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Cherished Championship – The 110th U.S. Open

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Nicklaus, Watson, Kite, Woods. The last four winners of United States Open Championships contested at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. It’s a prestigious list and one every player in the field wants to join at the 110th playing of the U.S. National Championship.

But few win U.S. Opens; most simply survive better than their peers. That wasn’t the case in 2000 when Tiger Woods lapped the field but this year looks a lot different than those halcyon days of just a decade ago.

Woods is in the field this week, as in Tom Watson as each will have very different perspectives on what this Open will mean to them. For Watson, undoubtedly it will be a swan song, while Woods is hoping it will signify his return to the game at a championship level. 

 Like any major championship there are dozens of storylines to follow but before you pay attention to the front runners have to give respect to what is championship is really about. Every dreamer with enough ability can qualify to play in this event, adding an element unseen for most of the year, save for the British Open Championship.

The dream of young American golfers, the one they play out on the putting green as a child, is to win their national championship, and whether you are five times runner-up Phil Mickelson or Stanford standout Joseph Bramlett, you have that opportunity before you this week on the Monterrey Peninsula. 

Homegrown Contenders

Mickelson, as the number 2 ranked player in the world and the best player who has come closest but is yet to win the U.S. Open, is “the guy”. He is the one the weight of America rests on this week. He has been in position to succeed before and if he can find fairways at Pebble (no easy task but considerably easier given the positive weather forecast for the week) it is his championship to win or lose. That is written with no disrespect to any non-American players but being that is his OWN National Championship gives him that more motivation and the edge.

In a couple days of practice at Pebble, Tiger Woods has been the polar opposite of his 2000 form. A decade ago he knew where the ball was going each and every time. This week, in practice at least, there appears to be little consistency in the results of each and every shot. It is hard not to imagine that he will find some sort of a swing to play with come Thursday when he tees it up in Group 39 with Ernie Els and Lee Westwood. Even so, by the end of the day he just might be the high man in that illustrious trio. It is just too tough to say but the memories of 2000, when he won by 15, just might be the fuel he needs to light his fire. Either way, it will be entertaining to watch.

As for other U.S. contenders – there are plenty of options. Hunter Mahan and Sean O’Hair, out of the Sean Foley stable, could make this their breakout championship. Steve Stricker is always a good pick and if you want dark horses – try David Duval or Shawn Micheel. Duval is determined to win a U.S. Open and Micheel, a man who knows how to win a major, is coming off a strong week in Memphis. Zach Johnson has both the ability and mindset to win a major and should not be discounted.

Foreign Invasion

Westwood, Westwood, Westwood. After a win last week the Englishman will grab a large portion of the spotlight. But the #3 player in the world, in my estimation, was rather erratic last week. And variable shots will buy nothing but trouble this week on the gnarly U.S. Open layout strewn with wild grasses and innumerable unplayable lies. 

For foreign content on the leaderboard I’ll stick to the straight and narrow players, given the layout and the inherent penalties for getting off-line. Tim Clark (Players Championship) and Luke Donald (Madrid Masters) have wins this year and might be ready for Major Championship glory.  Watch too for fairway and green specialists like Stephen Ames.

Ground Resistance

Like any recent U.S. Open, while one player may end up hoisting the trophy, the golf course will always be the winner.

At 7040 yards and playing to a par of 71, on paper Pebble Beach Golf Links does not look the typical U.S. Open configuration but as we know from past Championships here, only the best players will prevail. 

Playing 194 yards longer than it did for the 2000 U.S. Open , length is not a huge factor at Pebble, but keeping a ball on the fairway and on the correct part of the greens (n fact, just hitting them), will be.   Favourable weather should help players manage their fairways and greens in regulation but it is all too easy in a major to worry about where NOT to hit it than the opposite.

No hole will stand as a better barometer of play than hole #2. After an opener where birdie is a real possibility, the 502 –yard, par four, 2nd will be ready to slap players in the head and remind them that they are playing in a U.S. Open.

If they survive the first 8 holes they will get another reminder on the 9th, a par four playing 505 yards this week where the tilting fairway effectively plays half its yardage.

If players can manage to avoid disasters at those two holes they might be in the running.

And lastly, if the Championship is close, it will all come to down to the 17th and 18th holes. The tricky 208-yard 17th has been the home to U.S. Open drama in the past and there is no reason to think that another on-the-stick shot (Nicklaus, 1972), or chip-in (Tom Watson) on the way to victory cannot happen again.

Come Father’s Day on Sunday the chances are good an emotionally charged moment will take place on one of the most beautiful golf holes in the world, the 543-yard, 18th at Pebble Beach. The par five is an ideal canvas for drama with the ocean looming left.

There could be no better backdrop for any player, whether a first-time major champion or repeat victor, to make their U.S. Open dreams come true.

This report provided to GolfWRX.com by Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)

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Thursday’s Photos from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.

The 20-team field includes some of the game’s legendary major champions, and their sons. Notable teams include John Daly/Little John Daly, Nick Faldo/Matthew Faldo, Tom Kite/David Kite, Bernhard Langer/Jason Langer, Greg Norman/Greg Norman Jr., Jack Nicklaus/Gary Nicklaus Jr., and Lee Trevino/Daniel Trevino.  The teams will compete in a scramble format over 36 holes to decide the winners of the Willie Park Trophy.

Last year, David Duval and his step-son Nick Karavites took home the trophy, and they are back in the field this year to defend.

Check out our photos below from this year’s event!

Thursday’s Photos

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos

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An instructor’s perspective on the Chamblee/Dufner Twitter controversy

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If you have not had a chance to read the latest exchange on Twitter between Brandel Chamblee and Jason Dufner — and his teacher Chuck Cook — you have missed a wonderful controversy brewing. As you may know, Brandel is never one to hide his feelings on his views of the golf swing (he’s against The Golfing Machine teachings). And when people disagree with him (Jason Dufner), he’s not hesitant to tackle his opposition head on.

I’d like to take the time to weigh-in on what I feel should be focused on from an instruction standpoint, instead of what has been said on Twitter in this controversy.

Brandel’s side

First of all, I consider Brandel to be a friend of mine and he has been nothing but gracious to me during my professional career; though we have differing viewpoints on certain things. I have often called or emailed him, asking his opinion on one thing or another, and he has never failed to answer me. In fact, I love hearing what he has to say, even if it’s the opposite of what I feel personally and professionally — he hardly speaks without research to back it up. When you have the kind of stage he has, you must be armed with facts.

As we all know, Brandel is not a fan of the new breed of instruction. He prefers the old school methods, and clearly from his initial Tweet that sparked the entire controversy, he prefers an upright backswing. He is not a fan of most technologies used on the lesson tee, and he is very vocal regarding the Golfing Machine book and the Trackman launch monitor. While I hold both these things dear to me personally, I do understand how he could not be as convinced as I am of their successes within the game.

People must understand his opinion is a matter of perspective, and though he has this perspective as a player, and as a player-turned-teacher, he does not have the thousands and thousands of hours on the lesson tee. This does not make him right or wrong, it just gives him a different viewpoint.

Dufner’s side

As a teacher myself, I admire Dufner’s rise to fame and to the top ranks as a player, and I applaud him for doing so in spite of the odds and the drama that has gone on within his personal life over the last few years. I am proud to see him step up on a public forum and defend Chuck Cook (his long time teacher) on this Twitter thread. It is refreshing to see! Though I don’t know Jason, I’d like to shake his hand for doing so. My biggest gripe with Tour Professionals, in general, is their failure to stand by their instructors when things are not going well.

The last time I saw a player defending his teacher this adamantly was in a text string I had with Kevin Kisner (who is a great guy and friend) and John Tillery (his teacher and also a friend), who was not picked as one of the Top-100 Teachers on the latest list by Golf Magazine. As I told Kevin and John, it is a matter of time before he is recognized by Golf Magazine. The lists are subjective and many things go into the selection process; they make good choices and other times they make mistakes. John is a heck of a teacher and will always be Top 100 in my book! So kudos to Jason and Kevin for standing up for their guys…they both deserve it 100 percent.

Chuck Cook’s side

How Chuck was dragged into the middle of this whole controversy is beyond me, because he is one of the nicest and most soft-spoken guys. I also consider him the top-1 percent of teachers within our business. Chuck was in Vail for many years while I was also teaching there, and we have been on many outings together. He has been nothing but professional to all of us and anyone he comes into contact with personally. When someone questions him or his ability to teach at the highest levels, I can only say look at the two U.S. Open Champs he has taught, as well as what he’s done with countless other people within the game of golf. He is a smart and stand-up guy and deserves nothing but respect from all of us.

Chuck, I wish I could be HALF the teacher and person you are and have always been! That is a fact.

The Golfing Machine

Now, we could write an entire article series on the book I call my bible within the golfing world. However, 99 percent of the people in the world call it a “method,” or too complex, although every top teacher uses its methodologies within their instruction. It is ONLY an encyclopedia of motion — that’s it. It tells you what will and will not work together during the swing. What the book lacks has been the proper messenger to get the word across and that blame is only on timing. That’s not a knock on the past teachers who have used it or the players on Tour who have employed it.

Homer’s great book was born in 1969, and sadly the world would not be ready to hear these type of ideas in this type of format until now. And, like anything, it has been grossly misunderstood. The book and teachings have been chastised and will continue to be until a few more generations realize the greatness of what is contained within its pages. Only time will help our cause.

The Conclusion

Its all good… it’s not a big deal people! Please understand we ALL come from different places within the game and have our own opinions based on our perspective. Remember that these are all subject to change and can at any time. Every one of the people in that string of Tweets have their own agenda to promote and have the basis to call themselves great in what they do for a living. As long as we all have a drink and a laugh together at the end of the day, I see no harm in a gentleman’s disagreement between friends as long as nothing was done out of malice.

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Friday’s Photos from the 2017 QBE Shootout

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 QBE Shootout at Tiburon G.C. in Naples, Florida. Formerly known as the Franklin Templeton Shootout, or the Shark Shootout, the unofficial event plays host to 24 of some of the world’s best golfers, competing in a two-person team competition. The format calls for 54 holes; first-round scramble, second-round modified alternate shot, and third-round fourball (or better ball).

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Here is a list of the teams:

  • Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland
  • Keegan Bradley-Brendan Steele
  • Kevin Chappell-Kevin Kisner
  • Jason Dufner-Billy Horschel
  • Harris English-Matt Kuchar
  • Tony Finau-Lexi Thompson
  • Brian Harman-Pat Perez
  • Russell Henley-Kyle Stanley
  • Charley-Hoffman-Zach Johnson
  • Shane Lowry-Graeme McDowell
  • Brandt Snedeker-Bubba Watson
  • Sean O’Hair-Steve Stricker

Last year, Harris English and Matt Kuchar took down the crown, finishing at 28-under par for the event. Of course, they’ll be playing together again this year as the defending champs.

Check out our photos from the 2017 QBE Shootout below!

Friday’s Galleries

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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