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Hard work fueling Rose's Hall of Fame dream

By Rex HoggardNovember 6, 2017, 2:57 pm

ANTALYA, Turkey – Two weeks ago, Justin Rose would have rated his season a B-minus – a solid year, couple of top-10 finishes, lofty spot at East Lake for the PGA Tour finale – but not complete

“No win,” he shrugged.

That all changed, first last week at the WGC-HSBC Champions when he rallied to beat world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, then on Sunday where he birdied three of his last four holes to win the Turkish Airlines Open.

“Now I'm probably at an A-minus with one putt at Augusta away from being an A-plus,” he smiled.

That “one putt,” of course, was his birdie attempt on the 72nd hole to beat Sergio Garcia that wandered wide and set up a playoff the Spaniard would win. That’s how thin the margins can be between a good year and a great one.

By contrast, the 37-year-old’s career defies that kind of instant analysis.

Rose’s victory in Turkey, which was sealed with a 10-footer for birdie at the last hole, was the first time he’d won back-to-back starts since 2014, when he followed his victory at the Quicken Loans National with a triumph at the Scottish Open.

It was also his 18th worldwide victory, and prompted the kind of question that normally requires more retrospective than most professionals are willing to allow at this stage of their careers.

It was a historical query cutting to Rose’s place in the game, and prompted a telling response after a noticeably pregnant pause.

“Someone said to me: If you could do it all over again, if you could wipe the slate clean right now and do it all over again, would you?” Rose allowed. “It's a good question.”


Turkish Airlines Open: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the Turkish Airlines Open


It was an even better answer.

Late Saturday following a third-round 64 at Regnum Golf & Spa Resort, Rose was asked about Bradley Neil, a Scottish professional who’d just salvaged his season with a solid finish on the European Challenge Tour to regain his playing privileges. Rose has become something of a mentor to Neil, who missed 11 of his first 16 cuts after turning pro in 2016.

“Making cuts to start a career is easy,” smiled Rose, who famously began his pro career by missing the cut in his first 21 tournament starts.

From that humbling start has emerged one of the game’s most consistent players. In the last 10 years on the PGA Tour, Rose has failed to play the weekend just 40 times. He’s won a major (2013 U.S. Open) and a gold medal (2016 Olympics) and has played on three winning European Ryder Cup teams. He’s transformed himself, with an assist from swing coach Sean Foley, into one of the game’s most consistent ball-strikers and has been a perennial top-10 player in the world golf rankings.

In many respects, Rose is a self-made man. Sure, his “hello, world” moment at the 1998 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale where he tied for fourth place as a 17-year-old amateur suggested almost limitless potential, but make no mistake, he’s come by his success honestly.

Hard work and the unrelenting sensibilities of a perfectionist have hoisted Rose into a uniquely exclusive class. But would he do it all over again if offered the ultimate mulligan?

“I'm not sure I would,” he said. “It's been 20 years of hard graft, hard work and I've achieved a lot. I've achieved a major championship. I've won Olympic gold. I've won a lot of other tournaments. I've had some great moments. To kind of try to do all of that again from a fresh, clean slate, that would be a daunting task.”

Some would say the road ahead appears equally as daunting. In the short term, Rose is within four rounds of winning the European Tour’s Race to Dubai following his back-to-back victories; and another major championship is always the goal, particularly a Masters’ jacket following April’s near-miss.

But there’s an even loftier finish line for Rose, the ultimate benchmark when grading careers that transcend money lists and the kind of week-in and week-out hyperbole that can often blur the bigger picture.

“I've always said I'd like to be a Hall of Fame player, and I guess who makes that determination, I don't know, but that's kind of what I'm working towards,” Rose said. “So is that two major championships and 20 wins? I don't know what it is. Olympic gold will probably be kind of a nice bargaining chip when it comes to that.”

Under the current World Golf Hall of Fame selection process those kinds of questions go largely unanswered. Consider that Davis Love III, who was inducted into the Hall last month, passed the esoteric test with 21 Tour victories and a major (PGA Championship); while Fred Couples was given his Hall pass with 15 titles and the ’92 Masters on his resume.

Whether or not Rose has checked all the required boxes to join that club at this point is a hypothetical waste of time. At least it is to Rose, who knows he still has work to do to assure himself a Hall of Fame locker. But then hard work is what he does best.

“There's a lot more I believe I can achieve,” he said. “My mind is about just trying to get in the conversation, I suppose, and keep winning.”

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Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

He picked up his clubs three times.

That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

Not that he was concerned, of course.

Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

“It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

“I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

“He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

“I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

“I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

“With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

So much for that.

Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

What’s the difference now?


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

“I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

“I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”