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A scramble for status in the Tour’s season finale

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This week’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Disney Resort offers a variety of newsworthy topics, for interests both short and long term.

Many players hovering around No. 125 on the money list are rightfully focused on securing their 2013 PGA Tour card. Others, whose place to play in 2013 is already assured, may be looking to break into the top-80 or top-70 on the money list, rankings earn golfers invitations to heralded PGA Tour events next season. Meanwhile, the conclusion of the 2012 PGA Tour season marks the end of the Fall Series as well.

Since 2007, and the emersion of the FedEx Cup, the Fall Series and Children’s Miracle Network event have closed out the PGA Tour’s season, shining a spotlight on the bubble players who must perform to continue playing at the game’s highest level. But when the Tour embarks upon its new schedule in 2013, the end of the FedExCup Series will mark the end of the PGA Tour’s season, meaning the Fall Series will become part of the Tour’s 2014 schedule.

That fact poses a challenge for Disney’s event, which has been played since 1971 and is one of the longest standing PGA Tour events. Children’s Miracle Network’s sponsorship concludes come Sunday, and the event’s exodus as the Tour’s finale could make finding a new sponsor a tall order. Nonetheless, the 128 players in the field this week will put everything forward to become the 2012 CMNH Classic victor.

Last year, then World No. 1 Luke Donald shot a final-round 64 to earn the come-from-behind victory and seal the PGA Tour money title over Webb Simpson. Six birdies to begin his back nine on the Magnolia Course fueled the low round as he claimed the two-stroke victory over third round co-leader Justin Leonard.

The players will once again take on the Palm and Magnolia Courses at Disney, with three rounds taking place on the 7,516 yard Magnolia track. The Palm may be the shorter course at 6,957, but it still provides challenges. Nine holes feature water while fairways are known for being tight and tree-lined. Accuracy on the course will prove key.

For the three other days, players will face even more water and a load of bunkers, but fairways are quite inviting off the tee. The Magnolia has water on 11 holes, while 97 bunkers are plotted around the course. Payne Stewart’s mark of 61 on the course in 1990 may stand the test of time as the course has grown over the years.

2012 Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III is looking to close out the Fall Series on a perfect note having made each of the previous three cuts, and perhaps lock up another win at Disney. Love’s last win on Tour came at Disney in 2008. More notably, Love is currently No. 98 on the money list and is looking to stay inside the top 100 for the 27th straight season.

Tommy Gainey is no doubt still riding the high of his victory at the McGladrey Classic on St. Simons Island, Ga., but he is a golfer to keep an eye on this week. Gainey’s previous career-best finish was at this event, when he finished second to Love in 2008.

Meanwhile, Tour veteran Justin Leonard returns to Disney looking for a better end result than in 2011. Leonard’s tournament stalled in the final round as the 40-year-old only managed to shoot 1-under to fall two shots short of a playoff. Leonard’s five previous trips to Disney have been impressive as well, highlighted by three finishes of sixth place or better. Brendon de Jonge hopes to continue his hot streak in Orlando this week, riding three-straight top-five finishes. In those three events, de Jonge is a combined 54-under-par and Disney is another event which is birdie prone.

Finally, most year-end awards are practically foregone conclusions, but Jonas Blixt can try to throw a corkscrew into the equation if he takes his second title in his last three tournaments. Many consider John Huh the top contender for Rookie of the Year, as he was one of three rookies to win on Tour and made it the farthest of all rookies in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Blixt is coming off a disappointing T-84 at the McGladrey Classic, but still has the momentum of his strong play in the first two Fall Series events.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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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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