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5 things we learned on Friday at the 2018 U.S. Open

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Let’s have a moment for the faces we won’t see live this weekend: Rahm, Sergio, Kuuuuuuch, JDay, Bubba, Rory, Tiger, et al. Shinnecock Hills wasn’t manageable for everyone this week, so let’s get right to those who did take a swig and smile. The 5 things we learned on Friday at the U.S. Open all deal with survivors of the 36-hole cut. Feast!

5) Tommy Fleetwood is more than hair

If you haven’t followed the rise of Sir Thomas of Fleetwood, do a wiki search and catch up. When Fleetwood wins, he does so with the command of a field general. He measures the course with acuity and executes a plan of battle with efficient movement. His Friday-morning 66 was brilliant stuff. Five birdies against one bogey was precisely what he needed to return to contention. On Thursday, he might have gone away with consecutive bogeys on 11, 12 and 13, followed by another at 15. Instead, he birdied the 16th and made his way to the clubhouse at 5-over. His 9-shot, overnight improvement is what he is likely to shoot, not what he is capable of posting. Expect Fleetwood to join the fray in full on Saturday afternoon. He might even be in the final pairing by day’s end.

4) Dustin Johnson is golf’s Buddy the Elf

It may not make sense to you, but it does to me. And my goodness, what an elf! The 2016 U.S. Open champion made bogey at the first hole, the fourth-easiest hole on day one. Only the par 5s (5 and 16) and the 4th hole were kinder than the opener. After that, it was back to red figures. Johnson surgically separated himself from par with birdies at the par-3 7th and 11th holes (the Vegas Toss), and the aforementioned 4th and 16th, to authorize a scorecard of 67 and a 2-day total of 136. At 1:44 p.m., EST, I make this claim: Johnson will win the doily for 36-hole medalist. If he doesn’t, I’ll send three of you a doily. Details on that contest to be determined. Do you remember that eerie calm that Johnson possessed, as the marsupials of rules attempted to steal the 2016 Open from him? It never left, and it will serve him well this weekend. When a long hitter takes pride in his wedge game, props must be given. Hail, Elf! Let’s get that #DJTheElf hashtag started.

3) 1-2-3-7-9-11-12-14-17…Give up?

Half of the world’s top-20 professional golfers are in the top-20 of the U.S. Open. From top-ranked Dustin Johnson to the 17th ranked pro, Marc Leishman, representation seems about right. So much for couch putters who say that Shinnecock is unfair, that it isn’t a proper test, that its fairways are too narrowly wide, its greens too firmly soft. Or was it softly firm? For pity’s sake~ Once again, the U.S. Open has taken on the task of identifying the world’s best golfers. Thirteen of the top-20-and-ties fly the USA flag; five wave the English banner, and the rest raise the stars, bars, etc. of Sweden, Australia and Scotland. Not a bad spread for a decent event, on a playable course. Next candidate for controversy is …

2) No putt today will be greater than this one

Matt Parziale is you, me, her, him…or at least who we want to be. And not for the golf. He’s a fire fighter from Massachusetts. He’s the reigning USGA Mid-Amateur champion. He missed the cut in April at the Masters, although he did leave town with some crystal, thanks to a Friday eagle at the 13th. With the birdie on 18, he guaranteed himself a spot in the field for the final two days of the U.S. Open. After Shinny, will any tournament measure up? Congratulations, #LadderCompany1 of #BrocktonMassachusetts. Your favorite son has done you proud once again.

1) The one who will win their first major is… 

Ian Poulter, who sits at T4? That disastrous triple-single finish may be tough to put behind him, but if there’s anyone who can do, it’s Poults. Maybe Scott Piercy (T2), who salvaged a back nine of 3-over 38 with a front nine of two-under 33. That’s pretty sweet. Charley Hoffman (T2) has challenged in the past at Augusta, and seems to always find himself on major leader boards; can he finally close the door and get it done? Studs Fleetwood and Rickie Fowler, both sitting at 2-over, are within earshot, but they have to maneuver through the group of been-there-done-that major winners all sitting at 1-over; that group includes Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka. Aside from DJ, who may run away with it and ruin our fun, it’s a packed leaderboard sprinkled with vets, winners and hopefuls. Here’s to a great Father’s Day weekend!

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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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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Aguila Golf Course in Phoenix, Arizona

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member evgolfer, who takes us to Aguila Golf Course in Phoenix, Arizona. The course sits at the base of South Mountain, offering up some stunning scenic mountain views, and in his description of the track evgolfer praises the fair test that the course offers up to players of all levels.

“I love it because the price is always right as a City of Phoenix municipal course. The conditions are usually fairly decent. Also, the course presents a fair challenge to me as a high handicapper and still appeals to low caps. It is easily walkable. Not surrounded by houses, not overly tight or cramped. Designed by Gary Panks. Not overly penal.”

According to Aguila Golf Course’s website, in peak time, an 18 hole round can be booked for $29, with the rate rising to $44 should you wish to add a cart. While, off-peak the price drops to $34, which includes a cart.

@TheHectorRios

@VernonLorenz

@HSTuscon

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Opinion & Analysis

This stat indicates Tiger Woods will win major 15 in 2019

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For Tiger Woods’ fans, it’s been over 10 years waiting for his 15th major victory. Even with PGA Tour win No. 80, plenty are already looking ahead to next year’s major.

Looking into Tiger’s performance at the majors in 2018, and more recently the PGA Championship, there’s exciting news for his fans. Tiger briefly held the lead at this year’s Open Championship, only to finish in a tie for sixth. But, it’s his performance at the PGA Championship, when he stormed home for second place thanks to a final round 64, and the recent statistics behind that tournament, that will get his legion of supporters brimming with confidence.

Going back to 2015, strong performances at the PGA Championship have proven to be a great form line for the following year’s major winners. In fact, if you go back further into the records, it extends for several years prior as well. Let’s take a look at recent PGA Championship results and the players that emerged from those performances that lead to major victory the next year.

The 2017 PGA Championship was one of the strongest forms lines in recent years. Justin Thomas won the tournament by two shots, but Patrick Reed, and Francisco Molinari tied for second. Reed went on to win this year’s Masters and Molinari won the Open Championship to capture their first major championships.

At the 2016 PGA Championship, Jimmy Walker surprised the field with victory, but an emerging talent in Brooks Koepka finished tied for fourth and would go on to secure his 1st major in 2017 by winning the U.S. Open. Interesting, Patrick Reed and Francisco Molinari were also just outside the top-10.

The 2015 PGA Championship was won by Jason Day, but current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson finished tied for seventh. Dustin went on to win his first major, the U.S. Open, the following year at the Oakmont Country Club. Also worth noting: Jordan Spieth finished second to Jason Day and went close to winning the Masters the next year only to finish in second place.

Fast forward to this year’s PGA Championship where Tiger finished second behind Brooks Koepka. Is it a sign that his 10-year major drought could end in 2019? And don’t forget, if Tiger has a great chance in 2019, then surely players that finished around him in that tournament, such as Adam Scott, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland, must have high hopes for 2019 too?

All this is true and only time will tell if the tournament form line stacks up.

Anyway you look at the 2018 PGA Championship results, it’s a great form line for 2019, and Tiger could well be in the mix in the big ones next year. With his body coping well with the rigors of the tough PGA Tour circuit, Tiger Woods’ fans can be feeling good about his chances for the 2019 season.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Boulder Creek Golf Club in Streetsboro, Ohio

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member JimGantz, who takes us to Boulder Creek Golf Club in Streetsboro, Ohio. Just 30 minutes from downtown Cleveland, Boulder Creek features over 100 feet of elevation changes, and when you look at the photos of the course, it’s easy to see why this track landed in our hidden gem thread. JimGantz gives us a concise description of the course, praising it for its nice blend of different hole types.

“Conditions are always top notch. Fluffy bunkers, thick-ish rough.  Staff are super friendly. Good mix of long and short holes which is something I like. I’m not a huge fan of playing a course where every par 3 is over 200yds. This track mixes it up.”

According to Boulder Creek Golf Club’s website, 18 holes with a cart from Monday-Thursday will set you back $40, while to play on the weekend costs $50. Seniors can play the course for as little as $25 during the week.

@BoulderCreekOH

@amgolferblog

@troymezz

Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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