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One year after 59, Thomas a more confident champion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 11, 2018, 12:56 am

HONOLULU – In some sports, it’s called "the zone," that mode where the mind lets go and the artist takes over.

At last year’s Sony Open, Justin Thomas spent four days fearlessly rewriting the record books on his way to a commanding victory that completed the Aloha Slam following his triumph at the year’s first event in Maui.

Thomas’ statistical line from the ’17 Sony Open is filthy. He became the eighth player to shoot a sub-60 round on the PGA Tour on Day 1, then set 36- and 72-hole Tour scoring records (he only tied the circuit’s 54-hole record). He went wire-to-wire and won by seven strokes.

It was effortless, flawless and, yes, maybe even a little mindless, particularly for a player who freely admits that there are weeks on Tour when his mind is consumed by all the things sports psychologists say are performance killers.

Weeks like last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where Thomas finished 22nd out of 34 players.

“When I was in 30th place last week, I wasn't exactly feeling great. I'm being perfectly honest. It's such a weird game. I was embarrassed,” he admitted on Wednesday at Waialae Country Club. “I was just in a very emotional state last week, and there's weeks that I'm like that, and there's weeks that I'm not. Obviously, I want to get rid of it, but just every little thing really just pissed me off.”

Thomas would never be considered stoic, and he is one of the circuit’s most out-going players on social media; it stands to reason that there is a correlation between his play and the natural ebb and flow of his emotions.

Last year’s opening round in Honolulu is perhaps the most obvious example.

Thomas began his day with an eagle at the par-4 10th hole and made the turn at 6 under par. He added birdies at Nos. 1 and 2 and arrived at the par-5 ninth, his last hole of the day, needing an eagle to shoot 59.

From 14 feet, Thomas calmly rolled in the eagle attempt and then froze.


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“I didn't really know what to do because I've never had a putt on Thursday that meant that much,” he said. “I didn't know how to react, and I didn't know what to do. I was more worried about trying to make the putt than anything.”

By comparison, Jordan Spieth, who was paired with Thomas for that historic round, began jumping around the green and high-fiving everyone in the group, which included Daniel Berger.

“I might have fist pumped harder than he did,” Spieth said. “I think he was kind of in the zone. I don't think he knew where he was at the time.”

To the point, it’s telling that Thomas’ recollections of that round are largely generalized, with his highlights limited to his eagle putt at the ninth and the celebration that followed. Spieth, who shot 65 that day, can offer a slightly more detailed analysis.

“The most surprising thing was that I was like a stroke and a half or something better tee to green than he was that round, and I got beat by like seven shots,” Spieth laughed.

For the record, Spieth’s proximity to the hole for the first round at Waialae last year was 18 feet, 4 inches, compared to Thomas’ 25 feet, 7 inches.

But that’s left-brain stuff, and that’s not Thomas. When he’s playing his best, like he did for the vast majority of last season, Thomas is more artist than alchemist.

In many ways, his learning about what produces his best golf was a big part of his breakthrough in 2017, when he won his first major at the PGA Championship and collected both the Player of the Year Award and FedExCup.

Thomas can be intense, and after watching players like Spieth, his contemporary growing up, enjoy early success at the highest level, Thomas had a tendency to press the issue. Last season, however, he emerged a more patient player.

“I know that I don't have to go out and play this perfect round,” he said. “I know that if I go shoot 1 under the first round at this tournament, that I still have a chance to win. I know that I'm not going to win every tournament.”

Thomas is hardly unique on this front. Most young players not named Spieth go through a learning process, but few emerge with as much momentum as JT did last year following his Hawaiian sweep.

It’s not a stretch to consider Thomas’ Sony Open victory a pivotal point in his development into a quieter and more confident champion.

“It was a new way of winning for me,” he said. “It was playing with that big of a lead, just having the opportunity to break records like this. It really was just kind of a week of almost being unconscious.”

Some would call that the zone.

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee birdied the 18th hole Sunday for a one-stroke victory over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship.

Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round around the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18, a reachable par 5. Her second shot landed a few feet to the right of the green, and she calmly chipped to about 3 feet

She made the putt to finish at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. It was the Australian standout's fourth career victory and first since 2016.

Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst shot an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

The 52-year-old Englishman finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory. He won six times on the European Tour and has three European Senior Tour victories.

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Sunday rule proves no advantage for BYU at NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 27, 2018, 10:06 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – For all the kvetching about the advantage BYU would gain by not playing on Sunday with the other teams at the NCAA Championship, one small thing was conveniently forgotten.

What happens if the Cougars were actually disadvantaged?

That’s what appears to have happened here at Karsten Creek.

Because the Mormon-run school prohibits athletics on Sunday, the NCAA accommodated BYU using its “Sunday Play” rule for the first time in the match-play era. (It was the team’s first NCAA berth since 2006.) That meant that BYU played its practice round last Wednesday, before the start of the final match of the NCAA Women’s Championship. The next day, the Cougars played their Sunday round – the third round of stroke-play qualifying – a half hour after the other 29 teams completed their practice round.

Some coaches grumbled about the issue of competitive fairness: What if BYU played in calm conditions for its third round on Thursday, while everybody else competed in rain and 30-mph winds come Sunday?

BYU coach Bruce Brockbank has been on the NCAA competition committee for the past four years, but even he was curious about how it would all play out.

For the practice round, the NCAA informed the Cougars that they needed to be off the course by 1:30 p.m. local time, a little more than a half hour before the start of the women’s final between Arizona and Alabama. All six players got a look at the course in 5 hours and 30 minutes – or an hour and 15 minutes less than the official Thursday practice round – and needed to run between shots on the 17th and 18th holes to finish on time.

Brockbank tried to prepare his players for what they would face Thursday. It’s a different experience without a playing marker – not seeing another shot affected by the wind, not watching another ball break on the greens, not falling into a rhythm with pace – but perhaps no amount of simulated rounds would have helped.

Playing as singles, with only a rules official and a walking scorer by its side, BYU began its NCAA Championship at 4 p.m. local time Thursday. The Cougars got in only a few holes before the horn sounded to suspend play. It turned out to be a two-hour weather delay, and players slapped it around a sloppy, soggy course until dark, with their last single on the 11th hole.

They returned the next morning, at 6:55, and wrapped up their round in an hour and a half before turning around for another 18.

Their final tally? They shot 24-over 312 – easily the worst third-round score of any team.

“We obviously didn’t handle it very well,” Brockbank said, “but it definitely wasn’t an advantage.”

BYU rebounded the next two rounds, with scores of 298-286, putting the team squarely inside the top-15 cut line.

“And six or seven hours,” he said, “we were right there with the best teams in the country.”

But then the third-round scores got posted, and it was clear that they had no chance of advancing past the 54-hole cut.

“It was pretty frustrating to watch our guys,” he said. “We just didn’t handle it very well.”

The same was true for the team’s best player, senior Patrick Fishburn. With just the first and second round counting, Fishburn (67-72) was in a tie for second, one shot off the individual lead, heading into Sunday. Then his third-round 78 from Thursday was posted, and he tumbled down the leaderboard, needing help just to advance to the final round of stroke-play qualifying.

“I’d rather have it this way,” Brockbank said. “If we had shot 5 under par and everyone else is over par, I don’t want to hear that wrath. The coaches wouldn’t put up with that. The fact that we’re not a factor, it’ll go away. But if the day did go well, it would have been a different story.”

Still, it was a strange dynamic Sunday, as a team competing in the NCAA Championship never even made it to the course – Brockbank preferred that the guys stay away from Karsten Creek, if only for appearances.

They went to a local church for three hours, then ate lunch and retired to the team hotel, where they watched TV and studied and played chess. Fishburn has another round to play Monday, but he didn’t even hit balls.

“I don’t think he’s even concerned about that – it’s just a nice, quiet Sabbath day,” Brockbank said. “But as a coach, it’s definitely a little odd.”