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USGA again gets it wrong at Shinnecock Hills

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2018, 1:06 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For two days there was harmony at the 118th U.S. Open. The USGA presented a demanding test. Players, however, insisted it was fair.

Thursday was a grind, with a relative par of 76.47 thanks to an exacting golf course and winds that threatened to torpedo the championship’s return to the East End of Long Island, but cooler heads prevailed.

The USGA softened the setup and the collective took a deep breath. Nothing to see here.

It wasn’t until the early groups on Saturday made the turn under bright sunny skies and a building breeze that things began to go wrong. Putts that had been challenging suddenly became impossible and greens that had been on the slower side of the normal U.S. Open threshold began to turn a muted brown.

It was happening again, the ghosts from 14 years ago echoing across the rolling layout like an alarm. It was 2004 all over again.

“They've lost the golf course,” Zach Johnson told Sky Sports. “When you have a championship that comes down to sheer luck, that's not right.”

Replace Johnson with Kevin Stadler or J.J. Henry and it was as if the entire championship had been transported back to the ’04 U.S. Open, when these same rolling greens turned crusty and then cruel.

On that Sunday 14 years ago, Stadler and Henry were the first group off and their adventure on the seventh green added up to a dozen collective strokes and led the USGA to break out the hoses, but it was too late.

USGA CEO Mike Davis called that day a “double bogey” in the association’s history. At last year’s U.S. Open when he was asked about the 2004 championship, he said, “That will not happen again. If it does, I’m retiring.”

Shinnecock Hills hasn’t quite bottomed out like it did in 2004, but it’s close.

“Maybe they got more wind than they thought they’d get,” Brendan Steele said. “The course was fair the first two days, today I thought it was getting sketchy.”

Steele wasn’t alone in his assessment of Saturday’s set up miscue.

“They lost the golf course today, certainly on the back nine,” said Henrik Stenson, who was alone in sixth place at 5 over par.

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Unlike 2004 when the primary concern was the seventh green, on Saturday it was the 13th and 15th greens, which featured hole locations cut on knobs and dangerously close to the edge.

“When you have L wedge in your hand and you hit to the spot you want to and you almost make the putt and it blows of the green 20 yards, it starts to become a point where, 'Did these guys screw up? Did they not see this coming?'” said Pat Perez of his episode on the 15th hole. “The pin didn’t have to be where it was.”

Brooks Koepka, who is 18 holes away from winning his second consecutive U.S. Open, had a similar adventure on the 15th hole when his approach trickled into a greenside bunker.

“I don't have anything nice to say about that green [No. 15] and the pin location, so I'm just not going to say it,” said Koepka, who is tied for the lead at 3 over.

There will be those who say this is nothing more than typical players carping and that the play-for-pay types simply need to toughen up. But that ignores just how bad things got on Saturday and the facts.

The USGA’s own weather forecast called for gusts to 20 mph and warm, dry conditions, and yet the association rolled the dice with what turned out to be borderline hole locations.

“There were some aspects today where well-executed shots were not rewarded. We missed it with the wind,” Davis said. “We don’t want that. The firmness was OK but it was too much with the wind we had. It was probably too tough this afternoon – a tale of two courses.”

Officials made similar comments in 2004 when these same greens became crispy, but by then it was too late. Fourteen years ago play was suspended during the final round and crews were called in to water certain putting surfaces between groups, but the damage was done.

It was a dark moment for the USGA that Davis and Co. have spent the last decade trying to untangle, which makes Saturday’s miscues so surprising. This wasn’t supposed to happen, not again, not like this with the technology officials had available to them.

Unlike in ’04, officials have an opportunity for a real-time mea culpa, a chance to salvage a week that started with so much, but it won’t be easy. Sunday’s forecast is similar to what it was for Round 3, which means the options are limited. Crews were already starting to water greens as the day’s final group made the turn and Davis was clear on how he planned to ease up on the final day’s set up.

“The message was loud and clear to the grounds staff and to our team that handles the agronomy part of it is that let's slow the course down. We must slow the course down tonight, and we will,” Davis said. “That probably means more water applied and just making sure the greens are right.”

There had been a steady drumbeat since last year’s championship, which was won by Koepka with a potentially embarrassing 16-under total, that the championship had lost its way and veered too far in favor of the player. Saturday’s show may have struck a more traditional tone, but at what cost?

“Be careful what you wish for. We've all been asking for a real U.S. Open again. So I guess we got one for sure this week,” said Justin Rose, who is a stroke off the lead.

Maybe this was an over-reaction to what happened last year at Erin Hills or maybe it was simply an unthinkable lapse in judgment, either way the challenge now is making sure Sunday isn’t a sequel of what happened in 2004.

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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.”