The Etiquetteist: When (and where) should you let a group play through?
The Etiquetteist: When (and where) should you let a group play through?
Now that the Ryder Cup teams are set, it’s time for captains Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn to finalize who will pair with whom?
There’s a lot that goes into finding the perfect pairings in these team events. Captains must consider playing styles, personalities and a variety of other factors. And while everyone would be interested to see a Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson pairing, that’s probably not the most effective option for the U.S.
Now, we understand that both Ryder Cup teams have plenty of resources to help them formulate the perfect combinations. But just in case the captains are looking for some extra advice, here’s our recommendations on which players should pair up in Paris, and why.
Jordan Spieth-Patrick Reed: This is probably the easiest decision that Furyk has to make. This duo is 4-1-2 in the past two Ryder Cups, so even though Spieth might want to switch things up and partner with, say, Justin Thomas or Rickie Fowler, it’s best if he keeps his partnership with Reed. They are just too good together.
Tiger Woods-Bryson DeChambeau: While everyone on the U.S. team would love to pair with Woods, it seems as if DeChambeau, a three-time winner this season, will get the honor. The two have developed some chemistry this year through practice rounds and such. If there is anyone on the team as competitive as Woods, it’s DeChambeau, who had an excellent match-play record as an amateur, winning the 2015 U.S. Amateur and playing well for his country at the Walker Cup, Palmer Cup and World Amateur Team Championship.
Dustin Johnson-Brooks Koepka: The two gym buddies didn’t pair up until the final team session at Hazeltine. They lost to Rory McIlroy and Thomas Pieters in four-ball, 3 and 1, but showed some promise as a pairing. Johnson hasn’t played particularly well in Ryder Cups. Maybe competing alongside Koepka will spark something.
Phil Mickelson-Tony Finau: This will be Mickelson’s 12th straight Ryder Cup and at 48 years old, he doesn’t appear to have many more left as a player. He’s never won overseas, so he’ll be as motivated as ever to finally check that box off. Pairing him with the young and powerful Finau makes a lot of sense. The two played together at the Northern Trust a few weeks ago and Mickelson raved about Finau’s potential. Mickelson is also coming off a strong performance two years ago at Hazeltine, where he went 2-1-1.
Rickie Fowler-Justin Thomas: This is Thomas’ first Ryder Cup, but he isn’t the typical rookie, ranked fourth in the world and the defending PGA Tour Player of the Year. It’s no secret that he and Fowler are close, and their chemistry should produce results, especially in foursomes. They are similar players, possessing all-around games and gaining the most shots with their irons and putter.
Bubba Watson-Webb Simpson: This pairing worked very well in 2012 at Medinah, where the two went 2-1. They lost their opening session in 2014 and Simpson didn’t play again until singles. But Simpson is having his best season since 2012 – by a mile – and Watson, who has won three times this season, has regained some momentum of late. They could surprise in Paris.
Henrik Stenson-Justin Rose: Played three of four sessions together in 2016 – each of them opposite Spieth and Reed – and went 1-2, though their 5-and-4 Friday afternoon four-ball victory was mighty impressive. Also, they went 3-0 together at Gleneagles. This pairing is as safe a bet as any.
Rory McIlroy-Jon Rahm: McIlroy has seemed to embrace the role of taking a rookie under his wing after going 3-0 with Thomas Pieters at Hazeltine. Rahm is similar to Pieters on the course and McIlroy could help Rahm channel that passion into points.
Paul Casey-Tommy Fleetwood: Both players had some fun with the story of Fleetwood wanting to buy Casey’s extra set of Nike irons. And while it doesn’t look like Casey will loan the set to Fleetwood in Paris like he had joked about doing, the two Englishmen would make a nice pairing. Both are great iron players and similar personality types.
Ian Poulter-Tyrrell Hatton: Poulter’s great 2012 Ryder Cup showing came when he paired with Rose and McIlroy. However, after an 0-1-1 team performance in 2014 and not qualifying in 2016, Poulter likely needs a fresh partner. How about the fiery Hatton? The two teamed up to break a world record in a European Tour social video last year, and I could see Poulter as a perfect Ryder Cup role model for the emotional Hatton.
Alex Noren-Thorbjorn Olesen: I initially had Noren and Molinari teaming up, but felt that Sergio Garcia needed Molinari the most. Noren is a guy who could play with anyone. You never have to question his work ethic and though he and Olesen are rookies, they aren’t strangers to big moments. They also have similar games – Noren is a better driver of the golf ball, but they are pretty equal in other facets. Both putt it well, too.
Sergio Garcia-Francesco Molinari: Many of Garcia’s recent partners – Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer and Rafa Cabrera Bello – did not qualify. And while he paired with McIlroy three times in 2014, it seems as if McIlroy will again be tasked with motivating a rookie. Assuming that, it makes most sense to pair the struggling Garcia with a consistent presence like Molinari, who is a strong tee-to-green guy and proven on the Ryder Cup stage.
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 16, 2018
Jordan Spieth-Patrick Reed: What, I’m going to suggest breaking up this pair?? In seven Ryder Cup matches as a duo, Spieth and Reed have lost once – when the opposing team made nine birdies in 14 holes, no less. We know how electric and efficient this pairing is. No need to overthink this one.
Tiger Woods-Brooks Koepka: Look, I’m in no way against the TW-Bryson pairing that the vast majority are pointing toward (see above). Clearly the duo has rapport. But part of Woods’ surprisingly mediocre Ryder Cup record outside of singles is that it’s long been difficult to find him a comfortable partner. Partners being some form of intimidated or awestruck has played a role in that, in my opinion. DeChambeau would probably fall in the awestruck category. But Koepka wouldn’t. The evidence is right there from last month when Brooks was unfazed by a charging Tiger and won the PGA Championship. Koepka and Woods clearly have rapport as well (See: post-round greeting at the PGA) and man would their power, steely demeanors and games make up an intimidating pair for any European squad to come up against. This seems like a winning team on swagger alone.
Bryson DeChambeau-Webb Simpson: This would be a pairing that could sneak up on the Europeans and lull them into a false sense of security. Neither player flashes with booming drives, but both are incredibly efficient. I especially like them as a foursomes pairing, as DeChambeau is a supreme ball-striker and Simpson boasts an excellent short game.
Dustin Johnson-Justin Thomas: Yes, I’m breaking up “the gym buddies” pairing of DJ and Koepka. But I don’t see this as controversial in the least considering that pairing lost 3 and 1 (and it could’ve been easily worse) in their only Ryder Cup grouping. They did go 2-0 together at the Presidents Cup, but these two don’t have any semblance of the Spieth-Reed dominance in its results. Substituting Thomas in here keeps this as a fierce pairing of huge power hitters, so the intimidation is still real. Just have a feeling, too, that DJ and JT could mesh well as partners.
Phil Mickelson-Tony Finau: Who better to pair a Ryder Cup rookie bursting with talent than Lefty? Mickelson certainly knows what it’s like to be a hotshot young gun and has vast Ryder Cup experience, so he could serve as an extremely useful advisor in this pairing. I also think these two have like temperaments in that they like to think and play aggressive. They should fuel off each other, and with both in good form that is very dangerous for any opponent.
Bubba Watson-Rickie Fowler: You want Watson to feel comfortable, and he should with a friend and cool customer in Fowler. This group would have great chemistry, and if both are on form there may not be a team in this event that makes as many birdies.
Henrik Stenson-Justin Rose: That pairing that defeated Reed and Spieth with nine birdies in 14 holes? That would be Stenson and Rose, who demolished the pair 5 and 4 in that 2016 match. Overall, they are 4-2 together in the last two Ryder Cups and are as reliable a pair as any outside Spieth/Reed.
Rory McIlroy-Ian Poulter: This pairing has gone 1-0-1 in Ryder Cup competition. That win, if you recall, was the one that catalyzed the Miracle at Medinah in 2012, as Poulter birdied the final five holes in a Saturday afternoon four-ball match to give him and McIlroy a comeback 1-up win, cut the deficit to 10-6 and energize the Euros. McIlroy has really embraced playing the Ryder Cup with an outpouring of emotion and starred doing so in 2016. It’d be tough to find a more perfect pairing in that regard.
Paul Casey-Tommy Fleetwood: This would be similar to Stenson and Rose in the all-reliable mold. Fleetwood may be a rookie, but he has shown he can quickly get on track on big stages. Casey obviously has plenty of previous pedigree. This is not a duo you can fall asleep on for one second.
Jon Rahm-Tyrrell Hatton: This is probably my riskiest pairing choice, but it has high potential. These are both highly emotional young stars who could build off each others’ histrionics in the charged Ryder Cup atmosphere. Of course, there’s also the chance their incredible combination of emotion could lead to combustion. But it’s the Ryder Cup, go big or go home.
Alex Noren-Francesco Molinari: On the other side, this is the mellow pairing. Both players are stoic, like to play precise golf and tend to sneak under the radar. Together they make a dangerous and dangerously overlooked pairing.
Sergio Garcia-Thorbjorn Olesen: Remember when Garcia was a young up and comer who dominated in the Ryder Cup thanks in part to his incredible energy? Probably a good idea to pair the struggling Masters champion with someone who can bring back memories of that youthful exuberance. Rahm is a good candidate here then, but I like Olesen a little better. Rahm can get a little hard on himself, whereas Olesen can better provide that uplifting youthful energy that can help elevate Garcia. You also need someone in form here considering Garcia’s struggles, and Olesen is certainly that as he has four top-12 finishes in his last six starts.
CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. – Naming three of his four captain’s selections to round out his 2018 Ryder Cup squad, U.S. Captain Jim Furyk early Tuesday evening called upon the game’s hottest performer, the No. 2 putter on the PGA Tour this season and a 14-time major winner who has been the most dominant golfer of his generation.
Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods were selected by Furyk as additions to the U.S. team that will compete in the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National outside Paris Sept. 28-30.
Woods, 42, didn’t know if he’d even compete again a year ago at this time, and now he’s headed to Paris to play in the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2012. It will be his eighth Ryder Cup (he is 13-17-3 overall). Woods was asked if this could potentially be his most memorable of all.
With his three newest team members, Furyk added 126 PGA Tour victories to his team. Mickelson may be playing in his 12th Ryder Cup, but this was the first time he needed a captain’s pick to be part of it. DeChambeau and Thomas, the 2017 PGA champion and last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year, are the lone rookies on the U.S. team.
“I would have to say I’m extremely happy with the 11 players we have,” Furyk said. “(I’ve) got a lot of confidence in those players. I think we have some great chemistry. I think we have some great pairing opportunities. We’ve got some great veteran leadership and we’ve got some youth. It’s a well-rounded team, and we’ll go to work, get set to go.”
MORE: A look back at Tiger’s journey to captain’s pick
Woods already had been part of this team as a vice-captain, and though he won’t be shy to offer advice on the team and its pairings, he will relinquish that role now that he will be competing. Furyk named his final three assistants to join Davis Love III and Steve Stricker, adding David Duval, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
Furyk will round out his team by naming a 12th player on Monday morning, following the final round of the BMW Championship.
DeChambeau, who turns 25 on Sept. 16, captured The Memorial in June, but missed the cut at last month’s PGA Championship and finished ninth in the final Ryder Cup points standings. Faced with a challenge of showing his captain something special, DeChambeau rebounded with victories at The Northern Trust and Dell Technologies the last two weeks.
“Even after I won at Ridgewood, I still thought, ‘Man, I’ve got to play well at Boston just to show them that, yeah, I’m a contender and I’m going to keep doing the right things to be a valuable asset to the team,’ ” DeChambeau said. “This is about the team, and I wanted to be part of this experience so badly that I worked twice as hard. It showed, and it paid off.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 4, 2018
MORE: Social media reacts to Furyk’s picks
DeChambeau attended the Ryder Cup two years ago at Hazeltine as a spectator, leading then-U.S. Captain Davis Love III to do a double-take when he saw him in the gallery. This year’s captain, Furyk, said he was impressed not only that DeChambeau won back-to-back titles, but by the method in which he won.
“He took control and seized control of those tournaments and took big leads and was able to finish out tournaments,” Furyk said. “So I have to say, I guess, ‘Thanks’ – you made it really easy on the captain.”
As did the others, really. Woods was second at the PGA Championship, shooting 64 on Sunday. Mickelson, 48, won for the first time since the 2013 Open Championship when he outdueled Thomas in a playoff at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship in early March. He hasn’t posted a top-10 finish since the Wells Fargo Championship in May, but his play has been pretty consistent through the year. He has 11 finishes of T-15 or better in his 22 starts. His victory in Mexico was the 43rd of his career.
MORE: 9 final-day comebacks in Ryder Cup history
In addition to an incredible body of experience and his ability to lead, Mickelson can deliver something else this U.S. team could use: Quality putting. Mickelson ranks behind only Australian Jason Day this season in strokes gained: putting. In Monday’s final round of the Dell Technologies Championship, Mickelson holed 129 feet of putts.
Mickelson said he aims to accomplish something he never before has done in this event: Win away from the U.S.
“It’s going to be a great challenge because we know how strong the European side is and how well they play at home, but it’s a wonderful chance, an opportunity for us to do something I haven’t done or been a part of in my career, and would very much like to,” Mickelson said.
The three captain’s selections named by Furyk on Tuesday join eight players named after the PGA Championship who qualified for the team off a two-year points table: Brooks Koepka; Dustin Johnson; Justin Thomas; Patrick Reed; Bubba Watson; Jordan Spieth; Rickie Fowler; and Webb Simpson. Six of the 11 players are in their 20s, and all 11 players rank among the top 26 in the world (Woods is 26th).
One other dose of good news for Furyk on Tuesday was the return of Fowler to the PGA Tour after Fowler missed the first two FedEx Cup Playoffs events with a partial tear in his right oblique, an injury he first felt at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational prior to the PGA Championship. Fowler has been receiving treatment from a spinal neurosurgeon near home in Jupiter, Fla., and returned to practicing and playing at home last week.
The U.S. hasn’t won an away Ryder Cup since 1993, at The Belfry in England. European Captain Thomas Bjorn will round out his team on Wednesday, naming his four captain’s selections, and is expected to lean toward experience. Among his eight automatic qualifiers via two points lists – one a European list, one a World list – Bjorn already counts five rookies: Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen. Also on the team are seasoned Ryder Cup competitors Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy.
Said Furyk, “I have a lot of respect for Thomas and I have a lot of respect for the players that have qualified for the European Team, and I’ll be anxious to see who they pick tomorrow.”
There’s always a post-Wanamaker depression that sets in after the PGA Championship, the reality sinking in that the next major is some 250 days away in the spring. That is especially true this season, with Tiger Woods’ final-round surge instilling a rapture not felt in ages. But for those still coming down from that Bellerive bliss, fear not: The rest of the calendar has plenty still in store. From Tiger to the Ryder Cup to Jordan Spieth, here are seven storylines to follow during the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Tiger’s comeback continues
The comeback is real, and it is spectacular. Tiger demonstrated at Innisbrook, Bay Hill and Carnoustie that his game is in shape to compete with the game’s best; his runner-up at Bellerive, however, asserted Woods’ ceiling is higher than previously deemed. Better yet, as the season reaches the dog days of August, the 42-year-old has dispelled the idea he’s running on fumes.
Aside from Ridgewood, the venues on the postseason slate are tailored to Tiger’s game. Currently 20th on the FedEx Cup standings, Woods will have some latitude in the early rounds in pursuit of a spot in the Tour Championship at East Lake, but with hopes of solidifying his Ryder Cup candidacy (even though, come on, we all know Big Cat’s already on the roster), look for Woods to make a formidable run through the tour’s postseason.
Well, two; you’ll see Augusta National dye Rae’s Creek pink before Woods and Phil Mickelson are left off the team. That leaves Bryson DeChambeau (who finished ninth in points), Tony Finau, Kevin Kisner, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson among viable candidates. For what it’s worth, players and PGA of America officials at Bellerive maintained Kuchar is more in the running than fans believe.
There’s also the chance captain Jim Furyk rides the FedEx Cup Playoff’s hot hand, which is what facilitated Ryan Moore’s selection for the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2016. It proved to be the right call: Moore won two matches, including the clinching point, for the Americans at Hazeltine.
No matter the selections, there will be a wave of Monday quarterbacking on Furyk’s decisions, particularly if he goes with a veteran that hasn’t performed as of late. Furyk will announce three of his picks after the Dell Technologies Championship over Labor Day weekend, with the final slot filled at the BMW Championship’s conclusion, meaning DeChambeau, Kisner, Finau and the like will have opportunities to prove their merit.
GolfDigest : – Ryder Cup implications
– Player of the Year race
– Tiger Woods' next move
— Golf2Win (@Golf_2_Win) August 20, 2018
The Player of the Year race is over, right? Well …
Make no mistake, Brooks Koepka is the unequivocal favorite. That doesn’t mean he has this bad boy locked it up, even with his U.S. Open and PGA titles as well as runner-up finishes at the WGC-HSBC and Colonial.
If Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas—both with three wins and ahead of Koepka in the FEC—win two of the four postseason events, it might be enough to raise an argument. Three out of four instigates a full-blown discussion. (Bubba Watson also has three wins, but the two-time Masters champ has missed the cut in the last three majors, torpedoing any realistic hopes.) Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari, the year’s other major victors, could join this surge with multiple playoff wins as well.
These scenarios are far-fetched, and even if they transpire, Koepka likely still earns the nod. But a victory by Thomas or Johnson at Ridgewood will raise these questions—exactly the shot of late-season vitality the tour’s postseason aspired for when constructing the FEC a decade ago.
Can Spieth save a “lost” season?
In one breath, it’s hard to call a season “lost” when A) The guy comes this close to winning the Masters and B) Plays in the final pairing at the Open. Conversely, we measure our superstars by a different touchstone, and Spieth—who’s currently on the outside looking in at the Tour Championship—has fall shorten of his historical standards.
The short game has taken the brunt of the blame, and rightfully so: Spieth ranks 144th in strokes gained/putting on the season. It’s an astonishing figure for any top-flight player, but even more so considering Spieth ranked second in the category just two seasons ago. Just as concerning, however, has been a drop in iron performance, ranking 40th in approach this summer, a far cry from his work last year (ranking first) and during his two-major summer of 2015 (11th). For the putts to start dropping, Spieth will need to give himself better chances on the greens.
The good news is Ridgewood and Aronimink (site of the BMW Championship) set up well to Spieth’s strengths, and he logged a runner-up in Boston last September. By his standards, it won’t be a season to remember for Spieth. With a strong finish, he won’t have to make it one to forget.
A Rookie of the Year chase, without one of the favorites
Unless he wins the Wyndham Championship, Joaquin Niemann, despite owning enough points to comfortably advance to the Northern Trust, cannot compete in the FedEx Cup Playoffs due to his special temporary membership status. Significant because, if he does reach the postseason, Niemann would arguably be the frontrunner for rookie-of-the-year honors. (Update: He did not win in Greensboro. Niemann, however, has locked up his card for next season.)
Instead, this award likely comes down to Austin Cook and Aaron Wise. Since winning in the fall, Cook has been relatively quiet, although did have top-10s in Memphis and the Greenbrier. Wise had stellar back-to-back showings at Quail Hollow (T-2) and the Bryon Nelson (win); the ensuing schedule, unfortunately, has been tough sledding, with six missed cuts in seven appearances. Still, both have loads of talent, with the reserve not to be intimidated by their playoff debuts. Neither is a household entity yet; an energetic finish in the FEC can go ways in fixing that.
Architecture aficionados, rejoice!
For connoisseurs of course design, the past month has not been Christmas morning. That changes during the FEC thanks to:
• Ridgewood Country Club, a 27-hole A.W. Tillinghast design with its history including a Ryder Cup, U.S. Amateur and a handful of Barclays’ events. Gil Hanse’s team has done restoration work over the past couple of years, making Ridgewood as good as ever. Ridgewood features a mix of Tillinghast-eque bunker-guarded greens with the option to run it up on many holes. The rough is expected to be thicker than the last time the FEC visited, possibly leading to U.S. Open-like scoring.
• TPC Boston, while not beloved by players, produces plenty of red figures, and it’s various lines and contoured greens offer more set-up options and mind-sets than a rank-and-file tour course.
• Aronimink, another track that—we hope you’re sitting down—was restored by Hanse and his team. Set to host the 2027 PGA Championship, Aronimink has eliminated a ton of trees from the property, but its tight fairways and challenging par 4s—and Donald Ross greens—make it one of the Northeast’s toughest tests.
If you can’t get behind that lineup, you don’t have a pulse.
What’s up with Rory?
Similar to Spieth, this warrants a provision. After all, the four-time major winner just finished T-2 at Carnoustie last month, and, unlike Spieth, he’s won on the PGA Tour this season with his triumph at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
On the other hand, McIlroy’s game was such a mess at Bellerive that he hinted he was going to skip the first leg of the postseason to figure out what’s going on.
“I need to assess where I’m at, and I think the best thing for me to do right now is take a couple of days off and reflect on what I need to do going forward,” he said at the PGA Championship. “I’ll do some practice this week and see if I feel ready to go there and play five out of six weeks leading up to the Ryder Cup.” (Update: McIlroy appears to have made good on skipping the Northern Trust as his name is not included on the PGA Tour’s field list as of Monday.)
McIlroy won the FedEx Cup just two seasons ago, and does rank 11th in strokes gained this season. Nevertheless, his wedge game, or lack thereof, has rendered his prolific distance moot, and the putter, again, hasn’t bailed him out. McIlroy’s nearing a bit of a career crossroads. Tis postseason won’t define his legacy, but it can get him back on track.
ST. LOUIS — Brooks Koepka is a tough guy to miss. He’s the one with the million-dollar smile, steal-yo-girl biceps and the mightiest swing in golf. He’s built like Ben Watson, but he putts like Ben Crenshaw. The next time he’s rattled will be the first. He’s now won three of the past six majors he’s entered and joined some elite company in the three-major club (more on that in a minute).
And yet, despite all of that, I’m afraid somehow we have missed him.
Koepka held off — I can’t believe I’m typing these words — a 64 from Tiger Woods on Sunday at a major championship and hoisted yet another major trophy at the end of the week. After two bogeys in his first five holes, he played the final 13 flawlessly with five birdies and a closing 66 to win by two. All of this with Woods doing his thing ahead of him.
“You could hear the roars when we were on 10 and 11, and then you could kind of hear it trickle down as they changed the leaderboards all the way through,” said Koepka. “You could hear a different roar like every 30 seconds. So we knew what was going on. It’s pretty obvious when Tiger makes a birdie. I think everybody at the golf course cheers for him. I’m sure everyone is rooting for him.”
Tiger’s 64, though remarkable, wasn’t enough to catch Koepka. A 62 would have put him in a playoff. It would have taken a 61 from Big Cat for the outright win.
— PGA of America (@PGA) August 13, 2018
Brooks Koepka kind of flexed on Tiger Woods (of all people) on a Sunday at a major championship.
“I remember when I watched Adam win at the Players. I loved his golf swing. He’s got the best golf swing ever, I think. It’s so pretty to watch. He’s one of the nicest guys once you meet him, too. He really is,” Koepka said. “And then, I mean, Tiger for obvious reasons. As a kid growing up, that’s the whole reason that all of us, or people in my generation, are even playing golf was because of him. And to duel it out with them, it’s pretty neat. I don’t think I ever dreamed of that, that situation that I was in today.
“It really is surreal. It’s really cool.”
No category exists for a golfer whose four wins include three majors, all before his 30th birthday. We don’t know what to do with that. I’ll struggle to figure this out for the rest of 2018 and into 2019. It is irreconcilable that someone could win three of his first 20 major starts but only one of his first 80 non-major starts on the PGA Tour.
I suppose we should start with what we know:
And he didn’t even play this year’s Masters because of an injury.
“Three majors at 28,” said Koepka. “It’s a cool feeling. It really is. You know, hopefully I can stay healthy. I’ve kind of had some trouble with that over the past two years, three years, whatever it was. Missed the British [Open] and then to miss Augusta. You know, I think I’m much more disciplined now, so I should be able to play every major, making sure my body’s healthy.”
Maybe for now we can think of Koepka the way baseball thought of John Smoltz. The former Braves pitcher was terrific in the regular season. A Hall of Fame pitcher. And he was even better in the playoffs. It’s easy to deride athletes who show up big in big moments but don’t perform when the chips are up. Why don’t you do that all time? Even they struggle to explain it.
“For some reason, I can really tune in in the majors, and I have no idea why,” said Koepka earlier in the week. “They really get my attention.”
Now he has our attention. Koepka wasn’t hard to miss before. He clubs the ball and picks off trophies — big ones, not middling ones or plates or medals. He collects. He has done so at an historical rate thus far, and now we’re staring at a bizarre scenario in which Koepka could legitimately win as many or more majors than he does normal PGA Tour events.
“I would think [my game] suits the majors, having won three of the last six I’ve played in. So I guess [it] suits them. Need to figure out Augusta a little bit, haven’t quite had the results there that I’ve had elsewhere. But this golf course set up beautifully for me,” Koepka said. “I’m looking forward to the next few years. If I can stay healthy and actually show up to a major, I feel like I’ve got a good chance.”
In some ways, this is fitting. Koepka’s game is as impossible as his resume. He pounds the horizon with his fists and then releases preposterous chip shots with the delicateness of a man half his size. It doesn’t compute that the man who led the PGA Championship in driving distance and finished second from tee to green would also finish top 20 in putting. That’s not a fluke, either. It’s who he is, and it’s a harbinger for what the future looks like, too.
“I’m excited for the next few years,” said Koepka. “As fans, like, I’m a fan of golf. You should be excited. I mean, Tiger’s come back. You look at what Dustin’s doing, Justin [Thomas], Rory, Spieth … I mean, it’s a great time to be a golf fan. I can’t wait to duel it out with them.”
ST. LOUIS — The PGA Championship is the year’s final major. But there’s still plenty to be decided in golf. Justin Thomas, who won Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and is the defending PGA champion this week at Bellerive, has three wins. So do Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. Justin Rose and Jason Day, meanwhile, have two victories this season. The year’s first three major winners were Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari.
So, who will be the player of the year?
The Wanamaker Trophy is far more significant a prize, of course, but any of the aforementioned players hoisting it would be a defining mark on a tremendous season, and give said player a leg up on the honor.
Here’s a breakdown of the candidates so far.
Justin Thomas: Though his win Sunday was his first since February it came on a difficult Firestone course, much the way his previous victory took place on a tough PGA National course at the Honda Classic, which he won in a playoff over Luke List. Thomas’ other victory came last fall at the inaugural CJ Cup in Korea—also in a playoff, over Marc Leishman.
Dustin Johnson: His three wins came in Maui, Memphis and Canada. They also were the most impressive among the group in terms of margin of victory. Johnson won at Kapalua by eight, TPC Southwind by six and Glen Abbey by three. The top-ranked played in the world, he also has missed just one cut in 15 starts, has two runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes, and has finished in the top 10 a staggering 10 times in 15 starts. By comparison, Thomas has seven top-10s in three more starts.
Bubba Watson: Like Johnson, Watson’s victories came on a differing tracks with wins at Riviera and TPC River Highlands, bookended around his title at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club. Watson however has just two other top-10s.
Justin Rose: The WGC-HSBC Champions and Fort Worth Invitational were Rose’s two victories on the PGA Tour this season, but he also won in Turkey and Indonesia and rose to as high as No. 2 in the world before Thomas supplanted this past weekend. In 13 total starts in 2018, Rose has five top-10s.
Jason Day: If it seems like Day has barely played this year it’s because he has. The Aussie has made just a dozen starts but has won two of them, at Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow. He has just three other top-10 finishes, though.
In terms of major performance, Johnson and Rose have the better resumes. Johnson tied for 10th at the Masters and third at the U.S. Open, while Rose finished in the top 10 in both Opens, including a runner-up at Carnoustie.
But there’s still one more major to go.
Still looking to make sense of the madness that took place Sunday afternoon at Carnoustie? Here are a few significant digits (metric system, this week) that you’re welcome to borrow the rest of the week.
0 — Number of bogeys Francesco Molinari made in his final 37 holes, nearly unthinkable given the pitfalls that await during every trip ’round Carnoustie, among the hardest links courses in the world.
1 — Number of Italian major champions as of 6:53 p.m. in Carnoustie, the moment Molinari officially became the British Open champion.
2 — Finishing position of Rory McIlroy, who put on a late charge after a rough Sunday start. It was the first major championship runner-up finish of McIlroy’s career
2.5 — Number of years Molinari plans to play until retirement, according to a hilarious list compiled by fellow Tour pro Wesley Bryan.
5 — Number of top-five finishes in Molinari’s last six starts; wins at the BMW Championship and Quicken Loans National plus runner-up finishes at the John Deere and the Italian Open had him red-hot entering this week.
6 — Players tied for the lead at one point during a rollicking back nine
7 — Number of different players that held a share of the lead on Sunday.
15 — Number of birdies made by Sam Locke, the 19-year-old Scottish amateur golfer (and professional barista). Only nine players made more birdies than Locke, who earned low am honors but was undone with a back-nine 42 on Sunday and slipped to a share of 75th.
27 — Number of players who finished under par for the week, up from 2007 at Carnoustie (19) and way up from 1999 (0).
30 — Spots that Eddie Pepperell jumped on Sunday after a final-round 67 left him as the early clubhouse leader despite being, as he said, “a little hungover.”
35 — Molinari’s age; he’s the youngest major winner since Sergio Garcia at the 2017 Masters and continues a trend of older British Open winners. Only three Open winners have been 32 or younger since 2007.
50 — Tiger Woods’s projected World Ranking after finishing T6; good enough to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone in two weeks.
82 — The highest score of Sunday’s final round belonged to Zander Lombard, a relatively unknown South African who fell from the edge of contention to a share of 67th after a 40-42 effort on Sunday. His was the only final-round score in the 80s.
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Jordan Spieth returned the Claret Jug on Monday. His bid to regain golf’s oldest title will begin at 4:58 a.m. ET on Thursday. Spieth will play alongside Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat in one of the star-studded groups at Carnoustie.
The northern-most course in The Open’s rota also is the most difficult. “Car-Nasty” rewards the game’s best players, though. Five of the seven winners here on the coast of the North Sea are in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and another Carnoustie champion, Padraig Harrington, seems a sure-fire inductee.
Here’s a closer look at some of the other groups that will draw the lion’s share of the eyeballs here in Scotland. (Note: FedExCup ranking in parentheses; all times Eastern; all groups start on No. 1).
Phil Mickelson (8), Satoshi Kodaira (70), Rafa Cabrera Bello (64): Mickelson won this season’s World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, his first win since hoisting the Claret Jug in 2013. Kodaira earned his first PGA TOUR victory at this year’s RBC heritage, while Cabrera Bello has three top-10s this season.
Tee times: 3:03 a.m. on Thursday; 8:04 a.m. on Friday.
Si Woo Kim (41), Webb Simpson (11), Nicola Hojgaard (NR): The past two PLAYERS champions are paired for the first two rounds at Carnoustie. Simpson won this year’s PLAYERS by four shots. It was his first victory since the 2013 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. They’re playing alongside Danish amateur Nicola Hojgaard.
Tee time: 3:25 a.m. on Thursday; 8:26 a.m. on Friday.
Justin Rose (4), Jordan Spieth (40), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (NR): Rose won earlier this season at another course dubbed Hogan’s Alley. He displayed impressive iron play in winning the Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial. He also won this season’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions. Spieth will try to solve his putting woes at the event of his most recent PGA TOUR victory. Aphibarnrat recently accepted Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR after finishing T5 in two World Golf Championships (Mexico Championship, Dell Technologies Match Play).
Tee times: 4:58 a.m. on Thursday; 9:59 a.m. on Friday.
Jon Rahm (14), Rickie Fowler (16), Chris Wood (NR): This group features two of the top 20 players in the FedExCup, and two players hungry for their first major. Rahm won this season’s CareerBuilder Challenge. Fowler, the 2015 PLAYERS champion, has two runners-up this season (OHL Classic at Mayakoba, Masters). England’s Wood has two top-5 finishes at The Open.
Tee times: 5:09 a.m. on Thursday; 10:10 a.m. on Friday.
Louis Oosthuizen (75), Paul Casey (12), Patrick Reed (7): Reed rides a string of three consecutive top-four finishes in majors into The Open Championship. He finished second at last year’s PGA before winning the Masters and finishing fourth at the U.S. Open. Casey won this season’s Valspar Championship for his second PGA TOUR victory. Oosthuizen won the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews and lost in a playoff to Zach Johnson when The Open returned there in 2015.
Tee times: 5:20 a.m. on Thursday; 10:21 a.m. on Friday.
Henrik Stenson (43), Tommy Fleetwood (32), Jimmy Walker (53): In 2016, Stenson added The Open Championship to a sterling resume that already included THE PLAYERS Championship and FedExCup. Fleetwood is coming off a runner-up at Shinnecock Hills that included a final-round 63, while Walker was runner-up at this year’s THE PLAYERS.
Tee times: 7:31 a.m. on Thursday; 2:30 a.m. on Friday.
Rory McIlroy (39), Marc Leishman (20), Thorbjorn Olesen (NR): McIlroy returns to a course where he won the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He was in third place after shooting 68 in the first round of the 2007 Open before finishing 42nd. McIlroy won The Open in 2014 and added the FedExCup two years later. He and Leishman represent the past two champions of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, as well. Leishman was part of the three-man playoff won by Zach Johnson in the 2015 Open at St. Andrews. Olesen is coming off a recent victory at the Italian Open.
Tee time: 7:53 a.m. on Thursday; 2:52 a.m. on Friday.
Dustin Johnson (1), Alex Noren (31), Charley Hoffman (102): The FedExCup leader is playing with a Presidents Cup teammate and a potential Ryder Cup foe. Johnson has won twice this season, an eight-shot victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and six-shot win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He is coming off the disappointment of losing a four-shot lead at the halfway point of the U.S. Open, though. Noren is playing his first season as a PGA TOUR member. He was a runner-up in a playoff to Jason Day at the Farmers Insurance Open. He recently won the French Open.
Tee times: 8:04 a.m. on Thursday; 3:03 a.m. on Friday.
Justin Thomas (2), Francesco Molinari (27), Branden Grace (74): The reigning FedExCup champion is playing alongside one of the game’s hottest players and the man who shot a record-setting round last year at Royal Birkdale. Thomas is second in this season’s FedExCup standings thanks to wins at the CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES and The Honda Classic. Molinari has two wins and two runners-up in his past five starts, with a T25 at Shinnecock Hills sandwiched in between. He picked up his first PGA TOUR win at the Quicken Loans National before finishing second in last week’s John Deere Classic. Grace shot 62 in last year’s Open Championship, the lowest round in major championship history.
Tee times: 8:26 a.m. on Thursday; 3:25 a.m. on Friday.
Sergio Garcia (128), Bryson DeChambeau (6), Shubankar Sharma (NR): Garcia returns to the site of one of several heartbreaking finishes that preceded his win in last year’s Masters. He missed a 10-foot par putt on the final hole here in 2007 before losing a playoff to Harrington. Garcia needs some good results to avoid missing the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time. DeChambeau, who’s in the middle of a breakout season that includes a victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, withdrew from his title defense at last week’s John Deere Classic because of a shoulder injury. Sharma turned heads after holding the 54-hole lead at this year’s World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.
Tee times: 10:10 a.m. on Thursday; 5:09 a.m. on Friday.
Ian Poulter (34), Cameron Smith (44), Brooks Koepka (13): Koepka, the first back-to-back U.S. Open champion in nearly three decades, will try to claim a different Open. He’s joined by England’s Poulter, who won this season’s Houston Open. Cameron Smith won last season’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Jonas Blixt.
Tee times: 9:59 a.m. on Thursday; 4:58 a.m. on Friday.
Tiger Woods (50), Hideki Matsuyama (81), Russell Knox (73): The local favorite will play alongside the 14-time major champion. Russell Knox, fresh off a victory at the Irish Open and runner-up at the French Open, is looking to become the first Scot to win The Open since Paul Lawrie won at Carnoustie in 1999. Knox’s Irish Open victory was his first since his dramatic win at the Travelers Championship in 2016. Carnoustie is the closest Open venue to his hometown of Inverness, which is three hours away. Woods, a three-time Open champion, has finished T7 and T12 in two Opens at Carnoustie, a course he has competed on since playing the Scottish Open as an amateur. Matsuyama, who has won five times over the previous four seasons, is in the midst of his first winless season since 2015. He won three times last season to finish eighth in the FedExCup.
Tee times: 10:21 a.m. on Thursday; 5:20 a.m. Eastern on Friday.
SOURCE: PGA Tour
Movement — and plenty of it — highlights the PGA Tour’s upcoming 2018-19 wraparound season.
Start with The Players Championship, the Tour’s flagship event, which moves back to March from its May spot. The PGA Championship, for decades the last major of the year, moves to May. And the FedExCup Playoffs, shortened from four to three events, moves so it will finish by the end of August and before the beginning of the NFL and college football seasons.
And two events — the Houston Open and A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier — are moving to the fall and will be played next as part of the 2019-20 season.
The Tour released the schedule of 46 events on Tuesday.
“We are extremely pleased with the way the schedule has come together, particularly with the number of changes that were involved and the strength of the partnerships required to achieve this new look,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a news release.
“By concluding at the end of August, the FedExCup Playoffs no longer have the challenge of sharing the stage with college and professional football. This will enhance the visibility of the FedExCup Playoffs. We have created a schedule that will heighten interest in all tournaments while further elevating the FedExCup Playoffs.”
The Playoffs are now three events and will be played in consecutive weeks. The annual Boston stop, which played as the second postseason event the first 11 years of the Playoffs, is moving starting in 2020 into an every other year rotation with the New York area, which has annually hosted the first event.
Next season the Playoffs will start with the Northern Trust on Aug. 8-11 in New Jersey, move to Medinah Country Club in Chicago the following week and end in Atlanta at East Lake Golf Club Aug. 22-25.
Significant scheduling challenges await the game’s best players as they look to peak for the sport’s biggest events and arrange for proper rest.
With the revamped schedule, there is an eight-week stretch that includes the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship Feb. 21-24, The Players Championship March 14-17, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play March 27-31 and the Masters April 11-14. The other four events in this stretch are important to the players, too — the Honda Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Valspar Championship and Valero Texas Open.
Two of the season’s most popular events precede the eight-week stretch — the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. And the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links once again is the week after the Masters and has annually been a big hit with players looking to decompress after the first major of the year.
There’s also a six-week stretch that begins July 18-21 with the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. The following week the last WGC event of the season, which is now moving from Akron to Memphis and will be called the FedEx St. Jude Invitational, will be played. The next week is the Wyndham Championship, the last spot for players to earn a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs. And then you have the playoffs.
Exciting changes await.
Check out the changes to the revamped 2018-19 PGA TOUR season schedule. https://t.co/b0jbXcYcvm
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 10, 2018
Other significant changes include the addition of two new events. The Rocket Mortgage Classic will be the first PGA Tour event held in Detroit from June 27-30 and will be followed by the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities July 4-7.
The RBC Canadian Open moves from its traditional spot in late July to June 6-9, the week ahead of the U.S. Open.
The season begins the week after the 2018 Ryder Cup in France. The Safeway Open in Napa, California, is Oct. 4-7 and kicks off a seven-week, eight-tournament fall stretch before the Tour takes a break in late November.
The schedule resumes the first week of January in Hawaii with the Aloha State two-step — the Sentry Tournament of Champions Jan. 3-6 and the Sony Open in Hawaii Jan. 10-13.
Oct. 1-7: Safeway Open, Silverado Resort and Spa (North Course), Napa, Calif.
Oct. 8-14: CIMB Classic, TPC Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Oct. 15-21: The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, Jeju Island, South Korea
Oct. 22-28: World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai
Oct. 22-28: Sanderson Farms Championship, Country Club of Jackson, Jackson, Miss.
Oct. 29-Nov. 4: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas
Nov. 5-11: Mayakoba Golf Classic, El Camaleon Golf Club at the Mayakoba Resort, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Nov. 12-18: The RSM Classic, Sea Island Resort (*Seaside Course, Plantation Course), St. Simons Island, Ga.
Dec. 31-Jan. 6: Sentry Tournament of Champions, Kapalua Resort (The Plantation Course), Hawaii
Jan. 7-13: Sony Open in Hawaii, Waialae Country Club, Honolulu
Jan. 14-20: CareerBuilder Challenge, PGA WEST (*Stadium Course, Nicklaus Tournament Course); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif.
Jan. 21-27: Farmers Insurance Open, Torrey Pines Golf Course (*South Course, North Course), San Diego
Jan. 28-Feb. 3: Waste Management Phoenix Open, TPC Scottsdale (Stadium Course), Scottsdale, Ariz.
Feb. 4-10: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, *Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore Course), Pebble Beach, Calif.
Feb. 11-17: Genesis Open, The Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Feb. 18-24: World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, Club de Golf Chapultepec, Mexico City
Feb. 18-24: Puerto Rico Open, Coco Beach Golf & Country Club
Feb. 25-March 3: The Honda Classic, PGA National Resort & Spa (The Champion Course), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
March 4-10: Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Orlando
March 11-17: The Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass (THE PLAYERS Stadium Course), Ponte Vedra Beach, Calif.
March 18-24: Valspar Championship, Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf and Spa Resort (Copperhead Course), Palm Harbor, Fla.
March 25-31: World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, Austin Country Club, Texas
March 25-31: Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, Puntacana Resort & Club (Corales Golf Course), Dominican Republic
April 1-7: Valero Texas Open, TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks Course)
April 8-14: Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
April 15-21: RBC Heritage, Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, SC
April 22-28: Zurich Classic of New Orleans, TPC Louisiana
April 29-May 5: Wells Fargo Championship, Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte
May 6-12: AT&T Byron Nelson, Trinity Forest Golf Club, Dallas
May 13-19: PGA Championship, Bethpage State Park (Black Course), Bethpage, NY
May 20-26: Charles Schwab Challenge, Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth
May 27-June 2: the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide,
Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio
June 3-9: RBC Canadian Open, Hamilton Golf & Country Club, Hamilton, Ontario
June 10-16: U.S. Open, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.
June 17-23: Travelers Championship, TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, CT
June 24-30: Rocket Mortgage Classic, Detroit Golf Club
July 1-7: 3M Open, TPC Twin Cities, Blaine, Minn.
July 8-14: John Deere Classic, TPC Deere Run, Silvis, Ill.
July 15-21: The Open Championship, Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland
July 15-21: Barbasol Championship, Keene Trace Golf Club (Champions Trace), Nicholasville, Ky.
July 22-28: World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational,
TPC Southwind, Memphis
July 22-28: Reno-Tahoe Tournament, Montrêux Golf and Country Club, Reno
July 29-Aug. 4: Wyndham Championship, Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, NC
Aug. 5-11: The Northern Trust, Liberty National Golf Club, Jersey City, NJ
Aug. 12-18: BMW Championship, Medinah Country Club (Course No. 3), Medinah, Ill.
Aug. 19-25: Tour Championship, East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Brooks Koepka made his high school golf team at Wellington Christian in South Florida at the precocious age of 12. On the drive home from his first match, after shooting a 41 for nine holes, young Brooks informed his parents of his life plan: he was going to drop out of school in about four years and turn pro.
Bob Koepka pulled the car to the side of the road and supplied an immediate reality check.
“You’re going to go to high school,” Bob told Brooks. “You’re going to college. And then if you’re good enough, you can turn pro.”
The car pullover lecture is a quintessential Dad Move, and Bob Koepka told the story of it Sunday evening while enjoying the best Father’s Day of his life. He told the story not far from the 18th green at Shinnecock Hills, where he hugged his son when he walked off with a second straight U.S. Open. His boy went to high school, went to college (Florida State), and now has become the first repeat Open champion since Curtis Strange in 1988-89.
Bob and Brooks’ stepmom, Sherry, missed last year’s victory at Erin Hills, watching it on TV at home when they couldn’t find lodging within 30 miles of the course. They weren’t going to miss this one.
“He’s the one who got me started in golf,” Brooks said. “It’s so cool to have him here this week.”
They were present to see “Back-to-Back Brooks” live out the lesson Bob delivered on the side of the road 16 years ago: One step at a time.
There was no shortcut to pro golf at age 16, and there are no shortcuts to winning a U.S. Open. Especially this U.S. Open, on a merciless course that refused to allow a single golfer to break par for the tournament. Grandiose visions of a birdie avalanche are a waste of time. Winning at Shinnecock required laser focus on finding fairways, hitting greens and rolling putts, one hole after another.
“Keep parring it to death,” Koepka said.
If pars lack flair, well, so does Koepka. He’s as emotional as a fish on the course.
“He has the perfect demeanor for what he does,” Sherry Koepka said.
Parring the course to death was a markedly different approach to last year’s Open, when Erin Hills rolled over and played dead. Koepka shot 16-under par there, a heretical number in a championship that traditionally mauls the golfers.
Winning a second straight Open is wildly impressive, something accomplished only by Koepka, Strange and Ben Hogan since the 1930s. Winning a second straight Open in a completely different manner than the first one is a stamp of greatness for the 28-year-old Koepka.
When he won in 2017, plenty of people downplayed the victory as the result of an overly compliant course. That was music to his ears.
“I always feel like I’m overlooked,” he said afterward. “I couldn’t care less. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Said Bob: “He knows how to put that little chip on his shoulder. Anytime you put a challenge in front of him, he has a way of stepping up.”
There is no downplaying this Open title, no dismissing it as a product of a gimmicky course. Shinnecock dismissed Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth on Friday, provoked Phil Mickelson to break the rules on Saturday and then bowed down to Brooks Koepka on Sunday.
It sure didn’t look like this repeat would happen earlier this year. Wrist surgery put Koepka on the shelf for four months. Missing the Masters in April made him realize how much he missed playing.
Being ignored by many of his colleagues made it worse. Koepka said the only players who reached out to him while he was off the tour were Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Mickelson.
“Those are the only guys that texted me,” he said. “You make a lot of friends out here, and you feel like a lot of them, you just get forgotten.”
He was gone, forgotten – but hardly done. Remarkably, his swing was in tune from the first moment he was cleared to hit balls. There was scant rust to scrape off. Koepka missed the cut in his first tournament back, made the weekend in his second, then finished tied for 11th at The Players Championship in mid-May.
At that point, he figured he was ready to win again. But in the early stages of the second round here, Koepka looked like one of the least likely candidates to win.
He opened with a 75, putting him six shots behind the leaders heading into Friday. Then Koepka bogeyed two of his first four holes, floated to seven-over par, and was flirting with missing the cut.
Then it turned. Koepka played the rest of that round in six-under par, soaring up the leaderboard and into contention. Still, he was five shots behind 2016 Open champion, world No. 1 golfer and close friend Johnson.
In the Shinnecock media tent, the coronation of Johnson was underway Friday. He led by four shots and made it look easy while everyone else was flailing. The only problem is that Johnson’s game skipped the weekend — he shot 77 Saturday to come back to the field, and 70 Sunday.
Koepka and Johnson played together Sunday — two strong, silent types who might be the most physically impressive players on the Tour. They hit the gym together Sunday morning for a workout — then barely spoke during their round together.
“We’re both competitive,” Koepka said.
While Johnson started with four straight pars, running in place, Koepka birdied three of the first five holes to take a lead he would never relinquish. He had his game face on.
“My wife always says, ‘He’s got that Koepka look,’ ” Bob Koepka said. “He carries himself with a ton of confidence.”
Through 10 holes Sunday, Koepka had the look of a winner. Then things got rocky, and he had to save himself. A bad tee shot on the par-3 11th hole wound up over the green, down the hill and in gnarly rough.
“I would have taken double from there,” he said. “That was jail.”
He got out with a light sentence. Koepka purposefully hit the comebacker hard to make sure the ball didn’t roll back down the hill, and it wound up in a bunker on the other side of the green. He blasted to 12½ feet, then rolled in the first of a succession of clutch putts.
A six-footer for par salvaged the 12th hole, and then he drained an eight-footer for another par on 14. By this time, Tommy Fleetwood had been in the clubhouse with a 63 and was lurking just a shot behind — but Koepka never let him get a tie for the lead.
After a birdie on 16, Koepka had the cushion he needed. All that remained was to navigate the last two holes, then walk off into the embrace of his dad.
It had been some week for Bob and Sherry Koepka, who arrived in New York on June 9 and went to Belmont Park to see Justify win the Triple Crown. Then they hunkered down on Long Island to see their son make some sporting history of his own.
After Bob held court with a few reporters near the Shinnecock clubhouse, he thanked them for their time. Before heading to the trophy presentation, he offered one last thought.
“I hope you guys have a happy Father’s Day,” Bob Koepka said. “I think I’m one-up on you.”
SOURCE: Yahoo Sports