Category Archives: U.S. Open

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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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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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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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