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Tiger returns to U.S. Open renewed and hopeful

By Rex HoggardJune 12, 2018, 7:28 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Tiger Woods wasn’t born in this slice of American wealth and privilege. Didn’t go to college in the northeast and, if the crowd’s reaction is any measure, he's a fan favorite but not THE fan favorite of the New York masses. That honor would go to the People’s Champion – Phil Mickelson.

But as he’s smiled and joked his way around Shinnecock Hills in the buildup to this week’s championship, everything about this U.S. Open feels like a homecoming for Woods.

Maybe it’s because more so than any other major, Woods has defined his career at the U.S. Open. We’re a decade removed from his last major victory, that historic haymaker at the ’08 U.S. Open – that if we’re being honest, stands as the pinnacle of his competitive achievements.

Or maybe it’s because time and absence has made Tiger and those who hang on every shot nostalgic. He hasn’t played the weekend at his national championship in five years and last teed it up in the U.S. Open in 2015 at Chambers Bay.

Officials may have Tiger-proofed Augusta National and his four PGA Championships (he’s also won four Masters) certainly set a standard, but Tiger and the U.S. Open go together like red and black on major championship Sundays.


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Often billed as golf’s toughest test, the U.S. Open paired perfectly with the game’s toughest competitor for the better part of two decades, and it’s worth noting that Shinnecock Hills was the site of Tiger’s first start in the championship in 1995.

He boat-raced the field in 2000 at Pebble Beach, beating runner-up Ernie Els by a cool 15 strokes, and two years later he outlasted Mickelson, in what may be the duo’s most memorable duel, just down the Long Island Expressway at Bethpage Black.

But it’s 2008 and the benchmark Torrey Pines Open that makes this week’s return for Woods something greater than the sum of its parts.

When Woods left La Jolla, Calif., a decade ago his future was uncertain, but no one could have predicted his impending fall from grace, or his current rise back to competitive relevance.

There were injuries, both self-inflicted and otherwise, and setbacks and failed comebacks. Along the way he’s played in 25 majors and still he sits at 14 major championship victories, four shy of the all-time record set by Jack Nicklaus.

“I would think that I have been there on a number of occasions to win a major championship since the '08 U.S. Open, and I haven't done it. And no, I don't like that feeling,” said Woods, who did finish runner-up at the ’09 PGA Championship and third at the ’12 Open Championship. “I've certainly had a nice run where I've won a few. Unfortunately, over the last 10 years, I haven't. But for the first few years of my career, I did well.”

And he’s doing well again.

Normally, Woods’ name among the list of favorites to win a U.S. Open wouldn’t qualify as news, but his dramatically improved play this season makes his status this week as a 20-to-1 favorite notable on many fronts.

He’s not at full stride just yet, as evidenced by his putting two weeks ago at the Memorial, his driving during the West Coast swing or his iron play at the Masters. At each turn during this comeback he’s been sidetracked by a different part of his game, and yet he’s embraced each step with a zeal that had been missing.

“Golf is always frustrating. There's always something that isn't quite right, and that's where we, as players, have to make adjustments,” he said. “Tournaments I've played in this year, there's always something. Hopefully, this is one of those weeks where I put it all together and even it out, and we'll see what happens.”

If the New York crowds seem to have turned this U.S. Open into Woods’ homecoming, his demeanor at Shinnecock Hills has only reinforced the idea that Tiger is back where he belongs – playing a classic American golf course with an unrelenting confidence.

“He’s happy with his game, this is like a second lease on life, he gets to play again,” said Steve Stricker, who played a practice round with Woods on Monday at Shinnecock Hills. “He probably thought at one point he couldn’t come back out here and compete. He feels better about this time around.”

Woods returns to the championship that has defined his career this week with a renewed focus and a clean bill of health. He’s a new man now prepared to renew an old pursuit.

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Watch: Koepka nearly aces par-3 13th Sunday

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 4:24 am

Just when it looked like he was facing a legitimate challenge Sunday, Brooks Koepka responded with a near-ace.

Up four to start the final round, Koepka saw his lead disappear as Gary Woodland raced up the leaderboard to tie him at 13 under and then 14 under.

Unfazed, the three-time major winner birdied the par-5 12th to regain his outright lead and then followed up with this tee shot at the 218-yard, par-3 13th.

And just like that, the tap-in birdie put Koepka back ahead by two with five to play.

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Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.

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Sergio leads by 4 entering final round at Valderrama

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

Sergio Garcia closed with three straight birdies to shoot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, taking a four-shot lead into the third and final round of the Andalusia Valderrama Masters.

The tournament, which Garcia has won  twice (2017, 2011), was reduced to 54 holes because of numerous weather-related delays.

With his bogey-free round, Garcia moved to 10 under, four shots clear of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who shot a 1-under 70.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


"Hopefully we'll be able to play well tomorrow and get another win at Valderrama," Garcia said. "Hopefully I can finish it in style."

Chesters, however, is conceding nothing. "There's always a chance," he said. "There's not a lot of pressure on me."

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''


Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.