Gutty performance: Vertigo doesn't stop Day

By Will GrayJune 21, 2015, 3:04 am

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – As Jason Day crouched behind his ball on the 18th green, lining up his final putt of the day, there was a bobble. A slight moment of unsteadiness, a flash of uncertainty, as if all of this effort could still suddenly go for naught.

He reflexively reached out his hand for balance, collected himself and took a deep breath. 

After standing and checking his line once more, he rolled in the 6-foot putt and brought to a close one of the biggest tightrope walks in U.S. Open history.

Entering the third round at Chambers Bay, the question was not where Day stood on the leaderboard, but whether he would be able to suit up. Less than 24 hours earlier, the Aussie lay beside the ninth green with his tournament fate hanging in the balance, as a slip from a dizzy spell led to a lengthy delay and ultimately a diagnosis of benign positional vertigo.

There is no good time to battle such a plight, but a major championship has to be among the worst options – especially on a course as physically demanding as Chambers Bay.

But after a night of rest and treatment from his medical team, there stood Day on the first tee, ready to tackle the most grueling test in golf on a layout that would make him feel as if he were going up and down Seattle's Space Needle before the day was done.

Full-field scores: 115th U.S. Open

Eighteen holes later, capped by that final birdie that spurred the biggest cheer of the day from the grandstand lining the home hole, Day had conquered Mount Chambers and improbably earned a spot in Sunday’s final pairing.

“I said to him on [No.] 18, I said that was one of the greatest rounds of golf I’ve ever watched,” said caddie Col Swatton. “That was a super-human effort.”

While the end result netted a share of the lead alongside three others, the actual product was rife with nervous energy and bated breath. Day appeared unsteady on his feet from the opening hole, at times either leaning on Swatton for physical support or dropping to one knee to gather himself.

Swatton said there were times he thought he might have to stop his player, but the toughest hole was No. 4 – a 504-yard par 4 that rises 45 feet from tee to green. It was at that point that Day put his arm around Swatton and relied on his caddie, swing coach and mentor to guide his ascent.

“I just said, ‘You’ve got the heart of a lion. You’re going to show the world today that you’re going to be the greatest you can be,’” Swatton said. “And I said, ‘Look, let’s do it.’ And he just put his head down and kept walking one foot in front of the other. It was pretty impressive.”

Day bogeyed No. 4, his second blemish of the day. The following hole, playing partner Kevin Kisner offered to start getting the ball out of the hole for Day to save him from bending down to retrieve it. Day refused that offer, along with a similar one from Swatton, but then a funny thing happened – he appeared to grow steadier as the afternoon progressed and dropped only one more shot the rest of the round.

“I didn’t feel that great coming out early,” Day said in a post-round statement. “I felt pretty groggy just from the drugs that I had in my system, then kind of flushed that out on the back nine.”

Added Kisner: “He didn’t say much after a while, he was just feeling terrible. I think whatever medicine he’s taking just makes him feel worse, and he played unbelievable there coming in to make those three birdies. He impressed me.”

Those birdies came on Nos. 15, 17 and 18, rocketing Day to the top of the standings, but even during times of prosperity it was clear that the 27-year-old wasn’t quite right. He backed off his final tee shot, closed his eyes at points in between shots and continued to lean on Swatton to get him to the finish line.

 “The vertigo came back a little bit on the 13th tee box, and then [I] felt nauseous all day,” Day said. “I started shaking on [No.] 16 tee box and then I just tried to get it in, really. Just wanted to get it in.”

“The hardest part for him is just turning the head,” explained Swatton. “Every time he turns to look at the target, it takes a second for his eyes to steady up a little bit.”

The theater of Day’s finish recalled memories of Ken Venturi’s battle with heat stroke at Congressional in 1964, or more recently Tiger Woods’ one-legged triumph at Torrey Pines in 2008.

“I said to him, ‘They might make a movie about that round,’” Swatton said. “That was the greatest round I’ve ever watched. I’ve watched a lot of golf, and watching that was pretty special.”

After enduring one of the most harrowing moments in major championship history, Day now stands on the cusp of his breakthrough triumph, fittingly at an event where he has come so close in recent years. He has passed a monumental test, but one of even greater stature now awaits: one last climb across the cliffs and dunes of Chambers Bay, one more chance to erase the heartbreak of past near-misses.

Day answered the bell during the third round, and should he again rise to the occasion he could author one of the more improbable chapters in this tournament’s illustrious history.

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Davies headlines field at Senior LPGA at French Lick

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 14, 2018, 10:40 pm

Laura Davies will be looking to win her second senior major championship this year when she tees it up in Monday’s start of the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort in Indiana.

Davies, who won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open in July, will join a field that includes fellow World Golf Hall of Famer Jan Stephenson, who was announced last week with Peggy Kirk Bell as the Hall’s newest members. Hall of Famers Juli Inkster and Hollis Stacy are also in the 54-hole event.

Trish Johnson is back to defend her title after winning the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship a year ago. Brandi Burton, Jane Geddes, Helen Alfredsson and Liselotte Neumann are also in the field of 81 players who will compete for a $600,000 purse, with $90,000 going to the winner.

Golf Channel will televise all three rounds live from 4-6 p.m. ET on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Langer (65) wins regular-season finale by six

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2018, 10:07 pm

CARY, N.C. – Bernhard Langer ran away with the SAS Championship on Sunday to take the points lead into the PGA Tour Champions' Charles Schwab Cup playoffs

Langer shot a bogey-free 7-under 65 for a six-stroke victory in the regular-season finale.

''I just played very solid all day long,'' Langer said. ''Putted well, hit the ball where I was looking and did everything exceptionally well.''

The 61-year-old German star has 38 victories on the 50-and-over tour, also winning this year near Houston. He has a record four victories after turning 60.

''I don't have anything to prove, but I still have golf,'' Langer said. ''I still want to improve my own game. I still want to play to the best Bernhard Langer can play. I don't think I need to prove anything, but I love competing, I love winning or being in the hunt. As long as I can do that, I think you're going to see me out here.''

Langer finished with a tournament-record 22-under 194 total at Prestonwood Country Club, the tree-lined layout softened by heavy rain Thursday from Hurricane Michael. He opened with a 62 on Friday to match Gene Sauers and Tom Lehman for the lead, and had a 67 on Saturday to remain atop the leaderboard with Sauers.

Full-field scores from the SAS Championship

''The 10 under was amazing,'' Langer said. ''I couldn't believe there were two other guys who shot 10 under.''

The four-time Charles Schwab Cup winner also won at Prestonwood in 2012.

''It's always fun to go back to where you've won before because you feel like you know how to play the course and you're somewhat comfortable and that's certainly the case here,'' Langer said. ''I've been probably 50, 70 times now around this golf course and I know how to play every hole.''

Scott Parel was second, closing with a double bogey for a 65.

''Bernhard is just in his own world this week,'' Parel said.

Jerry Kelly had a 68 to finish third at 15 under, and Lehman followed at 13 under after a 71.

Sauers shot a 75 to tie for fifth with Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) at 12 under.

The top 72 players in the Schwab Cup standings qualified for the playoffs, the three-event series that begins next week with the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond, Va. Dan Forsman tied for 56th to jump from 74th to 72nd, edging John Huston for the final spot by $932. Huston tied for 46th.

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Pepperell captures British Masters, eyes Augusta

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2018, 5:29 pm

WALTON HEATH, England -- Eddie Pepperell won his second European Tour title with a two-shot victory at the British Masters on Sunday and likely secured the even bigger prize of a place in next year's Masters at Augusta National.

The Englishman shot an even-par 72 and held off his playing partner, Sweden's Alexander Bjork (71), as the pair went to the 72nd hole at a wet and windy Walton Heath with Pepperell just a stroke in front.

Pepperell finished on 9-under 279.

Herbert Lucas (69) and Jordan Smith (73) were tied for third, another two shots behind Bjork.

English pair Sam Horsfield (69) and Tom Lewis (70) along with American Julian Suri (74) tied for fifth, one shot in front of tournament host Justin Rose (70).

The victory takes Pepperell into the world's top 35 and almost certainly secures a first appearance at Augusta in 2019. The top 50 at the end of the year are guaranteed a place in the first major of the year in April.

Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood (72) finished 2 under in a seven-way tie for ninth.

Full-field scores from the British Masters

A top-two finish on Sunday would have seen Rose reach the top of the world rankings for the second time this season, the 38-year-old having spent two weeks as No. 1 in September

Pepperell was ranked outside the top 500 as recently as May last year, but won the Qatar Masters in February and followed a runner-up finish in the Scottish Open with a tie for sixth in the British Open seven days later, carding a closing 67 at Carnoustie despite saying he had a hangover.

His three-shot overnight lead was down to a single stroke on Sunday when Bjork covered the front nine in 34 and Pepperell three-putted the ninth, the same hole where he enjoyed a spectacular hole-in-one on Thursday.

However, the 27-year-old Pepperell promptly holed his second shot to the 10th from 122 yards for an eagle to move three clear and a par save from off the green on the 14th looked to have sealed the win.

There was still time for some late drama, though, as Pepperell dropped shots on Nos. 15 and 16 to see his lead cut to a single shot, but Bjork bogeyed the 18th after driving into the heather and Pepperell saved par from a greenside bunker.

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Disappointed Sharma fades to T-10 at CIMB

By Will GrayOctober 14, 2018, 1:46 pm

For the second time this year, India's Shubankhar Sharma watched an opportunity for a breakthrough win turn into a learning experience.

Sharma burst onto the scene in March, taking a two-shot lead into the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship only to fade to a tie for ninth. It was a similar story Sunday at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, where Sharma started the final round in a three-way tie for the lead but struggled to an even-par 72 that dropped him into a tie for 10th.

"Disappointing, not really happy with the way I finished," Sharma told reporters.

Full-field scores from CIMB Classic

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The 22-year-old was 1 over for his first six holes, but he battled back with four straight birdies on Nos. 7-10 to get within three shots of eventual winner Marc Leishman. But his tee shot at the par-3 11th found the water, leading to the first of three straight bogeys that ended any hopes of victory.

"That was probably one of the worst swings of the day," Sharma said. "That 11th hole I think killed the momentum for me. A par there would have gone a long way, and I probably could have made more birdies after that."

Sharma remained optimistic this spring following his final-round fade in Mexico, and he retained a positive mindset despite a rough afternoon as he eyes upcoming starts at both the CJ Cup in South Korea and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

"Great experience. Very, very good to have two top-10s on the PGA Tour, so that's a good way of looking at it," he said. "Also, it pushes me to keep playing well. I feel like I have it in me to win out there on the PGA Tour, and I've given myself two opportunities. Game is in a decent place now."