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Firsts of 2017 at the SBS Tournament of Champions

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Aloha and Happy Golf New Year from Hawaii, where 2017 got underway on the PGA Tour at the SBS Tournament of Champions.

Cody Gribble, winner of the Sanderson Farms Championship and paired with Mackenzie Hughes (RSM Classic) in the opening twosome, had new-year honors on Kapalua’s Plantation Course. His tee shot on No. 1, a stunningly dramatic downhill 520-yard par-4, strayed several yards into the right rough. From there he steered a hybrid wide left, pitched over a trap onto the undulating green and took two to get down — thus recording the calendar year’s first bogey on Tour (Gribble also bogeyed the third, but then made six birdies and finished T5 at 4-under par).

Hughes, meantime, recorded 2017’s first par, while in the very next group Pat Perez (the OHL Classic at Mayakoba winner) sank a 20-footer for the calendar year’s first birdie.

The Wins That Got Them Here: Playoffs

Three players in the 32-man Tournament of Champions field lost a playoff but won another event:

  • Brandt Snedeker lost the Sony Open, but won the Farmers Insurance Open.
  • Si Woo Kim lost the Barbasol Classic, but won the Wyndham Championship.
  • Ryan Moore lost the Tour Championship, but won the John Deere Classic.

Others in the field thanks to playoff victories

  • Aaron Baddeley (Barbasol Classic)
  • Jason Dufner (CareerBuilder Challenge)
  • Tony Finau (Puerto Rico Open)
  • Fabian Gomez (Sony Open)
  • James Hahn (Wells Fargo Championship)
  • Mackenzie Hughes (RSM Classic)
  • William McGirt (Memorial Tournament)
  • Brian Stuard (the rain-abbreviated Zurich Classic).

Hideki Matsuyama beat Rickie Fowler in a playoff at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but Matsuyama also won WGC-HSBC Champions and the Hero World Challenge.

Finally, three playoff victors chose not to participate this week with their fellow champions:

  • Sergio Garcia, who beat Brooks Koepka at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
  • Rory McIlroy, who won the Tour Championship in a playoff over Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore.
  • Charl Schwartzel, who beat Bill Haas at the Valspar Championship.

Day 1 Scoring

Eight clean cards were posted on Thursday, and three over-par rounds. Jimmy Walker (8-under) had six birdies and an eagle using a 42-inch Titleist 917D2 driver, which he hopes will help him hit straighter drives in 2017. Ryan Moore (6-under) had only two birdies, but he eagled twice. He holed out from 117 yards on the par-4 third, and sank a 13-footer on the 5th after reaching the par-5 in two.

Also bogey-free through the first 18 were Jim Herman (6-under), Justin Thomas (6-under), Jason Dufner (5-under), Dustin Johnson (4-under), Hideki Matsuyama (4-under), and Brandt Snedeker (3-under).

At the opposite end of the leaderboard: James Hahn (1-over) bogeyed four of his first seven holes, then parred 10 straight before finishing with a birdie. Billy Hurley III (1-over) had the day’s only double-bogey, three-putting from 45 feet after finding the sand from the tee on the par-3 11th. Si Woo Kim (2-over), who tallied a Tour-best 400 birdies in the 2015-16 season and ranks first in Shots Gained: Off-the-Tee in the current season, offset three birdies with a most-in-field five bogeys.

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Thomas Meagher is a Pushcart Prize-winning writer who learned the game on the East Coast and now plays the desert courses of the West. He writes on golf and books and whatever else at MeglerOnTee.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Jam

    Jan 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Wha? 42 inch? For real? Didn’t look that short

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Tour News

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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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (par 70; 7,440 yards) in Southhampton, New York. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since 2004 when Retief Goosen won (he failed to qualify for the 2018 event).

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Phil Mickelson, who has two top-5 finishes at Shinnecock Hills, will seek to fill out his career Grand Slam with a win this week. Also, it’s Tiger Woods’ 10-year anniversary of winning the legendary 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — that was his most recent major championship victory.

Also in the field are headliners Dustin Johnson (now ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings), Justin Thomas (No. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Jon Rahm (No. 4) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5).

Brooks Koepka (No. 9) is the defending champion; he won last year by four shots for his first and only major so far in his career.

Check out our photos from Shinnecock Hills below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

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

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Spotted at Shinnecock: #RVLife, superb staff bags, stellar stampings

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We’re on the famed grounds of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club for the second major of the year. With the U.S. Open returned to such a visually and historically rich venue, it may be a bit tough to focus on equipment.

Nevertheless, we spotted some cool stuff, Tuesday, as the players move ever closer to the second major of th eyear.

Let’s get to the photos.

#RVLife propronent, Jason Day’s putter cover is incredible.

Michael Greller displays an essential caddie skill…

Face of Tiger’s wedge. Do these look like standard TaylorMade MG grooves to you?

Greatest side panel on a bag ever?

Who isn’t happy to see “Woods” on USGA tournament signage?

Shintaro Ban’s unique dot stamping is, well, money.

A look at the Bridgestone U.S. Open staff bag and headcovers.

Kenny Perry: Still gaming R7 irons.

Scott Gregory with some solid wedge stamping.

What is this lead taped and war torn beauty?

All our photos from Tuesday

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

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