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Has Adam Scott Turned the Corner?

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Last Sunday I turned on coverage of the Byron Nelson and for just a second, I think I saw a gleam of Tiger in Adam Scott’s eyes.

Trust me I’m keeping things in perspective. There’s no way anyone could mistake Adam Scott for Tiger Woods. If Scott can just halve the gap of 13 majors, 58 PGA Tour victories, and almost 70 million in career earnings that separates him and Tiger he will have a Hall of Fame career. But even the mightiest river has to start with a drop of water, and crazy as this might sound I think Adam Scott has shown signs of becoming the player many think he can be.

Adam Scott has earned a reputation as a guy who can’t finish tournaments but in all his victories he’s had a flair for the dramatic. He may not be have had the typical Tiger blowout victory, but he’s shown the ability to sink long putts under the greatest pressure.

Part of the issue is Scott’s sublime long game which outshines his short game. He makes 300 yard drives and 240 yard 4 irons look easy. But around and on the greens his relaxed tempo seems a beat off. I’ll concede that even when he’s on his game, Scott’s short game looks shaky at best. Even Scott recognizes this fault, "I can improve in my short game. No, I don’t have Tiger Woods’ short game or Phil Mickelson’s short game for that matter… I’ve seen such a huge improvement in my short game in the last couple years. I mean, I’d put it up against anyone else day-to-day."

But on the flip side of that coin when the tournament is on the line, Scott appears to have the extra gear other great players do. His final round 61 earlier this year to win the Qatar Masters is perhaps the first sign of his change. He was able to combine some great iron shots with an excellent day on the greens, enough that a round of 59 was a real possibility.

Last weekend Scott proved he could do the opposite as well. He began the final round with the lead, but by the sixteenth hole he was one shot down. Yet that second gear seemed to click on the 17 hole when Scott made par after facing a long, winding putt that had to cross the undulating 17th green. As I watched him line up his putt on 18 to force a playoff I just had a feeling he would make it and he didn’t disappoint. That’s the same feeling I’ve had watching Tiger win at Bay Hill – you stop questioning whether or not he can make it and start trusting in the fact that he will make it.

Scott has that ability. He proved it again on the 48-footer that won him tournament. For just a split second he did his best Tiger impression, from the second the ball left his putter there was no doubt the tournament was over.

Adam Scott has that spark the great ones have. Will he be able to do it week in and week out like Tiger Woods? No, but then again how many golfers can? Round by round, it appears he’s slowly harnessing the talent and potential so many have placed on his young shoulders. You can call him " the best player not to win a major," but that feeling I got Sunday before he sunk the final putt at the Nelson is telling me he won’t have that title for much longer.

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Morning 9: Woodland triumphant | “Cockroach” Koepka | Brooke = Canadian GOAT | No Tiger til Portrush

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

June 17, 2019

Good Monday morning, golf fans.
1.Woodland!
AP report…”Gary Woodland denied Brooks Koepka’s bold bid at history with two clutch shots and made U.S. Open memories of his own, starting with that silver trophy in his hands at Pebble Beach.”
  • “Woodland finished in style Sunday. He holed a 30-foot birdie putt for a 2-under 69, giving him the lowest 72-hole score in six U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach and a three-shot victory over Koepka, who was going for a third straight U.S. Open.”
  • “Koepka had to settle for a footnote in history as the first player with all four rounds in the 60s at the U.S Open without winning. But he made Woodland earn every bit of his first major championship.”
2. A quick detour to the LPGA Tour…
Brook Henderson now winningest Canadian pro golfer, man or woman, ever.
  • BBC report…”The 21-year-old, who won the Lotte Championship in April, hit a two-under 70 to finish on 21 under, one stroke ahead of a four-way tie for second.”
  • “Henderson has now won nine LPGA titles, giving her the most wins for a Canadian golfer on either the PGA or LPGA Tour.”
  • “Earlier this year, to get my eighth win and to tie that record was a huge deal for me,” said Henderson. “To now breakthrough that is awesome. I’m just really excited for the rest of the summer and hopefully many more wins in the future. It’s really special.”

Full piece.

3. Koepka the “cockroach”
Golf Digest’s Brian Wacker…
  • “He’s like a cockroach,” Xander Schauffele said. “He just won’t go away.”
  • “Koepka did not win on Sunday at Pebble Beach to join Willie Anderson as the only other player ever to claim three straight U.S. Open titles.”
  • “So what? He doesn’t know much about Anderson, or Google, anyway. And he doesn’t even like golf, remember?”
  • “Koepka, who finished second three strokes behind winner Gary Woodland, is the best player in the world and that much he does know. He just wasn’t the best for four days along the Monterey Peninsula, though he was close.”

Full piece.

4. Hovland sets amateur scoring record
Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols…”On Sunday, Hovland birdied the 18th hole to finish with a final round 67, giving him a four-day total of 280 (-4) and setting the 72-hole scoring record for an amateur in U.S. Open history.”
“Hovland broke the mark held by Jack Nicklaus…Hovland opened his week with a 69 on Thursday, then posted 73-71 before his Sunday 67.”
5. See you at Royal Portrush, Tiger
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”Don’t expect to see Tiger Woods again until The Open next month in Northern Ireland.”
  • “The 2019 Masters champion shot his best final round at the U.S. Open in 10 years on Sunday — despite a horrific start to the round — to finish tied for 21st and take a bit of satisfaction out of what had mostly been a disappointing week.”
  • “Woods’ 2-under-par 69 came after he bogeyed four of his first six holes. He played the final 12 holes in 6 under par. He previously broke 70 in the final round of a U.S. Open in 2009 at Bethpage Black.”
  • “Now he’s looking at skipping four weeks of tournament golf leading up to The Open at Royal Portrush, a plan that didn’t work so well heading into the PGA Championship but one that is likely part of a new reality for the 15-time major champion.”
6. Phil
Harig again on Phil Mickelson’s forgettable Open effort.
  • “You couldn’t help but know it was Phil Mickelson’s birthday on Sunday, as much as it was noted among the gallery as he played the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.”
  • “Mickelson managed to birdie the final hole and shoot 72 to complete a disappointing U.S. Open that saw him finish before the leaders teed off, never much of a factor in the championship he finished at 4 over par. And that 49th birthday he celebrated Sunday was yet another reminder that the opportunities to win the U.S. Open after six runner-up finishes are coming close to an end.”
  • “Well, I don’t know what else to say. It’s not like I’m going to stop trying,” said Mickelson, who has played in 28 U.S. Opens. “I enjoy the challenge. But I thought this was a really good chance for me.”
7. What we learned
From our Ron Montesano’s post-mortem on the 2019 U.S. Open
  • “Gary Woodland, the private man, and Gary Woodland, the public man, unite to form the man who captured the world’s attention this week. In 2017, Woodland and his wife quietly revealed that one of their expected twins had passed in the womb. Their son, Jaxson, was born early and light of weight, but improved in health with great and tender care. Now two years old, Jaxson and the Woodlands await the arrival of twin sisters later this summer.”
  • “In 2019, the golf world watched as Gary teamed with Amy Bockerstette during a practice round at the Phoenix Open. Bockerstette executed a series of unexpected shots on the par-3 16th to make par, supported all the while by Woodland. It was apparent that Woodland was invested in the entirety of the moment. Three simple words went back and forth between the pair: You’ve got this. On Sunday, at Pebble Beach, a tweet from Amy’s account arrived: You’ve got this, Gary Woodland.”
8. Pete Cowen
A good time to revisit this Pete Cowen Golf Digest “My Shot” (Cowen has recently worked with Gary Woodland on much-improved short game)
One of his best bon mots…“IMPROVING AT GOLF is not that big a deal. I can guarantee dramatic improvement from 15 minutes a day, without even using a club. But that commitment is way out of the range of most people. I spoke recently at a seminar attended by 500 Australian club pros. I said, “We’ve long known that exercising 15 minutes per day will add several years to our lives. Those of you who have spent 15 minutes daily over the last 10 years, raise your hands.” Not a hand went up. I said, “If you won’t commit 15 minutes to lengthening your very life, what makes you think you’ll devote 15 minutes to golf?” The problem comes down to actually doing it. It’s a very tough sell.”
9. The original 0311
I’d like to call your attention to GolfWRX’s new video series with PXG. It breaks new ground for the site, and biasedly, I think the results so far are excellent. Whatever your perception of Bob Parsons is, you’ll want to watch Johnny Wunder’s 25-minute interview with the PXG founder.

Watch it here.

 

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How Gary Woodland won the 2019 U.S. Open

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Let us begin with a clarification, which is not to be confused with a rant. Just as difficult as the measuring of a champion of one era against that of another, is the comparison of one tournament venue with another. Pebble Beach is unlike any other U.S. Open site in the current rotation. The entirety of the PGA Tour visits it for two competitive rounds each February. While the fairway configurations, the green speeds, and the wind patterns differ in June, it is still Pebble Beach Golf Links. As such, it should be expected that golfers would play it better than a site on which they compete but once a decade. Now, on to our most worthy champion.

5. Before there was Brooks Koepka …

…there was Gary Woodland. When the notion of the super-athletic, athlete from another sport first took root with Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland was there. Growing up, there was golf, but there was basketball (he could dunk with ease) and baseball (he attended Washburn University for a year, playing baseball as he studied.) Golf’s siren call was strong, however, and he left Washburn for the University of Kansas, to study and play golf. From 2007 to 2011, Woodland worked at his craft, spending time on both the Nationwide (now Web.Com) and PGA Tours.  In early 2011, Woodland lost a playoff for the Bob Hope title to Jhonattan Vegas, but came back two months later to win in Tampa. Strong, athletic, but was his win due more to good fortune and athleticism, than golf prowess? Eight years later, the question would finally be answered.

 

4. Before we go on, here’s to Brooks Koepka

In no way, shape, or form, did the 2-time, defending U.S. Open champion lose the 2019 playing. Koepka outplayed an entire field, save the one athlete destined to hoist the eponymous trophy. The Florida man played four rounds in the 60s, one of only 2 all week to achieve this distinction (guess the other!) He made 6 bogeys on the week, despite the shifting and narrowing of the fairway lines, courtesy of the host association. With all the attention of the world squarely on his shoulders, his visage, Koepka responded better than anyone anticipated. He improved his position each day, then seized the tournament on Sunday. Except, of course, for Gary Woodland.

3. Power gets you far, but the short game brings you home

Every great champion learns this lesson. Jack Nicklaus learned it later in his career than most. Dustin Johnson became a major champion when he embraced it. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson always had it. Brooks Koepka personifies it, and Gary Woodland showed the world that he had, at last, honed a world-class short game. Think back to all the long putts, all the par-saving efforts, that found the bottom of the cup this week. Recall the chip shot holed at the 12th on Saturday, the pitch over the hourglass on the 17th green on Sunday. Nothing less than precise execution would suffice in those situations, nothing less than precise execution was offered.

2. The humanity reveals the man

Gary Woodland, the private man, and Gary Woodland, the public man, unite to form the man who captured the world’s attention this week. In 2017, Woodland and his wife quietly revealed that one of their expected twins had passed in the womb. Their son, Jaxson, was born early and light of weight, but improved in health with great and tender care. Now two years old, Jaxson and the Woodlands await the arrival of twin sisters later this summer. In 2019, the golf world watched as Gary teamed with Amy Bockerstette during a practice round at the Phoenix Open. Bockerstette executed a series of unexpected shots on the par-3 16th to make par, supported all the while by Woodland. It was apparent that Woodland was invested in the entirety of the moment. Three simple words went back and forth between the pair: You’ve got this. On Sunday, at Pebble Beach, a tweet from Amy’s account arrived: You’ve got this, Gary Woodland.

1. Where are you going? I’m going to Woodland!

Where exactly is Woodland? This week, it was a place where 17 birdies eclipsed 4 bogeys by some distance. A place where Woodland matched games with Justin Rose (twice), Tyrell Hatton and Shane Lowry, and came out far apace. Woodland has finally evolved into a space where an adrenaline-filled athlete came to manage his energy and emotions: “It took me a lot to learn to control adrenaline; and other sports you use adrenaline to your advantage. Out here, when I get a little excited, I need to find a way to calm myself back down.” Woodland is a place where sagacious teachers (Butch Harmon, Pete Cowen, Phil Kenyon) contribute their expertise to the competitor. Finally, it is a place where a golfer confirms what some might call cliches: hard work, humility, and a constant desire to improve can bring complete success.

 

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5 things we learned on Saturday at the U.S. Open

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How much of a deficit is too much to close, on day four? Gary Woodland posted his third-consecutive round in the 60s, maintaining position at the top of the leader board. Justin Rose did more than keep pace with his playing partner, however. He shaved one stroke off the leader’s advantage, ending the day one shot off Woodland’s 11-under pace. Next came Brooks Koepka. That guy. Like Woodland, Koepka has also visited the 60s during each round, the only other golfer in the field to do so.

Stories of contenders are plentiful, just not as many as we held on Friday evening. The 2019 United States Open championship is drawing to a close, with no indication of its resolution. Still, at least five things became more apparent on Saturday, and we’ve selected a quintet of factors that might reveal the next national champion of the USA. Here we go.

5. Contenders make putts

They say that poa annua, the grass that inhabits the putting surfaces of Pebble Beach, opens up as the day progresses, making smooth runs bumpy. Even in the late afternoon, when the poa does growa, the golfers in contention find a way to get the ball in the hole. Rolls from all distances, from every corner of every green, found their way to the bottom of the cup in round three.

Chez Reavie and Gary Woodland made bombs for par from over 40 feet. Justin Rose tamed short, twisty snakes for birdie. As valuable as those putts were today, to keep golfers in contention, they will be worth their weight in gold on Sunday. On day four, made putts might be the stroke that propels someone toward a major title.

4. Contenders get up and down … or sometimes, just down

The bunker sand at Pebble Beach hasn’t varied from the sort that the PGA Tour encounters each February. Weird, I know, but sometimes a course trades out the usual sand for something USGA-funky. A disproportionate number of hole-outs and near-misses from sand has happened this week. Perhaps it’s the cream rising to the top, or maybe it’s the sand. Who knows?

The gnarly, snaggly rough appears ferocious, yet somehow, these golfers are able to decode its parameters. As for chips and pitches from tight lies, how welcome are they? Put a wedge in the hands of the leaders, and it’s as good as a putter. In 1982, Tom Watson’s hole-out from beyond 17 green was unprecedented. Anticipate 3 or 4 of those tomorrow, epic shots that define a championship.

3. Contenders get it done on the opening 7 holes

The announcers have belabored the point of Pebble’s two faces: holes one through seven, then all the rest. It’s a point worth belaboring. The USGA has set up the fourth to be drivable as a par 4, affording an opportunity for golfers to begin with a bang. A drive in the fairway at one and three leaves short iron or wedge for the approach. Six is a reachable par 5 that shows no shame in giving up eagle after eagle to the daring strike. Seven has been docile all week, with little wind to distract the wee pitch shots that fly like darts at the flag. If you get yourself 4-under after seven on Sunday, you’ll find yourself near the lead or clear of the field. If you don’t, as Tiger Woods did Saturday, playing the opening 7 in 1 over, you’ll drift away as a statistic.

2. Contenders get something done over the difficult stretch

You have to go all the way to Matt Wallace, the last golfer listed at T9, to find a double bogey on a score card. While the stretch from 8 to 18 is daunting, it is not unmanageable. In fact, it must be managed to remain in contention. Big numbers receive a one-way ticket away from Monterey. So, too, do extended runs of bogey.

The top 15 golfers (save one) shot between 1 and 4 under on Saturday. Matt Wallace, at even par, was the exception. It doesn’t seem that a low 60s number on Sunday is in the offing, but that’s what they said in 1973, at Oakmont. The top two will battle each other, while the rest of the field will hope for lightning to strike.

1. What to make of Gary Woodland?

He hasn’t gone away. To the contrary, he sits atop the field for a second-consecutive evening. Is Gary Woodland, finally, major material? He was supposed to be the next brawny basher, until Brooks Koepka showed up. Woodland scrambled his tail off on Saturday, missing seven of 11 greens, but making just one bogey. He three-whacked the 8th green from an inch onto the back fringe, after a massive misread of the first putt’s break. Other than that, he was brilliant each time momentum prepared to shift.

Can he fight momentum shifts for a second consecutive day, when he will again pair with the elegant Justin Rose? He will have to, for he must beat them all in order to wear the crown. Somewhere in Arizona, Amy Bockerstette is pulling for him to do just that.

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