That was fast.
Jordan Spieth's first reign as No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking will end on Sunday night after the two-time 2015 major winner missed the cut at The Barclays in New Jersey.
From the outset, Spieth said the Donald Ross-designed Plainfield Country Club didn't fit his eye, not appreciative of green complexes that require wedge shots to be thrown past the hole with the hope of spinning back toward the pin. After getting out to a good start on Thursday with an opening birdie on the 10th hole, Spieth's second nine in Round 1 turned into a disastrous 5-over 40.
Spieth got out to a similar good start on Friday, needing a round of 68 or better to make the cut. He birdied the first, but then, after two pars, got on the bogey train, making four bogeys around a birdie in a five-hole stretch.
Things got worse on the par-5 12th when Spieth's second shot landed short of the green in a hazard. While searching for his ball, Spieth accidentally stepped on it in the weeds. He took a drop and made what he believed was a bogey 6. However, a PGA Tour rules official later informed Spieth he should add a penalty stroke under Rule 18-2a.
“My intentions were if I see it, I'm going to play it, and if I don't see it, I'm going to take my drop and play it as a water hazard,” said Spieth. “Because my intention was possibly to still play it, it's a penalty and that was made clear, no matter what I declared to [caddie Michael Greller] ahead of time. I just wanted to be certain about it."
Spieth needed to finish inside the top 14 to maintain the No. 1 ranking he earned two weeks ago from Rory McIlroy after finishing second to Jason Day at the PGA Championship. McIlroy isn't playing this week.
The two-week reign isn't the shortest of the 60 had since the Official World Golf Ranking started just before the ranking debuted before the 1986 Masters. Tom Lehman was No. 1 for one week in June 1997 before Greg Norman took the mantle before seven weeks, leading into Tiger Woods' first reign at No. 1. Of the 18 players, including Spieth, to have held the No. 1 ranking, Lehman is the only one to have ever held it for just one week in their career.
Jordan Spieth didn't mince words after his 4-over 74 to open The Barclays.
“I would argue that this was — after the tee shots — the worst round I’ve played in years,” Spieth said Thursday after his round at Plainfield Country Club.
The score was Spieth's worst since an opening-round, 3-over 75 at The Players back in May. Spieth played for the first two days with Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, who made noise throughout the week that the reaction to Spieth's record-setting Masters win was overblown and he was nowhere near done yet. Spieth looked nervous in the opening round and played poorly.
He seemed uncomfortable again on Thursday and didn't perform well. Afterward, Spieth confirmed the Donald Ross-designed course doesn't suit his eye.
"I'm not a big fan of poa annua (a type of grass) greens in general," Spieth said. "I don't seem to putt as well on them. Doesn't mean you can't. And then for me, personally, I struggle with wedges when you have to fly it at least to the hole.
"I like harder, firmer golf courses, and out here with the pins on four-degree slopes on shelves, I'm just not very good at being able to fly it just past and trust that it's going to spin back, just because we don't see it very often. I normally have poor wedge play on golf courses similar to this. That's what happened today. Just poor."
Even though Rory McIlroy isn't in the field this week -- he skipped the first leg of the playoffs to continue resting his ankle that he injured in July -- Spieth will have the Ulsterman breathing down his neck. If Spieth doesn't get it together on Friday afternoon in Round 2, he'll miss the cut in New Jersey, and he'd lose the No. 1 ranking he earned after the PGA Championship back to McIlroy. Spieth must finish inside the top 14 this week to main the top spot in the world.
The 22-year-old has responded well in the past to poor play and expects to again.
"Do what I've done best — bounce back," he said. "I come back strong tomorrow."
Sometimes trying the "Hero Shot" is a bad idea.
Web.com Tour golfer Peter Malnati provided an example on Thursday at the WinCo Foods Portland Open, when his second shot landed in the hazard short of the green at the par-3 12th. Malnati, who is fourth on the tour's money list heading into this week's regular-season finale, decided to play the shot from the muddy lie instead of taking a drop and a penalty stroke.
The shot didn't go well, with the ball rolling back into the hazard and mud getting all over his light-colored clothes.
Malnati's reaction was hilarious, "Are you kidding me?! All of this for that?!"
He went on to make quadruple-bogey 7 en route to 4-over 74 in the opener at Pumpkin Ridge.
If you just want golf, skip the first 14 minutes of the show, where we talk about the tragic murder of two journalists on live TV in Virginia and the important conversations we need to stop and have so we can move forward as a better society.
The second half of the show is a preview of The Barclays, including a suggestion for a better, yet reasonable, finish to the Tour Championship and FedExCup.
Adam Scott won't be able to use the anchored putting stroke come Jan. 1, 2016. It's been banned by the game's governing bodies.
However, the long putter that Scott has been using for the last five years will remain legal.
Scott has decided, then, that he's sticking with his original plan: He's going to keep using the long putter, but stop anchoring it to his body.
“I’ve got as far as I see it two good options. I can un-anchor the long putter -- I do that well -- or putt with a short one -- and I know what I’m up for there because I used it a few rounds this year,” Scott said to PGATour.com on Wednesday ahead of The Barclays in New Jersey.
“I like the long one with the same action I’ve been using. I just have to shorten the putter a few inches and everything else stays the same. The putter is so good, if there was any concern of it not being stable when it’s un-anchored it’s gone.”
In March, Scott tried to make the switch from the broomstick putter with an anchored stroke to a slightly longer-than-normal, counterbalanced putter with a larger grip. He tried it with some success at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, but the results didn't carry over in his next two starts, leading the Aussie to go back to the broomstick.
In July 2013, Scott suggested the PGA Tour "laid down" in not challenging the proclamation from the USGA and R&A that the anchored stroke would be banned in 2016, saying then that he would respond by keeping his putter "millimeters" from his body.
The Captain took money off the Commander-in-Chief on the golf course, and President Obama isn't too happy about it.
The two played together as part of a foursome at the elusive Shadow Creek in Las Vegas back in November 2014. When Obama arrived on the range, as he told a Las Vegas audience on Monday, he saw a nervous-looking Jeter shanking balls.
"I said, ‘You play golf Derek?’ And he said, ‘I just started two weeks ago,'" Obama said, according to Politico.
Turns out, Jeter was playing possum. Obama, who plays in the mid 80s to low 90s, gave Jeter 30 strokes in their match. That was a huge mistake. Jeter plays well, and he hustled the President.
“[Las Vegas Sun publisher Brian Greenspun] and Derek Jeter stole money from me at Shadow Creek,” Obama said.
The cherry on top of the humilation sundae was the post-round photo opp.
“We had to take a picture of me handing Derek Jeter money at the end of the game," Obama said.
Obama has come under fire from conservatives that he plays golf too much, having notched some 250 rounds since taking office in 2009. That amounts to about 1,100 hours on the golf course during his nearly two terms in the White House.
The FedEx Cup playoffs kick off in New Jersey on Thursday with the start of The Barclays, the first of four events to decide the season-long champion of the PGA Tour.
Two-time 2015 major winner Jordan Spieth is the No. 1 seed heading into the PGA Tour's postseason, which starts at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J., for the first time since 2011, when Hurricane Irene shortened the event to 54 holes.
Since this is a tournament that moves around, but it's only been at Plainfield once, there's a lot of chalk in our top five this week.
1. Jordan Spieth — The new world No. 1 obviously wasn’t in the field here four years ago, but he’s playing the best, most consistent golf on the planet, so he’s the obvious top pick.
2. Jason Day — Had Jordan Spieth only won the Masters (and Dustin Johnson taken the U.S. Open), Jason Day would be in contention for the Player of the Year title heading into the playoffs. He’s won two of his last three starts, with Glen Abbey looking a little like Plainfield.
3. Justin Rose — Rose has been in the top six in his last four starts dating back to the Open Championship. He was T-4 here in the shortened 2011 event. He is playing the best tee-to-green golf in the world.
4. Brooks Koepka — Even though only TV shows 2-3 of his shots per week, Koepka hasn’t finished outside of the top six in his last three starts. He’s been in the top 25 in his last eight. His length is an edge here, just needs to have good proximity on many of these absurdly large putting surfaces.
5. Dustin Johnson — DJ was the winner here four years ago, and he’s playing very good golf overall. He’s just not closing. From a fantasy perspective, three top-10s in the majors this year is a great record, even if it doesn’t get the W.
For those of you that hate watching Tiger Woods, the inside advice to get the media to stop writing so darn much about him was simple: stop clicking on him.
And, as Woods struggled throughout this season with several career-worst rounds in the 80s, many of you did -- or at least much less than you did when he was still winning golf tournaments on the reg'.
However, the 14-time major champion provided compelling theater this past week at the Wyndham Championship, climbing to the top of the 36-hole leaderboard with Tom Hoge in what turned out to be a must-win situation to complete and 11th-hour bid to make the PGA Tour playoffs. Woods failed in that quest, but still posted a T-10 in Greensboro for his best finish of the season. The tease was enough to get a lot of you to pop the channel to CBS over the weekend and see if Woods could pull off the improbable.
The final round of the Wyndham delivered a 3.9 Nielsen rating, a 143 percent increase over last year's final round, in which Camilo Villegas came back to win. The rating also is the best for a non-major on any network since in May 2013 when NBC garnered a 5.7 rating for Woods' win at The Players. The rating was also the highest for a non-major on CBS since Woods' win at the AT&T National in July 2012, a day after a derecho closed Congressional Country Club to fans and most volunteers.
By comparison, the Jason Day-Jordan Spieth battle on Sunday at the PGA Championship drew a 4.4 rating.
So, we'll keep on writing about the guy, at least for a little while longer.
Martin Kaymer won't be a PGA Tour member next season.
How does a major champion lose his Tour card? Well, it's a pretty open-and-shut case.
PGA Tour members must play a minimum of 15 events each season to maintain their membership status. Kaymer, who has been trying to balance a schedule straddling the PGA and European Tours, only made 12 starts this season leading into the Wyndham Championship. In his 13th start, Kaymer had to find a way to crack the top 125 in FedEx Cup points to make it into the four-event playoff series and then make it through the first two legs of the playoffs to get to the minimum number of events. Since he finished at 139th in the standings, Kaymer didn't qualify and loses his membership status for next season.
That means a few things for Kaymer. First, any money or FedEx Cup points that he earns next year on the PGA Tour don't count toward the official lists, meaning he can't qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs for the 2015-16 season either. Second, he'll be limited to no more than 12 PGA Tour starts.
However, and here's the strange part, Kaymer can resume his membership in the 2016-17 season that he has earned as the 2014 U.S. Open champion.
You might say Lydia Ko likes Canada.
Ko won her third Canadian Pacific Women's Open title on Sunday, dispatching of Stacy Lewis with a par on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. A routine par from the world No. 2 was good enough to defeat Lewis, whose approach from the rough sailed into the gallery.
Both Ko and Lewis finished regulation at 12 under at Vancouver Golf Club, where Ko also won her first title in this event as a 15-year-old amateur.
Ko entered the day tied for the lead with Candie Kung, who shot 74 to fade from contention. The Kiwi did little but make pars on Sunday -- 16 of them, in fact -- with a single birdie and a single bogey to go with it.
Meanwile, Lewis made a charge in a bid to end a 14-month winless drought. The world No. 3 eventually caught Ko on the 71st hole of the tournament, making par at the last to wrap up a Sunday 67.
Defending champion So Yeon Ryu charged even harder than Lewis, shooting a 64 that left her a shot out of the playoff and tied for third with Sei Young Kim.
Despite this being Ko's third win in this event, this is the first time she gets to go home with the winner's check. She won as an amateur in 2012 and successfully defended a year later while still an amateur. She goes home with $337,500.
Score a big one for the old guys.
Davis Love III became the third-oldest PGA Tour winner ever on Sunday, taking the Wyndham Championship for his 21st career victory. Love's final-round, 6-under 64 was good enough to set up a one-shot win over 54-hole leader Jason Gore with a 17-under 263 total.
Love made his hay on the front nine, playing hole Nos. 2-6 at Sedgefield Country Club in 6 under par, including an eagle at the par-5 fifth. Love's back nine was quiet -- that is, other than another eagle 3, this time at the par-5 15th.
In the house some 45 minutes before the lead group, Love had a long wait to see if one of the seven groups in front of him could catch or pass him. No one did.
With the win, Love becomes the oldest sitting Ryder Cup captain to win on the PGA Tour. He also joins Sam Snead as the second 50-plus man to win in Greensboro. Snead won this event for the eighth and final time in 1965 at nearly 53 years old.
Behind the runner-up Gore were three players tied for third place at 15 under: Charl Schwartzel, Paul Casey and Scott Brown.
Tiger Woods, who entered the final round just two shots behind Gore, shot even-par 70 to finish in a tie for 10th place, undone by a triple-bogey 7 at the 11th hole. Entering the week, Woods, at a minimum, needed a solo second-place finish to have a chance to make the top 125 in FedEx Cup points and get into the playoffs. In the end, he would have needed a win.
However, Love did play his way into the FedEx Cup playoffs, jumping up 110 spots into 76th position, assuring him a spot in the first leg of the playoffs at The Barclays next week and in the second leg at the Deutsche Bank Championship over Labor Day weekend. Gore also catapulted himself into the playoffs, along with three other players (Jonas Blixt, Camilo Villegas, Ryo Ishikawa).
It wasn't good enough.
Tiger Woods came up short in his 11th hour bid to make the FedEx Cup playoffs and extend his season by at least another week. Woods shot even-par 70 at Sedgefield Country Club in the final round of the Wyndham Championship to finish tied for 10th place, four shots behind 51-year-old winner Davis Love III and well short of the solo second-place finish he needed, at a minimum, to have a chance to get into the first leg of the playoffs at The Barclays.
With his finish, Woods' best of the season, he wrapped up the season in 178th place in FedEx Cup points, 53 spots shy of qualifying for the four-event playoff series which culminates in Atlanta with the Tour Championship at the end of September.
Woods failed to make up ground on 54-hole leader Jason Gore in the opening holes, turning in even-par 35 and drifting further behind as Love made his charge. After a par at the 10th, the short game, which has been Woods' greatest scourge in 2015, ended the 14-time major winner's year. On the 11th hole, Woods hit his second shot to the par 4 short and left of the green. His third shot from 50 yards sailed over the green. Woods needed two more to find the green, including a stubbed chip that went just 10 feet. Two putts later, Woods hard carded triple-bogey 7 and the tournament and season were lost.
He tried to rally, making four birdies in the final six holes to finish at even-par for the day, but that was nowhere near good enough.
“I gave myself a chance, and I had all the opportunity in the world today to do it,” Woods said. “I didn’t get it done. I had some makeable putts early I missed. I just wasn’t able to get any kind of roll early.”
Woods admitted to some hip pain during the round.
Now, Woods has five weeks off as the FedEx Cup playoffs unfold. He's expected to return in time for the PGA Tour's 2015-16 season opener at the Frys.com Open in October in Napa, Calif. After a tumultuous year, Woods doesn't mind the break.
“It will be nice,” Woods said. “I got lots of soccer games and practices to go to, so I’ll be doing that and just working out, training and trying to get more fit.”
Jason Gore just can't quit golf.
The 54-hole leader of the Wyndham Championship has tried, repeatedly, to walk away from the touring life, but he hasn't found a way out. Now, Gore could, like Michael Corleone, be pulled right back in.
With a win in Greensboro on Sunday, Gore would earn a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a reprieve from the two-tour straddle of the last few years. Gore earned his PGA Tour position for this season after finishing ninth on the Web.com Tour money list in 2014 after being a middle-of-the-pack player for the previous two years.
In that time, Gore said he's looked for other jobs, including applying to become the golf coach at Pepperdine University, his alma mater. Gore didn't get the gig.
"I applied for the Pepperdine coaching job and, I think I've said this before, but apparently I wasn't the guy that was going to further the Christian mission at Pepperdine University," Gore said after his Saturday 8-under 62 to jump into the lead. The assembled media laughed somewhat knowingly.
At 41, it would be kind of hard for Gore to jump headlong into a new career, so he came to a conclusion.
"I've basically came to the fact I'm unemployable so I better start playing good golf," he said, "and I still feel like I have a lot in me."
He added, "I'm very, very lucky to be able to do this for a living."
Jordan Spieth might be the kind of guy that laughs at his own jokes a little too hard.
The reigning winner of The Barclays, Hunter Mahan, was interviewed overseas by National Club Golfer and asked a slew of best-and-worst questions, including who is the funniest and least funny person on the PGA Tour.
Mahan said Matt Kuchar was the funniest, and it's pretty common knowledge that Kuchar has a great sense of humor. However, when Mahan was asked to name the least funny player he knows, he went with the newly crowned world No. 1.
"Jordan Spieth thinks he's hilarious," Mahan said with a smile on his face, "but he's an idiot."
We haven't heard Spieth's stand-up routine or much of his joke repertoire, but given how often he talks to his golf ball during his round, he seems a born performer.
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Tiger Woods' final hole on Saturday cost him a spot in the last group on Sunday at the Wyndham Championship.
After a booming 350-yard drive right in the middle of the fairway at Sedgefield Country Club's 18th hole, Woods' 9-iron approach came up some 45 feet short and left of the hole location. Woods took an aggressive line with the birdie putt to tie Jason Gore, who was in the house and in the lead at 15 under par. The putt went 6 feet by, leaving Woods yet another par tester to play alongside Gore on Sunday afternoon.
The putt lipped out.
The three-putt bogey left Woods with a 2-under 68 and tied for second with Jonas Blixt (62) and Scott Brown (66) at 13-under 197. Instead of a date with Gore, who has played alongside Woods since the two were top-rated junior golfers growing up in California, Woods will play with Brown a group ahead.
The air isn't completely out of the balloon, but Woods let a lot out with that finish.
Woods' round was a strange one, looking completely in control at times, including a slew of immediate post-impact club twirls with his tee shots, to on the edge at others, throwing up a number of mediocre mid-iron shots to fairly accessible hole locations. Woods' mid- and long-range putting wasn't as deadly as the first two days, while his makes inside 10 feet were more often for par saves than cashing in birdie chances.
As the leaderboard looks on Saturday evening, Woods will need to win to get in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Starting the week at No. 187 in the points standings, Woods conceivably could have jumped into the top 125 and next week's field at The Barclays with at least a solo second-place finish. However, there are enough players in front of him and doing well enough behind him that a win is going to be the only way to squeak into the PGA Tour's postseason.
Woods looked tired or somewhat injured or both throughout the round, almost as though he had put all of his energy into the first 36 holes. With it being a win-or-go-home-for-at-least-five-weeks scenario on Sunday, Woods will have to summon whatever energy he has left to put away an 80th PGA Tour win.
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Tiger Woods shares the lead on the PGA Tour. No, really.
Woods is tied atop the leaderboard at the Wyndham Championship after a 5-under 65 at Sedgefield Country Club has him tied with 26-year-old Tom Hoge at 11 under par.
This marks the first time Woods will have a piece of the 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which was his last PGA Tour win. His two-round total of 129 is also his best first 36-hole total since that week in Ohio.
To put in perspective the contrast in experience between Woods and Hoge, who will likely share the final group on Saturday in Greensboro, N.C., Woods has 52 more wins than Hoge has PGA Tour starts (79 to 27).
This is almost a must-win situation for Woods' hopes to make the FedEx Cup playoffs. At 187th in points, Woods needs to crack the top 125 this week to advance to next week's playoff opened at The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey. At a minimum, Woods needs a solo second-place finish and perhaps some help to qualify. Were Woods to somehow win for the 80th time on the PGA Tour, site of Sam Snead's 82nd and last PGA Tour victory, he would move up to approximately 80th in points, almost guaranteeing him a place in the first two legs of the four-event playoff series.
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Andreas Harto had himself probably the best hole of his life on Friday.
Harto made birdie on the par-3 16th at Himmerland Golf & Resort Spa in the second round of the European Tour's Made in Denmark tournament. Then, with his home country crowd cheering him on, Harto waved down his girlfriend and, after a few seconds of cajoling, brought her inside the ropes.
That's where Harto popped the question, asking her to marry him. Of course, she said yes.
Harto missed the cut after posting 5-over 147 for two rounds. However, Harto now has the weekend free to celebrate his engagement.
The 27-year-old Harto, who has three wins on the tour's equivalent of the Web.com Tour, was making just his second European Tour start of 2015. He made the most of it.
Greensboro, N.C., never had a place on the old Tiger Woods Tour, the slang term given to the events boosted by having a regular place on the 14-time major winner's annual docket when he was playing at his best.
Now that Woods is playing the Wyndham Championship for the first time, at age 39, the whole town seems to be coming out to see him.
Wyndham Championship officials said Thursday that they sold an extra 6,000 tickets for Round 1 of the tournament at Sedgefield Country Club. Although it's impossible to know for certain, it seems pretty clear there's a strong correlation between selling more tickets and Woods' first appearance in the PGA Tour regular-season finale.
Officials expect an extra 8,000-10,000 tickets to be sold for Friday and even more on the weekend, assuming Woods, who shot 6-under 64 on Thursday to sit two shots behind the lead, makes the weekend, according to Golf Channel.
Woods is in what amounts to a must-win situation to make the FedEx Cup playoffs. A Wyndham win would get Woods, who is 186th in FedEx Cup points, inside the top 125, which advances to the first leg of the playoffs next week at The Barclays in Plainfield, N.J. With a solo second-place finish, Woods could conceivably get in the playoffs but would need other players closer to the playoff cutoff to stumble as well.
The taste of victory is sweet, but Jason Day won't be sipping from the Wanamaker trophy.
The newly crowned PGA champion said he has no plans to drink out of the heaviest trophy in major championship golf, weighing in at an estimated 20 pounds.
Day said on a Wednesday conference call that the Wanamaker “is just going straight into the trophy cabinet. … [It] apparently has not had any sort of liquid in it and I don't plan to because I just respect the trophy too much to put anything in it.”
It's a good idea since the Wanamaker is probably more appropriate as a dumbbell than a chalice.
For many years, the PGA Championship winner didn't even get to take the Wanamaker home after winning. Eventually, winners were offered a chance to buy a small replica of the trophy, which has now grown in size to 90 percent of the actual Wanamaker. These days, the PGA champion gets to hold onto the trophy for a year, until it's time to defend it.
Jason Day captured the PGA Championship and put a cap on one of the best major seasons in history. We talk in this week's "The 19th Hole Golf Show" podcast about why this year means even bigger things for golf moving forward.
We give a mini eulogy for the Tiger and Phil Era, while keeping hope alive for one zombie run by the two greats. Finally, we wonder about the future relevance of Whistling Straits and other major venues thanks to advances in golf technology.
Jason Day is a good man, making his win at the PGA Championship was a popular one inside the sport.
Journalist Lawrence Donegan recently detailed a story that exemplifies the type of person Day is, sharing it on NewsTalk 106-108 FM in Ireland.
"One of the journalists is out on Tour all the time and he's not got a lot of money and he used to turn up every day with a shirt," Donegan said Monday.
"So he'd have a red shirt for a Monday and a blue shirt for a Tuesday, and Day eventually cottoned on to this and asked, 'How many shirts have you got?' And he said, 'Seven. One for every day of the week,' and Day said, 'Meet me next week.'
"Day turned up the next week [with] 40 top-quality golf shirts. He's got a new sponsor and these were all the shirts from when he didn't have a brand-new sponsor, and he gave them to the guy. I just think that's a great story."
Day, who came from a working-poor background in Australia, is the kind of person who will pay forward the kindness he's been showed over the years. Golf has carried him a long way in life, and that's part of why he showed such emotion even before the final putt dropped at Whistling Straits.
Canadian teen Brooke Henderson won the LPGA Tour's Cambia Portland Classic last Sunday, but that didn't guarantee her the two-season exemption that comes with a victory.
Since she's just 17 and under the tour's age floor of 18, she had to petition commissioner Mike Whan for membership, which she did on Monday. On Tuesday, Whan granted Henderson that age waiver.
“Brooke truly earned her card, and we are looking forward to Brooke joining our tour and our family,” said Whan. “She’s a special player and a wonderful person.”
That means Henderson is now an LPGA member and will be exempt through the rest of this season and 2016. She is exempt under Category 7, reserved for non-members who win in the prior season. It also means that Henderson is now officially a rookie for this season.
Henderson could have chosen to defer her membership until next season, after turning 18, but she would then only have been exempt for 2016 and, for the rest of this year, been in the same position of needing to Monday qualify or get sponsor exemptions into events.
Though Henderson is now an LPGA member, she starts again from zero in terms of official money and points toward the Rolex Rookie of the Year standings. The $661,234 Henderson has earned this season doesn't count as official money, meaning that Henderson starts earning officially this week at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open. While Henderson is in the Evian Championship, the LPGA's final major of the year, and the CME Group Tour Championship, reserved for event winners and high finishers, she will need to earn money quickly to climb the official money list to gain entry into events comprising the LPGA's fall Asian swing.
Speaking at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open on Tuesday, Henderson made it clear that the process to membership, which many thought was overkill for such a clear talent, made this moment much sweeter.
“I think it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me,” Henderson said. “It really made me realize what I really wanted in life, and what I really desired, and it made me work really, really hard. It made me focus and be more determined. This way it feels a lot better knowing that I deserve to be out here.”
The PGA Tour's regular season winds up this week in Greensboro, N.C., with the Wyndham Championship. Players are scrambling to get inside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings so they can lock up a place in the playoff field. Others are trying to improve position for an easier run to the Tour Championship and a chance at the $10 million FedEx Cup first-place prize.
Here's a look at our Tiger Woods-free top five for this week:
1. Brooks Koepka — Koepka has been in the top six in his last two starts and notched seven top-25s in a row. The long ball helps at Sedgefield if he can keep it in play. Seems poised for a playoff run.
2. Brandt Snedeker — Snedeker showed well at Whistling Straits with a T-12 finish — his fifth such finish in his last seven starts. Was T-5 here last year and is a former winner (2007).
3. Hideki Matsuyama — Matsuyama continues to struggle with the flatstick, but his precision iron play is a huge plus at Sedgefield. He was T-15 here in his only other prior start in 2013.
4. Justin Thomas — We’ve laid off Justin Thomas a bit in recent weeks, but he’s back on our radar. Top fives in the two starts prior to the T-18 at the PGA. His iron play should be huge here.
5. Branden Grace — We keep avoiding Branden Grace, and, at this point, we might be overcompensating. However, Grace has been a factor in two of the last three majors and he’s figuring out how to play in the U.S.
Really, truly, Tiger Woods is playing in the Wyndham Championship.
Woods' agent Mark Steinberg made the final, final confirmation on Monday that the world No. 286 will play in Greensboro, N.C., for the first time in his career.
"We discussed it in detail over the weekend. It was not appropriate to confirm during the PGA Championship," Steinberg wrote in an email to ESPN. "Tiger has heard great things about the event and is looking forward to the week."
The 14-time major winner committed to the event on Friday after storms at the PGA Championship halted play for the day. Players are required to make their event entries official within 30 minutes of the call of play on the Friday of the week before a tournament.
However, Woods and Steinberg both seemed to hedge on that commitment almost immediately after it was made, both suggesting that there would need to be some more thought put into the decision. A premature withdrawal was put on the table. In the end, Woods, who had already sent the Wyndham tournament folks onto Cloud 9 with his Friday call, decided to play.
This start isn't a throwaway for Woods, though it will likely be his last until the Frys.com Open in October, which marks the start of the 2015-16 PGA Tour season. For Woods, who is 187th in the standings, to crack the top 125 and qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, which starts the next week at The Barclays on Long Island, he'll need to finish no worse than solo second.
Brooke Henderson has been a teenage Canadian warrior this year on the LPGA Tour.
The 17-year-old came into the year without LPGA membership, forcing her to Monday qualify for event after event. However, Henderson has answered the bell time and again, earning her way in events, scoring high finishes and going through the whole process all over the next time. Going into this past weekend's Portland Classic, Henderson had made the cut in eight of nine starts, including three top-five finishes and six top-25s.
Henderson again had to play her way in the field, getting through the Monday qualifier. Frankly, the teen must have figured she'd had just about enough of the extra day of work each week. She obliterated the field at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club, winning by eight shots over three players at 21-under 267. The final result was never in doubt on Sunday, as Henderson locked up the first LPGA win by a Canadian woman since Lorie Kane in 2001.
"I think my game has been at a great level all season, but this week -- well, since Monday, really -- it all came together, and I was able to go low," she said after a final-round 69.
With the win, Henderson earns $195,000 and, potentially, a two-year exemption on the LPGA Tour. Why potentially? Her age. When a player that is under the tour's age floor of 18 wins, that player has to appeal to LPGA commissioner Mike Whan to take up membership. She could also defer that membership until next year when she's 18.
"I haven't even really thought about it yet," Henderson said. "I'm just going to celebrate tonight and then hopefully make a decision soon and we'll see what happens."
Next up for Henderson: her home open, the Canadian Pacific Women's Open. Needless to say, she's excited for the post-victory homecoming.
"It'll be awesome to be back with the Canadian support," she said. "That was my first LPGA tournament three years ago, so it'll be nice to be there."
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Anirban Lahiri may have finished seven strokes back of PGA Championship winner Jason Day, but his T-5 finish at Whistling Straits made history, marking the best finish in major championship by an Indian player.
Shiv Kapur finished ninth at the 2013 British Open.
"I won't really say I was in contention here, because I was a long ways out. But I was in the mix," Lahiri said after a final-round 4-under 68. "It's a great feeling."
Lahiri also won the PGA of America's long-drive contest on Tuesday, hitting a 327-yard drive that won him a gold money clip and a $25,000 charitable donation in his name.
It's the cap on a great season for the 28-year-old. Lahiri won his first two European Tour events in February, taking the Malaysian Open before winning his national championship at the Indian Open in a playoff. Those victories rocketed him up the Official World Golf Ranking, landing him opportunities like this one at the PGA.
The great week here proves part affirmation and part motivation.
"It's massive for me. It gives me so much confidence," Lahiri said. "It also tells me that I can compete with the best on the toughest courses and the best fields. Also tells me that I need to get just a little bit better and maybe I'll be back here more often."
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Jason Day's record-setting victory at the PGA Championship on Sunday was so dominating from start to finish that there was was never a moment of doubt the Australian would be taking home his first major win.
So when did the playing partner who was unsuccessfully trying to catch Day come to the realization that his would be a fruitless effort?
"The tee shot on 11," Jordan Spieth said without taking too much time to think about it.
Day's lead over Spieth was three shots at the time, but the young Texan still harbored hope as they approached the par-5 No. 11 measuring 573 yards. Day kept taking his driver out of his bag and Spieth said he harbored "hope" Day would falter, miss the fairway, take a double bogey and maybe open the door for him to seize his third major of the season.
But Day didn't miss. Like he did on 10 of his 14 drives, Day found the fairway. And when the twosome found the ball safely lying 381 yards away with just 166 yards left to the pin, Spieth could manage only one reaction.
"I actually out loud turned to him and said 'Holy shhhh, you've got to be kidding me,' " Spieth said, taking care to not actually curse in a news conference. "And then he gave me a little bicep. When he hit that shot and he had what looked like a wedge into the hole, I knew I was going to be playing uphill from there."
Day made his birdie putt, Spieth missed his. Day's lead grew to what seemed like an insurmountable four strokes and the back nine turned into a coronation of sorts for one of the best players to have never previously won a major.
Spieth had the best view of Day's tour and conducted himself well. When Day struck a nice putt to get close on No. 17, he could be seen criss-crossing television screens across America, giving Day a big thumbs up.
When Day hit his final putt at No. 18, the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion wrapped him in a hug, knowing exactly what he was feeling.
Maybe Spieth could have been a bit miffed at himself for falling short when he was right there.
But to quote Pedro Martinez, sometimes you've got to tip your hat and call the Yankees your daddy.
Or the genial Aussie, in this case. Day won the PGA Championship in a record 20-under and Spieth said there was no way he would have ever imagined that his final score of 17-under wouldn't be good enough to win. Trailing by two shots at the start of Sunday's round, Spieth told his caddy Michael Greller that he thought a 69 might force a playoff while a 68 might win the tournament.
Spieth shot 68 and never got closer than three shots to Day, who went 68-67-66-67 over the four days. Everyone's fate, not only Spieth's, was likely sealed on the front nine, when Day birdied the second and then strung three in a row over the fifth, sixth and seventh holes.
"Where I was looking to maybe capitalize was to get in early and maybe get that thing tied up in the first six," Spieth said. "Instead, I was left at four behind."
Despite his shortcoming, Spieth held his head high and looked to be enjoying what he called "the best loss I've ever had." That proclamation was likely made because of a trio of Spieth's accomplishments.
• His solo second finish coupled with Rory McIlroy's 17th-place finish vaulted Spieth to the top of the world golf rankings, an achievement Spieth cited as a life goal and one he's already reached by age 22.
• His $1,080,000 PGA payday brought his 2015 earnings to $10,399,715 over 21 events. He's the first golfer to eclipse the $10 million mark since Tiger Woods did it in 2009. (Woods did it three times while Vijay Singh did it once in 2004, though it took him 29 events).
• His combined majors score of 54-under broke the record of 53-under set by Woods in 2000. Spieth won the Masters and U.S. Open before tying for fourth at the British Open and now second at the PGA. (To put his season into perspective, the combined winning score for all four majors in 2015 was 58-under.)
With 234 days left until the next Masters, Spieth will now have to recalibrate a bit. There's a star turn in the FedEx Cup playoffs coming and the not-so-small matter of defending that No. 1 world ranking.
Spieth said he'd focus on both, but not before taking a few minutes to reflect on posting one of the all-time great seasons in majors history.
"It was amazing," Spieth said. "You only get four a year, so to have an opportunity to win all of them is so cool. I hope to have a season like this one at the biggest stages again. I hope that we can do this again."
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — The combined winning score of the four majors in 2015 was 58-under par. Jordan Spieth's combined score in the four majors in 2015: 54-under.
On Sunday, Spieth wrapped up a major campaign in which he came up four shots shy of winning the single-season Grand Slam. He won twice, at the Masters and U.S. Open, finished a shot out of a three-man playoff at the British Open and wound up runner-up by three shots to Jason Day at the PGA Championship.
In the aftermath, Spieth offered a yin-and-yang assessment of what, on paper, is a season only rivaled by a handful in major-championship history.
"You can look at it two different ways," Spieth said. "You can look at it as four shots shy of the Grand Slam ... or you could look at it where maybe one putt [goes in] and I would only have one major this year."
He's right. Had Dustin Johnson's 12-foot eagle bid found the bottom of the cup on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open in June, Spieth only has a green jacket to show for his year. Still, even if that putt did go in, Spieth's line for the majors this year would be 1-T2-T4-2. That would still make him just the third man in golf history to finish in the top four in all four professional majors in a year (Jack Nicklaus in 1973 and Tiger Woods in 2005).
Spieth's year falls short of what Woods did in 2000 and Ben Hogan accomplished in 1953 (when both won three majors), though there are certainly comparisons that look favorably on the young Texan.
At 54-under in the 2015 majors, Spieth eclipsed Woods' 53-under campaign from 15 years ago as the lowest ever. That's great, but Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 and the British Open by eight at St. Andrews, where he became the first player, until Sunday, to hit 20-under par in a major championship.
However, Woods also wasn't a factor in all four majors that year. Tiger finished six back of Vijay Singh at the 2000 Masters, never a factor on Sunday for what would have been his second Augusta National title. Against the hypothetical Score to Win the Grand Slam, Woods finished six back, despite three wins.
The guys who finished second to Woods in that trio of 2000 major wins? Ernie Els twice, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Thomas Bjorn and Bob May. At the time, they had a combined two major wins. Or four if you count Els twice. Singh beat Woods for his second major title. Make it six.
Spieth beat guys with a combined seven majors under their belt, thanks in part to Phil Mickelson (T-2 at the Masters) owning a handful. Zach Johnson won his second and Jason Day had his first. That's 10 majors.
Slipping by May, of all people, in that PGA playoff at Valhalla is what gives Woods' 2000 the ultimate edge over Spieth.
Then there's Ben Hogan in '53, who played in six tournaments, winning five, including the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. He didn't play in the PGA because he wanted to get to Scotland early to learn Carnoustie before his first and only British Open appearance. (He also didn't like that the PGA, at that time, was a match-play affair.)
The Hawk didn't win in as impressive fashion as Woods, but was more dominant, at the age of 40 and four years removed from a near-fatal car wreck, than the 21-now-22-year-old Spieth.
Maybe the more apt comparison, then, is to Woods' 2005: 1-2-1-T4. He won the Masters in a playoff over Chris DiMarco, coming from well back on Saturday to earn a fourth – and, to date, his last – Masters title. He won the British Open again at St. Andrews by two. He came up two short of Phil Mickelson in a Monday PGA finish at Baltusrol (where the PGA heads again next year) and two behind one-off U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell at Pinehurst. Like Spieth this year, Woods 10 years ago had the same finishes, including two wins, and was four shots away from the Grand Slam.
That's heady company, but Woods has since never reproduced a season like that. Neither did Hogan after his '53. Neither did Jack Nicklaus after his all-top-five years in 1971 and '73. What Spieth has done is rare. No other man has done it twice.
Spieth is young. At just 22, he certainly has plenty of more years to find a 16-round groove like this. However, he's surrounded by, in Spieth's parlance, fearless players who don't wilt under major pressure. His peers, including Rory McIlroy and Day, are longer and can more easily bend the knee of major championship venues. Though Spieth is, and will likely continue to be, the best putter on the planet, the game's power movement will be impossible to halt.
So how does Spieth get better and chase the unicorn of a single-season Grand Slam? Perhaps the best thing for him to do is nothing. Look back with pride and clarity that his plan worked as well as anyone else's ever has.
"I hope to have a season like this one at the biggest stages again," Spieth said. "I hope that we can do this again. It's not easy. It takes a lot out of you. I'm tired right now. I left it all out there."
Then rest up, Jordan. The Masters is seven short months away.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Jordan Spieth called it "the best consolation prize ever."
Though the 22-year-old didn't win his third major championship of the year on Sunday at Whistling Straits – that honor went to Australian Jason Day – a final-round, 4-under 68 earned him a solo second-place finish and the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.
"That will never be taken away from me now," Spieth said afterward. "I'll always be a No. 1 player in the world."
He added, "It's an incredible honor."
Spieth supplants Rory McIlroy, who finished in 17th place, for the No. 1 ranking. There were five scenarios by which Spieth could become the top-ranked player for the first time, including one in which he finished second alone and McIlroy finished worse than sixth.
The reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion also becomes just the third player in the history of the game to finish inside the top four in all four major championships in a season. He also sets the all-time single-season scoring record in relationship to par in the majors (-54), supplanting Tiger Woods, who was 53-under par in three major victories in 2000.
Spieth's reign at the top of the world ranking, however, may be short-lived. Both McIlroy and Day are within striking distance of him, and with the four FedEx Cup playoff events starting in two weeks (McIlroy is skipping the first leg, The Barclays), a good September run could see Spieth's seat atop the rankings end quickly.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — The third time finally proved to be the charm for Jason Day.
After sharing the 54-hole lead at both the U.S. and British Opens this season, the 27-year-old Australian finally cashed in from the top of the leaderboard to win the PGA Championship Sunday at Whistling Straits.
Day fired a final-round 67 at the course on the shores of Lake Michigan, finishing with a score of 20-under par, the lowest any player in the history of the sport has ever finished to par in a major championship.
"It's a fantastic record to hold," said Day, who often grew emotional during interviews after his win. "There's been such amazing golfers, especially throughout the history of golf, our sport, and to have that record just goes to show the work I've put in is paying off."
Day's brilliant play allowed him to hold off Jordan Spieth by three strokes, denying the young Texan a chance to become only the third golfer to win three majors in one season.
The win helps Day to escape from the dreaded "never won a major" list and provides a nice cap to what had been a disappointing majors season. Day entered Sunday of the U.S. Open with a share of the lead but battled a bout of vertigo and came up short at Chambers Bay. He did the same at St. Andrews for the British Open but missed a birdie putt on the 18th green that kept him out of playoff won by Zach Johnson.
Day has been incredibly consistent in 22 career starts at the majors, garnering seven top-5 finishes and 10 appearances in the top 10. Both his play and personality have made him a fan favorite.
Spieth, who overtook Rory McIlroy to become No. 1 in the wold golf rankings, finished with a final round 68 and was playing for a chance to join Ben Hogan (1953) and Tiger Woods (2000) as the only golfers to win three majors in one season.
Day, however, wasn't much interested in letting Spieth's history trip up his own bid. He entered the final round with a two-shot lead over Spieth and was aggressive early, taking birdies on the second, fifth, sixth and seventh holes.
When Day matched his playing partner's birdie putt on the par-5 fifth, Spieth felt the need to inform his caddy of something that was readily apparent.
"He's on today," Spieth said as the pair climbed toward the sixth tee.
Day's birdie on No. 7 extended his lead to four shots over Spieth. A bogey by Day on No. 8 proved to be his only a hiccup; his lead over Spieth and the rest of the field would never shrink to smaller than three strokes.
While it's not the same as hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy, Spieth can take consolation in an incredible achievement of his own. His combined score of -54 at the majors bested Tiger Woods' previous record of -53 set in 2000.
Day joins four other Australians who have won the PGA Championship: Jim Ferrier (1947), David Graham (1979), Wayne Grady (1990) and Steve Elkington (1995).
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Drew Doshier and David Missal thought the shirts would be a good way for their group from Sioux Falls, S.D., to stand out at the PGA Championship this week.
Did they ever.
Reading "Spieth For President" on the front and containing the crossed out names of candidates like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on the back, the shirts garnered their group of six plenty of attention at Whistling Straits.
"We just wanted to have a little fun by coming down here," Doshier said.
The shirts drew plenty of attention from fellow golf fans, and the group even gave away a few extras to people who expressed a particular affection for them. One reporter from Golf Digest snapped a pic of them on Saturday, which led to a decent amount of viral fame in the golf blogosphere.
Of course, a few golf fans pointed out that while Spieth may be good at golf, the U.S. Constitution would prohibit his running until 2028, when he turns 35 years old.
"All the people saying that have no sense of humor," Doshier said.
In addition to Doshier and Missal, the shirts were worn by two father and son duos: Stan and Jon Emerson and Gary and Ben Jensen.
Given the success of the shirts, does the group wish they'd brought a box to sell?
"We didn't want to run into copyright problems," Missal said. "We wanted to respect Jordan and his family. This was just a fun thing."
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- Whistling Straits is playing more difficult on Sunday for the final round of the PGA Championship, but that doesn't mean good scores aren't to be had.
Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson both showed that the par-4 sixth hole, playing just 355 yards, can be where a big move is made for the leaders.
Watson drove the green at the hole, then sank the putt to make the first eagle of the week on the sixth, tipping his cap toward the appreciative crowd with a wry smile on his face.
You don't have to drive the green at No. 6 to make eagle. Great shot, Phil. http://t.co/kSmq65MK54— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 16, 2015
Several groups later, Mickelson came up just short of driving the green, landing in a greenside bunker. From there, the five-time major winner holed out his sand shot for the second eagle of the day. Mickelson raised both hands in the air before a fist pump to celebrate the hole-out.
Now the question is: Can the leaders do something similar to jump up the leaderboard?
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — When Bubba Watson and a by-the-numbers rules official collide, you expect fireworks. You just don't expect those fireworks to be over whether or not ants are burrowing animals.
An amateur entomology discussion broke out on Sunday afternoon at the PGA Championship on the fifth hole after Watson missed the fairway. His ball found what appeared to be an anthill, and Watson sought out the nearest official in hopes of getting a free drop. After a conversation with the rules committee, the official delivered the verdict: play it as it lies.
Which would be fine, except that Bubba contended that this shot fell under the USGA's Rule 25-1b: Relief from Abnormal Ground Conditions. Burrowing animals make for "abnormal" conditions, hence the discussion of whether or not an anthill was created by "burrowing" animals. You can watch the discussion above; here's a transcription:
Official: It's not fire ants or anything so there's no relief from them. That's basically a loose impediment.
Watson: OK, but I have a question for you. Since the animal ... it is an animal, you agree with that? It's burrowing, it's digging a hole. So how would it not be? It's either an ant bed or it's an animal digging hole. It's either one or the other. It can't be both.
Official: They're not [classified] as a burrowing animal.
Watson: So even though they dig in the ground, they're not considering burrowing?
Watson: Ok, so they're tunnelmaking. That's what we're calling them this week. I mean, the grass is a loose impediment. No, I got you. So if some guy was allergic to ants and he got an ant on him, you could care less?
Official: It's only if it's the dangerous ants. You know like the fire biting ones?
Watson: Right. It's all good. Thank you so much.
After getting clarification, Watson addressed his ball and ...
As it turned out, Watson was just fine. He ended up birdieing the hole before eagling the sixth, part of an up-and-down front nine that also included three bogeys. Plus, we learned that the PGA is afraid of fire ants but not the garden-variety crawling ones. Good to know.
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Jason Day is still in search of his first major win because just about every Acme package Wile E. Coyote has ever ordered has landed in his way.
At the 2011 Masters, it was a surging Charl Schwartzel. Two years later, his countryman Adam Scott was the one to break the Aussie Curse at Augusta National.
An invincible Rory McIlroy thwarted him at the Congressional U.S. Open in 2011. Vertigo did four years later, or two months ago.
A month ago, Day came up a few feet short of seizing a berth in a British Open playoff, but he just couldn't get the 72nd birdie putt at St. Andrews over the lip.
Now, even with a two-shot edge heading into Sunday's final round of the PGA Championship, Day still has a roadblock in his way to the Wanamaker: Jordan Spieth.
Spieth put on a show on the back nine on Saturday, making six birdies to turn in a 7-under 65 at Whistling Straits and land a spot in the final pairing along with the Aussie.
Afterward, the two-time 2015 major winner said he wasn't leaderboard watching, but he must have a sixth sense, then, about when to put down the pedal. After Day dropped two shots with a bunker miscue at the par-4 15th to go from 16-under to 14-under, Spieth seized the opening, making birdies on the final three holes to give himself a good chance to join Ben Hogan (1953) and Tiger Woods (2000) as the only two men to win three professional majors in a season.
The 22-year-old is a big enough distraction for Day, especially since they're playing together, but he also has to keep eyes on Martin Kaymer, who is four back and won here five years ago, and 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose (-12). Even Dustin Johnson (-9), six back and freed of the pressure to close the deal in majors from ahead, is a peripheral threat that could come quickly into view with a hot start.
However, if Day is going to win his first major championship, he's likely going to need his best performance this week on the scorable back nine of this Pete Dye design. Day has improved his back nine score by one each day, turning in 4-under 32 on Saturday. A modest front and a 31 on the last nine in the final round, combined with the padding of a two-shot edge, may well do it.
"I haven't won before, so that's something that is possibly a new experience for me tomorrow," Day said.
With a win on Sunday, Day avoids taking the Best Player Without A Major billing from Johnson, who, at this point, is thought of as a guy who isn't going to get his first major from ahead. The scar tissue runs too deep for Johnson to dominate a major from end to end.
Then again, if Day doesn't cash in, it'll be the third consecutive major in which he has had at least a share of the 54-hole lead and hasn't finished the deal. Remind you of another Aussie? Day's year would be only one third-round major lead shy of Greg Norman's 1986 season, where the Shark won the Saturday Slam but only walked away with one major trophy.
One major trophy. That's all Day is looking for on Sunday. He's been within reach enough times. Now he has to grab it.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — There was one hole left of partying at the Michelob Ultra hospitality chalet on Saturday when a crasher from Australia named Matt Jones showed up.
Or, to be more specific, a golf ball from Matt Jones crashed its way in.
"It was like a foul ball at a baseball game," a golf fan named Tyson Gutschow said after the commotion had died down. "You heard 'Get out of the way! Get out of the way!' And then boom!"
The ball hit the blue carpet, caromed off a few objects or people and then came to rest near a round table and behind a collection of flower planters. The fans in both the Michelob chalet and the others located high above the left side of the ninth fairway rushed over and whipped out their smartphones. They started taking pictures as if a shower of Lake Michigan perch had just dropped from the sky.
Jones, a 35-year-old journeyman who happened to be leading the PGA Championship at the time with a score of -13, thought he had hit the ball well but obviously picked the wrong line. He arrived a few minutes later to attempt a shot that lit up the Internet and woke fans up from some mid-third round doldrums.
If you're a casual fan reading this wondering why landing your ball in a suite doesn't count as a stroke penalty, it's because suites are considered part of the grounds. If you want an explanation for that, well the only thing you're going to get is this: "Because they just are."
Plus, why would anyone want to see anyone take a drop instead of hitting a shot like this?
Jones turned out to be a good guest. He didn't ask for anything to drink, nor did he overstay his welcome. He didn't say much either, only conversing with the people he'd brought with him.
“The rules committee was up there and they were trying to determine whether he was going to drop it or play it," Gutschow said. "And he said, ‘I’m playing it.’ ”
Jones did rearrange the furniture, though. The golfer requested that the flower planters in front of him be moved. The planters disappeared. So did a hanging basket of flowers from a post on a rail.
Security arranged fans like props on a stage and the wire photographers took their positions. Jones himself peered over the side of the fence and down toward the hole, 166 yards away.
"There were a lot of cameras clicking," Jones said. "And I just had to deal with it, because no one is going to be able to control a crowd like that."
Meanwhile, Gutschow pondered the randomness of it all. He's a local from Sheybogan and happens to be the president of Larry's Distributing, the fine company responsible for making sure there's enough beer on hand at Whistling Straits. He and his 12-year-old son Spencer were watching from the same vantage point on Friday when a drive from Brooks Koepka also reached the chalet. Spencer was hit in the shoulder by the ball and Koepka hit out for an eventual bogey.
"What are the odds?" Gutschow asked. "It's like getting struck by lightning."
Now the man leading the tournament was standing just a few feet away and CBS cameras were there. Gutschow didn't want to let the opportunity for exposure pass so he and other partiers made sure they were holding their Michelob cans in such a way they could be seen on TV.
"That’s the best advertising in the world we can get," Gutschow said. "We were all turning our cans. The camera guys were like 'You can’t do that.' I said 'It’s our chalet!' "
In the end, Gutschow didn't get that much free advertising. The cameraman set himself up in the doorway behind Jones and his wedge. The blimp then picked up the trajectory of the ball's flight, following it until it landed iin the second cut off the green, about 35 feet from the hole.
People who had gathered above the ninth green had been trying to pick up Jones' location with binoculars and were unaware he had made a temporary stop in the suites. Only when they heard all the cheers and saw the high fives people were trying to give Jones did they realize what had happened.
"Did that just come out of the suite?" they asked in disbelief.
Unfortunately for Jones, the shot was arguably the high point of his round. Once he climbed down toward the green, the 36-hole leader couldn't save par and took bogey to move to -12. Though he fought back with birdies on 11 and 14, he fell apart on the final three holes going bogey-bogey-double bogey and will start Sunday's final round at -10, five shots behind fellow Aussie Jason Day (-15). The two countrymen played together on Saturday, with Day shooting 66 to Jones' 73.
"I'm still in it. I'm definitely not out of it," Jones said. "I have to shoot a very good round tomorrow."
Making a few shots that are memorable for different reasons than the one on Saturday might help
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Matt Jones didn't find one of the 1,000 or so bunkers at Whistling Straits with his tee shot on the par-4 9th on Saturday at the PGA Championship.
Instead, he found a hospitality tent.
Sitting atop the leaderboard at 13-under at the time, the Aussie's drive went went left of the fairway, winding up on some carpet outside one of the hospitality tents lining the left side of the hole. After considering his options – he could have taken a free drop outside the tent – he determined his best shot was ... from right were his ball sat.
From 165 yards out, Jones' shot escaped the hospitality tent, but didn't wind up on the green. The leader went on to make a bogey on the hole, dropping to a one-shot lead as he turned in 1-under 35.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Phil Mickelson is playing a game of "Chutes and Ladders" this week at the PGA Championship.
On Friday, Mickelson playfully slid down one of the many faux dunes towering over the Pete Dye designed Whistling Straits. A day later, the five-time major champion climbed the leaderboard ladder with a third-round 66 that moved him past more than half of the weekend field.
Mickelson made nine birdies on the day, dropping three shots and sprinkling in six pars, including an impressive save at the finishing hole to match playing partner Jason Bohn. Mickelson, who hasn't won a PGA Tour event since the 2013 British Open, believes it could have been much lower.
"With the three three-putts and a couple of other bogeys and mistakes that I made, it could have been in the low 60s and possibly broken the major record," he said. "That would have been special, but you just can't make those kinds of mistakes."
Perhaps the secret was his playing partner. Mickelson pronounced Bohn as a personal favorite.
"He's a fun guy and it really took off some of the pressure that I've been putting on myself to play well," Mickelson said. "We went out and and we just kind of talked and laughed and I kind of forgot about the fact that I haven't been playing some of my best in some time."
Surely the company was great, but nine circles on the card will help most anyone have a great time on the course. And it showed, even more so than normal for Mickelson, who, after a great recovery shot on the sixth hole, gave the touring pro's crowd acknowledgement wave to some folks anchored in a boat offshore on Lake Michigan. Wave where they're cheering, right?
Mickelson is still too far back (10 strokes of leader Jason Day) to be a real threat to win here. He might have been had he pulled off that unicorn of a 62 he described was possible, but instead he's left to try to put one more good number on the board and build some momentum for the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Of particular importance for Mickelson, who entered this week at 56th in points, is the first two playoff events, The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship, the latter of which is the cutoff to make the U.S. Presidents Cup team. Since its inception in 1994, Mickelson has never missed a team. As it stands, he's 36th in points, with the top 10 qualifying. Mickelson flatly rejected the idea of being a wild-card pick of captain Jay Haas. He wants to play his way on, and this round provided some of that patented Mickelson optimism that he might manage to make it.
"I know that rounds like this tell me that I'm very close to having it click," Mickelson said, offering some of the kind of verbiage that gets Tiger Woods skewered.
"If it clicks, I should be able to win one of those next couple of events and get myself right back up there in contention for the points," he said.
That's a big leap from one good round into the winner's circle, and it's been a common refrain for Mickelson to suggest the best is still yet to come. However, on Saturday, Mickelson may have convinced the most important person that his two-plus-year winless skid could soon be over: himself.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Boo Weekley didn't play on Saturday like he had a boat to catch.
Thing is, he really did have a boat to catch.
Weekley told reporters on Saturday morning that he had a fishing trip planned for Lake Michigan later in the day. Then he went out and fired a seven-under 65 in the third round to move up the leaderboard.
Weekley (-6) has gone 75-70-65 so far at Whistling Straits. He dropped eight birdies during the third round.
So what was he going to fish for?
"I don't know what they got out there in that big old lake," the 42-year-old Weekley said. "We're going to find it, though, I can tell you that now."
The always-entertaining Weekley laughed and then opted for some golf humor.
"We're going to find a couple things anyway," Weekley said. "I'll probably run into my psychiatrist when I'm out there."
Weekley, who hails from Florida, often mentions hunting or fishing in profiles written about him. He finds both exercises a nice escape from the mental pressures of golf. Given the way he struggled to keep his tour card about 10 years ago, it's easy to see why he looked for that outlet.
"When I walk off that 18th green, it's over with," Weekley said. "It's time to go do something different. Whether it's fishing, drinking a beer or doing something."
A good outing on the lake could set Weekley up for a chance at his highest finish in a major. Weekley finished tied for ninth at the 2007 PGA Championship. His highest finish this season was third at the Zurich Classic.
By the way, Weekley can expect to contend for a variety of fish out in Lake MIchigan, including king salmon, rainbow trout, walleye and lake perch.
One wonders if he'll consider a nice haul a bigger achievement than that 65.
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Rory McIlroy made an early run in Saturday's third round of the PGA Championship, but couldn't keep it going as the day went on.
McIlroy played four-under over the first five holes at Whistling Straits. He birdied the second and fourth before making some major waves with a 63-foot eagle putt on No. 5. That moved the defending PGA Championship winner to -6 for the tournament and it looked like he might make some major waves.
McIlroy's deep push, however, ended there. While he would birdie four more holes, he matched those with four bogeys to head into Sunday's final round at -6, nine strokes back of leader Jason Day.
No. 5 has been a fun hole for McIlroy this week. He made every highlight reel for his Thursday adventure on the lengthy par-5, rolling up his pants leg for an up-and-down par save from the water.
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Round 3 at the PGA Championship should make for some good Saturday afternoon TV for American fans.
It should make for even better Sunday morning watching around the world in Australia.
That's because two Aussies — Matt Jones and Jason Day — will form the day's final pairing at Whistling Straits.
Jones took sole possession of the lead at -11 when second-round play resumed at Whistling Straits early Saturday morning. Jones started with a birdie on the 13th hole and then finished with a birdie on 18. The 35-year-old has been a grinder over his career. He has one tour victory to his name, a win at last year's Houston Open.
Day, meanwhile, has knocked at the door at several majors but has yet to finish. The 27-year-old currently sits at -9, recording a birdie on No. 16 early Saturday before finishing with bogey on No. 18.
Both men were asked about each other and their Aussie ties. Because Jones attended college at Arizona States, they didn't meet until they started playing golf together in North America.
Day said that he and Jones were "good mates" but couldn't remember the last time they'd played together.
Jones was also complimentary of Day.
"I've known Jason probably since 2005 or 2006 whenever we were on the with WEB.COM together," Jones said. "Jason is a great guy, very nice guy. We haven't done a lot together. We see each other at the golf course, that's about it. But he's an awesome guy. He's a very good Australian guy."
If either wins, they will join four other Australians who have won the PGA Championship: Jim Ferrier (1947), David Graham (1979), Wayne Grady (1990) and Steve Elkington (1995).
Both Jones and Day will have plenty of competition. Justin Rose is the closest major winner on the board at -8, while Jordan Spieth sits five shots back of Jones at -6. While many of the leaders had to resume play early Saturday morning, Spieth completed his second round before Friday's bad weather and will have the advantage of a full night's rest.
For now, Jones said he's going to enjoy the view from up top.
"For me, it's amazing to be in the lead at a major," Jones said. "I've been in the lead on a Tour event, but a major's a different story. But I'm going to have fun with it, and I'm pretty relaxed on the golf course. I'm sure I'll be nervous on the first tee, but playing with Jason will be great."
Here are the times for all pairings -4 or better (time listed in CT)
1:27: Martin Kaymer (-4), Branden Grace (-4)
1:36: Paul Casey (-4), Hunter Mahan (-4)
1:45: Charles Howell III (-4), Matt Kuchar (-4)
1:54: Marcel Siem (-4), Hideki Matsuyama (-4)
2:03: Hiroshi Iwata (-4), Billy Horschel (-4)
2:12: Dustin Johnson (-5), J.B. Holmes (-5)
2:21: Russell Henley (-5), Harris English (-5)
2:30: Brendan Steele (-6), George Coetzee (-5)
2:39: Jordan Spieth (-6), Scott Piercy (-6)
2:48: Tony Finau (-7), Anirban Lahiri (-7)
2:57: Justin Rose (-8), David Lingmerth (-7)
3:06: Matt Jones (-11), Jason Day (-9)
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Did Zach Johnson forget his driver back in Scotland?
The reigning British Open champion missed the cut at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits after continually missing off the tee during the first two rounds and finishing 3-over. Johnson hit only 12 of 28 fairways, leaving him to wonder what went wrong with his driver.
"That's my strength and it was not my strength this week," said Johnson, who completed his round before weather suspended second-round play on Friday afternoon. "Very frustrating."
Johnson's troubles mirrored some early hiccups that he experienced with his driver last week at Bridgestone. There, Johnson went 14 of 28 for fairways on Thursday and Friday before recovering a bit on the weekend to finish tied for 33rd.
"I've got to go back to the drawing board," Johnson said. "I'm very frustrated with it. You can kind of figure it out when you're missing it one direction, but when you're missing it both directions, it's difficult."
Johnson recorded a 75 on Thursday at Whistling Straits while playing with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. It looked like he might recover on Friday after birdies on the first three holes. But the rest of the round wasn't friendly. Johnson recorded only one birdie to four bogeys the rest of the way to finish at even par for the day.
Here are other notable players who missed the cut (+2):
Tiger Woods (+4): Woods had an outside chance at making the cut when play resumed on Saturday morning. But an early bogey on No. 14 dashed his hopes. He says he'll watch the rest of the tournament from his new sports bar in Jupiter, Fla.
Shaun Micheel (+3): The 2003 PGA Championship winner hasn't made the last four cuts at this event.
Shane Lowry (+3): The Irishman must've been exhausted after recording his first win on tour at Bridgestone last week. Lowry shot 78 on Thursday, digging a hole so deep that not even a three-under 69 on Friday could get him out of. He should still be feeling pretty good, though, with the win at Bridgestone securing his card for the next three years.
Graeme McDowell (+5): McDowell won't see the weekend after posting a 76 on Friday.
Adam Scott (+7): The Aussie recorded top-10 finishes at both the U.S. and British Open, but never got in the swing of things at Whistling, posting 76-75.
John Daly (+10): 'Nuff said.
Brett Jones (+9): While his brother Matt surged to the top of the leaderboard, Brett had a decidedly different experience. On the bright side, the PGA club pro will be on hand for what could be a very big moment for Matt this weekend. It's possible he'll be the only golfer who missed the cut to stick around for the next two days.
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — With his seventh straight season without a major title officially in the books, Tiger Woods was asked about his future plans.
"I'm going to go home and watch the leaders tee off and play," said Woods on an idyllic summer Saturday morning, his private jet presumably already idling in a nearby airfield. "Probably in Florida. Actually I'll go to my sports bar, how about that?"
Woods grinned a little when he delivered the line about his new eatery in Jupiter, Fla., but the fact remained that he'll be watching the remainder of this PGA Championship like most golf fans. Away from the course — at a bar or on the couch.
The only difference, of course, is that Woods owns the bar.
And he probably owns a much nicer couch.
Woods can now retire to either spot to consider the worst majors season of his career by far. After finishing tied for 17th at The Masters, Woods struggled through recovery from a back injury and complications with a new swing to miss the cut at the U.S Open, British Open and now the PGA Championship.
"It's frustrating to miss any cuts," said Woods when asked if he attached any special significance to his low batting average in this year's majors.
Woods might have been able to fly home from Wisconsin late Friday night, but intense storms in the Whistling Straits area chased his group from the course on the 14th hole. That meant an early Saturday morning resumption (a similar situation Woods faced at St. Andrews) with a score of 4-over and an outside chance of making the cut (set at 2-over) if things went well over the final five holes. (Indeed, playing partner Keegan Bradley took advantage of the opportunity with birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 getting him to 2-over and earning him two extra rounds at a major.)
An early bogey on No. 14, however, dashed any hope for Woods. Not even a nice birdie on the par-3 17th in front of a cheering crowd was enough to provide any consolation for Tiger, who scored 75-73 over two days plagued with putter problems.
"I finally figured something out today on the putting green, but the damage had already been done," Woods said. "Finally rolled the ball coming in, and unfortunately it was too little too late."
The appearance at Whistling made it an even 10 Tour events for Woods this season. Whether or not he stretches it to 11 remains up in the air. While Woods announced on Friday night that he'd put in his paperwork for next weekend's Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., his agent Mark Steinberg later told ESPN.com that Woods hadn't fully committed. The papers had only been filed to hit the event's Friday deadline.
Woods didn't shine any more light on the decision Saturday morning, only saying that he'd work with his team "over the next couple days" to see if "it's the right move or not." Steinberg told ESPN.com that Wyndham would be notified of Woods' intentions with plenty of time so Woods' spot in the field wouldn't go to waste if he withdraws.
Woods hasn't played consecutive weeks since Torrey Pines and Phoenix near the start of the season. It's been speculated that a first-ever appearance in Greensboro is a last-minute Hail Mary attempt to make the FedEx Cup field — he'd have to finish either first or solo second — but Woods didn't set that expectation, saying "it's more about about building."
"I just need to get more consistent in tournament golf," Woods said. "Only way you can do that is by playing."
While there's nothing Woods can do to save 2015 from being the worst of his professional career, it's possible he can still make inroads before his 40th birthday on Dec. 30 and the calendar turns to 2016. A slate of international events awaits and Woods said he looks forward to building on confidence that only recently returned.
"I haven't been able to put consistently both together for an entire event," Woods said. "Maybe for a day or two but not for an event. ... Now if I can start putting like I did [Saturday] or what I did at Quicken Loans a couple weeks ago, then we got something."
A PR person cut off questions for Woods a few moments later and the player stepped off the podium to start his early trip home.
While he was once a fixture at majors on Saturdays and Sundays, Woods was off to become a fixture on a cushion or stool. And what happens after this weekend? Well, nobody's really quite sure.
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Jason Day and his caddie-slash-teacher Colin Swatton were standing on the back of the 14th green, looking out in the distance as Dustin Johnson was preparing to hit his potentially par-saving putt. They both saw a flash of lightning, with Day pointing toward it.
Typically, golfers stop when they see lightning. The whole metal-rod-in-your-palms thing is a bit unsettling. But not for Day. He wanted to keep playing. So after Johnson missed his par bid to card his second consecutive bogey, Day walked to line up his 9-foot birdie putt like it was a sun-shiny Wisconsin evening.
Day tantalizingly missed his bid for three straight birdies, dropping into a semi-crouch of surprise after the putt didn't fall. Lightning flashed again. Thunder boomed just enough to make you know it's nearby.
And the Aussie kept right on walking to the 15th tee. He'd hit two more shots, including a sweet approach just before airhorns bellowed through the Pete Dye design. Play had been called, a big storm was coming, but before it did Day had given himself another good look at birdie.
Playing partner Rickie Fowler commented that it was getting too dark to play, with it being difficult to judge distances and see the ball in the low-hanging clouds. Day, who was in a zone, didn't seem to mind as much.
"It was tough to kind of judge the distance, especially with wedges where you need to land it," Day said. "It was hard to read putts out there. But for me, I just somehow got through it, which is fantastic."
The 15th green is where Day will resume play on Saturday morning, a joint leader in the PGA Championship with fellow Aussie Matt Jones at 9-under par. Both players are 5-under in their second rounds, doing so in downright perfect scoring conditions in the afternoon wave – you know, before the storm that knocked over scoreboards, took down flags and nearly caved in several tents around the course.
Day is looking for his first major championship, coming just a few feet short of a playoff for the Claret Jug at last month's British Open and the victim of vertigo at the U.S. Open, where he still managed to find his way into the final pairing on Sunday.
Despite nine career top-10 finishes in majors, including four on the medal stand, Day has been given a pass on his close calls because he's never been close enough to taste the trophy only to let someone else snatch it. All four major titles have been within reach, but he's yet to seize one.
With a birdie look on 15 and two more potential scoring opportunities in the final three holes after, Day could grab a sizable lead heading into the third round, particularly over Jordan Spieth, who is at 6-under, and Johnson, sitting at 5-under after three bogeys in his final four holes before play was halted.
The timing may not have been right for Day to be forced from the course, but his rally to a share of the lead may have positioned him just right to take advantage of a softened Straits Course on Saturday and give him his best-yet chance at that major breakthrough.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- If you're a star golfer, preparing for a major championship isn't easy. It's a balancing act, between spending time with accompanying friends and family, signing autographs, kissing babies, feeding the media and, oh yeah, working on your game and getting to know the major venue before play starts on Thursday.
Rickie Fowler balances that act well.
In 2014, Fowler managed to become the third male player to finish in the top five in all four major championships in a single season. While he didn't repeat the feat in 2015, he won the unofficial fifth major, The Players, and an elite field at the British Open precursor, the Scottish Open.
As his win tally has increased and his consistency has improved under Butch Harmon's watchful eye, Fowler, now in his seventh season as a pro, knows how to get ready for a major.
"There's a lot going on -- a lot of people, a lot of distractions," Fowler said. "The biggest thing is being rested and ready to go on Thursday morning. It calms down more when the tournament starts."
However, before the gun goes off on Thursday, Fowler had a special perk this week. As a Mercedes-Benz endorser, Fowler has been offered three very sweet rides that are at the home he's renting for the week.
"I have a pretty good line up at the house," said Fowler, who also has a race track near his Florida home. "The driveway is looking pretty, pretty good right now."
Don't worry; Fowler wasn't burning rubber in some Wisconsin neighborhood. He's just been cruising with the cars this week.
However, he's hoping to come back from a quadruple bogey in the first round to earn his first major title. If he does, Fowler said the Wanamaker is going to be his shotgun rider for a while.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — With another missed cut at a major championship looming and time running out on qualifying for the FedEx Cup, Tiger Woods is heaving one last Hail Mary.
Woods announced on Friday night that he has committed to next weekend's Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. The event is the last tournament before the FedEx Cup playoff field is set at 125 players.
Woods, who has never played in Greensboro before, is currently 186th in the FedEx Cup standings and is 279 points behind S.J. Park for the final spot. A long-shot win at Wyndham, which will feature a handful of the top 50 players, would give Woods 500 points and likely get him in. A second-place finish would give him 300 points and likely leave him short depending on how other players finish.
Woods has played in 10 events this year, with his highest finish a T-17 at The Masters.
The commitment to Wyndham comes as somewhat of a surprise, because Woods has not played very good golf at this week's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits so far. He struggled with his putting during an expletive-laden round of 75 on Thursday and was at one-over through 13 holes for the day on Friday when play was suspended. Woods is currently 4-over.
With the projected cut at plus-1, it'll take a furious rally for Woods to make the cut when play resumes on Saturday morning. Otherwise, his PGA Championship experience could look a lot like his turn at the British Open. A weather delay at St. Andrews meant that Woods also had to come back on Saturday, even though he was well on his way to missing the cut.
Woods said earlier this week that the caliber of his play would determine his schedule going forward. But after his performance over the first two rounds at Whistling Straits, followed by the commitment to Wyndham, it looks like he's changing plans.
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Second-round play at the PGA Championship was suspended for the day Friday night as intense storms moved into the area around Whistling Straits.
Air horns sounded on the course at 5:28 p.m. local time with several groups still on the course. Those groups are scheduled to resume play at 7 a.m. CT on Saturday.
Co-leader Jason Day (-9) had four holes to play when he was called off the 15th hole. Matt Jones, the other leader at 9-under, was on the 13th hole.
Other players of note on the course were Justin Rose (-8 thru 17), Harris English (-7 thru 15) and Tiger Woods (+4 thru 13).
See the full leaderboard right here.
One player who might've been happy to have play suspended was Dustin Johnson. The leader after one round spent most of the day in the lead, but bogeyed three of his last four holes to fall to -5 through 14.
The storm was punctuated by heavy rain and strong winds.
Conditions deteriorated quickly here at Whistling Straits. https://t.co/3UY8YtO2gC— Eric Adelson (@eric_adelson) August 14, 2015
Getting worse by the minute. https://t.co/gnpXrifhFV— Eric Adelson (@eric_adelson) August 14, 2015
It's kinda scary in here. pic.twitter.com/1UlLOpb3uq— Ryan Ballengee (@RyanBallengee) August 14, 2015
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Despite winning two major championships in 2015, Jordan Spieth's most memorable shot continues to be his bunker hole-out from the 2013 John Deere Classic. It was that shot on No. 18 that got Spieth into a playoff that would eventually lead to his first win on the PGA Tour and full-time membership on the tour at age 20.
As Spieth's caddie, Michael Greller had the best view of that career highlight.
But he was also right there on Friday afternoon when Spieth holed a big bunker blast on the 18th hole at Whistling Straits, en route to a 67 that vaulted him into strong contention for his third major of the season at 6-under for the PGA Championship.
Greller thinks that was an even better bunker shot than the one that shot Spieth to stardom.
"The John Deere was a great shot that became greater because of what happened afterward," Greller said after the round. "This one had a higher difficulty because he had to come in so steep on that shot and had virtually nowhere to land it. It took a perfect bounce."
Spieth agreed, saying he and Greller almost decided to play it to a safe spot 10 feet right of the hole instead of going for it.
"It almost had to be straight up and straight down," Spieth said. "The chances of hitting that the right way are so slim that you could easily catch it thin and then you're left with a very likely double bogey."
Greller said that when Spieth describes something as impossible, "he usually just means it's really tough."
"He thinks everything is going in," Greller said. "He doesn't walk up to it thinking he's going up and down."
With his ball up against the lip of the sand trap, Spieth swung his club.
Greller watched — and also listened.
"You could just hear the most perfect sound from the shot," he said.
The ball bounced twice before skidding and then turning right into the hole. At the time, It was only one of two birdies on No. 18 for the day. The hole also played tough on Thursday; ESPN Stats and Info reported the hole had twice as many double bogeys than birdies in the opening round.
Michael Greller listed Spieth’s top 5 holeouts18 Whistling18 John Deere17 Tampa to get his card4 Sunday at 13 Masters11 in Puerto Rico— Kevin Kaduk (@KevinKaduk) August 14, 2015
While the highlight might fade into whatever Spieth does over the next two days, it played a big role into what transpired during the second round. The shot moved Spieth to 3-under before his grouping with Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson made the turn to the front nine.
Spieth used the "pep in his step" to birdie the first, third and sixth holes to finish with a five-under 67. That was four shots better than his opening round, which was played under much tougher playing conditions on Thursday afternoon.
While Spieth took advantage of Friday's scoring opportunities, his playing partners did not. McIlroy finished the day 1-under, while British Open champion Zach Johnson shot even par to stay at 3-over for the tournament. He was in position to miss the projected cut at 1-over as he walked off the course.
Spieth acknowledged that he was lucky to get a few bounces over the round — yes, even on that 18th — and said his ball striking would need to improve once the weekend rounds bring tougher tee placements and pin positions.
But the edited achievement of the "American Slam" — winning all three majors played on U.S. soil — is well within reach for the 22-year-old if he keeps showing off his prodigious talent. Spieth currently trails six golfers, including co-leaders Jason Day and Matt Jones at -9. Both golfers were on the course with several holes to play when the tournament was suspended on Friday night.
Can Spieth do it for two more rounds? Spieth was asked if both the conditions at Whistling Straits plus an already long season might wear him down as he aims to make history.
"I feel good," Spieth said. "I got a chance to win a major championship. Just thinking about that gets you enough adrenaline to that there won't be any issues."
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- Wheeeee!
Phil Mickelson is staying young by playing Tuesday games and practice rounds with some of the younger set, so it's not surprising that he's just a big, 45-year-old kid at heart.
The five-time major champion showed some of that whimsy on Friday at Whistling Straits. Rather than walk down one of the Pete Dye design's many faux dunes, Mickelson decided to slide down and have a little fun.
Mickelson will get a few more chances to turn the PGA Championship host into his personal playground, shooting a Friday 1-over 73 that has him through to the weekend.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — John Daly figured that, since he had just put three golf balls in Lake Michigan, he may as well throw the offending club in there after them.
On Friday at the PGA Championship, Daly made a septuple-bogey 10 on the par-3 seventh hole after hitting two balls into Lake Michigan, which sits to the right of the 221-yard hole. Eventually, he hit the green with his seventh shot.
After Daly hurled his club into the water, a boat cruised up to the spot where Daly's club found a watery grave. A sunbathing kid fished the club out of the water.
Daly will have to play the rest of the round with 13 clubs – that is, unless he sends any more into the water.
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Hiroshi Iwata on Friday improved 14 shots over his opening round of the PGA Championship, shooting the 27th 63 in men's major championship history – the lowest score ever recorded in major men's competition.
Iwata made eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey to shoot the 9-under score, going from 5-over after Day 1 to a 36-hole total of 4-under 140 heading into the weekend at Whistling Straits. Iwata still sits seven strokes back of leader Matt Jones, who's at 11-under.
The world No. 102 in the world had a chance on the 18th hole to become the first player to shoot 62 in a men's major championship. His second shot to the par-4, 520-yard finishing hole came up some 20 yards short of the green to the right, leaving a tricky pitch shot over bunkers to a tight hole location. The pitch landed in the rough, bounding onto the green and sliding by the hole just inches on the left, setting up a straightforward par putt for a piece of golf history.
Earlier this season, Iwata shot a record-setting 62 in the OneAsia Tour's Thailand Open. Asked how that round compares to this one, Iwata joked, "Just one shot different."
Iwata, who to this point had never made the cut in any of his three previous major appearances, is the first player to shoot 63 in a major since Jason Dufner did in the second round of the 2013 PGA Championship, which he eventually won for his first major title. It's also the 13th time a round of 63 has been shot in the PGA Championship, one less than the total rounds of 63 in the other three majors.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — You can't accuse the folks in charge of the PGA Championship merchandise tent for not knowing what Wisconsin golf fans want to buy.
The most popular item in the huge retail area this week was a putter cover made of foam cheese. Priced at $30, they flew off the shelves and were completely sold out for the weekend by Thursday.
Disappointed cheeseheads, however, had plenty of other options to show both their love of their homestate and the fact they visited this year's tournament. We took a walk through the sales floor on Friday morning to see some of the odder offerings available for purchase.
Zubaz hats in Green Bay Packers colors ($25): If there's one fashion rule in the greater Sheboygan area, it's that you can never overdo it with the green-and-gold Zubaz print.
Bucket hats in Green Bay Packers colors ($32): Suitable for cheering on both Rory McIlroy this weekend and Aaron Rodgers the next.
Putter covers in Green Bay Packers colors ($32): Starting to sense a theme here. Though if they really wanted to target Wisconsin natives, they'd also offer it in hunters organe.
PGA championship/Milwaukee Brewers shirt ($34): Welll, then. A little something for the baseball fans.
PGA championship/Wisconsin polo shirt ($60): And the Badgers fans over in Madison.
Ryder Cup 2020: Whistling Straits cap ($27): We looked for Milwaukee Bucks or Marquette gear, but came up empty. It's never too early, though, to start advertising the Ryder Cup's arrival here in five years.
"Quiet Please" paddle ($68): Have a young golf fan who won't shut up? Buy this paddle. It may be expensive, but you can't put a price on peace of mind.
Stuffed Scottish blackface sheep ($14): The flock of sheep that regularly roams Whistling Straits have been moved offsite for the tournament, but you can still find a smaller stuffed version in the merch tent.
Oversized golf "cheese" balls ($12): Trust us: They only LOOK tasty.
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — The world's top two players went for a walk on Thursday afternoon and each was still smiling by the end.
That was a bit of a upset in itself because the round that Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth played together at Whistling Straits was anything but easy. Winds whipped off the shores of Lake Michigan and there were no places to hide from the sun on the treeless course. Huge galleries of fans provided plenty of distraction. Play during the five-hour round went slowly with the duo and playing partner Zach Johnson being put on the clock by No. 15.
Still, McIlroy and Spieth survived it all to each post a one-under 71, far from clubhouse leader Dustin Johnson at -6 but plenty respectable for a group that played under such challenging conditions. (Most of the golfers at the top of the leaderboard had morning tee times, long before the weather changed.)
"I think anything under par this afternoon was a decent score," McIlroy said in the media area afterward.
"Under par was a good round this afternoon," Spieth echoed in a press conference held simultaneously just a few feet away. "I think one of the better rounds in the afternoon."
Both golfers had plenty to overcome, though.
For McIlroy, the top-ranked golfer in the world and the defending PGA champion, it was his first competive round since rupturing a ligament in his ankle in early July. McIlroy admitted to being nervous on the first tee, but quickly settled down after a first-hole bogey. He quickly pointed to the calming influence that his distance gifted him on the par-5 second, which was playing at a meaty 602 yards.
After hitting his drive 311 yards to the fairway, McIlroy hit a three-wood 283 yards into the green and came away with a birdie.
"That was one of the best 3-woods I've ever hit," McIlroy said. "The only thing I was a little worried about going into today is whether I could bring this good golf that I know I've been playing into a competitive round. After those shots on the second, I felt like I did that."
McIlroy was asked how his ankle held up after walking 18 holes.
"It was fine, just as it was walking 18 and practicing," McIlroy said. "As you can see the way I'm hitting the ball and the way I'm getting around the golf course, I have full confidence in it."
Any questions about McIlroy's mobility were answered on the 601-yard, par 5 fifth, when he saved a ball from both sand and water to record a ridiculous up-and-down par save.
McIlroy said his only concern was to not get his taped left ankle wet. Luckily, his right ankle was the one planted in deep water when he made the shot.
"I was very fortunate to escape with a par there," he said.
Spieth, meanwhile, had to shake off some uncharacterstic problems with his putter on the front nine.
The second-ranked player in the world and winner of both The Masters and U.S. Open missed several putts early, copping to the same speed control issues that sank Tiger Woods earlier in the day. Spieth grinded his way through the front nine with nine pars before taking a bogey on the par-5 11th.
But while Spieth ran into trouble on the par-3 12, he responded with aplomb after his tee shot found an unfortunate spot. Denied a drop from a nearby sprinkler head, Spieth sank a 52-degree wedge for birdie to get back to even par as the crowd roared.
"The shot on 12 obviously turned my emotions around," said Spieth, who noted that the cheers were louder than he expected them to be.
Spieth moved to one-under with a birdie on No. 16. McIlroy moved to two-under on that same hole, but a bogey on 18 meant both golfers finished with the same 71.
No, 1-under isn't all that glamorous, but it was a score that Zach Johnson, who won last month's British Open, would have gladly taken playing alongside both golfers. Johnson scored a 3-over 75 and will have plenty of work to do to make the weekend cut.
All three golfers will tee off on Friday morning when the course will be fresher and the winds aren't expected to be as fierce. That's when they'll have an opportunity to make a run at Dustin Johnson and Co. after opting for the safe way in the opening round and receiving a decent reward for it.
"When we saw 6-under on the board, we talked about it and knew that was probably not feasible for us, minus a few breaks," Spieth said. "It was a different golf course and we needed to adjust our expectations because of that."
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — David Lingmerth is starting to come into his own, perhaps just in time to come into posession of the Wanamaker trophy.
Lingmerth shot 5-under 67 at Whistling Straits on Thursday to own second alone, a shot behind Dustin Johnson, at the PGA Championship. The score is even better considering the difficulty of the afternoon scoring conditions.
His name might be a surprising one to the casual golf fan, but the Swede has been pushing through this year into the game's upper echelon. In June, Lingmerth polished off his first PGA Tour win, taking the Memorial in a playoff against Justin Rose. After a sloppy week at the Travelers in Connecticut, Lingmerth has finished in the top six in three of his last four starts, including a T-6 effort at last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He's been building to this opportunity.
The 28-year-old, however, still hasn't showed that he has the gusto to put up those kinds of performances in the majors. He's never been in the Masters, which will change next April. He hasn't been in the U.S. Open since a nice T-17 showing in 2013 and was T-74 in the British Open last month. He missed the cut in his one prior PGA start.
A guy has to start somewhere. Whistling Straits could well be the place.
A Lingmerth win would not only be breaking new ground personally, but he'd also be the first Swedish man to win a major championship. He'd have done it before Henrik Stenson, who has finished in the top four in four of his last nine major starts and has nine-career top-10 major finishes, including consecutive top-three finishes in the PGA.
Jesper Parnevik, who, along with his America-based family, is now a Swedish reality star, earned seven major top-10s in his career.
In 2008, Robert Karlsson finished in the top 10 in the first three majors of the year.
It's been three years since Carl Pettersson made a feeble run at trying to catch Rory McIlroy as he lapped the field at Kiawah Island, but the T-3 was his best-ever major effort.
Four Swedish women have won majors, including Hall-of-Famer Annika Sorenstam, who bagged 10 in her illustrious career.
The homeland would enjoy Lingmerth putting another one on the board. Speaking of putting one on the board, Lingmerth, who was a two-time All-American at the University of Arkansas, is the nephew of Goran Lingmerth, who briefly was a place kicker for the Cleveland Browns in one game during the strike-shortened 1987 season.
After the brief football career, Goran Lingmerth turned from one sport to another, becoming a sales rep for Ping. Lingmerth is one of their staffers.
"When I moved over here for college, he was like my second dad," David Lingmerth said during the Memorial. "He helped me out with whatever a little college kid can use as help. He's been a big influence."
He added, "I got my first set of clubs when I was 12 from him and if I didn't have him, I might not even have played golf. And obviously he was a professional athlete, and just mentally he's been the type of guy, he's pushed me and tried to get me to the mindset that I can do whatever I set my mind to. He's been a good inspiration in so many ways."
Lingmerth won't have to worry about being iced before Friday's second round, either. He starts bright and early, at 7:55 a.m. local time.
If, as you are reading this story, you happen to stumble into a sandy patch of land, fear not. You've just encountered one of the several million* bunkers that blanket Whistling Straits. And that makes you just like pretty much every single golfer in the first round of this week's PGA Championship.
(*-Possibly an exaggeration. Possibly not.)
Play concluded on Thursday at the PGA with a not-uncommon result: Dustin Johnson leading the way with a 66. Right behind him: David Lingmerth, one stroke off the lead. They'll have eyes on them come Friday, but they won't be the only stories. Here's what to watch for as Day 2 rolls around.
1. Morning/Afternoon, Afternoon/Morning. Except for Lingmerth, every one of the players on the first page of the leaderboard teed off on Thursday morning. Will this be a British Open situation, where your tee time determines your fate? The wind is expected to remain fairly constant, but thunderstorms could roll in midafternoon on Friday. That means trouble for the Thursday morning crew, which will be on the course then. Anyone who takes early advantage on Friday could see a strong score stand up heading into the weekend.
2. Weekday DJ or Weekend DJ? Seeing Dustin Johnson atop a leaderboard in a major isn't a rare occurrence. Seeing him atop the leaderboard on a Sunday is a little more infrequent. Johnson has plenty of knocks against him, but if he's able to quell the demons that have sabotaged multiple majors, he'll quiet his doubters and vault himself to the next echelon of golf.
3. Bunker Busting. Virtually every golfer spent time in the bunkers on Thursday, and more than a few required sideways, mountain-goat-esque stances to get their shots back into playable position. You've probably heard five hundred times about how bunkers cost Johnson a shot at a playoff here in 2010. Will a bunker cost someone a shot at making the weekend on Friday? It's likely.
4. Golfbros. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, the No. 1 and No. 2 golfers in the world, played together Thursday, as they will Friday, and carded identical 71s. Every great golfer needs a great rival, and these two are poised to carry golf for the next two decades. (No pressure, guys.) McIlroy showed no ill effects from the injured ankle that kept him out of the British Open, and Spieth finished strong despite having a wobbly game throughout. They'll be paired together on Friday morning, and possibly on Sunday afternoon too.
5. Tiger Woods. Because, after a first-round 75, this might well be the last time you get to see him in 2015. Come on, that's a little sad.
Round 2 begins at 6:45 a.m. Central Time. Get your coffee!
And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Steve Stricker may have a homefield advantage when it comes to the galleries at Whistling Straits, but the 48-year-old Wisconsin native didn't get many favors from the course on Thursday afternoon.
Playing in hot and windy conditions, Stricker said the back nine made for a challenging afternoon. Even still, Stricker acquitted himself rather nicely, posting a one-under 71.
"It's very difficult," Stricker said after his round. "The wind is gusty. Even on some putts it was tough to keep your balance ... It was a tough afternoon to play."
Stricker said earlier this week that this PGA Championship may be his final major, though he may also try to qualify for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills at age 50 when it comes to Wisconsin for the first time in tournament history.
Stricker, who still calls Madison home, has played a reduced schedule in recent years and hasn't performed well in 2015. His best finish over nine events this year was a T-27 at the Crowne Plaza and he's struggled with his putting. One of the surprising sights this week has been Stricker ditching the Odyssey White Hot putter he's used for the last 15 years in favor of a Scotty Cameron GoLo.
Also, because he doesn't play as many events, his regular caddy Jimmy Johnson moved to Justin Thomas' bag. Rather than go out and find a new caddy, Stricker tapped his wife Nicki, who worked as his caddy for the first five years of his career before the couple had children.
Steve and Nicki could be joined by their two daughters if he makes the cut this weekend, though his older daughter's high school tennis career is creating some schedule conflicts.
"It's been fun," Stricker said of having Nicki caddy for him again. "It kind of brings us back to the days when we first started. It brings back some good memories."
Winning at Whistling Straits for the first major of his career would definitely be a great memory for the 12-time tour winner, but he admitted that he still has a lot of work to do to get in contention.
Stricker also admitted that he's allowed himself to imagine hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy among his many fans in the Badger State. He tied for 18th when the PGA Championship was held here in 2010 and tied for seventh at last year's event at Valhalla.
"It’s run through my mind a few times how cool of a thing that would be," Stricker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "There’s a long ways to go and I’m going to have to pull some tricks out my hat to do that, but you never know. That’s why we play this game and play sports in general. I feel like I can play well.”
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Televised golf exists for one purpose: to remind you that you, the viewer, are a flawed mortal with a weak grasp of the game, and they, the professionals, are working at a level upon which we can only gaze but never approach. Case in point: the three amazing shots that unfurled within the space of a couple minutes on Thursday afternoon at the PGA Championship courtesy of Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, and Brooks Koepka.
Although the three were playing on consecutive holes, this was virtually a game of anything-you-can-do, I-can-do-better. First up, Phil Mickelson, from the fairway on No. 11:
Mickelson, as usual, is coming up strong in a major amid an otherwise lackluster year. Next up, Jordan Spieth, America's Most Beloved Golfer, rebounding from his first bogey of the afternoon to chip it up and over a sprinkler head on No. 12:
Not bad. Spieth is still well off Dustin Johnson's pace, but as long as he can see the top of the leaderboard, he's a threat. Finally, Brooks Koepka, on the 13th, decided to top them both with this long birdie, his fourth straight:
All three players were working in the rougher afternoon conditions at Whistling Straits, and should get a break on Friday morning. If they're playing like this, they'll all roll into the weekend with a full slate of highlights already in tow.
And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Tiger Woods took two steps off the sixth green before deciding that he and his putter were no longer friends.
As he approached his bag, Woods shove-tossed his club toward the ground in retaliation for the bogey he'd just been saddled with.
"[Bleep] it!" he said. "[Bleep] it!"
Though the story of Woods' opening round at the PGA Championship was told over four frustratng hours of missed putts (and the grimaces that followed), Woods' body language following that blow up said it all. He put his hands on his hips, looked down toward the ground and seethed as playing partners Martin Kaymer and Keegan Bradley finished the hole.
"One of the worst putting rounds I've had in a long time," Woods said after posting a three-over 75 at Whistling Straits on Thursday.
Woods said he never had a feel for the speed of the greens, but one didn't need his confirmation to know that was the case. After starting out with his group on the back nine, Woods hit his first seven greens in regulation, but only had one birdie and one bogey to show for it. After making a bogey on No. 18, Woods made the turn. Though the sun came out on the windy Wisconsin track, Woods' putting touch didn't, recording three more bogeys to one birdie. He finished the day with 33 total putts and a putts per GIR of 1.917.
"Even if I dumped the ball in the center of the green or I had some makeable putts straight up the gut, they were still off," Woods said. "They were either getting chewed up by the green or I was blowing them through. I definitely need to somehow find the speed better."
Woods vowed to head to the putting green to diagnose his problem before Friday's second round. If he doesn't, he's facing a major season of missing the cuts at the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship after finishing tied for the 17th at The Masters.
Woods didn't miss a total of three major cuts in his professional career until 2011, but that of course was a different time when he wasn't coming off major back surgery and didn't play so horribly in opening rounds. The 39-year-old has gone 73-80-76-75 in the opening rounds of the 2015 majors, effectively taking himself out of contention before it ever started.
The lack of scoring as plenty of other golfers took advantage of nice morning conditions didn't affect the number of fans that followed Woods and his grouping. The galleries were full as Woods played reasonably well off the tees, but struggled when it came time to draw the type of cheers that Dustin Johnson and Jason Day were drawing a hole ahead.
As a result, the mood of the quiet crowd took its cues from Woods' body language.
After being caught on TV cursing a par putt that he pushed left, Woods walked to the fourth tee, hit his bag and dropped an f-bomb. His ensuing drive went left and he greeted the discovery of it lying in the rough by throwing his towel in disgust. A bogey on No. 4 soured his mood so much that not even a nice birdie putt on No. 5 could elicit much of a reaction.
Woods later lamented the fact he had played the sort of game that many fans at home can relate to: one aspect of his game was on, but it didn't matter much because another was so off.
"I've had good putting rounds [this season] and I had bad ball striking days on those days and then I've had the flip side of it," Woods said. "So just got to get a combo right and then have it for three more days."
With Woods' chances at making the FedEx Cup field looking remote, Friday could be the last the golf world sees of Tiger this season. He'll need to play and do well in next weekend's Wyndham Championship to make the FedEx field of the top 125 golfers but he still hasn't committed to the event (the deadline is Friday).
"The season is pretty much over very soon. ... It is what it is," Woods said in a statement that probably wasn't met with much enthusiasm from the Wyndham officials.
Then again, fans at the Wyndham might be fortunate to miss out on the average golf that Woods is playing these days rather than follow him out of a sense of nostalgia like the fans at Whistling did.
As Woods lined up a birdie putt on the second-to-last hole of the day, a big crowd watched as a camera drone noisily whirred over head. The putt, of course, missed and Woods turned up his palms and looked toward the sky in a "what else?" gesture.
"I just never got a putt," Woods said. "I don't think I made one put all day."
There's a reason this guy's still the No. 1 player in the world, gimpy ankle or not.
Faced with a shot from the water on the 601-yard par-5 fifth hole at Whistling Straits, Rory McIlroy did what he usually does: makes the ridiculous look routine. McIlroy up-and-downed the shot for par, part of a hole that included a visit to one of the thousand-plus bunkers at Whistling Straits.
McIlroy doesn't appear to be showing any ill effects from the ankle injury that kept him out of the British Open. It's a long way to go for him to defend his PGA Championship win, but shots like this are what keep him in the hunt, hole after strange little hole.
And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Hey Dustin, in those sleepless nights, do you think about that bunker at Whistling Straits?
Have you seen all the signs around, Dustin? You made the PGA of America make sure everyone knows what's a bunker around here!
Dustin, talk about how tough it is to win a major.
What do you think is missing from your game that has prevented you from winning that major, Dustin?
Will you ever win one, Dustin?
Instead of rehashing the same topics and same Dustin Johnson disappointments, maybe it's time to stop the smattering of questions about one of golf's great talents and let the guy tell us when he's ready to fulfill his potential.
He totally had a brain fart here five years ago, and he played it off well on Wednesday, essentially being asked the same thing 17 different ways.
Johnson even cracked a joke about the ubiquitous signage (in locker rooms, dining areas, practice range) defining what is a bunker (practically anything with sand in it): "This year I don't have to worry about it; there's a grand stand there (over the bunker he hit into in 2010). Thank you, PGA. I appreciate that."
At this point, however, what happened in that bunker-not-a-bunker five years ago (when he ground his club, costing him two strokes and a spot in a playoff) is just one in a series of incidents that form a sad trend demonstrating Johnson's inability to cross the finish line and grab the trophy. Earlier that summer was the final-round 82 at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he was done in by a second-hole triple bogey. At least at Whistling Straits, Johnson made it to the last hole before a supplementary rule intervened.
Since then, Johnson's sprayed a 2-iron out of bounds on the 68th hole of the 2011 British Open, handing the Claret Jug to Darren Clarke. Two months ago, Johnson three-putted from 12 feet to cost himself a Monday date with Jordan Spieth in an 18-hole U.S. Open playoff at Chambers Bay.
He seemingly got himself in position to overcome all that four weeks later at the Home of Golf, seizing the 36-hole British Open lead with an exhibition of power and touch that made the Old Course at St. Andrews look pathetic. Then he fired 150 on the weekend to drop from the lead into a tie for 49th place.
It's in his head now. It's even in his head at lesser-than-major events. Johnson said Wednesday that he scored well – though he didn't play well – in the first two rounds at last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Then he shot 11-over 151 on the weekend to finish tied for 53rd.
Clearly, Johnson hasn't yet figured out what it takes to get past these disappointments. He might never. But asking the guy every time he plays isn't going to lead to Johnson's catharsis. If he finds it, it's going to be inside the ropes – preferably, at least – and we'll know when he gives his slight fist pump of relief, a reaction with the same measure of outward emotion behind a victory.
Johnson can maintain that he's fine, just chillin' and all that low-country stuff, but these things hurt. So why rub some sand in the wound?
Then again, the South Carolina native said he's willing to take on the media inquisition for years to come. That's because it means, if we're asking, then we think he can do it. When we stop?
Well, then we have the next generation's Sergio Garcia.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — From the day it happened, Rory McIlroy knew his ankle injury would keep him out anywhere from six to eight weeks, or so he said Wednesday.
However, if he was so certain about the timeframe for his recovery from a ruptured ligament suffered in a July 4 soccer game with friends, why didn't he ever tell anyone?
McIlroy and his team engaged in a bit of Insta-trolling last week with a series of Instagram posts – pictures and video – creating a narrative that suggested the world No. 1, who can lose his top spot this week to Jordan Spieth, was going to return to defend the second of two major titles won in 2014. They shot down a Reuters report that McIlroy had scheduled a practice round at PGA Championship host Whistling Straits only to show up Saturday in Wisconsin for the very practice round originally reported.
A misinformation campaign? Perhaps not so much as a desire to control the hype around his return to competitive golf, which begins Thursday in a pairing that includes Spieth and British Open winner Zach Johnson.
As for how he expects that return to go, in no way did McIlroy hedge on what he expected in his second career defense of the Wanamaker (he also won in 2012).
"I expect to play well," McIlroy said. "I don't see any reason why I can't bring the sort of form that I've shown in practice rounds and on the range to the tee on Thursday afternoon."
That's not quite Tiger-at-his-peak swagger – which would have indicated a win was in the offing – but it is a characteristic show of McIlroy's confidence that, if he's in the field, he can win.
The Woods allusion isn't shameless, either. The 14-time major winner, who McIlroy consulted after the injury, suggested the Ulsterman would have some difficulty this week on a course that isn't exactly an easy walk, even if your ball lives in the middle of these fairways. Pete Dye's Straits course is a tough walk. McIlroy admitted there's some discomfort, but that, with the 24-7 supervision of trainer Steve McGregor, he'll be just fine.
"I've been using a couple of machines to compress [the left ankle] and ice it," he said. "So I was able to take advantage of that on the plane [ride to the U.S. from a rehab vacation in Portugal] as well. So, kept the inflammation down to a minimum."
No matter how this week plays out, McIlroy indicated little melancholy that his summer was sidetracked by a kickabout, as he calls it. In his perceptive eyes, it was a freak accident and it could have been way worse. He's not done with soccer.
"Not at all," he said. "I might take some precautionary measures next time. Because I rolled my right ankle at the end of 2013. Obviously I did it a little bit worse here to my left, but maybe wear ankle braces on both ankles. But apart from that, I'm not going to stop doing what I do. I enjoy that part of my life; I enjoy having that normality in my life, something that I've done since I was a kid and I won't stop doing that."
After all, why would someone like McIlroy go through life afraid of what could happen when he has consistently reveled in its possibilities?
"[Injury] can happen walking off a tee box," he said. "It can happen falling off a curb on the side of the street. It can happen doing anything."