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Johnson's HSBC collapse surprising, but not major

By Will GrayOctober 29, 2017, 1:32 pm

In assessing his chances heading into the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions, one in which he trailed by eight shots and Dustin Johnson was six shots clear of his closest competitor, Justin Rose accurately summed up the situation.

"Playing for second, barring something crazy from him," Rose told reporters. "But that's always the thing, you play for second and see what happens."

The latter half of that statement is a window into a veteran's mindset, a player who has seen nearly everything happen on the course and knows to keep even the slightest shred of hope alive - just in case.

But make no mistake, if tournament organizers had attempted to hand the trophy to Johnson prior to the final round, the other names on the leaderboard would have barely protested. The world No. 1 was in the midst of a clinic, piling up 22 birdies through 54 holes on a course where he has won before and one that favors his bomb-and-wedge approach.

This was Johnson mopping up against a WGC field, just as he had five times prior including twice earlier this year.

But then the unthinkable happened, as Johnson opened with a pair of bogeys to give the field a glimmer of optimism. He failed to right the ship from there, incomprehensibly recording zero birdies on a course that had played like a par-68 for him through the first three rounds. An even-par effort would have resulted in a three-shot win, but instead he signed for 5-over 77 as Rose raced from behind to steal the trophy.

"I mean, I felt fine all day," Johnson said. "I just could never get anything going and didn't hole any putts. It was pretty simple."


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Full-field scores from the WGC-HSBC Champions


Very quickly comparisons were drawn to Greg Norman, the only other world No. 1 to cough up a six-shot lead in the final round on the PGA Tour. That, of course, was at the 1996 Masters. And Johnson has had a few major collapses of his own, namely the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and the 72nd-hole debacles at Whistling Straits and Chambers Bay.

But to be clear, there was no major trophy at stake this week at Sheshan International Golf Club. In fact, this is the only one of the four WGC events for which there isn't a major championship on the immediate horizon.

The WGC label ensures a strong field, and it allows the Tour to bolster the strength of the capstone of its three-week residency in Asia. But it's also positioned at the tail end of a busy year, despite the Tour's efforts to insist that the calendar regenerates in October, so the predominant reaction to completing 72 holes in China this week was a sigh of relief. Finally, a substantive break is within reach for most players.

Included in that group is Johnson, who won't tee it up again until the Hero World Challenge a month from now. Any lingering scar tissue from Sunday's collapse will be long gone by then, since there probably won't be much sign of it by Tuesday of this week.

If any player is well-equipped to compartmentalize and effectively dispatch of a bitter defeat, it's Johnson. Recall the aforementioned litany of close calls and stack it up against his recent form, which has included four wins this year and an eight-month stint at world No. 1. This is the guy who three-putted away the U.S. Open two years ago and posed with the trophy the next time around.

Johnson was on autopilot for three rounds, sticking to the same clear gameplan that has worked so often this year. He felt comfortable, and he appeared poised. But amid blustery conditions Sunday, he started to wobble and never recovered.

In fact, the shots were so out of character for a player of his caliber - chunked irons, pitch shots that missed the green entirely - that there won't be much to dwell on.

"I felt like I rolled it good. Just nothing was going in the hole. Hit a couple really bad iron shots," Johnson said. "So I just gave a few away. But tough conditions. But I mean, it is what it is."

Johnson's final round is akin to a football team that gets crushed at home and the coach opts to ditch the game tape rather than try to dissect each faulty element. Sometimes the best option is to simply leave a result in the rear-view mirror.

Rose is a deserving champion, and should be commended on his ability to capitalize on Johnson's surprising collapse. But don't expect the world No. 1 to lose too many hours of sleep this week wondering what might have been.

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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 birdied the 18th hole Sunday for a one-stroke victory over In-Kyung Kim at the LPGA Volvik Championship.

Lee, who turned 22 on Sunday, three-putted for a bogey on No. 17, dropping into a tie with Kim, who finished her round around the same time. So Lee needed a birdie to win on 18, a reachable par 5. Her second shot landed a few feet to the right of the green, and she calmly chipped to about 3 feet

She made the putt to finish at 4-under 68 and 16 under for the tournament. It was the Australian standout's fourth career victory and first since 2016.

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.

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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 shot 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.

The 52-year-old Englishman 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 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).

Broadhurst earned a career-high $585,000 for his fourth PGA Tour Champions victory. He won six times on the European Tour and has three European Senior Tour victories.

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Sunday rule proves no advantage for BYU at NCAAs

By Ryan LavnerMay 27, 2018, 10:06 pm

STILLWATER, Okla. – For all the kvetching about the advantage BYU would gain by not playing on Sunday with the other teams at the NCAA Championship, one small thing was conveniently forgotten.

What happens if the Cougars were actually disadvantaged?

That’s what appears to have happened here at Karsten Creek.

Because the Mormon-run school prohibits athletics on Sunday, the NCAA accommodated BYU using its “Sunday Play” rule for the first time in the match-play era. (It was the team’s first NCAA berth since 2006.) That meant that BYU played its practice round last Wednesday, before the start of the final match of the NCAA Women’s Championship. The next day, the Cougars played their Sunday round – the third round of stroke-play qualifying – a half hour after the other 29 teams completed their practice round.

Some coaches grumbled about the issue of competitive fairness: What if BYU played in calm conditions for its third round on Thursday, while everybody else competed in rain and 30-mph winds come Sunday?

BYU coach Bruce Brockbank has been on the NCAA competition committee for the past four years, but even he was curious about how it would all play out.

For the practice round, the NCAA informed the Cougars that they needed to be off the course by 1:30 p.m. local time, a little more than a half hour before the start of the women’s final between Arizona and Alabama. All six players got a look at the course in 5 hours and 30 minutes – or an hour and 15 minutes less than the official Thursday practice round – and needed to run between shots on the 17th and 18th holes to finish on time.

Brockbank tried to prepare his players for what they would face Thursday. It’s a different experience without a playing marker – not seeing another shot affected by the wind, not watching another ball break on the greens, not falling into a rhythm with pace – but perhaps no amount of simulated rounds would have helped.

Playing as singles, with only a rules official and a walking scorer by its side, BYU began its NCAA Championship at 4 p.m. local time Thursday. The Cougars got in only a few holes before the horn sounded to suspend play. It turned out to be a two-hour weather delay, and players slapped it around a sloppy, soggy course until dark, with their last single on the 11th hole.

They returned the next morning, at 6:55, and wrapped up their round in an hour and a half before turning around for another 18.

Their final tally? They shot 24-over 312 – easily the worst third-round score of any team.

“We obviously didn’t handle it very well,” Brockbank said, “but it definitely wasn’t an advantage.”

BYU rebounded the next two rounds, with scores of 298-286, putting the team squarely inside the top-15 cut line.

“And six or seven hours,” he said, “we were right there with the best teams in the country.”

But then the third-round scores got posted, and it was clear that they had no chance of advancing past the 54-hole cut.

“It was pretty frustrating to watch our guys,” he said. “We just didn’t handle it very well.”

The same was true for the team’s best player, senior Patrick Fishburn. With just the first and second round counting, Fishburn (67-72) was in a tie for second, one shot off the individual lead, heading into Sunday. Then his third-round 78 from Thursday was posted, and he tumbled down the leaderboard, needing help just to advance to the final round of stroke-play qualifying.

“I’d rather have it this way,” Brockbank said. “If we had shot 5 under par and everyone else is over par, I don’t want to hear that wrath. The coaches wouldn’t put up with that. The fact that we’re not a factor, it’ll go away. But if the day did go well, it would have been a different story.”

Still, it was a strange dynamic Sunday, as a team competing in the NCAA Championship never even made it to the course – Brockbank preferred that the guys stay away from Karsten Creek, if only for appearances.

They went to a local church for three hours, then ate lunch and retired to the team hotel, where they watched TV and studied and played chess. Fishburn has another round to play Monday, but he didn’t even hit balls.

“I don’t think he’s even concerned about that – it’s just a nice, quiet Sabbath day,” Brockbank said. “But as a coach, it’s definitely a little odd.”