Which Euros Will Fare the Best
The Euros at Oakmont:
With the U.S. Open almost off and running it's time for me to stick my neck out and make a few predictions. Which European will have the best finish? Im going to go with three names, giving me a slightly better chance of not looking foolish.
Justin Rose. The Englishman hasnt been seen much in competition this year. In fact, since the WGC Accenture Match Play, hes only made two appearances, but theyve been good ones. A fifth place at the Masters, which he had a chance to win; and a runner-up spot at the BMW PGA Championship. The back problems have been of great concern to Team Rose, but he has good people around him making smart decisions. There has been no need for him to play unnecessary tournaments and he hasnt. Rose practiced last week at Lake Nona under the watchful eye of coach Nick Bradley. The pair flew on the private jet to Oakmont on Monday morning and I believe Justin will have a great week, possibly even a win.
Lee Westwood. The recently crowned Valle Romano Open de Andaluca champion, Westwood is on his way back to greatness. Hes a straight driver of the golf ball which is going to be a must this week, and hes a steady putter. Many forget how experienced this player is. A former European No. 1, Lee has been around the upper echelon of the game for over 10 years. He finished tied fifth at the U.S. Open in 2000 and having missed last years tournament I expect him to return with confidence and high hopes of a very good week.
Colin Montgomerie. You may laugh, but watch for Monty. Time is running out for this great player. How can Colin end his career without a major title, it doesnt sound possible? He is without a doubt the greatest of them all never to have won a major. His recent form wouldnt suggest a good week is on the cards, but that was the case last year and he came so close. He knows how to play U.S. Opens and he knows how to play Oakmont; this was the site of his playoff loss in 1994. Alistair Mclean, his long-time caddie will not be on the bag. The pair has parted ways for the time being, but Monty will have an experienced local bag-man to guide him through the terrors of Oakmont. Montgomerie has said himself that he knows what works for him in terms of preparation. Hell go through his routine and unlike some other competitors, wholl be caught by the distractions, Monty will be focused on one thing, a victory.
Away from Oakmont:
Obviously all the attention in golf will be focused on Pittsburgh this week, but elsewhere around the world we do have golfing action. The European Tour has a co-sanctioned event with the Challenge Tour in St. Omer, France. The big names are taking the week off, but this gives a bundle of lesser ranked players and Challenge Tour regulars the chance to scoot-up the rankings. Last week, Hollands Joost Luiten won his second event on the Challenge Tour calendar with a stunning 61 on the final day for a come-from-behind win. He now joins Eduardo Molinari on the battle-field promotion watch list; if either one takes one further victory theyll be off to the European Tour. Both are in the field at St. Omer.
The Ladies European Tour heads to Spain for the Catalonia Ladies Masters, a limited field three-day tournament which begins on Friday.
Denis Watson makes a trip to Wales to compete on the European Seniors Tour. Joining the recently crowned U.S. Senior PGA Champion at the Ryder Cup Wales Senior Open are Bob Charles, Sam Torrance and Costantino Rocca.
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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am
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.
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.”
Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17
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.
"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."
McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status
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.
"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.
Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season
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.
"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.