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Simpson battling back from putting doldrums

By Ryan LavnerMay 13, 2018, 12:23 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Whatever happens Sunday, it’s worth noting that Webb Simpson’s career has already changed once here at TPC Sawgrass.

A year ago, he bumped into Tim Clark on the practice putting green. Two longtime anchorers forced to adopt a new method, Clark asked how Simpson was rolling it.

“Inconsistent,” he replied, and frankly, that was putting it mildly. The major champion, four-time PGA Tour winner and member of four cup teams was lost, entering the week ranked 192nd in putting.

“To be at the bottom of the barrel like we were, I didn’t know if he’d ever putt well again,” said Simpson’s caddie, Paul Tesori. “When you putt that poorly for that length of time and you play at this level, you can’t hide.”

But that day, Clark told Simpson to try the claw method. It felt awkward, but he was desperate for a quick fix. Simpson put it in play without any practice, and something immediately clicked – he shot 4 under for the first two rounds, ultimately tying for 16th. Over the rest of the year, after creating his own style – the “Kuchar-claw,” with the shaft pinned against his left forearm – Simpson climbed more than 100 spots in the rankings.


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“I wasn’t going in a good direction,” he said. “I’m very thankful he gave me that lesson.”

“And to look at him now,” Tesori said, “it’s nothing short of miraculous.”

That’s one way to describe Simpson’s putting through three rounds here at The Players.

Simpson has gained more than nine shots on the field on the greens, tops by a wide margin. The first round was the 10th-best putting round of his career. The second round was his fifth-best. On Saturday, he putted like a “normal person,” but he still added to his eye-popping totals. Through three rounds he has drained 356 feet worth of putts, none bigger than his 17-footer on the last that preserved his seven-shot advantage at The Players – the largest 54-hole lead here, by two.

“The fact of where we were a year ago with our struggles,” Tesori said, “it’s pretty amazing we’re here right now with this situation in front of us.”

Simpson was one of golf’s many promising 20-somethings when he won the 2012 U.S. Open. That breakthrough came during the anchorers’ heyday, as Keegan Bradley (2011 PGA) and Simpson and Adam Scott (2013 Masters) all won majors with the end of their long putters pressed against their flat bellies or toned chests.

But it was a month after Scott’s breakthrough that the governing bodies announced a crackdown on anchoring. The ban didn’t go into effect for two-and-a-half more years, offering a transition period for users to find another method. That sounded good in theory, except many felt obligated to switch immediately, lest they be viewed by fans or their peers as cheaters.

So in late 2014, determined to forge ahead, Simpson broke his major-winning putter over his knee – a symbolic end to his anchoring career. Rather than discard his major-winning putter, he put the two pieces in his trophy case at home.

“It won the U.S. Open,” he said, “so it’s staying with me.”

Even as Simpson appeared ready to move on, he couldn’t rediscover his stroke. One of the most consistent putters on Tour ever since he debuted in 2009, he plummeted to 174th in 2015 and 177th in ’16.

“He was basically back to square one after spending thousands of hours perfecting a perfectly fine method,” said fellow ex-anchorer Adam Scott.

Ball-bashers like Dustin Johnson or Jon Rahm or Rory McIlroy don’t need to lead the Tour in putting – they just need to be mediocre on the greens to give themselves a chance each week.

Simpson, of course, doesn’t have that luxury. He averages 290 yards off the tee, which is well below Tour average. And he’s not particularly accurate, either, ranking outside the top 125 on Tour. He relies on his putting to stay in the mix, and if the putts don’t drop, well, then he’s going to struggle, sinking from 11th in the world in 2012 to a low of 88th last January.

It took him three years, and an impromptu lesson from Clark, but now Simpson is back among the Tour’s top-10 putters and on the verge of a runaway victory against the strongest field in golf.

“I hope he doesn’t putt too well with that thing up his arm,” Scott joked, “or they’ll ban that, too.”

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Koepka: Second-place finishes becoming 'annoying'

By Al TaysMay 28, 2018, 12:02 am

Brooks Koepka didn't go down without a fight.

Trailing Justin Rose by four shots going into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational, Koepka shot his second 7-under 63 of the week - and made up precisely one shot. He finished solo second at 17 under par, three shots behind Rose.

He could only marvel at the Englishman's performance in closing with a 6-under 64.

"It was pretty impressive," he said. "Justin played well. Hat's off to him. Any time you can come into a lead with four shots and play the way he did today, that's impressive."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

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Although Koepka was pleased with his own play - especially his putting - he said it felt "annoying" to come in second. Again.

"I feel like we've had so many second-place finishes," he said. "Always seem to run into a buzz saw, whatever it is."

Since May of 2016, Koepka has five solo second-place finishes and one T-2. But he also has a U.S. Open title, won last year at Erin Hills. He'll attempt to defend that title June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills. "It's nice to finally be playing well and get going into the season," he said. "Kind of peaking right where I need to be."

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Minjee Lee birdies 18 to win on her birthday

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:59 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Minjee Lee's task was simple: A birdie on No. 18 would win her the tournament. It was a manageable par 5, the easiest hole on the course in the final round.

After a good drive, her second shot came closer to trouble than much of the gallery probably realized.

''I almost clipped the tree,'' Lee said. ''I overcut it a little bit, but it finished out in a good position.''

Lee's shot came to rest just to the right of the green, and from there it was a simple chip and putt for the birdie that gave her a one-stroke win over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship on Sunday. Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, won for the first time since 2016. It was the Australian's fourth career victory.

Lee three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round about the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18. The 18th hole was 470 yards Sunday. There were 44 birdies there in the final round.


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''The tee was up,'' she said. ''I was pretty confident that I could get there in two if I had a good drive.''

Lee made her winning putt from about 3 feet. She finished at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. Kim (67) shot a 32 on the back nine and birdied No. 18, but it wasn't enough to force a playoff at Travis Pointe Country Club.

''I kind of knew that 16 was the number and I mean, I give my best,'' Kim said. ''I make some good shots and birdies.''

Moriya Jutanugarn (65) finished third at 14 under.

Lee took a two-stroke lead into the final round, and that was her margin over playing partner Stacy Lewis before Lewis (71) bogeyed No. 7 and 8. Kim emerged as the biggest threat to Lee when she birdied four of the first five holes on the back nine. Lewis is playing four months' pregnant with her first child.

Kim and Lee were briefly tied at 15 under, but then Lee made a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th, while Kim bogeyed 15. Lee saved par on 15 despite a wayward drive into a bunker.

''I wasn't sure where I was score-wise then. That par 5 is reachable in two, so I think a lot of people would have made birdie there,'' Lee said. ''The next tee shot I just pulled into the bunker. ... I think that was really important for me to hole that par putt just to keep the momentum going.''

Lee had gone 38 consecutive holes without a bogey before making one on the par-4 17th. That, combined with Kim's birdie on 18, left the two golfers tied, but Lee still had the 18th to come.

Su Oh (68) and Lindy Duncan (69) finished at 13 under, and Megan Khang (67) was another stroke back. Lewis finished at 11 under along with Ariya Jutanugarn (69) and Danielle Kang (70).

Lewis birdied three of the first six holes, but Lee did as well.

''It's hard to get close when somebody does that,'' Lewis said. ''She played great all day and played solid. When she needed to make a par putt, she did, and didn't make any mistakes.''

Lee lost this event by one stroke last year. Shanshan Feng, the 2017 winner , finished tied for 21st this time.

The LPGA has had a different winner in each of its 13 tournaments this year. The U.S. Women's Open starts Thursday at Shoal Creek.

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Spieth: Improvement is 'right around the corner'

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 10:50 pm

Not that Dallas native Jordan Spieth didn't enjoy the two-week home game that is the AT&T Byron Nelson and the Fort Worth Invitational - he certainly did. But he's eager to get out of town, too.

"It was a great showing these last couple weeks by the fans," Spieth said after closing with a 2-under 68, a 5-under total and a T-32 finish. "Obviously extremely appreciative here in DFW. Wish I could do more. These couple weeks can be a bit taxing, and it's awesome to kind of have that support to carry you through.

"So, you know, I had a great time these couple weeks on and off the golf course as I always do, but I'm also really excited to kind of get out of town and kind of be able to just go back to the room and have nothing to do at night except for get ready to play the next day."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Spieth will have that experience this coming week in Dublin, Ohio, site of the Memorial. He's hopeful of improving on his T-21, T-32 finishes the past two weeks, and he thinks the main thing holding him back - his putting - is ready for a turnaround.

"I think good things are about to come," he said. "I feel a good run coming for the second half of the season. Today was - each day I've felt better and better with the wedges and the putter and the short game; today was no different. My only bogey being just kind of trying to do too much on a par-5; 3-wood into the hazard.

"So, you know, I'm getting into where I'm not making bogeys, and then soon - the not making bogeys is great, and soon I'll get back to the five, six birdies around and shoot some low rounds.

"So I know it's right around the corner."

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Broadhurst fires 63 to easily win Senior PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:45 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Paul Broadhurst wishes he had played this well in his 23 years on the European Tour.

''I know a lot more about my swing now and I guess you get that with age and experience,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said after shooting an 8-under 63 on Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by four strokes and match the best 72-hole score in tournament history.

Broadhurst finished at 19-under 265 at Harbor Shores for his second senior major victory. The 63 was the best fourth-round score by a winner. Rocco Mediate also shot 19 under at Harbor Shores in 2016.

Also the 2016 British Senior Open winner, Broadhurst led the field with 26 birdies and passed third-round co-leaders Tim Petrovic and Mark McCarron with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Petrovic was second after a 69. McCarron had a 70 to tie for third at 14 under with Jerry Kelly (65).


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory and moved to the top of the money list. He won six times on the European Tour, was a 1991 Ryder Cup player for Europe and has three European Senior Tour victories.

''It was really a special week,'' he said. ''It got a little bit tense out there. I knew I was playing well but I didn't seem to making any progress against Tim Petrovic. He was side-by-side on the back nine it seemed.''

He learned his lead was three strokes standing on the 18th tee when his caddie asked a television announcer.

''So we put my driver away and reached for the rescue club,'' he said. ''If I made a 5 there that would be fine.''

Broadhurst started the round two strokes behind Petrovic and McCarron, birdied the first hole and was tied with Petrovic for the lead by the turn. He took his first lead with a birdie on the 12th hole, led by two after 16 and birdied the final two holes, including a dramatic 40-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole.

''I guess it would have been a bit of anti-climax if I would have three-putted the last green, but that would have given Tim a chance of holing his second shot,'' he said. ''I actually spoke to my caddie about that going down the last - we don't want to three-putt and five him the opportunity because stranger things have happened in golf. To see it go in the middle of the hole was just a special feeling.''

Petrovic said missed birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 8 were costly, but it might not have mattered with the way Broadhurst was playing.

''In hindsight it was all for naught,'' he said. ''He was so far ahead of us. Hat's off the guy. It was a great week - we just got beat. When he made the putt on 18 ahead of us I almost started clapping in the fairway and waving a white towel. It was well-deserved. That was great playing. He won the championship for sure.''

Broadhurst shot 72 in the first round, started rolling in putts with a 66 in the second round and was 15 under on the weekend. In addition to the leading 26 birdies, he topped the putts per greens in regulations numbers for the tournament as well with a 1.574 average.

''I wasn't aware I made that many birdies,'' he said. ''That's pretty impressive around this course.''

He said his game has long been unpredictable.

''I'm not blessed with a consistent swing like Bernhard Langer, but when it's on, it works,'' he said. ''If I'm putting well, then anything can happen, really.''