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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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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. Bob Parson Jr.

    Jun 19, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    The USGA sucks!
    The USGA sucks!
    The USGA sucks!
    The USGA sucks!
    And…
    The USGA sucks!

  2. Fang

    Jun 19, 2018 at 2:25 am

    Thanks for linking to unwatchable videos.

  3. Chuck Barkley

    Jun 18, 2018 at 3:00 am

    Tip of the cap to him, phenomenal display of power and finesse. I’m not sure he will be stopped at Pebble unless the USGA decides to move some of the holes into the ocean!

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Equipment

Lee Westwood’s winning WITB: 2018 Nedbank Golf Challenge

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Driver: Ping G400 LST (10 degrees) (D6)
Shaft: Veylix Rome 60 X Tip 1”, 45.25″

3-wood: Ping G400 (14.5 degrees) (D3)
Shaft: Aldila Phenom 70X, 43″

Hybrid: Ping G (19 degrees) (D2+)
Shaft: Aldila ATX Tour Green 85X, 40.5”

Irons: Ping i210 4-PW, UW (50 degrees) UW (54 degrees) (Std length, Blue color code, D0+)
Shafts: Ping JZ Stiff

Wedges: Ping Glide Forged (60 degrees)
Shaft: JZ Stiff

Putter: Ping Sigma 2 Fetch 35”
Grip: PING Pistol Sigma 2 PP60

Grips: Lamkin Crossline Full Cord (+1 wrap) on woods, PING Id8 Half Cord on irons

Ball: Titleist ProV1x

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Equipment

Did Justin Rose confirm his switch to Honma?

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Our Oct. 26 Forum Thread of the Day centered around Justin Rose’s potential defection from TaylorMade and move to Japanese luxury club brand Honma. Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura, the Morning Read, the Irish Times, and the Sun Times, have all added fuel to that fire.

And on the subject of fire, asked about the potential change following his Turkish Airlines Open win, Rose said

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Speculation had been rampant in the GolfWRX forums for weeks, with several members with connections to the company indicating they’d heard Rose would soon be a Honma man. For example, mallrat said: “A teaching pro at our club is on staff with Honma and told me the same thing on Weds.”

Beyond the Englishman’s seeming admission that the rumor is true, his agent, Mark Steinberg is mum. Likewise, neither TaylorMade nor Honma has commented.

Suspicion as to why Rose, a long-time TaylorMade staffer and the No. 1 golfer in the world, would defect to a Japanese luxury brand with little presence on the PGA Tour centers around Mark King. The former TaylorMade president and CEO joined Honma as a consultant in August.

Per Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura,

“King, who was CEO at TaylorMade from 1999-2013, stood by Rose in his early professional days when he missed the first 21 cuts of his career and posted a stroke average of 75.18 in his 1999 European Tour season.”

Stachura also indicated King has brought several former TaylorMade staffers to the company. With TaylorMade from 1994 to 2014, King said in August that the company would be looking to establish a presence on the PGA Tour and debut new products in 2019 (per Golf Inc.).

Under the guidance of Chinese businessman Liu Jianguo, Honma, now publicly traded on the Hong Kong stock exchange, has seen sales growth over the past four years amid a reworked business model. The brand now looks to expand into the United States and establish a foothold in the luxury equipment space, which is presently dominated by the likes of XXIO and PXG.

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Tour News

Tour Rundown: The Champ is here

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If you’re a fan of international travel, fall professional golf is the time of year for you. With the men in Shanghai and Mississippi, the ladies in Taiwan, and the seniors in California, no two times zones were alike (almost). The world’s elite men enjoyed the fruits of their labors in Asia, while the up-and-comers attempted to make a name in the American southeast. The women and senior men find themselves in playoff chases, hoping to cap their years with the ultimate in triumphs. Join us for a rundown of all the week’s events.

Schauffele earns finest win in WGC Shanghai

Xander Schauffele was the quietest person frustrated by this year’s Ryder Cup USA performance. Widely recognized as the runner-up to Tony Finau for the last captain’s selection, Schauffele put his nose back to the grindstone and played well in September and October. He capped off the run by defeating the same Tony Finau in a playoff at the HSBC Champions World Golf Championship. Oh Irony! Schauffele  began the final round 3 strokes behind Finau, who was gunning for a signature win of his own. The Utah native didn’t play poorly, finishing four clear of Justin Rose, the 3rd-place combatant. Trouble for Finau was, Schauffele played some marvelous golf in round four. He combined six birdies with two bogeys for 68, reached the par-five 18th in two in the playoff, and calmly two-putted for birdie to claim the trophy as his own. Finau’s work was laudable, and his time on the big-stage podium will come soon enough. Imagine, if you will, the two of them paired in international competition. Team USA could do much worse than that.

Korda klaims first LPGA tour title in Taiwan

Back in 2013, when Nelly Korda was some 14 years of age, she qualified for the US Open at Sebonack and competed alongside her sister. Zip ahead to 2018, and Jessica’s younger sister made a breakthrough of her own. With no one running away with the Swinging Skirts Taiwan Championship, Korda played solid golf in round four and ascended to the top of the podium for the first time. Two birdies and an eagle might seem like a light load, but no bogies gave her 68, on a day when the low round totaled 66. That number came from Minjee Lee, who made a furious attempt to katch Korda. The Australian champion birdied her final two holes to close within two, but Korda was uncatchable, winning by two strikes at 13-under par.

Sanderson Farms comes down to a battle of Cs

Cameron, Corey and Carlos walked into a… golf tournament. Wouldn’t make a good joke opener, would it? That’s fine; it’s the story line behind this year’s Sanderson Farms championship in Jackson, MS. Corey (Connors) had made a run at events last season on the PGA Tour, and looked to establish himself as a strong finisher. Carlos (Ortiz) hoped to finally add a big-tour win to the trio of events he won on the Web.Com tour in 2014. As for Cameron (Champ), he’s only the next great thing according to some, the young beast in the eyes of others. Long off the tee and soft around the greens, Champ edged past the other two Cs and won his first PGA Tour event by four strokes. Owner of a four-stroke lead after 54 holes, Champ made a pair of bogeys at 7 and 8 to offer hope to his pursuers. Not much later (holes 13 through 18) Champ dashed their hopes with five birdies over the closing 6 holes. The victory moved Champ into the top 6 on the 2018-19 FedEx Cup race, and gave unsustainable bylines to golf journalists everywhere.

Parel nonpareil in Sherwood

Scott Parel began the year with a little-heralded win in an unofficial event. His triumph at the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January set an unforgettable year in motion. It would take until August for the former Web.Com winner to claim his first senior title, but the 2nd came less than two months later. Parel and others watched as Miguel Angel Jimenez tumbled from the top spot on Sunday with a 73, offering the field a chance to steal a victory. Parel notched two birdies on each side of the scorecard, strayed not once into bogeyland, and came out on top by one stroke over Paul Goydos. The runner-up did nothing to hurt his chances, parlaying 5 birdies and 0 bogies into a delightful 67. Kenny Perry looked to have the best chance to overtake Parel, starting 6-under through 13 holes. The Kentuckian was unable to dig any lower, and finished solo third at 8-under, two behind Goydos.

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