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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs

Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Watson shoots stunning final-round 63 to win the Travelers Championship
Jun 24, 2018 11:35 PM
 
Bubba Watson, as this blog noted on Friday, was something of a sleeper heading into the final round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut this week. For although no double-winner can ever be entirely discounted from proceedings (he claimed his maiden PGA Tour title in a play-off against Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank at River Highlands eight-years ago and won a second Travelers title in a play-off against Paul Casey in 2015), it is notable that his performances had tailed off badly since he surged back into the world’s top-50 following victories at the Genesis Open and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in February and March respectively. Indeed, Watson arrived in Connecticut off the back of an ignominious missed-cut at the US Open (his second Friday exit of the year), a result that he prefaced with indifferent T57 and T44 finishes at The Players Championship and Memorial respectively. The evidence of Thursday’s play suggested that the 39-year-old might struggle again this week; he carded three bogeys in four-holes on the back-nine and signed for a frustrating level-par total of 70 to sit seven shots shy of the overnight leaders, Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson. On Friday, however, his game caught fire; Bubba added six birdies to an eagle on the par-5 13th hole when he hit his approach shot from 229 yards to within 18 inches of the cup. Watson signed for a 7-under-par total of 63, tying the low score of the week and moving to within three shots of Brian Harman’s 10-under 36-hole lead. BUBBA! An incredible final-round 63 just gave @bubbawatson his third @TravelersChamp pic.twitter.com/jOP6OeXq33 — Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) June 24, 2018 Watson’s scoring contracted on moving-day; a third-round 67 left him six shots shy of Paul Casey’s 54-hole lead. However, the double-Masters champion rediscovered his best form on Sunday, carding a 7-under 63 for a three-stroke victory. Watson shot a 33 on the front nine but really got it going on the back with five birdies. He tied Casey at 16-under par by getting up and down from the bunker for a birdie on the course's signature 15th hole and birdied No.18 in order to open-up a two-shot lead. Unable to handle the pressure, Casey capitulated, carding back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th en route to a 2-over total 72. "I feel like this is my home course,'' Watson said. "As soon as they put the schedule up, I sign up for this. I want to come back here. This means so much, not only from the golf side of it, but from the family side. My dad, it was the only time he got to see me win (in 2010). He got to see me qualify for the Ryder Cup at this event. So all these things just mean so much to my family.'' Back-up to No.20 in the world, Watson looks well-placed to enjoy a strong summer period encompassing each of the final three majors of the year. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Pat Perez’s Momentum stalls at Travelers Championship
Jun 24, 2018 6:57 AM
 
Insofar as any player ever captures the popular golfing imagination during the wrap-around period – the grave-yard shift that follows the climax of the FedEx Cup in November and the start of the new PGA Tour season at Pebble Beach in February – Pat Perez did so last winter. The charismatic, barrel-chested 42-year-old (a self-conscious throw-back to a bygone era when bacon sandwiches and beer were the post-round snack de jure, not protean bars and energy drinks), long looked destined to go down in golfing history as one of the many PGA Tour pros who failed to translate an outstanding array of technical gifts into consistent top-level success. He won once through the course of his first 376 starts on the PGA Tour at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic, 12 years after turning professional way back in 1997, and finished the 2015 season ranked outside of the world’s top-160. But after undergoing shoulder surgery before beginning the 2016-'17 season, something clicked for the Arizona native; he claimed his second PGA Tour title by two strokes away from Gary Woodland at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November 2016 and, after surging-up the world rankings following a run of five top-10s in 2017, he won again by four strokes away from Keegan Bradley at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last October, topping a field containing world Nos. 3 and 4, Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama. In addition to catapulting Perez – a player who makes a virtue of his poor diet and blithe refusal to exercise in gyms – up to a career-high ranking of No.18 in the Official World Golf Rankings (ahead of players of the calibre of major winners: Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen), the Malaysia triumph provided him with a considerable head-start in the FedEx Cup points race. Paul Casey takes four-shot lead into final day of the Travelers Championship after brilliant round of 62https://t.co/2jENAU1Qwd pic.twitter.com/qC4oEpEn7p— Indy Sport (@IndySport) June 24, 2018 Some, more optimistic pundits even began to whisper of a tilt at Ryder Cup selection. Eight months on from the CIMB Classic, however, it is fair to assert that things have not really gone according to script. Perez arrived in Connecticut for the Travelers Championship this week ranked back outside of the world’s top-30 having missed three cuts and failed to break a single top-30 through his previous six starts over more than two months. Indeed, in 13 starts across all Tours since the turn of the year, Perez has managed just a single top-10 finish (in Kapalua in January) and he has slipped down as low as No.17 in the FedEx Cup points race. That ranking is likely to diminish further from Monday following an even-par, 36-hole total at the Travelers which culminated in another missed-cut on Friday. Perez’s recent contraction in form goes a long way towards substantiating the commonplace perspective that the wrap-around period exhibits a level of golf far below the standard of regular Tour events. Journeyman players of his profile are right to capitalise on that circumstance; however, commentators should be leery of overstating the significance of wrap-around period triumphs. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Bubba Watson Surges at Travelers Championship
Jun 23, 2018 8:19 AM
 
Bubba Watson was always likely to be a threat at the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut this week. For although the 39-year-old’s momentum has stalled somewhat since he claimed the Genesis Open and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in February and March respectively (he followed-up a T5 at Augusta with a T57-T44-MC run through his last three starts at The Players, Memorial and the US Open), he boasts an exceptional record on the Robert J. Ross and Maurice Kearney- designed track. Watson claimed his maiden PGA Tour title in a play-off against Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank at River Highlands eight-years ago. In 2015, he won a second Travelers title in a play-off against Paul Casey having carded an exceptional 16-under, 72-hole total. Connecticut was thus always likely to be a hospitable venue in Watson’s attempt to rediscover his best form. Interesting scenario here with Zach Johnson's birdie attempt:@ZachJohnsonPGA's ball sitting on the edge, then puts putter next to ball, and the ball drops. I think it's good for birdie, but could be wrong.#TravelersChampionship pic.twitter.com/fMjouDZs0K— Cam Rogers (@MrRogers99) 22 June 2018 The initial signs weren’t particularly promising; Watson carded three bogeys in four-holes on the back-nine of his opening round and signed for a frustrating level-par total of 70 to sit seven shots shy of the overnight leaders, Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson. On Friday, however, his game caught fire; Bubba added six birdies to an eagle on the par-5 13th hole when he hit his approach shot from 229 yards to within 18 inches of the cup. Watson signed for a 7-under-par total of 63, tying the low score of the week and moving to within three shots of Brian Harman’s 10-under 36-hole lead. The difference, according to the player, was between the ears. “Yesterday I was just thinking about some negative stuff instead of focusing on my target and focusing on the shot at hand,” Watson said. “I was focusing on hitting to the bunker, or focusing on, ‘Water is over here, so hit it over here.’ Just things like that, just things that you can’t do around the golf course. “Little bit less wind, little more confidence on the ball-striking, and I made putts. The key is making putts. When you start making putts, that’s where you’re going to score a decent number.” In addition to his Travelers Championship victories, Watson was a runner-up at River Highlands in 2012 and has accumulated nearly $3.5 million in earnings in 11 prior appearances on the Connecticut track. He is excels on venues where he feels comfortable (see Augusta and Riviera) and is well placed to complete a hat-trick at the Travelers on Sunday. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Zach Johnson rediscovers touch at Travelers Championship
Jun 22, 2018 7:09 AM
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Much popular media response to the opening round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut focused on the outstanding scores posted by two top-10 players who missed the cut at the US Open last week, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. For just as Spieth dropped six birdies and an eagle en route to a 7-under 63 to seize a share of the overnight lead, McIlroy signed for a 6-under 64 to draw to within a shot of the Texan at the top of the leaderboard. The attention lavished on these rounds is, of course, understandable. Every golf fan enjoys watching the best players in the world hit top-gear and, frankly, that has been an infrequent occurrence for Spieth and McIlroy alike over the previous 12 months. But away from the headlines, one of the most significant developments to emerge from Thursday’s play in Connecticut was the exceptional performance submitted by Zach Johnson. Far more than Spieth and McIlroy, Johnson is enduring a difficult patch in his career. While he impressed in tying for 12th at Shinnecock last week, he has only managed a single top-10 finish in 13 starts this season and has not meaningfully contended for a title in almost a year. Sitting at +8 through three rounds, Zach Johnson isn't pleased with the US Open course conditions. pic.twitter.com/lKLMAWeR48— ESPN (@espn) June 16, 2018 Indeed, the 42-year-old is winless in three seasons since claiming his second major championship title at The Open at St Andrews in 2015, a barren run that has caused him to slip from 13th in the Official World Golf Rankings as of 31 December 2015, to No.54 as of the beginning of this week. In this light it has been enormously heartening to observe the strength of his performance through the first 18-holes of the Travelers Championship; such has rekindled hopes that the modest, quietly spoken Iowan may yet force his way into Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup selection for Le Golf National in Paris this autumn. Back-to-back birdies on the par-4 fourth and par-5 fifth-holes ensured he reached the turn at 2-under; it was on the back-nine, however, that his play ignited with a run of six consecutive birdies between holes 11 and 16. A bogey on par-4 seventeenth swiftly stymied Johnson’s momentum, but he finished with a solid par to sign for a 7-under total and a share of Spieth’s advantage. A victory would place him firmly back in contention for a fifth consecutive Ryder Cup start in Paris this autumn; the challenge will be sustaining such scoring across the weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Johnson aiming to rebound from Shinnecock at Travelers Championship
Jun 21, 2018 12:17 PM
 
In the end, it was just not to be for Dustin Johnson. The 33-year-old arrived at Shinnecock Golf Club last week trading as the bookmaker’s heavy, 8/1 pre-tournament favourite to claim a second US Open title in three seasons. After all, he had just registered his second victory of 2018 by six shots away from Andrew Putnam at the FedEx St Jude Classic the previous weekend, a victory that enabled him to reclaim the world No.1 spot from Justin Thomas. By Friday evening, Johnson had gone a long way towards vindicating his favourite-status; a 1-under-par Thursday total of 69 followed by a 3-under second-round 67 ensured that he reached the half-way point with a 4-shot lead. His position was further strengthened by the fact four of the world’s top-10 – Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day – missed the eight-over-par cut-mark; a third processional victory of the season looked very much on the cards. Then, disaster struck; Johnson carded six bogeys and a double en route to a 7-over 77 on Saturday, and while he still teed-off for the final-round with a share of the 54-hole lead, the aura of invincibility that characterised his play on Thursday and Friday had long since dissipated. He posted four bogeys during the Sunday session and failed to break par, finishing two shots back from champion, Brooks Koepka at 3-over. Early Market Odds to win #PGA British Open starting July 19th from BetOnline:Dustin Johnson +1000Rory McIlroy +1200Jordan Spieth +1400Justin Rose +1400Brooks Koepka +1600Justin Thomas +1600Rickie Fowler +1600Tommy Fleetwood +1600#TigerWoods +2000Henrik Stenson +2500 pic.twitter.com/3beMWVHayJ— SBR Sports Picks (@SBRSportsPicks) June 21, 2018 In light of such a traumatic near-miss, a player could be forgiven for taking some time away from the sport for physical and psychological recuperation – not Johnson. Rather than ruminate on squandered opportunities at Shinnecock, he has elected to travel to Connecticut and tee-it-up for a third straight week at the Travelers Championship. The wisdom of this decision is, of course, debatable; however, one of Johnson’s greatest strengths as a golfer is an uncanny ability to move quickly on from disappointments and shed emotional baggage, something he has accrued a lot of over the years. Pundits frequently treat such psychological sanguinity in a flippant manner, depicting it as a manifesting a general lack of intelligence. Fore sure, Johnson is no scholar, but as Michael Bamberger emphasised in an article for Golf.com last week, there is more than one type of intelligence: “I followed Johnson around when he made an early trip to Erin Hills. He was figuring things out about the course so fast it was mind-boggling. He put a pencil in the middle of one green and said, ‘If they put the pin there, you can't get it close.’ Then he demonstrated with a lag putt the truth of his observation. Then the other players in his group did the same. It was cool. Maybe that's why he plays U.S. Opens so well, on difficult courses you have to figure out in a hurry.” Johnson may well bounce straight back to winning ways in Connecticut. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
McIlroy must refocus after Shinnecock debacle
Jun 20, 2018 12:58 PM
 
By any objective measure, Rory McIlroy has enjoyed a fine first half of the 2018 PGA Tour season. In addition to ending a gruelling, eighteen-month trophy drought in spectacular fashion at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March – posting five birdies through his final six holes on Sunday – he has twice finished as a runner-up on the European Tour (in Dubai in January and at Wentworth last month) and posted a further three top-10 finishes through 14 starts across all Tours. This form has propelled the 29-year-old comfortably back inside of the world’s top-10 after he slipped outside of that elite-band for the first time in over five-years at the end of 2017, and he is a dead-cert to anchor Europe’s quest to regain the Ryder Cup in Paris in the autumn. It is a testament, therefore, to the exceptionally high-level of expectation that the Northern Irishman has generated since claiming his maiden major championship title at Congressional seven-years ago that his 2018 campaign still carries a feint air of disappointment. For as impressive as his overall statistics have been, it cannot be overlooked that he squandered strong final-round positions at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the Dubai Desert Classic, The Masters and the BMW PGA Championship. Such a pleasure to play @TheAdareManor today. The golf course is parkland perfection. The exhibition match finished level with the real winner being the stunning venue. Roll on #JPProAm2020 ⛳️ pic.twitter.com/3e4I1UBvnY — Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) April 20, 2018 Furthermore, the catastrophic nature of McIlroy’s 10-over-par missed-cut at the US Open at Shinnecock Golf Club last week – his third consecutive Friday exit at America’s oldest major – has prompted several commentators to ponder whether he has lost the clinical edge that rendered him a serial winner at major championship level between 2011 and 2014. Reflecting on his compatriot’s capitulation at Shinnecock, for instance, the victorious 2014 European Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, suggested that McIlroy’s problems are more psychological than technical and stem from a failure to adjust his approach in a manner appropriate to accommodate the demands of radically altered competitive landscape since claiming his fourth major title at Valhalla four-years ago. “There are definitely issues that need to be addressed,” McGinley observed. “But I certainly don’t see it as technical. “He’s not the new kid on the block anymore. When he was winning his major championships, the last of which was four years ago, he was out on his own, he drove the ball better than anyone else. But now there are four, five six guys who can drive as long and as straight as him. “He’s made a lot of money in the last number of years, won his tournaments and has a big CV and is well known around the world. This is a new phase of his career and it’s going to take a new attitude and a new drive to go with it. That’s what missing.” Whether McIlroy retains the competitive drive that propelled him to the world No.1 spot for the guts of three-seasons between 2012 and 2015 is impossible for an outside observer to gauge; however, the Down-native’s window for racking-up major titles is narrowing at a rate commensurate with the emergence of exceptional young talent out of the US collegiate system like Jordan Spieth (24), Justin Thomas (25) and John Rahm (22), all of whom are presently positioned above McIlroy in the world rankings. For the first time since he was displaced at the summit of the world game by Spieth three-years ago, McIlroy is having to confront the prospect that he might fail to add to the four major titles he claimed by the age of 24. If that grim circumstance does not revitalise his approach to the sport, nothing will. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Fleetwood can draw confidence from near-miss at Shinnecock
Jun 19, 2018 1:14 PM
 
For a long-time on Sunday afternoon, it seemed Tommy Fleetwood was set to enter the history books courtesy of one of the finest final round comebacks in US Open history. The 27-year-old started the final session six shots shy of Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and Daniel Berger who held a share of the 3-over 54-hole lead; by the time he returned to clubhouse, he was alone atop the leaderboard. Taking full advantage of a heavily watered-down golf course (in both a literal and figurative sense), Fleetwood completed the front nine in just 32 strokes to reach the turn at 3-under. A sensational run of four consecutive birdies between holes 12-15 suddenly hoved the prospect of a record-breaking round of 62 into view; however, the Englishman missed birdie putts from 13 feet, 20 feet and 9 feet on his last three holes and ultimately needed to content himself with a 7-under total 63 and a one-shot lead. A long wait then ensued as Fleetwood returned to the clubhouse to watch Johnson, Berger, Finau and Koepka attempt to dislodge him at the summit of the leaderboard, and it was not until Koepka birdied the par-5 16th to seize a two-shot lead that it seemed likely he would miss out on a play-off spot. HISTORY Tommy Fleetwood ties the lowest ever #USOpen round. pic.twitter.com/TVfozpmtkm— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) June 17, 2018 The Sheffield-native ultimately finished in outright second, one shot shy of Koepka’s 1-over winning total. Reflecting on such a fine margin of defeat, it seems natural that a player might be tempted to retreat into a reductive, brooding analysis of near-misses, but if Fleetwood’s post-tournament press-conference is anything to go by, he derived nothing but confidence from Sunday’s experience. “I had a chance to make history and I wouldn’t do anything differently,” he said. “I made my highest finish in a major and it’s just more proof I can get up there. I did it a bit differently this time, because I struggled and fell away a bit in the third round but came back really well. “Overall, it’s another great week. I have been playing consistently without any really big results and this one came out of the blue a little bit with a great performance on Sunday but there are so many positives. You’re always going to be a bit disappointed to come up one short in a major but I’ll give it another go.” There is good reason to suspect that next “go” will yield dividends. After all, Fleetwood, now ranked No.10 in the world, claimed his third title in two seasons by two shots away from Ross Fischer at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January and has since gone on to register four top-10s in 12 starts. It is only a matter of time until he makes a breakthrough at the highest level of the sport, and what would be a more fitting occasion than at The Open Championship at Carnoustie next month? [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka endorses elite credentials following U.S. Open double
Jun 18, 2018 12:52 PM
 
Willie Anderson (1903-05). John McDermott (1911-12). Bobby Jones (1929-30). Ralph Guldahl (1937-38). Ben Hogan (1950-51). Curtis Strange (1988-89). Not bad company for a golfer to keep, eh? Well, a battling performance at Shinnecock Hills on Sunday has ensured that Brooks Koepka has ascended into this elite band as only the sixth player in the history of the sport to retain the US Open title. In addition to propelling the 28-year-old to a new career-high ranking of world No.4, this week’s victory has surely put to bed any lingering debates regarding Koepka’s bona fides as a top-10 player. After all, the emphatic, at times processional nature of the Floridian’s four-stroke triumph away from Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama at Erin Hills 12 months ago was somewhat marred by accusations that he is merely a bomber who availed of an unusually easy US Open set-up to claim what was, in effect, a regular PGA Tour victory veiled in the trappings of a major title. For in addition to equalling the US Open's lowest winning total of 16-under, Koepka effectively bludgeoned the 7,845-yard course (the longest in major championship history) into submission, driving the ball an average of 307-yards off the tee and hitting 88% of fairways through 72-holes. BACK TO BACK!Brooks Koepka becomes the first back to back #USOpen champion since Curtis Strange in 1989 pic.twitter.com/gvVqddCwnw— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 17, 2018 To the purists, the 1.83m, 186lb American was a flat-track bully who had yet to demonstrate the technical nuance and strategic intelligence required to be considered a serious major level golfer. Following events at Shinnecock, there can be no doubt regarding Koepka’s potential longevity in the top-10; if Erin Hills was a procession, this was truly a grind. Koepka teed-off for the final-round in a four-way share for the 3-over lead alongside Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and Daniel Berger having bookended a sensational 4-under second-round 66 with scores of 75 and 71 on Thursday and Saturday respectively. Three birdies in the first five holes ensured Koepka reached the turn with a single-stroke advantage away from Johnson, Patrick Reed and the 2-over clubhouse leader, Tommy Fleetwood, and a further birdie on the 10th moved him two clear of the chasing-pack. Thereafter came the key moments; he rattled home a bogey putt at the 11th when a far higher score had looked probable. He also saved par from tricky situations at the 12th and 13th before a wonderful approach to the par-five 16th gave him the two-shot cushion that was to prove crucial. A coolly-taken bogey on the par-4 18th was sufficient to seal the title by a stroke away from Fleetwood courtesy of a 2-under final round 68 for a 1-over total. This was a triumph of will as well as technique and physicality from Koepka, who has now posted two victories and five top-10s in his last 15 major starts. There can be no questioning the validity of his elite-level credentials. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Daniel Berger capitalises on day of chaos at US Open
Jun 17, 2018 5:45 AM
 
Daniel Berger was not much talked about in the lead-up to the US Open at Shinnecock Golf Club this week. After all, the 25-year-old arrived in New York off the back of a missed-cut when attempting to defend his FedEx St Jude Classic title in Memphis last weekend and had failed to register a single top-10 finish through the course of his first 12 starts of the year. This form caused Berger to fall from a career-high ranking of No.18 in the world 12 months ago to No.43 as of Monday and, as this blog reflected last Friday: “on current form, he will do well to finish the season ranked inside of the world’s top-50.” The value represented by pre-tournament odds in excess of 60/1 was further undermined when one accounted for the fact that he missed his fourth cut through just 12 major championship starts at Erin Hills last year and had never finished higher than T10 at one of the sport’s four biggest events. As the pre-tournament betting went, therefore, it was difficult to settle on a less-appealing outright winner than Berger. The 15th at the US Open. A Joke. pic.twitter.com/mRrM4hQaSw— Tweeter Alliss (@TweeterAlliss) June 16, 2018 The sloppy, inconsistent nature of the Floridian’s performance through the first two rounds at Shinnecock swiftly endorsed such pessimism. While he did well to avoid the fate of players of the calibre of Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia in missing the eight-over-par cut-mark, a 6-over opening-round 76 followed by a 71 on Friday left him a full 11 shots shy of Dustin Jonson’s 4-under lead going into the weekend. Generously put, he was playing for position. It is a testament to the unravelling of this tournament on Saturday afternoon, therefore, that a 4-under third-round 66 propelled Berger from 45th place to a tie for 1st heading into the final round. Berger, teed off more than four hours before the leaders and effectively wound-up playing a different course owing to the fact he dodged the high winds that swept through Long Island in the late-afternoon. Indeed, Johnson, who made only four bogeys over his first 36 holes, posted four bogeys and a double in the next nine holes. He shot a third-round 77, yet somehow he is still tied for the lead with Berger and Tony Finau heading into Sunday. "I didn't feel like I played badly at all," Johnson said. "Seven over, you know, is usually a terrible score." Golf is a most capricious sport and, after five months of toil, the cookie has finally crumbled in Berger’s favour. Sunday will reveal much about his capacity to capitalise upon such good fortune. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Dustin Johnson seizes advantage as US Open bites back
Jun 16, 2018 7:05 AM
 
The US Open organisers, the USGA, style their tournament as ‘the ultimate test in golf’; it is an event that has historically been characterised by pinched fairways, thick-cut rough, cavernous bunkers, laser-fast greens and tight scoring at or around par by the leaders. It is striking, for instance, that when the event was last staged at Shinnecock Golf Club in New York 14 years ago, only three players managed to break par over the weekend and no one did so on Sunday. At four and two-under respectively, winner, Retief Goosen and runner-up, Phil Mickelson were the only two members of the 156-man field to depart Shinnecock with sub-par scorecards. Such parsimonious scoring was widely regarded as the USGA’s revenge for the humiliation that occurred 12-months previously when Jim Furyk shattered the tournament scoring record by shooting eight-under at Olympia Fields. A similar dynamic was observable at Olympic Club in 2012, a year on from Rory McIlroy’s record-breaking 16-under triumph at Congressional, when Webb Simpson won the tournament at one-over. In this light, it should perhaps come as no surprise that Shinnecock has once again been setup in a manner designed to punish the sport’s elite. Brook’s Koepka’s record-equalling, 16-under winning total at Erin Hills last year was widely seen to have emasculated the US Open and marked the fourth consecutive year in which the winner emerged with a below-par scorecard. A reaction was inevitable and, this week, Shinnecock has bitten back with a vengeance. Four of the world’s top-10 – Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day – missed the eight-over-par (yes, OVER-par) cut-mark, while a resurgent Tiger Woods slumped to just his eighth ever missed-cut at a major championship. Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia joined him on Friday evening. Birdie from the water?! Dustin Johnson can do it all.#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/Jshyb7D2Q6 — PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 8, 2018 Surveying such carnage, it is tempting to conclude that the USGA have overcompensated for the disaster that was Erin Hills and have ended-up sabotaging their own tournament by making the course too punishing. The difficulty with such an analysis, however, is the fact that the only member of the 156-man field with a sub-par, 36-hole scorecard is the best player in the world, Dustin Johnson. The world No.1 followed-up a solid one-under opening round 69 with a 67 on Friday and consequently takes a four-shot advantage away from Scott Piercy and Charley Hoffman into the weekend. The USGA will be hoping DJ closes-out a second victory in as many weeks on Sunday; for it is ultimately only the exceptional nature of his scoring that protects them from being condemned once more for rendering the sport unplayable, even for the best golfers in the world. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
McIlroy labours to horror score at Shinnecock
Jun 15, 2018 12:27 PM
 
It is a testament to the essential capriciousness of Rory McIlroy’s form this season that so many pundits struggled to articulate a confident prediction of how he would fare at this week’s US Open at Shinnecock Golf Club. On the one hand, it was possible to point to an exceptional record of five top-10s and a tournament victory (at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March) through 13 starts as evidence that the world No.6 is to be considered a serious contender to claim a fifth major title in New York. Pre-tournament odds of 14/1 endorsed such a perspective. On the other hand, one could cite his squandering of strong final-round positions at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the Dubai Desert Classic, The Masters and the BMW PGA Championship to substantiate the claim that McIlroy has lost the clinical edge that rendered him a serial winner at major championship level between 2011 and 2014. Indeed, it was difficult to overlook the fact that, in six US Open starts since triumphing at Valhalla, the 29-year-old has failed to register a single top-20, missing three cuts, including in each of the last two seasons. In short, it was impossible to predict which McIlroy would turn-up. Rory McIlroy began the day with 14-1 odds to win the U.S. Open according to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, tied for the 3rd-best odds in the field. Through 12 holes, he is +10 (T75 of 78 players) which would be his worst score to par in any round of any major of his career. pic.twitter.com/kgmEqukdCe— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2018 As it transpired, a catastrophic, 10-over-par opening-round of 80 more than vindicated the sceptics; McIlroy’s only cause for comfort is the fact that he is in good company: playing partners, Phil Mickelson (77) and Jordan Spieth (78) were also victims of a vicious course setup that has provoked the ire of many elite players. 12 months on from Brooks Koepka’s 16-under triumph at Erin Hills, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the USGA are seeking to re-establish the US Open’s claim to be considered the most difficult major in the sport. The fact that players of the calibre of McIlroy, Mickelson and Spieth have effectively been knocked out of contention on Thursday evening suggests that the tournament officials may have somewhat overcompensated. The damage was done early on. Starting at the 10th, McIlroy found himself six over after only five holes having produced back-to-back double bogeys. There was another at the 1st, his 10th, to compound a first half of 42. McIlroy sought to repair some of the damage with birdies at the 5th and 6th but those shots were handed back to the course before his scorecard was signed. McIlroy was unsurprisingly reluctant to open-up to the media upon returning to the clubhouse (“What do you want me to say? I shot 80. I’m disappointed”); however, there can be little doubt that the experience of shooting 10-over on one of the most important rounds of the season will sap moral and confidence. Unfortunately, fans are growing increasingly accustomed to observing McIlroy underperform on the biggest stage. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Spieth aiming to end ‘frustrating’ run of form at US Open
Jun 14, 2018 12:35 PM
Tags: US Open   News   Shinnecock Hills   Jordan Spieth  
 
At first glance, Jordan Spieth has every reason to be optimistic of his chances of claiming a second US Open title at Shinnecock Golf Club this week. After all, the 24-year-old travels to New York at No.5 in the Official World Golf Rankings; he’s comfortably positioned at No.32 in the FedEx Cup standings and has registered four top-10 finishes, including back-to-back top-threes at the Houston Open and The Masters in April, through 14 starts since the turn of the year. Should the Texan hit top form, there is every reason to suspect he is capable of outscoring an elite field in order to claim his fourth major championship victory since 2015. However, the difficulty with this analysis is that Spieth has come nowhere close to recapturing the form that propelled him to his most recent tournament victory at The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale last July. Indeed, the thrilling nature of his final round 63 at Augusta papered over a multitude of sins and distracted the popular golfing media from assessing the true extent of his regression over the past six months. In four starts since The Masters, Spieth has failed to post a single top-20 finish (T41-T21-T32-MC) and has missed as many cuts in 2018 (4) as he has registered top-10s. Most worrying is the fact that Spieth’s accuracy with the putter – the facet of his game that, more than any other, underpinned his ascent to the elite-band of professional golf – appears to have dissipated. Rory +10Jordan +8Phil +7Golf is fun. Golf is fun. Golf is fun. Golf is fun. Golf is fun. Golf is fun. pic.twitter.com/4ZrF7xblG9— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) June 14, 2018 Spieth ranks 190th out of 205 qualified players in strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour this season, a metric that measures each shot a player takes based on how much it reduces his expected score on a given hole, relative to the field average. Given that he has only once previously slipped outside of the top-40 in this category (he briefly went down to 42nd last year) and finished in the top 10 in 2015 and 2016, the precipitous nature of this decline is extremely difficult to fathom. Indeed, Spieth languishes outside the PGA Tour’s top 140 for putts inside of 5 feet, putts from 5 to 10 feet, putts from 10 to 15 feet, putts from 15 to 20 feet and putts from 20 to 25 feet, while he sits 91st for putts exceeding 25 feet. Put simply, he is not converting from any kind of distance on the green, a dynamic crystallised in an infamous three-putt from five-feet on his final hole at The Players Championship. Spieth remains one of the most mentally and physically accomplished golfers in the professional game and, as yet, there is no reason to conceptualise this dip in form as heralding the onset of an irrevocable decline. It does, however, speak to the inherent vulnerability of a golf-game built around consistency on the greens. No golfer can ever render himself completely immune from the infuriating and beguiling caprice of the putter and Spieth is presently enduring the consequences of his failure to develop of any kind of ‘Plan B’. Until the Texan cultivates a tee-to-green game capable of compensating for fluctuations in form when putting, he will always been susceptible to ‘frustrating’ dips such as that which he is presently experiencing. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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