Grillo overcomes short miss to win season opener

By Ryan LavnerOctober 19, 2015, 2:54 am

NAPA, Calif. – The 3-footer that Emiliano Grillo missed on the 18th green Sunday at Silverado wasn’t going to haunt him. Not this time.

Seven months ago, he whiffed a short putt on the 72nd hole in Puerto Rico that cost him a career-altering title. He eventually lost in a playoff.

“I had nightmares for a week,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep. It was one of the most painful times of my life.”

There wouldn’t be a repeat at the Frys.

After missing what appeared to be a certain birdie, and after Kevin Na made a mess of the second playoff hole, Grillo wedged to 10 feet and poured in the putt to win the PGA Tour’s season-opening event. It was his first start as a Tour member.

The latest success story in a high school class of 2011 that has also produced Jordan Spieth, Daniel Berger, Justin Thomas and Patrick Rodgers, Grillo, 23, is expected to jump inside the top 40 in the world rankings. He is also exempt into the Masters.

“They said the word ‘Masters’ twice today,” he said. 

Then he pointed at his smile. 

“You see this?” he said. “That is what I’m going to do every single time you say ‘Masters.’” Open: Articles, photos and videos

Two weeks after winning the Tour finale with an uphill, right-to-left-breaking 25-footer, Grillo holed virtually the same putt on the final hole of regulation.

Twenty minutes later, Na matched Grillo’s 15-under 273 total with a cold-blooded 6-footer of his own, but he never gave himself a realistic shot to win in the playoff.

In fact, he was fortunate to even get a second chance.

With the sun quickly disappearing behind the mountains, Grillo appeared to be in position to end the playoff early. He nestled his pitch shot on the par-5 18th to 3 feet, but he hammered his putt on the left edge and lipped out – eerily similar to the putt he missed earlier this year in Puerto Rico.

“I hit this one good,” he said. “I don’t know what happened.”

He had only a few minutes to recover.

“My caddie asked me if I was 100 percent and I said, ‘Yes. I want to win it,’” Grillo said. “You know how they say it: Third time is a charm.”

Still alive, Na was in ideal position on the second playoff hole, 274 yards away on the right side of the fairway. With the ball slightly above his feet, Na opted for a driver off the tight turf, a shot that he “hit perfect” five or six times this week.

This one was far from perfect. He dropkicked the shot and sent his ball screaming into the left rough, behind a tree, about 100 yards out.

“I was a little shocked by that,” Grillo said.

From there, Na somehow wedged through a small opening in the trees, but his ball skittered through the back of the green. His fourth shot was too aggressive, and he missed the 12-foot comebacker for par.

It was his third career overtime loss.

“You would think I would get my share,” Na said afterward, “but I certainly haven’t gotten my share of wins for how good I’ve played for the last seven or eight years. But you know what? It’s coming. It’s coming.”

Grillo and Na’s playoff miscues were but a sampling of a sloppy first Sunday of the season, when nine players had at least a share of the lead. 

There was a long line of players who rued their missed opportunities:

• Looking to go wire to wire, Brendan Steele overcame a rocky start and was tied for the lead when he made five bogeys in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, dropping all the way to a share of 17th.

• Journeyman Jason Bohn had the outright lead when he butchered the par-5 16th, chunking his third shot and making bogey.

• Justin Rose, the second-highest ranked player in the field (No. 7), pulled within a shot of the lead but came home in 38.

• And Justin Thomas, who made a compelling case for top rookie honors last season, shot 69 in the final round but failed to make birdie on the last five holes, a stretch that includes two par 5s and a short par 4.

Though disappointed with the finish, Thomas still stuck around the scorer’s trailer to congratulate Grillo on his 72nd-hole birdie.

“He’s really, really good,” Thomas said, “and this isn’t going to be the last time he’s in contention.”

Indeed, it’s been a steady rise to prominence for Grillo, who trained during high school at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

A fixture on AJGA and amateur leaderboards, he has battled the likes of Spieth, Thomas and Rodgers since they were 14. Thomas joked that his mom was Grillo’s mode of transportation during those tournaments, waking at 6 a.m. just to get Grillo to the course for an early tee time.

Thomas briefly tried to recruit Grillo to join him at Alabama, and Spieth tried the same trick at Texas. But the Argentine had no desire to earn a college degree. He wanted to major in golf.

After turning pro at 18, Grillo headed overseas to climb his way up the world rankings. He combined for six top-10s on the European Tour in 2012-13, then broke out at the ’14 Dubai Desert Classic, where he finished second after a closing 66.

In five starts this past season on Tour, he lost the playoff in Puerto Rico and also recorded a pair of top-25s. That was enough to get him inside the top 200 in FedEx Cup points, which sent him to the Tour Finals. He finished in the top 10 in three of the four make-or-break events, including the narrow victory in the finale.

“He hits it really, really good,” Thomas said, “and he’s not scared. He’s going to go out and get it done. If you want to win golf tournaments, you have to be able to do stuff like that on the last hole.”

Except Grillo’s week at the Frys figured to be remembered for a scary incident Saturday, when he hit into the group ahead on the drivable 17th. Little did he know the player he nearly plunked with his drive was Rory McIlroy.

Grillo said that he never got an opportunity to apologize for the incident, that he wanted to jog across a couple of fairways Sunday just to tell McIlroy that he was sorry.

“I didn’t want to be the guy who almost hit Rory McIlroy this week,” he said. “I wanted everybody to know me because I have the trophy.”

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Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

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Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”