Arnie: Palmer and the agony of defeat(s)

By Ryan Reiterman September 10, 2014, 10:00 am

It’s an interesting debate: What made Arnold Palmer a transcendent figure not only in golf, but in sports?

The easy answer: It was the whole package.

He was the handsome leading man with the hard-charging swing and blue-collar background who came along at just the right time when televisions were sprouting up in living rooms around the world.

But one ingredient that is often overlooked in this perfect superhero recipe is that, sure, Palmer won big (seven major titles, 62 PGA Tour wins), but he also lost big.

“Arnold was majestic at winning and losing," said former player and longtime golf announcer Peter Alliss.

His flair for the dramatic often resulted in oh-my-gosh-did-you-see-that?! victories (see, 1960 U.S. Open), but could also result in how-in-the-world-did-he-lose-that-big-of-a-lead?! collapses (see, 1966 U.S. Open).

For all of the heartbreak Palmer caused himself, he often felt worse for his adoring army of fans, knowing that they had pushed him so hard to win, only to see their hero come up short in the end.

Palmer was always a man of the people, even in defeat.

“The minute his car pulled into the drive the neighbors would arrive,” said Amy Saunders, Palmer’s daughter. “It was a ritual, they all came. And I think it was a great opportunity for him to be able to unwind and share a lot of that with them. You know I think probably (sister) Peg and I first felt a little bit as though we wanted his time, but now in hindsight I realize how important that was for him, but also good for us because he could share with them and vent all of the frustrations of the week or the highlights of it. We were always included. It wasn’t like we were excluded from it, but it was a gathering of adults and he would come home and they would enjoy sitting together and talking and reflecting on the week.”

What’s even more intriguing about Palmer’s career arc is that some of his jaw-dropping collapses happened during his prime, not when he was an inexperienced young gun.

At the 1961 Masters, Palmer was leading Gary Player by one stroke and his ball was sitting pretty in the 18th fairway. Palmer was about to win his third green jacket in four years and become the first man to successfully defend at Augusta.

But Palmer got caught up in the moment (he accepted congratulations from his friend George Low while walking to his drive on 18), and he forgot an important lesson his father, Deacon, had drilled into him – don’t ever get ahead of yourself.

Palmer’s second shot sailed into the right greenside bunker, and before he knew it Palmer was tapping in for a double bogey to hand Player his first green jacket.

Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer walks off the 18th green after losing the 1961 Masters (Getty)

Click here for the full collection of 'Arnie' stories

It was a simple mistake at the worst possible moment. But other collapses would be harder to explain.

At the 1962 U.S. Open, Palmer was riding a huge wave of confidence. He had rebounded from his disappointing loss at the 1961 Masters by capturing his first claret jug at the British Open at Royal Birkdale.

At the 1962 Masters, Palmer had extracted revenge against Player by storming back in the final round to tie the gritty South African and Dow Finsterwald and force the first three-man, 18-hole playoff in Masters history. Palmer defeated both men handily the next day to capture his third green jacket.

Now he was the heavy favorite to win his second U.S. Open title, with the championship being held about 40 miles from his hometown of Latrobe, Pa., at Oakmont Country Club, just outside of Pittsburgh.

“He had visions of winning the Grand Slam,” said Rand Jerris, author, historian, and USGA director of communications. “He knew this was a real possibility for him this year, and he knew given the emotional benefits, the excitement, that Oakmont was going to bring out the very best in his game.”

Palmer was in control in the final round, but a fatal flaw was beginning to emerge – he wanted it too bad. He flubbed a chip shot on the par-5 ninth and wound up making bogey on a hole he could have easily birdied. Instead of extending his lead, Palmer gave a 22-year-old Jack Nicklaus an opening.

The soon-to-be Golden Bear didn’t have the added pressure of trying to win the biggest tournament in his home state with scores of friends and family members in the gallery.

“I went to Oakmont the week before the tournament … played a couple practice rounds, and I sort of felt going into Oakmont that that was my tournament, nobody else’s,” Nicklaus said. “I had finished second in 1960, fourth in 1961. I had a chance to win both golf tournaments, didn’t do it , and I really liked what I took from the practice rounds, and I said this is going to be my week.”

Nicklaus took advantage of Palmer’s mistake with birdies on Nos. 9 and 11, and after Palmer missed a 10-foot birdie putt on 18 to win, the two leading men were heading to an 18-hole playoff on Sunday.

Palmer bogeyed the first hole of the playoff and played catch-up the entire round. He made a mini-charge with birdies on Nos. 9, 11 and 12 to cut Nicklaus’ lead to one, but then he three-putted the par-3 13th and eventually lost by three strokes.

Arnie’s Army was stunned.

A stone-faced kid from Columbus, Ohio, who had never won a PGA Tour event,  marched right into Palmer’s backyard and took down a five-time major champion.

Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus

Arnold Palmer congratulates Jack Nicklaus on winning the '62 U.S. Open (Getty)

Unlike Palmer’s previous heartbreaks, this was personal.

It hurt Palmer that not only did he let down his army, but that those same fans treated Nicklaus with disgust.

“The fans at Oakmont were not your typical golf fans,” Ian O’Connor, author of "Arnie & Jack," said. “These were blue-collar, Pittsburgh people. They were Steelers fans. They were rowdy and they were stomping the earth when Jack Nicklaus was putting.

“Nothing was out of bounds in terms of trying to throw Jack Nicklaus off his game,” O’Connor said. “They were calling him ‘Fat Jack.’”

Oh, there was more.

“They held signs that said ‘Jack Hit It Here’ when they were standing in the deepest rough on the golf course,” Jerris said. “We think about golf as this dignified, quiet sort of game, and the galleries at Oakmont were anything but that. They were true die-hard Pittsburgh natives who were pulling for their native son. They were going to give Arnold that advantage, and if it meant taking Jack down a little bit, they didn’t seem very hesitant to go in that direction.”

Their jeers and rude remarks were supposed to crush Nicklaus’ spirit, but instead they had the opposite effect.

Palmer was embarrassed. The fans showed little class, and it certainly wasn’t the way he wanted to try to win his second U.S. Open. Nicklaus’ father, Charlie, was in the crowd and was equally upset. At one point, Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, a family friend of the Nicklauses, had to restrain Charlie from going after a boisterous member of the gallery.

The only person it didn’t seem to bother was Nicklaus.

“It never did register,” Nicklaus said. “I mean that’s the phenomenon everybody can’t understand. ‘How can you not hear the gallery?’ I say, 'I was playing golf.' I paid no attention to anybody. I wasn’t interested in that.”

The 1960 U.S. Open is Palmer’s career-defining moment, but the championship would soon also be part of his stunning Rolodex of gut-wrenching major-championship losses. Starting with the playoff loss to Nicklaus in 1962, Palmer also lost playoffs in 1963 (Julius Boros) and 1966 (Billy Casper). Palmer would also finish second to Nicklaus by four strokes in 1967.

It was that overtime defeat to Casper at San Francisco’s Olympic Club that will go down as one of the biggest head-scratchers in major championship history.

Much has been made about Greg Norman blowing a six-shot lead starting the final round at the 1996 Masters. Palmer blew a seven-shot advantage with nine holes to go.

Just like when he was standing in the 18th fairway at the 1961 Masters, Palmer got ahead of himself and forgot to take care of business. Instead of keeping his focus on playing the course, Palmer felt he had the tournament secure and now he wanted to beat Ben Hogan’s U.S. Open record of 276. Palmer and Hogan were never buddies, and now Palmer had a chance to erase one of Hogan’s hallmark records in the tournament that defined the Hawk’s legendary career.

Once Palmer lost his focus, his lead quickly evaporated.

He was still five shots ahead of Casper with four holes to play, but Palmer bogeyed the par-3 15th and Casper made a birdie.

Now he was three up with three to play.

At the par-5 16th, another two-shot swing.

One up with two to play.

Palmer recorded his third consecutive bogey when he left his par putt inches short at the par-4 17th.

All square with one to play.

Both players made par at 18, and they headed to an 18-hole playoff.

The next day Palmer shot a 73 to lose to Casper by four shots.

“It was really devastating to him, because some of his friends are my friends and many of them said that he was never the same after that,” Casper said.

Said Palmer's daughter, Peggy: “It was very hard, and knowing that he was going to come home … after Olympic, I’ll never forget that. It was sickening.”

Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer during his playoff loss in the 1966 U.S. Open. (Getty)

The U.S. Open provided Palmer with plenty of stinging defeats, but he at least he could always hang his visor on his thrilling win in 1960.

The PGA Championship, however, also provided plenty of heartbreak - but no victories.

It’s the gaping hole in Palmer’s resume.

“No question, not winning the Grand Slam, not winning the PGA Championship, keeps Arnold slightly down among the all-time greats,” Jaime Diaz, Golf World's editor-in-chief, said. “I mean, it’s just unfortunately the reality of, you know, compiling a record and it’s a hole on his record. It was always so sad when he didn’t win the PGA because he came very, very close.”

Palmer had no doubt he would one day capture the PGA. He even admitted in his autobiography "A Golfer’s Life," that he kept a spot reserved for the Wanamaker trophy in his display case.

Palmer finished in the top 10 six times at the PGA, and three times he finished tied for second.

Instead of being among the men who have won all four modern Grand Slam events – Gene Sarazen, Hogan, Nicklaus, Player and Tiger Woods – Palmer is part of the group of players who completed three of the four legs of the career slam – Tom Watson (PGA), Raymond Floyd (British Open), Lee Trevino (Masters), Byron Nelson (British Open) and Sam Snead (U.S. Open).

Palmer won his last major at 34, a time when a lot of players are just reaching their prime. 

It’s often said you can tell more about a man during the tough times, and Palmer was no exception. After losing the 1966 U.S. Open, his most devastating of many painful defeats, Palmer honored a promise to a friend.

“He and Winnie flew from San Francisco to Colorado Springs where I had accepted a job two or three years prior, and we had dinner with the president of the hotel and the general manager and their wives,” Finsterwald said. “The guy was so gracious. We had dishwashers coming out of the kitchen asking for his autograph, and he accommodated their requests. You would have thought he had just won the Open instead of having one of the low points in his career.”

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Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.

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Ko (68) off to best start of year at Kia Classic

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 12:39 am

Lydia Ko didn’t take long to put last week’s missed cut behind her Thursday at the Kia Classic.

She got off to her best start of the year.

With a 4-under-par 68, Ko finished the day in a tie for eighth, just two shots off the lead at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif.

“I would say I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key,” Ko said.

Ko scrambled her way to her low opening round of the year in light rain. She hit just seven of 14 fairways and 11 greens, but only needed 25 putts.

“This is a pretty tough golf course,” Ko said. ”I think putting is a huge key around this course, where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Aviara’s poa annua greens have been known to give players fits, but Ko had her flatstick working. After making the turn at 1 over, she made five birdies on her second nine.

Ko, 20, won at Aviara two years ago but missed the cut there last year.

“I love Carlsbad,” Ko said “I would say it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s nice to come back to a place where you’ve played well and love the area.”

Ko, seeking her first victory since July of 2016, has her new coach, Ted Oh, working with her in Carlsbad this week. Oh made the trip to Asia last month, helping Ko to her tie for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship. But, she missed the cut in Phoenix last week in her next start.

“All I can do is try my best,” Ko said. “Hopefully, I'll be able to keep this good momentum going.”

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Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 2

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 12:32 am

Here is how things played out on Day 2 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play. Click here for Day 1 match results:

Group 1: Adam Hadwin (38) def. Dustin Johnson (1), 4 and 3: After a dominating performance at last year’s Match Play, where he never trailed in any match, Johnson is already mathematically eliminated. He got routed on Thursday by Hadwin, after the Canadian built a 2-up lead at the turn and then poured it on with wins on the 11th and 13th holes.

Group 1: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Bernd Wiesberger (52), 5 and 4: Kisner made three consecutive birdies midway through the front nine to set the tone, then kept the pressure on Wiesberger, who knocked off DJ on Wednesday, to earn the full point and stay in the mix to advance.

Group 2: Justin Thomas (2) def. Patton Kizzire (48), 3 and 1: After DJ’s early exit, Thomas now has a clear path to world No. 1, if he can win the Match Play this week. Thomas did his part, improving to 2-0 after taking a 3-up advantage and then making birdie on 16 and 17 to close out Kizzire. That sets up a winner-take-all match against Francesco Molinari on Friday.

Group 2: Francesco Molinari (21) def. Luke List (60), 3 and 2: Molinari dropped seven birdies on List and won the 13th, 14th and 16th holes to move to 2-0 this week.

Group 3: Chez Reavie (43) def. Jon Rahm, 1 up: On the verge of surrendering a big lead against Rahm, Reavie’s par on 18 was enough to secure a 1-up victory. He led 3 up with three to go, but Rahm birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to send the match to the last. But there, from just short of the green, Rahm hit his pitch shot well past the flag and couldn’t make birdie. Now 0-1-1, Rahm, last year's finalist, is now eliminated.

Group 3: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Keegan Bradley (63), 1 up: Bradley once again kicked away a late lead. One day after coughing up a 2-up lead with three to play, he squandered a 1-up lead with three to play against Aphibarnrat. Bradley made bogey on 17, then was stymied behind a tree after his drive on 18. Barnrat rolled in a 15-footer for birdie to improve to 2-0.

Group 4: Jordan Spieth (4) def. Haotong Li (34), 4 and 2: Spieth held up his end of the deal, winning the fifth hole with a birdie and never trailing from there. He poured it on late with the Chinese star, winning the 13th, 14th and 16th holes. He'll play Reed, his Ryder and Presidents Cup partner, on Friday in a winner-take-all match.

Group 4: Patrick Reed (19) def. Charl Schwartzel (49), 1 up: In a wild match that saw that only three halved, Reed hung on to defeat Schwartzel, 1 up. Two up with three holes to play, Reed lost the 16th, escaped with a bogey halve on the 17th and then was out of position on the final hole. But he nearly holed his wedge shot, rattling the stick and leaving his ball on the front edge for a conceded birdie and narrow victory.

Group 5: Cameron Smith (46) def. Hideki Matsuyama (5), 1 up: One down with five to play, Smith won the 14th with a par, then chipped in for birdie on 16 to take a 1-up lead. At 2-0, he’s now in control of the group.

Group 5: Patrick Cantlay (30) def. Yusaku Miyazato (53), 1 up: In control throughout, Cantlay bogeyed the 17th hole to return the match to all square. On the home hole, he busted a drive to the front-left corner of the green, then made birdie to win and improve to 1-1.

Group 6: Rory McIlroy (6) def. Jhonattan Vegas (44), 2 and 1: Needing a victory to avoid an early exit, McIlroy won two consecutive holes before the turn and then added a win on 13 to give himself the cushion he needed down the stretch, holing a 6-footer for par on 17 to close out Vegas. McIlroy now has a chance to advance with a victory over Harman on the final day of pool play.

Group 6: Brian Harman (18) def. Peter Uihlein (57), 4 and 2: Harman never trailed in knocking off Uihlein, who soundly defeated McIlroy on Day 1. With 1 ½ points, Harman is in the driver’s seat, but he needs at least a halve against McIlroy on Friday (and a Uihlein loss) to advance.

Group 7: Sergio Garcia (7) def. Dylan Frittelli (41), 2 up: All square with six holes to go, Garcia birdied 13, won 14 with a par and then drove the 18th green for a conceded birdie to close out Frittelli, the former Texas Longhorn, and improve to 2-0 this week. He'll play Schauffele in a winner-take-all match on Friday.

Group 7: Xander Schauffele (20) def. Shubhankar Sharma (62), 3 and 1: Schauffele improved to 2-0 this week by thoroughly handling Sharma, the darling of the recent WGC-Mexico event, never leading by fewer than 2-up on the back nine and playing 3 under.

Group 8: Jason Dufner (42) def. Jason Day (8), 3 and 1: Dufner took down one of the pre-tournament favorites with a steady closing stretch. Five of his six wins came after Day bogeys, but Dufner turned an all-square match on 14 tee into a 3-and-1 victory.

Group 8: James Hahn (56) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 3 and 1: Hahn jumped all over the South African, winning the first three holes and never holding less than a 2-up lead on the back nine. With his victory, each player in the group has a 1-1 record.

Group 9: Tommy Fleetwood (9) def. Kevin Chappell (33), 7 and 6: Avenging an opening-day loss, the Englishman won the first four holes and needed to make only three birdies in a monster rout of Chappell. The 2017 Presidents Cupper made five bogeys and conceded two other holes but still has a chance to win the group.  

Group 9: Ian Poulter (58) def. Daniel Berger (26), 2 and 1: Playing this event for the first time since 2015, Poulter improved to 2-0 on the week with a solid victory over Berger, one of many young American up-and-comers. Using the same putter that he put in play at the epic 2012 Ryder Cup, Poulter won three of the first four holes and never backed down. He is guaranteed at least a playoff Friday. 

Group 10: Paul Casey (10) def. Kyle Stanley (45), 4 and 2: A winner at the Valspar, Casey stayed hot in Austin, taking a 3-up lead at the turn and improving to 2-0 this week. He needs only a halve on Friday to advance.

Group 10: Russell Henley (51) def. Matthew Fitzpatrick (31), 2 and 1: Shaking off a narrow loss to Casey on Wednesday, Henley took control of an all-square match by winning the 12th and 14th holes and then rolling in a tricky 25-footer on the 17th green to put away Fitzpatrick. Still alive in pool play, Henley needs to beat Kyle Stanley, and hope Casey loses, to force a playoff.

Group 11: Bubba Watson (35) def. Marc Leishman (11), 3 and 2: Coming off an impressive opening victory, Watson erased an early deficit, then won Nos. 12-14 to put away Leishman, who is now eliminated. Watson is guaranteed at least a playoff Friday.

Group 11: Branden Grace (23) def. Julian Suri (64), 2 and 1: After a shaky start, Grace made four birdies over his last 11 holes to knock off the surprise Day 1 winner, Suri, who was the last man into the field. Watson is still in control of the group heading into the final day.

Group 12: Tyrrell Hatton (12) def. Brendan Steele (36), 3 and 2: All square through 12 holes, the Englishman made four birdies and an eagle over his last eight holes to improve to 2-0 this week. Hatton needs only a halve Friday to advance.

Group 12: Alexander Levy (55) def. Charley Hoffman (22), 1 up: Levy led from the sixth hole, but Hoffman slowly cut into the deficit and took the Frenchman to the final hole. Levy’s par was enough to notch his first point and stay alive in pool play.  

Group 13: Alex Noren (13) def. Thomas Pieters (39), 5 and 4: Noren made quick work of Pieters in what could be a match of future Ryder Cup teammates. Noren built a 4-up lead after seven holes and then cruised from there, moving to 2-0 this week and eliminating Pieters. In 30 holes this week, Noren has made 12 birdies and no bogeys.

Group 13: Tony Finau (29) def. Kevin Na (61), 3 and 2: In a contrast of styles, the powerful Finau birdied the first three holes and never looked back against Na, setting up a battle of unbeatens in a winner-take-all match on Friday.

Group 14: Phil Mickelson (14) def. Satoshi Kodaira (40), 1 up: Four down through seven holes, Mickelson was on the verge of being eliminated before running off a series of wins, including on 16 and 17 to push the match to the final hole. Then, on 18, he pitched to 8 feet and drained the birdie putt to complete the remarkable comeback.

Group 14: Charles Howell III (59) def. Rafa Cabrera Bello (17), 3 and 1: After knocking off Mickelson on Day 1, Howell pulled away from Cabrera Bello late, winning the 14th, 15th and 17th holes – only one of which with birdies – to take control of the lead. At 2-0, Howell is assured of at least a playoff.

Group 15: Webb Simpson (37) def. Pat Perez (15), 3 and 1: Matched up against the fiery Perez, Simpson seized control of the match with wins on the 11th and 12th holes, sank a 20-footer on 15 and then won the 17th after Perez put his tee shot in the hazard. Now 1-0-1, he’ll have a winner-take-all match against Kim on Friday.

Group 15: Si Woo Kim (50) def. Gary Woodland (24), 5 and 3: Kim won the first hole and never looked back, grabbing a 3-up lead at the turn and leading by as much as 5 up after 12 holes. He is now 2-0. 

Group 16: Matt Kuchar (16) def. Yuta Ikeda (47), 1 up: Though he wasn’t nearly as hot as in his opener against Johnson, Kuchar played solidly, going 3 under (including concessions) and making par on 17 to edge ahead of Ikeda and eke out a narrow victory. 

Group 16: Ross Fisher (27) def. Zach Johnson (54), 2 up: After a remarkable comeback against Kuchar to earn a halve on Day 1, Johnson couldn’t summon the same magic on Thursday. Though he won the 15th to cut Fisher’s advantage to 1 up, Johnson couldn’t convert birdie putts on the last three holes.