LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Ryan Moore and Adam Schenk both finished with 14 points in bogey-free rounds on Thursday to share the lead after the first round of the Barracuda Championship.
Moore curled in a 20-foot birdie putt on his final hole of the PGA Tour event in Truckee, California, which uses a modified Stableford scoring format.
Players receive eight points for albatross, five for eagle, two for birdie, zero for par, minus-one for bogey and minus-three for double bogey or worse.
Robert Streb, Seamus Power and Patrick Rodgers were tied for third with 11 points.
J.J. Spaun was another point back with Cameron Percy, Branden Grace, Peter Uihlein, Maverick McNealy, Kevin Tway and Emiliano Grillo.
McDowell eyes dose of confidence
MIAMI (AFP) — Graeme McDowell is hoping a return to the Corales Puntacana resort, where he ended a near-four year title drought last year, will jumpstart his game.
“My game needs that little injection of confidence anyway,” McDowell admitted this week as he prepared to tee off Thursday in the US PGA Tour event in the Dominican Republic.
The 2010 US Open winner struggled mightily at the US Open at Winged Foot last week, missing the cut after shooting an 80 in the second round.
The 41-year-old expected a vastly different challenge this week.
“As opposed to the US Open last week, this is going to be about making some birdies,” McDowell said.
“Fifteen- or 20-under par to win down here.”
“It’s about taking advantage of the opportunities that this course gives you if you drive it well and get aggressive with your iron play.”
“And I really putted well here last year, so if I can kind of get the putter ramped back up, enjoy these greens again, I’ll hopefully have a good weekend.”
McDowell fired a three-under final round of 69 for a 19-under total and a one-shot win over American Chris Stroud and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes last year.
It was his first US PGA Tour title since the Mayakoba Classic in 2015.
“The win last year was pivotal for me and it really kicked me on into the sort of latter part of last year where I played pretty well,” McDowell said.
He won a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia to start the 2020 season and was playing well before Covid-19 brought the game to a halt.
McDowell admitted the lengthy break “derailed me a little bit.
“But that’s just one of those things,” he said. “It’s derailing a lot of people in a lot of ways all over the world, so I’m certainly not going to sit here and kind of be resentful.”
It’s been a different atmosphere as golf returned to action, with spectators largely banned in a bid to prevent any surge in coronavirus cases.
McDowell acknowledged it had been hard to adjust, and he was delighted that a limited number of spectators were to be allowed in designated hospitality areas this week.
“I’ve missed the old environment a little bit and perhaps this will give me a little bit of a taste of the old stuff again and maybe straighten me back out and maybe get me back on some leaderboards again,” he said.
Can Augusta cope with the ‘Incredible Bulk?’
HONG KONG (AFP) — Bryson DeChambeau dismantled one of golf’s most feared courses to win his maiden major title at the US Open, raising concerns about what he might do to Augusta when the Masters rolls around in November.
DeChambeau, bulked-up from a regime of weight training and protein shakes during the coronavirus lockdown, brutalised Winged Foot with a singular strategy that upset the purists and prompted soul-searching among the golfing establishment.
Tossing convention out of the window, the 27-year-old eschewed accuracy in favor of smashing his drives for pure distance — hitting just four of his last 21 fairways — and relying on his new-found strength to muscle recovery shots out of deep rough.
Together with rock-solid putting, the result was a six-shot triumph, with DeChambeau the only player to shoot below par in the final round on Sunday.
The fact that it came at a course famed for 1974’s “Massacre at Winged Foot” and the 2006 meltdowns of Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie — when Geoff Ogilvy won with a five-over-par total — underlined the feeling that this could be a game-changer.
“I don’t really know what to say because that’s just the complete opposite of what you think a US Open champion does,” said a flabbergasted Rory McIlroy, a four-time major winner.
DeChambeau, a physics major, has long prided himself on the analytical approach that has earned him the nickname “Mad Scientist.”
He’s known for cutting his irons and wedges to the same length, floating his balls in Epsom salt to discover their lighter and heavier sides, and even writing backwards and left-handed to improve his fine motor skills.
For the Masters, Dechambeau, dubbed the ‘Incredible Bulk’ since his physical transformation, is planning to add another 10 pounds (five kilos) of muscle and is considering using an outsized, 48-inch driver.
The danger for the sport’s hierarchy is that DeChambeau repeats his success at Augusta, which suits long hitters and has little rough, forcing them to change the rules or equipment to stop golf turning into a driving contest.
But DeChambeau warned: “It’s tough to rein in athleticism. We’re always going to be trying to get fitter, stronger, more athletic.”
“Tiger (Woods) inspired this whole generation to do this and we’re going to keep going after it. I don’t think it’s going to stop.”
Six of the worst
While DeChambeau was turning heads at Winged Foot, New Zealand’s Danny Lee was losing his.
After an increasingly irate six-putt on the final hole of his third round, Lee slammed his putter into his bag and hurled it into the turf, before withdrawing with a wrist injury.
“The most likely cause for a sore wrist would have been the 30-year-old smashing his putter into his bag as he stormed off the green,” quipped New Zealand’s Stuff website.
Lee’s quintuple bogey left him 13 over for the tournament — no disgrace on a course that has been the undoing of many a player — but it was his fit of pique that drew negative attention.
“Danny Lee is in danger of being permanently tagged with the label no professional sportsperson desires — quitter,” Stuff’s opinion piece added.
“Bad loser? Well, that’s been thrown at him too.”
To his credit, South Korean-born Lee issued an apology calling his actions “foolish and very unprofessional.”
“My frustration took over me and combined with injury I had to fight with it all week,” he said.
“It is still just an excuse. I shouldn’t have left like that.”
Women’s tennis world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty has been without her coach for most of the year due to Australia’s coronavirus restrictions, leaving her at something of a loose end.
Not one to mope around the house, the reigning French Open champion has been out on the golf course, where she showed her skills by winning the women’s title at the Greg Norman-designed Brookwater Golf Club near Brisbane.
“Is there anything you can’t do?” asked a social media user of Barty, who famously took a break from tennis to play cricket for Brisbane Heat in the 2015-16 Women’s Big Bash League.
Australian media said Barty had slashed her handicap from 10 to four while playing rounds with fellow Grand Slam winner Pat Rafter and her boyfriend Garry Kissick.
Last December, the multi-talented Aussie even upstaged 15-time major-winner Tiger Woods by finding the green at her first attempt in a demonstration event before the Presidents Cup in Melbourne.
Ardina, Guce play at Symetra
I was excited to win my second Symetra Tour tournament last year.
Dottie Ardina, fresh from a joint 42nd place in the Cambia Portland Classic, joins compatriot Clariss Guce in the sixth stop of the Symetra Tour — the annual IOA Golf Classic presented by HomeValue.com starting Friday at the Alaqua Country Club in Longwood, California.
The LPGA Tour takes a one-week break as Ardina and Guce resume their campaign in the second-tier tour.
The IOA Golf Classic stakes $150,000 with the winner taking home $22,500.
Defending champion Marta Sanz Barrio of Spain is not in the field. She finished 13th in the 2019 Volvik Race for the Card with $67,244.
“I was excited to win my second Symetra Tour tournament last year. I have some great memories and have always had a nice and fun week in Longwood,” Sanz Barrio said. “I am very thankful that IOA has continued putting all their efforts into supporting the Road to the LPGA and women’s golf, especially during such uncertain times.”
Before bringing her game to the LPGA, Ardina and Guce campaigned extensively in the Symetra Tour.
Ardina, 26, has 17 career Top 10 finishes with earnings of $190,527.
Guce, on the other hand, has won twice on the tour and finished in the Top 10 11 times for a career earnings of $129,059.
Bianca Pagdanganan, the other Filipina in the LPGA Tour, opted to stay home.
Virus closes 3 Baguio courses
BAGUIO CITY — All three golf clubs in the city have closed their courses indefinitely following new cases of coronavirus cases involving personnel and guests.
The Pineswoods Golf and Country Club stopped its operations after one of its guests who played over the weekend tested positive.
Baguio Country Club (BCC) also advised members of its indefinite closure after one of its caddies was found to have in close contact to a person who tested positive in their barangay.
“We assure everyone that contact tracing and proper health and safety protocols including disinfection and sanitation are already being implemented, as it is always our priority to protect our valued members, guests and employees,” the BCC announced.
Also shuttering its facilities was Camp John Hay which announced it through Viber.
“As a result of random testing conducted in conjunction with the city’s expanded testing efforts two caddies have tested positive. Therefore, Camp John Hay Golf Club will be closed until further notice to conduct contact tracing, continued disinfecting, and other appropriate activities. We exhort everyone to be even more vigilant in their practicing of suggested protocols as well ‘Heal as One’. Stay strong, stay safe,” Camp John Hay announced.
Tiger, Thomas edge Rory, Rose
In a closely-fought match that boiled down to the closest-to-the-pin competition, Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas edged European stars Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose during their 18-hole exhibition match at Payne’s Valley in Missouri Tuesday.
The Ryder Cup-style match was held in Woods’ new course design and featured six holes of four-ball, six of alternate shot and seven of singles play.
McIlroy and Rose won the four-ball portion to take a 1-0 lead after six holes, but Woods and Thomas took the next six holes to pull abreast, 1-1.
In singles play, Woods and Rose faced off while McIlroy and Thomas recreated their 2018 Ryder Cup match.
Rose nearly aced the 16 on his way to victory over Woods.
The McIlroy-Thomas match provided the highlight.
McIlroy touched the lip on three of their holes, left a chip 1 inch from falling and birdied the 18th, but still trailed Thomas by a hole going to the par-3 19th.
In his CBS Sports report, Kyle Porter wrote that “at one point, McIlroy joked that he was going to decline to give Thomas the ride home (think plane, not car) to Florida that Thomas was expecting.
Thomas birdied the 19th hole to clinch the match and force the tiebreaker.
The 19th is a cavernous hole surrounded by cliffs and water.
With legends Jack Nicklays and Garry Player watching, the foursome teed off and Thomas won it for their team by sticking his tee shot closest to the pin.
Porter wrote that “Thomas carried the day on television — as he often does — and Tiger’s first public course shined.”
All players had microphone clipped on their clothes so the viewers heard Rose and Woods talk about shafts, McIlroy and Thomas discuss pizza options.
No tournament, no problem for teen prodigy
I know that other players in the world are playing a lot of tournaments, and I have to prepare and get stronger.
Rianne Mikhaela Malixi is spending fewer hours on the golf course due to the coronavirus pandemic, but remains steadfast in her goal to be a world-class golfer someday.
The 13-year-old prodigy, the reigning national stroke play champion, has not played a tournament since placing runner-up to Abby Arevalo in the Philippine Ladies Amateur golf championship last February.
“I miss the pressure of tournament play very much,” said Rianne, who, despite the uncertain future, maintains a strict daily schedule.
“When I’m home for the day, I wake up at 5 or 6 a.m., work out and then school,” she said. “When I’m playing golf, I wake up at 4 a.m. and tee off around 6 or 6:30 a.m.”
Unfortunately, Rianne said she’s not playing as frequent as she did before the pandemic.
“It depends whether my dad has work or not. In a month, my dad has on and off work for 15 days,” she said.
Rianne said if her father does not report for work, they get to play thrice a week. If her father has work, she only gets to play once a week.
In a month, Rianne gets to play only eight rounds, a far cry from her punishing five-times-a-week schedule at the Royal Northwoods Golf and Country Club in San Rafael, Bulacan before the pandemic.
Without tournaments, Rianne said she motivates herself through self-discipline.
“I know that other players in the world are playing a lot of tournaments and I have to prepare and get stronger,” she said.
Standing five-foot-two and weighing 125 pounds, Rianne hits her driver about 250 yards, just about the same distance an average LPGA player does.
She said she has gotten stronger by 10 yards from last year and hopes to improve on it as she grows taller.
“I hope I can reach 5-5 at least. My father stands 5-10,” she said.
Rianne said she’s happy and proud for the exploits of Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan overseas, but admitted to feeling envious.
“It’s natural to feel a little jealous because they’re making a lot of progress abroad. So instead of feeling disappointed, I have to face reality and prepare too for the future,” she said.
Despite less time on the golf course, Rianne said she fights inactivity by doing household chores aside from attending to her school lessons and working out.
“I wash the dishes, mop, sweep, and vacuum the floor,” said Rianne who also sent a photo showing her and sister cleaning their father’s vehicle.
She works out in their mini-gym at home where she hits balls on the driving net and practices putting.
After the chores and workout, Rianne spends six hours attending to home school.
Rianne is also fond of sketching which she does on spare time and lately, has been trying to learn Japanese.
“I have been watching Japanese animation series, and it just irritates me that I don’t know the language and I have to read the subtitles,” Rianne explained why she wanted to learn Japanese.
She said she’s having fun although she’s still a long way to go in understanding the language.
“I still have to master three scripts in Japanese,” she said.
After a busy year wherein she competed in Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, United States, Vietnam, Japan and Malaysia, Rianne hasn’t gone out of the country.
She was supposed to take part in the Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific championship in Thailand and the ANA Jr. Inspiration amateur tournament in the US, both of which were canceled.
Normandy Sto. Domingo, Rianne’s swing coach, said her prized pupil hits the ball longer and has matured a lot as a golfer.
He said Rianne scores between two-under and even par off the blue tees at Northwoods, although he concedes that she may need to be tested consistently in tournaments.
“Of course, it is different when you play tournaments where you learn to deal with pressure,” he said.
Rianne was also supposed to make her fifth appearance in the IMG Junior World in San Diego, California where her best finish was runner-up to Chutimon Rujinaran of Thailand in the 11 to 12 age bracket last year.
She broke into national prominence that same year when she won the division in the FCG International 2019 in San Diego.
Now a member of the national pool, Rianne gets to play with her teammates at Luisita Golf Club in Tarlac.
But training has not been consistent because of the pandemic.
“I have played around 10 times in Luisita,” she said.
To make her practice rounds worthwhile, Rianne said she sets goals for herself.
“I challenge myself for improvement,” said Rianne who is used to playing alone.
“I wish the tournaments would resume as long as we follow safety protocols,” she said.
Among her golf heroes are Tiger Woods, Collin Morikawa, Daniella Kang and Saso, her teammate with the Pradera Verde golf team that dominated the PAL Ladies Interclub in Davao two years ago.
Rianne said she still remembers the advice she got from Saso who now has won two titles in the Japan LPGA.
“There was a situation that I had been hooking my shot a lot. She just told me to adjust and aim right of the target,” she said.
Adjustment. That’s what Rianne has been doing to survive the pandemic.
3 Baguio golf courses announce temporary closure
BAGUIO CITY — Golfers will need to wait a little longer before teeing off in Baguio City.
Three golf courses have announced temporary closure after some of their personnel and a guest tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The Pinewoods Golf and Country Club closed its courses after one of its guests who played over the weekend tested positive.
Baguio Country Club (BCC), meanwhile, advised its members of the course’s indefinite closure.
The BCC management announced that one of the club’s caddies made close contact to a person who recently tested positive for COVID-19 in their barangay.
“We assure everyone that contact tracing and proper health and safety protocols including disinfection and sanitation are already being implemented, as it is always our priority to protect our valued members, guests and employees,” the BCC announcement stated.
Camp John Hay shared that two of its caddies tested positive for COVID-19.
“Camp John Hay Golf Club will be closed until further notice to conduct contact tracing, continued disinfecting, and other appropriate activities,” Camp John Hay announced to its members through Viber.
DeChambeau muscles to victory
NEW YORK (AFP) — Bryson DeChambeau captured his first major golf title, firing a three-under par 67 to win the 120th US Open and humble a relentless Winged Foot layout.
The 27-year-old American, known for his scientific approach to golf and a bulked-up driving dominance, eagled the par-5 ninth from just inside 40 feet and rolled to a six-stroke victory over 21-year-old countryman Matthew Wolff.
DeChambeau hit only 23 fairways for the week but finished 72 holes on six-under par 274 thanks to Sunday’s only sub-par round at the formidable Mamaroneck, New York, layout.
DeChambeau became the first player since 1955 to win with the only sub-par score in the final round, and just the fourth ever to do it, completing a dominating performance.
Typical deep US Open rough could not stop DeChambeau, whose exercise and protein shakes delivered powerful drives while his calculations and precise readings produced solid shotmaking on a layout that crushed rivals.
South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner, was a distant third on 282, one stroke ahead of American Harris English after both fired 73 Sunday.
American Xander Schauffele, still seeking his first major title, shot 74 and settled for fifth on 284, his fourth top 6 finish in four US Open starts.
Wolff led last-duo partner DeChambeau by two strokes when the day began but failed to become the youngest US Open winner since Bobby Jones in 1923 and youngest major winner since Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters.
Wolff, coming off a share of fourth last month in his major debut at the PGA Championship, could not duplicate the feat of 20-year-old amateur Francis Ouimet in 2013 by winning in his US Open debut.
DeChambeau, who spent a three-month coronavirus pandemic layoff building his physique, uses same-length clubs and a chart book for judging putts, bringing some slow-play complaints but also six prior PGA Tour victories.
Ninth-ranked DeChambeau won in July at Detroit and shared fourth at last month’s PGA, his best major finish until Sunday.
The coronavirus pandemic postponed the US Open from June and led to a spectator ban, although some fans cheered from beyond boundary fences.
Spending more than an hour on the practice tee Saturday night after all other players had departed, DeChambeau put in work on his drives that paid off Sunday.
DeChambeau and Wolff exchanged impressive eagle putts at the 556-yard par-5 ninth, the easiest hole on a course that averaged 75 Sunday.
DeChambeau drove into the fairway, pitched just inside 40 feet and curled in his eagle putt to reach 5-under. Moments later, Wolff knocked in a 10-footer to stay one shot back.
Wolff stumbled with a bogey at the par-3 10th, missing a par putt from just inside 10 feet, two adrift and the only challenger within five shots.
When DeChambeau rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt at the par-4 11th to stand 6-under and three ahead — also 3-under on the day’s only sub-par round — the scientist appeared to have finally found a major-winning formula.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson shot 70 to share sixth with US compatriot Will Zalatoris on 285, never managing a sub-par round.
“Tough golf course,” Johnson said. “I gave myself enough chances, but I just didn’t putt well enough.”
Third-ranked American Justin Thomas finished on 286 to share eighth in a pack with fourth-ranked Rory McIlroy, a four-time major winner who closed with a 75.
“It was really difficult. Wind was up again,” McIlroy said.
“Looks like everyone found it pretty tough out there. Just a tough day.”
Life-changing triumph for Higgo
Garrick Higgo secured a life-changing first European Tour victory at the Open de Portugal at Royal Óbidos, thanks to a stunning bogey-free seven under par final round of 65.
The left-handed South African, whose final bogey of the week occurred on the tenth hole of his second round, finished on 19 under par, one stroke clear of Spain’s Pep Angles who finished second on 18 under par.
Higgo’s countryman George Coetzee continued his excellent form and followed his Portugal Masters victory with a tied for third place at Royal Óbidos on 15 under par, alongside England’s Andrew Wilson, with Sweden’s Jens Dantorp and Spain’s Carlos Pigem finishing tied fifth on 14 under.
The 21-year-old dropped just three shots during the tournament — a double bogey on his sixth hole of the week and that bogey on the tenth during his second round — and had played only a handful of third round holes when Saturday’s play was suspended due to darkness.
He returned to the course on Sunday morning and carded a six under par round of 66 to end round three just one shot off the lead, which was held by Portugal’s Vitor Lopes.
Lopes could not continue his low-scoring performance of the first three rounds and dropped off the pace during round four, but Higgo picked up where he left off.
Five front nine birdies, including a chip-in on the sixth hole, saw him make the turn in 31 before further gains on the 11th and the 18th saw him finish on 19 under par.
It was a nervous wait for the Stellenbosch native with Angles playing in the group behind, but when the Spaniard was unable to convert the 35-foot eagle putt he needed for a play-off, victory was secured.
Higgo, who’s victory comes in just his seventh Tour start, admitted that the feeling had not yet sunk in following his win.
“It feels awesome,” he said.
“I thought it was going to be a little bit easier over the last three holes but he (Pep Angles) made it a bit tough. That birdie on the last was really, really nice.