Donald stays in contention for maiden major

By Rex HoggardJune 14, 2013, 7:58 pm

ARDMORE, Pa. – Luke Donald is many things – former world No. 1, artist, short-game Picasso – but one thing the soft-spoken Englishman has never been considered is an Open player, at least not until his caddie John McLaren began his due diligence at Merion earlier this year on a cold April day.

As McLaren began to wander the storied grounds to prepare for this week’s championship he couldn’t shake the feeling that of all the U.S. Open venues Merion was uniquely suited to his man’s game.

“When it was firm and fast, not to put any pressure on him, but I told him to view it as an opportunity,” McLaren said. “It’s like he went to sleep and in the middle of the night his dream course had arrived. Any place with five drivers and potentially seven or eight wedges in your hand, that would be Luke heaven, really.”

On a day that felt more like purgatory for much of the U.S. Open field, Donald endured a nightmarish middle stretch to find himself in uncharted waters atop the leaderboard.


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Not that Donald’s day was perfect by any measure, but it was enough to leave him at even par and within a jump shot of the lead as the maid that is Merion dried and became more monstrous with each gust of wind.

2004 called – they want their Open back.

Since Tom Meeks stepped down as the USGA’s top Open setup man in 2005 and was replaced by Mike Davis, the Open has turned into a kinder, gentler championship. But with the return of the national championship to Merion after a 32-year hiatus so has the philosophy of hit-and-hope rough, good bogeys and par, although anyone with a blue blazer will tell you winning totals are of no concern.

It’s a reality that would explain Donald’s upbeat take that went well beyond the normal English optimism following a 2-over 72 on Friday.

Donald bogeyed five of six holes just past the turn on Friday, had a three-putt (No. 7) and missed his second putt from inside 3 feet in just three years on the PGA Tour. He missed a 6-footer on No. 6, a 3-footer at the second and a 5-footer at the seventh, all for par.

Things got so bad for Donald one half expected R&A chief executive Peter Dawson – the walking rules official with Donald’s group and, some say, the chief architect of the ban on anchoring – to suggest he try a long putter, but only as a short-term fix.

But throughout it all Donald maintained his composure while many others were imploding, thanks in part to the fact that few were faring any better (there was just one score in the 60s from Friday’s morning wave) and the knowledge that if ever he is going to win an Open, Merion was the place for him.

“The scoring suggests you can’t gamble here. You just need to take your par and leave,” McLaren said. “It’s a strange course, really. You could take 8-, 7-, 6-(iron) out of the bag because you know you’re going to have a wedge or a 2-iron (approach shot).”

Ever the realist, Donald knew that as Merion dried and the winds whipped, his even-par total would improve in direct correlation to the scoring average.

“It’s not easy,” said Donald, who is vying to become the first Englishman to win the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. “I didn't quite believe that 16 under was going to win this like some people said. I would love to be a couple better but at the end of Round 2 I feel I will be in a good place.”

That is in direct contrast to how he’s felt at Opens in the past. In nine previous starts at the Open he’s never finished in the top 10 and he’s broken par just eight times in his career. In fact, in 2008 Donald was put on the extended DL when he injured his wrist hitting out of Open hay at Torrey Pines.

It’s the kind of track record that makes the Open a love/hate relationship for Donald, but as McLaren learned in April Merion was something of an anti-Open.

With a collection of “fly high” 2- and 3-irons and a steady diet of wedges into the East Course’s pitched putting surfaces, Donald has hit 79 percent of his fairways and 22 of 36 greens in regulation.

“I felt like it's a course where it wasn't too demanding in terms of having to hit a lot of drivers,” said Donald, who made his own scouting trip to Merion last Wednesday and Thursday. “I think that put a lot of irons into my hands off tees and I just felt like it was a little bit more suited to my style of play.”

Strong words for a player who has been typecast his entire career as a very good player, just not a consensus pick to win a U.S. Open. But then that was before he awoke from his Open nightmare to his dream venue.

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Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

By BRADY COFFIN

My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”


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But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


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“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Woods commits to Wells Fargo and The Players

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods will tee it up each of the next two weeks, having officially committed to both the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

Woods' commitment to next week's event in Charlotte was confirmed by multiple Golf Channel sources and first reported during Thursday's "Golf Central."

The 42-year-old later took to Twitter to formally announce that he is ready for another back-to-back stretch:

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish earlier this month at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods' return to The Players will mark his first trip to TPC Sawgrass since 2015. He won on the Stadium Course in both 2001 and 2013. This will be Woods' second back-to-back of the season, having missed the cut at the Genesis Open before finishing 12th the following week at the Honda Classic.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.