Category Archives: Golf

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The 2019 Tour Championship: FedExCup Meets Silly Season

This season Brooks Koepka played 20 events. He won three and finished in the top ten on eight separate occasions. He won the PGA Championship, finished as runner up in the Masters and the US Open. The Open Championship was his worst major; he finished tied for fourth.

Justin Thomas played 19 events. He won once. Thomas did not finish in the top ten in a single major, was outside the top 30 at the Players Championship and skipped the PGA Championship due to injury.

Koepka ranks #1 on the 2019 PGA Tour money list. Thomas holds the eighth slot on the money list. Heading into the 2019 Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club, Justin Thomas currently holds a three-shot lead over Brooks Koepka. The tournament does not start until Thursday.

Seriously?

Seriously.

In an effort to build drama and make the scoreboard easier to read on Sunday afternoon, the PGA Tour complicated everything else related to the Tour Championship and the FedExCup.
The History
First awarded in 2007, the FedExCup was designed to increase attention for PGA Tour golf after the majors ended each season. Players accumulated points throughout the year, then played in four “playoff” events culminating with the top 30 point winners playing in the Tour Championship. The winner of the FedExCup enjoys an extremely large payday; Justin Rose won $10 million in 2018.

Since its inception, two winners were crowned at the Tour Championship, the winner of the tournament and the winner of the FedExCup. The tournament winner was based on strokes taken over 4 days. The Cup Champion decided based points won over the season, with an emphasis on the four playoff events. In eight of the 12 times that the FedExCup has been awarded, the winner of the Tour Championship also was the FedExCup.
Big Change
Disliking the “confusion” of following both a golf tournament and the winning of points to decide who wins the FedExCup, the PGA Tour brought changes format in 2019. In order to make it easy to see who is winning, the winner of the Tour Championship IS the winner of the FedExCup. 30 players tee off Thursday, August 22 hoping to claim first place and the staggering $15 million prize.
What about the Points?
Instead of having the year-long points leader becoming the FedExCup winner, the Tour Championship is now handicapped. Driving golf purists crazy, the player who has generated the most points is given 10 strokes BEFORE play begins.

That is right, Justin Thomas is already 10 strokes under par; the event hasn’t started yet. Naturally, his 10 strokes have a name, “FedExCup Starting Strokes”. There is a certain irony that this event is played at East Lake in Atlanta, the home of golf purist, the legendary Bobby Jones.
Koepka is in Third!
What isn’t Koepka the leader? Again, to drum up interest in post-major events, the PGA Tour greatly weighted points to winners of two playoff events. Seemingly a good guy, and obviously a great player, Thomas did not play nearly as well as Koepka this year, but he won the BMW Championship last weekend and collected 2000 FedEx Cup points. The BMW had a limited field of 70 players.

By contrast, Koepka won the PGA Championship, finished second at the US Open, T2 at The Masters, and T4 at the Open Championship. For these combined accomplishments, Koepka nabbed a combined 1295 points. Since Koepka ranks third in FedExCup points, he receives 7 starting strokes and begins the 2019 Tour Championship three shots BEHIND Thomas. Players ranked #26-30 do not receive any starter strokes. They enter the competition 10 shots off the lead.
TV or Sports, which comes first?
All major sports need to bend to the realities of TV and the bottom line. Sunday night baseball on ESPN, Thursday night NFL games, US Open tennis matches that end at 2 AM in New York, these are but a few examples. But, changing the scoring to give someone a lead before the start?

What’s next? The Dallas Cowboys start with a 10 point lead over the Falcons because they are more likely to draw viewers next week? Start the New York Yankees with a 4 game lead in the AL East?

That said, 30 of the world’s best golfers will tee it up Thursday at East Lake. While Bobby Jones may have refused golf prize money and remained an amateur, now the money is just too significant. Even at 10 shots back, players are eager to get in the competition for the $15 million first prize. For the player who finishes 30th of 30, there is still $395,000 in prize money. Of course, they accept the silliness of starter strokes and give it a go. Wouldn’t you?

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Jon Rahm’s rise to The Open Championship

At just 24-years old, Jon Rahm has already amassed a notable career including eight professional victories. The always captivating Spaniard is already putting in a well rounded 2019 season and is surging up the world ranks just in time for the 2019 Open Championship in less than two weeks at Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush Golf Club.

Rahm broke into the PGA Tour in his first professional event at the Quicken Loans National in 2016. He finished tied for 3rd that week but held at least a share of the lead in two rounds of his inaugural pro tournament. A two-time Ben Hogan award winner at Arizona State, the Sun Devil alumni rose to first in the World Amateur Golf Rankings in 2015.

In his last outing before turning pro, Rahm finished as the top amateur in the 2016 U.S. Open with a tied-23rd finish. With a proven pedigree already at such a young age, it seems not a question of if, but rather when Rahm will capture the elusive first major championship. With momentum on his side, Royal Portrush may be the perfect time and place to prove he can claim victory on one of the most historic stages in golf.
Major history
Since he truly found his form in 2018 it’s been all or nothing for the Spaniard in major championships. In his last seven major starts, he has finished top-10 on four occasions while missing the cut the other three. Most recently he finished tied for 3rd at the U.S. Open.

In addition to his top-three finish at Pebble Beach, Rahm once again placed inside the top-10 at The Masters for the second straight year. Sandwiched between the first and third majors this year the 24-year old found himself on the outside looking in this past May at Bethpage Black. After an even-par 70 in round one, Jon Rahm stumbled on Friday at the PGA Championship with a 5-over second round of 75 to miss the cut by just one stroke.

Unfortunately for Rahm his best finish at The Open was a tie for 44th in 2017 followed up by a missed cut just last year. But with the momentum of a career season and a big win this past week in Ireland, he will look to rewrite his own recent Open history a come out on top of the leaderboard among the top players in the entire world.
A career year for Jon Rahm
In 14 events thus far this year Rahm has placed top-10 in nine tournaments. Including a four-stroke victory at the Hero World Challenge victory December, the 8th ranked player in the world has already accumulated three professional victories around the globe in the past eight months. Building on his early momentum, and posting a final tournament score of 26-under par Rahm won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, along with playing partner Ryan Palmer, in April by a commanding three strokes.

Despite a less than stellar history at The Open Championship, location may be on his side this year. In 2017 Rahm picked up his first international win at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Not only did he claim victory that year at Portstewart Golf Club, but he also set both the aggregate (264) and to par (-24) record for the Irish Open.

Two years later Rahm matched his low aggregate total while picking up his second Irish Open victory, this time at Lahinch Golf Club. A young man that isn’t afraid to wear his emotions on his sleeve is tailor-made to captivate audiences around the world.

Love him or hate him he’s a must-watch and likely one of the favorites when he tees off in less than two weeks time. Just over 400km away from his most recent victory lies the host course of this year’s Open Championship, Royal Portrush. With Rahm’s success, both past and present, in Northern Ireland, this could be his best chance to finally raise the Claret Jug.

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Adversity Shaped Gary Woodland for U.S. Open Victory

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Category : Gary Woodland , Golf , PGA , PGA Tour , U.S. Open

Gary Woodland did not know what to expect heading into the final round of the U.S. Open. For starters, the three time PGA Tour winner had never won a tournament having the 54-hole lead. In fact, he was 0 for 7 in his previous attempts. 

But on Sunday along the coastlines of Pebble Beach, Gary Woodland quelled the demons in final rounds with a masterful performance. While the rest of the field was faltering under the immense U.S. Open pressure, Woodland exhibited steadiness. His 3-wood on the par-5 14th and finesse chip shot on the par-3 17th demonstrated a fearlessness that many did not know Woodland possessed. With his long birdie putt made on the 72nd hole to shoot a two under 69, Woodland could finally release his emotions. He will forever be known as a U.S. Open champion. An accomplishment that will redefine his career. 

“Played aggressive, and it paid off,” Woodland said, adding, “Didn’t ever let myself think the tournament was over.”
Gary Woodland’s Personal Adversity Shaped Golfer and Character
Life is unpredictable. And it has its difficulties. For Gary Woodland, golf was in the background to tackle head on the challenges that were dealt his way. 

Two years ago, Gary and his wife, Gabby, were given the grandest gift of all as parents. The news that baby twins, a son and a daughter, would enter their world. But the joy of having children would soon be dashed when only their son, Jaxon, would be born. Gary’s daughter wouldn’t make it; leaving the golfer empty and with insurmountable sorrow. 

It’s not the only challenge Woodland has had to overcome. While playing golf, Gary’s father, Dan, had a heart attack. While in surgery, Papa Woodland wasn’t alive for three to four minutes before being resuscitated.  The surgery enabled Dan to breathe again with the assistance of a pacemaker. And it was these challenges in his son’s life that shaped him into being a mentally stronger golfer. 

Woodland won his first tournament since the tragedy with his daughter at the Waste Management Open in 2018. Through the tears and elation of securing victory, Gary pointed to the heavens. A sign of respect and gratitude to a part of himself that is there forever. 

“That’s real,” Woodland said after his Phoenix victory, “and I just wanted her to know I still love her.”
Gary Woodland Fended Off Strong Field of Golfers
The U.S. Open had a plethora of headlines at Pebble Beach. Will Tiger Woods Win his 16th Major? Phil Michelson winning the career grand slam. Or Brooks Koepka, the World No. 1, attempting to make history with a U.S Open three-peat. 

But the golfer to quash all those narratives was Gary Woodland. And he did it with steadiness. He played the golf course not making the big mistake. Entering this week, he was ranked 169th on the PGA Tour in scrambling. At the U.S. Open, he was first. A testament to his reliance on effective short-game play. 

Woodland’s ability to consistently make solid shots in the final round overmatched the final round 68 from Brooks Koepka, who would finish runner-up. While Koepka’s attempt at the three-peat was heroic, it would be stopped by a Gary Woodland who never gave into the major championship pressure. 

“I never let myself get ahead,” Woodland said. “Once that went in, it all came out of me. It’s special to finish it off here at Pebble Beach.”

With Gary and wife Gabby expecting a new set of twins, life has reached a new peak of happiness for the 35 year old. With heightened perspective from the tribulations he has experienced, it makes Woodland’s U.S. Open victory taste even sweeter. The post Adversity Shaped Gary Woodland for U.S. Open Victory appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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2019 U.S. Open Final Round Highlights

The 119th playing of the U.S. Open is officially in the books following four days of grueling competition. The host site, Pebble Beach, didn’t quite fight back as many expected but it yielded plenty of exciting opportunities and tension down the closing stretch. After winning back to back in 2017 and 2018, defending champion Brooks Koepka nearly made it a three-peat but inevitably came up three shots short.

Keeping calm, cool, and collected Sunday, much like he did all week, gave Gary Woodland the poise to pull off his first Major victory. Since the close of Friday’s second round, the 35-year old four-time PGA Tour winner stayed at the top and refused to let go of his chance at history. With a final round of 69 Woodland finished the tournament 13-under par and three clear of the competition.

Between Woodland, Koepka, and Justin Rose battling at the top, the leaders turned in plenty of top shots Sunday. But the field below them jockeying for position also provided their fair share of highlight reel moments. Last Word on Golf has compiled the top highlights from Sunday’s final round of the U.S. Open.
Woodland wins at Pebble Beach
With Koepka and Rose already making moves to threaten the lead, Woodland answered right back with a birdie at the second hole to improve to 12-under.

With what can only be described as ice running through his veins, Woodland matched the roars from Koepka’s early charge with another confident birdie of his own to extend his lead back to two.

As Koepka began breathing straight down his neck, Woodland stepped up once again and delivered a clutch birdie to increase his lead to two shots once again.

Woodland proved human after barely missing a 21-footer for birdie that would’ve moved him to a three-shot lead.

Another narrowly missed birdie putt helped to highlight how Woodland’s lead so much of the U.S. Open this week, by minimizing the big numbers and keeping his scores consistent.

On the green in three at the par-5 18th, and already a two-stroke lead, Woodland refused to play it safe by turning in a crowd erupting 30-foot birdie to solidify his first ever major championship at the 2019 U.S. Open.


Rose and Koepka contend
Starting the day four off the lead, reigning back to back U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka turned the heat up quickly with a birdie on his first hole of the day.

With a birdie to close his round Saturday, Justin Rose kept the momentum train rolling with another birdie on his first hole of the day to get into an early tie of the lead.

From a seemingly impossible lie in the thick rough and an awkward angle, Koepka turned around what could have easily been a bogey or worse with an incredible approach that would lead to a par save.

From the fairway on the par-4 3rd, Koepka reeled in his approach to set up an easy birdie to get to 9-under.

With three birdies in his first four holes, Koepka jumped into a tie for second and began the rumblings of a comeback back to back to back U.S. Open championship bid.

With almost 22-feet to the hole, Koepka continued his birdie run at the par-3 5th.

After a few routine pars Koepka went back to the birdies at the par-4 11th to move to just one shot off the lead.

With so much going on around him Rose stayed laser-focused over his par-saving putt at 11.

Still two shots off the lead, Koepka had a chance to put the pressure on and move the lead to just one with one to play. Unfortunately for Koepka it wasn’t meant to be as his birdie putt on 18 just barely missed the right edge.


The Best of the Rest
Just a few more inches and Rory McIlroy would’ve had one of the shots of the entire tournament as he missed an ace at the iconic par-3 7th hole be just a few rotations of the golf ball.

After 59-years of Jack Nicklaus’ 72-hole U.S. Open amateur record standing strong, at his last tournament as an amateur, Viktor Hovland broke that record Sunday by two strokes.

He may not have had much to talk about for much of the tournament but Bryson DeChambeau turned in some early noise from the gallery with an eagle at the par-5 6th to get back to even par.

2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson made his move up the leaderboard with an eagle at the 6th and a follow-up birdie at the 7th to also battle back to even par.

Falling off the gird after a sensational opening round, Rockie Fowler proved he still has plenty to prove at Pebble Beach following a birdie putt from off the green at the par-4 4th.

Aaron Wise used every inch of spin he could muster at the par-5 14th for a remarkable 79-yard birdie hole out.

Scott Piercy started his round in one of the best ways possible with a birdie hole out at the very first hole of the day.

Despite finishing the tournament at 4-over par, the newly turned 49-year old Phil Mickelson finished his 28th U.S. Open appearance with a birdie at 18.

If you come to play Pebble Beach you better know how to play out of the sand. 2018 Open Champion, Francesco Molinari proved he knows his way out of a bunker with a birdie hole out at the 8th.

No matter where he is on the leaderboard all eyes are on Tiger Woods. And Woods knows how to deliver late in on a Sunday including this lengthy birdie at the par-4 13th.

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2019 U.S. Open Third Round Highlights

The 2019 U.S. Open is far from over but while moving day provided a needed boost for some, the names on top saw little change. After a stunning second round, Gary Woodland continued his methodical poise around Pebble Beach Saturday.

Woodland began the day 9-under par for the tournament and holding onto a one-shot lead. Despite his first bogey in 34 holes, the current U.S. Open leader turned in a steady 2-under third round of 69. His playing partner Saturday, Justin Rose, kept things close with a 68 to stay just one back of Woodland.

While the top two didn’t change, the leaderboard below them shifted around with a number of odds on favorites making their move. With so many of the top players in golf pulling out all the stops at Pebble Beach, the third round of the U.S. Open turned in a number of replay-worthy highlights.
Woodland and Rose continue to set the pace
Gary Woodland showed no signs of pressure or slowing down as he needed just four holes Saturday to turn in his first birdie and extend his lead to three.

Needing to capitalize on the rare Woodland mistake this week, Justin Rose settled in to gain the two-shot swing at the par-4 8th.

After his first bogey in 34 holes at the 8th, Woodland bounced back at 11 as he spun his approach to just over two feet. He would clean up for birdie to get back to 10-under par.

Following an awkward lie after his tee shot at the par-3 12th, Woodland found himself off the green chipping for par. However, no putter was no problem as he found the perfect line to save par.

Not letting Woodland’s chip-in par save rattle him, Rose fired back at 12 with a strong birdie putt to cut the lead back to two.

Looking to be in trouble once again at 14, Woodland had to cover over 42-feet for his par. And he used every inch of the green to bury that putt at the bottom of the cup for par.

Rose dropped a shot at 13 but fired one right back following Woodland’s stunning par-saving putt to again get back to 9-under and within two.

It may have been a grind Saturday but Rose will march into Sunday with the momentum and just one shot behind Woodland following a closing birdie at 18.


Koepka keeps history in sight
Looking to stay in striking range, the reigning back-to-back U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka nearly cashed in an eagle at the scoreable par-5 6th hole but had to settle for a birdie for his first red number of the third round.

Standing over his birdie putt at the par-4 10th, Koepka knew he had to find the right line to convert. And convert he did to move to 7-under and a tie for second.

Needing nothing put perfection from off the green at the par-4 15th, Koepka dialed in just that as he sent his par putt from 31-feet on a picturesque line for the save. He would save par at 18 to finish four shots off the lead in his quest to three-peat on Sunday.


Contenders continue to put the pressure on
Closing birdies at 15 and 18 moved Rory McIlroy to a solo 6th place at 6-under heading into the final round at the U.S. Open.

Culminating with this 12-footer at the par-3 17th, Louis Oosthuizen turned in three straight birdies to fight his way back to a tie for third heading into Sunday’s final round.

2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell finished his round in emphatic fashion after sinking a 34-foot eagle putt to reach 4-under par.

Everyone likes a good eagle so why not two more? Paired together Saturday, Chesson Hadley and Matt Kuchar completed the rare feat as both made eagle putts at the par-5 6th.

Kuchar and Hadley weren’t the only playing partners feeding off one another as Brandt Snedeker and Rafa Cabrera Bello holed out from off the green at the 8th.

Looking for his best finish at a U.S. Open, 24-year old Jon Rahm chipped in for birdie at the par-4 8th.

Friday may not have gone his way but perennial favorite Rickie Fowler turned his fortunes around early Saturday with three birdies through his first seven holes including a 27-foot putt at the par-3 7th.

From off the green and needing a lengthy make to save par, Chez Reavie followed the exact line from 17 yards out to stay tied for 5th at the time.

Despite not being on the green, Rory Sabbatini, who already claimed a hole-in-one highlight Thursday, sank back to back birdies from off the green at four and five.


Tiger finishes with a highlight of his own
It wasn’t a marquee day for the reigning Masters champion but fan favorite Tiger Woods turned in a birdie on his final hole of the day to battle back to even par for the tournament.

 

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2019 U.S. Open Second Round Highlights

Pebble Beach tried to battle back Friday but there were still plenty of low numbers to be had throughout the second round of the 2019 U.S. Open. Deep rough and ever-changing winds tried to unnerve some of the top names in the world of golf. Despite the conditions, one player emerged from the pack as the outright leader heading into the weekend.

Coming off two top-10 performances in his last three Major appearances, Gary Woodland shot a 6-under second round of 65 to take a two-stroke lead over the field. Since early in his opening round, Woodland now finds himself bogey-free over his last 27 holes. The 12-year pro may be in uncharted territory but if his play stays as steady as it did today he seems more than up to the task.

While the top of the leaderboard flourished, the rest of the field struggled to stay inside the dreaded cutline. The pressure of leaving Pebble Beach early mixed with the importance of a major championship provided plenty of top highlights during the U.S. Open’s second round.
Woodland goes low
Beginning his day 2-under par through his first nine holes, starting on 10, Gary Woodland began his battle to the top of the leaderboard with an emphatic birdie at the par-4 1st to move within one of the lead.

After putting himself in prime position, Woodland took his shot at the leaderboard with back to back birdies beginning with a quick, breaking two to tie for the lead at the par-3 5th.

A sensational approach at the 529-yard par-5 6th gave Woodland a look at eagle but he’d ultimately settle for a birdie to claim the outright lead at 8-under.

With his lead in jeopardy late in the round, Woodland stayed calm before pouring in a difficult 15-foot putt to save par.

After it seemed like Woodland pulled out every surprise he had in his bag of trick Friday he saved possibly the best for last with an improbable 49 and a half foot birdie putt to end his round with the tournament leading 9-under par.


Top contenders chase down the lead
The defending back to back U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka continued to battle through his second round just to stay in striking range of the lead. Back to back birdies at six and seven helped keep Koepka on track heading to the weekend.

One of the most consistent players in the game, Justin Rose seemed to have the 36-hole lead nearly untouchable early in his round Friday. Even following his missed hits, the Englishman found a way to birdie including battling out of the bunker at the difficult par-5 18th.

The 2018 Open champion Francesco Molinari proved he doesn’t need a putter to move into contention following a chip-in for birdie at the par-3 7th.

A roller coaster ride featuring seven birdies and five bogeys brought down what began as a solid start for Jordan Spieth. The 2015 U.S. Open champion started his second round with three birdies over his first four holes.

Before Woodland made his charge, it was the South African Louis Oosthuizen who was threatening the lead thanks to his accuracy of the tee and touch around the green.

Despite a back and forth round both Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy proved why they are two of top players on the PGA Tour and around the world with bounce back play at the 14th and 16th respectively.

With back to back rounds of 69, the man known as Kuch ignited the crowd on his final hole of the day with a chip in for eagle at the par-5 18th to place Matt Kuchar at 4-under and five shots off the lead.

The last man to win a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Graeme McDowell, made a run of his own Friday featuring a stretch of four straight birdies starting at the par-4 4th.

A leader late Thursday before being passed by Justin Rose, Scott Piercy continued to claw back toward the lead with a long birdie putt Friday at the par-4 13th.


The battle against the cut heats up
Finishing 1-over par for his round, Tiger Woods skated inside the cutline by just two strokes thanks to clutch short game and putting including a birdie at the par-4 11th.

Only his second week back from injury and Justin Thomas flirted with the cutline throughout his second round. At the par-4 9th, JT’s game looked to have a glimmer of hope with a hole-out from the greenside rough. Unfortunately, the 2017 FedEx Cup champion failed to make the cut by two strokes.

Despite missing the cut, Ian Poulter finished his 2019 U.S. Open in memorable fashion after draining his third shot from 71-yards out for birdie.

 

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Last Word on Golf 2019 U.S. Open Predictions

This week some of the Last Word on Golf’s writing team tackle our 2019 U.S. Open predictions. For more insight from each member of the Last Word on Golf panel make sure to follow them at their mentioned Twitter handle. Don’t forget to follow @LastWordOnGolf on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and let us know your U.S. Open picks and predictions.
Favorite Underdog
Kyle Walton (@TheKCWalton)- Graeme McDowell (80 to 1)

The biggest underdog I’ve picked this season comes back to a familiar locale this week at the 2019 U.S. Open. Northern Ireland’s own Graeme Macdowell was the last man to win a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach back in 2010. Earlier this season the 39-year old found himself back in the winner’s circle at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship.

McDowell’s recent form has been on the upward trajectory as he finished tied for 29th at the PGA Championship and currently sits 5th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting (an essential stat with this week’s tricky poa annua greens). This past week at the RBC Canadian Open McDowell gained a momentous boost of confidence after sinking a clutch putt on the final hole to punch his ticket back home to Royal Portrush and The Open Championship just over a month away.

Josh Mullenix (@TheJMULL_)- Matt Kuchar (50 to 1)

Not entirely sure you can consider Kuch an underdog, but he certainly isn’t a favorite. Pebble Beach isn’t that long of a golf course. What comes at a premium is hitting fairways and accurate approach shots to these small, undulated greens. Kuchar does both of these things beautifully and his lack of power won’t hurt him on a golf course that is only going to play 7,075 yards.

He ranks inside the top-10 on the PGA Tour in both driving accuracy and strokes gained: approach the green. Apart from a missed cut at the Memorial, Kuchar hasn’t finished outside the top-12 since the Players in mid-March.
Biggest Name to Miss the Cut
Walton- Jon Rahm

Entering the U.S. Open, Spain’s Jon Rahm sits at a 28-to-1 favorite and in many cases is a top-10 consensus to perform. However, the often emotional (and sometimes volatile) Rahm is coming off two straight missed cuts, including at the PGA Championship.

Going up against a tricky USGA layout at Pebble Beach may prove too much to handle for the immensely talented 24-year old rising star. Thus far this season Rahm sits 110th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green, 72nd in Strokes Gained: Approach and 71st in Scrambling.

The narrowed fairways and troublesome misses could play equalizer to the accuracy and length off the tee. While he is more than capable of making the proper adjustments, Pebble Beach has a way of humbling even the game’s greatest competitors which could mean an early return home for Rahm from one of the most iconic courses in all of golf.

Mullenix- Phil Mickelson

I really want Phil to win this week and complete the grand slam, but I just don’t see it happening. Since Mickelson won the AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach earlier this year, his best finish is a tie for 18th at Augusta, he’s missed four cuts in nine events, and only has two rounds in the 60s since the beginning of the Masters.

He is 208th on tour in driving accuracy and is 102nd in greens in regulation percentage. Those stats don’t add up to a player that is going to make the cut at the toughest test in golf. Mickelson has been far too inconsistent this season and he’ll miss the cut at the 2019 U.S. Open despite his successful history at Pebble Beach.
2019 U.S. Open Runner-Up
Walton- Brooks Koepka

It’s incredibly difficult to bet against the Major prowess of Brooks Koepka. Not much can be revealed that hasn’t already been hammered home this past week, and even this past year. Not even 30 yet and he is coming off a tie for second at this year’s Masters as well as a successful title defense at the PGA Championship.

Add in that Koepka is already the reigning back-to-back U.S. Open champion and the facts and figures make it nearly impossible to not make him the frontrunner on every poll. That being said, chalk this prediction more up to a gut reaction. The three-peat is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplishment in golf especially coming into a course like Pebble Beach.

I still believe Koepka will turn in a solid, contending performance this week but I just don’t see him winning his 5th Major, at least not yet.
Mullenix- Patrick Cantlay

Patrick Cantlay is playing the best golf of his career. A pair of T3’s at the RBC Heritage and the PGA Championship were followed by an incredible win at the Memorial including a Sunday 64. Eventually, Cantlay is going to get a major, but it won’t be this week. I just don’t have faith in him at majors after what happened to him on the back nine at Augusta.

He looked very uncomfortable and two bogeys in the final three holes took him out of the running quickly. Don’t be surprised to see him near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday, but he needs to be in contention at a major one more time before he actually gets it done.

2019 U.S. Open Champion
Walton- Rory McIlroy

Simply stated, Rory is on a roll. In 13 events played this season McIlroy has finished top-10 in 10 of those tournaments. Six of those were top-5 performances including two victories. Just last week he took home the RBC Canadian Open by a staggering seven strokes following a final round of 61 (which could’ve been a 59) to finish with a tournament total of 22-under par.

Speaking to his stats he currently sits first in Strokes Gained: Total, Off the Tee and Tee to Green as well as the best on tour average for eagles made. Additionally, since 2014 McIlroy currently sits in the top three performers on poa annua greens at 2.93 strokes gained total. (behind Dustin Johnson and Jason Day)

The Northern Ireland native knows what it takes to battle against heavy hitters like Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka. This week, with momentum on his side and his confidence at an all-time high, McIlroy is undoubtedly a front runner to win his second U.S. Open and his 5th major championship.
Mullenix- Dustin Johnson

Nine years is a long time for demons to hang around and DJ’s win at Oakmont in 2016 effectively exorcised the demons from his collapse at the 2010 U.S. Open. DJ has a great track record at Pebble including back-to-back wins at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2009-10.

While it isn’t the same course presented for a U.S. Open that players find in February, history has shown that four of the five U.S. Open winners at Pebble Beach also won the Pro-Am at some point. Over his last 12 rounds, Johnson has 10 rounds in the 60s including four rounds of 69 or better at the PGA Championship where he finished in solo second. DJ gets it done at Pebble and wins his second major championship.

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Brooks Koepka Fueled By History and Motivation for U.S. Open

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Category : Brooks Koepka , Golf , PGA , U.S. Open

It’s easy for Brooks Koepka to find motivation on weeks like this. For starters, it’s the U.S. Open, a tournament where Koepka has won in back-to-back years. The four-time major champion is trying to become the first since Willie Anderson to win three straight U.S. Open titles.

But in addition to maintaining the mental fortitude required to compete at a major championship, Koepka has another chip on his shoulder. This year, it is with Fox Sports, the official television provider broadcasting the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. In their annual promo for the tournament, there was a notable golfer missing. Brooks Koepka. In fact, out of the four promos Fox Sports created, three of which included the World No. 1, the one selected highlighted his absence.

And Koepka was quick to jump on this fact, which will serve as his primary motivation at the third major championship of the year.

“I was just kind of shocked,” said Koepka. “Somebody got fired over it, or should.”
Brooks Koepka’s Self-Perception, Mental Toughness Enables Success
A lot has changed since the days of Brooks Koepka travelling every week to play in tournaments throughout Europe. Or at the 2017 U.S. Open, when Dustin Johnson was more noticeable in the workout room than Koepka. There are still instances where the six time winner on the PGA Tour pinches himself at the attention he generates.

“I still think it’s weird when I walk into a place and I can see eyes are on me just for dinner,” reveals Koepka. “I just view myself as a regular guy, just like everybody else. And I just happen to be really good at golf, and that’s it. I don’t view myself any different than anybody else does.”

There is a plethora of individuals who can play golf really well. But very few can play at the highest level like Brooks Koepka. What makes him abnormal compared to the average golfer is his inherent aptitude for blocking out distractions. The mental capacity to hit timely shots in the biggest moments of a golf tournament has been the impetus to move Koepka into golfing stardom, winning four of the last eight majors he has competed in.

Koepka has been able to dominate to major victories, like he did at Erin Hills for his first U.S. Open. He has conquered unequivocally challenging golf course setups at Shinnecock Hills and the galleries rooting for Tiger Woods at the 2018 PGA Championship. Most impressive was Koepka’s most recent major championship victory, battling the windy conditions at Bethpage Black, to survive the bogeys and the near-comeback from Dustin Johnson. It was his most emotionally draining victory yet, but once again demonstrated Koepka’s clutch ability under the immensity of major championship pressure.

“I watched a six-shot lead disappear very quickly,” affirmed Koepka. “I was actually really proud of myself the way I spun that mentally, being able to block things out and turn a negative into a positive by hitting great shots.”
Doubt Koepka At Your Own Risk at Majors
Pebble Beach will be a unique test for Brooks Koepka. Compared to the other courses he has won U.S. Opens at, the classic setup at Pebble is much shorter. Requiring a golfer to hit creative shots, particularly on the sloping greens.

No golfing body will be under the microscope more than the USGA this week. After two years of questionable course setups, coming back to a classic course like Pebble Beach will provide an opportunity for redemption. But to Brooks Koepka, a golf course is the same test for anyone. Hence why he shrugs off the criticism towards the USGA when it comes to course structure.

“If they put it in the fairway, you shouldn’t have to complain about the rough. You hit the greens and you hit it close, you shouldn’t have to complain about the greens,” states Koepka. “I’ve just been never one to complain and make excuses.”

The blueprint at major championships is one that has worked for Koepka. Four of his six PGA Tour wins have come at majors. Throughout this dominant stretch, Brooks has stressed his mental ability to lock in at these tournaments. When he isn’t at the golf course, Koepka is with his close friends and family. The close bubble away from the buzz of a major championship enables Koepka to relax and adapt that laser, tunnel-vision focus on the golf course. He has won four major championships with this approach, why stop now?

“I just keep it very, very strict on major weeks. It’s something I’ve done ever since I’ve gotten to major championships,” says Koepka. I keep the golf at the golf course; and when I go home, I put my feet up and relax. These are super stressful weeks. And to find some place of relaxation is important.”

With the golfing world wondering if Tiger can win his 16th major, or if Phil Mickelson can finally claim his U.S. Open, don’t gaze too far away from Brooks Koepka. Golf is in need of a dominant successor. Koepka is the name everyone is chasing now.The post Brooks Koepka Fueled By History and Motivation for U.S. Open appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Mickelson eyes Career Grand Slam at Pebble Beach

As father time ticks away, this week’s U.S. Open from Pebble Beach could be the last real opportunity for five-time major champion Phil Mickelson to complete the coveted grand slam of golf. The four-time All-American tees it up, alongside 155 other top players in the world, in his home state of California this Thursday.

Three times in his 27-year professional career the legend known as ‘Lefty’ has donned the green jacket as Masters Champion (2004, 2006, 2010). Add a PGA Championship in 2005 and The Open Championship in 2013 and just one more piece of the puzzle remains. Placing that last piece of the puzzle is easier said than done with a hard-hitting group of top contenders including Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy surrounding you.
Mickelson’s U.S. Open History
In 27 starts at the U.S. Open, Mickelson has yet to take home the trophy despite making the cut a remarkable 89-percent of the time (24 of 27 made cuts). Almost inconceivably, he has finished in the top-10 on 10 separate occasions. Six of those top-10 finishes saw Mickelson fall just short of the title in the runner-up position.

Throughout his career, Mickelson has played a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach three different years. Starting in 1992 with a missed cut, he has improved every outing since. In 2000 he found himself in a tie for 16th while 2010 ‘Lefty’ took charge with a tie for 4th.

With six-second place finishes including Pinehurst (1999), Bethpage Black (2002, 2009), Shinnecock (2004), Winged Foot (2006) and Merion (2013), Mickelson has been on the cusp but has never been able to make that final leap into the winner’s circle.

Winged Foot Golf Club’s West Course, the site of Mickelson’s 2006 runner-up finish, will be the host site next year for the 2020 U.S. Open. Despite his past success, the 14-year difference on Mickelson’s abilities may put the 7,264-yard length of Winged Foot out of reach for what will be a 50-year old Phil Mickelson.

Despite being 17th in driving distance this season, Mickelson still comes in 78th in strokes gained tee-to-green and 100th in strokes gained off-the-tee. While this year’s U.S. Open may not be a bomber’s paradise, keeping steady off the tee is an essential aspect for any victor to have in his bag. Luckily for Phil, he more than knows his way around the sprawling California oasis known as Pebble Beach.
Familiarity factor at Pebble Beach
An illustrious career has yielded Mickelson 44 PGA Tour victories. Five of which have come at none other than Pebble Beach Golf Links. While certainly a tale of two courses from the time-honored Pebble Beach Pro-Am to the USGA’s treacherous U.S. Open set up, the familiarity factor cannot be underestimated.

Four of his five Pebble Beach Pro-Am victories have come by a margin of two strokes or greater. Just this past February, Mickelson recorded his latest PGA Tour victory at this very course. With a 7-under final round of 65, the 12-time Ryder Cup participant bested England’s Paul Casey by three strokes.

Suffice to say Mickelson has plenty of fans cheering him on come Sunday, which ironically enough will be his 49th birthday. One such fan is the widely known, and respected, Jim Nantz who predicted Mickelson to win this year’s U.S. Open.

Back in January when he spoke with Golf Channel, Nantz stated “I think [Phil]’s gonna win at Pebble… I want to put that on the record right now. I think Phil is going to win the U.S. Open.”  With the storyline seemingly writing itself, fast forward nearly six months and Mickelson is hitting a hole-in-one at Nantz’s backyard replica of Pebble Beach’s par-3 7th hole.

Course history, celebrity endorsements, and backyard aces aside, while Mickelson may not be the best off the tee his short game precision is well documented. The shorter the club the better for ‘Lefty’ and with the reports of thick rough, small greens, and pinpoint placement with your wedges a near unanimous necessity, Mickelson already has a leg up on the competition.
The Last Word
At 49-years young by weeks end, Mickelson will rely on his precision, short game success, and valuable history at Pebble Beach to become the sixth golfer to complete the career grand slam in what may be Lefty’s best opportunity remaining to check off one more legendary feat in an already storied career.

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Rory McIlroy Cruises to Dominant RBC Canadian Open Win

HAMILTON– Rory McIlroy is a fan of national opens. He’s won Australia’s back in 2013. In 2016, he claimed his own national open in Ireland. And now, McIlroy can add the illustrious Canadian Open to his trophy case. With a dominant final round 61, it was a throwback to how McIlroy won his first two major championships.

Overpowering drives. Short iron shots. Efficient putting.

“I played with freedom,” said McIlroy after his round. “I was really proud of the way I kept being aggressive, even with the 54-hole lead.”
Aggression and Freedom Pays Off for Rory
After propelling himself to the top of the leaderboard in the third round, Rory McIlroy preached the importance of playing with aggression and freedom. With the wind not as bad as on Saturday, Hamilton Golf & Country Club yielded tons of birdie opportunities in the final round, if fairways are hit.

McIlroy asserted his stranglehold on the golf tournament right from the start. Birdieing five of the first seven holes propelled Rory to the top of the leaderboard. The rest of the field, including co-54 hole leaders, Matt Kuchar, and Webb Simpson, could not keep up. The formula was simple and repetitive for McIlroy: he would drive over 300 yards in the fairway. He would use small irons and wedges to land the ball close to the hole. And he converted birdies.

It is unsurprising that McIlroy led the field in strokes gained: off the tee (6.91), strokes gained: tee to green (15.3) and second in greens in regulation (76 percent). When he’s on his game, no one could overtake him.

“It’s a huge confidence builder, not just for next week, but for the rest of the season,” said McIlroy. “It’s been awhile since I played like this and put my foot down, which was nice to do in the final round.”
Rory McIlroy Embraced, Adored by Canadian Fans
There was one time where playing the RBC Canadian Open would not have been possible for McIlroy. The lone PGA Tour tournament in Canada used to take place the week after the Open Championship in July. But a PGA Tour scheduling change brought the RBC Canadian Open the week before golf’s third major, the U.S. Open. A new opportunity for the tournament to position and brand itself as an event the best golfers in the world come to prepare for a major championship.

But McIlroy could not have imagined the reception he received in Canada. It was electrifying. Every hole he went as he progressed through the final round, the cheers grew louder and were more boisterous. On Saturday, Rory labeled the Canadian Open as “one of the best atmospheres on the PGA Tour.” Sunday paved the way for McIlroy to back that claim up with a stellar performance. Now, he will forever be a fan favourite amongst the enthusiastic Canadian crowd.

“The reception from the Canadian crowds have been incredible this week,” said McIlroy. “They’ve been so welcoming all week. I can’t wait to come back next year.”

With the victory, McIlroy becomes the sixth golfer to have won the U.S. Open, Open Championship and the Canadian Open, known as golf’s Triple Crown. Heading to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach next week with a win is the impetus that McIlroy needed to once again contend at a major championship. With an all-around high-quality tournament, with the facets of his game firing at all cylinders, McIlroy is once again entering the conversation as one of golf’s best players.

 The post Rory McIlroy Cruises to Dominant RBC Canadian Open Win appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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