Advertisements


British Open canceled, Masters to November in major rescheduling

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer The Masters goes from that annual rite of spring to two weeks before Thanksgiving. The U.S. Open now is scheduled in September for the first time since amateur Francis Ouimet took down Britain’s best at Brookline in 1913 to put golf on the map in America. And the oldest championship of them all won’t even be played. Golf organizations tried to salvage a season unlike any other Monday with a series of changes, starting with the British Open being canceled for the first time since 1945. The PGA Championship, which last year moved to May, would go back to August. That would be followed by the PGA Tour’s postseason, the U.S. Open and Ryder Cup in consecutive weeks, and then the Masters on Nov. 12-15. “Any Masters is better than no Masters,” Augusta native Charles Howell III said. Still to be determined was when — or even if — golf could resume because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down sports worldwide. Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said the Masters identified November as “intended dates.” CEO Seth Waugh said the PGA of America was “holding” Aug. 6-9 as dates for the PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco. USGA chief Mike Davis said moving from June to September was the best chance to mitigate health and safety concerns — Winged Foot is 5 miles from New Rochelle, New York, a virus hot spot — to have “the best opportunity” of staging the U.S. Open. The British Open effectively is pushing its schedule back one year, saying the 149th Open still is set for Royal St. George’s on July 15-18, leaving the 150th Open for St. Andrews the following year. “I can assure everyone that we have explored every option for playing The Open this year, but it is not going to be possible,” R&A chief Martin Slumbers said. Golf’s major organizations, starting with the PGA Tour and its calendar filled with tournaments, have been trying to piece together a puzzle for the last three weeks. Each agreed to announce their plans together in a show of collaboration. Still missing is the starting line, along with some details on what could be the most hectic pace golf has ever known. “We hope the anticipation of staging the Masters Tournament in the fall brings a moment of joy to the Augusta community and all those who love the sport,” Ridley said. “We want to emphasize that our future plans are incumbent upon favorable counsel and direction from health officials.” Augusta National closed early this year because of the coronavirus and does not open until October. The bloom of dogwoods and azaleas will give way to fall foliage. Instead of being the second full week in April, it will compete against football. “It feels like in these extraordinary times, we need to do extraordinary things,” said Kevin Kisner, who grew up 20 miles away in Aiken, South Carolina. “We can sacrifice a little bit of our life being perfect.” The PGA Tour has tentatively planned to complete its FedEx Cup season close to schedule, with the Tour Championship finishing on Labor Day. It is contemplating putting tournaments in dates that previously belonged to the U.S. Open, British Open and Olympics. “It’s a complex situation, and we want to balance the commitments to our various partners with playing opportunities for our members — while providing compelling competition to our fans,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said. “But all of that must be done while navigating the unprecedented global crisis that is impacting every single one of us.” The new schedule: — Aug. 6-9: PGA Championship. — Aug. 13-16: End of PGA Tour regular season at Wyndham Championship. — Aug. 20-23: Start of FedEx Cup playoffs at The Northern Trust. — Aug. 27-30: BMW Championship, second playoff event. — Sept. 4-7: Tour Championship for the FedEx Cup. — Sept. 17-20: U.S. Open at Winged Foot. — Sept. 25-27: Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. It was not immediately clear how the teams from Europe and the United States would be determined for the Ryder Cup, although European captain Padraig Harrington has said he would not be opposed to picking all 12 players. For the 24 players, that means going from what long has been regarded as the toughest test in golf to what has become the most tiresome three days in golf. “It’s definitely better than leaving the Tour Championship and going to France, or leaving the Bahamas to go to Australia,” said Patrick Cantlay, referring to the Americans' most recent Ryder and Presidents cup itineraries. Like everything else, so much remains up in the air until golf get the signal to resume. Gian Paolo Montali, the general director for the 2022 Ryder Cup, said on Italian radio Monday that officials faced a May deadline to postpone the Ryder Cup to odd-numbered years (as it was before the matches were postponed by the Sept. 11 attacks). He described the chances as 50-50. Montali also said players already have vetoed a Ryder Cup without its raucous fans. Other details must be sorted out, such as U.S. Open qualifying. The next tournament on the PGA Tour schedule is Colonial on May 21-24, though that appears unlikely. Ridley said every player who has received invitations to play the Masters in April will stay on the list. He said the Augusta National Women’s Amateur was canceled, and every player can keep their spots for next year provided they don’t turn pro. The U.S. Senior Open at Newport Country Club in Rhode Island and the U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Brooklawn Country Club in Connecticut have been canceled. As for the British Open, Shane Lowry gets to keep the claret jug longer than anyone since Dick Burton, who won in 1939 at St. Andrews in the last Open before World War II. Burton went from “champion golfer of the year” to member of the Royal Air Force. Lowry said in a video tweet he understood and supported the R&A’s decision. “You can trust me when I say the claret jug is going to be in safe hands for another year,” Lowry said. ___ AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Italy contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnApr 7th, 2020

In a virus-shortened season, no one loses a PGA Tour card

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer A shorter season brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic means no one will lose a PGA Tour card this year and the Korn Ferry Tour players will have to wait a year before fully joining the big leagues. A memo sent to players Thursday to outline the changes was another step in the tour trying to figure out what's equitable in a season that will be without 13 previously scheduled events. The tour said players exempt for this season will keep the same status for the 2020-21 season that is scheduled to start in September unless they earn a higher ranking after this shortened season. That could help someone like Harris English, who started the season with conditional status from finishing between Nos. 126 and 150 the previous season. He has posted five top 10s and is No. 24 in the FedEx Cup, making his a lock to have a full card for next season. As for the developmental Korn Ferry Tour, no one will graduate to the PGA Tour after the season. The tour was working on rewarding the top 10 players, such as allowing them in opposite-field field events for next season. All of this is contingent on golf resuming June 11-14 at Colonial, the restart of a season that would include only one major championship. The PGA Championship is tentatively set for Aug. 9-12 in San Francisco. The U.S. Open was pushed back to September, the Masters was moved to November and the British Open was canceled. That means six majors will be played next season. This season still offers a $15 million prize to the winner of the FedEx Cup. The two playoff events outside Boston and Chicago would award triple points instead of quadruple points. In other changes: — The field for the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua will include everyone who wins a PGA Tour event in 2020, along with players who reach the Tour Championship. That means whoever finished in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup gets into at least three majors in 2021, along with a trip to Maui. — The tournament in the Dominican Republic originally was canceled and then moved to September, the same week as the Ryder Cup. Because it is not opposite a World Golf Championship, the winner will receive full FedEx Cup points and a trip to the 2021 Masters. — For the rest of this season, Monday qualifiers that can be held will only provide two spots instead of four......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 1st, 2020

PGA Tour hopes to resume in June at Colonial with no fans

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer The PGA Tour laid out an ambitious plan Thursday to resume its season the second week of June and keep fans away for at least a month, conceding that any return to golf depends on whether it can be played safely amid the coronavirus outbreak. The Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, was pushed back to June 11-14. Assuming golf gets the green light from government and health officials, the tour then would have an official tournament every week through Dec. 6 except for a Thanksgiving break. “Our hope is to play a role — responsibly — in the world’s return to enjoying the things we love,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said. “But as we’ve stressed on several occasions, we will resume competition only when ... it is considered safe to do so under the guidance of the leading public health authorities.” Golf is the first sport to announce plans for a restart, although its arenas are far different from other sports because it is played over some 400 acres. It was the second significant step to try to salvage the year, following last week’s announcement of three majors — including the Masters in November — going later in the year. Even as it announced a truncated schedule, several key details were still being contemplated, such as testing for COVID-19 at tournaments. “We have a level of confidence that is based upon ... changes and developments being made in the world of testing, available tests,” said Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief officer of tournaments and competition. “We’re following very closely, through the assistance of our expert medical advisers, the development of more large-scale testing capabilities. ... It gives us confidence that we will be able to develop a strong testing protocol that will mitigate risk as much as we possibly can.” The RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, previously canceled this week, was brought back to be played after Colonial on June 18-21. Those dates previously belonged to the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, which plans to move to September. That would be followed by the Travelers Championship in Connecticut and the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. The tour said its invitation-based tournaments — Colonial, Hilton Head and the Memorial — would have their fields expanded to 144 players. Memorial, with Jack Nicklaus as the host, takes the July 16-19 week that had belonged to the British Open before it was canceled. The World Golf Championship in Memphis, Tennessee, now has the dates (July 30-Aug. 2) when the Olympics were to be played. If all goes according to plan, the season would end on Sept. 7 at the Tour Championship with a FedEx Cup champion getting the $15 million bonus. That would be a 36-tournament schedule, down from 48 tournaments on the original schedule. Three more tournaments were canceled, one permanently. The Canadian Open, the third-oldest on the PGA Tour schedule, said it would not be played this year. Also canceled was the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky, typically held the same week as the British Open. The Greenbrier tournament in West Virginia was canceled for good. The tour had only 40 events in 2013, a short season to prepare for the start of its wraparound season that now begins in the fall. Even so, it could lead to a peculiar two seasons. The current season could have only one major championship; the PGA Championship is scheduled for Aug. 6-9 at Harding Park in San Francisco. The following season could have two Masters, two U.S. Opens, the PGA Championship and the British Open. Other details the tour still has to sort out was who fell under the “essential” category that would be allowed at tournaments beyond players, caddies, scoring official, rules officials and support staff. Pazder said at least 25 players are outside the U.S., along with at least 35 caddies, all subject to international travel restrictions. “We are playing very close attention to if and when those restrictions are changed,” he said. Tyler Dennis, the tour’s chief of operations, said officials also were considering the movement of everyone who would be at a golf tournament. Social distancing in golf is not difficult; some people continue to play golf in states where courses remain open. Still to be determined is how to keep other areas, even the flag stick, sanitized......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 17th, 2020

Koepka among those who have to catch up in FedEx Cup

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer The question was perplexing to Brooks Koepka, perhaps because it was missing specific context or because it takes a lot to make him worry. He was asked going into the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head if he felt any sense of urgency. “Urgency for what?” he replied. Koepka missed three months after a knee injury in October when he slipped on wet concrete at the CJ Cup in South Korea and had to withdraw. When he returned, he played five times — his only top-20 finish was a tie for 17th in Saudi Arabia — and then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down golf for three months. Having played only four PGA Tour events, he was No. 213 in the FedEx Cup standings. The only time he didn’t make it to East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale was in 2015, when he missed a month with an ankle injury. He finished 35th. Koepka was unaware that history is working against him this year. In the last 10 years, Jim Furyk is the only player to be outside the top 200 in the FedEx Cup standings with nine events remaining and reach the postseason. “I just go play golf, just keep doing what I’m doing,” Koepka said that day. “I feel like I’m playing good, so eventually it will come.” He closed with a 65 at Harbour Town to finish seventh and moved up 56 spots to No. 148. And then he withdrew the following week from the Travelers Championship out of caution when his caddie, Ricky Elliott, tested positive for the coronavirus. He returns to the Workday Charity Open this week having slipped seven spots to No. 155. Six tournaments are on the schedule between now and the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Furyk in 2016 turned it around with a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open. Only one major and one World Golf Championship remain on the schedule. Koepka has company in that regard. British Open champion Shane Lowry spent most of his time on the European Tour late last year and into the first month of 2020, so he has only seven starts on the PGA Tour and is at No. 148. C.T. Pan, who played in the Presidents Cup, has missed seven of nine cuts since January and is No. 182. Sergio Garcia is at No. 122. One week can change everything. Dustin Johnson, who missed the entire fall recovering from knee surgery, was off to a slow start before the pandemic and missed the cut at Colonial upon his return. Two weeks later, he won the Travelers Championship and moved up to No. 22. Koepka still has the World Golf Championship at TPC Southwind, where he won last year, and the PGA Championship, where he tries to become the first player to win three straight times in stroke play. There is time. Plus, he's not one to sweat such matters. BONES ON THE BAG Matt Fitzpatrick came over from England for the restart of the PGA Tour, and caddie Billy Foster stayed behind. The idea was for Fitzpatrick to get used to the protocols, and then Foster would join him for the World Golf Championship in Memphis, Tennessee, and the PGA Championship in San Francisco. Fitzpatrick used Cayce Kerr for three tournaments. And then he got an offer he couldn’t refuse for two weeks at Muirfield Village: Jim “Bones” Mackay, the longtime looper for Phil Mickelson who now does course commentary for NBC Sports. “I was absolutely shocked,” Fitzpatrick said. “Everyone knows his place in the game and how well he’s done. Even just walking around here, people are excited to see him back and on tour. For me, I was very taken aback.” It wasn’t an accident. Fitzpatrick has an endorsement with Workday, whose CEO knows Mackay and suggested he reach out to Fitzpatrick. They will be working together the next two weeks at the Workday Charity Open and the Memorial. LET’S PLAY TWO Muirfield Village is hosting different PGA Tour events in consecutive weeks, which hasn’t happened in 63 years. The last time was in 1957, when Roberto de Vicenzo won the All American Open against an 83-man field at Tam O’Shanter Club in Illinois. Dick Mayer won the World Championship of Golf on the same course a week later. That was the 10th straight season that the All American Open and World Championship of Golf were held at Tam O’Shanter in successive weeks. Lloyd Mangrum was the only player to win both events in the same year (1948). According to the PGA Tour, there was one other tournament held on the same course in back-to-back weeks. That was in 1956, when the Dallas Centennial Open and the Texas International Open were held at Preston Hollow to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of Dallas being founded. Both events were never played again. DRIVE ON Maybe some of the PGA Tour players should borrow the “Drive On” slogan from the LPGA Tour. That’s all they’ve been doing since the restart last month in Texas. Russell Knox drove his RV from the north Florida coast to Colonial, and then back toward the Atlantic coast to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. From there, he and his wife went north to Connecticut to the Travelers Championship. At that point, they hired a driver (they were passengers) for the trip to Detroit, and now they’re in Ohio. But they had company. One of his closest friends on tour, Brian Stuard, also bought an RV. “We’ve been traveling along with him,” Stuard said. “Decided to do it and really enjoy it so far. Not sure if we’re going to continue to do that. Those were some long drives. But it’s worth it once you get it there.” And then there’s Viktor Hovland. The Norwegian played at Oklahoma State and still lives in Stillwater, so he decided to take the four-hour drive to Colonial. “Then I just kept on thinking, ‘Well, what if I just take my car to all these tournaments?’ I looked it up, it’s 16 hours to Hilton Head. It’s 13 hours to Connecticut. ... Yeah, been having a lot of fun so far.” He drove through the night from Fort Worth, Texas, to Hilton Head and didn’t feel great when he arrived. He took in some views from Connecticut to Detroit. “It’s really nice just driving through New York and Pennsylvania,” he said. “It’s really hilly and a lot of cool views on the way.” DIVOTS Matt Fitzpatrick is hopeful fans will return, especially for the Masters — not so much for him, but his parents. “I know my parents really want to come watch that one,” he said. ... The Senior British Open, canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will remain at Sunningdale next year. ... After his victory in Detroit, Bryson DeChambeau was listed as the betting favorite over Rory McIlroy in the three majors this year. STAT OF THE WEEK The last three PGA Tour events were won by players from the top 10 in world — Webb Simpson (9) at Hilton Head, Dustin Johnson (6) at Hartford and Bryson DeChambeau (10) at Detroit. The last time that happened was in the summer of 2018 when Johnson (1) won the Canadian Open, Justin Thomas (3) won the Bridgestone Invitational and Brooks Koepka (4) won the PGA Championship. FINAL WORD “I’ll be devastated if I don’t play well.” — Charles Barkley on playing the American Century Championship for celebrities......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 8th, 2020

Golf makes a conservative return with an eye on the long run

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan went from wondering if any golf would be played this year to a schedule that resumes next week with a calendar filled through Thanksgiving. What hasn't changed is his belief that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic isn't over just because golf is back. “I don't think it's over," Monahan said Friday in a telephone interview. “I'm really confident in the plan. But you spend a lot of your time, given the uncertainty, thinking through scenarios that could play out. That's what we'll continue to do. We won't be comfortable until we're told we can be comfortable. That will be when we have a vaccine and there's no risk.” Golf is the second major sports league to return behind NASCAR, which began racing three weeks ago and ran nine national series races in a span of 14 days. The Charles Schwab Challenge next week in Fort Worth, Texas, has one of the strongest fields in Colonial's rich history, starting with the top five players from the world ranking. There will be no spectators for at least a month, even though Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this week moved the state to Phase III in the recovery that allows outdoor events at 50% capacity. “We've developed a safety plan that doesn't include spectators. That's what we stand by,” Monahan said. “We want to have a sustained return. If you think about a run to go through the FedEx Cup, we want to make sure week to week we're not taking on unnecessary risk.” Monahan said he is “not the arbiter of confidence,” rather it comes from guidance of health experts at all levels and a plan that involves testing players, caddies and essential personnel as much as twice a week — trying to create a bubble for the traveling circus that is golf. Players were mailed a test kit and were recommended to use it before they travel. They will be tested when they arrive at tournaments and before they leave if they're on charter flights the tour has arranged, and then the process is repeated at the next tournament. Thermal readings and health surveys are required daily, along with sanitizing and social distancing. “It's the only manner we could return,” he said. The tour added another layer this week in a deal with South Dakota-based Sanford Health to have mobile labs at every tournament, with capacity to get results in a matter of hours without taking away resources from the markets where they play. Monahan said CBS Sports is creating its own bubble for the telecast, with Jim Nantz the only person in the booth and other analysts working remotely. Ninety days will have passed from the opening round of The Players Championship, which was canceled the next day, until the first tee shot at Colonial. “We all went home dealing with the same questions,” he said. “How do I get a complete understanding of where we are with the virus and all the elements? How do we recognize that we're turning off (canceling) 11 events? How do you think about resumption and at the same time develop a safety and testing program, not our area of expertise?" The reset began with the majors picking new dates — the British Open was canceled — with the PGA Championship in San Francisco moving to Aug. 6-9, the U.S. Open in New York on Sept. 17-20, and the Masters on Nov. 12-15. “At that time it was very unclear where we would be with safety and testing,” Monahan said. “It could have been earlier than we are, it could have been through points of next year. Information was changing by the minute.” Now that golf is returning, Monahan couldn't predict when spectators would return. He said the tour has worked with tournaments the last several years on building a reserve fund for a crisis such as this. “If you’re not selling tickets, and there’s not hospitality, you don’t have the pro-am experience or the honorary observer program for the sponsor ... that’s a significant financial impact on those tournaments, and the impact on the way tournaments connect with their communities,” he said. Tournaments and their title sponsors still have managed to raise money for their local charities. The Zurich Classic matched last year's donation of $1.5 million to a children's services foundation. The John Deere Classic expects $10 million in donations, even though it canceled its July event. The pandemic is not the only talking point as golf tries to get back on track. The tour on Friday posted Monahan's letter to staff and players on the nation's civil unrest, which the AP first reported on Tuesday. He had a 10-minute video conversation with Harold Varner III, one of three PGA Tour members of black heritage, who wrote passionately on social media on George Floyd, killed when a white police officer held a knee to the back of Floyd's neck while the black man was handcuffed. The conversation was scheduled before the protests began, and Varner was chosen because he's on the Player Advisory Council and golf was ready to resume. “We'll be talking about COVID and civil and social unrest for some time,” Monahan said. “Next week will not be an exception on that front.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 6th, 2020

Dustin Johnson emerges from a pack to lead PGA Championship

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Dustin Johnson supplied the birdies, eight of them Saturday at the PGA Championship, the most he has ever made in his 157 rounds of major championship golf for a 5-under 65 and a one-shot lead. Brooks Koepka supplied the needle. Koepka recovered from three straight bogeys to salvage a 69 and stay within two shots of a leaderboard more crowded than any of San Francisco's congested highways. At stake is a chance to become only the seventh player to win the same major three straight times. He surveyed the cast of contenders, and focused on the guy at the top. “I like my chances,” Koepka said. “When I've been in this position before, I've capitalized. He's only won one. I'm playing good. I don't know, we'll see.” As he stepped away from the microphone, Koepka smiled and said to Jason Day, “How about that shade?” They laughed. Too bad this isn't a two-man show. The final round at Harding Park figures to be wide open, just like it was on a Saturday so wild that eight players had at least a share of the lead during the third round. Johnson lost his yardage book and still found his way through an enormous crowd of contenders. He made a double bogey on the ninth hole and still bounced back with a 31 on the tough, windy back nine. He needed all eight of those birdies on a day of low scores, long putts and endless possibilities. One possibility is Koepka hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy for the third straight year, which hasn’t happened since Walter Hagen won four in a row in the 1920s when it was match play. The last player to win any major three straight times was Peter Thomson at the British Open in 1956. Koepka was two shots behind on a board that features only two major champions among the top six. Scottie Scheffler, the PGA Tour rookie from Texas, ran off three straight birdies only to miss a 6-foot par putt on the final hole. He still shot a 65 and was one shot behind, in the final group at his first PGA Championship. Cameron Champ, who has the most powerful swing on tour, shot 67 and joined Scheffler one shot behind. Johnson was at 9-under 201 as he goes for his second major title. For all the chances he has had, this is only the second time he has led going into the final round. The other was down the coast at Pebble Beach, his first chance at winning a major. He had a three-shot lead in the 2010 U.S. Open and shot 82. Now he is more seasoned with experiences good (21 tour victories) and bad (five close calls in the majors). “I'm going to have to play good golf if I want to win. It's simple,” Johnson said. “I've got to hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. If I can do that tomorrow, I'm going to have a good chance coming down the stretch. ... I'm just going to have to do what I did today. Just get it done." Among the cast of contenders are major champions like Koepka, Jason Day and Justin Rose, and fresh faces like Scheffler, Champ and Collin Morikawa. Also right there was Bryson DeChambeau, thanks to a 95-foot putt for birdie on his last hole. Turns out he can hit long putts, too. Missing from all this action is Tiger Woods, who didn't make a birdie until the 16th hole and is out of the mix for the fourth straight major since his emotional Masters victory last year. A dozen players were separated by three shots. Li Haotong, the first player from China to lead after any round at a major, was leading through 12 holes until his tee shot didn't come down from a tree. He made double bogey, dropped two more shots and finished four shots out of the lead. Johnson didn't have smooth sailing, either, especially when he couldn't find his yardage book. He thinks it slipped into the bottom of the golf bag, and he didn't feel like dumping his 14 clubs all over the ground to find it. Austin Johnson, his brother and caddie, had a spare yardage book. Johnson shot 65 even with a double bogey on the ninth hole. Mistakes like that might be more costly on Sunday with so many players in the mix. Even those who struggled — Rose, Daniel Berger, Tommy Fleetwood all settled for 70 — are only three shots behind. Adding to the drama will be the lack of atmosphere, this being the first major without spectators. Paul Casey said he still didn't feel nerves from the lack of people. Perhaps that helps with younger players in the hunt for the first time. It also could make it difficult for players to know what's happening around them without any cheers. Then again, Johnson won the U.S. Open in 2016 at Oakmont without knowing the score as the USGA tried to decide whether he should be penalized for a potential rules violation earlier in the round. He had to play the last seven holes without knowing his score. It's just one example of what Johnson has endured in the majors. There was a penalty that knocked him out of a playoff in the 2010 PGA at Whistling Straits for grounding his club in sand without realizing it was a bunker. He had a 12-foot eagle putt to win the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, only to three-putt for par and a silver medal. But he's back for another shot, and his game looks to be in order. He has the power, and on this day, he had the putting. “I definitely have experience in this situation that definitely will help tomorrow,” Johnson said. “I’ve been in the hunt a bunch of times in a major. I’ve got one major. ... Still going to have to go out and play really good golf.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 9th, 2020

Spieth chasing Grand Slam and hardly anyone notices

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The spotlight on Jordan Spieth should be bright enough to cut through the marine layer blanketing Harding Park this week at the PGA Championship. Win this major and he joins the most exclusive club in golf with the final leg of the career Grand Slam. Only five other players — Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen — have won all four majors since the Masters began in 1934. This is his fourth chance, and each year becomes more difficult. The longest anyone went from winning the third leg to completing the Grand Slam was three years by Player and Nicklaus. And hardly anyone is talking about it. It's not because Brooks Koepka is trying to become the first player to win the PGA Championship three straight times in stroke play, or because Tiger Woods is going for his record-tying fifth PGA. It's not even because golf has returned amid a coronavirus pandemic that has kept spectators away from a major championship for the first time. Spieth has become an afterthought because he hasn't won since he captured the British Open three years ago. Who would have guessed that? Certainly not the 27-year-old Texan. “If you told me that, I'd probably say that guy is kind of a jerk and I'd walk the other way,” Spieth said with a smile. “But here we are. And I hope to end that as soon as possible.” So much has changed since his last visit to the TPC Harding Park. That was in 2015 for the Cadillac Match Play. Spieth was the newly minted “Golden Child” in golf as the Masters champion. He would win the U.S. Open the following month, miss a British Open playoff by one shot at St. Andrews and be runner-up at the PGA Championship. No one ever made such a spirited bid for the calendar Grand Slam. Now, the world ranking tells the story. Spieth was No. 2 after winning at Royal Birkdale and getting his first shot at the career Grand Slam in the 2017 PGA Championship (he tied for 28th). He was No. 8 in the world going to Bellerive for the PGA Championship the following year (he tied for 12th). He was No. 39 going to Bethpage Black last year. He played in the final group with Brooks Koepka on Saturday, albeit eight shots behind, and fell back quickly. He tied for third. Now he has plunged all the way to No. 62, out of the top 50 for the first time since he was a 20-year-old rookie. More troublesome than not winning is that Spieth has rarely contended. He has not finished within three shots of the lead since his remarkable rally in the final round of the Masters two years ago left him two shots behind Patrick Reed. Is there hope? He has no doubt. Is there a chance at Harding Park? He has experience. “Majors aren’t necessarily totally about form,” Spieth said. “They’re about experience and being able to grind it out, picking apart golf courses. So I feel like I probably have more confidence going into a major no matter where my game is at than any other golf tournament.” Exactly what went wrong is a topic of debate and discussion. He was ill all of December before going into the 2018 season. His alignment got off. His putting, the hallmark of his game, went sideways. And he's been trying to put back the pieces ever since. The last two years he hasn't made it to the Tour Championship. His only real success of late has been a more positive attitude. Spieth used the word “grace” at Colonial, his way of saying he will learn to shrug off mistakes and keep going. “I almost feel at times like the game is testing me a little bit right now,” he said. Last week, he spoke of a shot that hit a tree. Whereas it used to bounce in the fairway, this one went off a cart path and out-of-bounds. The same thing happened at Hilton Head. “I feel like you can look at it a couple ways,” Spieth said. “You can get really upset and complain about it — which I’ve done and that’s not helpful — or you can look at it like, ‘Hey, this is part of the game testing you, and the better you handle these situations, the faster you progress forward.’” Spieth says he is in no hurry. At 27, he has plenty of golf ahead of him in his career. As brilliant as his 2015 season was, he'd like to think his best years are ahead of him. But there's only one PGA Championship this year. One shot at the career Grand Slam. “It's something that I really want,” Spieth said. “It's probably the No. 1 goal in the game of golf for me right now is to try and capture that. I’d love to be able to hold all four trophies.” The way the last three years have gone, any trophy would do......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 5th, 2020

Berger a winner at Colonial, and PGA Tour feels like it, too

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The PGA Tour spent two months learning about the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to develop a safe plan to return, followed by another month hoping for the best. Commissioner Jay Monahan said his confidence in the plan came with a dose of uncertainty. “If we ... got into a situation where we were dealing with a number of positive tests, that's something — candidly — that I lost a lot of sleep over in the weeks that preceded coming,” Monahan said. Monahan felt every bit a winner as Daniel Berger at the Charles Schwab Challenge. The tour administered 487 tests for the new coronavirus at Colonial, and the results on all of them came back negative. On the golf course, a dozen of some of golf's best players — from Rory McIlroy to Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele to Jordan Spieth — all had a chance going into the final round. “Listen, there is more work to be done,” Monahan said. “But this is a phenomenal start to our return.” It was a healthy return, except for a somewhat sickly finish. Berger made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and heard the deafening silence of a big moment with no spectators allowed at Colonial. He got into a playoff when Collin Morikawa missed a 6-foot birdie putt for the win and Xander Schauffele missed his try from 25 feet. The playoff was held on the 17th hole, another reminder of how this week was different. Playoffs always start on the 18th hole because that's where the gallery is packed into the grandstands. With no fans allowed, and with the 17th tee right next to the clubhouse, off they went. Morikawa hit a deft chip to 3 feet. Berger chipped even closer from behind the green and rapped in his par. They presumably were headed to the 18th tee until Morikawa's 3-footer spun out, and Berger was the winner. Schauffele should have been in the playoff, but his 3-footer for par on the 17th in regulation dipped in the right side of the cup and spun out of the left side. Talk about a horrible horseshoe. “If there are fans and everything with the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs,’ I’d probably be a little more (ticked) off,” Schauffele said. “Maybe that’s a good thing for me right now. But it was definitely weird." Justin Rose had an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th that looked good all the way until it wasn't. He finished one behind along with Bryson DeChambeau and Jason Kokrak, who also missed birdie chances on the last hole. This isn't the first time Rose or anyone else has missed a big putt. It wasn't the first time Rose let out a gutteral moan from missing. It was just the first time he actually heard it. “If the crowd are there, their groans or cries, whatever it may be, would have drowned me out,” Rose said. “You suddenly realize you actually do make some noise sometimes yourself. And it surprised me a little bit there on 18.” There were reminders all week of no fans, but rarely why golf had been shut down since March 12 because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, a pandemic that canceled one major (British Open) and postponed the others until later in the year. “The only time I thought about it was when I was having to take the tests, and that was really it,” Keith Mitchell said. “Hopefully, nobody comes down with it and we can keep on playing.” Players on the charter to the next stop — Hilton Head on the South Carolina shore — had to swing by the pool area at Colonial after the third round for a saliva test. If negative, they board the plane and don't have to be tested at Hilton Head. Everyone else driving, flying commercial or flying private face another test when they arrive. Tony Finau learned a new skill beyond chipping and putting. He learned to spit for his test. “You just kind of roll your tongue around inside your mouth, and it seems to bring a little bit more, and also if you just lean your face down, it seems to come out a little easier,” he said. So few talking about the virus was an indication of how safe it felt. In this case, the week doesn't end until the next tournament begins. “I was asked, ‘What’s a successful week look like?' It means us getting to the RBC Heritage and having another successful week,” he said. “I feel very good about the setup there, and we're ready to go again." Monahan had said as the tour prepared to return that it was critical not to fall into a trap that all is well. He said he wouldn't feel comfortable until told he could be comfortable, and likely would mean a vaccine. Morikawa said being back to golf and being back to normal were different matters. “Just because we played one week doesn’t mean we can go party and go do everything else like we used to,” Morikawa said. “We still have to follow these guidelines and maintain safety and strict rules with how far we stay from each other because it’s still out there. “We just have to be cognizant of what’s around us and where we put ourselves, because we want the tour to keep playing......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 15th, 2020

Tiger s last Masters as much about family as a green jacket

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green as a Masters champion for the fifth time, a major champion for the 15th time, and the sensation was unlike anything he had ever felt. More memorable than any shot — the 8-iron that trickled by the hole at the 16th was the decisive blow — was the purposeful stride toward his son, grabbing Charlie with both arms, lifting the boy and turning from side to side. His mother was next. His daughter. His loyal support staff. And then a lineup of players outside the clubhouse, some of them in green jackets. They had been upstairs in the locker room reserved for champions, yet they shared a feeling with the entire golf world. Memories gave way to reality. “That's going to be in people's minds forever,” Rickie Fowler said last month, just two days before the Masters was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Was it his biggest win? It would be hard to rate that over his first Masters title in 1997, a “hello, world” moment not tied to advertising. Woods set 20 records that signaled the arrival of a brand of dominance never seen in golf. The most historical? His 2001 victory at Augusta gave him a sweep of the four majors in a span of 294 days. He stands alone there. This was no less significant because of what it meant — to Woods, to his sport, to peers who grew up idolizing him and to a worldwide audience that had reason to believe it might never happen again. “I had just an amazing amount of emails and texts that were flowing in,” Woods said in a conference call leading up to the Masters. “But I was more surprised by the amount of videos of people watching the Masters and seeing their reaction when I hit the shot on 16 or when I made the putt, whether it was on airplanes or in airports or restaurants. “The amount of emotion that people were showing, that's what blew my mind." That's what made this Masters different from his other four, this major different from the other 14. Adam Scott doesn't usually stick around when he's finished with a major. One exception was in 2006 after the U.S. Open at Winged Foot when he was headed for the airport and turned around when close friend Geoff Ogilvy emerged the winner. He finished Sunday at Augusta National about the time all hell broke loose at Amen Corner. “You got a sense, as he was kind of taking the lead on the back nine, that something special could be happening,” Scott said. “There was a lot of guys watching in the champion's locker room and I stayed and watched. You don't often get that group of people together very often. You just had that sense it's a significant moment in the sport again.” Gary Woodland wasn't about to miss it. “I don't usually watch much golf,” he said. “I had my family there. I was flying out Sunday afternoon. I played early that day, and we pushed the flight back. I wanted to watch that.” The only mystery is where it leads. Woods was never the same the rest of the major season. He played nine holes of practice at Bethpage Black and missed the cut in the PGA Championship. He was never a factor at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, site of his 15-shot victory, as untouchable as any of his records. He missed the cut at the British Open. Woods had another knee surgery to repair minor cartilage damage. And then he won again, this time in Japan, to tie the PGA Tour's victory record with No. 82. In only two starts this year, in chilly California weather, he didn't look like the Masters champion. His back felt stiff and he skipped three tournaments he ordinarily plays. And now golf is shut down, which Woods said has given him time for his 44-year-old body to feel stronger. He had caddie Joe LaCava come down a month after the Masters to watch the final round together. Woods has watched that Masters plenty of times, and he taped a segment with Jim Nantz for perspective unlike any other for CBS to show it again Sunday to fill the void of not having the Masters this April. Each time Woods won a major — even the first of his 15 — it was one major closer to the 18 won by Jack Nicklaus. This one was different. This was more about satisfaction and redemption than a thirst for more. Woods said his kids once looked at him as the “YouTube” golfer because they never saw him at his best. They were at Carnoustie in the summer of 2018 when he had the lead briefly in the final round of the British Open. They were with him at Augusta National, and that meant as much as the green jacket he wore — the jacket, he said, they fought over who could wear it on the flight home. “It's been incredible for myself and my family to be a part of this, and for me to be the current Masters champion, it's crazy that somehow it all came together for one week,” he said. “One magical week.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 12th, 2020

Masters heartaches walk the fairways with green jackets

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer For every fist pump from Tiger Woods, there are images of Greg Norman's lonely walk across Hogan Bridge as he loses the last of his six-shot lead and heads for more heartache at the Masters. Jack Nicklaus had his famous charge on the back nine. Ed Sneed infamously lost a three-shot lead with bogeys on his last three holes, and then watched Fuzzy Zoeller win the first sudden-death playoff in 1979. “All the condolences in the world wouldn't fix the hurt inside him,” said Tom Watson, who also was in the playoff, as he sat next to a shaken Sneed for an interview when it was over. At the Masters, players who never slipped on a green jacket can be as memorable as those who did. Tom Weiskopf holds a footnote in Masters history with the most runner-up finishes — four — without ever winning. He was tied for the lead on the back nine in 1974. He had the lead with three holes to play in 1975 when he made bogey on the 16th hole as Nicklaus went on to a fifth green jacket. “I know one thing,” Weiskopf said that day. “I will win this tournament one day, and my green coat will be tailor made.” Curtis Strange didn't suffer as much as Norman or Weiskopf, or players like Tom Kite, David Duval and Ken Venturi, all of whom had multiple chances. He still thinks about being tied at the turn with Larry Mize in 1987, the year Mize holed a 140-foot chip in a playoff to beat — who else? — Norman. His Masters memory is more tied to 1985, when he had a four-shot lead on the back nine and twice hit into water on the par 5s as Bernhard Langer won the first of two green jackets. “In my case, and most others, the sting of defeat lasts longer than the thrill of victory,” Strange said Friday. “Is that a sick way to look at it? Maybe for those who have never been there. But it's reality.” That's true at most big golf tournaments. Even so, Strange believes it is amplified at the Masters because it's the one major that returns every year to the course, especially one as dynamic as Augusta National. It takes something spectacular to remember failures at other majors — Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie, Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot, Mike Reid at Kemper Lakes in the PGA Championship. Jordan Spieth went wire-to-wire and tied the 72-hole record set by Woods. One year later, he lost a five-shot lead on the back nine, highlighted by a quadruple-bogey 7 on the par-3 12th hole. Which one is more memorable? “It goes back to the familiarity every golf fan has with the course," Duval said. “It's not like going to Pebble every 10 years, or Oakmont. I think the continuity has a lot to do with it.” Norman stands out as the face of failure at the Masters, even though Weiskopf has more silver medals. Then again, Weiskopf never lost a six-shot lead as Norman did in 1996. Weiskopf didn't lose in a playoff to an improbable chip. Norman contributed to his own failures. Often forgotten are his four straight birdies to tie for the lead in 1986, only to send a 4-iron into the gallery on the 18th and make bogey. He did the same thing three years later, making three straight birdies only to come up short with a 5-iron and hit a poor chip to bogey No. 18 and finish one out of a playoff. Norman has company, of course. Venturi shot 80 in the final round of 1956 with a chance to become the only amateur in a green jacket. He lost as a pro four years later when Arnold Palmer birdied the last two to win by one shot. Duval was in the mix four straight years and never won the green jacket. He missed out on a playoff in 1998 when Mark O'Meara birdied the 18th hole from 20 feet. “Don't worry, David, nobody ever makes that putt,” chairman Jack Stephens told him as they watched from Jones Cabin. The run ended in 2001 when Duval was the last player to try to stop Woods from a sweep of the majors. But his 7-iron flew the 16th green — he still doesn't know how — and his birdie putts from 12 feet and 5 feet on the last two holes didn't fall. No loss was more painful to watch than Scott Hoch missing a 2-foot par putt on the 10th hole in a playoff in 1989. Faldo beat him with a birdie on the next hole. Mention the name Roberto de Vicenzo, and the first thing that comes to mind is not his two-shot victory over Nicklaus in the 1967 British Open. It's the playoff he missed at the Masters the following spring in the cruelest ruling. The Argentine signed for a 4 on the 17th hole when he made a 3. He had to keep the higher score and lost by one to Bob Goalby. “What a stupid I am,” De Vicenzo said. A simple mistake. The wrong kind of memory. There's no shortage of those at the Masters......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 11th, 2020

Woods comeback at Masters named AP Sports Story of the Year

By Eddie Pells, Associated Press A green jacket. A heart-melting embrace. A stirring return to the top of golf by one of the sport’s all-time greats. In choosing Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters as The Associated Press sports story of the year, voters went with the uplifting escape of a great comeback over options that were as much about sports as the issues that enveloped them in 2019: politics, money and the growing push for equal pay and equal rights for women. The balloters, a mix of AP member sports editors and AP beat writers, elevated Woods’ rousing victory at Augusta National over the runner-up entry: the U.S. women’s soccer team’s victory at the World Cup. That monthlong competition was punctuated by star Megan Rapinoe’s push for pay equality for the women’s team and an ongoing war of words with President Donald Trump. Rapinoe’s efforts to use sports as a platform to discuss bigger issues was hardly a one-off in 2019. Of the top 12 stories in the balloting, only three — titles won by the Toronto Raptors, Washington Nationals and University of Virginia basketball team — stuck mainly to what happened between the lines. All the rest — including the blown call that cost the Saints a chance at the Super Bowl, a California law that threatens to upend the NCAA and Simone Biles’ dominance at gymnastics' world championships, set against the backdrop of the sex-abuse crisis consuming the sport in the U.S. — were long-running sagas that went beyond a single day or event. They painted sports not as an escape from the world’s problems but merely another window into them. It’s no stretch to say that the whole of the Woods saga — namely, the sordid, pain-riddled, decadelong prelude to his victory at Augusta National in April — would fit into that category, as well. His downfall began in the wee hours the day after Thanksgiving in 2009, when he ran over a fire hydrant outside his house in Florida, triggering an avalanche of stories about infidelity that would lead to the breakup of his marriage and play into the near-destruction of his career. Part 2 was the injuries. Woods came close but did not return to his dominant form after his return to golf following his breakup with his wife. And as time went on, his physical condition deteriorated. He didn’t play in 2016 or 2017, and at the end of '17, he conceded his back was so bad that his days of competitive golf might be behind him. There were four risky back surgeries. Woods also required a good deal of inner healing after a mortifying DUI arrest in 2017 that exposed his reliance on painkillers. Through it all, Woods somehow kept nurturing his love for golf. And eventually, he found his game again. He climbed his way back to the top. He had close calls at two majors in 2018 — the British Open and PGA Championship — and then won the season-ending Tour Championship, as good a sign as any that, at 43, he could take on the best and win. But regular tournaments are not the majors, and no major is the Masters. It was on those hallowed grounds at Augusta National where Woods set the marker, starting a decade of dominance that would redefine the game. He blew away the field by 12 strokes in 1997 to win the first of what has become five green jackets and 15 major titles. On that day, Woods came off the 18th green and wrapped himself in a warm embrace with his father, Earl, whose death in 2006 left an undeniable void in the player's life. Though there had been a handful of close calls between his U.S. Open victory in 2008 and the start of 2019, it was clear that if there was a single course where Woods could conjure the old magic and end a major drought, it would be Augusta National. As a four-time champion, Woods built a career on studying every inch of the layout, knowing every fault line and every sneaky twist and turn of the slickest greens on earth. But where, at one time, he might have overpowered the course and intimidated the competition, in 2019, he simply outlasted them both. He avoided mistakes while everyone else was making them. Instead of taking a lead into the last day, then never giving anyone a whiff of hope, this was a comeback. He started the day two shots behind. As AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson wrote in his wrapup of the final day: “Woods never missed a shot that mattered over the final seven holes, taking the lead with a 5-iron to the fat of the green on the par-5 15th for a two-putt birdie, delivering the knockout with an 8-iron that rode down the ridge by the cup and settled 2 feet away for birdie on the par-3 16th.” When it was over, Woods came to the same spot where he’d met Earl 22 years before. He scooped up his son, Charlie, and held him in a long embrace, then did the same with his 11-year-old daughter, Sam, and mother, Tilda. “For them to see what it’s like to have their dad win a major championship, I hope that’s something they will never forget,” Woods said. Very few golf fans will. And in a sports year dominated by weightier topics, Woods at the Masters stood out — a comeback story that left people smiling at the end......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 26th, 2019

Golf in 2019: Tiger roars back into spotlight

PARIS (AFP) – Tiger Woods completed one of sport’s greatest ever comebacks by winning his 15th major title at the Masters in April, before ending the year as a winning Presidents Cup captain. Ireland’s Shane Lowry won the first British Open to be held in Northern Ireland since 1951, while a potential rivalry between Brooks […].....»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsDec 17th, 2019

Woods has surgery on left knee for minor cartilage damage

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press A season that began with Tiger Woods celebrating a fifth Masters title ended with a fifth surgery on his left knee. This one wasn't serious. Woods said Tuesday on Twitter he had arthroscopic surgery last week to repair what he described as minor cartilage damage. In a statement Woods released on social media, Dr. Vern Cooley said he looked at the rest of the knee and found no additional problems. pic.twitter.com/80SQDuk4Kg — Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) August 27, 2019 "I'm walking now and hope to resume practice in the next few weeks," Woods said, adding that he looked forward to traveling to Japan in October for a planned Skins Game exhibition and the ZoZo Championship on Oct. 24-27. Mark Steinberg, his agent at Excel Sports, described the knee as little more than "irritating." "It was bothering him, but arthroscopic these days is different than we had years and years ago," Steinberg said. "He's up and walking now. This will have no effect on the fall or winter." Woods has a light schedule the rest of the year — Japan in late October, his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas the first week of December and then the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in Australia. He is the U.S. captain and could play as a captain's pick. He won't have to make that decision until a week after the Japan event. Woods has dealt primarily with back issues the last six years. He had the first of four back surgeries in the spring of 2014, and the last one in 2017 to fuse his lower spine when it reached a point he feared he might never compete again. He returned a year later and capped off his comeback with a victory in the Tour Championship. The final piece was a major, and Woods delivered the most memorable week of the year in April at Augusta National when he won the Masters for his 15th major. But that was his lone highlight. He missed the cut in the PGA Championship and the British Open and was never a factor in the Memorial or the U.S. Open. He withdrew after the opening round of The Northern Trust to start the FedEx Cup playoffs, and he failed to reach the Tour Championship. He said about his health at the BMW Championship that "body-wise it's the same. If it's not one thing, it's another. Things just pop up." "I'm making tweaks and changes trying to play around this back and trying to be explosive and have enough rest time and training time," he said at Medinah. "That's been the biggest challenge of it all." Woods first had surgery on his left knee as a freshman at Stanford in 1994 to remove two benign tumors and scar tissue. He had arthroscopic surgery to remove fluid and cysts after the 2002 season, and another after the 2008 Masters to repair cartilage damage. Two months later, after winning the 2008 U.S. Open, he had reconstructive surgery to repair his ACL. Steinberg described this surgery as "more cleanup maintenance.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 27th, 2019

Column: FedEx Cup about the money, not the majors

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — The FedEx Cup is still about the money. Whoever wins this week at the Tour Championship gets $15 million, more than Greg Norman's career earnings on the PGA Tour. The FedEx Cup might one day be as much about prestige. Tiger Woods (twice), Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk won the first four FedEx Cup titles, and all four will be in the World Golf Hall of Fame if they're not in already. The last four winners were Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. That's good company to keep. The FedEx Cup was never about major championships. Woods is absent from East Lake, this time not by choice but because he didn't qualify. It stands out because of his last two victories, Nos. 80 and 81, both in Georgia. The first was the Tour Championship, the most electric moment in golf all of last year. Woods won at East Lake to cap a remarkable return from four back surgeries, a DUI arrest stemming from his reliance on painkillers and his own fears that he would never compete again. Memories would be a lot stronger if he were here. Instead, he becomes the seventh player to win the Tour Championship and not be eligible to return the following year during the FedEx Cup era. Should he be at East Lake? It seems that way because of his other victory, this one in April at Augusta National, as captivating as any of his 15 majors. Woods said Sunday at Medinah when his season officially ended that he was disappointed and he wished he could be at East Lake. But he hardly was torn up over it, for one reason. "I'm the one with the green jacket," he said of winning the Masters. He also has company. British Open champion Shane Lowry didn't make it to East Lake, either. He has a claret jug at home in Ireland to console him. This is the fifth time in 13 years of the FedEx Cup that at least two major champions were not at the final event, usually with extenuating circumstances involved. Five major champions who didn't make it to East Lake were not PGA Tour members, three of them in 2010 — Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer. The last time was in 2016, when Masters champion Danny Willett and British Open champion Henrik Stenson fell short. Willett didn't become a PGA Tour member until after he won the Masters. Stenson had a knee injury he wanted to protect for the Ryder Cup and wound up playing just two playoff events. Given their stature, it would seem the majors should get more FedEx Cup points than a measly 20% bump. For example, Woods received 600 points for winning that little invitational at Augusta National. That's only 100 points more than Kevin Tway got for winning the Safeway Open. Could it be more? Sure. Does it need to be? Not necessarily. Would anyone even be talking about major champions not being at East Lake if not for Woods being one of them? Because while the PGA Tour has drastically changed its season with the FedEx Cup format, what hasn't changed is what matters — winning majors. The reward for capturing a Grand Slam event is worth far more than having a tee time at East Lake and a chance to win $15 million. Besides, it's not like Woods and Lowry didn't have the opportunity. Woods played only six times after he won the Masters — three times he failed to make the cut, the other three he was a combined 39 shots behind the leader — and finished the season with 12 events. Lowry played 14 times, a product of having only conditional status at the start of the year. He had middle-of-the-pack performances at two playoff events. He finished 57 points short of East Lake, which equates to being two shots better at Liberty National and at Medinah. "I think what it says is that it's really hard to get to Atlanta and the Tour Championship," PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said. "You've got to play exceedingly well over the course of an entire season. And with volatility, there's risk." The volatility refers to the playoff events offering four times as many points. If any change should be considered, perhaps triple the value would do the trick. Or the tour could double the points for the first event and triple the points for the next one. It really doesn't matter. The majors are over. Names are etched on silver trophies and in golf lore. The FedEx Cup is merely an end-of-the-year competition to keep golf compelling and to give the PGA Tour season a definitive end. It hasn't done any harm. If anything, it has kept the best players competing against each other after the majors. And they all get rich when it's over. Total bonus money for the 30 players who made it to Atlanta is $46 million. That's what they will be chasing over the next four days. Woods and Lowry now can only look behind them. The view is just as sweet......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 21st, 2019

Lowry s British Open win caps off big year in majors

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (AP) — Winning the British Open didn't sink in right away for Shane Lowry. It apparently didn't take long. A celebration that began on the 18th fairway of Royal Portrush extended well into the night in Dublin. The European Tour posted a video on Twitter of Lowry, still dressed in all black from his final round with his cap flipped back. He was holding the claret jug in his right hand and a beer in his left as he belted out "The Fields of Athenry," an Irish folk ballad that has become popular for Irish sports fans. About last night...@ShaneLowryGolf #TheOpen pic.twitter.com/zdXW66yetz — The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 22, 2019 It might as well have been a celebration for all the majors this year. Nothing could top Tiger Woods in the Masters, which dwarfed an otherwise four-month stretch of compelling outcomes. Brooks Koepka had a major season not seen since before Woods began having surgeries, and the run is not over. He joined Woods as the only back-to-back PGA Championship winners in stroke play. He had chances in the final hour at the Masters and U.S. Open. And he was three strokes behind going into the weekend at the British Open, where he wound up in a distant tie for fourth. Thanks to the PGA Championship moving from August to May, all Koepka has done in the last 12 months is win two majors, finish runner-up in two others and tie for fourth. Along the way, he joined some elite company. Koepka, Woods, Jordan Spieth and Jack Nicklaus are the only players to finish no worse than fourth in all four majors in the same year. "This week is disappointing, but the rest of them ... it's been great," Koepka said Sunday. "I'm not going to lie. It's been fun." Lowry and Gary Woodland were first-time major champions, making it five straight years of at least two players winning majors for the first time. Their victories were special in their own right. Already popular with his peers, Woodland won over golf fans around the world with his gracious support of Amy Bockerstette, the 20-year-old with Down syndrome who played one hole with him in the Phoenix Open pro-am and made par from a bunker on the 16th hole. She also inspired him with three words that he kept thinking about in the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach: "You got this." Lowry wrote the perfect ending to the return of the British Open to Northern Ireland after 68 years. Sure, the focus of a sellout crowd at Royal Portrush was on Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke at the start. But as Lowry so beautifully and simply said when his name was on the claret jug, "Everyone knows we're all one country when it comes to golf." Woods should win anyone's award for best performance, even in the year of a World Cup when England's victory in cricket was amazing. It just doesn't seem that way. Rewind to April and find Woods trailing by two shots going into the final round of the Masters, a position from which he has never won. It had been two years since he suggested at the Champions Dinner he was done, only to fly across the Atlantic in a desperate search for help before realizing fusion surgery — the fourth procedure on his lower back — was the only route to a healthy life. Then he capped off his comeback with a flawless back nine to win a fifth green jacket and a 15th major, three short of the record set by Nicklaus. And then he took a month off and missed the cut at the PGA Championship. He tied for 21st in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but only because of six birdies on his last 12 holes. He took a vacation to Thailand, spent a month away from golf and then missed the cut in the British Open. It was a reminder that while Woods is able to win on the biggest stage — none bigger than Augusta National — he also has weeks where his back or his game, and sometimes both, don't allow him to contend. "Things are different," he said before leaving Portrush. "And I'm going to have my hot weeks. I'm going to be there in contention with a chance to win, and I will win tournaments. But there are times when I'm just not going to be there." It doesn't look great now. It will later. Golf now waits nearly nine months until the next major. The longer the year goes on, the stronger memories will be of what he did at the Masters far more than the other three. If there was disappointment, look no further than McIlroy, who finished a combined 25 shots behind in the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open, and lasted only two days at Royal Portrush. Ditto for Dustin Johnson, still stuck on one major, which stings even more considering he had a pair of runner-up finishes. A generation ago, Colin Montgomerie said it was tough to win majors because of Woods, which meant fewer opportunities for everyone else. That's truer now than it was then. Spieth has gone two years without winning anything. Justin Thomas was slowed by injury. It's tough to win. Tougher still is waiting 263 days from the end of the British Open to the start of the Masters......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 23rd, 2019

Spieth back to playing some good golf at British Open

By Chris Lehourites, Associated Press PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (AP) — Jordan Spieth knows he can win the big ones. Perhaps that's why he saves his best golf for them. The three-time major winner, still only 25, moved his name up the leaderboard at the British Open on Friday with a superb four-hole run near the end of the front nine. He birdied the fifth and sixth, made eagle on the seventh and birdie on the eighth to take him to 6 under, briefly tied for the lead. He ended up with a 4-under 67 at Royal Portrush to bring him to 5-under 137 on a mild morning on the Dunluce Links. "I always get pumped up for major championships," Spieth said. "Clearly I try to peak for majors. And then this style of golf I always — I've always found to fit my game pretty well." That game really started to shine in 2015 when Spieth won the Masters and U.S. Open. He then finished a stroke out of a playoff in the British Open at St. Andrews. He capped his major season with a second-place finish at the PGA Championship. In 2017, he won the British Open, finishing three strokes ahead of Matt Kuchar at Royal Birkdale. That was his last victory. Spieth had an up-and-down day in the first round this year, but with the improved weather on Day 2 came a better score. "I putted a bit better. Different wind change so certain holes played harder than others and others became easier," said Spieth, who finished his round about an hour before the rain started to fall. "I felt like I played the easy holes well and then I avoided the pot bunkers today more than I did yesterday. But I certainly found the rough more today than I did yesterday. "At some point I hope to be playing off the short grass this week." Although he failed to improve his score late in the round, he did manage to make par on some of the toughest holes on the course. The par-3 16th and par-4 18th are rated as two of the hardest. Spieth landed his tee shot just right of the green on 16, chipped up the sharp slope and nailed a short putt for par. On the 18th, he drove down the middle of the fairway, one of the few he hit Friday, put his approach on the green and just missed his birdie putt. "I'm in contention," Spieth said. "I feel like if I can continue to improve each day, hit the ball better tomorrow than I did today, and better on Sunday than Saturday, then I should have a chance with how I'd feel on and around the greens.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 20th, 2019

Lowry, Holmes share Open lead as McIlroy leaves with cheers

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (AP) — Everyone in the massive grandstand rose to cheer and celebrate a bold performance by Rory McIlroy, who longed for such support and affection on his walk toward his final hole at Royal Portrush in the British Open. Except this was Friday. And now McIlroy can only watch on the weekend as one of his best friends, Shane Lowry of Ireland, goes after the claret jug. Lowry birdied four of his opening five holes on his way to a 4-under 67 and shared the 36-hole lead with J.B. Holmes, who had a 68. Lee Westwood and Tommy Fleetwood were one shot behind. Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth were three back. That can wait. This day was all about McIlroy, who kept the sellout crowd on edge as he tried to make the cut after opening with a 79. The roars had the intensity of a final round as McIlroy ran off five birdies in seven holes to brighten a gloomy sky over the North Atlantic. Needing one last birdie, his approach took a wrong turn along the humps left of the 18th green. He made par for a 65. "It's a moment I envisaged for the last few years," McIlroy said. "It just happened two days early." He was disappointed. He was proud of his play. Mostly, though, he said he was "full of gratitude toward every single one of the people that followed me to the very end and was willing me on." "As much as I came here at the start of the week saying I wanted to do it for me, by the end of the round there today I was doing it just as much for them," he said. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson won't be around, either. It was the first time in 77 majors they have played as professionals that both missed the cut in the same major. Darren Clarke, who honed his game on the Dunluce Links as a junior and now calls Portrush home, missed the cut in a most cruel fashion with a triple bogey on his final hole. And now the first British Open in Northern Ireland since 1951 moves on without them, still with the promise of a great show. Lowry was so nervous he was shaking on the tee when the tournament began Thursday, swept up in the emotion of an Open on the Emerald Isle, and on a course he knows. He gave fans plenty to cheer when he opened his second round with three straight birdies, added a birdie on the fifth and holed a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 10 to reach 10 under, making him the only player this week to reach double figures under par. The cheers were as loud as he has heard. "Just incredible," Lowry said. "You can't but smile, but can't but laugh how it is. There's no point trying to shy away from it. It's an incredible feeling getting applauded on every green, every tee box. I'm out there giving my best, trying to do my best for everyone." He three-putted the 14th, saved par on the next three holes with his deft touch around the greens, and closed with a bogey to fall back into a tie with Holmes, who played earlier in the day and was the first to post at 8-under 134. Holmes won at Riviera earlier this year, and then failed to make the cut in eight of his next 12 tournaments as he battled a two-way miss off the tee and felt so bad that he never thought he'd recover. But he did enough in Detroit three weeks ago to regain some confidence, and he has been in a groove at Portrush. "You can have that great round and that day where everything goes right. But it's nice to get two rounds in a row," Holmes said. "It shows a little consistency. And two days in a row I've hit the ball really well and putted well." Fleetwood and Westwood, two Englishmen at different stages in their careers, each had a 67 and will play in the group ahead of Lowry and Holmes. Westwood is 46 and can make a case as the best active player without a major considering his status — a former No. 1 in the world and on the European Tour — and the number of near misses in the majors, such as Muirfield and Turnberry at the Open, Torrey Pines in the U.S. Open and Augusta National when Mickelson out played him in 2010. Is it too late? Westwood wasn't willing to look that far ahead. "There's too much ground to cover before Sunday night," Westwood said. "There's a long way to go in this tournament. I've never felt under that much pressure, to be honest. You lads write about it. I've always gone out and done my best. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen, and if it doesn't, it doesn't." The experience of winning majors was behind them. Justin Rose had a 67 and was two shots behind, along with Cameron Smith of Australia and Justin Harding of South Africa. Another shot back was a group that included Koepka, who has won three of the last six majors. He was in a tie for eighth, the 16th time in his last 17 rounds at the majors he has ended a round in the top 10. Koepka wasn't happy with much about his 2-under 69, calling it "a little bit disappointing," perhaps because he played in dry weather and only a mild wind. "But at the same time, I'm close enough where I play a good weekend, I'll be in good shape," he said. Spieth hasn't quite figured out how to get the ball in play more often — too many bunkers on Thursday, too much high grass on Friday. But that putter is not a problem, and it carried him to a collection of mid-range birdie and par putts for a 67. "I'm in contention. I feel good," Spieth said, winless since his Open title at Royal Birkdale two years ago. "I feel like if I can continue to improve each day, hit the ball better tomorrow than I did today, and better on Sunday than Saturday, then I should have a chance with how I feel on and around the greens." Graeme McDowell, born and raised in Portrush, played well enough to make the weekend. He finished with four straight pars for a 70 to make the cut on the number at 1-over 143, and felt the pressure of sticking around for the home crowd. Woods, meanwhile, began this major championship season as the Masters champion, ended it as a mystery. He missed the cut in two of the next three majors, and never seemed fully fit or engaged at the British Open. He was 3 under for his round through 11 holes with hopes of making it to the weekend, but he had no more birdies and finished with two bogeys for a 70 to miss by five shots. "I'm going to have my hot weeks. I'm going to be there in contention with a chance to win, and I will win tournaments," Woods said, facing the reality of a 43-year-old who has gone through eight surgeries on his knee and back. "But there are times when I'm just not going to be there.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 20th, 2019

Koepka at British Open with a local lad as his caddie

By Chris Lehourites, Associated Press PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (AP) — Brooks Koepka's biggest asset during this year's British Open won't be in his bag, it'll be on his bag. The four-time major winner will be walking around Royal Portrush, a course new to most of the players in the field, with a native expert helping him negotiate the sharp elevation changes of the century-old links course on the northern coast of Northern Ireland. His caddie, Ricky Elliott, is a local lad. "Every hole I just step up on, 'You tell me what to do. You've played it more than anybody,'" said Koepka, who is on such a roll at majors he may be one of the few players who doesn't need extra help. "So just let him figure it out. He knows his spots to miss it. The spots to come in from, with different hole locations and different winds." Elliott grew up in Portrush, and grew up playing at Royal Portrush. The pair started working together shortly after the 2013 British Open, when Phil Mickelson won at Muirfield. It only took a phone call to put things in motion. "We had about a 30-minute phone conversation. I liked the way he went about things," Koepka said Tuesday. "He was kind of light. He was joking on the phone. And that's somebody I want, I want somebody that's not going to be so focused in all the time. My personality, I laugh and joke on the golf course. I know it doesn't look like it, but the camera is not on us all the time. He's pretty laid back." Koepka has excelled over the last couple of years with Elliott on his bag, particularly at the major tournaments. After winning his second straight U.S. Open title last year, Koepka won his second straight PGA Championship this year. And he didn't do badly at the other two majors this season either, finishing second at the Masters and at the U.S. Open. "The whole reason I show up is to win. That's what I'm trying to do," Koepka said of his major results. "It's incredible. But at the same time, it's been quite disappointing, you know? Finishing second sucks. It really does." Tiger Woods, the one who edged Koepka to win this year's Masters, came to Northern Ireland looking for a little local knowledge. He said he texted Koepka, hoping to get some advice on the course. "What he's done in the last four major championships has been just unbelievable. To be so consistent, so solid. He's been in contention to win each and every major championship," Woods said. "And I said, 'Hey, dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round?' I've heard nothing." Koepka will play his first two rounds at Royal Portrush alongside 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Shubhankar Sharma. And like many great champions in all sorts of sports, Koepka is full of self-belief heading into the final major of the season. "I think you always have to have a chip on your shoulder, no matter what it is," Koepka said. "Every great athlete and every major sport always has one. "Over the last year and a half, I just felt like if other guys had done what I had done it would be a bigger deal. Now it doesn't matter to me. I've got my own chip on my shoulder for what I'm trying to accomplish. ... How many majors I want to win, how many wins, my own accomplishments." With his trust in his own ability to deliver the big shots and his trust in his caddie's ability to deliver that little bit of extra insight on a course that hasn't hosted the British Open since 1951, Koepka is on the short list of favorites this week. "Definitely have a little bit more confidence having him on the bag this week," Koepka said of Elliott, "knowing this golf course so well.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 17th, 2019

Strong finish not enough for Woods at US Open

By Josh Dubow, Associated Press PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — The crowd was roaring, the birdies were dropping and Tiger Woods looked like his vintage self for the final 12 holes of the U.S. Open. The problem for Woods was what happened on the first 60 holes. Woods salvaged an otherwise disappointing weekend at Pebble Beach by birdieing six of his final 12 holes Sunday to finish the tournament at 2-under par, far behind the top contenders on a weekend made for low scores. Woods finally got in on the action after bogeys on four of the first six holes with an impressive turnaround that even he couldn't explain. "I wish I would have known because I would have turned it around a little earlier than that, he said. "Again, got off to another crappy start and was able to fight it off. Turned back around and got it to under par for the week which is — normally it's a good thing, but this week the guys are definitely taking to it." The problem for Woods all weekend was his inability to take advantage of the scoring opportunities on the first seven holes at Pebble Beach. He played that stretch at 2-over par for the tournament and 4 over in the final two rounds. Woods left his approach shots short on three of the early bogeys on Sunday and hit a tee shot into the rough at the par-3 fifth hole on the other. As he walked off the sixth green after his fourth bogey, Woods trudged toward the seventh tee, head down, seemingly defeated. But then he made a 15-footer for birdie at 7, hit an approach to 5 feet on 8 for another birdie and drained a 40-foot putt on 13, prompting a fan to yell, "The comeback has started!" While that might have been a bit of hyperbole, Woods hit another great approach shot on 16 to get back under par for the tournament and closed it out with another on 18 to the delight of the fans. "Just because I got off to a bad start doesn't mean it's over," he said. "Keep grinding, keep playing. And I was able to turn my round around today as well as yesterday. So rounds that could have easily slipped away and kind of gone the other way pretty easily I was able it to turnaround." The final round of 69 tied for Woods' second-best closing round ever at a U.S. Open, behind only the 67 at Pebble Beach in 2000 when he had a record-setting 15-stroke win. Now after starting the year by winning his first major since 2008 at the Masters, Woods has missed the cut at the PGA Championship last month and finished far out of the lead at the U.S. Open. He plans to take a few weeks off from competition before gearing up for a run at his 16th career major next month at the British Open, played on an unfamiliar course to him at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. "I'm looking forward to getting up there and taking a look at the golf course and trying to figure out," Woods said. "I hope that my practice rounds are such that we get different winds, especially on a golf course that I've never played, and to get a different feel how it could play for the week. And definitely have to do my homework once I get there.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 17th, 2019

Fowler and the USGA off to a good start at US Open

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Rickie Fowler had an ideal start Thursday in the U.S. Open, and so did the USGA. Pebble Beach was as gentle as could be in the opening round, and Fowler was among those who took advantage with six birdies for a 5-under 66, giving him a share of the early lead with Xander Schauffele and Louis Oosthuizen. The notorious wind off the Pacific coast was little more than a breeze. The course was lush green and relatively soft. The USGA wanted to start conservatively and make it progressively more difficult, a forecast of dry weather gives officials a lot more control. This was the day to take advantage. Schauffele, who keeps showing up in golf's biggest events, holed a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th to join Fowler at 66. Oosthuizen holed out for eagle from 95 yards at No. 11, his second hole of the day. "It's a very soft start to a U.S. Open, which is a good thing," Rory McIlroy said after a 68, his first sub-70 round at the U.S. Open since he won at Congressional in 2011. "They can do whatever they want with from here. It's not as if you're starting with a course that's in the condition like a Sunday, and then you get three days and it sort of starts to get away from you." Two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods played in the afternoon. Koepka reached 4 under through seven holes until a bogey on No. 8, while Woods had three birdies to atone for a double bogey on par-3 fifth. He was 1 under through seven. Scott Piercy made bogey on the 18th for a 67. He was the first player to get everyone's attention when he made three birdies and an eagle through the opening six holes — the scoring holes at Pebble — and was 5 under. Graeme McDowell saw the score when he walked off the 10th green at the start of his round and quipped to his caddie, "All the USGA radios are going off and they're saying, 'Turn off the water — NOW!'" McDowell won the last U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010 when it was so difficult he made only one birdie in the final round and no one broke par for the week. Even as he saw low scores on the board — he had a bogey-free 69, one of 16 rounds in the 60s among the early starters — McDowell feared what was to come. What really got his attention was Phil Mickelson being some 30 feet above the hole at No. 1, which should ordinarily have been a lightning fast putt. Mickelson left it short. "I don't think level par wins this week," he said. "Careful what you wish for, because I think we're going to see it come the weekend." Mickelson, in his fifth attempt at the career Grand Slam, opened with a 72 that certainly didn't hurt him, but only two birdies held him back. Two of his bogeys came from missing the fairway with an iron off the tee. The other was a careless three-putt — he missed from 22 inches. Dustin Johnson was only one shot better, and he could have been a lot worse except for a magnificent short game, no shot better than his flop shop from well behind the eighth green to 2 feet. He nearly drove the green on No. 4, a dangerous shot because the coast line hugs the right side. Why driver? "Because I'd bogeyed the last two holes," Johnson said with a wry smile. "I needed a birdie." That wasn't impatience that often dooms chances at a U.S. Open. That was recognition that scores were to be had, and this might be the best day. Fowler picked up three birdies in seven holes, dropped a shot at the turn and added three birdies on the back. It's the second time in three years at the U.S. Open he has started well — he had a 65 in the first round at Erin Hills — but the focus is on how he finishes. Even though he's 30, with seven victories on the PGA Tour and European Tour combined, Fowler is on that list of best without a major, perhaps because he's had so many top finishes. So the start was important. "It was very stress free," Fowler said. "You never feel in cruise control at a major, especially a U.S. Open, but the execution was very good today. ... It was the worst I could have shot, so that's a good thing. I'm happy with the start. You can't go out and win it up the first day, but you can obviously take yourself out of it and you're having to fight back." Schauffele also appears poised to break through in his third full year on tour. He first gained attention with his tie for fifth in his U.S. Open debut two years ago, and he tied for sixth last year at Shinnecock Hills. He also has runner-up finishes in the British Open and the Masters. His big break came at the end when he caught his drive off the toe and it hit off a rock framing the left side, bounding down the fairway. From there, he only had 8-iron to set up his eagle. "Very fortunate, and happy we capitalized on a really lucky break," he said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2019

Koepka survives Bethpage Black to win PGA Championship

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Brooks Koepka took his place in PGA Championship history with a wire-to-wire victory, minus the style points. In a raging wind that turned Bethpage Black into a beast, Koepka lost all but one shot of his record seven-shot lead Sunday. He lost the brutal Long Island crowd, which began chanting "DJ!" for Dustin Johnson as Koepka was on his way to a fourth straight bogey. But he delivered the key shots over the closing stretch as Johnson faded with two straight bogeys, and Koepka closed with a 4-over 74 for a two-shot victory and joined Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of the PGA Championship since it went to stroke play in 1958. Koepka said at the start of the week that majors are sometimes the easiest to win. This one should have been. It wasn't. His 74 was the highest final round by a PGA champion since Vijay Singh won in a playoff in 2004 at Whistling Straits. "I'm just glad I don't have to play any more holes," Koepka said. "That was a stressful round of golf. I'm glad to have this thing back in my hands." Koepka appeared to wrap it up with a gap wedge from 156 yards to 2 feet on the 10th hole for a birdie, as Johnson made his first bogey of the round up ahead on the 11th. That restored the lead to six shots, and the coronation was on. And then it all changed in a New York minute. Koepka missed three straight fairways and made three straight bogeys, having to make a 6-foot putt on No. 11 to keep it from being worse. The wind was so fickle that it died as he hit 7-iron to the par-3 14th that sailed over the green, leading to a fourth straight bogey. The crowd sensed a collapse, and began chanting, "DJ! DJ! DJ!" as Koepka was playing the hole. Ahead of him, Johnson made birdie on the 15th — the toughest hole at Bethpage Black all week — and the lead was down to one. That was as close as Johnson got. His 5-iron pierced through a wind that gusted close to 25 mph, over the green and into a buried lie. He missed the 7-foot par putt, went long of the green on the par-3 17th for another bogey and had to settle for 69. "Hit the shot I wanted to right at the flag," Johnson said of his 5-iron from 194 yards on the 16th. "I don't know how it flew 200 yards into the wind like that. Johnson now has runner-up finishes in all four of the majors, the wrong kind of career Grand Slam. "I gave it a run," he said. "That's all you can ask for." Koepka returned to No. 1 in the world with a performance that defines his dominance in golf's biggest events. He becomes the first player to hold back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time, having won a second straight U.S. Open last summer 60 miles down the road at Shinnecock Hills. He was the first wire-to-wire winner in the PGA Championship since Hal Sutton at Riviera in 1983. And what stakes his claim as one of the best in his generation was a third straight year winning a major. He joins a most elite group — only Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have done that since the Masters began in 1934. He now has four majors in his last eight, a streak not seen since Woods won seven out of 11 when he captured the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. Next up is the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where Koepka defends his title for the third time. No one has won the U.S. Open three straight years since Willie Anderson in 1905. No one will doubt whether Koepka is capable the way he is playing. The 29-year-old Floridian is an imposing figure, a power off the tee and out of the rough with no obvious weakness in his game and the kind of mental fortitude that majors require. He needed all of it over the final hour of this one. Koepka doesn't know his resting heart rate, and he said on the eve of the final round that it probably was not much different on the first tee of a major than when he was chilling on his couch. But he could feel this one getting away from him. He could sense Johnson making a charge. He could hear it. "How could you not with the 'DJ' chants," Koepka said. "I heard everything." Bethpage has a reputation for being over the top, and it irritated Harold Varner III, who shot 81 playing in the final group. "I thought it was pretty weird how they were telling Brooks to choke," Varner said about the 14th hole. "That's not my cup of tea. I was pulling for him after that." Koepka held it together at the most crucial moment. He piped his driver down the 15th fairway and two-putted for par. And he drilled another one into the 16th, which played the most difficult in the final round because it was into the wind. Johnson hit 5-iron just over the green. The wind died enough 20 minutes later that Koepka hit 7-iron only to 50 feet and had another good lag putt to get par. He kept it interesting to the end, three-putting the 17th as the lead went back to two shots, and pulling his driver on the 18th into fescue so thick it left him little choice but to lay up and scramble for par. Once his medium lob wedge settled 6 feet away, he could relax. Finally. Woods won the Wanamaker Trophy in consecutive years twice, in 1999 and 2000, and again in 2006 and 2007. Koepka was starting to draw comparisons with Woods for the way he obliterated the competition, much like Woods in his 12-shot victory in the 1997 Masters and 15-shot victory in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Koepka tied the PGA Championship record by opening with a 63. He broke the major championship record for 36 holes at 128. He set another PGA Championship record with his seven-shot lead. In the end, just having his name on the heaviest championship trophy in golf was all that mattered. Jordan Spieth registered his first top 10 since the British Open last summer with a 71 to finish at 2-under 278, six shots behind. He tied for third with Patrick Cantlay (71) and Matt Wallace (72). This really was a two-man race over the back nine that not many would have seen coming at the start of the final round. Only the outcome was expected......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2019