A son's burden

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2011, 8:54 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – A handful of hopefuls will set out Sunday afternoon onto the toughest test in major championship golf under the most unforgiving pressure and yet somehow they will be getting off easy, at least when compared with the burdens carried by others.

What is the intensity of Grand Slam glory when compared with the emotional abyss of sorrow and loss and even guilt? Majors are won and lost in a moment, memories, for better or worse, never take a respite.

“I think about him every day, man. Every day,” says Christo Greyling of his late father Iaan.

Christo GreylingFor Greyling, a former prodigy turned project who is playing his first U.S. Open, Congressional is a silver lining loaded with mental minefields. This was the tournament Iaan Greyling wanted his son to play, and maybe even win someday, when he uprooted his family from their farm in search of the American dream.

So forgive Greyling, and the other members of this heavy-hearted club, if Open Sunday takes an occasional back seat to Father’s Day and all the emotional detours that come with the grieving process.

On a picture-perfect summer day Greyling beams when asked what his dad would make of his son’s first major championship start: “He’d be going crazy.”

Greyling hasn’t smiled much lately, not since his phone rang one October morning in 2009. On the other end of the line was his mother, Katinka, with the news that Iaan had hanged himself. He was 53.

“I just remember my mom’s frantic voice,” Greyling recalls.

On Oct. 14, 2009, Christo’s 27th birthday, Iaan was buried. Greyling and his family have been looking for answers ever since.

Iaan Greyling’s golf real estate business had all but crashed along with most of the nation’s housing market. Engaging and affable to the extreme, Iaan Greyling has had been quietly battling demons for years since his days on the battlefield as a member of the South African army. The economic crash was fate’s final haymaker.

The elder Greyling arranged a meeting with a friend at 11 a.m. to assure no one in his family was haunted by the images of such a grisly discovery.

With tears emerging from behind a pair of wrap-around sunglasses, Christo Greyling circles back to familiar territory. How did he miss the warning signs, depression, anxiety and even what Greyling now calls a “fake suicide” in 2008?

“It’s been tough for us to deal with the guilt,” he says. “We all felt we could have done something more.”

U.S. Open fairways, what little there is of them, are no place for self-reflection. For Greyling, Congressional is every bit a cathartic journey, another milestone in a program with an infinite number of steps, including birdies on three of his last four holes in Round 2 to make the cut.

“We felt so betrayed. We all got very depressed,” he admits. “I got a little taste of finding out what it’s like to feel like you’re never going to be happy again. Not to have any energy. Not care about anything. I took it personal in the beginning, but that was just his time.”

It’s no small irony that October 2009 was also Dave Adamonis’ “time.” The college golf coach and champion of Rhode Island junior golf had battled three types of cancer before he finally succumbed surrounded by family and friends in a New England hospice.

“He died peacefully,” reasons Brad Adamonis, Dave’s son who also made the 111th U.S. Open his first national championship start.

Not that Congressional was unfamiliar ground to Adamonis. He Monday qualified for the 2005 Booz Allen Classic with Dave on his bag and the two golf junkies spent much of the week exploring the iconic American club.

“We had a friend taking pictures of us, this was a U.S. Open course. It would have been great to have him out and caddying for me on Father’s Day,” Adamonis pauses. “Or just have him out here . . .”

Call it a son’s burden, particularly when your occupation and your relationship with your father are anything but mutually exclusive. Since Adamonis could swing a golf club his father was motoring him around New England to junior events or to a practice tee to perfect his homemade swing. Dave Adamonis was equal parts swing coach, sports psychologist, caddie and competitive conscience.

During a difficult opening 77 at Congressional a lifetime of teachings swirled through Adamonis’ head. Simple things that Dave Adamonis would use to help his son focus like “PPO,” patience pays off, or “PPT,” power of positive thinking.

“Numerous times today I thought about getting a little quick at the top and he would say just wait for it,” remembers Adamonis, who missed the cut. “I’ve been playing in the (U.S. Open) qualifier for 25 years because he was always pushing me to play. Thanks to him, I have the opportunity.”

Davis Love III can relate. In fact he wrote a book entitled “Every Shot I Take” as an ode to his father, famed swing coach Davis Jr. who died in a 1988 plane crash.

“Hitting balls just now,” Love gestures toward the practice tee, “I’m thinking, ‘What would Harvey Penick tell my dad?’ I’m hitting drivers at 70 percent and thinking that’s exactly what my dad would do.”

At a U.S. Open, more so than any other championship, those memories persevere, fueled in part by the tournament’s traditional Father’s Day finish and a bond created by a shared interest in the game.

Congressional is Jonathan Byrd’s fourth U.S. Open, but it’s the first he’s played since his father, Jim, lost his battle to brain cancer in July 2009. For Byrd it’s less a memory than it is a milestone.

Jim Byrd never strays far from his son’s consciousness, but this U.S. Open has been a particularly eventful, and emotional, exercise. On three occasions this week he has been approached by someone who was touched by Jim and each time Byrd was transported back to that summer day in 2009 when his father died.

“I watched my dad take his last breath,” he says quietly.

For Byrd those memories are a form of emotional currency he has learned to embrace over time. Like Greyling, Adamonis and Love he’s discovered there’s no escaping or expediting the grieving process.

“I teed it up a couple times this week just thinking about how much he’d want to be here and I’ve kind of teared up because I have joyful memories of my dad and that’s a good thing,” says Byrd, who missed the cut.

Not that it’s become any easier. Jim Byrd is always in his thoughts, but this week has opened, and maybe even closed, a new chapter in the healing process.

“Walking around on Tuesday with Mark Wilson, his dad was inside the ropes, and I got kind of teary with that because I was kind of jealous,” Byrd admits. “I think about him more this week than I have all year.”

Yet as painful as it all seems it’s a journey Byrd would never trade.

By nature, U.S. Open Sundays are the dominion of frayed nerves and struggling to stay in the moment. For the heartbroken it’s a matter of perspective and embracing the memories, however painful.

“I picked the right one to make it to, this being Father’s Day and all that. It’s been real tough on my family,” Greyling says. “This will help heal the scars.”

There will be competitive heartbreak on Sunday, always is, the byproduct of 4-inch rough and the prospect of a life-changing victory. Greyling & Co. may not win the 111th U.S. Open but for them this Father’s Day is an emotional victory, by any measure.

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Runner-up McIlroy: 'I should have closed it out'

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 5:18 pm

After taking the 36-hole lead by three and taking a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round, Rory McIlroy failed to keep pace with Francesco Molinari on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship.

Struggling with a two-way miss throughout the weekend, McIlroy fell four down to Molinari through 10 holes.

The Ulsterman attempted to mount a late charge, with birdies at 12 and 17, but when his eagle putt at the 72nd hole came up inches short, and when Molinari's ball opted not to spin back into the water, the comeback bid came to an end.

His final round of 2-under 70 left him in solo second, two shots behind the champion.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

"I’m just disappointed I didn’t play better over the weekend," McIlroy said. "I was in a great position after two days and struggled yesterday and sort struggled today again, as well. I just couldn’t get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead of me, and I couldn’t claw that back.

“I played some good golf coming down the back nine, hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward."

McIlroy ended an 18-month worldwide winless drought earlier this year with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but hasn't claimed victory on the European Tour in two years, since the Irish Open in May of 2016.

"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week," McIlroy said. "But that’s not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing. He deserved the win, I need to do a little more work, and I’m looking to forward to getting right back at it at Memorial next week."

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Francesco Molinari's path to the biggest win of his career at the BMW PGA Championship was drama-free until he sized up his approach to the 72nd hole.

Rory McIlroy, his closest rival three strokes back, had just hit to 20 feet to set up an eagle chance. Molinari was between clubs for his third shot and faced a delicate wedge over the water protecting Wentworth's pretty 18th green.

His ball landed short of the pin and span back toward the water. The spectators held their collective breath - so did Molinari - but it came to rest on the fringe, just short of trouble.

''Just a bit of luck at the right time,'' Molinari said, with a smile.

After McIlroy came up inches short with his eagle putt, Molinari rolled in for par from 6 feet for a 4-under 68 that secured a two-stroke victory at Wentworth on Sunday. It was the fifth win of his career, and his most satisfying.

''If I could pick one tournament to win in my career, it would be this one,'' the Italian said at the prizegiving ceremony.

A Sunday shootout between Molinari and McIlroy at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

They entered the final round tied for the lead on 13 under but while McIlroy sprayed his drives left and right, Molinari was the model of consistency and established a three-shot cushion by the turn after birdies at Nos. 3, 4 and 8.

From there on, it was a clinic in front-running from Molinari, who laid up when he needed to and picked up his only shot on the back nine with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 12th.

McIlroy birdied the par 5s at Nos. 17 and 18 but mounted his victory charge too late.

''I didn't feel intimidated at all,'' Molinari said of his head-to-head with the former world No. 1. ''It's just the last couple of holes, he's basically thinking eagle, eagle. I'm thinking par, par, and that makes the whole difference.

''Sometimes I just get too drawn on what the other guy is doing, and I was really good today, hitting good shots and focusing on my process and not worrying about anything else.''

Molinari played his final 44 holes bogey-free. He only dropped two shots all week, one of them coming on his first hole.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

He will likely climb into the world's top 20 on Monday and has moved into the automatic qualifying places for the European team for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

''I'm playing well enough that I shouldn't really worry too much about that,'' Molinari said. ''I should just keep doing my own thing and hopefully things will take care of themselves.''

Molinari previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Alex Noren last year.

On that occasion, Noren closed with a 10-under 62 and the Swede embarked on another last-day charge 12 months later, a fifth birdie of the day at No. 12 briefly drawing him to within two shots of Molinari.

It was the closest he came, with a bogey at the next virtually ending his bid for victory.

With a 67, Noren was tied for third with Lucas Bjerregaard (65), a stroke back from McIlroy.

McIlroy, the 2014 winner at Wentworth, played what he described as one of his best rounds of 2018 on Friday, a bogey-free 65 that left him with a three-shot lead.

He struggled off the tee in shooting 71 on Saturday and started the final round with errant drives on Nos. 1 and 3 (both right, into spectators) and No. 4 (left). After a bogey at No. 10, he was the only player in the top 10 over par but he birdied the three par 5s coming home to salvage what was otherwise a disappointing Sunday.

''With a 36-hole lead,'' McIlroy said, ''I should have closed it out this week.''

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”