Welcome to the Club

By Rex HoggardOctober 21, 2010, 12:03 am

PGA of AmericaSOUTHHAMPTON, Bermuda – Every player gets there at their own pace, but the reality of joining the game’s most exclusive club assures they all eventually arrive at the same destination.

For Graeme McDowell, the gravity of his status as a newly minted major champion caught up with him as he made his way up the Old Course’s third fairway during the first round of this year’s Open Championship, of all places.

While Martin Kaymer, who at 25-years-old seems soulful beyond his years and stoic exterior, seemed to arrive at the inevitable perched atop Port Royal Golf Club’s scenic 16th tee box on Tuesday.

Toward the end of the first round at this week’s PGA Grand Slam of Golf, the German inched quietly over to the cliff overlooking the blue-green Atlantic Ocean and was immediately consumed by the moment and lost in the one place any sports psychologist worth a retainer fee will tell you is dangerous territory during tournament play.

Later Tuesday evening, TNT analyst Jim Huber announced at the Grand Slam champion’s celebration, “Welcome to the club. Only major winners need apply.”

But Kaymer – not exactly looking very majorly dressed in a sweeter and tennis shoes at the formal gathering but sporting the proper credentials nonetheless – had already arrived hours earlier on a windswept par 3 with a picturesque panorama as his muse.

“That was one of those moments where you realize you've made it. You’re a winner. You're playing with a three-time major winner, Ernie Els, David Toms who won the 2001 PGA Championship,” Kaymer said. “It takes some time to realize. It's not normal what I've done the last few years, especially this year.

“It was just one of those moments where you think about it.”

In Kaymer’s defense, nothing about winning majors is normal. At least not to anyone not named Eldrick.

And at least the rail-thin PGA champion got “lost” in the moment at a “Silly Season” event where the worst-case scenario is a tie for third and a $225,000 consolation prize. McDowell arrived at his epiphany moment three holes into the Open Championship, easily the most important stroke-play event for a Northern Irishman and hardly a course that forgives lapses in concentration.

“Hit me right in the middle of the forehead. I was like, ‘Wow.’ I can remember welling up a little bit. When you're out there trying to switch on the golf mode, trying to get focused, all of a sudden it just kind of comes crashing in, what you achieved,” the U.S. Open champion said.

“An epiphany is a good way of describing it. I definitely had one of those during the first round of the British Open, it just kind of smacked me.”

Membership in the game’s most exclusive fourball has a way of sneaking up on you like that.

There have been 70 first-time major winners since 1979, the year the PGA of America held the first Grand Slam, and there’s a good chance the two-day Silly Season staple served as an unofficial coming out for more than one member of the club.

Zach Johnson said his major moment didn’t arrive until he returned to Augusta National and took a seat at the annual champion’s dinner following his 2007 Masters victory. But for many a champion a combination of late-season timing and exclusive, major-champions-only company makes the Grand Slam the logical and logistical favorite for the inevitable Grand Slam epiphany.

It’s where Els first came to emotional terms with the notion that he was no longer just a “good player” with a syrupy swing but a great one with a major on the mantel.

“I remember playing at Poipu Bay (Hawaii in 1994). I played with Greg Norman and Nick Price, two of my heroes,” Els said. “(Kaymer) is only 25. (McDowell) I think just turned 31. They're very young, have their whole careers ahead of them. You can't blame them to really feel on basically cloud nine. That's where they are at the moment. Especially (Kaymer), he has had an unbelievable year.”

Inevitably freshly-crowned major champions are asked in the hectic moments after winning if, “It has sunk in,” and almost inevitably the answer is “no.”

How could it? With the rush of competition and the emotions of trying to close out a Grand Slam still fresh most players, particularly first timers, become swept up in the haze of victory. The nearly non-stop flow of the competitive calendar all but guarantees that reflection is relegated to the post-season, or the Grand Slam.

“It's daydreaming, reflecting,” McDowell said. “You work so hard, you're out there, you're focused, it's hard to have that emotional outburst right afterwards. I think it kind of creeps up on you. It did with me.”

Like most watershed emotional moments it “creeps” and then it clobbers without warning. And whether you’re on the third hole at St. Andrews or the 16th at Port Royal the message is always the same, welcome to the club.

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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.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."