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Morning 9: Shh… | Hovland breaks through | PGL CEO speaks | Greatest putt ever?

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1. “Shhhhhh…”
Steve DiMeglio for Golfweek writes this regarding Patrick Reed’s WGC win…”A week that began with more biting criticism about his escapade in the sand in the Bahamas last December ended with an emphatic response from Patrick Reed.”
  • “Reed blocked out all the noise, deflected the condemnations and accusations of cheating and then stormed from behind during a tense back nine Sunday to win the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec.”
  • “En route to his second WGC title and eighth PGA Tour victory, the 2018 Masters champion shot rounds of 69-63-67-67 to finish at 18 under and one shot clear of Bryson DeChambeau. Reed scrambled for a finishing bogey after driving it into the trees and two-putted from 34 feet for the win.”
2. Hovland breaks through
AP report…”Viktor Hovland rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole to capture his maiden PGA Tour victory in dramatic fashion at the Puerto Rico Open.”
  • “Hovland started the day with a one-shot lead, and at one point he built a three-shot advantage midway through the round. But after overcoming an ill-timed triple bogey, he was facing the prospect of a playoff with journeyman Josh Teater as he played the par-5 closing hole.”
  • “After his wedge came up short as rain fell in Rio Grande, the 22-year-old buried the birdie putt to finish the week at 20 under after a final-round 70 and polish off a breakthrough win.”
3. PGL CEO speaks
Golfweek’s Steve DiMeglio reporting…”Andrew Gardiner, the league’s CEO, is the voice behind the league and he spoke for 90 minutes on the British-based golf show podcast hosted by Rick Shiels.”
  • “Gardiner, a London-based director at Barclays Capital, said the Premier Golf League would run from January through August and consist of 12 four-man teams, with Gardiner saying the owner or the leader of each team would pick two players to count for the team score prior the start of the first round.”
  • “Players would be required to play all 18 events, with each featuring 54 holes, shotgun starts, no cut and no dress code. Each of the first 17 events would have a $10 million purse, with the season-ending playoff tournament boasting a $40 million purse. An individual champion will also be crowned in the final event.”
  • “The goal is for the league to begin in 2022.”
4. PGL short on substance?
Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch…”For all the attention Premier Golf League has garnered, it’s still little more than spitballs against a whiteboard. There’s the promise of financing, but no hard assets. No players. No tournaments. No infrastructure. McIlroy’s stiff-arming isn’t quite a fatal blow – he admitted that if everyone else jumps then he’ll have to follow – but having the world No. 1 say he’ll join only at gunpoint doesn’t much recommend it to his peers. Guys like Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose have teased interest, but they are players who don’t have the longest competitive runway ahead of them.”
  • “To be viable, PGL needs commitments from multiple younger stars, and the biggest star in that constellation just said no. Six years after it was conceived, Premier Golf League is all promise, no delivery.”
  • “That PGL has lingered for so long speaks to the depthless focus on finances among some players and agents, but also to how urgently the PGA Tour needs a reckoning with its own reality. Because even Woods predicts this will not be the last renegade challenge the Tour faces.”
5. Ignoring the noise
ESPN’s Bob Harig…”The noise, at times, can be deafening, deflating. It is certainly distracting. Patrick Reed admits as much because it would be nearly impossible to say or do otherwise.”
  • “And so it was that Reed had not one, but two grenades tossed his way this week in the wake of Sandy-gate in the Bahamas, the “cheating” scandal that continues to dog him.
  • “For reasons of his own making, that controversy lingers, but Reed thrives amid chaos. We’ve seen it at the Ryder Cup and throughout the last few months as he’s endured his share of taunting and jeers, from spectators, fellow competitors and commentators.”
6. “I just suck at chipping”
Candor from the young man from Norway! Hovland found himself unwittingly playing the part of a 20-handicapper on the par-3 11th hole at the Puerto Rico Open…
Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Hovland chunked a chip shot from near the cart path, then failed to reach the green again with his third. It added up to a triple bogey which erased his advantage and put his tournament chances in peril.”
  • “Hovland ranks 230th on Tour this season in strokes gained: around the green, and he didn’t mince any words when asked about what went wrong on No. 11.”
  • “I just suck at chipping,” Hovland said. “I definitely need to work on my short game, and I was 100 percent exposed there on that hole.”
7. A show for the home crowd
Cameron Morfit for PGATour.com on the two Mexicans who teed it up at the WGC-Mexico…”Meanwhile, Abraham Ancer, who grew up in Mexico and Texas and was the breakout star of the Presidents Cup in December, also shot a final-round 68 to finish 9 under (T12).”
  • “The previous best finish by a Mexican player here was Ancer’s T39 last year.”
  • “It was a very fun week,” Ancer said. “I think I left a couple of birdies out there, but my game was quite solid. I hit it very well from the tee, and I’ve got a couple of notes on things to improve for next year, but I’m happy. Each year I’ve been able to get a little better.”
  • “The highlight Sunday for Ancer: stuffing his tee shot to within tap-in range at the par-3 17th, where fans chanted his nickname (Turco, or Turk) as he walked to the green.”
8. Headed for Augusta National
Golfweek’s Adam Woodard…”In 46 days, the eyes of the golf world will be on Augusta National for the Masters, where van Rooyen will compete for the first time. He qualified for the Masters by finishing inside the top 50 of the final OWGR last year.”
  • “As a freshman in college in 2009 at Minnesota, the Golden Gophers played in Augusta State’s tournament, held the weekend before the Masters. Van Rooyen and his Minnesota teammates got tickets to Monday’s practice round.”
  • “I remember Tiger was warming up with Fred Couples, Trevor Immelman was on the range, and I guess you go see some iconic holes, No. 1, walked a few holes, and then went to Amen Corner,” recalled van Rooyen after Friday’s round in Mexico City. “Thirteen is a much bigger dogleg than what it seems on TV, and then we just kind of spent some time there, bought a little bit of merchandise, as everybody does, and yeah, just kind of tried to soak it in.”
9. Move over, Bobby Locke! 
Woodard again…”86-year-old Mary Ann Wakefield…[made] one of the most impressive putts you’ll ever see from the full length of a college basketball court.
  • “During the Ole Miss men’s basketball game against Alabama on Saturday night as part of the Cannon Motors of Mississippi Putt for a Car challenge, Wakefield had a 94-foot putt on hardwood to win a new 2020 Nissan Altima.”
  • “She absolutely buried it, dead center.”

 

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DeChambeau holds straight to claim U.S. Open title

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Although the rounds came out of order, let the record show that Bryson DeChambeau did record a 70, a 69, a 68, and, on the most important of days, a Sunday 67. He was the only player to shoot under par on day four, and the only player to finish under par for the week.

His six-shot victory was not a dominant one, but it was the next best thing: impressive. DeChambeau balanced strategy and sinew to perfection, decoding the challenges and opportunities offered by the West Course at Winged Foot, and he claimed his first major title just four days after his 27th birthday.

For nine holes on Sunday, DeChambeau was in a battle with pairing competitor Matthew Wolff. First #BigBangTheory, and then #RipDog, posted eagle at the par-five 9th, thanks to identical driver-pitching wedge combos. They went to the back nine at 5 under and 4 under, respectively. At 10, Wolff’s iron turned over just enough to miss the green and leave him the most awkward of stances. He made bogey, and the lead was doubled. The eagle at nine turned out to be Wolff’s only hole below par all day, and he would drop three more shots on the way in. Wolff finished the week at even-par, a number that many projected to win after Friday’s round.

DeChambeau simply gave no openings to anyone on this final day. His final birdie came at the 11th after his approach failed to release and finished on the fringe. Undeterred, he putted from the fairway, as he had all week, and the sphere found the bottom of the tin can. DeChambeau didn’t hit many fairways this week, but he didn’t need to. Clubhead speed and short approach shots conquered the rough, and the Calixan (a blend of Californian and Texan) played the course as if it were just another Fortnite stream on Twitch (where you might find him tonight).

The two, non-player topics to hold our attention all week are absence of fans and distance gains. Would the oohs and ahhhs, and possible interruptions, of galleries have impacted this week’s result? No question. Some golfers feed off the electricity, while others wilt. No doubt a chorus of “You da man” and “Big Bang Theory” would have caused some influence, at some juncture.

Next, what about distance? Remember 1997, when Augusta did its level best to Tiger-proof the golf course? DeChambeau is only 73 inches tall. What happens when a 75- or an 80-inch golfer adds the mass that he did? All facets of the distance conversation amount to one of many discussions to be had. Anyone see how well he putted? How well he chipped and pitched? How well he decoded slopes of greens? The puzzle was there for the taking, and one golfer solved it.

Cheers, kudos, Hogan hats off to the champion!

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5 things we learned on Saturday at the U.S. Open

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On Friday, one of the announcers remarked that Brendon Todd was an ideal pick to win, because he never misses a fairway. Todd missed plenty on his way to 75, but so did everyone else. Not to knock Todd by any stretch of the imagination; the 2020 US Open, the 120th of its kind, doesn’t favor anyone. On Sunday, it will select someone as its champion. The decision might come grudgingly from the golfing gods, or it might be the anointment of a favored son or a new darling. It won’t come early, either. The realization of the winner’s identity will come in the final 40 minutes, over the closing, three-hole stretch. That’s the way these things work. We didn’t learn this on Saturday, but we did learn five things that we cannot wait to share with you.

And so, dear reader, welcome to five things we learned on Saturday at the 120th US Open championship.

1. Bryson dodged a bullet

Bryson DeChambeau is a really good golfer and a really smart fellow. He reminds me, in a lot of ways, of a guy who came through and changed the game in the late 1990s. People loved that cat from the start, but for some reason, are loathe to warm to #BigBangTheory. People need to check their egos and recognize that Bryson is good for the game. He’s honest, a little haughty, freaking smart, and jacked like Lalanne. He also might be this year’s US Open champion, this time tomorrow.

BDC had every reason to go away on Saturday. He made bogey at the first two holes, at the same time that playing partner Patrick Reed was making a birdie. Three shots gone in the first two holes. Yet BDC persevered. Reed, well, we’ll save what he did. Bryson made three birdies over his next 15 holes, and only a final-hole bogey kept him from a third consecutive round in the 60s. DeChambeau will have an advantage over his playing partner on Sunday, in that he has already felt the pressure of a final-group pairing in the Open.

2. Matthew Wolff wants his stature back

Last summer, when things were normal, Matthew Wolff jumped from college to tour winner in an instant. Later, Collin Morikawa joined him as a titleist, and Viktor Hovland, soon after. Thing was, Hovland and Morikawa had classic moves at the ball while Wolff, well, you know. Jump ahead to the ratchet year of 2020, and there was Morikawa, winning the PGA Championship while Wolff came 4th. Both finishes were impressive, but you can’t tell me that Wolff didn’t feel a bit chuffed as Morikawa became the new darling, major champion and some such.

September came, and Morikawa fueled his jet after missing the cut on Friday at Winged Foot. As for Wolff, he went out on day three and lit the flying five toes’ gettable front nine in 30 strokes. No, there was never a 59 watch, because this is the US Open, and that doesn’t happen. Wolff did manage to survive the inward side with one bogey, and then he ripped home one more birdie at the difficult closing hole to take the lead.

Logic says he won’t repeat that 65 on Sunday. If he does, he wins. He also might win with 70. Par will be his friend on day four, but can his putter remain ablaze? Good question.

3. St. Patrick of the worthless nine

Not since Retief Goosen absolutely lost it on day four of the 2005 US Open, have we seen a rock-solid performance fall off the planet in such spontaneous and dramatic gore. Actually, Gore was Goosen’s partner that day, but I digress. Patrick Reed was grinding through the third round, giving Bryson what four, when the wheels, well, they didn’t fall off. They exploded, and every bit of rubber disintegrated into anti-matter, which then disappeared into a black hole.

Reed had a pair of pars on the inward half, and those were the high points. He made bogey at six holes, including three straight mid-meltdown. As if that weren’t enough, the golfing gods hid the 11th fairway from site, and the Texan found the rough with three consecutive shots, on the way to a double bogey.

If this were a Greek tragedy or an epic poem, Reed might be dead, but he is not. His hubris gone, some kind of comeback on Sunday, into the top eight, would be seen as a fine performance. Patrick Reed is some kind of golfing talent, but the vagaries of a US Open setup make even the most precocious question their execution.

4. Quiet Louis lurks

Remember the 2012 Masters, the one where Charl Schwartzel was the defending champion, and was all set to drape the jacket on good friend Louis Oosthuizen’s shoulders? Yeah, then Bubba hit that hooking wedge from Tarzan’s front porch, and the bromantic ending was scuttled. Over the years, Louis has had opps to add to his major championship total of one, but has yet to sign the check. He had 2nd-place finishes in all four major championships, and tonight, he finds himself the last golfer under par through 54 holes. He sits 4 back of Wolff, really a pittance when an Open is on the line. If Louis brings the repeater that won him the 2010 Open at St. Andrews, he’ll double his majors total on Sunday. Anything less, and another top-five ending awaits.

5. Wherefore art thou, Roryo?

‘Tis the east, and Winged Foot is the sun, right, Bill? On Thursday and Saturday, Rory had two bogeys total. On Friday, ick. Dad Rory is battling to regain the confidence and the ability to close that young Rory possessed in spades, early last decade. McIlroy needs this win more than any other player in the field, or else it will be another chapter in the story of his life, Nice first half of your career. Sure, that’s harsh, but McIlroy is a once-a-decade talent, maybe better. He should win more majors than the six guys ahead of him, but he hasn’t claimed one since 2014, when he won the Open and the PGA. in consecutive months.

Six years is a long time between major titles. Ask Jack. Ask Tiger. Mac won the 2011 US Open at Congressional, but that one didn’t feel like any other Open. Soaked course where players threw darts all week, and he won by a large amount. McIlroy currently sits at +1. If he can get to 3 or 4 under on Sunday, which requires a mid-60s round, he should win the tournament. It’s time to orient the career as you move through your 30s, Roars. The bard has spoken.

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GolfWRX U.S. Open watchalong thread (with WRX staff)

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Jump into the forums to get the U.S Open chatter flowing!

GolfWRX Staff Members will be in the forums, on IG and Twitter talking equipment, opinions, predictions, and everything else.

And the final three holes, Saturday and Sunday, our own Johnny Wunder will be going live on Instagram with some special guests.

Tune in when the leaders tee off both afternoons to get into the mix.

Schedule

Final Group Tee Off  to Finish Saturday: Editor Ben Alberstadt, Director of Content Johnny Wunder, Assistant Editor Gianni Magliocco

Final Group Tee Off  to Finish Sunday: On Spec’s Ryan Barath and TG2 host Brian “BK” Knudson, Assistant Editor Gianni Magliocco

Join the discussion here.

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