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Mahan Triumphs in Travelers Playoff

Hunter Mahan achieved his first PGA Tour victory at the Travelers Championship after beating Jay Williamson in a one hole playoff that thrilled spectators and viewers with quality shot making.

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The final pairing at the final round of the Travelers Championship featured two men with a lot to play for. Jay Williamson, a former PGA Tour player who lost his playing privileges, was one round away from earning back his playing rights and a two year exemption on the PGA Tour. Hunter Mahan, the young man from Orange, California who was a junior and amateur standout, was looking to prove that he could capitalize the golfing potential so many had dubbed him with.

With so much pressure and so much to play for, odds were good that either Mahan or Williamson would succumb to the nerves inherent in obtaining an elusive tour victory. However, the opposite seemed to happen – both players seemed to thrive under the pressure. Williamson began the day with a one shot lead, and from the beginning both players made it clear they were playing to win. Throughout the day, the two traded birdies like heavyweight fighters trying hard to knock their opponent out, only to have them charge back.

Both players played near perfect front nines, with Mahan making the turn one shot ahead of Williamson. However, Williamson quickly caught fire on the back with birdies on 11, 13, and 15. Mahan matched him with consecutive birdies at 11, 12, and 13. However, bogies at 16 and 17 gave Williamson a one shot lead. Both players arrived at 18 and found the fairway with their tee shots. Williamson was away and hit a fantastic approach to twelve feet. After a brief conversation with his caddie John Wood who reassured him of their strategy, Mahan did not hesitate and put his 9 iron approach to six feet inside of Williamson’s ball, on the exact same line. Mahan said, "We had a good yardage and just went with it. I went right at it. I mean, there’s no reason not to. I figured he was going to make birdie. He just kind of had that putt. So was just going to be aggressive with it and luckily made a great swing." Williamson pushed his putt just slightly to the right and Mahan went to school on the putt and payed close attention. Mahan’s putt was center cut and after 72 holes the two players were tied.

If the first time through the 18th hole wasn’t dramatic enough, the players found a way to improve on their performance. After finding the fairway, Williamson managed to put his approach to six feet. However, Mahan again managed to get inside Williamson putting his approach to three feet for a tap-in birdie. Williamson missed his putt again, and Mahan converted for his first PGA Tour victory. For Mahan, this victory is especially important, since his very first victory on Tour changes his career and season from this point on. However, Mahan said just knowing he can win was the biggest benefit, "Just you know the fact that — the fact that I know I won out here means a lot. I mean, it’s just knowing that you can win and actually winning is two different things. And to win it the way I did is just amazing to me. To have to birdie in a playoff especially after he hit that shot in there is mind-boggling."

For Williamson, who pulled out many resilient par saves on the back nine to stay in contention, the victory was surely bitter-sweet.  Although he wasn’t able to find his first victory, his $648,000 runner up check dwarfs the $150,000 he has earned thus far on the Nationwide Tour. However, more importantly, his prize money this week gives him special temporary member status on the PGA Tour for the rest of the year – meaning he won’t need to tee it up on the Nationwide Tour next week, and he will be in the field at next week’s Buick Open. "hopefully my performance today will help me maybe get some exemptions down the road. Hopefully I handled myself well and did the types of things that tournaments would want me in their events for, so we’ll see," Williamson said.

Pos Player R1 R2 R3 R4 Tot
1 Hunter Mahan 62 71 67 65 -15
2 Jay Williamson 66 66 67 66 -15
3 Nick O’Hern 67 70 66 66 -11
4 Vijay Singh 68 71 66 65 -10
5 Fred Funk 70 65 67 69 -9
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Equipment

Tiger Woods opts for lead tape on his Newport 2 rather than a heavier putter: Here’s why it makes sense

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After days of speculation about which putter Tiger Woods might end up with an attempt to tame the greens at Royal Portrush, we now officially know he settled on his old faithful GSS Scotty Cameron but with a twist—some added lead tape.

The whole reason the speculation was in high gear early in the week was because of Tiger was spotted with a new custom Scotty that had the Studio Select weights in the sole to increase head weight to help with slow greens, something Tiger has talked about in the past—especially when it comes to the greens at The Open Championship.

We can even look back a few years ago when Tiger finally put a Nike putter in play, the original Method (those were nice putters) and talked about both the increased head weight and the grooves on the face to help get the ball rolling on slower greens.

The decision to stick with the old faithful with added lead tape goes beyond just a comfort level, even if the two putters look the same at address, it’s about feel and MOI around the axis.

Let me explain. Sure the putter heads weight the same, but depending on where the mass is located it will change the MOI. The putter with the Select weights vs. lead tape in the middle will have a higher MOI because there is more weight on the perimeter of the head—it’s like a blade vs. cavity back iron. Sure, two 7-irons can weigh the same but the performance will vary significantly.

For a player with such deft feel like Tiger Woods, any change like that can could cause doubt. Tweaking an already great putting stroke and on the eve of the last major of the year is not really something you want to do, which is why it isn’t surprising he stuck with his legendary Newport 2.

Lead tape in the middle allows Tiger to increase the head weight with very little change to the natural rate of rotation for hit putter and hopefully manage the slower Portrush greens better.

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Morning 9: A Kentuckian in Northern Ireland | Chamblee: McIlroy choked

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1. A Kentuckian in Northern Ireland
From an unbylined report on TheOpen.com regarding J.B. Holmes’ opening-round 66 to lead…
  • “The 37-year-old suffered something of an inauspicious start when he bogeyed the 1st but birdies at 2, 3 and 5 sent him out in 34 before three further birdies on the back nine – including one at 18 – set a target no-one else in the field could match.”
  • “I was very confident going in,” said Holmes, who finished third at Royal Troon in 2016. “I felt like I was hitting it really well and we had a good plan, a good line on the golf course.
  • “You don’t expect to shoot that, but I’m not surprised.”
  • “Holmes has a one-stroke advantage over Shane Lowry – who carded an impressive 67 that could have been even lower after a number of near misses on the back nine – with a slew of players then at -3 – including major winners Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson and Sergio Garcia.”

Full piece.

At the time of this writing, Holmes is -8 for the tournament and leads by a stroke in round 2…
2. “His major muse”
Brian Keogh at the Irish Independent on Shane Lowry’s 4-under start…
  • “But as Pádraig Harrington shot a 75 that summed up his injury-delayed season, Lowry announced his Major championship candidacy by carding a four-under 67. That left him a shot behind long-hitting JB Holmes but one clear of a chasing posse featuring a host of dangerous desperadoes, including the relentless Brooks Koepka and the swashbuckling Jon Rahm.”
  • “The crowd was begging for an Irish story and where McIlroy failed, Lowry delivered in spades…The Clara native (32) confessed he was “uneasy” about the test this week – feeling in his bones that a big performance was within his compass but anxious that he might fail to find the freedom to deliver it.”
  • “In the end, all it took was a frank chat with his coach Neil Manchip over coffee in the Bushmills Inn on Wednesday to put him at ease.”
3. The word is “choking”
That’s how Brandel Chamblee characterized Rory McIlory’s British Open out-of-bounds opening shot/first-round 79…
  • “He has had, historically, just a bad run of first rounds. … He consistently gets off to a bad start and then inexorably plays himself back into it, and then when all the pressure is gone, all of that talent arises and then he plays a beautiful second or third or fourth round and gets himself back in it. … But when someone plays poor golf in the beginning of a tournament and then great golf the rest of the way, or great golf in the beginning and then poor golf at the end – both of those on either end he’s been guilty of over the last five years – then you know it’s not something physical, it’s not something technical, that they’re not putting themselves in the right frame of mind to either begin a golf tournament or to end a golf tournament. He needs to find that magic that he had when he was winning major championships.”
  • “On paper – I know what the world rankings say, that Brooks Koepka is the best player in the world – but on paper, coming in here, demonstrably, Rory McIlroy is the best player. Strokes gained tee to green, strokes gained total – he’s better than he was in 2012. He’s better than he was in 2015. And logically, experience should make him a better player. But when someone consistently performs under expectations, the word is choking.”
4.  Ailing? Ill-prepared? Awful opening round from Woods…
Golf.com’s Alan Shipnuck penned this regarding Tiger Woods’ opening-round 79…
  • “The triumph at the Masters erased all of that but can’t change the glum reality that Woods is a man playing on borrowed time. His light schedule this summer left him unprepared for the rigors of the major-championship tests but, to hear him tell it on Thursday, there was no other way to get to the starting line. “One of the reasons why I’m playing less tournaments this year is that I can hopefully prolong my career, and be out here for a little bit longer,” Woods said. After his short scrum with reporters he was heading to the physio for treatment on his back. But Tiger ended a disappointing day with a parting thought more troubling than one bad round: “Just the way it is,” he said. “Just the way it’s going to be.”
5. Good on you, Double D
Golf Digest’s John Strege…”Duval, who has a claret jug on a resume that is borderline World Golf Hall of Fame caliber, took a 14 on the par-4 seventh hole en route to a front nine of 49. It was the kind of hole in the kind of round that might have caused integrity-challenged golfers to walk off the course, or at the very least to avoid the ignominy of having their score posted for all to see by not signing the scorecard and taking a disqualification.”
Not Duval. Here’s what he said after his round...”You have an obligation as a professional athlete. If you play, you post your score. Am I happy about that? Is there some embarrassment to it? I don’t know. But I teed off in the Open and I shot 90 today. So put it on the board.”
6. Upsets aplenty
Brentley Romine at Golf Channel...”Thursday was a day filled with upsets at the U.S. Junior Amateur. None was more shocking than Palmer Jackson’s victory over defending champion Michael Thorbjornsen.”
  • “Jackson held a 1-up lead over Thorbjornsen in their Round-of-32 match when he missed the green at Inverness Club’s par-4 18th hole. But with Thorbjorsen facing a 5-footer for birdie to force extra holes, Jackson chipped in for birdie and the 1-up victory.”
  • “I knew I had to make that chip because he had a 5-footer for birdie and he was making those all day,” Jackson said. “It feels really good to take him out.”
7. Meanwhile, at the Barbasol…
AP report…” J.T. Poston shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the PGA TOUR’s Barbasol Championship.”
  • “Poston birdied six of the first eight holes at rain-softened Keene Trace, bogeyed the par-3 ninth and added five more birdies on the back nine for his lowest score on the PGA TOUR.”
  • “It was one of those days everything clicked,” Poston said. “Hit it good, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. I was hitting it so good I didn’t really have that many lengthy birdie putts that I made until the last hole.”

Full piece.

8. Creamer-Pressel? Pressel-Creamer?
However you structure it, the duo are atop the leaderboard…
AP report…”Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer shot a best-ball 6-under 64 on Thursday for a share of the second-round lead in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, the LPGA Tour’s first-year team event.”
  • “Stephanie Meadow and Giulia Molinaro had a 61, and Frenchwomen Celine Boutier and Karine Icher shot 62 to match Pressel and Creamer at 10-under 130 at Midland Country Club. The teams will play alternate shot Friday and close Saturday with a best-ball round.”
  • “You have two balls in play, you can play much more aggressively,” Pressel said. “I know I certainly could play aggressively knowing my partner had my back the whole way around.”

Full piece.

9. Daly rides his way to 71
Reuters report…”John Daly rode his cart to a respectable one-under-par 71 on a day of sizzling scoring in the opening round at the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky on Thursday.”
“After being denied use of a cart for the British Open, Daly decided to take a pass on playing in the major championship this week, instead teeing up in Nicholasville with the tour’s bottom-feeders.”
Bottom-feeders? That’s pretty harsh, Reuters! Full piece.
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5 Things We Learned On Thursday At The Open Championship

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Build-Up. Anticipation. Expectation. The Open Championship returned to Royal Portrush 68 years after it was first and last contested over the storied links in Northern Ireland. The 2012 Irish Open began the march back to this moment. The 2014 Amateur championship gave a bit more insight to the layout. After so many years of difficulty, the return of the Open Championship offers an opportunity for sport to help in recovery. With that in mind, have a glance at five things that we learned on day one of the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

1. The world is better with Beef

It really is. After his recent disclosure on mental-health issues, to see the large man with the even-larger beard smiling again was worth getting up at 3 am. As he walked in his improbably eagle putt on the 2nd hole, the giddiness of the moment was not lost on anyone present. Beef was out early, and ultimately retreated to a +2 round of 73. Here’s hoping he makes it to the weekend; his enthusiasm is infectious, and the crowd loves to cheer him on.

2. One swing undoes an entire lifetime of preparation

To put into words the opening tee shot of Rory McIlroy: what were you thinking? You’re a 4-time major champion. You’re playing the ultimate home game. How do you hit 2 consecutive, rope hooks off the first tee WITH AN IRON? He’s crushing his driver this last month, straighter than straight. How an iron was the play, well, that’s beyond me. If McIlroy isn’t working with a mental coach, he needs to seriously consider doing so. Something in his preparation is off, and at this level, it begins with the mind. Have a glance at his 2 country men~Darren Clarke was 3-under for a portion of the outward nine, before finishing at even par. Graeme McDowell … oh, wait, never mind. #RoughFinish

3. JB Holmes is a nice story

People love to rag on JB Holmes. Poster child for slow play, they call him. Remember that he was one of the Good Old Boys foursome on Paul Azinger’s legendary, USA Ryder Cup side. Why wasn’t Azinger named Captain In Perpetuity again? Whoops, wrong article. Remember, too, that he underwent what was called “low-risk brain surgery” and recovered. Low Risk? It’s the brain…nothing is low risk. Take a look at that finish~seems like everyone else was making bogey or worse at 16, 17, or 18, or even all three! Holmes made a sweet birdie putt to lock in a 66 on the day. Bogey at the first, then 6 birdies and 11 pars the rest of the way. Nice start, Kentucky! By the way, he won’t win this week, because …

4. Take your pick from this attractive bundle

Dylan Frittelli, winner last week on the PGA Tour. Or, Jon Rahm, winner 2 weeks ago at the Irish Open~What a double this would be! #KingOfAllIreland. Perhaps, Tommy Fleetwood, desperate to not be the 2nd coming of Lee Westwood (who, ironically, is tied with Fleet at -3.) Both probably look at Danny Willett and silently wonder, “How does this guy have a major, while I don’t?” Consider that American lad, Brooks Koepka. He has 4 wins in majors, a local caddie, European tour experience in spades, hands of a surgeon and strength of Loki. As Royal Portrush is a tournament wild card, it’s anyone’s guess who will win, but odds favor the currently-hot and the always-dangerous. It won’t be Emiliano Grillo, but we need an excuse to show you this.

5. Here’s your winner: Shane Lowry

In 2016, Shane Lowry went head-to-head, toe-to-toe, with Dustin Johnson at Oakmont. As we recall, Johnson head-butted him, then stepped on his toes. Sunday did not go well for the thick Irishman that day. Fast forward 3 years and here we find Lowry, 4-under par and 1 stroke behind the leader. Sure, he’s tied with Jon Rahm, with a host of trouble lurking on the course and the leader board and away from the fairways. With the northerners collapsing all around, it’s Lowry who holds the key to the hopes of an island. There is an element to him that reminds one of Gary Woodland: career grinder whose moment in the sun has arrived. We’ll stake every penny we earn from this column on Lowry’s fitness this week.

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