Cupp figured when he first saw the wasteland that would become Liberty National, It was a nightmare, we were pretty sure any travesty known to man was on this property.
With this dubious ground underfoot ' if the Meadowlands are the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa, only RICO knows what lies beneath all that fill at Liberty National ' we offer the Sopranos edition of Cut Line, complete with plenty of mobspeak and a little gabagool on the side.
Bada Bing (Made Cut)
Christina Kim. Critics say the American sparkplug went too far, that her celebrations were unsportsmanlike and out of place. Madonn.
Lucas Glover won the U.S. Open in June with all the zeal of a man getting his oil changed. Its how his grandfather taught him, Act like youve been there, and all of Long Island respected him for it. Kim lives life as if on an adrenaline drip, she knows no other way. You may not appreciate the personality, but you cant question the passion.
Besides, Kims antics only seemed out of place in Sugar Grove, a suburb of Chicago, because its been over 100 years since the Cubs gave the Wrigleyville fateful a championship to celebrate.
Ryan Moore. Weve admired the wunderkind since he won the amateur Grand Slam in 2004 (U.S. Amateur, U.S. Public Links, Western Amateur, NCAA Championship) because he seemed to do it with heart, almost as much as natural talent.
With a homemade swing his father, Mike, taught him, Moore has the single element missing from so many young Americans ' the ability to get the ball in the hole when the situation intensifies.
That he pocketed his first Tour title last week at the Wyndham Championship without a vig, um, equipment deal, simply proves the point that hes more concerned with winning than getting rich.
No Disrespect (Made Cut-Did Not Finish)
U.S. Golf Association. Tim Jackson, the 50-year-old who crashed the kids party this week at the U.S. Amateur, won the stroke-play portion of the championship, and that was after the USGA laid a one-stroke penalty on him for slow play.
Anything that speeds up play is good for golf, but Cut Line is flummoxed by the dichotomy of the situation. The USGA has no problem doling out penalties at its amateur events, but somehow five hour-plus rounds at Junes U.S. Open went unnoticed.
It all has a playground bully feel to it. If the USGA wants to fit slow play with a pair of concrete shoes, lets see the stopwatches early and often next year at Pebble Beach.
Executive privilege. Rumors spread last week that No. 44 (President Barack Obama) and No. 1 (Tiger Woods) planned to sneak in a few holes on Marthas Vineyard.
Seems the buzz of an all-world two-ball was just talk, and maybe thats for the best. Not for nothin, but the chief executive probably has his hands full what with a sagging economy, two wars and a heated health care debate; and Woods has a playoff run to focus on.
There will be plenty of time for a quick nine in the fall, but just a tip for No. 44, keep the subject on golf, No. 1s politics move in only one direction ' the right.
FedEx Cup playoffs. Its best to hang an under construction sign on the Tours third postseason. Some have already labeled the experiment a mess and moved on while ignoring the elephant in Liberty Nationals sprawling room with a view this week.
Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, et al dont go head-to-head very often and almost never in the fall of a non-Ryder Cup year. And if the Tours new math creates some buzz at the Tour Championship all the better. In New Orleans they call that lagniappe, a little extra.
Fugetaboutit (Missed Cut)
Cash for Clunkers. No, were not talking about that federal trade-in program, but it seems a fitting title to help alleviate whats ailing many of the Tours biggest names right now.
Over the past two weeks Vijay Singh and Garcia have both been bitten by clunky putters, proving yet again that an effortless and efficient swing may look good on the practice tee but a pedestrian putter can make a mess of any scorecard.
Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on last years final FedEx Cup points list currently rank 168th (Singh), 111th (Camilo Villegas) and 125th (Sergio Garcia) on Tour iCam putting average, which makes one wonder if the next tweaks to the playoffs need to involve the flat stick.
Liberty National. Seems you can pump $250 million into a former garbage dump and still end up with, well, something only slightly better.
Liberty National officials must have felt like they hit the lottery when they landed the tournament and Woods for a week in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, but after Tour Local No. 768 gets done with the links-like layout they will likely be second guessing their good fortune.
Paul Goydos, as thoughtful as they come on Tour, offered a veiled the golf course is what it is, and another player, looking to avoid a fine, requested anonymity after a more biting assessment, Greatest waste of a toxic landfill ever. Ever.
The Books, as Tony Soprano might say of a doomed associate, seem to be closed on the Jersey layout.
In the battle of bros, Koepka 1-ups DJ
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.
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.
Balky putter dooms DJ's run for second U.S. Open
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.
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.
Closing double bogey on Sunday costs Finau $217K
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Despite a costly final hole, Tony Finau had plenty to smile about after notching a career-best major finish at the U.S. Open.
Finau made it past the 36-hole cut with only a shot to spare, and his third-round 66 came hours before the leaders played on a course that quickly became burnt to a crisp. Finau explained that it was “nuts” watching his name slowly creep up the leaderboard until he had a share of the 54-hole lead and a spot in Sunday’s final pairing alongside Daniel Berger, who, like Finau, shot a third-round 66 in easier conditions.
But Finau struggled out of the gates in the final round, with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 2-4 to fall well off the pace while eventual champ Brooks Koepka birdied three of his first five. Finau eventually steadied the ship, making five birdies in the middle of his round and ultimately stood over a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 17 that would have brought him within a shot of Koepka’s lead.
“I don’t know what it is with this golf course. I can never get off to a good start,” Finau said. “It was that way every round. I don’t know what the deal was. I couldn’t get off to a good start any of the rounds.”
Finau headed to the 72nd hole in third place, but a wayward drive led to a closing double bogey that left him in solo fifth at 5 over. It was his first top-5 in a major and paid $474,659, but that was $217,746 less than he would have earned with a par on the final hole to join Dustin Johnson in a two-way tie for third.
Finau has never played in a Ryder Cup before, but he entered this week at No. 16 on the U.S. points race and will improve that standing with his performance at Shinnecock Hills. Throw in a T-10 finish in his Masters debut and the 28-year-old is officially compiling credentials that could give captain Jim Furyk something to think about come September.
“Reflecting on the week, it’s a cool thing. It’s a goal of mine to be on the team,” Finau said. “I haven’t won this year. That’s something I want to do. But hopefully, just proving to the captains, whether I play myself onto the team or not, that, you know, I step up on the big stage and I can compete.”