In U.S. Am, Ghim avenges his most painful defeat

By Ryan LavnerAugust 19, 2017, 10:37 pm

LOS ANGELES – They should have celebrated like this three years ago – with fist pumps and hugs and cries of “Masters! Masters! We’re going to the Masters!”

In the summer of 2014, with his father, Jeff, on the bag, Doug Ghim stood on the final tee with a 1-up lead in the U.S. Amateur Public Links. The incoming freshman at Texas was about 400 yards from victory and a spot in the Masters … and then he pumped his tee shot out of bounds and made double bogey. He lost to Byron Meth on the first playoff hole.

Ghim’s explanation that day at Sand Creek?

“Nerves,” he said. “I’d just never been in this position before. But next time, I’ll be ready.”

And so here he was Saturday, in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur at Riviera, with a 4-up lead over Theo Humphrey with five holes to play.

Then Ghim lost the 14th hole with a bogey. Then he lost the 16th, too, after another bogey. And now, after bashing his birdie putt 6 feet past on the par-5 17th, he needed to calm himself down. He patted his chest, hoping to slow down his heart rate, and stared down at the green, taking two deep breaths.

“So many thoughts in your head are going at that moment,” he said. “I’ve got a little bit of demons.”

None worse than his collapse at the Publinx.

The day after blowing the tournament, Doug and his family made the 11-hour drive from Newton, Kan., to Chicago, singing songs and stopping at a rest area for a picnic. “It’s OK,” he told his dad. “I’ve got plenty of time.”

But over the next few months, the loss began to gnaw at him.

Teams that play in Augusta State’s college tournament the week before the Masters receive one-day practice-round tickets, and so all of the Longhorns made their way inside the gates in the spring of 2015.


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They toured the Crow’s Nest, the Masters’ amateur quarters, which could have been Ghim’s home that week.

“I don’t really want to be in here,” he said. 

So he and his teammates ventured out to the eighth tee, to catch up with one of the school’s most famous alums, Jordan Spieth. He was playing with another star, Rory McIlroy. And there was a third player in the group, too.

“Oh, no,” Texas assistant Jean-Paul Hebert said.

Ghim squinted and saw the standard.

Byron Meth.

The player who took advantage of Ghim’s final-hole meltdown at the Publinx.

“This is what I could have been doing,” Ghim said. “This sucks.”

Sensing the awkwardness, Ghim’s teammates steered him to other parts of the course and then toward the range at the end of the day.

The first player they saw there: Meth.

“Don’t worry about it,” one of Ghim’s teammates told him. “You’re going to be back here one day.”

Ghim needed to look no further than Spieth for inspiration.

Four years earlier, Spieth had reached the quarterfinals of the 2011 U.S. Amateur but kicked away the match late on the back nine. When he made the team’s annual trip to Augusta the next spring, he was miserable.

“Coach,” he said, “this is not the way I envisioned being here the first time. I’m going to try to enjoy it, but this really hurts.”

“Doug experienced the same thing,” Longhorns coach John Fields says now. “To have one foot on Magnolia Lane and to have it taken away from you right there at the end, it was just incredible.”

And the Ghims have been looking for closure ever since.

Earlier this summer, Doug, now a 21-year-old senior at Texas, played a casual round at Sand Creek for the first time since the ’14 APL. The 36-hole leaderboard – Ghim was co-medalist – was still hanging in the clubhouse. 

He shot 65 that day.

Reminders were everywhere Saturday, too. In the semifinals, with a Masters berth on the line, Doug wore a black Augusta National hat. His mom, Susan, sported a white bucket hat – with the Sand Creek logo.

“Some people when they have a bad tournament, they get upset and get rid of it,” Jeff Ghim said. “I wake him up. I said, ‘Look at this. You don’t want to do this again.’”

And so he didn’t. Facing a 6-footer for the victory, for a redemptive trip to Augusta, Doug took his father’s advice – “Wrap it up” – and stroked the winning putt, putting away Humphrey, 2 and 1. Three years of emotion poured out. 

“It was the first thing that popped in my head,” Doug said. “We’re going to the Masters.”

So is his finals opponent, Doc Redman, who needed a 13-for-8 playoff Wednesday morning just to advance to the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur. 

The rising sophomore at Clemson is arguably the hottest player in amateur golf. He recorded eight top-10s during his first season with the Tigers and earned two other high finishes in amateur events this summer before taking Norman Xiong to 22 holes in the Western Amateur final.

Playing 145 competitive holes over five days against one of the toughest fields helped convince Redman, 19, that he belonged among the game’s elite. So he didn’t fret earlier this week when it appeared as though his 4-over total might not be good enough to advance. He hung out at the beach. Went to a Dodgers game, too.

“I knew if I could get in match play,” he said, “then it would be a reset button and I would be OK.”

Unlike Ghim, who has played the 18th hole only once this week, Redman has gone down to the wire in four of his five matches.

Saturday’s semifinal against little-known Mark Lawrence Jr. was no different, after Lawrence won the 16th with a par and the par-5 17th with a 20-foot eagle. But Lawrence made a critical error on the home hole, three-putting from just off the back of the 18th green to hand Redman the match.

Was the Masters on his mind?

“Didn’t even think about it,” Redman shrugged.

His reaction was more muted, and perhaps that was to be expected. Afterward, he couldn’t single out an obstacle he’s overcome in his life. He has never suffered a loss as crushing as Ghim’s.

“I’m so happy for Doug,” Fields said, “because there’s been some pain associated with where he’s been.”

There is still so much to play for Sunday – the trophy and the prestige and the exemptions.

But for one family, a dream has already been realized, a painful chapter of their lives now complete.

The Ghims are going to the Masters, together, and it’ll be worth the three-year wait.

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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."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.


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"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Web.com Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a Web.com tournament.


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"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to GolfChannel.com that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.


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Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.