ORLANDO, Fla. – We’ve seen this one before. A world-class player amasses an early lead. His closest challengers spin in neutral, or even begin to fall back. He protects his lead through conservative strategy, but his advantage continues to build, birdie by birdie, until the field is left in his wake. A familiar scenario, but with a rare twist: It’s playing out with Tiger Woods on the couch at home. Friday, like Thursday, was Adam Scott’s day, and it appears likely that this will be Adam Scott’s week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Beginning the day with a three-shot advantage after an opening 62, Scott carded a 4-under 68 at Bay Hill on a day when low scores were hard to come by. At 14 under par, he takes a seven-shot lead into the weekend as he closes in on the top spot in the world rankings. “I think it was a pretty good way to back up a low round,” Scott said. “It’s not easy to do that, especially around a tough course.” Others were more effusive in their assessments of Scott’s play. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, videos and photos “He’s going to be a tough guy to catch, guy that hits it as good as he does and seems to have a complete game like he has,” said Brandt Snedeker, who is eight shots back after a Friday 71. “And the way he’s playing now he’s not going to come backwards. Seems like an awfully special week if you can get close to him.” Bay Hill has hosted some routs over the past 15 years, but each has been authored by Woods, an eight-time champion here. Woods won by four shots in 2000 and 2002, cleared the field by five in 2012 and won by a whopping 11 shots in 2003. That margin may seem a little less whopping by the time Scott gets done this week. The Aussie has spent the past two days channeling the game plan of the current world No. 1, whom he will replace atop the rankings next month if he wins this week. While Scott’s putter cooled somewhat after his course record-tying effort Thursday, he still made enough putts coming home to obliterate the tournament record for a 36-hole lead, which had been four shots. “Yesterday was just one of those days where everything fell into place for me,” Scott said. “Today I just stayed patient on those holes where I didn’t do as well yesterday and felt like if you keep playing this well and hitting good shots, you’re going to create a few opportunities.” Scott birdied No. 9 to make the turn in 1 under, knocking in a 12-foot putt that he later said was a key to his round. Birdies followed on Nos. 11, 12, 15 and 16, ballooning his lead to eight shots at one point. Taking another page out of a Woods narrative, Scott benefited from the futility of his nearest competitors. Ryo Ishikawa and John Merrick teed off at 7 under, within three shots of Scott. Both carded 2-over 74s. With winds picking up in the afternoon, no one was able to make a run at Scott. In fact, the Aussie’s 68 was bettered only by Keegan Bradley, whose 67 hoisted him 35 spots into a tie for fifth. Scott’s seven-shot cushion through 36 holes is the third-largest on the PGA Tour since 1970, and the largest since Jose Maria Olazabal carried a nine-shot edge into the weekend at Firestone in 1990. Despite the head start, Scott remains cautious. “I think we’re only halfway,” he said. “Seven shots over two days is not enough. I don’t think you can ever be enough (in the) lead, to be honest.” Scott is no stranger to sizeable advantages – five of his 10 PGA Tour wins have been by three strokes or more. He indicated he has no interest in protecting the lead, just increasing it. “I think when you’ve got momentum, you’ve got to go with it,” he said. “Whether it’s in your round when you’re getting hot and you’re 6 under, you’ve got to think that’s going to be a day when you can push it to 10. And then when you come out the next day, you’ve got to try to get your foot on the gas as well. You never know when the momentum is going to run out.” There’s still plenty of golf to play, but through two rounds, Adam Scott has taken the Tiger Woods script and made it his own.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Angel Cabrera never knows when he’s going to play his best golf. This could be shaping up as one of those weeks at the Wells Fargo Championship. On a Quail Hollow course that lets the Argentine hit driver on just about every hole, two exquisite short-game shots late in the second round carried Cabrera to a 3-under 69 on Friday and a share of the lead with Martin Flores going into the weekend. It was the first time Cabrera had at least a share of the 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour since the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. The last time he was part of the lead after any round was in the 2013 Masters. With one of the most powerful and reliable swings in golf, the mystery about the 44-year-old Argentine is that his only two wins on the PGA Tour are majors – Oakmont for the U.S. Open, and Augusta National when he won the Masters in a playoff in 2009. ”I’m of course happy to be in position to win this tournament, but every time I go out and play, I’m hoping to win,” Cabrera said. ”It’s difficult to know exactly when you’re going to play well. I don’t think anybody knows when they’re going to play well.” Flores couldn’t ask for a better start, and his finish wasn’t too bad, either. Flores began his second round birdie-eagle when he holed out with a wedge from 105 yards in the 11th fairway. He added a pair of birdies late in his round for a 68. Wells Fargo Championship: Articles, photos and videos They were at 9-under 135, one shot ahead of Justin Rose, who had a 67. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy went the other direction. Mickelson, one shot out of the lead to start the second round and perfect conditions ahead of him, seemed to miss every putt that he made on Thursday. He had a 75 and fell seven shots out of the lead. ”I can’t believe the difference in putting from yesterday to today,” Mickelson said. ”Yesterday, I saw every ball go in the hole. And today I couldn’t get them to fall and was three-putting, which is funny because the greens today were so perfect. … I struggled today. I don’t have any great reason. It didn’t feel far off. ”I just struggled getting the ball in the hole.” So did McIlroy, starting with a three-putt from 18 feet on the second hole. He drove behind a tree on the third hole and hit into a bush on the fourth hole, both times taking a penalty drop and making double bogey. He wound up with a 76 and made the cut on the number at 1-over 145. McIlroy missed five putts from 6 feet or closer. ”I just didn’t have my game today,” McIlroy said. ”Off the tee it was good. I didn’t get the ball close enough. My putting didn’t feel as comfortable as it did yesterday.” The 16th hole sized up his day. McIlroy blasted a tee shot beyond the crest of the hill, a 375-yard drive that left him a simple wedge to the green. He wound up making bogey when he missed from just inside 4 feet. The biggest turnaround in the other direction belonged to Brendon de Jonge, who grew up in Zimbabwe and now lives in Charlotte. He opened with an 80, and followed that by tying the course record at Quail Hollow with a 62. Now he’s tied with Mickelson. ”Strange game,” de Jonge said. The leaderboard was filled with players trying to win for the first time. Flores is in his fourth full season on the PGA Tour and has never finished in the top three. Shawn Stefani had a 68 and was two shots behind, while Kevin Kisner had a 66 and was three back. And there are plenty of major champions who haven’t been heard from much over the last few years. Martin Kaymer (2010 PGA Championship) had his second straight round of 69. Stewart Cink (2009 British Open) salvaged bogey from the water on the 17th and finished with a birdie for a 70. They were in the group at 6-under 138. Geoff Ogilvy (2006 U.S. Open) had seven birdies in his round of 67 and was four shots behind. Leading the way was Cabrera, who only seems to win majors. He made his move late with four birdies, and the last two were superb. Cabrera hit 8-iron over the lip of a fairway bunker on the par-5 seventh hole, but left himself 40 yards from a front pin. He played a pitch-and-run to about 5 feet behind the hole for a birdie to tie for the lead. ”The chip was more complicated,” he said. ”I needed to decide if I wanted to bring it up or keep it low and let it bump, so I ended up doing that. It was a great shot.” Then, he judged perfectly with a flop shot out of the rough from in front of the short par-4 eighth hole, and made the 3-foot putt for birdie to take the lead. He drove into the rough on the ninth, clipped the top of a tree and sent his ball into a bunker and failed to save par.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Tiger’s done. Tiger’s back. Let the faceless social media give-and-take commence, not that any of the background noise will slip through Woods’ long-established firewall. Whatever happens on Sunday at the Wyndham Championship, Woods has made it abundantly clear it’s all part of a larger plan, the often-referenced “process” from competitive struggles to something more than simply a curiosity. Crowds that swelled to more than 32,000 on Saturday at Sedgefield Country Club suggest otherwise, but any hint that a victory would somehow be worth more than the sum of its parts was quickly dismissed by Woods. “I’m not looking at it like that,” said Woods, whose third-round 68 left him two shots behind Jason Gore. “I’m two back right now. I can go out there tomorrow and make a run and get myself up there and make some birdies. Anybody can make a run and shoot the score that Jason and Jonas [Blixt] did.” It turns out Davis Love III was right, that Sedgefield was the tonic for what ails Woods’ game. For the week he ranks 16th in driving accuracy, he’s averaged 302 yards off the tee and is 10th in the field in proximity to the hole. But the key this week has been about what has transpired on Sedgefield’s speedy putting surfaces. Woods’ play at the Wyndham is reminiscent of the Old Tiger, the guy who didn’t make every putt, just the ones that matter. Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos Specifically it’s been the par putts, the must-make moments to maintain momentum that have separated a chance to win Tour title No. 80 and another tie for 18th place, like his finish at the Quicken Loans National where he also felt like his driving and iron game were on point. “I felt good. Very steady from the word go,” said Woods, who has converted 44 of 49 putts from inside 10 feet. “I felt like I could be aggressive today. I took a few runs at putts and ripped them past the hole. I just never felt like I was going to miss any of them.” Clutch moments like at the 10th hole when he missed the green right, drew a bad lie and converted a 24-footer for par. And at the 11th when he calmly rolled in a 4-foot par save and from 5 feet at the 14th hole and 4 1/2 feet at No. 17. In fact, the only par putt he didn’t convert was at the 18th hole when he ran his birdie attempt 5 1/2 feet by the hole and lipped out his par save. Otherwise it’s been a clinic for a guy who has felt as if he was just one key moment away from a breakthrough. Your 54-hole front-runner Gore could relate. After years of pedestrian play the affable veteran scorched Sedgefield with a 62 to move to 15 under and alone atop the leaderboard. Like Woods, it’s a spot he hasn’t felt was that far away despite a season that’s included just a single top-10 finish. “I felt like I’ve been one momentum swing away. Like getting up and down on a par 5, something like that,” Gore said. “That’s what’s been so frustrating. You have to put your head forward and plow forward and keep moving. That’s probably what he’s going through.” While a Wyndham win would go a long way to bolstering Woods’ battered psyche, if not quiet the expanding crowd of armchair swing coaches, it’s what an 11th-hour walk-off would do for his competitive fortunes that may be more interesting. A victory is projected to move him into the top 75 on the FedEx Cup points list and effectively assure him a spot at not only next week’s Barclays but also the second playoff stop at TPC Boston, where he won in 2006. It would also move him into the top 75 on the U.S. Presidents Cup points list with just two weeks remaining before captain Jay Haas makes his wild-card selections. Although normally No. 70-something wouldn’t be elevated to “captain’s pick” consideration, even with a victory, but this is Tiger Woods. Haas’ assistant captain Davis Love III has become something of a confidant to the former world No. 1 in recent weeks. As farfetched as it may seem considering the last two years for Woods, those of Haas’ generation have a preconditioned image of Tiger that is not easily clouded by a recent string of missed cuts and mediocre play. Put another way, a victory on Sunday would add up to much more than simply Woods’ 80th Tour title. It would be a reason to be optimistic, maybe even provide a measure of validation, but then Tiger historically doesn’t think in those terms. “I’m having a good time,” said Woods, his shirt soaked with sweat and admittedly “stiff” after playing back-to-back weeks for the first time since February. “It helps to play better and the atmosphere is incredible.” Woods showed up at the Wyndham Championship to give this season one final chance, and a “W” on Sunday would certainly stand as an unqualified success, but his play this week will be measured in much more subtle terms. He didn’t travel down Tobacco Road to prove he’s back or that he wasn’t done. He’s here to show that this process is nothing more than a road that had to be traveled no matter how long or difficult it may seem.
JACKSON, Miss. – Roberto Castro’s second round at the Sanderson Farms Championship included some sunshine, thunderstorms, a five-hour rain delay, yellowjackets and a snake. None of it mattered. He navigated the elements and the unwelcome wildlife to shoot a 5-under 67 on Friday at the Country Club of Jackson to take a four-stroke lead. ”That’s why I stay in the city,” Castro said. ”I’m not good in nature.” But he has been very good in Mississippi, following up a 10-under 62 on Thursday with another impressive round. The highlight was an eagle on the par-4 eighth when his 122-yard shot with a pitching wedge spun back about 10 feet into the cup. ”It’s fun to get one to fall,” Castro said. ”Sometimes you go a couple of years without making one and then you make a couple in a couple weeks.” Bryce Molder, Jhonattan Vegas and D.J. Trahan were tied for second at 11 under. Molder shot a 69, while Vegas and Trahan had two holes remaining when play was suspended for the day. Molder had two bogeys and five birdies, including a tricky 6-foot putt for birdie on the final hole. ”To knock it in the middle felt good to at least finish that way,” Molder said. But the story of the day was once again Castro, a 30-year-old who is winless on the tour in more than 100 starts. He struggled with his driving on occasion during the second round, but made it up for it with a good short game and putting. It helped that the course was once again exceptionally soft, making for forgiving landings on the green when trying to power out of the rough. ”For how much rain they’ve had, (the course is) holding up well,” Castro said. Castro played three holes before the five-hour delay, making a birdie on No. 3 before the rain came. His round really because interesting when play resumed. He was on No. 5 when a yellowjacket crawled up his shirt and stung him on the left side. He said he hadn’t been stung since he was a kid. Castro went to Georgia Tech and joked that he was upset ”one of my own kind” attacked him. Georgia Tech’s mascot is the Yellowjackets. ”It just kind of got up under my shirt, and I knew it, and it just got me,” Castro said. ”It still stings now, but it didn’t really bother me. A little later, he saw a snake, leading to his jokes with his caddie about the joys of city life. ”It was a lot to take in,” Castro said. ”But I feel like I stuck to my routine and made a lot of good shots.” The second round was set to resume Saturday morning. More rain is expected.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Kenny Perry made a couple of early birdie putts from about 20 feet, mostly steered clear of trouble and finished well. Perry birdied the final hole for an 8-under 64 and a two-stroke lead Thursday in the Regions Tradition, the first of five PGA Tour Champions majors. ”I mean, I didn’t miss a green,” he said. ”I putted for birdies or eagles on every hole so took a lot of pressure off myself by doing that. I hit the ball nicely, drove it beautifully, hit lots of fairways. Was able to attack the par 5s.” Bernhard Langer matched him going into the final hole. Then Langer bogeyed No. 18 for a 66 to fall into a second-place tie with Gene Sauers at Greystone Golf and Country Club, hosting its first PGA Tour Champions event since the Bruno’s Memorial Classic in 2005. Perry won the Regions Tradition a few miles away at Shoal Creek in 2014, and the 14-time PGA Tour winner started on a roll. He birdied five of the first eight holes in a bogey-free round, including the two long putts during that hot start. He was in a tie going into 18 with Langer, who had three straight birdies starting on No. 11. Billy Andrade was three strokes back at 67. Defending champion Jeff Maggert was among seven players four shots behind. Langer, who has not finished worse than 11th this year, needed two attempts to escape the greenside bunker on 18. The two-time Masters winner, who leads the tour in scoring average, then two-putted. ”I bladed it,” Langer said about his first bunker shot. ”I was just trying to bank it against it but not fly it into the netting. No other way to get it close. It was a very bad trap.” He said he had hit ”a beautiful 3-wood” that kicked right and into the sand. Sauers, who tied for third at last year’s Regions Tradition, had birdies on four of the final six holes, including 18. The three-time PGA Tour winner has four runner-up finishes on the 50-and-over circuit. His only bogey came on the par-5 fifth hole. Sauers started practicing a new putting grip a couple of days before leaving for the Insperity Invitational, where he tied for 12th after a closing 67. ”I made some putts where before I wasn’t making the putts and now I’m really rolling it better and I’m kind of going cross-handed, left hand low,” Sauers said. ”This is my second week for it, so I should have done it 20 years ago.” With an eagle and a double bogey, John Daly finished his first round in a PGA Tour Champions major with a 70. He made an eagle from the fairway on the 435-yard fifth hole. Two holes later, came the double bogey after Daly’s drive went into the rough. ”Getting into this thing is pretty cool, I’m enjoying myself,” he said. ”But having a start like that is kind of cool. My last round at Houston I had it going but didn’t finish it, so I’ve just got to keep going and try to finish these good starts.” In the meantime, he relished having a big following around Greystone – and not having to worry about making a cut. ”Oh, it’s great, man. It’s just awesome,” Daly said. ”That’s what’s cool. They get me for three or four days now instead of two, so it’s good to work on weekends again.” Jesper Parnevik, who’s coming off a four-stroke victory at the Insperity Invitational, finished with a 70. He was 3 over on the final three holes, including a double bogey on No. 18. With rain and thunderstorms forecast for Friday, Perry expects the scoring and conditions to change significantly. ”I’m not a great rainy (day) player,” he said. ”I have trouble hanging onto the club and stuff, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
OAKMONT, Pa. – The “City of Champions” is poised to deliver – again. This gritty burgh known for producing winning franchises with regularity is hosting its record ninth U.S. Open this week, with each edition producing its own brand of distinct champions from Ben Hogan (1950) to Jack Nicklaus (1962). If Shane Lowry, an Irishman who lied about his age when he was 9 years old in order to join a nine-hole course where he fell for the game, and Andrew Landry, a 28-year-old journeyman via Texas and a collection of lesser tours, don’t exactly fit in with that lineage, give it time. After three hectic days thrown off schedule by thunderstorms that raked the course on Thursday, the 116th U.S. Open is nearly back on schedule, with 25 players failing to complete their third rounds when darkness halted play just before 9PM ET on Saturday. Among those who will return early on Sunday to complete the third lap is Lowry, your leader through 14 holes, and Landry, who is poised one stroke back after playing a baker’s dozen on Saturday. As difficult as this week’s delays have been, Lowry, for one, was more than happy to call it a day despite a 3-under round that featured two bogeys. “If I had to play another four holes, it would have been quite difficult,” Lowry smiled. “The greens are a little bit bumpy the last couple of holes. And now some fresh greens in the morning and hopefully I can go out and just make a few pars and do what I’ve been doing all week.” The teeth haven’t returned to Oakmont, which is widely regarded as the most demanding test in golf, but the brutish layout certainly got a bit of its bite back after Thursday’s downpours revealed the softer side of the game’s ultimate enforcer. U.S. Open: Full-field scores | Live daily blog | Photo gallery Consider that in 2007, the last time the national championship was played at Oakmont, your front-runner (Aaron Baddeley) was 2 over and the course had yielded just six rounds in the 60s. Through three disconnected days of this edition Oakmont has already given up 41 rounds in the red and Lowry is cruising, at least by comparison, at 5 under. For this week’s telecast officials put tiny microphones in each hole, ostensibly to pick up the pleas for relief from star-crossed stars; yet with a few notable exceptions (a list that includes missed cuts for Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson) the soundtrack has largely been one of cautious optimism fueled by a course that has widely been described as “gettable.” World No. 1 Jason Day rolled off four birdies in the first five holes of Round 3 for a front-nine 31 and added an eagle at the par-5 fourth hole to move to 1 over par; and defending champion Jordan Spieth quickly got to 3 under for his round and within five shots of the lead before hitting a wall with a double-bogey 6 at No. 2. The game’s top players will need an ugly Oakmont for the final day if they are going to catch Lowry and Landry. “I just want it to play hard and fast and I think the harder the better, like a normal U.S. Open Sunday should be,” said Day, who completed his round of 66 and was tied for eighth. “I think it would be fun for everyone. Even though it is hard and stressful, I just enjoy those times.” The more likely challenge will come from a trio of major championship bridesmaids who all loom at 2 under, three shots off Lowry’s pace. Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson all had holes to complete when the horn blew announcing yet another suspension of play, but then Johnson certainly needed a break in the action. It took just a single hole before Johnson, who led by one stroke entering the third round, began to feel the heat on Saturday afternoon. After an opening birdie, DJ pulled his tee shot off a fan’s head and into a concession stand, roped his approach into the lip of a greenside bunker and deftly chipped to inches for par. The arms of a lumberjack, the hands of a heart surgeon. But then Oakmont gives, and Oakmont takes away. At his next hole Johnson found the left rough with his drive and needed two more attempts to scale the hill in front of the green. Double bogey. The perennially snake-bitten Johnson added two more bogeys before his day was done, but in his uniquely no-nonsense style seemed at ease with his plight and his play. “It was OK,” he said. “I felt like I hit a lot of good putts that didn’t go in the hole, just burning the edges. A few lip-outs. But it’s this golf course. It’s tough to make putts on it. I’m still feeling good about where I am.” Westwood, who has the most top-3 finishes in majors (nine) by any player without a major win in the modern era, is considered in some circles the best player without a major victory, which at this stage in his career could be considered a dubious title. “The way I played today, I could have blown myself out of the championship,” Westwood said. “It was good to grind it out, be under par, be in the red, and have a chance at the weekend.” Oakmont has a tendency to produce a distinct shade of champions – from the former caddie Angel Cabrera to the Vietnam veteran Larry Nelson, the unique test demands as much grit as it does game. And once again the Steel City has set the stage for another blue-collar bout.
Jason Day toughs it out, Tiger Woods loses his stroke, Justin Thomas borrows a putter, Bernhard Langer proves he’s not fading and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble: Each of the top players brings something different to the game – it’s what makes pro golf so compelling at the moment. Jordan Spieth has a secret playbook for majors. Rory McIlroy has the flair. Dustin Johnson the swagger, Jon Rahm the mood swings and Justin Thomas the firepower. As for Jason Day? He brings an insatiable hunger to be No. 1, and he’ll work harder than anyone to get there. In recent years, Spieth, McIlroy and Johnson have almost dismissed the top ranking – that it’s merely a byproduct of sustained great play, and once they’ve achieved it, it’s on to the next goal. Day has gotten there, too, for 51 weeks, and he craves the validation that comes with the 24/7 sacrifice. After his second victory of the season, he appears ready to climb that mountain again. 1. Day is turning into one of the game’s elite closers. That’s five in a row converting an outright 54-hole lead, turning an uneven round into a comfortable two-shot victory with two clutch shots late. On 16, he hammered a 380-yard drive, then wedged to 10 feet for the go-ahead birdie. Then on 17, he nearly aced the 230-yard par 3, his ball whacking off the bottom of the flagstick and settling within a few feet. Even with shaky iron play – he ranked 50th in strokes gained: approach the green – he still closed with 69. “To be clutch like that,” he said, “it’s a lot of heart.” 2. Day’s mentor gave him a boost on the eve of the final round. Tiger Woods sent the Australian a text that read: “Great playing. Get this thing done.” Woods has made similar gestures in the past, but for Day it never gets old. “It’s always good to have arguably the best player in the world text you on a Saturday night before the tournament and really give you a good pump in the right direction,” he said. Woods talked to Day about the dedication it takes to become the top-ranked player in the world, and he was impressed that Day has been able to maintain that level of play even with a wife and two kids (and a third on the way). “He did it under different conditions, different times in his life, and now that he’s got a taste of it, he wants it back again. That’s cool to see,” Woods said. “He’s willing to get his hands dirty again and do all of the legwork off the golf course, away from tournaments, the hours upon hours of countless practice that we all have to log. He’s willing to do that again.” 3. Some questioned whether Aaron Wise was ready for the big leagues when he bolted for the pros after two seasons and an NCAA individual title at Oregon. Still just 21, Wise has won on the Canadian Tour, Web.com Tour and nearly on the PGA Tour after his career-best tie for second at the Wells Fargo. In the final round he showed all of the tools that made him an NCAA champ on his home course at Eugene Country Club, pumping drives, knocking down flags and looking unflappable in crunch time. Wise will battle inconsistency, but as he showed at Quail Hollow he has plenty of pop to compete on Tour. 4. In his return to competition, Woods had one of his worst putting performances in years. Of the 75 players who played all four rounds, he finished 72nd in strokes gained: putting. He needed at least 31 putts each round, and he took 126 in total, his most since 2002. He lost nearly six shots to the field on the greens. He had six three-putts. It was enough to spoil a ball-striking week (eighth in strokes gained: tee to green) that was more than good enough for him to contend. The good news? There’s little reason to think that his poor week at Quail Hollow was anything more than that – a poor week. Prior to this, his short game and putting had been a strength (top 10 on Tour in both categories) while his ball-striking let him down. “I need to do some practicing with my putter, work on it just a little bit,” he said after tying for 55th. “It was just a bad week, and good news is wipe your hands clean and go on to the next one.” 5. Most curious was Woods’ excuses afterward, that he couldn’t compute how the greens were putting slower than they felt. He’s one of the greatest putters in the history of the game, and he couldn’t grasp that he needed to hit putts firmer or softer? That didn’t make any sense, especially when Quail Hollow’s greens were running at about a 12 on the Stimpmeter – they’re not exactly the shaggy greens at your local muni. 6. To be honest, I had no idea what was going on for most of the European Tour’s innovative GolfSixes event – there were mixed teams, shot clocks, dancing mascots, fog machines and random people from the crowd teeing off. But it looked like fun, and even if it doesn’t change the golf landscape forever the Euro Tour deserves props for trying something different. 7. Gavin Moynihan had missed the cut in all eight of his starts this year. Then he teamed with Paul Dunne – who is on a bit of a heater, with four top-10s in his last five worldwide starts – and helped Ireland win the event. On the other side of the spectrum is Brice Garnett. He won his first PGA Tour event, in the Dominican Republic, six weeks ago. Sunday at Quail Hollow, he finished triple-quad and shot 88 – the highest score on Tour this season. Golf is a strange, beautiful game. 8. In a rarity for regular PGA Tour events, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be grouped together for the first two rounds of The Players. It’s the first time that’s happened since the 2014 PGA, and the first time in a non-major since the 2013 Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston. Rickie Fowler will round out the star-studded threesome. Tee times have yet to be released as of this posting, but Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas are another early three-ball at TPC Sawgrass. 9. The arrival of Steve Stricker likely signaled an end to his days of dominance, but Bernhard Langer at 60 years old clearly isn’t going anywhere. He was (gasp!) winless heading into May, but Langer held on for a one-shot victory at the Insperity Invitational. It was the 37th victory of his senior career. With the win, he’s back atop the money list, having played five more events than Stricker. 10. If you wanted to know why McIlroy is one of the best quotes, not just in golf but in all of sports, revisit his Wednesday news conference at Quail Hollow. When asked to describe his post-Masters funk, McIlroy could have said that he was bummed but got over it after a few days and returned to work. That’s what almost every other Tour pro would have said in public. Instead, McIlroy said that it took him about a week to snap out of it, and it was only after wife Erica forced him out of the house. Sulking, he read books and binge-watched shows and downed a few bottles of wine. Then the four-time major winner said this, about the Masters: “The Masters has now become the biggest golf tournament in the world, and I’m comfortable saying that. I don’t care about the U.S. Open or The Open Championship. It is the biggest tournament in the world, the most amount of eyeballs, the most amount of hype – the most amount of everything is at Augusta.” That comment didn’t sit well with those across the pond, but credit McIlroy for his honesty. Of course he still “cares” about those other three majors – adding to his major haul is the only way to bolster his legacy – but the Masters is the tournament that he (and every other leaving, breathing human) wants to win most. Nothing wrong with that. 11. Dustin Johnson’s reign at the top of the world rankings might be coming to an end after 15 months. Five players will be in the mix for No. 1 next week, but Johnson needs at least a top-11 finish to have a chance to remain in the top spot. That’s interesting because TPC Sawgrass is a course where DJ has struggled in the past. In nine career starts there, only once has he finished inside the top 25 (T-12 last year). Thomas sure didn’t feel like he was on the cusp of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world. Needing only a tie for 12th to push Johnson out of the top spot in the world rankings, Thomas felt so uncomfortable on the greens that he ditched his usual putter and played the rest of the week with Rickie Fowler’s backup model. He wound up in a tie for 21st. Afterward, he offered an explanation to which every single golfer could relate: “(My putter) has been great to me for a while, and it’s not to say I won’t go back next week or down the road, but a putter needs to be on your good side, and feeling good in your hands,” he said. “It wasn’t feeling good in my hands.” Still, it’s not an insignificant switch. Until recently, Thomas has been on an absolute tear with that putter, but perhaps it’s time to try something new. This week’s award winners … Stay Hot, Part 1: Patrick Reed. The Masters win has done little to cool his form. His eighth-place showing at the Wells Fargo was his sixth consecutive top-10. Dude is rolling. Stay Hot, Part 2: Bryson DeChambeau. Don’t look now, but the Mad Scientist just posted his third top-4 in his last four starts. Once-Every-Four-Years Trend: Birdie-free Tiger. His final-round 74 without a birdie was his first in more than four years, when he posted an oh-fer at Doral in 2014. Hard to Please: Peter Kostis. The CBS announcer told Day in the post-round interview that he didn’t think “he even had his C-game today.” Sheesh – the guy played the Green Mile in 2 under when tied for the lead and shot 69 to win. Race to the Finish: Sung Hyun Park. The 2017 LPGA Co-Player of the Year got on the board with her first win of ’18 by chipping in on the last hole and shooting 11-under 131 in the rain-shortened event in Texas. Clock Is Ticking: John Peterson. One of the PGA Tour’s most interesting characters is winding down his career, after the first-round leader turned in another middling performance. With only two more starts to earn nearly $300K, he could be in his new gig in commercial real estate by summer. All Downhill From Here: Proposal guy. He brought in JT for his caught-on-camera proposal, thereby setting himself up for a lifetime of disappointing his new bride. Couldn’t Wait: Dawson Armstrong. The senior at Lipscomb, who advanced to the upcoming NCAA regionals as an individual, will forgo the postseason and turn pro immediately. He’ll make his pro debut in a few weeks, at the Web.com Tour event in Nashville. This is a name to remember. Still Grinding: Smylie Kaufman. He’s still mired in a horrible slump (as your trusty correspondent filed here), and he sent an update to his followers here. His troubles aren’t from a lack of effort – on multiple occasions this year Kaufman has been the last one working on the range on Wednesday afternoons. Need More Of This: Quail Hollow’s 17th. The watery par 3 changed 90 yards overnight – from 140 yards in the third round to a 230-yard brute on Sunday. It’s OK to make these guys think. When You Make Par From a Hazard: Phil Mickelson. Only Phil can do a mic – sorry, putter – drop: Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Ryan Moore. Most of the big names at least earned a paycheck last week, but Moore was a trendy one-and-done pick because of his penchant for playing tough tracks well. He had three previous top-20s at Quail Hollow, and a tie for 13th at last year’s PGA, and then he shot rounds of 73-73 to miss the cut. Sigh.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – John Elway will still be a part of the 2018 U.S. Senior Open . He just won’t be playing alongside the likes of defending champion Kenny Perry. The Broadmoor’s notoriously knotty east course got the best of Elway in his Memorial Day attempt to qualify for the 39th Open championship, where he’ll serve as the tournament’s honorary chairman next month. Playing Monday for one of two qualifying spots, Elway, who is a 1.4-handicap golfer, shot a 10-over 80 on a drizzly and cool afternoon on the dazzling but demanding course. That left him tied for 18th. Elway acknowledged that pulling double duty at the Open next month was a pipe dream but cherished his round nonetheless. ”I haven’t been playing very well. I haven’t been playing much, either,” Elway said. ”But it was fun to be out here and compete. It’s a lot of work in that rough.” Elway remained upbeat even after bogeying two of his last three holes following a 75-minute rain and lightning delay. ”It’s good for me to play in these conditions,” he reasoned. ”It makes me a better player.” Elway started off strong but a double-bogey on the ninth hole sent him sliding down the leaderboard, where only one golfer broke par – Doug Rohrbaugh, an instructor at Snowmass, Colorado, shot a 1-under 69 to qualify for his fourth Open. Rohrbaugh also has NFL bloodlines: His uncle, John Meyers, was a defensive tackle for the Cowboys and Eagles in the 1960s. Chris Johnson, of Castle Rock, Colorado, was the other qualifier, shooting a 2-over 72. Elway’s long-shot hopes began to fade when he put a ball into the water and then missed a short putt on No. 9. ”I was actually playing probably as good as I can play,” Elway said . His goal, he said, was to break 80, but the delay didn’t do him any favors. ”Bad finish,” he lamented. The hour and 15-minute delay wasn’t ideal for a man who celebrates his 58th birthday when the Open begins on June 28. ”I’m afraid to sit down, I’ll get too stiff,” Elway said as he signed golf balls and some of the No. 7 jerseys that dotted the 200 or so members of his gallery during the weather delay. This marked just the fourth time the championship course also served as a sectional qualifying site. Elway, who won two Super Bowls during his Hall of Fame playing career and another as the Denver Broncos’ general manager, took up golf during the springs of playing career and refined his game after retiring in 1999. But he hasn’t had as much time to work on his game since moving into the Broncos’ front office in 2010. His golf resume includes two Colorado Senior Open appearances, and he is past president of Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver. With its always unnerving setups, the Open is already considered the toughest challenge in senior golf. Add in the nearly 6,500-foot altitude and the unforgiving rough and ”it’s not going to be a birdie fest,” Perry, the defending champ, said after getting in a practice round on the east course three weeks ago. ”It tests the player in every facet of this game. I think it’s going to be a great championship. It’s going to be tough and you’re going to see a lot of guys struggling out there,” Perry said. Perry said during a recent visit to Broncos headquarters that Elway had his work cut out for him going from front office to the fairways. ”That course is going to test him mentally. He’s been in the draft room getting ready for the season. He hasn’t been practicing or preparing,” Perry said. ”Just like anything you do, if you don’t practice or prepare, it’s hard to be successful.” ”He’s right, it’s difficult,” Elway said. ”But like I said, it’s always fun for me to get to play in these conditions. Plus, when you play these, you realize how good those guys are.”
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Jennifer Kupcho came back to school for this moment. The Wake Forest senior deferred her LPGA membership this spring in hopes of leading the Demon Deacons to their first NCAA team title, and Wednesday at Blessings Golf Club, she and her teammates were on the cusp of achieving their ultimate goal. But storied Duke University, chasing a seventh national championship, had other plans. The Blue Devils went down to Arkansas and stole victory away from Kupcho and the Deacons in an extra-hole thriller. Three matches went past the 18th hole, with Duke sophomore Miranda Wang earning the clinching point in a 3-2 triumph on the second playoff hole, the par-5 15th, after Wake freshman Letizia Bagnoli snap-hooked her second shot into the penalty area. With Bagnoli facing a bogey putt, Wang calmly lagged a birdie roll close and was conceded the winning par. As Kupcho watched in tears, Wang’s teammates mobbed her on the green in celebration. “I couldn’t feel more proud than I do right now,” said Duke’s head coach of 35 seasons, Dan Brooks, who got choked up talking about what his team had just accomplished, fighting through weather delays, multi-round days and close-calls. “It’s been a heck of a week.” Duke’s seventh national title – its first since 2014 and first in the match-play format – ended a four-year winless gap that shockingly spanned the decorated career of former Duke great Leona Maguire. Maguire, a two-time winner and money leader on the Symetra Tour this season, was a two-time Annika Award recipient in college, yet she had never gotten the Blue Devils past the semifinals in three trips to match play. The Blue Devils’ Achilles heel during the Maguire era – shaky play from the bottom of the lineup – became a strength this year. “The cool thing about this team is, you know, we went into all of our tournaments with the idea that any one of them individually could win … and that’s the kind of team that is a lot of fun [to coach],” Brooks said. “You’re going to get contribution [from everyone]. It makes the pairing party a lot easier, too, because we really don’t have to sweat much on who plays who.” On a team featuring four top-50-ranked players, Wang, at No. 148 in Golfstat, was the most unlikely of heroes. The five-spot sophomore missed the final four tournaments of her freshman season with a knee injury. She didn’t notch a top-10 finish this season and skipped this week’s practice round after injuring her right wrist moving out of her dorm. She carried a bag of ice and an 0-2 match-play record to the first tee Wednesday before falling 2 down after five holes. As Wang held on with halve after halve, Brooks made the executive decision to catch up with Wang on the back nine and walk with her the rest of the way. “Miranda and I have had a good thing going in the last two months where she has made some changes in the way she thinks out here, and I thought I could possibly affect the change by going with her,” Brooks said. “I felt like if I could get that win, you’ve got some heavy hitters playing against each other that could swing [those matches] one way or another.” In Wednesday morning’s semifinal match against defending national champion Arizona, Wang nearly came back from a 4-down deficit. She took confidence from that and won Nos. 13 and 15 to square the match, setting up her eventual comeback. “I was like, ‘I’m going to do this for my team,’” Wang said. Her teammates reciprocated the effort. NCAA Women’s Championship – Final: Duke vs. Wake Forest Junior Ana Belac receives a text message from Maguirie before nearly every round. Maguire’s message to Belac before Wednesday’s final was, “Go get it.” Belac went 3-0, capping her week with a 5-and-4 dispatch of Vanessa Knecht to give Duke its first point of the championship match. Wake Forest’s Emilia Migliaccio also went 3-0 and gave the Demon Deacons their first point with a stiff approach and birdie on No. 18 to defeat Duke freshman Gina Kim, who earlier that morning had delivered an impressive approach on the same hole to set up a match-clinching birdie for the Blue Devils. Virginia Elena Carta, the 2016 NCAA individual champion and lone senior who was given an exemption into the Marathon LPGA Classic next month, is known as the team’s ice-breaker. She led off in each of the three sessions and went 2-1. She prevailed in 24 holes in the quarterfinals and again went into extras Wednesday afternoon, though she ultimately fell to Siyun Liu in 20 holes. With two Wake points on the board and Wang in a battle, Duke’s top-ranked player, sophomore Jaravee Boonchant, needed to win her match against Kupcho. Boonchant faced the opposing team’s best player all week – she lost to Stanford’s Andrea Lee in the quarters and then fell to Arizona’s Haley Moore in the semis. But Brooks remained confident that Boonchant, the squad’s only first-team All-American, could finally deliver. “I think we’d all agree that we’d put money on her,” Brooks said. Kupcho had not trailed for 48 holes before Boonchant birdied the par-3 17th to take a 1-up lead. Though Kupcho clawed back with a winning par on No. 18, the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur hooked her drive at the first into the hazard. Boonchant routinely made par to send Kupcho packing. “There are no words to describe it,” Kupcho said. “… It’s the end of my college career. It’s hard to swallow, but I’ve gotten a bunch of texts and I know that I have a big professional career ahead of me.” Kupcho will tee it up in next week’s U.S. Women’s Open, her first event as a pro. She’ll leave behind an impressive college and amateur career that included last year’s NCAA individual title, three first-team All-America awards and numerous school records. “When people think of women’s golf at Wake Forest, they definitely are going to think of Jennifer Kupcho,” said Wake’s first-year head coach Kim Lewellen. Though Kupcho could barely compose herself to reflect on Wednesday’s heartbreak, she has no regrets. Kupcho’s unwavering decision to see her college career to the end paid massive dividends. She gained national notoriety and captured hearts everywhere by winning the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the highlight of a “whirlwind” spring, as described by her dad, Michael Kupcho. “I think that the world has seen it,” Lewellen said, “… she’s impacted women’s golf by winning at Augusta National, Wake Forest University by being a national champion, but also by deferring her LPGA status to be here with her team and help us get to the final match.” Kupcho’s winning walk-off never happened. The storybook ending she had hoped would conclude with glory? Well, it did. The moment just didn’t belong to her and her teammates, it belonged to Duke.