Category Archives: PGA Tour

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Canadian Nick Taylor Wins Second PGA Tour Tournament at Pebble Beach

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Category : Golf , Nick Taylor , PGA Tour

When Nick Taylor was an amateur, Derek Ingram knew he was special.
As Golf Canada’s National Head Coach, Ingram worked with Taylor, both as a junior and an amateur.
In those formative years as a golfer, Taylor displayed promise with his iron play around the greens. Ingram believed in the Winnipeg, Manitoba’s golfing skills, but more importantly his intangibles, to propel him to become a successful player on the PGA Tour.
“He was one of the best people around the greens I have ever seen,” said Ingram over the phone. “When he gets in the hunt when he’s got a chance to win, you want to have the ball to use a basketball analogy. Nick Taylor has guts.”
On Sunday playing in the gusting winds at Pebble Beach, Taylor exemplified calmness. The difficult conditions made the final round anything but normal for the Canadian. But he never lost belief in his quest for victory.
Taylor shot a final-round 70 to secure his second PGA Tour win, five years removed from his first victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
“I believe I could do it because I have done it before,” said Taylor to CBS Sports’ Amanda Balionis after winning. “Doing it with these conditions, against Phil, it gives me a ton of confidence going forward.”
Taylor came into Sunday’s final round at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with ten career Top 10 finishes. He has shown the ability to shoot low scores, evidenced by his first-round 63 at the 2019 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
But putting together four stellar rounds has escaped Taylor. At the 2019 Safeway Open, after shooting two opening rounds in the ’60s, the Canadian finished shooting with two scores in the 70’s, knocking him out of contention.
This week at Pebble Beach saw Taylor bring all facets of his game together. Despite ranking 108th on the PGA Tour in driving distance (298.3 yards) and 94th in strokes gained: around the green (0.094), Taylor was accurate with his driving through the swirling winds and savvy around the greens.
No better example than on the 15th hole when Taylor hit his second shot in the greenside rough. With four holes to play, the Canadian was two clear of five-time AT&T Pebble Beach winner Phil Mickelson. He had just shot four over his last four holes, including a double-bogey on the par-5 14th.
Taylor went into full resilient mode.
With a wedge in hand, he sank the tricky chip shot for birdie. Then, on the par-3 17th hole, Taylor hit a high-arching iron shot through the wind, landing the tee shot five feet from the pin. His birdie on the 17th sealed his fate into the history books, earning him AT&T Pebble Beach title honours.
With the win, Taylor becomes the first Canadian to win the event and the first to secure a wire-to-wire victory at Pebble Beach. He becomes the 7th Canadian-born PGA golfer to have multiple wins, joining Mike Weir and Stephen Ames.

Not only does he get 500 FedEx Points and invites to The Masters, The PLAYERS and PGA Championships, but he also builds his case to be selected for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
As Ingram explains, he hopes that this win will motivate Taylor to continue his upward trajectory as one of Canada’s best golfers.
“This win will give Nick validation as a PGA Tour golfer,” said Ingram. “It will allow him to relax and start to compete more regularly. He’s got a deep belief in himself and is going to be a guy that does even more after this.”The post Canadian Nick Taylor Wins Second PGA Tour Tournament at Pebble Beach appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

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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.



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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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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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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Rory McIlroy Must Rely on Perspective to Win Canadian Open

HAMILTON– Rory McIlroy is once again in a familiar spot. In contention at a PGA Tour event. After shooting a bogey-free six-under 64, McIlroy has a share of the lead heading into the final round of the RBC Canadian Open.

But despite being in the mix at multiple events, McIlroy has only managed to win once this year. Granted, it was the PLAYERS Championship. But Rory has secured nine top-10 finishes, where before his win at TPC Sawgrass, he struggled to perform in the final round.
Rory McIlroy Must Rely on Perspective to Win Canadian Open
The antidote to quell those underperforming final rounds? Patience and Perspective. Two qualities that go hand in hand for a golfer. And that McIlroy must rely on if he is to capture his 16th victory on the PGA Tour.

“I just have to concentrate on what I can do,” stated McIlroy after his third round. “Perspective has been a word I’ve used a lot this year, along with patience and persistence. They’re things I have to keep reminding myself of, to ease the tension and make things simpler.”
Playing Free and Aggressive Key for Rory McIlroy’s Success
On Moving Day, Hamilton Golf & Country Club showed that it can be unforgiving when the wind picks up. It required a golfer like Rory McIlroy to not be tentative and play with freedom. And pick the appropriate holes to showcase his aggressive style of play.

“I think you got to pick and choose your spots,” stated McIlroy. “I stayed aggressive on the first tee this afternoon and was able to make birdie. If the hole location’s in a good spot for driver tomorrow I’ll use that club.”

All facets of McIlroy’s game have been firing on all cylinders. In the third round, McIlroy was second in driving distance (322.4 yards), hit 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation. For the tournament, Rory has demonstrated his affinity to gain on the field tee to green. He is currently first in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (4.91), third in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (8.26) and ninth in Strokes Gained: Putting (4.15). Given the difficult, windy conditions that the golfers had to endure today, it highlights that McIlroy’s game is on an accelerated trajectory compared to last week, when he missed the cut at the Memorial.

“A week can make a big difference,” says McIlroy. “I got the driver going a bit better, and my wedge play is much improved. I was grateful for the opportunity to work on my game a bit over the weekend.”
McIlroy Will Have to Conquer a Cluttered Leaderboard to Win Canadian Open
Winning the RBC Canadian Open would be a sizeable accomplishment for McIlroy. Not only is it the first time he has competed in this tournament but he would dethrone a plethora of golfers looking to steal his place at the top of the leaderboard. Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson, currently tied with McIlroy, have demonstrated their ability to have success on this golf course. Simpson currently leads the field in Strokes Gained: Putting while Kuchar is fourth. The low Canadian Adam Hadwin, who shot a third round 67, will have the home country behind him as he tries to become the first Canadian-born golfer to win the RBC Canadian Open since Karl Keffer in 1914. Hadwin’s game has been trending in the right direction and he hopes he can put the pieces together to produce a stellar final round for the Canadian fans.

“I’ve done a lot of really good things,” said Hadwin. “I’m missing a couple putts out there but even if I didn’t drive it that well, I had some really good iron shots on the back.”

But what Rory McIlroy has on the field is a large dose of perspective. It enabled the four-time major champion to conquer the adversity of answering question after question about his disappointing final round performances.

And now, it gives him a chance to seal the deal at a venue that McIlroy has embraced and thoroughly enjoyed.

“The Canadian fans really come out and support this event,” said McIlroy. “It’s probably the best atmosphere I’ve played in a long time. I’ve really enjoyed my time here and excited to get to play in front of them again tomorrow.”The post Rory McIlroy Must Rely on Perspective to Win Canadian Open appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

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Tiger Woods Riding Momentum into U.S. Open

Tiger Woods is riding momentum heading into the 2019 U.S. Open in a few weeks. Woods shot a tremendous 67 on Sunday at the Memorial Tournament. He finished at -9, which included five birdies in the first nine holes. The face of the PGA Tour brought forth a strong outing this weekend and likely could have finished in the top five. But, he bogeyed two holes late in the final round to finish at nine under par for the tournament. The strong showing from Woods this past weekend has put him in a good position on the Tour this season. 
Tiger Woods Riding Momentum into U.S. Open
His win at the Masters really set the tone for him to have a solid year of golf. At the Memorial, Woods came in on Thursday and Friday slacking a bit but picked it up on Saturday and Sunday. His terrific final round helped build his momentum swing. The three-time U.S Open winner will go into Pebble Beach in two weeks with high expectations. Tiger is seeking his first Open win since 2008, where he roared to victory that marvelous Sunday. But can he do it again? 

Pebble Beach Flashbacks
With a great lineup of golfers set to take the course, Woods will have to be on his best game. The pairings won’t be announced until another week or so, but Tiger knows what it takes to win at Pebble Beach. He won the 2000 U.S. Open at this historic course. The main key for Woods this time around will be his drives off the tee and his putting. In driving off-the-tee, Woods ranks at 70th on Tour with a .204 percentage. If he can build upon that, the face of golf can have a solid chance going into the weekend. He ranks second in greens in regulation at 72%. 

Going back to another historic win at the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods was favored and won the tournament once again at Pebble Beach. Fast forward to 2019. He may not be the favorite going in, but never count out Tiger for being in heavy contention on Saturday and Sunday.

Every golf fan knows what Woods can accomplish when it matters most. A win in two weeks would put Tiger close to the top in the FedEx Cup standings, which would be tremendous for him. He currently sits at 20, but a strong outing, if not a win, would put the American close to the top yet again. Tiger winning the Major tournaments is a great thing for the PGA Tour. Through all his troubles, the man is back. 
Chasing Jack Nicklaus
Despite a few rough outings lately, Tiger can pull through and become the FedEx Cup leader yet again. What better place to do it than at the U.S. Open? Yes, this is a different era of golf and Tiger Woods in general. However, he has shown that he can remain close with the leaders multiple times this season. If he can do it again, another trophy might be added to his collection. Also, a win would give Tiger his 16th major championship. One closer to Jack Nicklaus and his astounding 18 major victories. 

Golf fans around the world want Tiger to get the record, and they know it can happen. Woods just has to play his best game and win these tournaments. 

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Brooks Koepka Survives to Capture Fourth Major Championship

FARMINGDALE, NY– Brooks Koepka once again is in a familiar spot. In the illustrious winner’s circle of being a major champion. But getting his fourth major championship would not be an easy task. Bethpage Black showed why it’s one of the toughest major championship venues in America. Koepka started to miss fairways and Dustin Johnson roared from behind back into contention. But Brooks Koepka, despite struggling down the stretch, would make the critical shots the final few holes to survive and secure his fourth major championship in his last eight appearances. With the win, Brooks becomes the first player to win his first four major championships in two years or less. And become the first golfer to be the back-to-back champion of the PGA Championship and U.S. Open simultaneously.

But most of all, Koepka is solidifying himself as the premier millennial golfer, dominating in the tournaments that matter most.

“This was my most satisfying major win,” said Koepka after the round. “I’d challenge anyone to go out and play in these conditions, they were brutal. That was so exciting to get this done.”
Brooks Koepka’s Steady, Consistent Play Shines in Final Round
The final round was all about survival and outlasting the competition for Brooks Koepka. With Bethpage Black showing it’s difficulty and punitive nature, Koepka’s strategy was simple. Put the ball in play, try to make birdies and don’t get a big score.

There were moments where the final round could have gone awry. Brooks Koepka bogeyed the first hole and his playing partner, Harold Varner III, got a birdie that resulted in a two-shot swing. Dustin Johnson, starting the day seven back of Koepka, shot three under on the Front 9, to go within four shots of the leader. It was the third time in the past two years where Koepka and Johnson were near the top of a major championship leaderboard; the previous two occurred at the 2019 Masters and last year’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

But when the winds started to swirl and the conditions became difficult at Bethpage, Koepka started to waver. With four consecutive bogeys on the Back 9, Koepka’s seven-shot lead was evaporated to one. Dustin Johnson, who was walking off the 15th green with a birdie, was starting to feel the momentum and the belief that he can snatch this major championship from Koepka. But bogeys on 16 and 17 put Johnson out of contention, paving the way for Brooks Koepka to survive and outlast the field. For Dustin Johnson, who was first in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and Proximity to the Hole Around the Green, he believes his game is in great shape to be competitive at future major championships.

“I really like the state of my game. I’ve been playing well all year,” said Johnson. “But unfortunately, just didn’t roll in the putts to get it done.”

For Koepka, it was all about getting to a finish line. Despite only converting 42 percent of fairways, Koepka made the ones he needed to the most, on 15 and 16. On the 72nd hole, his wedge shot to within 10 feet for the win, which he sank, epitomized the toughness and mental fortitude needed to secure a major championship.

“That was a stressful round of golf,” said Koepka. “The wind was up, DJ played well. He put pressure on me to play solid golf.”
Brooks Koepka Put on Major Championship Pedestal All By Himself
Bend but don’t break. That has been the mantra for Brooks Koepka all throughout his career. While his American peers were having success on the golf courses that exemplify affluence and status, Koepka was grinding his way on the European Challenger Tour. At one moment in Scotland, Koepka considered leaving the game of golf altogether. He was playing golf in 15 different countries, often staying in less than modest accommodations. He had driven through the night, survived a flat tire and only had 90 minutes of sleep before teeing off.

But this adversity, these tough conditions to overcome made Koepka a more complete player. He learned valuable lessons about never giving up and always being tenacious. This made him win on the European Challenger Tour, which eventually led to a PGA Tour card and an opportunity at stardom. For years, the golf world was focused on the rise of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. When Brooks Koepka’s name was brought up, it was never given any credibility. Not after his first U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills. Or his back to back U.S. Open win at Shinnecock.

But his ability to win the PGA Championship at Bellerive, with Tiger Woods charging, as well as at Bethpage Black, with Dustin Johnson on his heels, puts him on a major championship pedestal all on his own. Those who doubted or criticized Koepka now are silent. It is that constant skepticism that fuels Koepka and has allowed him to become the best golfer in the world.

“Going the route that I did, it toughened me,” Koepka said. “It was a blessing in disguise.”
Brooks Koepka Becomes World No. 1
With Sunday’s PGA Championship victory, Brooks Koepka once again reclaims the title of World No. 1. He is tied for the fourth-most major wins before turning 30, behind only Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Ben Hogan.

Before Brooks Koepka, the last player to win back to back PGA Championships was Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods would intimidate opponents but also handle the emotions of adverse moments. With Brooks Koepka’s performance at Bethpage, he enters that conversation as not just the number one golfer in the world, but also the game’s most clutch golfer in the big moments.

“My belief is great right now,” said Koepka. “I’m playing great and am super confident. I did not have my best but to be able to hang in there, right the ship, and refocus, allowed me to win today.”

Most golfers would have completely quaked under the magnitude of the moment. Brooks Koepka may have blinked but he never fully collapsed. The time is now for Koepka to continue to dominate, entering his name into the conversation of one of the greatest golfers of all time.The post Brooks Koepka Survives to Capture Fourth Major Championship appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

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Brooks Koepka Opens PGA Championship Defense with 63

FARMINGDALE, NY– Brooks Koepka doesn’t seem too affected by the PGA Championship date change from August to May. Whenever the phrase “major championship” predicates a particular tournament, it perks Koepka’s attention. These are the events where the three-time major winner unleashes his complete, powerful game.

The PGA Championship defense could not have started more impeccably for Koepka, who fired a seven-under 63 to take a four-shot clubhouse lead and set a new course record. For Brooks, this is business as usual for someone who has been at the top of his game the last year.

When asked what his favourite hole was at Bethpage, Koepka candidly responded: “All seven I birdied today.”

That’s a golfer who is in the zone.
Steadiness & Execution Critical for Brooks Koepka’s Opening Round Success
Playing alongside Tiger Woods, who is coming off his historic victory at The Masters, is no easy task. Except for Brooks Koepka. Last year at the PGA Championship in St. Louis, when the gallery of Bellerive Country Club was rooting for Tiger, Koepka’s laser focus and stellar shot making got him to the PGA Championship winner’s circle.

While Tiger Woods would experience a roller-coaster in his opening round of 72, Koepka exemplified unwavering steadiness and execution. With the rest of the field experiencing the immense, punitive difficulty of Bethpage Black, Koepka was steadfastly solid. Among his competitors, Koepka is first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (6.543), Strokes Gained: Approach to the Green (4.261) and Strokes Gained: Putting (3.189). His 14 of 18 greens in regulation (77.8 percent) and 9 of 14 fairways hit (64.3 percent) demonstrated that when Koepka is firing on all cylinders, he is going to shoot low scores. And in major championships, when the stage is large and the expectations are high, it is where Koepka performs superbly.
It’s Early, but Brooks Koepka Is Not Slowing Down
At The Masters, Brooks Koepka was in the driver’s seat to win his first Green Jacket and fourth major in eight appearances. But hitting his tee shot in the water on the par-3 12th, paved the way for Tiger Woods to claim his 15th major championship.

While initially disappointing, it does not falter Koepka’s motivation and belief that he can still compete in major championships.

“It’s just golf, there’s nothing to rebound from,” affirms Koepka. “Second
place, it’s not fun, but at the same time you’ve just got to move on. It’s in the past. I could care less what happened last week or a couple years ago. It’s all
about this week.”

Even with the success Koepka has had in major championships, propelling him to a brief stint at World No. 1, there still is room for more universal respect from golf fans worldwide. Despite winning two majors last year, Koepka was still not listed in the world’s most dominant athletes. But over time, it is clear Koepka is accepting his persona and is less inclined to put his guard up towards the same media who disrespected him for years.

“I think you’ve got to find a chip or you’ve got to find something to motivate yourself and give you that extra little something going into a tournament or going into an event, whatever it might be, to really want to push
you over that line,” said Koepka.

If you don’t like or doubt Koepka’s abilities, it is at your own risk. With his sixth consecutive round at the PGA Championship in the 60’s complete, it is hard to imagine Brooks Koepka not in the mix for the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday afternoon.The post Brooks Koepka Opens PGA Championship Defense with 63 appeared first on Last Word on Sports.

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Wells Fargo Championship Predictions

Wells Fargo Championship Predictions
The Wells Fargo Championship gets started on Thursday at Quail Hollow. The tournament looms two weeks before the prestigious PGA Championship. 2018 Wells Fargo winner Jason Day is a strong favorite to repeat, but will he take home the trophy once again or someone from the field?

Can Jason Day Repeat?
Jason Day has played strong rounds of golf in 2019, and repeating at the Wells Fargo Championship would set up Day for a strong run at the upcoming PGA Championship. Quail Hollow has been one of the Australian’s best courses in the game of golf. The 2015 PGA Championship winner knows what it will take to win this tournament. However, the field in this tournament can bring forth a strong outing as well.
A few favorites to win the Wells Fargo are familiar faces within the PGA. Jason Day is the clear favorite given that he won it one year ago. Tony Finau has been playing great golf and should put forth a strong showing at Quail Hollow throughout the week. Rory McIlroy played solid a few weeks ago at The Masters and is looking for redemption after not getting a green jacket.

Tony Finau’s Chances
Finau has what it takes to outlast the field and win the Wells Fargo Championship. Given his performance at The Masters in early April, Finau has proved himself in tournaments this year. A win for Finau would be strong and could push him into the favorites for the PGA Championship. The Utah native has been a close favorite in a lot of tournaments this year. A great outing here would set up Finau with a great shot at the upcoming PGA Championship.

Rory McIlroy’s Chance for Redemption
After finishing strong at the 2019 Masters, Rory knows he can compete to win this week. His drives off the tee may need to be more solid this time around. If he can get the drives off the tee to make the fairway the majority of the time, that will set him up to make numerous birdies and some putts as well. McIlroy is one of the faces of the PGA, and a strong finish this week would be stellar for the game. Even if he doesn’t come out victorious, at least making the cut would go a long way with three of this year’s four majors all coming within nearly two months time.

2019 Wells Fargo Championship Winner Prediction
Simply stated, Jason Day will repeat as the Wells Fargo Championship winner. The key difference this week will be Day’s ability to hit fairways off the tee. Currently sitting 4th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting, he will have to continue his steady putting game throughout the Wells Fargo. Many around the game of golf believe that Day can repeat as the winner, but it is going to take a lot. This tournament is one of the Australian’s best every year. The field is outstanding, and he knows he has to be on his best game in order to retain at Quail Hollow.

Which Golfer Will Miss the Cut?
The player that will miss the cut this weekend will be Phil Mickelson. Mickelson is likely looking ahead to the PGA Championship, and that will affect his game. Like Tiger Woods, Mickelson’s focus is on his play a whole, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if he centers his focus to the task at hand he could find himself right back in the running to compete for a trophy this week.

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Sophomores Finau and Schauffele shine at 2019 Masters

The elation of Tiger Woods winning his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters has begun to subside. Well maybe not, and maybe it never will, but the roars have at least died down considerably since this past Sunday. However, the 15-time major winning veteran wasn’t the only player to showcase his talents at Augusta National this year.

While Woods was busy racking up the final round highlights six players were trying to make the most of just their second year playing at one of the most iconic courses in all of golf. Each of the Masters sophomores surprisingly made the cut in a place where experience is greatly favored. The only to finish over par was 2018 RBC Heritage winner Satoshi Kodaira (+6).

Haotong Li (-1)  and the talk of the tour the last two weeks, Canada’s Corey Conners (E) each managed a respectable top-50 finish. One year removed from missing the cut at his first attempt at a green jacket Patton Kizzire (-6) cracked the top-20 in a tie for 18th. But above the others stood two second-year, rising contenders.
Finau finds a rhythm at Augusta
In his maiden Masters voyage in 2018, Tony Finau had a memorable rookie outing for more ways than one. Every golf fan, die-hard or casual, remembers the images of the then 28-year old making a hole in one at the Wednesday Par-3 Contest. Then celebrating, dislocating his ankle, and popping it back into place by himself.

Remarkably, Finau shot 6-under par on his final round alone for the third lowest score of the day and a share of 10th place. Throughout his 2018 campaign on the PGA Tour he climbed to sixth in FedEx Cup rankings, finished top-10 in three of the four majors (including solo fifth at the U.S. Open) and made the most of his first of what is sure to be many more Ryder Cup appearances.

It seemed a logical prediction that with a year of momentum behind him, and two good ankles, Finau would be a force to be reckoned with around Augusta in 2019. Over his opening two rounds the Salt Lake City native stayed stead with below par rounds of 71 (-1) and 70 (-2). It wasn’t until Saturday when then Tongan-Samoan sensation truly broke out with an 8-under third round of 64.

Following his near record-breaking Saturday, Finau found himself in the final pairing Sunday with none other than Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari. Scoring was difficult to come by early on in their closing 18 holes. Making only one birdie before dumping his tee shot into the water on the par-3 12th, the closing six holes were a completely different story.

The 14th ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings closed with three birdies including back to back at 15 and 16. Finau’s ability to finish and bounce back after difficult holes helped propel him into a four-way finish for fifth place. Two years, two top-10 finishes and continued improvement each put Finau into the early discussion for a future green jacket sooner rather than later.
Schauffele starts slow but surges Sunday
In 2017 a San Diego State University standout by the name of Xander Schauffele won twice in his first year on the PGA Tour. Perhaps still the biggest win of his career to date came in September 2017 when he bested Justin Thomas by one stroke in the finale of the FedEx Cup playoffs at the Tour Championship. While Thomas still captured the FedEx Cup Championship it came as no surprise when Schauffele was announced as the 2017 PGA Rookie of the Year.

The 2018 Masters wasn’t a breakout first trip to Augusta by any means but Xander was still able to make the cut and finish tied for 50th. Compared to his rookie season 2018 was slow by Schauffele standards. However, in the 2018-2019 wraparound season, the reigning ninth-ranked golfer in the World has already secured two victories. His first of which came at the HSBC Champions event in a playoff with none other than fellow Masters sophomore standout Tony Finau.

The 2019 trek to Augusta National started rocky for the already four-time Tour winner. Schauffele turned in a first round 1-over par 73 but bounced back quickly on Friday shooting the low round of the day with a 7-under 65. A steady 2-under 70 on Saturday put him right back in the mix just five shots off the lead heading into Sunday’s final round.

Despite being 1-over through seven holes, a birdie at the par-5 8th began a surge of five birdies before finishing 12-under par for the tournament where the 25-year old, in just his second Masters, took a share of the clubhouse lead. As everyone knows that lead was ultimately overtaken by Tiger Woods but would still leave Schauffele finished in a three-way tie for second with major champions Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka (not a bad way to improve after an 8-over finish at his first Masters).

With both men still improving and bettering their game each and every tournament, both Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele still have plenty of Masters, and majors, moments ahead of them. Finau will be taking a brief break this week while Schauffele will tee it right back up at the RBC Heritage from Harbour Town Golf Links.


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