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Tour Rundown: McIlory falters on Sunday, loses to Molinari

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One difficult debate in professional golf is, why are 3 of 4 major championships held each year in the USA? Does Europe deserve two? Probably not. What about Asia, Africa, or South America? See? This week, the European Tour held its PGA Championship, and the best golfers (McIlroy, Cabrera-Bello, Fleetwood, Noren, Poulter, Jaidee) turned up. The LPGA warmed up for the U.S. Open with an event in Michigan, while the Seniors held their PGA championship in the same state. The youngsters finished up the Texas swing, while the Webbies grooved in Nashville. Could May offer a better week of golf? Doubtful. Let’s Rundown those Tours with this week’s TR.

BMW PGA Championship to Italy’s Molinari

Francesco Molinari did the one thing he needed to do on Sunday to have a chance at victory: he kept a clean card. Four birdies, zero bogies, 68, 17-under par. His co-leader after round 3 had 4 birdies as well, but he also had 2 bogeys. And that is why Rory McIlroy finished second to the Italian champion. The victory was Molinari’s 5th on the European tour, and his first in 2 years. As for McIlroy, much as in this year’s Masters, he had a chance to stake a claim to the title, but failed to do precisely that. Molinari birdied 2 of his first 4 holes, while McIlroy helf off until the 8th to notch a red number. The 4-time major winner than bogeyed his next two holes to drop from contention. His birdie-birdie finish served to vault him into solo 2nd, but his performance was not the one that major champions usually offer. Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark closed with 65 to tie for 3rd with Sweden’s Alex Noren.

Rose romps to Fort Worth Invitational win

If you can envision a finer, tidier performance than 66-64-66-64, by all means, point it out. Justin Rose, the 2016 Olympic champion and 2013 U.S. Open champion, won his ninth PGA Tour title and second of the wraparound season, by 3 strokes over 2017 U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka. Both Rose and Koepka bogeyed the 18th hole, but the tournament had been decided by then. Koepka turned in the second-low round of day 4, to finish alone in the runner-up spot. Rose was far from perfect on the week, posting five bogeys in 4 rounds. The inordinate number (25) of birdies that he made did more than compensate for his errors. The only thing he lost all week was a shot at the tournament record of 21-under.

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While Rose’s sustained brilliance was unmatched, mention should be made of Kevin Na and his 123. The American opened with 6-birdie, 1-eagle 62, then closed with a 9-birdie 61. His middle rounds were best described as meh, but what lightning he caught in a bottle. Na finished 4th at 14-under, 1 behind Emiliano Grillo.

Volvik Championship a birthday present for Minjee

If Lydia Ko hadn’t pulled a miraculous, playoff-hole eagle out of her visor a month ago, Minjee Lee might find herself with a second win of the season. As it stands, her work in Ann Arbor was better than the rest, allowing her to gain career win number 4 on the LPGA tour and move inside the top 5 of the season-long points race. With In-Kyung Kim and Moriya Jutanugarn attempting to chase her down, Lee bent but didn’t break. She made bogey at the penultimate hole to drop into a tie with Kim, but found the resilience to birdie the last. The rebound allowed her to ease off the final green with the greatest of celebrations, capping off her 22nd birthday in dreamy style.

The final hole at the Travis Pointe country club promises certain drama for the best golfers on the LPGA tour. It’s brevity (only 470 yards) ensures that an accurate drive will offer a run at the green, and a chance at eagle. While none of the top 3 (Lee, Kim and Jutanugarn) succeeded in making 3, each one made birdie to conclude her round. Lee’s was a delicate affair, after her approach missed the green short right, leaving a testy pitch shot. Lee bumped her recovery toss to 2 feet, ensuring her slim margin of victory. Kim moved inside the top 30 of the CME Points Race, while Jutanugarn settled into the 2nd spot, just behind sister Ariya.

PGA Senior Championship is Broadhurst’s second senior major

Paul Broadhurst has enjoyed a successful month. He teamed with Kirk Triplett in Missouri in April for a victory at the Bass Pro Shops event. This week, Broadhurst exploded on Sunday with 8 birdies for 63, leaving only dust between him and his pursuers. Jerry Kelly might have thought that his second 65 of the week would have catapulted him into contention…think again. The solid effort was enough to garner a tie for 3rd with 3rd-round co-leader Scott McCarron, who closed with a topsy-turvy 71 for 14-under. The other co-leader, Tim Petrovic, fared a bit better. He shot his 4th straight round in the 60s for 15-under, securing solo second. The field was helpless in the wake of Broadhurst, who earned his 4th victory in 4 years on the Champions Tour.

The Englishman began the week at Harbor Shores with a forgettable 72. He improved dramatically with 64 on day two, then continued to excel. A Saturday 64, highlighted by a 6-birdie 30 on the front nine, was followed by Sunday’s 63. Never flinching, never wavering, Broadhurst outdistanced the competition in the manner of a young Ussain Bolt. With the win, Broadhurst surged into the top spot of the Schwab Cup race, advancing 14 places. Kelly moved up 2 spots, from 5th to 3rd, while McCarron elevated by one, into 8th.

Nashville Golf Open title gives status and hope to Davis

If you’ve been to Nashville, you know that the convention center is shaped like a guitar. When Cameron Davis was presented with the winner’s trophy on Sunday, it bore … what else? The shape of a guitar, of course. Davis was able to parlay a rare Web start into a victory when defending champ Lanto Griffin could not get stabilize early on day four. Davis played a remarkable pitch-and-run at the last for an up-and-down birdie to eek out the 1-stroke victory over Griffin, Kevin Dougherty and Josh Teater.

Davis went out in 2-under par 34, then turned on the jets with five incoming birdies for 31 and a day-low 65. Griffin had played wonderful golf over the first three days, never rising above 67, in a valiant defense of his 2017 title. His opening 7 holes on Sunday were unpredictable and inexplicable. Four bogeys and three birdies kept him in the chase, but in search of some sort of balance. Griffin made one birdie the rest of the way, gutted at the final hole with a left-short birdie putt to reach a playoff. Dougherty had 66 and Teaster, 68, to move up the Sunday leader board. Davis jumped all the way from 72nd to 14th in the season-long chase for a PGA Tour card.

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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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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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