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Vegas Baby!

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There might be a lot to distract them off course this week but most of the players in Las Vegas for the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital For Children Open will be firmly focused on the opportunity at hand.

It’s hard to imagine that there could be a more exciting finish than what took place just a few days ago at the FRYS.COM Open but if there is a place capable of the spectacular, Vegas is it. It has few rivals in that department.

Scotsman Martin Laird picked up the win here last year, providing a kick-off to his career that took a player wallowing in a sea of missed cuts all the way to being the 58th ranked player in the world. It took three extra holes for him to win his first PGA Tour title in a playoff with George McNeill and Chad Campbell. Campbell was eliminated on the 2nd extra hole. The last player to defend in Las Vegas was Jim Furyk who won in 1998/1999. 

Many in the 132-player field will be looking for a similar boost but in order to do so they will have to get past a wealth of quality players including more than a few who already have 2010 PGA Tour wins on their resumes. The winner picks up a $774,000 share of the $4.3 million purse. They will also receive the usual spoils for winners including a two-year PGA Tour exemption and a spot in the winners-only SBS Championship in January. For some players teetering on the edge of losing their playing privileges, Las Vegas, of all places, could provide their salvation.

It will be hard to look past a trio of Las Vegas residents when looking for a potential winner. Rickie Fowler, Charley Hoffman, and Nick Watney have all had solid seasons and the comfort of home cooking just might enhance their chances at the TPC Summerlin. They are among 12 Nevada residents in the field while UNLV Alum Ryan Moore and Chad Campbell also have local ties.

Hoffman had the biggest win of his career at the Deutsche Bank Championship during the FedEx Cup Playoffs and he would surely like to rack up a 2nd 2010 win on another TPC layout. Summerlin suits him well as he has posted numerous strong scores on the Bobby Weed/Fuzzy Zoeller design in past years.

Nick Watney is coming off a 4th place finish at The Tour Championship and with seven Top-10’s in 2010 he is ripe for a win.

Making his professional debut here last year, 21 year-old Rickie Fowler has gone on to be the leading candidate for the PGA Tour Rookie of The Year in 2010. He knocked on the door last week in California; a home game might just be what he needs to put him in the top spot at the end of the day Sunday.

Other players to watch for will be Hunter Mahan, Ryan Palmer, and a resurgent David Duval who has won in the desert before.

Now almost 20 years old the TPC Summerlin is a run & gun style course where scoring is always low. The cooler than normal weather with the possibility of some showers could soften up the greens more than normal and give everybody a chance to go “Lights Out” in a place used to having them shine 24 hours a day.

Digital Tournament Program

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

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5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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WATCH: Phil Mickelson purposely hits the ball while moving at the U.S. Open (updated with Phil’s response)

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Update: In a post-round interview, Phil had this to say: “I took the penalty, no disrespect to the game, I didn’t feel like going back and forth and I’ve always wanted to take the two-shot penalty, and I finally did… It’s meant to take advantage of the rules the best you can. I’d gladly take the two shots over continuing that display.”

—–

You don’t see Phil Mickelson lose his cool very often, but that’s seemingly what happened on Saturday — his 48th birthday — at the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

After blowing his bogey putt by the hole on No. 13, Phil ran after his ball and decided to hit it while it was still moving. Phil finished out the hole in 8 shots; adding in the two-stroke penalty for hitting the golf ball while moving, and it was a 10 on the scorecard.

Check out the bizarre scene that Phil Mickelson put on at the 13th hole below:

Phil was four-over par in the round going into the 13th hole, and exited the 13th hole at 10-over par after the fiasco. He is currently continuing his third round as regularly scheduled.

Wow.

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WATCH: Ian Poulter, sitting 1 back of the lead, completely butchered his 17th hole

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The majorless Ian Poulter was coming off birdies on hole nos. 4, 5 and 7 — his 13, 14 and 16th holes of the second round of the 2018 U.S. Open — when he came to the 8th hole (his 17th hole) sitting at 3-under and just one shot back of leader Dustin Johnson (4-under).

Then, he bladed one from the greenside bunker, soaring the ball into the fescue over the green.

Yikes. But not a disaster. He drew a great lie… just get it on the green, make the putt and take your bogey — or make double at the very worst. But then he laid the sod over his fourth shot, sending it into the real thick stuff. Three shots later, Ian Poulter made a triple-bogey 7, and back to even par for the event.

Watch it unfold below (or click here if the Twitter embed doesn’t work for you).

 

 

Poulter then finished his round with a closing bogey, and currently sits at 1-over through 36 holes (T4). By no means is Ian Poulter out of this tournament, but finishing triple-bogey, bogey was definitely not what Ian Poulter had in mind sitting in the greenside bunker on his 17th hole just a stroke off the lead.

Can Poulter get back on track and win his first? Will Dustin Johnson run away with his second U.S. Open victory? Or will Stenson, Rose, Koepka or Fowler (each sitting at 1-over par) make a run? Regardless, the champion will need to avoid late-tournament triple bogeys and costly mistakes that can happen so easily at the penal Shinnecock setup.

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