Joel Dahmen wins at windy Punta Cana for first PGA Tour title

Joel Dahmen won the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory, avoiding a playoff when the wind pushed playing partner Rafael Campos’ final birdie try to the left.

Dahmen closed with a 2-under 70 on the windswept seaside course. He started fast with birdies on three of the first four holes and added another on the par-5 seventh, then played the last 11 in 2 over with bogeys on the par-3 11th and par-5 14th and a series of hard-earned pars.

“I was on cruise control today,” Dahmen said. “It’s really hard to win golf tournaments. I knew it was hard, but I can’t believe how hard it actually is. I was in control, I felt like I was doing — my body was just doing other things. Thankfully, I had a couple good up-and-downs there on 16 and 17. And I don’t know how I tapped in that 2- or 3-footer there, but thankfully it went in.”

The 33-year-old Dahmen finished at 12-under 276. He didn’t get into the Masters with the victory because the tournament was played opposite the WGC Match Play event in Texas but did wrap up a PGA Championship berth and a spot at Kapalua in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Campos, the Puerto Rican player whose family has long had a home in the Dominican Republic, had a 71.

“It wasn’t meant to be,” Campos said.

Winless on the tour, he bogeyed the par-3 17th to drop out of a tie for the lead and watched the wind move his 15-footer off-line in the last few inches on the par-4 18th.

“I was so nervous,” Campos said. “I kind of really wanted to embrace that opportunity, and it was so cool to have basically the outcome in my hands. … It was really cool to actually have that much pressure.”

His only birdies came on the two front-nine par 5s.

Sam Ryder had a 67 to tie for second with Campos.

Graeme McDowell, the 2019 winner, and Michael Gligic tied for fourth at 10 under. McDowell closed with a 69, and Gligic shot 71.

Defending champion Hudson Swafford (70) and Emiliano Grillo (71) were 9 under.

Dahmen won after missing the weekend cuts in seven of his previous eight starts.

“It’s been a rough start to the calendar year,” Dahmen said. “Golf was really hard for me these last seven or eight weeks, and to turn around to this is pretty incredible.”

SOURCE: espn.com

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: 5 matches worth watching on Wednesday

The world’s best players are bound for Austin, Texas, for a unique stop on the men’s professional golf schedule.

Austin Country Club plays host to the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play once again this week. With the top-12 players in the Golfweek/Sagarin men’s ranking, as well as 64 of the top 69 in the Official World Golf Ranking set to compete, there are some matches that stand out among the rest.

On Wednesday alone a handful of European-dominated matches to watch include a couple pairs of Ryder Cup stalwarts squaring off, as well as two of the European Tour’s Angry Golfers.

Check out the top five opening day matches in Austin.

Rory McIlroy vs. Ian Poulter – 10:30 a.m.

Seeing McIlroy and Poulter play against each other will be weird for most golf fans. Over three competitions, the pair are 2-1-1 when paired together at the Ryder Cup. Most recently in 2018 they defeated Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 4&2 in the afternoon foursomes on Friday and lost to Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth 4&3 the following afternoon.

McIlroy is in search of his fourth WGC title having previously won the 2014 Bridgestone Invitational, 2015 Match Play and 2019 HSBC Champions. Poulter is playing for his third WGC title following wins in 2010 at the Match Play and 2012 at the HSBC Champions.

Patrick Reed vs. Bubba Watson – 12:20 p.m.

Reed and Watson sounds like a bad buddy-cop movie, but the Americans both have two WGC wins, as well as a bit of history in WGC events. At the 2014 Cadillac Championship, Reed won by one stroke over Watson and Jamie Donaldson.

Justin Thomas vs. Matt Kuchar – 1:04 p.m.

Kuchar is no stranger to match-play success with his win at the 2013 event, while Thomas is looking for his third WGC title after claiming the 2018 Bridgestone Invitational and the renamed FedEx St. Jude Invitational in 2020.

Tyrrell Hatton vs. Matt Wallace – 3:16 p.m.

Two of the stars of the European Tour’s “Angry Golfers” video. What more can you ask for?

Lee Westwood vs. Sergio Garcia – 3:27 p.m.

Westwood, 47, logged consecutive runner-up finishes before running out of gas last week at the Honda Classic. In 61 WGC appearances, Westwood has 11 top-10 finishes. Garcia, also in 61 WGC’s, has earned 20 top 10s. The 41-year-old recently finished T-9 at the Players Championship. Garcia will pass Tiger Woods as the leader in all-time matches played at the Match Play. Woods has 48, Garcia starts Wednesday at 46 and will play at least three times this week. Of note: Ian Poulter has played 45 matches.

SOURCE: golfweek/usatoday

Justin Thomas holds off Bryson DeChambeau, Lee Westwood to win Players Championship

When the final twosome of Lee Westwood and Bryson DeChambeau faltered early in the final round of Sunday’s Players Championship, any number of contenders had the chance to step into the breach.

World No. 3 Justin Thomas, who was one shot over the cut line with nine holes to play in the second round, took the opportunity and met the challenge of a testy, firm Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

The 27-year-old, 14-time PGA Tour champion pulled away from a tie with Westwood with a two-putt birdie from 47 feet at the par-5 16th hole and then made gutty pars on the final two holes to win the PGA Tour’s marquee event at 14-under-par 274.

Thomas missed one green, the last, when it didn’t matter, and by mere inches. He hit 12 of 14 fairways. He missed only one putt less than 3 feet all week.

SOURCE: golfweek.usatoday.com

Bryson DeChambeau leans on putting to outlast Lee Westwood at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Bryson DeChambeau received a text message Sunday morning from Tiger Woods to keep fighting, good advice for a final round that turned out to be the toughest at Bay Hill in 41 years.

Inspiration from Arnold Palmer is everywhere, and DeChambeau was particularly drawn to the King’s motto to play boldly.

DeChambeau needed every bit of that on Sunday to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, playing the final 17 holes without a bogey, entertaining thousands with another monstrous drive over the water and delivering one last par with a 5-foot putt on the final hole for a one-shot victory over Lee Westwood.

He looked dapper in the tam o’shanter cap and red cardigan sweater that goes to the winner.

“I think this red cardigan is not only for Mr. Palmer, but I would say it’s a little bit for Tiger, as well, knowing what place he’s in right now,” DeChambeau said.

Woods, an eight-time Bay Hill winner, is recovering from serious leg injuries from his car crash in Los Angeles.

“One of the things that we talked about was: It’s not about how many times you get kicked to the curb or knocked down. It’s about how many times you can get back up and keep moving forward,” DeChambeau said of their text exchange.

DeChambeau closed with a 71, matching the low score of the final round in which no one broke 70 on Sunday at Bay Hill for the first time since 1980.

Westwood, who turns 48 next month, was up to the task.

Never mind that DeChambeau’s rocket over the water on the 565-yard sixth hole was 168 yards beyond Westwood. Their second shots were only 6 feet apart, and both made birdie.

Westwood fought to the end. He fell out of a share of the lead with a three-putt bogey from 40 feet on the 14th. Just as critical was failing to make birdie on the par-5 16th with a wedge for his second shot from the fairway, and DeChambeau having to scramble for par.

“You can’t want for more than that. I thought we had a really good battle,” Westwood said. “It was never really more than one (shot) all day, and there were tough conditions out there. It was a day for playing sensible and hanging on.”

They were never separated by more than one shot over the final 15 holes. DeChambeau finished at 11-under 277.

The long ball came in handy for DeChambeau, as much with the putter as the driver. He holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole to regain a share of the lead. More critical was the 50-foot par putt he made on No. 11 to stay one ahead.

“Knowing what I know now, it’s obviously the shot of the day for me,” he said.

Westwood tied him with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-5 12th only to give it back with a three-putt on the 14th. The tournament turned on the par-5 16th, where it was Westwood who had the advantage.

DeChambeau’s drive went up against the lip of a bunker, and he had to lay up short of the water. Westwood had 158 yards and hit a poor wedge that came up short of the green. He chipped nicely, except that it rolled out 6 feet by the hole on the lightning-quick greens, and he missed the birdie for a chance to tie.

DeChambeau took the one-shot lead to the 18th and hit his most important drive of the day — in the fairway. Westwood’s tee shot settled in a divot, and he did well to get it on the green and two-putt from 65 feet. DeChambeau’s birdie putt slid by some 5 feet, and he shook his arms in celebration when the par putt dropped.

Westwood closed with a 73, not a bad score considering the average of 75.49 was the highest for a final round since 1980.

Corey Conners stayed in the mix until the very end. The Canadian holed a 15-foot eagle putt on the 16th to get within one shot, only to find a bunker on the par-3 17th and miss a 6-foot par putt. With a bogey on the final hole, he shot 74 to finish alone in third.

Jordan Spieth was part of a four-man race on the front nine and briefly tied for the lead with a birdie on the par-5 sixth. That turned out to be his last birdie of the day. He took bogey on three of his last four holes for a 75, dropping him into a three-way tie for fourth with Andrew Putnam (71) and Richy Werenski (73).

For Spieth, it was his third top-five finish in his past four events.

DeChambeau rose to No. 6 in the world with his ninth victory worldwide, and he became the first player this season with multiple victories, to go along with his U.S. Open title in September. It matched the longest it took for a multiple winner on the PGA Tour since 1969. Nick Price won his second title in the 21st week of the season in 1994.

Rory McIlroy, who started four shots out of the lead, was never in the mix. He came undone on the par-5 sixth, where he hit two tee shots into the water and then hit the fairway, hit the green and made the putt to salvage double bogey. He shot 76.

SOURCE: espn.com

Four PGA Tour wins for Morikawa, including a major championship? Yeah, nobody does that!

It is fitting on this week — of all weeks — that a Tiger Woods statistic would define what happened on the PGA Tour. Collin Morikawa won the WGC-Workday Championship on Sunday at The Concession Golf Club by shooting 69 to finish at 18 under, three ahead of Billy Horschel, Brooks Koepka and Viktor Hovland. It was a tremendous ending to what has not been a tremendous week in the world of golf.

After opening with a hu-hum 70 on Thursday, Morikawa went on to birdie 20 of his next 45 holes starting on Friday to take a substantial lead going to the back nine on Sunday. With Viktor Hovland, Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka chasing from deep, Morikawa knew they would need to be nearly perfect unless he made a big mistake; any slight miscue at The Concession — as the first three days proved — would mean the end of the chase.

Scheffler doubled the 16th, Hovland three-putted two of four holes and Koepka never got going on the second nine. And while Morikawa made big-boy par saves on multiple holes, the dagger came when he made a 7-foot birdie at No. 12, the drivable par-4 hole to become the first to get to 18 under. He played the rest of his round cleanly in even par and walked away with a big trophy and a bigger check.

“It shows that I can come out here and compete,” he said of closing out his first-ever 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. “What a week. I was working on so much over the last couple of weeks … My game felt so good. I’m so excited right now.”

Winning four times in your first 39 PGA Tour events as a professional is highly unusual. It’s a Rory McIlroy-like number. A Jon Rahm-like number. Morikawa might not always be as discussed as some of the other young stars on the PGA Tour, but the No. 4 player in the world has become an absolute force.

Morikawa was the best iron player in this field by a healthy margin, which is apropos because The Concession is as demanding a venue as there is in terms of iron play. And with his fourth win in 39 PGA Tour starts as a pro, he got himself onto a pretty exclusive list of legends who have won four or more times — including a major — by the age of 24.

With much of the field dressed in red and black to honor Woods after his near-fatal car crash earlier this week, Morikawa was emotional in the end after his three-stroke win.

“Tiger means everything to me,” said Morikawa. “Yes, he had the crash, thankfully he’s all right and hopefully he has a quick and great recovery. I don’t think we say thank you enough. I want to say thank you to Tiger … Sometimes you lose people too early. You don’t get to say thank you enough.”

There was no dramatic finish this weekend like there has been fort he last month — just a romp from both the best iron player this week and the best iron player in this field. Again, this was a fitting tribute to the best iron player of all time who is sitting in a hospital room on the opposite coast. A wild week ended on Sunday with much more optimism and a lot more hope than it started with. Yes, Woods has given golf so much, but Morikawa carried the baton this week in more ways than one.

SOURCE: cbssports.com

Daniel Berger seals win at Pebble Beach with 30-foot eagle putt

For all the stunning views at Pebble Beach that can be so soothing, Daniel Berger couldn’t escape the tension when he arrived at the final hole on Sunday in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

He was tied for the lead, needing a birdie on the par-5 18th to win. Off to his right were out-of-bounds markers below a row of hedges, where Berger hit his drive on Saturday that led to double bogey. To his left was the Pacific Ocean.

“I was going to go down swinging,” he said.

Two of the best swings of his career — a driver into the fairway and a 3-wood from 250 yards away in the cool air at sea level — left him 30 feet and two putts away. Berger capped it off with an eagle putt for a 7-under 65 and a 2-shot victory over Maverick McNealy.

“To step up there and hit a great drive and then one of the best 3-woods I’ve ever hit in my life, and then to make that putt, is just as good as it gets for me,” Berger said.

He finished at 18-under 270 for his fourth career victory.

Berger started his final round with a 4-iron to 20 feet for eagle on the par-5 second hole to catch up to Jordan Spieth in no time at all. And while the cast of contenders kept changing, Berger was never out of the mix until he had the final say with one last eagle, his fourth of the week.

He won for the second time since the PGA Tour returned to golf in June from its COVID-19 pause, starting with a playoff victory at Colonial, where a half-dozen players had a chance to win over the final hour.

This wasn’t much different.

Spieth went from leading to lagging behind. He started with a 2-shot lead and was 3 shots behind after six holes, wasting the scoring stretch at Pebble Beach. He finished with two birdies for a 70 and tied for third with Patrick Cantlay (68), who made all his putts at Pebble on Thursday. Cantlay had 10 birdies in the opening round, when he tied the course record with a 62. He made seven birdies and an eagle in two weekend rounds.

Berger saw a leaderboard leaving the 18th green and knew he was tied for the lead. He just figured it would be with Nate Lashley, unaware of the turn of events on the 16th.

Lashley, playing in the final group with Spieth, nearly holed his wedge on the 11th for a tap-in birdie that took him to 16 under and leading by 1 shot. He was tied with Berger with three holes to play when Lashley went long on the 16th hole. Lashley pitched out to 12 feet, missed the par putt and then missed the next two putts from the 3-foot range.

That gave him a triple bogey from which he could not recover. Lashley jammed the bottom of his putter into the green and left without speaking to the media.

McNealy, who played at Stanford and once lived in a house near the 15th green at Pebble Beach, quietly made five birdies over his last eight holes.

“I had the adrenaline pumping coming down the stretch there and feelings that I hadn’t really felt on the golf course in a little while, trying to close this out and give myself a chance,” McNealy said.

The last one was on 18 when his eagle putt stopped inches from the cup, giving him a 66 and a tie for the lead that didn’t last long. Berger was in the group behind him, and he played the hole to perfection.

“I wanted to win the golf tournament. I didn’t want to lose it on the last,” Berger said. “I just wanted to go out there and try to hit the best shot that I could, and I wasn’t going to be conservative on the 3-wood coming in.”

The eagle putt was fast and broke both ways, and Berger wanted only a two-putt birdie with no stress. That it fell for eagle was a bonus he was all too happy to take.

Spieth finished in the top four for the second week in a row, a strong sign that his game is coming back after a drought that dates to his 2017 Open victory at Royal Birkdale.

He hit a hybrid from the rough for a good look at eagle on the second hole and just missed. Then he caught an awkward lie in a fairway bunker on No. 3, his shot low and long over the green, leaving Spieth fearful it was out of play. He made bogey. He also made bogey from a bunker on the par-3 fifth, and he had to play out sideways from a fairway bunker on the par-5 sixth, taking birdie out of the equation.

“Really, it was just a really poor first six holes. And out here, that’s where you can score,” Spieth said. “I needed to be a couple under through six, and I was 1 over. And really, that was the difference.”

A field that featured only three players from the top 20 in the world got one of them as a winner — Berger, who was outside the top 100 in the world when golf returned in June as he tried to come back from wrist injuries.

“I think today really solidified my position as one of the best golfers out here, and I just need to continue to do the things I’ve been doing,” Berger said. “And I feel like there’s no limit to what I can accomplish.”

SOURCE: espn.com

Brooks Koepka gets back on track with win at TPC Scottsdale

It’s been a while since the four-time major champ raised a trophy

During Round 3 of the Phoenix Open on Saturday as Jordan Spieth lit the entire sport on fire with a memorable 61, Brooks Koepka was 8 under and six shots back of the lead — an afterthought on a day when a multiple-time major winner looking for his first win in several years was making a move. Then Koepka played the last 24 holes of his tournament in 11 under and won at TPC Scottsdale by a single stroke over K.H. Lee and Xander Schauffele on Sunday with a final round 65.

Koepka, himself mired in a substantial winning drought (for him), was fabulous on Sunday, tracking the lead pack before catching them at the end and dropping the hammer with one of the great chips of his life. He went out in 34 before making birdie at 13, 14 and 15, which led to an insane eagle chip-in at the par-4 17th that looks even more impossible every time you watch it.

https://twitter.com/PGATOUR/status/1358540489897742339?s=20

“Today I just stayed patient,” Koepka told NBC. “I feel like I always do a pretty good job of that, just kind of hanging around, waiting. Waiting until it’s my turn on Sunday. Things happened to go my way.”

Koepka came into this week having missed three consecutive cuts, and the trash he loves to talk had spoiled. Everything is funny when you’re winning every other major and nobody is ranked ahead of you, but when you haven’t won in 18 months and a couple of guys who were in college last time you hoisted a trophy are breathing down your neck in the Official World Golf Rankings, everything seems a lot less cute.

In that sense, Koepka had something to prove this week in Phoenix, and more broadly, this 2020-21 season. That sounds like a ridiculous thing to say about a four-time major champion, but after an injury-riddled 2020 saw him fall outside the top 10 with no end to his tumble in sight, questions started to mount. Could Koepka regain his outrageous form before he injured his knee at the end of 2019?

Last year’s showing seemed to say that the answer to that question was no, and those missed cuts to start 2021 seemed to reaffirm it. Then this week happened, and Koepka seems like he’s righted the ship a bit.

“I was in some dark places mentally,” said Koepka of his injury recovery on his left knee which has been very iffy since the end of 2019. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to be the same again.”

He sure looked the same late on Sunday at TPC Scottsdale, and the win there — where he also won for the first time in his PGA Tour career back in 2015 — might be an even more impressive than the first time around. Golf is always hard, but as we’ve seen with Spieth, it’s never harder than when you’re trying to climb the mountain for a second time. That’s where Koepka found himself, and he seemed to be losing his foothold until he dropped those four straight birdies to end the third round and then buried a chip that won a tournament that has him back where his talent says he belongs.

SOURCE: cbssports.com

Patrick Reed wins Farmers Insurance Open amid controversial weekend

After a controversial Saturday at the Farmers Insurance Open, Patrick Reed and Carlos Ortiz walked away from Torrey Pines with a share of the 54-hole lead. Could Reed hold on? Would another contender catch him? And would Sunday’s action produce more compelling subplots? Here’s what you missed in the final round of the Farmers.

Who won: Patrick Reed (four-under 68, 14 under overall)

How it happened: Reed played Nos. 6-9 three under on Sunday to get to 13 under at the turn and lead by one over Viktor Hovland, who shot 32 on the front. Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffle and others tried to jump into the mix, but Reed’s steady play kept him out front. His lead grew to three when Hovland made back-to-back bogeys on 14 and 15. On 14, Hovland hooked his approach from the bunker into a hazard and made bogey — he did the same thing in the third round and made double bogey — and on 15 he drove it behind a tree and had to punch out, leading to another bogey. Already with a comfortable lead, Reed’s finish was even more stress-free after Hovland added a final bogey on 17. Reed finished the back nine with eight pars and a birdie on 18 for a five-stroke win.

Why it matters: It’s a big victory for Reed, not only because it’s his first at the Farmers, over a strong field and also at the site of this year’s U.S. Open, but because he won despite the controversy that surround him on Saturday. Reed has now won nine times on the PGA Tour.

Notables: Finau, Hovland and Schauffele were among the five players who tied for second at nine under. Rahm tied for seventh at eight under, and Rory McIlroy, who shot 73 on Sunday, tied for 16th.

What else happened: Remember that whole Reed embedded ball controversy from Saturday? Well, it spilled into Sunday, too. Reed’s official Twitter account tweeted on Saturday night (in all caps) that a similar situation happened to McIlroy on the 18th on Saturday. Turns out that was correct, as the PGA Tour on Sunday released video of McIlroy’s embedded-ball relief situation, which was eerily similar to Reed’s. McIlroy never called for a rules official like Reed did — although the rules state he didn’t have to — but Reed also had picked up his ball before he called for an official. Video showed both players’ golf balls bounce before coming to rest.

The Tour released a statement saying both players took proper relief under the rules, adding: “It was reasonable for both players to conclude — based on the fact that they did not see the ball land, but given the lie of the ball in soft course conditions — that they proceed as the rule allows for a potential embedded ball.” For more on this story, click here.

Best round: Sepp Straka shot 65, and Luke List and Francesco Molinari both closed with six-under 66s. It’s the second straight top 10 for Molinari, who has struggled to find his form since his blowup at the 2019 Masters.

Up next: The Tour heads to the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottdale, with McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Schauffele headlining the field. Across the globe, the Saudi International also kicks off on Thursday with a field that includes Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Reed and others.

SOURCE: golf.com

David Duval reflects on his 59: ‘The easiest round of golf I ever played’

It has been 22 years since David Duval became the third player in the history of the PGA Tour to shoot 59 during a PGA Tour event. He was also the first one to do it on a Sunday, and he did it in the most dramatic way possible, making an eagle 3 on the 18th hole to reach the magic number in the final round to win what was then the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

A lot has happened in Duval’s life since then. So, does he remember much about that historic day? You bet.

“I remember everything was easy all day,” he said earlier this week en route to picking up his 15-year-old son Brady at school. “It was probably the easiest round of golf I ever played. I had 11 birdies and an eagle, and I think I made a total of 52 feet in putts.”

According to the official statistics, he made 54 feet in putts, but that’s not the point. The longest putt he made all day on the Palmer Private Course at PGA West was 10 feet—a birdie putt on the 14th hole. He birdied the first four of the course’s five par 3s, the last one at 15, when he hit his tee shot to 18 inches.

It was at that point that Jeff Maggert, one of the other two players in Duval’s group (Bob Tway was the other) said: “I didn’t realize we were playing par 2s today.”

The Hope, which is now officially called The American Express, is being played this weekend and Duval knows it’s likely if he watches on television that he’ll probably see a replay of his 18th-hole eagle at some point.

“I don’t ever plan my schedule to watch golf, I’ve got too much to do around here,” he said. “But if I have time and it’s on, I’ll watch. I’ve seen the replay of 18 a lot and, being honest, I don’t ever get tired of it. That was during a time when I was playing great golf and MOST rounds were pretty easy. That one just got to another level.”

Duval said he first began thinking seriously about the chance to break 60 standing on the 17th tee. He had just hit a sand wedge to six inches at the par-4 16th and was 11 under par.

“I’d never really come close to breaking 60, but I’d had a couple rounds where I had a chance,” he said. “Once, on the Nike Tour I had a chance but didn’t play well enough the last few holes. Then, a few years later at Pebble Beach, I was eight under par after seven holes. I had birdie chances lip out at eight and nine and then missed some very makeable putts going around the turn. Probably should have shot 58; ended up shooting 62.”

Standing on the 17th tee in that 1999 round in the California desert, knowing he had a short (130 yards) par 3 and a reachable par 5 left, Duval knew he had a realistic chance to break 60. And it was very much on his mind.

“It occurred to me this might be the best chance I’d ever have to break 60,” he said. “It was something I really wanted to do. Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about winning the golf tournament. Steve Pate [the third-round leader] was six holes behind me, and I had no idea what he was going to do the rest of the way. I’d won a bunch of golf tournaments and I thought I was going to have plenty of chances to win more golf tournaments. But I had no idea if I’d ever have a chance to break 60 again.”

Although 17 is a short hole—Duval hit 9-iron off the tee—it can be dangerous. There’s a drainage ditch that runs along the left side of the green and, with the pin back left, Duval played carefully and landed his tee shot about 22 feet right of the flag.

“It’s a fairly difficult hole,” he said. “If you land it right like I did, you’re putting towards the water. The greens were firm that day, and I knew the putt would be fast. In fact, Bob [Tway] had a similar putt and rolled it six feet past. Even watching that I STILL knocked it four feet past the hole.”

The comeback putt for par was Duval’s most nervous moment of the day. “I knew if I missed the chance for 59 was gone,” he said. “I very much wanted to play 18 still having a chance.”

He rolled in the putt to give himself that chance. He hammered his drive on 18, hitting it about 320 yards, which, back then, was a bomb. “I had 218 to the hole—5-iron,” he said. “I wanted to land the ball middle of the green and let it run up to the flag, which was in the back. When I hit it, I thought I’d hit it exactly the way I wanted to. I just stood and watched it roll towards the flag.”

The ball stopped seven feet from the cup. Duval then had to wait his turn. Maggert and Tway, understanding Duval had a chance to make history, wanted to putt out to clear the stage for him.

“They iced me,” Duval said, laughing. “They each had about a three-, four-footer and it felt like it took forever for them to finish. Seriously, what they did was very cool. They both knew what was going on.”

Duval stood off to the side while Maggert and Tway finished. He didn’t want to even take a look at the putt until it was his turn. “I didn’t want to over-analyze it or over-think it,” he said. “I wanted to go through my normal routine, stand up there and hit it. If anything, I went a little faster than normal. [Caddie] Mitch [Knox] and I had the exact same read, on the right lip. If I putted it outside the hole at all, it wasn’t going in.”

Duval was pretty certain he’d made the putt as soon as he released it. “Two feet out, I knew it was in,” he said. “It was a great feeling.”

It was one of a handful of times in his career, that Duval dropped his stoicism, shaking his fist a few times, clearly thrilled by what he had done. He came back to earth quickly. “After the first moment there I thought, ‘You better sign your scorecard right,’” he said.

Duval’s round left him at 26-under-par 334 for what was then a 90-hole tournament. Several players behind him, notably Pate, who had led Duval by six strokes at the start of the day, still had a chance to catch him.

“I did NOT want to play off,” Duval said, laughing again. “To try to go out and play again after reaching a climactic moment like that, I honestly don’t think I could have pulled it off. I probably would have lost.”

There was no playoff. Pate needed to birdie 18 to tie but failed to do so. Earlier in the round, watching Duval’s number drop more and more under par, Pate had been heard to say, “Well how many goddamn under par is he?”

The answer, at day’s end, was 13. Pate shot a more-than-respectable 66 and still lost by one.

Two months later, Duval won the Players Championship and passed Tiger Woods to become the No. 1-ranked player in the world. He was No. 1 for a total of 15 weeks. In 2001, he won his first and, as it turned out, only major title, winning the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s.

He was 29 when he won that championship and, remarkably, he never won on tour again. Injuries were definitely a factor through the years, but he readily admits that something went out of him after that victory.

“I had worked all my life to get that win,” he said several years ago. “Hours and hours of practice. When I won, it felt great, but there was a little bit of the, ‘Is that all there is?’ feeling. I thought I would feel differently about life, but I didn’t. Something went out of me after that.

“For most of seven years, golf was almost always easy for me,” he said. “Then, for the next seven years it was almost always hard. In a funny way, that’s the beauty of the game.”

In 2003, he met Susie Persichitte, fell in love and found happiness away from golf. He adopted Susie’s three children and they had two of their own, Brayden (Brady) and Sienna. Duval had one brief comeback moment when he finished tied for second—behind Lucas Glover—in the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. But he never got close again to being the player he had been that remarkable day in 1999.

Duval has worked for Golf Channel since 2015 and will continue to do so this year. He turns 50 in November and says he hasn’t really given any serious thought as to whether he’ll try to play the senior tour (PGA Tour Champions) next year. He had surgery on two discs in his neck last summer and is just now starting to feel comfortable swinging the golf club again.

“I didn’t play at all for almost six months,” he said. “I still like to play, but I also like being at home—a lot. I went to the driving range with Brady a few weeks ago and I was starting to hit the ball a lot better. He said to me, ‘dad, do you think you’ll ever be able to hit it again as long as I hit it?’ I laughed and said, ‘No way, absolutely not.’”

Duval and Brady played together in the PNC Championship in December. Team Duval finished T-14 and the father says they should have been several places higher. “We left five or six shots out there on Sunday,” he said. “More accurately, I left five or six shots out there. I couldn’t make anything.”

Twenty-two years ago this week, Duval made everything—or, more accurately, hit it so close he almost had to make everything. Other than a par at the par-5 sixth hole, his round was close to perfect.

Al Geiberger was the first to score 59 in 1977 and Chip Beck followed in 1991. Since Duval, there have been nine other rounds on tour under 60—Jim Furyk shot a 58 and a 59 and seven other players have posted 59. Those to accomplish it include Paul Goydos, Stuart Appleby, Justin Thomas, Adam Hadwin, Brandt Snedeker, Kevin Chappell and Scottie Scheffler.

“The next barrier is for someone to shoot 14 under par,” Duval said. “No one’s done that yet. And I do mean YET. It’ll happen.”

Duval’s biggest thrill in golf was his victory at Lytham and St. Anne’s. He says the next four are hard to rank: the win at the Players (which he thinks of as a major); getting to No. 1 “in the era of Tiger”; playing on a winning Ryder Cup team in 1999, and the 59 at the Bob Hope. “It’ll always be the Hope to me,” he said. “I remember growing up, the Hope and the Crosby [at Pebble Beach] were the two tournaments you HAD to watch early in the year. To shoot 59 there AND win, well, that was really cool.”

Duval had one other thought about watching his younger self come back to life again this weekend.

“I wonder when they show the replay this weekend, if my shirt will be tucked in on 18,” he said. “I’m guessing it won’t be. Some things never change.”

SOURCE: golfdigest.com

Kevin Na wins Sony Open by 1 with closing birdie binge

The spoils at the Sony Open belonged to Kevin Na, a winner for the fourth straight season after coming from three shots behind with six holes to play for a one-shot victory with a birdie on the final hole.

The consolation prize belonged to Chris Kirk, and it felt like a win.

Kirk stepped away in May 2019 because of alcoholism and depression, a decision he feels saved himself, his family and his career. He was playing the final event of a medical extension the PGA Tour awarded him for lost time, and he delivered a 65 to finish one shot behind.

The birdie on the final hole gave him enough points to regain full status.

“It totally changes everything, being able to be back to picking my schedule like I’m used to over the last number of years,” Kirk said. “I’m thankful God put me in a great situation, and you never know what’s going to happen.”

Na could have felt similarly.

The Sony Open is typically so crowded at the top that no one is safe and no one is ever out of it. Na looked to be out of it only when he missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 11th and then three-putted for bogey from 40 feet on the 12th to fall three shots behind Brendan Steele.

He answered with three straight birdies, Steele faltered at Waialae for the second straight year and Na delivered the winning shot with a 5-wood from the rough that went just over the back of the green on the par-5 18th, leaving him a simple up-and-down for birdie and a 5-under 65.

“I was playing maybe a little bit more aggressive coming down the stretch, not worrying so much about second or third, more focused on just that — winning,” Na said. “Every year, I hope to win, and I expect to win on the right golf courses.”

Kirk and Joaquin Niemann (66) finished one shot behind, and it felt good to only one of them. Niemann was runner-up for the second straight week in Hawaii. He finished the two Hawaii events at 45-under par without a trophy to show for it.

“Just another good week, so happy for that,” Niemann said. He does leave Hawaii with $1,369,400 in earnings.

Na collected his fifth career victory on the PGA Tour. Na, who turned pro out of high school, didn’t win until his eighth season. It was seven more seasons until he won again. Now, he’s up to four seasons in a row.

“I think experience is the reason why I’ve been winning,” he said. “When you do it again, you know it seems like the next one comes easier. … I think more about winning since I’ve been winning more often.”

It was hard to think that way when he was running out of time. From the rough left of the 13th, he hit his approach into just under 15 feet for the first of three straight birdies.

As for Steele, it was another year of disappointment in paradise, this one more of a slow leak. Steele last year had a two-shot lead with two to play and wound up losing in a playoff. This time, he made an 18-foot eagle putt on the ninth hole to take a three-shot lead into the back nine.

He hit driver on the 355-yard 10th and didn’t quite clear a bunker, leaving an awkward lie. He put his wedge on the front of the green some 80 feet away and three-putted. His game was so tentative the rest of the way that he didn’t have a birdie chance inside 30 feet until the 17th hole. That was from 10 feet to tie for the lead, and he missed that.

Steele also failed to birdie the 18th and closed with a 69.

“Totally changed the momentum,” Steele said about his bogey on the 10th. “Every single shot I hit after that ended up with a weird lie. … I think you just have to really take some positives out of this. Hard to see for me right now.”

Webb Simpson matched the low score of the final round with a 64 and tied for fourth along with Steele and Marc Leishman, who shot 30 on the back nine.

Na finished at 21-under 259 and is assured of returning to Hawaii for two weeks next year, starting with the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. That course can be too big for him. Waialae proved to be a perfect fit.

SOURCE: espn.com