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Tour Rundown: Poulter earns spot in The Masters after an unbelievably clutch putt

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This week in professional golf is brought to you by Chip, the motivational emotion encouraged by past slights that rests on an athletes shoulder. Only three winners emerged from the professional tours this week, but they were memorable for diverse reasons. The LPGA opened a season of major championships in California, the PGA tour hosted its final event in the run-up to the Masters, and the Web.Com tour was in Georgia for a professional debut that may stand the test of time. All 3 winners have us stoked to tell you more about their exploits, so step aside as we cruise into Tour Rundown mode.

And the first major of the year goes to…

When you have a 3-participant playoff that extends into day 2, usually little is remembered from the BP (before playoff) era. When you have an 8-hole playoff, won by a first-time champion on tour, you have a great story. When that winner holds off a 7-time champion and LPGA hall of fame member, you best not wreck the story. And with that lead-in, say hello to your newest LPGA tour and major champion, Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden.

How Lindberg held off Inbee and Jennifer

Pernilla Lindberg attended Oklahoma State and came out on tour in 2009, after graduating in International Business. Nearly 9 years later, the ebullient Swede found herself in position to win not just one tournament, but a major title at that. After opening with 65-67, Lindberg fought her swing the next two days, but managed to drain a birdie putt on the final green to reach the magic playoff number of 15-under par. Suffice it to say that 8 holes in, Lindberg drained a 20-feet putt to seize the day and send home the exhilarated gallery in the happiest of ways.

How Inbee and Jennifer (et al.) gave ANA their all

Both Park and Song closed with rounds of 67 to push Lindberg deeper than she wanted. Song bowed out on the 3rd playoff hole with par, while Park managed to go 8 holes in, before losing to Lindberg’s second birdie in extra time. Right on their heels were Ariya Juntanugarn and Jessica Korda, who managed 65 and 66, respectively, on Sunday. Simply put, this was a major for the ages, and all of the runners-up and also-rans added to the lore.

Poulter gets Masters invitation, after all

Never one to be shy with his feelings, Ian Poulter was speechless a week ago. Why? Turns out he received some misinformation after his semi-final loss in the WGC Match Play, about a certain invitation to a certain spring party. Nope, Ian, sorry. You actually didn’t qualify. Poulter took to Twitter (as he sometimes does, making himself look … human) to vent his frustration. He then went to work in Houston, won the Open, and absolutely stole the final invitation to the 2018 Masters tournament.

How Ian Poulter showed us the way

No matter your feelings on his Ryder Cup performances for team Europe, his ability to stay in the spotlight despite not winning anywhere since 2012, or his brash demeanor, respect is due to Ian James Poulter. The Englishman converted a 20-feet putt for birdie at the last, probably around the time that former UTexas golfer Beau Hossler began to feel that the title was his. In a very succinct playoff, Poulter stayed dry while Hossler went for a dip. The former made par while the latter posted triple, and the event was decided.

Related: Ian Poulter’s Winning WITB

How Hossler nearly played his way to Augusta

Hossler has always been a cosmic talent, qualifying for a US Open before he finished high school. Barring injury, his first tour victory should come in the next two months. In essence, he did everything necessary to win in Houston, posting consecutive birdies from holes 12 to 15, to reach 19-under par. After Poulter’s final-hole histrionics, Hossler acquitted himself admirably in the playoff, until his third shot. After a drive in the fairway bunker, his approach cleared the fronting water, but found more sand. It was the greenside bunker shot that did the young pro in, sailing beyond the putting surface and into lake despair. Still, with the runner-up finish, Hossler improved 56 spots, inside the top 30 of the FedEx Cup chase.

Sam Burns shrugs off Walker Cup slight, wins first Web event at Savannah Golf Championship

Every decade or so, the USGA Walker Cup selection committee makes one of those head-scratching decisions. In the 1990s, it left Brandt Snedeker off the team. In the 2000s (all right, 2011, but give us some wiggle room), John Peterson was denied an earned spot on the squad. In 2017, the same fate befell Sam Burns, the college player of the year. The process always remains a mystery, but in the case of Sam Burns, the slight might already be forgotten. Burns won his 1st important professional title this week in Savannah, finishing at 21-under to win by one.

How Burns grabbed the steering wheel

Sam Burns began the week with a benign round of 72. He reeled off 3 consecutive 65s to not only make the cut, but nab the victory on is 72nd hole. After that opening, 3-bogey, 3-birdie effort, the victor made 21 birdies, and eagle and 2 bogeys the rest of the way. After 9 holes on Sunday, Burns stood 1-under on the day, off the pace set by Scott Langley. Something at the turn fired up the LSU alum, as Burns came home in 30 strokes, with 6 birdies against 3 pars. He played his final 3 holes in minus-3, edging Roberto Castro by one.

How the chasers came up short

Roberto Castro was in the top 25 on the PGA Tour a few years back, but has been unable to recapture that form. His slow improvement on this year’s Web.Com tour escalated dramatically in Savannah. Castro closed with the day’s low round, a 64 that also featured a closing birdie. These days on the Web, if you don’t finish with something in the mid-60s, you go home empty handed. The win moved Castro well up the ladder, in the chase for  a return trip to the PGA tour. Scott Langley led for much of the day, but was unable to preserve his brilliant, opening-nine form to the end. His 67 brought him a tie with Justin Hueber for 34d place.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Tour News

It’s the Ardmore! Woods begins Quicken Loans National with TaylorMade putter in the bag

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If you had a bet going with your buddies that there was no way Tiger Woods would depart from his beloved 13 major-winning Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS this week, you lose.

Woods started the first round of the Quicken Loans National with the TaylorMade Ardmore 3 he has been practicing all week with at TPC Potomac.

Adam Schupak spotted Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava, on the way to the first tee for Woods’ 1:20 ET start time with the camo TaylorMade putter cover in the bag (not surprisingly, the TaylorMade Ardmore 3 was beneath the cover).

Woods has struggled with the putter this season, as we’re all well aware, particularly since the Memorial. No. 89 on Tour in strokes gained: putting, the 14-time major champion knew he had to do something.

“I’m trying to find something that I can feel again, like the swing of the putter, getting my body in the right positions and seeing the lines again,” Woods said. “You know, it’s just one of those things, once I start to get the ball rolling on my lines, then I’ll be back to putting like I was. I just have not been rolling it on my lines. And then on top of that, when they don’t roll on lines, then I have a hard time seeing my lines and it’s a vicious cycle. And I’m just trying to get out of that cycle.”

Woods reportedly tried a number of TaylorMade putters in the Bahamas last week, arriving (as far as we know) at the Quicken Loans National with just the Ardmore and his Newport to choose between.

He has made his choice for the first round. We’ll see how it pans out and whether Woods remains a mallet man all week.

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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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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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