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Rahm re-emerges with Spanish Open win

By Will GrayApril 15, 2018, 7:45 pm

It may have been one of the quietest top-five finishes at the Masters in recent memory.

With no shortage of storylines entering the season's first major, Jon Rahm didn't get much attention despite entering as one of the top-ranked players in the world. His fourth-place showing was then largely lost in the shuffle amid a final round that included a furious Jordan Spieth rally, a near-miss from Rickie Fowler, a collapse from Rory McIlroy and a breakthrough performance from Patrick Reed.

In the era of short attention spans, Rahm's playoff victory at the CareerBuilder Challenge may as well have happened in 2012. The weeks since consisted of largely solid but unremarkable performances, and his title hopes in Augusta were sunk in a matter of hours as he opened with a 75.

But with a stirring victory Sunday at the Spanish Open, Rahm became the latest Spanish golf phenom to win on home soil while re-establishing himself as a premier player worthy of attention heading into the heart of the summer.

Beginning with the second round of the Masters, Rahm has now carded seven straight rounds in the 60s. That run was highlighted by a final-round 67 in Madrid that turned a two-shot deficit into a two-shot win over Paul Dunne.

"It's such a satisfying feeling," Rahm told reporters. "When I made the decision to come straight from Augusta, it wouldn't be just to show up and walk around. I wanted to win this tournament."

Rahm went three months this spring without a top-10 finish before the Masters, left to watch as ever-increasing portions of the spotlight drifted toward other elite players who racked up trophies and picked up major buzz. But Rahm's victory is his third in a fledgling European Tour career, and he now has five titles in only 45 overall starts as a pro.


Full-field scores from the Spanish Open


Still only 23 years old, Rahm has now joined an eye-catching list of players over the last 30 years who have won three times in Europe and twice on the PGA Tour before age 24: Spieth, McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia.

It's proof once again that while others may receive more attention on a weekly basis, Rahm has the game to win anywhere in the world - and just might demonstrate that prowess again this season.

The U.S. Open will mark Rahm's return to a major where patience is tested more than any other, and one where he failed miserably in that effort last year at Erin Hills. Clearly frustrated and allowing his temper to erupt all over the brutish layout, he missed the cut after receiving ample pre-tournament hype.

While the Spaniard still wears his emotions on his sleeve, he has missed only one cut since leaving Wisconsin in June. Over that same span, he has now won tournaments in Ireland, Dubai, California and Spain while adding a runner-up showing in Hawaii and three top-5s during the PGA Tour playoffs.

The maturation process continues, but Rahm has already proven himself to be a quick study on a global scale.

"Mainly I just feel a little bit more experienced than I was last year," Rahm said at the Masters. "So you would say it's almost kind of like repeating the class and kind of like when you fail a class in college and you get to do it again. I mean, something sounds familiar, right? So it's a little easier."

Rahm made six final-round birdies to overtake Dunne, including three on the back nine. He closed things out with a birdie on the final hole, which clinched the trophy and ended an emotionally draining fortnight.

"It's truly been the hardest Sunday I've ever had in any tournament that I've won, because the crowd wanted it so much and I wanted it so much," Rahm said. "You can tell how excited everybody is. I felt that tension; I felt that stress. I felt everything magnified."

Rahm's latest victory won't improve the No. 4 world ranking he had to start the week. He's still on the outside looking in for the brewing No. 1 battle between Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, and when Shinnecock Hills rolls around he likely won't receive the attention of other peers who already have major titles to their credit.

But as the partisan crowds in Madrid can attest, Rahm possesses every skill and shot you'd expect from an elite player. He's likely flying a little less under the radar after racking up yet another win, but his most recent performance proves once again that his ascent to even more rarified air is only a matter of time.

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U.S. Amateur playoff: 24 players for 1 spot in match play

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2018, 1:21 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer and Daniel Hillier were tied at the top after two rounds of the U.S. Amateur, but the more compelling action on Tuesday was further down the leaderboard.

Two dozen players were tied for 64th place after two rounds of stroke play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. With the top 64 advancing to match play, that means all 24 will compete in a sudden-death playoff Wednesday morning for the last spot in the knockout rounds.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


They'll be divided into six foursomes and start the playoff at 7:30 a.m. on the par-3 17th at Pebble Beach, where Tom Watson chipped in during the 1982 U.S. Open and went on to win.

The survivor of the playoff will face the 19-year-old Hillier in match play. The New Zealander shot a 2-under 70 at Spyglass Hill to share medalist honors with the 18-year-old Hammer at 6 under. Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas who played in the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15, shot 68 at Spyglass Hill.

Stewart Hagestad had the low round of the day, a 5-under 66 at Pebble Beach, to move into a tie for 10th after opening with a 76 at Spyglass Hill. The 27-year-old Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earned low amateur honors at the 2017 Masters.

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

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.  


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


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.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open


Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)


Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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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.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"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."