Monday Scramble: Sneds wins again; Furyk falters ... again

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 16, 2015, 4:00 pm

Brandt Snedeker re-emerges as a Masters contender, Jim Furyk falters (again), Tiger Woods steps away and more in this week’s presidential edition of the Monday Scramble: 

OK, officially, Jim Furyk has now failed to close out his last nine 54-hole leads. On a few of those occasions, he has coughed up the lead because of his own poor play. Other times, he was simply beaten by the better player on Sunday. It was clear early that he never stood a chance in a shootout at Pebble Beach. Furyk closed with 74 while the players behind him lit up a defenseless course. 

Furyk’s recent oh-fer not only shines a light on how much scar tissue the 44-year-old has developed in recent years, but also how leading is not always an enviable position. For so many years Tiger Woods (and now, to a lesser extent, Rory McIlroy) made winning look easy. But it’s human nature to want to nurse a lead, to protect it, which is why the pursuers have enjoyed more success recently than the leaders. Since 2010, 57 (!) percent of Tour winners have trailed heading into the final round. Here’s another eye-opening stat: Over the past two seasons, only FIVE of the last 16 players who held a one-shot lead have gone on to win.

So go ahead – hammer Furyk for another blown lead. Just remember he’s far from the only leader to trip up on a Sunday.

1. It’s telling that Brandt Snedeker had 50/1 odds to win the Masters – and he wasn’t even eligible yet. Though he’s not among the obvious favorites for the year’s first major (that distinction belongs to Rory, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Bubba Watson), Sneds’ second win in three years at Pebble locks up a spot at Augusta, and that’s good news for those who plunked down some cash on the player who entered last week at No. 63 in the world. Snedeker has four top-10s at Augusta since 2008, including the what-could-have-been T-6 in ’13, when he shared the 54-hole lead.

2. Snedeker’s performance is predicated on his short game, and last year one of the game’s best putters was only … above average. Unexceptional. He was 27th on Tour in strokes gained-putting, which is good, of course, but not good enough for a player who is short off the tee and occasionally crooked. (He was top 20 in SGP the previous five years, including No. 1 in 2012, his best year on Tour.)

So during the second half of last year, Snedeker benched his Odyssey White Hot putter – a club he had used since 2006. It wasn’t a long split, because he put the flat stick back in his bag at the HSBC last fall and has rolled the rock better ever since. “Sometimes you have to use some harsh words with the putter if it’s not paying attention – leave them in a hot trunk for a while and let them know they can be replaced,” he said. “Luckily, she understood and got back into working form.” 

3. Courtesy of the Golf Channel research department, here’s a by-the-numbers account of Jim Furyk’s winless drought:

  • Days: 1,064
  • Starts: 94
  • Runners-up: 7
  • Top-fives: 16
  • Top-10s: 31
  • Earnings (gulp): $14.5 million

4. So Tiger Woods has taken an indefinite break from the game. It’s the right move – really, the only move after his embarrassing start – but it’s intentionally open-ended and vague. Tiger could return next week at the Honda, or at Bay Hill, or at Augusta, or at his tournament at the end of the year. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

5. But the most interesting sentence in Woods’ statement is this: “Like I’ve said, I enter a tournament to compete at the highest level, and when I think I’m ready, I’ll be back.” That one line will define his comeback.

Let’s say he returns at Bay Hill. That would mean Woods has deemed his game tournament-ready after a full month of work at home. He would sincerely believe that he’s able to compete, maybe even to win. Those are the only conditions in which he would return, remember? … So what happens if his game and scores are still “not acceptable”? What if he misses another cut? What if he puts in the work, thinks and declares that he’s ready, but his game is still MIA? What happens then? Does he take another break? Work even harder? Retire? 

6. Man, you know it’s bad when even the Jacksonville Jaguars’ kicker is cracking jokes at your expense:

Initial reaction: MY GOODNESS, why would you tweak the Twitter trolls like that?! Second reaction: Wait ... kickers have $1.8 million in disposable income?

7. Irony Alert: John Daly and Miguel Angel Jimenez (combined age: 99) led tournaments last week, while gym rat Tiger Woods – arguably the most athletic golfer of all time and the man solely responsible for ushering in the new fit-crazed era on tour – hobbled to the sidelines to nurse injuries that are equal parts physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Weird times.   

8. It was only fitting that Jimenez had a chance to win in the same week that Darren Clarke will likely be named the 2016 Ryder Cup captain. Miggy is a finalist for the job, after all, but his chances have always seemed slim. Though he’s a charismatic personality, the language barrier was a major issue in such a high-profile gig. And besides, why would the 51-year-old want to forfeit two years of his playing career when he’s still very competitive? He’s ranked 45th in the world, and the guy plays part-time on the Champions Tour! Clarke is world No. 461, and tanking. 

9. #TBT: Daly opened with a 7-under 65 at Pebble Beach. It matched his best start to a tournament in 18 years, and the story got even better when he grabbed the solo lead on Day 2. But then he did what John Daly always does, which is play the next 29 holes in 4 over par to miss the cut (or withdraw) for the 103rd time since his last win in 2004. Predictably sad.   

10. Well, that may have been the best weather week EVER on the Monterey Peninsula – which probably made it even more sickening for those of you buried under 4 feet of snow. As if tour types don’t already enjoy envy-inducing lives, here are three of our favorite #humblebrags on social media: 

11. Dustin Johnson: It was like you never left! In only his second start since August, DJ shot all four rounds in the 60s en route to a T-4 finish at Pebble. This does not surprise at all, because 1.) Pebble has become one of his playgrounds over the past several years (two wins, four other top-10s); and 2.) Before his self-imposed leave of absence, Johnson was in the midst of a career year. After an early exit in his debut at Torrey Pines, Johnson has seemingly picked up where he left off and now heads to Riviera, where he has three top-four finishes in the last five years. Look for him to contend once again. 

The Internet can be a bizarre place. The *big* rumor last week was that Tiger flew to Colorado to watch Lindsey Vonn compete at the world championships and then, you know, get married – on Valentine’s Day, no less! (If they haven’t already tied the knot, the same report says it is “imminent.” Good for them.)

Here’s the New York Post, which sent the rumor mill into overdrive:

Woods and Vonn have become a megawatt sports celebrity pairing in recent years, and in Colorado the last two weeks there has been a persistent rumor that their marriage is imminent, perhaps even on Valentine’s Day. The women's slalom is scheduled for Saturday — and Vonn is not expected to enter. 

Vonn laughed off the rumor during a ceremony Saturday night, reportedly telling the crowd, “This is the most important night of my life … and no, not because I married Tiger Woods today!”

Brownie Points award: Mark Hubbard. Not only did he get the propose-behind-the-18th-at-Pebble idea from his new fiancee’s mom. He worked with the tournament staff to go off last on Thursday, so he could pop the question in the gloaming. If his goal was to put golfers all over the globe to shame, well, congratulations.  

Best Secret Keeper award: Adam Scott. Dude got married and had a kid without making a peep. The exceedingly rare silent superstar. Isn’t it wonderful? 

Best Twitter Battle award (Part 1): Justin Thomas vs. Jordan Spieth, the Saga Continues!

Best Twitter Battle award (Part 2): The Twitter accounts for the St. Jude Classic and John Deere Classic had a friendly wager last week: Jordan Spieth and Jake Owen (Team John Deere) vs. Billy Horschel and Colt Ford (Team St. Jude). The team with the worse score has to post on ALL social media platforms that the other’s tee markers are the best on Tour. Spieth’s team finished T-6. Horschel’s missed the 54-hole cut. Oh, we’re waiting, @FesJCMemphis … 

Best Missed Cut Ever award: With an ace on the 14th hole Friday at the Thailand Classic, Panuphol Pittayarat won the keys to a four-story, three-bedroom townhouse valued at $370,000. If he sold the place right now, he could nearly match his career earnings ($397,761). 

Weary Traveler award: Peter Uihlein. Earlier this week the former Oklahoma State star withdrew from the Thailand event because of food poisoning. That follows a run of dehydration in Dubai and a sprained wrist in Malaysia. Come home, young Peter.  

No. 1? Well, maybe someday. Rory is playing too well to drop this year, and he doesn’t figure to back down anytime soon. Assuming Day can stay healthy – that’s always the X factor – he’ll be Rory’s biggest rival moving forward. So, yes, the No. 2 spot is a real possibility, but it’s important to remember that No. 5 Adam Scott hasn’t even started his 2015 season yet. (He’ll do so at Doral.) Once his game kicks into high gear, he’ll be just another obstacle for Day to overcome. If Day can steal another title in the next few weeks, he could push to a career-high ranking.

Hudson Swafford has been mistaken for Harris English, and the comparisons don’t stop with their appearance. Swafford plays a big, brawny game, and though he’s struggled of late, he had three consecutive top 20s to begin the season. Another: It hasn’t happened yet, but Erik Compton, still just 35, seems destined to win at least once in his Tour career. He came close earlier this year at the Humana, sharing the 54-hole lead with a few others, but if can capture his first title, it’ll be one of the best sports stories ever.   

Getty Images

U.S. Open purse payout: Koepka clears $2 million

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 18, 2018, 12:09 pm

Brooks Koepka successfully defended his title at the U.S. Open and he was handsomely rewarded for his efforts. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Shinnecock Hills.

1 Brooks Koepka +1 $2,160,000
2 Tommy Fleetwood +2 $1,296,000
3 Dustin Johnson +3 $812,927
4 Patrick Reed +4 $569,884
5 Tony Finau +5 $474,659
T6 Daniel Berger +6 $361,923
T6 Henrik Stenson +6 $361,923
T6 Tyrrell Hatton +6 $361,923
T6 Xander Schauffele +6 $361,923
T10 Justin Rose +7 $270,151
T10 Webb Simpson +7 $270,151
T12 Matthew Fitzpatrick +8 $221,825
T12 Zach Johnson +8 $221,825
T12 Russell Knox +8 $221,825
15 Kiradech Aphibarnrat +9 $190,328
T16 Paul Casey +10 $163,438
T16 Haotong Li +10 $163,438
T16 Hideki Matsuyama +10 $163,438
T16 Louis Oosthuizen +10 $163,438
T20 Rickie Fowler +11 $122,387
T20 Brian Gay +11 $122,387
T20 Charley Hoffman +11 $122,387
T20 Dylan Meyer +11 $122,387
T20 Steve Stricker +11 $122,387
T25 Aaron Baddeley +12 $79,200
T25 Bryson DeChambeau +12 $79,200
T25 Jason Dufner +12 $79,200
T25 Branden Grace +12 $79,200
T25 Russell Henley +12 $79,200
T25 Charles Howell III +12 $79,200
T25 Francesco Molinari +12 $79,200
T25 Alex Noren +12 $79,200
T25 Matthieu Pavon +12 $79,200
T25 Ian Poulter +12 $79,200
T25 Justin Thomas +12 $79,200
T36 Rafa Cabrera Bello +13 $54,054
T36 Bill Haas +13 $54,054
T36 Brian Harman +13 $54,054
T36 Pat Perez +13 $54,054
T36 Gary Woodland +13 $54,054
T41 Sam Burns +14 $43,028
T41 Ryan Fox +14 $43,028
T41 Patrick Rodgers +14 $43,028
T41 Jhonattan Vegas +14 $43,028
T45 Patrick Cantlay +15 $34,716
T45 Marc Leishman +15 $34,716
T45 Scott Piercy +15 $34,716
T48 Ross Fisher +16 $27,952
T48 Jim Furyk +16 $27,952
T48 Luis Gagne (a) +16 $0
T48 Phil Mickelson +16 $27,952
T48 Matt Parziale (a) +16 $0
T48 Brandt Snedeker +16 $27,952
T48 Peter Uihlein +16 $27,952
T48 Tim Wilkinson +16 $27,952
T56 Dean Burmester +17 $25,426
T56 Mickey DeMorat +17 $25,426
T56 Tyler Duncan +17 $25,426
T56 Chris Naegel +17 $25,426
T56 Jimmy Walker +17 $25,426
61 Calum Hill +18 $24,629
62 Andrew Johnston +19 $24,448
63 Brendan Steele +20 $24,203
64 Cameron Wilson +21 $23,959
65 Kevin Chappell +22 $23,714
66 Will Grimmer (a) +23 $0
67 Byeong Hun An +26 $23,470
Getty Images

What's in the bag: U.S. Open winner Koepka

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 18, 2018, 11:24 am

Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive U.S. Open title on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills. Here's a look inside the winner's bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70 TX shaft

Fairway woods: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (16.5 degrees), with  Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80 TX shaft

Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3), with Fujikura Pro 95 Tour Spec shaft; Mizuno JPX-900 Tour (4-PW), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts, PW with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shaft

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 Raw (52, 56 degrees), SM7 Raw TVD (60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Getty Images

Repeat U.S. Open win gives Koepka credit he deserves

By Ryan LavnerJune 18, 2018, 2:08 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In an ironic twist Sunday, the last man to win consecutive U.S. Opens was tasked with chronicling Brooks Koepka’s final round at Shinnecock Hills.

Carrying a microphone for Fox Sports, Curtis Strange kept his composure as the on-course reporter. He didn’t cough in Koepka’s downswing. Didn’t step on his ball in the fescue. Didn’t talk too loudly while Koepka lined up a putt.

Instead, Strange stood off to the side, clipboard covering his mouth, and watched in awe as Koepka stamped himself as the best U.S. Open player of this next generation.

And so after Koepka became the first player in 29 years to take consecutive Opens, Strange found himself fourth in the greeting line near the 18th green. He was behind Koepka’s playing competitor, Dustin Johnson. And he was behind Koepka’s father, Bob. And he was behind Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott.

But there Strange was, standing on a sandy path leading to the clubhouse, ready to formally welcome Koepka into one of the most exclusive clubs in golf.

“Hell of a job, bud,” Strange barked in his ear, above the din. “Incredible.”

That Koepka prevailed on two wildly different layouts, and in totally different conditions, was even more satisfying.

Erin Hills, in Middle of Nowhere, Wis., was unlike any U.S. Open venue in recent memory. The wide-open fairways were lined with thick, deep fescue, but heavy rain early in the week and the absence of any significant wind turned golf’s toughest test into the Greater Milwaukee Open. Koepka bashed his way to a record-tying score (16 under par) and over the past year has never felt fully appreciated, in large part because of the weirdness of the USGA setup.   

U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

Koepka doesn’t concern himself with that type of noise, of course, but when he arrived at Shinnecock earlier this week he felt a sense of familiarity. The generous fairways. The punishing venue. The premium on iron play.

“It’s a similar feel,” Elliott said. “We said it all week.”

A new, quirky venue like Erin Hills might not have been held in high regard, but the rich history of Shinnecock? It demanded respect.

“He’s some player,” Strange said, “and I’m proud of him because there was some talk last year of Erin Hills not being the Open that is supposed to be an Open. But he won on a classic, so he’s an Open player.”

“This one is a lot sweeter,” Koepka said.

Those around the 28-year-old were shocked that he even had a chance to defend his title.

Last fall Koepka began feeling discomfort in his left wrist. He finished last in consecutive tournaments around the holidays, then underwent an MRI that showed he had a torn ligament in his left wrist.

Koepka takes immense pride in having a life outside of golf – he never watches Tour coverage on off-weeks – but he was downright miserable during his indefinite stint on the sidelines. He said it was the lowest point of his career, as he sat in a soft cast up to his elbow, binge-watching TV shows and gaining 15 pounds. The only players he heard from during his hiatus: Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.

“You just feel like you get forgotten,” Koepka said.

During the spring, Elliott would occasionally drive from Orlando to Jupiter, Fla., to check on his boss. “He was down in the dumps,” he said. “That sort of injury he had, it didn’t seem like there was going to be an end. There was no timeframe on it, and that was the most frustrating thing.”

After the Masters, Koepka told Elliott that his wrist was feeling better and that he was going to start hitting balls. Elliott brought his clubs to South Florida, and they played a few holes at The Floridian.

“He was hitting it right on the button,” Elliott said. “I said, ‘Are you sure you haven’t been practicing?’ He hadn’t missed a beat. I have no idea how he does it. He’s just a tremendously talented guy.”

In limited action before the Open, Koepka fired a trio of 63s, at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial. He’s never been short on confidence – as a 12-year-old he once told his dad that he was going to drop out of school in four years and turn pro – and he recently woofed to swing coach Claude Harmon III that he was primed to win sometime in May or June.

“I said to him on the range this morning, ‘You were on your couch in January and February, not really knowing if you were going to be able to play here,’” Harmon said. “I think that’s why it means so much to him. That’s one of the reasons that he kept saying no one was more confident than him, because to get this opportunity to come back and play and have a chance to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, he was going to take advantage of it as best he could.”

Koepka carded a second-round 66 to put himself in the mix, then survived a hellacious third-round setup to join a four-way tie for the lead, along with Johnson, the world No. 1 and his fellow Bash Brother.

As much as Johnson is praised for his resilience, Koepka has proven to be equally tough in crunch time, especially in this major. There’s no better stage for Koepka to showcase his immense gifts than the Open, an examination that tests players physically, mentally and even spiritually. But Koepka, like Johnson, never joined the growing chorus of complainers at Shinnecock. The closest he came to criticizing the setup was this: “I think the course is very close.”

Rather than whine, he said that he relished the challenge of firing away from flags. He accepted bad shots. He tried to eliminate double bogeys. Even after his wrist injury, Koepka showed no hesitation gouging out of the deep fescue, his ferocious clubhead speed allowing him to escape the rough and chase approach shots near the green, where he could rely on his sneaky-good short game.

“He has the perfect game to play in majors,” Harmon said. “He probably plays more conservatively in majors. We’re always joking that we wish he would play the way he does in majors every week. I just think he knows how important pars and bogeys are. It says a lot about him as a player.”

Johnson has many of the same physical and mental attributes, and they’ve each benefited from the other’s intense focus and discipline. They both adhere to a strict diet and are frequent workout partners, which even included a gym session on Sunday morning, before their penultimate pairing. They made small talk, chatting about lifting and how many of the Sunday pins were located in the middle of the green, but after they arrived at the course they barely said two words to each other.

“They’re good friends on and off the course,” Harmon said, “but they definitely want to kick the s--- out of each other.”

“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Strange said. “If they’re best buddies, well, you’re standing between me and the trophy. You don’t care much for him for 4 1/2 hours.”

There was much at stake Sunday, but none more significant than Koepka’s march on history. Squaring off head-to-head against the game’s best player, Koepka outplayed Johnson from the outset, going 3 under for the first 10 holes to open up a two-shot lead. And unlike at Erin Hills, where he pulled away late with birdies, it was his par (and bogey) saves that kept Koepka afloat on Nos. 11, 12 and 14.  

In the end, he clipped Fleetwood (who shot a record-tying 63) by one and Johnson by two.

“You’ve got to give him a lot of credit,” Strange said, shaking his head. “He’s got a lot of guts.”

As Koepka marched away to sign his card, Strange was asked if it was bittersweet to know that he’s no longer the answer to the trivia question, the last guy to go back-to-back at the Open.

“Heck no!” he said. “What are they going to do, take one away? I’m a part of a group. And it’s a good group. I hope it means as much to him as it has to me.”

Getty Images

This time, Dad gets to enjoy Koepka's Father's Day win

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2018, 1:39 am

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – When Brooks Koepka won his first U.S. Open last year at Erin Hills the celebration was relatively subdued.

His family didn’t attend the ’17 championship, but there was no way they were missing this year’s U.S. Open.

“This year we booked something about five miles away [from Shinnecock Hills]," said Koepka’s father, Bob. "We weren’t going to miss it and I’m so glad we’re here.”

The family was treated to a show, with Koepka closing with a 68 for a one-stroke victory to become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back U.S. Opens.

U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

Koepka called his father early Sunday to wish him a happy Father’s Day, and Bob Koepka said he noticed a similar confidence in his son’s voice to the way he sounded when they spoke on Sunday of last year’s championship.

There was also one other similarity.

“Two years in a row, I haven't gotten him anything [for Father’s Day],” Brooks Koepka laughed. “Next year, I'm not going to get him anything either. It might bring some good luck.

“It's incredible to have my family here, and my dad loves golf. To be here, he loves watching. To share it with him this time, it will be a little bit sweeter.”