Open poised to present a satisfying Sunday

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2012, 5:02 am

SAN FRANCISCO – The only thing missing from the scoreboard at the 112th U.S. Open is the ubiquitous Fleck or Simpson, surprise potential champions with the ability to turn spectacles into something, well, subdued.

Sure Tiger Woods posted his worst Round 3 score in 15 Opens as a professional and Phil Mickelson celebrated his 42nd birthday with a pedestrian 71 that tied him for, wait for it . . . 42nd, but compared to Olympic Opens past this one through three rounds is a keeper.

This time around we have a Northern Irishman -- there’s always a Northern Irishman at the national championship -- two former Open champions, the best player without a major and a dollop of intrigue by way of a 17-year-old amateur and a man whose nickname is Junkman.

Does it get any better than that?

Final-round tee times

Of course it does. Woods-Mickelson was preferred and Rory McIlroy-Luke Donald would have been a respected Plan B, but the two Euros didn’t make the weekend and the Americans played Saturday like they would rather have missed the cut. But given The Olympic Club’s track record as an Open stage Saturday’s board was nothing short of encouraging.

Graeme McDowell, who won the last NorCal Open down the road at Pebble Beach in 2010, charged into the lead with a 2-under 68 that was capped by a textbook birdie at the last; while Jim Furyk, who in 17 Open starts has missed just two cuts, held serve with an even-par 70.

They lead Fredrik 'Junkman' Jacobson (68) by two strokes with two-time Open champion Ernie Els (68) and world No. 3 Lee Westwood (67) another shot back at 2 over.

On what was widely considered the easiest scoring day of the week – a day that featured 13 sub-par scores compared to just six on Friday – a condensed leaderboard at least gave the impression that after four nondescript Opens the Lake Course was poised to deliver a winner.

What the leaderboard lacks in overt star power it makes up for in possibilities. Seventeen players are within five strokes of the lead heading into what promises to be a demanding day.

“It’s wide open,” said McDowell, who admitted to needing a one-minute pep talk from sports psychologist Bob Rotella before his round. “I look at guys at 2, 3, 4 under par and think they should have a chance.”

That’s good news, at least in theory, for Woods, who played his first six holes in 3 over, The Olympic Club’s two par 5s in 1 over and ended his round with a miss-hit chip at the last that all added up to a third-round 75 and fading chances in fading light at the U.S. Open.

For the day Woods hit 7 of 14 fairways, 11 of 17 greens in regulation but it was his worst putting round in what was already a bad putting week that ultimately cost him. He followed efforts of 29 and 31 putts for Rounds 1 and 2 with a 34-putt effort that featured just one birdie.

“It's just patience. It's just a few birdies here and there. It's not like where you have to go out there and shoot 62 and 63,” Woods said. “This is a U.S. Open. You just need to hang around because anything can happen at the last three holes. . . . I'm definitely still in the ball game. I'm only five back and that's certainly doable on this golf course for sure.”

Woods will begin the day tied with Beau Hossler, a 17-year-old amateur who lapped the 14-time major champion by five strokes on Saturday in just his second Grand Slam start.

To put that in context, Hossler was born the year (1995) after Furyk played his first Open and was 8 years old when Furyk won the championship at Olympia Fields in Chicago.

The Open veteran was as steady, if not spectacular, as anyone on Day 1, rebounding from a bogey at the first hole with birdies at Nos. 7 and 11 and playing the par 5s (Nos. 16 and 17) in even par.

“On a golf course like this you have to go from spot to spot and it doesn't have to look or be fancy, it has to work,” said Furyk, who was paired with Woods on Saturday. “When I'm playing well, that's the kind of golf you play at a U.S. Open usually, especially at a place set up firm and fast like this.”

Atop the list of players that will be trying to run down the leaders would be Westwood, who has finished in the top 3 at two of the last four Opens and is putting like a man with something to prove, and Els, who was similarly solid on the greens on Saturday.

Ultimately, however, it will be U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis and his staff that will decide if Olympic can finally score that show-stopper finish.

The general feeling is after Saturday’s break in the storm the USGA will go light on the watering and heavy with the hole locations for Sunday’s final turn, a concept McDowell called “Rory retribution” following McIlroy’s eight-stroke romp at Congressional last year.

The other concept is to go easy, like officials did on Saturday when birdies and bogeys came with almost equal abandon. “For the first time this week I actually enjoyed a round of golf,” McDowell admitted.

After four pedestrian finishes, the San Francisco faithful may finally be treated to an enjoyable finish.

Getty Images

Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

Getty Images

LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

''Too many,'' Park said.

The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

Getty Images

Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

Getty Images

Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit