Nice guy Merritt finishes first at Quicken Loans

By Rex HoggardAugust 3, 2015, 12:11 am

GAINESVILLE, Va. – We’ve seen this before, a salt-of-the-earth Iowan wielding a lethal putter on his way to a career defining victory.

The only thing missing was the modest monologue: “I’m Troy Merritt and I’m from Osage, Iowa.” But even that wouldn’t be Merritt’s style.

If Zach Johnson is the most understated two-time major champion, then Merritt is nothing short of the most unassuming Tour winner in recent memory.

A wisp of a player who is generously listed at 6 feet, 160 pounds, Merritt has never played in a major, never finished better than 100th on the FedEx Cup point list and would never be confused for one of his high-profile PGA Tour frat brothers.

Someone like, say Rickie Fowler, who seemed to be the consensus and crowd favorite on Sunday at the Quicken Loans National.

But Merritt never gave Fowler or anyone else much of a chance on his way to a three-stroke victory and maiden Tour title.

“It's been a long journey the last five, six years,” said Merritt, who closed with a 67 that included a winding 34-footer for birdie at the last that prompted an almost apologetic shrug from the 29-year-old.

“Several life changes, couple moves, two boys but I wouldn't have done it any other way. I separate my life pretty well and, as a result, it really hasn't paid off in success on the golf course but it's the way I'm doing it. I'm a family man first and foremost.”

The timing couldn’t have been better for Merritt, who began this week on the inward loop of a grueling run that has included five events in six weeks.

During that stretch he missed five consecutive cuts, broke par just once in his last 10 Tour rounds and watched hopelessly as he tumbled down the FedEx Cup point list all the way to 123rd.

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It was a familiar feeling for Merritt, who has struggled since joining the Tour in 2010 after a stellar college career. Not that anyone around him could see the pressure building.

“Troy is one of the nicest guys to be around, period,” said his caddie Scott Sajtinac. “If you don’t get along with Troy, it’s probably you.” 

The only thing that seemed different on Sunday at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club was the outcome, a victory that earned him a spot next week in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship and secured his Tour card for the next two seasons.

From the pavement to the penthouse just like that thanks in large part to a swing tip from Sajtinac during Tuesday’s practice round. After struggling with his driver the last few months Sajtinac suggested he square his shoulders more to his target and move away from the golf ball at address.

“Off the tee it has been tough,” Sajtinac said. “We’ve been playing out of the rough for two months and that’s hard to do.”

Just ask Tiger Woods how hard that can be.

The technical term for it is “transference,” that’s swing speak for having the ability to take what a player is doing on the range and in practice and apply it during a round of tournament golf.

Throughout Woods’ steady competitive swoon the last few months he referred to the phenomenon as “old patterns,” but in the simplest terms it has been an inability to carry what he has on the range to the first tee.

What else would explain his third-round 74 after playing his first 36 holes in 8 under?

The tournament host would rebound on Sunday, playing his opening nine in 4 under on his way to a closing 68; and while his tie for 18th did little for his FedEx Cup fortunes, he moved up just 12 spots to 185th, the psychological impact was evident.

“This is much better, much, much, much better to have a round like today,” smiled Woods, who moved to within five strokes of the lead with a birdie at the 10th hole before playing his final eight holes in even par.

Woods’ optimism seems to go well beyond his best Tour finish since the spring when he tied for 17th at the Masters. While the short term – the PGA Championship could be his final event of the 2015-16 season – remains shrouded in uncertainty, after a few trying months he is starting to see well beyond the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I've got years ahead of me, that's how I look at it, not just this season,” he said. “I've got years and if you would have asked me that back when I had my back surgery I would have probably . . . I didn't really know. That was a rough period in my career and my life. But now I'm on the good side of it.”

The same could be said for Merritt, who began the day tied with Kevin Chappell and quickly separated himself from the field with a birdie at the first.

The event quickly descended into a two-player race, with Bill Haas moving into a share of the lead at 17 under with six birdies through his first 10 holes but he unraveled just as quickly, playing Nos. 12 through 16in 4 over par and tying for fourth.

Fowler made a late run with birdies at three of his last five holes, but Merritt nearly made a hole-in-one at the 16th hole for a tap-in birdie and he added his walk-off at No. 18 to complete his breakthrough.

In fact, Merritt’s biggest obstacle as he made his way down the 18th hole was the emotion of the moment.

As Merritt – who set up his Sunday charge with a tournament-record 61 on Day 3 – approached the 18th green, the crowd broke into a large cheer. When the fans quieted he told Sajtinac, “That was nice.”

It was another nice finish for another nice guy from Iowa.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”