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Tour Rundown: Jutanugarn goes the distance, DeChambeau survives playoff

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If ever a golfer were dismissed, it was Ariya Jutanugarn on the second playoff hole of the USGA Women’s Open. Come to think of it, the same happens with Bryson DeChambeau, each time he goes into scientific detail about a swing or a shot. #KeepGolfWeird might never be the hashtag that #KeepAustinWeird is, but golf needs its unanticipated stories and its outliers. Golf reflects life, and those anomalies are less rare than some would attribute. After a tremendous week of June golf, let’s run it all down in this week’s Tour Rundown.

Jutanugarn does the unthinkable…twice, at the U.S. Women’s Open

If you followed the Twitterverse, one anachronistic word was linked to Ariya Jutanugarn in the waning moments of regulation play: meltdown. Time to put that word to bed. Not an appropriate nor accurate metaphor, under any circumstance. If you’ve not played Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Alabama (I did, in April) then you don’t have an idea of how challenging the back nine is. Fred Couples does; he lost a lead with four consecutive bogeys on 13-16 in 1990, losing the PGA Championship in the process to Wayne Grady. Ariya Jutanugarn and last week’s field also know. It wasn’t that anyone could lose a seven-shot lead with nine to play (cough, Palmer, cough) but that someone might actually build such a disparity.

One of the commentators related Jutanugarn’s applause for her opponent’s playoff birdie as being resigned to her fate. Note to commentator: Jutanugarn does that for all of her opponents. She respects clutch play in others, which might allow her to summon her own successes under great pressure. She did that in spades on Sunday at Shoal Creek. Ariya Jutanugaran is a powerful player, with a tendency to miss left when the game is on. She missed right a few times on Sunday, as well, but found an enviable calm after each shot. Her playoff opponent, Kim Hyo-joo, did the same when faced with a daunting deficit. Two kindred spirits then met for four extra holes of golf on a Sunday afternoon. Jutanugarn parred them all. After an opening birdie, Kim went bogey-par-bogey, and Jutanugarn had her second major championship, ninth LPGA victory, and third consecutive playoff win. Brava! What an Ariya.

DeChambeau conquers foes in playoff for Memorial title

It’s difficult to win on the PGA Tour. Even a guy who owned the amateur world, as Bryson DeChambeau once did, needs to establish himself at a new level in the big leagues. DeChambeau took another step toward another level on Sunday, dispatching Kyle Stanley and Byeong Hun An in two playoff holes for career win No. 2 at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament. A look at the top give golfers offered an episode of Young and Younger, as names like Patrick Cantlay, Peter Uihlein and DeChambeau populated the list. Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson (T6 and T8, respectively) were the first, established names to appear on the leader board. Golf has a way of teasing its followers, offering a week where all the up-and-comers dispatch the old guard, then following it up with a glimpse of the Wise and the Wizened.

DeChambeau didn’t exactly play like a champion over the closing holes of regulation. He bogeyed two of the final five, including the last. An did have the right stuff, making birdie at two of his final four to tie the Physicist. As for Stanley? He had every ingredient in his broth: a double, four consecutive birdies, and a closing bogey when par would have won. Off they went to extra time, where An and BD eliminated Stanley with par on the first hole. At the second playoff go-round of the closing hole, DeChambeau would have a run at birdie, but not before An tugged his approach, then hit a recovery shot for the ages. In the end, the putt and celebration of Bryson are the stuff that makes up human DNA: unbridled, well-earned joy.

Olesen holds off world’s hottest golfer for victory No. 5

His first name is Jacob, but when you might be called Thor, you use your middle name to ensure it. Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark held off Francesco Molinari of Italy, by one stroke, thanks to a clean card on day four. Molinari, last week’s winner at the PGA Championship of Europe, needed the same card to force a playoff, but a penultimate-hole bogey, sandwiched by 5 closing birdies, did him in. Molinari was brilliant all week, opening with consecutive 66s, and then went one better on Sunday, with 65. Problem was, Olesen was spectacular, salvaging a disastrous 68 in round two with two 65s and Sunday’s 64.

How spectacular? 24 birdies and one eagle on the week spectacular. He made four bogeys, including two on day one, but compensated with surreal putting and ball striking. Oh, and nerves of steel, as exemplified by his sandy at the last (putt from about seven feet) for par.

England’s Lee Slattery had the third-round lead, thanks to a wondrous 62 on Saturday. His week-low round included eight birdies, one eagle AND a bogey. Alas, Slattery summoned 67 on Sunday, but all it got him was solo third spot, thanks to the fireworks of Olesen and Molinari. Although not convinced in the slightest that Molinari will win the US Open in two weeks, don’t be surprised to see his name on the leader board at Shinnecock Hills. As for Olesen, a solid career took one step closer to a spectacular one with Sunday’s victory.

Joey Garber and his flow take Rex Hospital Open on Web Tour

After gaining fame on the Minnesota Hockey All-Hair team, Joey Garber turned his attention to golf. OK, cards on the table…part of that was invented. Garber does play golf, however, has massive lettuce on his scalp, and is quite good at his chosen profession. How good? He won on Sunday in Raleigh, moving from 50th spot to 6th on The 25 chase for a PGA Tour card. Garber held off Hank Lebioda and Scott Langley, both tied for 2nd at -17, by a putt or a chip or whatever you will.

The Georgia alum had four birdies in his first seven holes on Sunday to join the chase for the title. Despite an erratic back nine of four pars, three birdies and two bogeys, Garber managed to ease past the competition for his first Web.Com Tour win. In all, 2 more golfers stood at -16, with 4 more at -15 on the week, giving credibility to the term “bunched up.” So many golfers, so much talent, only one trophy. Hats off to Garber and his mane. If ever a field of lettuce were worthy of champion’s status, it is this one.

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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.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Mike B

    Jun 6, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Saw the headline about the US Women’s Open and the viewership numbers, and why it was so low. Nothing to do with who might win, or the conditions, and so on… Has to do with one thing, IMHO… FOX!! Their contract needs to be yanked for US Opens immediately. Azinger, Faxon and Inkster are semi tolerable, but Joe Buck has to go!! Stick to baseball Joe. The microphones in every cup is so f@$&ing annoying, the stupid segments, with whoever it is in the fairway with a crayon and poster board, also has to go. FOX has trouble doing news, don’t mess with golf. Please throw in the towel with this experiment.

  2. Gurn Blanstin

    Jun 4, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    I wish GolfWrx would provide WITB for more LPGA and Champions players bags. I can identify with their games better and would enjoy seeing what they game… My 2c

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Tour News

Brandt Snedeker shoots 59 after bogeying his first hole at the 2018 Wyndham Championship

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Brandt Snedker started his first round of the 2018 Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club on the 10th hole with a drive way left off the tee, leading to a bogey. He didn’t make his first birdie until his fourth hole, actually, but from there, the flood gates were open. Snedeker birdied four holes in a row — hole nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16 — to go out in 32 (3 under).

He then SCORCHED his back nine, shooting an 8-under 27 including 6 birdies and an eagle. Certainly knowing it was for 59, Snedeker rolled in a 20-footer on his 18th hole (the course’s 9th hole). Watch the putt below.

It was by far the longest birdie putt he made on the back nine, probably because he was sticking everything to within 5 feet.

Notice the “0 feet” putt above? Yea, because he didn’t have to putt after dunking his second shot.

Where does Snedeker’s 59 stand in terms of the history books? He’s the 9th player ever to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour, and the FIRST to do so starting the round with a bogey.

Remember, even if you start with a bogey you can shoot your best round ever. Maybe not a 59 like Snedeker on Thursday of the Wyndham Championship, but don’t let that first-hole bogey get you down; there’s 17 more opportunities to make birdie — and Snedeker nearly did just that.

If you’re curious to hear what Snedker has to say about his 59, check out the Tweet embed below, or click here.

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Tour News

Brooks Koepka, a machine built to win majors

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Brooks Koepka is your 2018 PGA Champion. Of his 4 PGA Tour victories, 3 have come at major events, all of which have come in the past 14 months. He has won a U.S. Open that played like a PGA (Erin Hills), a U.S. Open that played like a British Open (Shinnecock) and now, a PGA that played like a PGA, at Bellerive in St. Louis. What do we make of this 28-year old, born and bred Floridian, who doesn’t appear to win often, but makes it count when he does? That depends on the units with which you choose to measure his performance. Have a look at his most recent performance, a 2-shot win over Tiger Woods at the 2018 PGA Championship.

  • Birdies: 22 in total, 13 on the front nine
  • Bogeys: 4 total, 2 on each nine
  • Double Bogeys: 1
  • Eagles: 0

Out of 72 holes, it might be said, Koepka made 5 mistakes that counted. That’s not a lot. He made two consecutive mistakes on the front nine on Sunday, but countered those two holes later, with three consecutive birdies. Koepka also bogeyed consecutive hole in round three, on the inward half. Similarly, he made a birdie soon after, to regain momentum. On Thursday, when he made double bogey on the par-3 5th hole, he made all pars before and after, until the 11th. From that point on, it was 3 birdies and 5 pars. What we see from him is an incredibly precise performance, where mistakes are minimized and opportunities, maximized.

Koepka is no fool. He knows his initial strength is distance off the tee, and he utilized it to perfection at Bellerive. After round two, he commented,

“I like the way the golf course sets up. People talk about it turns right-to-left, but you’ve always got a bunker on the inside of the turn, but I can carry most of them, so it’s not really a big deal that the holes turn right-to-left, you can kind of get away with it with my length.”

Yes, Brooks, you can, but only if you are accurate when the ball returns to Earth. After three performances where he outplayed the best from two generations, we might become believers. During the same interview, Koepka revealed a bit more about who he is, and what he does, during a major week:

“More attention to detail. More mentally focused, more every shot really, really means something. You drop a shot or two, it’s, you really put yourself back. There’s a lot more focus that I have in the Majors, the preparation, I mean everyone on my team even says I act a little different, the way I approach it. It’s very down to a routine this week and other weeks sometimes, not saying I vary from the routine, but it’s much more disciplined. Eating right, going to the gym, it’s almost timed perfectly.”

None of those things is impossible to emulate. I’m certain that Rickie Fowler does them, and I’m positive that Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, and Tiger Woods do so as well. None of them hoisted the Wannamaker trophy this week, so something that Koepka does, or has, or know, continues to pay off.

It might be absolute comfort in his skin. Koepka told a story about a workout he had with perennial partner, Dustin Johnson, this week at Life Time Fitness in St. Louis. In his words,

“Today I was in there with Dustin and everybody wanted a picture with Dustin. They were talking about him as we left and I was just standing there laughing. They were like, did you see that No. 1 player in the world was here. It’s like, yeah, okay. I don’t know what to say to that. It was like, all right.”

I’d certainly be tempted to jump in and tell the ogglers who I am, but that’s not Koepka. He doesn’t have the DJ beard, the DJ bent wrist, the DJ wife/daughter of a hockey legend. It’s only about Brooks Koepka, albeit not in an egocentric way. The egotist approaches the ogglers and tells them who he is. Koepka focuses on self: I’m just focused on me. I feel like, if I do what I’m supposed to, I should win the golf tournament. That’s not arrogance, that’s not delusion. He is good, good enough to win each time he tees it up. Is he proud of his first tour win, at the Phoenix Open? For sure. Is he prouder of the three that came next? Without a doubt. The stakes continue to increase, and Koepka rises to the occasion.

Remember, too, that Koepka lost a sizable chunk of this season. He shut his game down after injuring his wrist. A late-2017 surgery kept him out of action through the Masters, an event that now seems tailored to his style of golf. Not a large muscle that heals quickly, but a part of the body with so many moving parts. A part of the body so essential to the execution of every golf shot. If that threat doesn’t give one pause, and later, gratitude, then one has missed the point.

In 1986, Greg Norman and Severiano Ballesteros were the two best golfers in the world. Jack Nicklaus was not, a relic from another era, whose most recent win had come six years prior. When the Golden Bear began to make noise at Augusta National, Norman and Ballesteros folded. Fast forward 32 years, to the footsteps of another forest creature, Tiger Woods. Woods posted 8 birdies for 64 on Sunday at Bellerive. He reached the number (-14) that I suggested yesterday would be enough to win, except it wasn’t. Why not? Koepka, unlike Norman and Ballesteros, rose to the challenge.

Brooks Koepka has joined a small group of golfers with three major victories. He now has two distinct major titles on his resume, and will certainly be one of the favorites at all four majors next year. From 1903 to 1905, Willie Anderson was the only man to raise the unnamed trophy. In 2019, Koepka might join him at at Pebble Beach. He might put on a green jacket in Georgia, in April. He also might grasp a trophy named for a specific wine, at Royal Portrush, in Northern Ireland.

See Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB

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Photos from the 2018 U.S. Women’s Amateur

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GolfWRX is live from the U.S. Women’s Amateur at the Golf Club of Tennessee in Kingston Springs, a venue which most recently hosted the 2006 Tennessee State Open.

The USGA fielded a record 1,468 entries for the competition, in which Kristen Gillman, Kaylee Benton, Laren Stephenson, and Jiwon Jeon are still alive in match play.

From WITB looks to shots of the superb Fazio course to some high art calligraphy (see below) we have it all.

Friday’s photos

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

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