Hooks & Cuts: Phil (not that Phil) makes an appearance

By Rich LernerFebruary 3, 2015, 7:30 pm

In this edition of Hooks & Cuts, reflections on Tiger Woods' struggles, Dustin Johnson's return, Rickie Fowler's future and Pete Carroll's decision.

• Punxsutawney Phil popped out of the ground the other day and saw Tiger blade a chip shot across the green. He scurried back in his hole, meaning six more weeks of winter.

• Flying home from Phoenix the plane was late in taking off.  The pilot blamed it on Carroll.

• Asked for his long-term prognosis, Erik Compton paused, took a deep breath and said with a slight smile, “I’m here now.”

• Justin Thomas is built like Jack Renner and launches it like Jack Nicklaus.

• For now, it appears Johnson’s come up for air after a deep dive into the party world.  Anthony Kim should be a cautionary tale.  Talent un-nurtured can become talent wasted.

• Rory McIlroy's not just the best player in the game, but maybe the fittest player in the game. Fit and flexed, but still flexible. 

• Earl Woods, in a 2001 Golf Digest interview, said, “The game is 90 percent mental.”  Consider that when Tiger talks technique.

• Phil Mickelson no doubt’s studied the Pelzian putting data, but he still seems a bit unsure on the greens in the heat of competition.

• Tiger’s been a master of his craft.  People of his ilk, writers and painters and musicians, have similarly struggled with demons and cold spells.  Mastery’s not a lifelong list of personal accomplishments.  It’s a holistic and spiritual commitment coupled with God-given talent.  It’s all shaken now.  The master is fighting for his golfing life right now.

• Bubba Watson appears really close to a multi-tourney winning jag.

• Looking ahead to the Presidents Cup later this year, it’s likely the same old faces won’t make the team or simply won’t want to travel to South Korea.  Fine, let the kids play.  Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Fowler and Billy Horschel should all be on the U.S. squad.

• Hideki Matsuyama pauses at the top like Bob Murphy and then fires through like Bob Garrigus.

• Who is Fowler? Millenial star, marketing whiz kid, DiCaprio-Depp doppelganger, good player and by all accounts good guy, he’s all of that. But great player? He hasn’t proven that. Yet.

• Worse play call, Carroll at the Super Bowl or Jean Van de Velde at the Open?

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Casey (62) opens up four-shot lead at Travelers

By Nick MentaJune 23, 2018, 9:48 pm

On the strength of an 8-under 62, Paul Casey will take a four-shot lead into the final round of the Travelers Championship. Here’s where things stand through three rounds outside Hartford.

Leaderboard: Casey (-16), Russell Henley (-12), J.B. Holmes (-11), Anirban Lahiri (-11), Brian Harman (-11)

What it means: Casey is hunting his third PGA Tour victory and his second this season. The Englishman went nine years between Tour titles and racked up a number of near-misses after dedicating himself to a full-time U.S. schedule in 2015. He finally broke through earlier this year at the Valspar, edging a resurgent Tiger Woods, and now looks to further kick down a finally open door. TPC River Highlands is a gettable golf course, and notable names like Day, Watson and DeChambeau lurk at 10 under, but the field may need some help from Casey, who has separated himself through 54 holes.  

Round of the day: Casey fired the round of the week with six birdies and an eagle at the short par-4 15th. He leads the tournament in birdies made with six in each round for 18 total. He has hit each of his last 23 greens in regulation.

Best of the rest: Jaime Lovemark signed for a 6-under 64 highlighted by an eagle at 15. He enters Sunday tied for 11th, hunting his fourth top-10 finish of the season.

Biggest disappointment: While Casey was ripping up the course, four of the top seven players in the Official World Golf Ranking - Rory McIlroy (69), Brooks Koepka (69), Justin Thomas (70) and Jordan Spieth (71) - combined to shoot 1 under par Saturday. .

Shot of the day: James Hahn’s slam-dunk ace from 154 yards at the par-3 11th.

After a 3-over front nine, Hahn closed in 29 on the back for a ho-hum 67.

Quote of the day: "That's something I rarely see from me, 18 greens in regulation. So whatever he told me worked" - Casey on his work with his swing coach, Peter Kostis

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Watch: Hahn slam-dunks ace on 11th hole

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:20 pm

There are aces, and there are slam-dunk aces. No question which one this one by James Hahn on the 154-yard 11th hole was.

It was Hahn's first ace on the PGA Tour.

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Els' nephew Rebula wins Amateur Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 23, 2018, 7:05 pm

Ernie Els is one proud uncle.

His nephew, Jovan Rebula, won the Amateur Championship on Saturday at Royal Aberdeen to become the first South African to capture the title since Bobby Cole in 1966.

Rebula, a junior at Auburn, will join his famous uncle in Carnoustie next month for The Open. He also will get invites to the 2019 Masters and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Rebula defeated Ireland's Robin Dawson, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final.

"It’s unreal," Rebula said. "It’s really something that is hard to describe. I feel like many have been in this position before but it’s an unreal feeling. It hasn’t sunk in quite yet but hopefully tomorrow morning I can wake up and I will feel a little different."

Rebula received plenty of texts from Els throughout the week, and the encouragement paid off. Rebula opened a 1-up lead after 18 holes, and he extended his advantage by winning the 26th and 27th holes. He was 5 up with six to play before finally closing out Dawson on the 16th hole with an up-and-down from the bunker.

"It’s been a long week and especially today," Rebula said. "I should have finished maybe a couple of holes earlier, but it’s been awesome. A very tiring week. I’m standing here right now and there’s so much adrenaline pumping through me."

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Squirrel gets Rory's round off to a rocky start

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 6:42 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy’s third round at the Travelers Championship got off to a peculiar start before he even hit a shot.

McIlroy had just been introduced on the first tee at TPC River Highlands and was ready to unload on his opening drive of the day when a squirrel ran across the tee box a few feet in front of him.

McIlroy stopped his swing and laughed it off, but the squirrel continued to linger for several seconds, criss-crossing from one side of the packed tee box to the other. And while this was no black cat, the pump-fake to start his round didn’t exactly help the Ulsterman.

McIlroy ultimately blocked his drive into the right rough after enduring his brief rodent delay en route to an opening bogey, and amid soft conditions at TPC River Highlands he played his first five holes in 2 over. McIlroy started the day at 7 under, three shots behind leader Brian Harman.