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Morning 9: Clark wins US Open | Atmosphere and course under fire | Bryson’s Ryder Cup hope

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Monday morning, golf fans, as Wyndham Clark held his nerve to win the US Open on an engrossing final day at LACC.

1. Clark wins first major

Mark Schlabach for ESPN…“Clark, who was ranked 293rd in the Official World Golf Ranking a year ago and had never finished better than a tie for 75th in a major championship, held off Rory McIlroy, world No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler and Rickie Fowler in the final round to win the 123rd U.S. Open at the Los Angeles Country Club.”

  • “Clark, from Denver, carded an even-par 70 on Sunday. His 10-under total of 270 was 1 stroke ahead of McIlroy, who failed to end a nearly nine-year major championship drought.”
  • “I feel like I belong on this stage, and even two, three years ago when people didn’t know who I was, I felt like I could still play and compete against the best players in the world,” Clark said. “I felt like I’ve shown that this year.”
Full piece.

2. Not loving the late tee times

Josh Peter for USA Today…”Clark, who teed off last with Fowler at 3:40 p.m. local time (6:40 p.m. ET) and finished at 7:56 p.m. (10:56 p.m. ET) Saturday at Los Angeles Country Club, blamed darkness on his making a bogey at No. 17 and Fowler making a bogey at No. 18.”

  • “I mean, it’s a little ridiculous we teed off that late,” Clark said. “I would say right around hole 15 or 16 it started getting to where you couldn’t see that well. I mean, I don’t personally understand why we teed off — we played twilight golf.
  • “So it’s kind of tough and it’s crazy to think that we’re doing that on the last two holes of a major when we could have teed off two hours earlier. Hopefully tomorrow we don’t have that issue.”
Full piece.

3. Fitzpatrick criticizes USO atmosphere, course

Jackson Fuller for Golf Channel…”…Fitzpatrick launched some criticism toward the Los Angeles faithful – or lack, thereof – in attendance.”

  • “Very poor … It’s disappointing on the USGA side,” Fitzpatrick told Barstool and Sports Illustrated about the U.S. Open atmosphere.
  • “They want a great tournament—from what I’ve heard a lot of members bought tickets and that’s why there’s so many less people. Hopefully, it’s not the same for other U.S. Opens going forward.”
  • “Fitzpatrick also had some choice words for the course itself, calling LACC “interesting, to be polite.”
  • “There’s just too many holes for me where you’ve got blind tee shots and then you’ve got fairways that don’t hold the ball. There’s too much slope,” he said. “Some of the tee shots are just — I think they’re a little bit unfair. You hit a good tee shot and end up in the rough by a foot and then you’re hacking it out.”
Full piece.

4. Bryson hoping to make Ryder Cup team

Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”For the second consecutive major Bryson DeChambeau will begin the final round with an outside chance at winning. He hopes that opportunity translates into an outside chance of making this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team…”

  • “I think [the door] is open a lot more,” said DeChambeau, who was tied for 10th place when he finished his round. “I hope that [U.S. captain Zach Johnson] picks the best players from the country. That’s the most important thing is playing for the country.”
  • “DeChambeau said he spoke with Johnson briefly on Sunday at last month’s PGA Championship, where he tied for fourth, and he was optimistic the U.S. captain would do what’s best for the team.”
  • “I think Brooks [Koepka] is already qualified and I think he’s already on the team,” DeChambeau said. “If my game continues to improve and I play well in another major and play well in some LIV events I hope [Johnson] considers some of those guys. It’d be nice to consider me.”
Full piece.

5. More player reactions to LACC

Golfweek’s Adam Schupak…“The chorus of complaints for LACC grew on Saturday with Viktor Hovland saying, “You know what, I’m not a big fan of this golf course, to be honest. I think there’s some good holes. I don’t think there’s any great holes. I think there’s a few bad holes. I think No. 9 is probably the best hole out here in my opinion.”

  • “Hovland wasn’t the only one to share their distaste for the George Thomas Jr. design from the 1920s, which received a renovation in 2010 from Gil Hanse, his partner Jim Wagner and architecture critic and golf blogger Geoff Shackelford.”
  • “I just think the golf course is interesting, to be polite, I think. There’s just too many holes for me where you’ve got blind tee shots and then you’ve got fairways that don’t hold the ball. There’s too much slope,” Matt Fitzpatrick, the defending U.S. Open champion said. “I think the greens certainly play better when they’re firmer. I definitely think that’s the case. They’re rolling really, really well. Some of the tee shots are just – I think they’re a little bit unfair. You hit a good tee shot and end up in the rough by a foot and then you’re hacking it out. Meanwhile, someone has hit it miles offline the other way and they’ve got a shot. Yeah, not my cup of tea.”
Full piece.

6. Meanwhile, on the LPGA Tour…

LPGA communications…”It was crowded leaderboard through four days at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give, with Tour winners, major champions and players looking for their elusive first title all aiming to rise the trophy Sunday in Belmont, Mich. But it was a final-round 64 by Leona Maguire that secured the Irishwoman above all the second Tour title of her career by two shots at -21, as she became the 11th different winner this season through 13 events.”

  • “Maguire stayed in the mix throughout the week finishing all four rounds in the 60s, the first time she has accomplished that feat this season, before putting on one of her most dominant displays of golf in her final round. Tied for fifth to start the day, Maguire kept pace through her front-nine, still in contention with birdies on Nos. 5 and 7. But it was a birdie and eagle on Nos. 13 and 14, respectively, where Maguire took a share of the lead at -18 and never looked back, carding three-straight birdies coming in to cement her place as the winner at Blythefield Country Club by day’s end.”
Full Piece.

7. Low am, weird putt

Jackson Fuller for Golf Channel…”Gordon Sargent finished off a terrific first appearance at the U.S. Open with the honor of low amateur, but his week at Los Angeles Country Club might be remembered for a 20-inch putt on the 72nd hole.”

  • “Actually, a missed 20-inch putt.”
  • “With good pace and a straight line, Sargent’s second-to-last stroke of the championship hit the back of the cup, only to bounce out and leave him with a tap-in bogey. Social media immediately burst aflame, wondering how that type of robbery could happen at a U.S. Open.”
Full Piece.

8. Et in Arcadia Ego

9. Winning WITB: Wyndham Clark

Driver: Titleist TSi3 (9 degrees)

Shaft: Accra TZ Six ST 60 M5

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 (15 degrees)

Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black RDX 80 TX

Irons: Titleist T200 (3), Titleist 620 CB (4-9)

Shafts: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Raw White 100HY X (3), True Temper Dynamic Gold X7 (4-9)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM9 (46-10F, 52-12F, 56-10S), Vokey Design WedgeWorks (60-A)

Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Odyssey Jailbird Versa

Grip: SuperStroke Zenergy Tour 3.0 17”

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord

Full WITB.
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Masters 2024: Reduced-scale clubhouse trophy and green jacket to Scottie Scheffler

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In the world of golf, there is Scotty and there is Scottie. Scotty Cameron gave the world of golf a nickname for a prestigious putter line, and Scottie Scheffler has now given the golf world a blueprint for how to negotiate one of the toughest tournaments to win. Sunday, Scheffler won the Masters tournament for the second time in three years. He separated from the field around the turn, making a trio of birdies at holes eight through 10. On the long walk home, he added three more birdie at 13, 14, and 16, to secure a four-shot win over Masters and major-championship rookie Ludvig Åberg.

As the final group moved along the ninth hole, a quadrilateral stood at 7 under par, tied for the lead. Scheffler, playing partner Collin Morikawa, and penultimate pairing Max Homa and Åberg advanced equally toward Amen Corner, with the resolution of the competition well in doubt. Morikawa flinched first, getting too greedy (his words) at nine and 11. Double bogey at each dropped him farther back than he wished, and he ultimately made a 10-foot putt for bogey at the last, to tie for third position.

Ludvig Åberg made the next mistake. Whether he knew the Ben Hogan story about the approach into 11 or not, he bit off way more than he should have. His approach was never hopeful, and ended short and right in White Dogwood’s pond. Åberg finished the hole in six shots. To his credit, he played the remaining seven holes in two-under figures. Finally, Max Homa was the victim of the finicky winds over Golden Bell, the short, par-3 12th hole. His disbelief was evident, as his tee shot flew everything and landed in azaleas behind the putting surface. After two pitch shots and two putts, Homa also had a double bogey, losing shots that he could not surrender.

Why? At the ninth hole, Scottie Scheffler hit one of the finest approach shots of all time, into the final green of the first nine. Scheffler had six inches for birdie and he converted. At the 10th, he lasered another approach shot into a tricky hole location, then made another fine putt for birdie. Within the space of 30 minutes, Scheffler had seized complete control of the tournament, but Amen Corner still lurked.

At the 11th, Scheffler played safely right with his approach. His chip shot was a wee bit too brave and left him a seven-foot comeback putt for par. He missed on the right side and gave one shot back to the course and field. His tee ball on 12 was safely aboard, and he took two putts for par. On 13, the 2022 champion drove slightly through the fairway, then reached the green, with his first two shots. His seventy-foot-plus putt for eagle eased up, four feet past the hole. His second putt went down, and he was back in the birdie zone. As on nine, his approach to 14 green finished brilliantly within six inches. His final birdie came at the 16th, where he negotiated a nine-foot putt for a deuce.

Scheffler reached 11 under par and stood four shots clear of Ludvig Åberg when he reached the 18th tee. His drive found the lower fairway bunker on the left, and his approach settled in a vale, short and right of the green. With dexterous hands, Scheffler pitched to three feet and made the putt for par. With a big smile, he embraced caddie Ted Scott, who won for the fourth time at Augusta National, and the second with Scheffler. Ludvig Åberg finished alone in second spot, four back of the winner. Not a bad performance for the first-time major championship participant Åberg, and not a bad finish for the world No. 1 and second-time Masters champion, Scottie Scheffler.

 

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5 Things We Learned: Saturday at the Masters

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Just as the honorary starters broke our hearts with the reality of ageing, so too, did Saturday, with the revelation that third-round Tiger Woods is not yet (if ever) what he once was. The great champion struggled mightily to an 82, tied with three others for high round of the day. Among the top ten, the worst score posted was DeChambeau’s 75, but the large Californian remains in the hunt. Day four will see 2022 champion Scottie Scheffler pair with Collin Morikawa in the final game. In front of them will be Max Homa and Ludwig Åberg. The antipenultimate pairing will feature DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele.

If you look at the one-off major winners, most took advantage of their only chance at grand slam glory. For golfers like Homa, Schauffele, and others, Sunday the 14th might represent their best and only chance at claiming a major title. For Scheffler, Morikawa, and DeChambeau, the ability to join the two-time and three-time, major winners club holds great appeal. Finally, a young’un like Åberg seeks to jump-start a more-than-tour-winner career with a major title. Many of the greats won them early, and the Swede from Texas Tech would love nothing more than a chance to join that company.

Sunday at Augusta, as always, will be riveting. It will provide hope throughout the first nine holes, then gut many a competitor’s heart coming home, rewarding just one with a new item for the wardrobe. Plan your menu and choose your outfit. Masters 2024 is about to conclude. Until then, let’s reveal five things that we learned on day three of the year’s first men’s major.

1. The three most critical holes on the first nine are …

numbers four through six. You might make some birdies at the first and last trios of holes, but the middle triumvirate of fairways and greens determines your day. Play them even par or better, and you’ll lose zero shots to the field. Get on a downward spiral of slightly-wayward shots, and recovery will be nigh impossible. Anyone who makes three at the fifth, as Tiger Woods did on Saturday, will get giddy.

2. The three most important holes on the second nine are …

ten through twelve. We realize that we commit heresy by omitting one of Herbert Warren Wind’s Amen Corner traces, but par or better is critical at 10. Dry landings at 11 and 12 set the competitor up for two par fives in three holes, sandwiched around a straightforward, par-four hole. Remember when Ben Crenshaw began his march to glory in 1995? It all started with birdie at the 10th.

3. The most interesting and efficient round of day three came from …

Collin Morikawa. Birdies at the first three holes, followed by bogey-birdie at six and eight, then ten consecutive pars to finish off the second-low round of the day. Morikawa has improved each day, from 71 to 70 to 69. He has won majors in England and California. He has the temperment for this sort of day, but will certainly be in the hottest of all cauldrons around 3 pm on Sunday.

4. The guy who lost the most ground on day three was …

Nikolai Hojgaard. The dude failed to make par from the seventh green to the 16th. After three consecutive birdies around the turn (8 through 10), the Great Dane tumbled to earth with five consecutive bogeys. 11 and 12, we understand, but 13 and 15 are par-five holes, for goodness sake! No matter where he finds himself on day four’s back nine, it will be hard to put that stretch of golf out of his mind.

5. Our pick for the green jacket is …

impossible to nail. We suspect that certain players should and could perform on Sunday. We remember when Retief Goosen, a great US Open winner until round four of 2005, lost his mojo. We recall days when Rich Beam and Y.E. Yang pulled major titles away from Tiger Woods. Things go wrong on Sunday, and they go wrong super-quick at Augusta.

We’ve decided to ascend Mount Olympus for our Sunday selection. Who better than the 2021 Olympic champion to add a long-awaited, first major title. It’s Professor X for us: Xander Schauffele.

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5 Things We Learned: Friday at the Masters

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You don’t see leaves on the ground at Augusta National. The grounds crew and superintendent’s staff take care of those sorts of things, so that both course appearance and consistency of play are preserved at the top tier. We saw leaves on the ground today and, given the force and perseverance of the wind, we’re lucky that we didn’t see tree trunks along the fairways. We did see higher scores than secured in round one, and some of the three- and four-hole stretches were downright inconceivable. The cut after 36 holes came at six over par, and five dozen golfers reached the weekend of play. Numbers always define the story of a tournament, and we’ll let them define the five things we learned on day two of the 2024 Masters tournament.

One: 60 + 10

Sixty golfers posted scores of 148 or better through 36 holes, to reach weekend play. Ten more golfers posted 149 and missed the cut by a single stroke. The ones who missed the cut by a stroke included former champions Mike Weir, Zach Johnson, and Sergio Garcia. Also among the brood were current US Open champion Wyndham Clark, and Nick Dunlap, who won on the PGA Tour as an amateur in January, and subsequently turned professional. Of the ones who survived by the slimmest of margins, surviving to the weekend were former champions Jose Maria Olazabal, Hideki Matsuyama, and Adam Scott, along with Rickie Fowler and Tom Kim. Golf’s cut is a cruel and unconcerned blade, and each Masters tournament reminds us of this fact.

Two: One

The number of amateurs to make the cut in the 2024 Masters is solitary. His name is Neil Shipley, and most folks love him. He wears his hair to the shoulder, and appears to have the proper balance of intensity and chill. Shipley opened with 71, then held on for 76 on day two. He made the cut by three shots, and will collect his share of hardware on Sunday. It’s safe to say that Shipley will turn his attention to learning the course, as well as his own self under pressure.

Three: 23

For most sorts fans, 23 recalls the greatest NBA player of all time, Michael Jordan. For Justin Thomas, it’s a number that will haunt him for a long time. Thomas reached tee number fifteen on Friday at even par. The two-time PGA Champion played the subsequent, four-hole stretch in 23 shots, missing the cut by a shot. On fifteen, he went for the green in two, in some sort of halfhearted manner. He got wet with shot number two, went long with his pitch, and three-putted from the fringe. On sixteen, he played away from safety and found elevated sand. His blast went down the hill, and he missed his approach putt in the wrong place. On seventeen, he missed his drive right and his approach long, and lost another shot to par. The coup de grace took place on the home hole: drive so horribly left that he had to pitch out to the fairway and hit three metal into the green. His third double bogey in four holes dropped him all the way to 151 and plus seven. Among the many questions, the foremost one was why he dropped his longtime caddy on the eve of a major championship. Surely Bones would have saved him one of those shots, and perhaps more.

Four: Forty-Nine divided by five or six

Tiger Woods cannot possibly win title number six at Augusta in his 49th year, can he? Not on this broken body, and not from seven strokes behind, right? Not with so few competitive rounds over the most recent months, and not one year removed from a third-round withdrawal from this very tournament. Well, if he cannnot possibly win, allow us to dream and hope a bit, and hold on to a fantasy.

Five: 3 that we like

We like Scottie Scheffler, of course. He seems to have a sense of Augusta National, and he was able to hold on in 2023 for the championship. We like Nikolai Hojgaard, because he might have just the proper combination of naivete and experience for a first-time winner. Finally, we like Collin Morikawa, a winner of two separate major titles. Winning at Augusta National requires a certain amount of length, unless you putt lights out. Morikawa might be embedded in one of those putting weeks.

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