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Shinnecock tough, getting there even tougher for some

By Ryan LavnerJune 13, 2018, 5:15 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – When registering for this 118th U.S. Open, Philip Barbaree and LSU teammate Jacob Bergeron signed up for a 8:20 a.m. practice round Monday at Shinnecock Hills. They chose that time, specifically, because they wanted to play with one of their heroes, Rory McIlroy.

Barbaree arrived at the course with plenty of time to spare – he’s staying in a rental house on nearby Sebonack, about a mile away – but Bergeron wasn’t so fortunate. That tee time came and went, and he was still an hour away, stuck in traffic. What should have been a half-hour drive from the USGA’s official player hotel instead took nearly three hours.  

“After that,” Bergeron said, “I thought this was something that could be serious.”

A U.S. Open on Long Island usually means one thing – a long commute – and this week has been no exception.

Depending on the time of morning and afternoon, even the shortest trips can take upwards of an hour, as traffic on the side streets and highways grind to a halt. Many players rented houses in the Southampton area, but for those like Bergeron, an amateur who doesn’t have thousands to drop on a weeklong stay, the USGA made arrangements at two local host hotels. The only problem: They’re located west of the course, with stops along the dreaded State Road 27 and Montauk Highway. The typical summer traffic here only compounds the problem.

“One way in, one way out, I knew it was going to be a problem,” said Aaron Wise, who found a room at the Hamlet Inn, about two miles away. “So I wanted to make sure that I got as close as I could.”


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McIlroy can’t get much closer – three minutes, door to door – and after hearing so many horror stories, he described himself as “very fortunate.”

“It’s one of those things you’re going to have to set off early and try to beat the traffic,” he said. “It’s the way it is. Unfortunately, one of the things about this area is it’s a small piece of land and can only take so many people.”

On its official championship page, the USGA recommended that fans take the MTA Long Island Rail Road, hailing it as the “most convenient” method of transportation. That’s still an 85-mile trip from New York’s Penn Station that could take more than two hours.

The first three days here have been such a debacle that the USGA brought in Southampton Town chief of police Steven Skrynecki to make a few remarks during its annual Eve of the Open address. Skrynecki said that he’s been monitoring traffic patterns and has seen “significant improvements” over the past three days, and that he anticipated that much of the local trade traffic will dissipate over the weekend.

The gridlock has created consternation for those with early start times. Tiger Woods – who is staying at Sag Harbor and sleeping aboard his $20 million yacht named “Privacy” – said that he wouldn’t be surprised if a player is disqualified this week.

“There’s a good chance that someone might miss their time,” he said. “You get a little fender bender, it’s not inconceivable someone could miss their time.”

Jeff Hall, the USGA’s managing director for rules and championships, said the organization will send a text to players Wednesday night reminding them of the traffic concerns – as if they needed a reminder – and that traffic is not an “exceptional circumstance” that would circumvent a DQ.

“I’m pretty confident they will adjust their schedule accordingly to take the proper precautions,” Hall said.   

But that’s what has left Bergeron confused.

For that 8:20 a.m. practice round Monday, he departed his hotel at 6:30 – nearly two hours early – and didn’t arrive until well after 9. He ended up not playing with McIlroy, a four-time major champion, but instead with two other sectional qualifiers, the names of whom he couldn’t remember.

“Kind of a bummer,” he said.

Bergeron’s first-round tee time is 8:35 a.m., and he’s already begun to fret.

“What do I do?” he asked. “I could see if Philip has a spot on the couch. I could sleep in the locker room. I’d rather get here at 3 a.m. and take a nap than miss my time.”

Even still, the logistical nightmare hasn’t dampened Bergeron’s outlook for the week. He’s a rising sophomore at LSU, his entire career ahead of him, and he’s just qualified for his first major. He’s excited to play – assuming traffic allows him to get to the tee.

“I know the U.S. Open is supposed to be hard,” he said. “I just didn’t know that every other aspect would be, too.”

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U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.

Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.


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They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.

The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.

Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  


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On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open


Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)


Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


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"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."