Dustin Johnson wins the Masters with lowest score in tournament history

In this one-of-a-kind Masters that had no fans and no roars, Dustin Johnson made sure it had no drama.

And when he polished off his five-shot victory Sunday with the lowest score in tournament history, he had no words. Only tears.

Looking smart in his Masters green jacket he dreamed his whole life of winning, Johnson spoke to a small gathering on the putting green in absence of the official ceremony, but only briefly. In control of every aspect of his game on a course that never allows anyone to relax, he couldn’t speak when it was over. Instead, he turned to wipe his eyes.

“I’ve never had this much trouble gathering myself,” Johnson finally said. “On the golf course, I’m pretty good at it.”

No one was better. Not even close.

Johnson overcame a nervous start that conjured memories of past majors he failed to finish off, and then delivered a command performance that added his own touch to a Masters unlike any other. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first played in November. It was the first without ropes and without roars because patrons were not allowed, only one guest for each player, coaches, Augusta National members and officials.

Leading by two shots heading into Amen Corner, the world’s No. 1 player got through the 12th hole — where Tiger Woods earlier hit three balls in Rae’s Creek and made 10 — and then ran off three straight birdies to pull away from Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im, the only players who had a chance.

Johnson closed with a 4-under 68 and finished at 20-under 268, breaking by two shots the record set by Woods in 1997 and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015. He had only four bogeys in 72 holes, another record, this one held by Jack Nicklaus and Jimmy Demaret. He missed only 12 greens all week, a record last set by Woods. All that mattered was that green jacket.

Nothing ever comes easily for Johnson in the majors. Nothing looked so natural as seeing Woods, the defending champion, help him into that size 42 long in Butler Cabin.

“Having Tiger put it on was awesome. You wouldn’t want it any other way,” Johnson said.

And then he smiled before adding, “But any guy could put it on me and I’d be just fine.”

His five-shot victory was the largest at the Masters since Woods won by 12 in 1997. All that was missing were the roars from a crowd for any of his pivotal putts early and his birdie putts on the back nine that put it away. It wasn’t the loneliest walk up the hill to the 18th green. About 250 people offered warm applause and partner Paulina Gretzky rushed onto the green to celebrate with Johnson and his brother, caddie Austin Johnson.

Johnson now has two majors to go along with his 25 victories worldwide, a combination that validates him as one of the greats of his generation. Gone are the doubts that he could hold a lead in the major on the final day. Four times he had gone into the final round with at least a share of the lead without winning.

Johnson had questions, too. His only major was the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2016 when he rallied from four shots behind.

“I’m sure a lot of you all think … there were doubts in my mind, just because I had been there. I’m in this position a lot of times,” Johnson said. “When am I going to have the lead and finishing off a major? It definitely proved that I can do it.”

There were some nervous moments early.

Johnson’s four-shot lead was reduced to one after five holes, and then he quickly restored control with an 8-iron to 6 feet on the top shelf on the right corner of the green at the par-3 sixth for birdie. That restored his lead to three shots when Im missed a 3-foot par putt.

Smith was the only one who was closer than two the rest of the way. He got quite the consolation. He became the first player in Masters history to post all four rounds in the 60s, and all it got him was a silver medal.

“I thought I’d have a decent shot if I got to Dustin’s original score at the start of the day, 16 under,” Smith said. “I knew I had to put the pressure on early. Got out of the gates pretty good and DJ was just too good at the end.”

Johnson became the 12th Masters champion never to trail after any round and his closing 68 broke another record held by Woods — it was his 11th consecutive subpar round at Augusta National.

No one had a better finish than Woods, but only after the five-time Masters champion posted the highest score of his career on the 12th hole. He finished with five birdies over the last six holes to salvage a 76.

The betting favorite and biggest basher in golf, Bryson DeChambeau, couldn’t even beat 63-year-old Bernhard Langer, who shot 71 and wound up one shot ahead of the U.S. Open champion.

These were only sideshows on a quiet Sunday at Augusta National. Johnson, the first No. 1 player in the world to win the Masters since Woods in 2002, was the main event. But even a record score, and the widest margin of victory since 1997, didn’t mean it was easy.

This is Johnson, after all, who for all his talent has dealt with more than his share of misfortune, not all his own doing.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” he said.

After the big turning point at No. 6, and his nifty par save from a bunker on the seventh, Johnson didn’t bother looking at a leaderboard until his brother asked if he knew where he stood on the 18th green. Johnson knew only that he was in control and it was up to everyone else to catch him.

“I took what the course gave me and hit the shots I felt I could hit,” he said.

And so ended the Masters in November, so strange in so many ways. No roars from Amen Corner. Soft conditions — not only from rain that delayed the start but an autumn date that affected the grass — led to record scoring. The average score for the week was 71.75, the lowest ever, breaking the record from last year.

Gone were the white and pink blooms of azaleas and dogwoods, replaced by autumn hues of brown and gold. The Masters, though, in any month is defined by green. And the jacket fit Johnson well.

SOURCE: espn.com

Ever since the 2020 Masters Tournament was postponed to the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, the internet has run wild with discussion of what a November stroll down Magnolia Lane would look like.

Sure, we all saw the aerial photos that displayed Augusta National Golf Club’s brown-to-green transformation in just 10 days, but those pictures are nothing in comparison to what the official Masters Twitter account shared on Sunday afternoon.

“Fall brings colors rarely seen” is putting it lightly in reference to the four pictures that were shared of Augusta National. Shocking to no one, it looks incredible. The grass. The trees. The leaves. It’s all perfect. Then again, why wouldn’t it be?

SOURCE: golfweek.com

2020 Masters date, schedule, format: Split tees for first two rounds, new start times, Par 3 Contest canceled

The 2020 Masters will truly be unlike any other

The Masters in November not what anyone anticipated at the start of 2020, but now the last major of the year is just two weeks away, and it is going to simultaneously look quite similar to and vastly different than before. Augusta National Golf Club on Tuesday announced numerous tweaks to the Masters schedule as it operates the year’s most prominent major amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

For starters, this year’s edition of the Masters will not include the patron-friendly — and always fun — Par 3 Contest. It was previously announced that patrons would not be permitted at Augusta National this year.

In another break from tradition, golfers will go off both the No. 1 and No. 10 tees in each of the first two rounds. Just like 2019, you’ll be able to see every shot on every hole online, and the Masters has introduced a feature this year that allows you to “build a personalized feed of every shot from your favorite players.”

Television coverage will also look a bit different. On Saturday, the lead-in to the CBS third-round broadcast will feature “College GameDay,” which will be setup overlooking Ike’s Pond and the Par 3 Course. Sunday’s coverage will also start earlier than normal with the tournament wrapping up by 3 p.m. ET.

2020 Masters schedule, times

Thursday, Nov. 12: 1-5:30 p.m. on ESPN
Friday, Nov. 13: 1-5:30 p.m. on ESPN
Saturday, Nov. 14: 1-5 p.m. on CBS
Sunday, Nov. 15: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on CBS

All of this will be a bit unusual, even if the course will look exactly the same, but it’s an unusual year after all. Honestly, it’s just nice to have a Masters this year.

“Given the circumstances brought about by the pandemic, the delivery of quality content is as important as ever to the storytelling of the Masters Tournament,” said Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley. “While we will dearly miss our patrons at Augusta National this fall, we are excited to showcase what promises to be a truly memorable Masters in a variety of ways for viewers around the world.”

The best part of all of this is that we get to do it all over again in five months in April 2021. Hopefully, by that time, patrons will be able to attend. Until then, maybe the most unique Masters of our lifetime is set for a cold, strange, exciting welcome into the broader sports world.

source: cbssports.com

Cantlay rallies from four back to win ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Patrick Cantlay felt his swing was good enough to take on any shot, and then it was a matter of making putts. He did both exceptionally well Sunday in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD for a victory he felt was overdue.

Cantlay rallied from a four-shot deficit and surged into the lead with four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine. He closed with a 7-under 65 and held on for a one-shot victory over Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas.

It was the third victory of his career, and first in his home state of California. All three required making up deficits of three shots or more in the final round.

“I put in a lot of work and try to do the right things all the time, so when it all does come together, it’s really rewarding because it’s all that hard work paying off,” Cantlay said.

He was looking to join what had been shaping up as a duel between Rahm and Thomas, the Nos. 2 and 3 players in the world. Instead, Cantlay surged past them with three straight birdies — a 3-wood to the fringe on the par-5 13th that set up a simple two-putt, a 7-iron to 18 feet on the next hole and the most exquisite shot of his final round on the par-3 15th.

With a three-quarter 7-iron to a front pin over a tiny rock-lined lagoon, the ball landed next to the hole and rolled out to 10 feet for his ninth birdie of the round, and only the fifth birdie at No. 15 on Sunday.

“That’s a hard hole and to make a birdie,” he said. “It was just one of those swings where you make the swing exactly how you picture it in your head.”

That gave him a three-shot cushion, and his challengers never caught up.

As much as Cantlay celebrated, Rahm and Thomas were left to rue their mistakes.

Rahm took the lead with a birdie on the par-5 11th, only to drop shots on each of the next two holes, including the par-5 13th. The Spaniard had a chance to force a playoff, but narrowly missed from 15 feet on the par-3 17th and from 20 feet on the final hole. He closed with a 68.

“Just a couple of unlucky moments,” Rahm said. He said the wind switched on both shots, especially on the 13th, where his second shot flew about 20 yards shorter than he expected and went into a bunker, leaving an awkward distance.

Thomas, who started the round with a one-shot lead, had to scramble for par on the last two par 5s, and hit into hazards on consecutive holes down the stretch. His tee shot to the 15th plugged into thick grass, and Thomas did remarkably well to hack out to 30 feet and make bogey.

Cantlay, in the group ahead of Thomas and Rahm, didn’t realize he had a three-shot lead and went after another birdie with a wedge to the par-5 16th, pulling it slightly into a tree and leading to his second bogey of the round.

Thomas drilled a drive and was in perfect position with a 4-iron. But he sent that out to the right, trying to avoid a shot left of the green, and it bounced off a tree and into the creek.

“Pathetic,” Thomas said as he watched it sail to the right. “So afraid to hit it left.”

After the penalty drop, he had to play a marvelous pitch-and-run off hard pan to get up-and-down for par.

But he needed birdies, and that didn’t come for Thomas until he needed to hole out from the 18th fairway for eagle. His approach landed 4 feet next to the hole for birdie and a 69. It was his first birdie since the sixth hole.

“You could say a lot of things — making one birdie my last 12 holes, shooting even par on the back nine, playing the par 5s 1 under,” Thomas said. “But I know I made a lot of really key putts when I felt like I needed to. But again, it just (stinks) when you’re right there and you don’t get it done.”

Cantlay has no weakness in his game except for the victory tally. He had gone more than a year since his last victory, when he rallied from three behind at Muirfield Village to win the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. His other win was in Las Vegas in 2017 when he came from four shots back and won in a playoff.

Cantlay finished at 23-under 265. No one else was within four shots of him.

The other show at Sherwood was on the opposite side of the course, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson playing together in the final round with no fans.

Woods closed with a 74 and still beat Mickelson by four shots. Mickelson, coming off a victory last week on the PGA TOUR Champions, had five 6s on his card. Both finished out of the top 70 against a 78-man field.

SOURCE: pgatour.com

The surprising way Bryson DeChambeau is prepping for the Masters

Between the end of last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and the Masters, there are four PGA Tour tournaments. This week’s CJ Cup. Next week’s Zozo Championship. The Bermuda Championship at the end of the month. The Houston Open the first week of November.

Bryson DeChambeau will play in zero.

He walked off the 18th green at TPC Summerlin last Sunday. He began marching toward the 1st tee at Augusta National. No PGA Tour event in between. From after his U.S. Open win at Winged Foot, to the Masters, he will have played in just the Shriners.

“It’s going to be just trying to figure more stuff out as always,” DeChambeau said last Sunday of his preparation.

“I still got some equipment stuff coming in the next two months, that’s mainly why I’m taking it off,” he said in response to another question. “I feel like the advantages that I usually have could be much improved upon with the equipment, and we don’t have it yet, but we’re diligently working on it behind the scenes. I’ll have that in a couple weeks, we’ll prototype and test it and see if it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll go back and tool it and hopefully have it ready for Augusta.”

Week 1 of Masters prep: Working out. And no golf. He wants to go from 235 pounds – he’s put on about 40 in the past year – to 245.

“I’m going to be working out like crazy,” he said. “This first week back home, I’m not really going to touch a club too much and going to be training pretty hard and getting myself up to hopefully around 245, something like that, in weight. Be the first time I’ve ever done that, so I’m going to be consuming a lot and working out a lot and see what can go from there.”

Weeks 2 through 4 of Masters prep. Hitting. Lots of hitting. Lots of driver hitting, too. DeChambeau had said earlier last week that he might use a 48-inch driver at Augusta. Which would give him even more length off the tee.

“I don’t know how many drivers I’ll hit, but I’ll hit as many as I need to,” DeChambeau said. “And from a speed-training perspective, I could probably go upwards of over 1,000 to probably 2,000, around 2,000 drives the next four weeks trying to get my speed up.”

Sometime during weeks 2 through 4 of Masters prep: a round at Augusta. DeChambeau has played the Masters three times and finished 21st in 2016, 38th in 2018 and 29th last year.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll play a practice round with a good friend of mine, and we’ll have some fun and see what I can do,” he said.

Weeks 1 through 4 of Masters prep. Recalculation. This year’s Masters will be his first with his bigger weight, and with it, his bigger distance.

“Well, No. 1 may be different; I don’t know, just depends on the wind conditions, obviously,” DeChambeau said. “I would say No. 2 is different, 3 is different, 5’s different, 7 will be different, 8 will be different, 9 will be different, 11 will be different, 13 will be different, 14 will be different, 15 will be different, 17 will be different, 18 will definitely be different.”

SOURCE: golf.com

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Tiger Woods, daylight, silence and grass: One month from a very different Masters

Augusta National Golf Club opened to its membership on Monday, an annual fall occurrence that typically occurs without much fanfare. It is a private club, after all. Other sports are in full song, particularly football. Normally, the annual Masters tournament is still six months away, the golf calendar filled with a bunch of sleepy event this time of year.

Nothing, of course, is normal about 2020. Augusta National was closed as usual for the summer, but shut down more than two months early due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Masters Tournament was lost in the bedlam, just a month prior to its start, and eventually postponed to November.

That seemed long ago.

Now we are a month away from the first fall Masters, and the potential for a wonderfully different look at a revered, historic place in the game that will see Tiger Woods attempt to defend his 2019 title 19 months later on the hallowed Georgia grounds that will be without spectators.

Here is how things stand with another four weeks to go until the third major championship of 2020:

The course

Some stunning photos surfaced recently on Eureka Earth, which took aerial shots of Augusta National in late September. Except for the greens, the entire place was brown. Many fairway areas appeared to be shaved bare. Bunkers had liners but not all had sand.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CFpfapEFkAm/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

And this is, well, par for the course.

The fairways and rough at Augusta National have Bermuda grass, the predominant grass that typically prospers in the warm, summer months. As the club is closing in late May, the Bermuda pushes out the rye grass overseed. It is what you would expect of most courses in the South.

But because Augusta National is closed in the summer, there is no need to maintain the Bermuda. The greens — which are bent grass — are kept in top condition, but the rest of the course is not in the traditional sense, unless there is some sort of work being done or changes made.

Hence the photos.

But, magically, some 10 days later, those same photos showed a green golf course.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CF4vkXelnsw/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Each September, Augusta National puts down a rye overseed that is meant to keep the grass green through the fall and winter months. And it’s how the course appears in April for the Masters.

With less time to be ready for a November Masters, it will be fascinating to see how Augusta National plays. Will the turf possibly be thinner than usual? Will it play faster? Could there be cooler mornings? All of this is to be discovered.

The field

The field is set at 96 players and has been since the postponed tournament dates were announced in April. Before play was halted due to the pandemic, there were just two remaining ways to qualify for the Masters for those not otherwise invited: to win the Players Championship, Valspar Championship, WGC-Dell match Play or Valero Texas Open; or be among the top 50 in the world on the Monday following the Match Play.

The Masters then went with the most recent published top 50 in the Official World Ranking. Four players qualified who were not otherwise exempt: then-No. 44 Collin Morikawa, No. 45 Scottie Scheffler and No. 47 Christiaan Bezuidenhout are making their Masters debuts. Graeme McDowell also snuck into the top 50 and will play his first Masters since 2016.

The (mini) controversy

Daniel Berger was well outside of the top 50 in the world when golf was halted following the first round of the Players Championship. He won the first tournament back, the Charles Schwab Challenge in June, and he has add six top-25 finishes since to move up to No. 12 in the world.

Certainly Berger has a case to be in the Masters field given his world ranking. So do Viktor Hovland and Harris English. Both have moved into the top 50. But barring some last-minute change, they won’t be at Augusta National.

Imagine the uproar if Morikawa had not snuck into the top 50 in the spring? He has since won the PGA Championship, which by itself would not have qualified him for this unique Masters because the August tournament was after the Masters cutoff.

Those still trying to qualify for the 2020 Masters missed out on four potential winning possibilities and the ability to move into the top 50.

But Augusta’s stance is solid: Qualification for the 2020 Masters ended in March. Anything that occurred after that applies to the 2021 Masters, which will be just five months later.

The field size is always an issue with the Masters. It rarely goes over 100 players. Last year, it was 87. With far less daylight in the fall, getting the field through 18 holes each day is an issue that likely led to a decision to not add any more players.

The tee times

An issue unlike any other Masters. Instead of daylight saving time, the Masters will operate on standard time. That means approximately two hours less daylight per day. It will be dark around 5:30 p.m. ET. That means, possibly, the need for a two-tee start on Thursday and Friday.

And having to start the first round of the Masters on the 10th tee and facing Amen Corner early in the morning is not an ideal situation.

Could everyone play off the first tee?

It’s possible, but it would be extremely tight. Last year, the final tee time was at 2 p.m. To get in before darkness, the last time can really be no later than about 12:30 p.m., if you consider threesomes are going to take five hours.

But … if you started at 7 a.m. and went in 11-minute intervals, you could have 32 tee times of three players each that run through 12:39 p.m. Delays of any kind would mean the last groups won’t finish. But Augusta National might be willing to take that chance.

Also to be considered: the honorary starters, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Do they tee off in virtual darkness before 7 a.m.?

Without a one-tee start, the Masters would need to go to a two-tee start with a morning and afternoon wave. You would have eight groups of three players tee off the first and 10th tees in the morning, and then another wave of the same in the afternoon.

After 36 holes, there will be a cut to the top 50 and ties, which should allow for normal one-tee start in twos for the third round. But due to CBS’ NFL commitment on Sunday, the fourth round is scheduled to end by approximately 2:30 p.m ET, allowing time for a sudden-death playoff if necessary. That will again mean starting players off both tees.

The defending champion

Woods will have one more start prior to the Masters, as he has entered next week’s Zozo Championship at Sherwood Country Club. It is the tournament he won a year ago — his 82nd PGA Tour title, tying Sam Snead for the most — when it was played in Japan.

How Woods looks at Sherwood in Southern California is anybody’s guess, but if past results are an indicator then there should not be much in the way of expectations for Woods.

He missed the cut at the U.S. Open last month, meaning that during an 11-week stretch between the BMW Championship in August and the Masters, Woods will have played just six competitive rounds.

It’s the least he’s played leading to a Masters since he took nine weeks prior to the 2015 tournament, where he tied for 17th. In 2010, Woods didn’t play all year until the Masters and tied for fourth.

Leading to his 2019 victory, Woods played two weeks prior at the Match Play and a total of four times in eight weeks prior.

After his victory at the Zozo a year ago, Woods was ranked sixth in the world, which is where he ended 2019. He has dropped to 24th.

The bomber

How Bryson DeChambeau plays Augusta National should be fascinating to watch. He’s clearly not interested in navigating his way around the course. The U.S. Open champion said he’s been working on putting a driver with a 48-inch shaft into play specifically for the Masters. Many wondered how his newfound long game that included some 50 pounds of weight gain would fare on a difficult course. Well, DeChambeau was the only player under par at Winged Foot, and he won by six.

The losses due to the pandemic

The Augusta National Women’s Amateur was canceled, as was the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship. Both of those pre-tournament staples played on the weekend prior will have to wait until April.

What is unclear is if Woods will be able to host a Champions Dinner in the clubhouse, on the patio — or at all. So far, no word. Same for the annual Par 3 Contest, which if it is played would undoubtedly be missing all of the spouses, kids and grandkids who frequent the event.

The patrons

Augusta National’s term for the fans or spectators who attend the tournament won’t be of much use this year — as there won’t be any. That’s a huge hit to the club’s bottom line (for the first time, merchandise will be made available for a short time online to contracted ticket holders), despite its enormous resources.

And it’s a huge blow to the tournament that in part has become famous worldwide for the cheers and groans that echo among the huge pine trees, making for one of sports’ great spectacles.

This time, we’ll hear the echo of club meeting ball, birds chirping and maybe a smattering of applause from volunteers or club members who are permitted onto the course.

But those ear-shattering roars will be missing. And they will also be missed.

Woods, who many times has commented on how the support of the spectators played such an important role in his victory in 2019, unknowingly foreshadowed what this year might look like way before anyone could imagine what the world would endure.

As he exited the clubhouse on that Sunday night in April after his victory, the sun had yet to completely drop underneath the clouds, a far different setting than the champion would encounter in the late-night darkness.

“I have never seen the golf course empty like that,” Woods said. “I was out there with [children] Sam and Charlie and I said, ‘This is what Augusta National is like.’ You see the beauty of it. The rolling hills. The perfect grass. It was immaculate.

“It’s so different when nobody is out there. That’s when they started to understand how beautiful the place is.”

It sure is, and perhaps this unique Masters will offer the opportunity to appreciate that even more.

SOURCE: espn.com

Sergio Garcia delivers knockout punch at 18 for first PGA Tour win since 2017 Masters

Sergio Garcia can open his eyes now.

The 40-year-old Spaniard, who has resorted to putting with his eyes closed, is a winner again on the PGA Tour for the first time since the 2017 Masters.

“Would you believe me if I told you I’ve been doing it for about three years?” Garcia said on Friday. “I’ve gone on and off, but like Augusta I won it playing with my eyes closed every single putt and some of the other wins, too.”

That list now includes the Sanderson Farms Championship as Garcia broke out of a prolonged slump with a final-round 5-under 67 at the Country Club of Jackson and beat Peter Malnati with a birdie on the final hole to notch his 11th PGA Tour title.

Afterwards, Garcia dedicated the victory to his father, Victor, who has lost two brothers, Paco and Angel, to COVID-19 back in his native Spain.

“It’s sad,” said Garcia, who now counts Tour wins in three different decades (2000s, 2010s, 2020s). “And I know that a lot of families have lost a lot more people, but you never want to lose anyone like that, and I wanted to win this for them.”

Garcia was mired in a prolonged slump, recording just one top-10 finish since February and he’d missed three of his last four cuts. He failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs and in the latest indignity, dropped out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking this week for the first time in nine years.

The primary culprit was a putter that disobeyed him. Garcia ranked No. 187 in Strokes Gained: Putting last season, and entered the week at No. 246 in that statistical category this season. As Sirius/XM PGA Tour Network analyst Dennis Paulson noted, “No player comes out of a putt faster than Garcia.”

As he searched for his game, Garcia flirted with various putting grips before freeing up his stroke by closing his eyes when he putted. Hold the chuckles and jokes of desperation because it worked. He made 55 of 56 putts from inside five feet and gained strokes against the field on the greens in all four rounds.

“If he keeps making putts, everybody else will be trying it out here, too,” Brandt Snedeker said.

“The great thing for me is that when I’m feeling it, I don’t feel like I even have to putt too well to have a chance at winning, or to win,” said Garcia, who won the European Tour’s Dutch Open in 2019 and now has at least one worldwide victory in 10 consecutive years. “With an average or just above average kind of putting week, if I’m playing the way I played this week, I can give myself a chance of winning almost every week.”

Garcia has long been a peerless driver of the ball and among the best ballstrikers, but even his bread and butter parts of his game weren’t up to his usual standard as he struggled with an equipment change.

“We’re always one swing away from feeling like we’re the best player in the world and we’re always another stretch from feeling like we should find another job,” Snedeker said.

Garcia said he found something with his ballstriking and the stats back him up: he led the field in driving distance and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green.

On a glorious day of sunshine, Malnati, the 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship winner, started the day five strokes off the pace and teed off nearly two hours before Garcia, but he made birdie on seven of his first 12 holes to join the trophy hunt.

Malnati, 33, was mostly thinking about earning a top-10 finish to qualify for next week’s Tour event in Las Vegas until his putter got hot. He rolled in 139 feet of putts in the final round, including a 33-foot birdie putt at No. 17. He pumped his fist three times and for the moment led by three strokes. He fired the low round of the day, 9-under 63, to claim the clubhouse lead at 18 under and then held a picnic on the club’s front lawn with his wife and 11-month-old son, Hatcher.

Garcia made four birdies, but also two bogeys on the front nine, including when he missed a 5-foot putt at the sixth hole. During his slump, Garcia has been a leader of, if not sad, then stern faces, but he refused to be deflated by the miss.

“I did what I’ve been doing all week. I trusted myself,” Garcia said. “I stuck with it, I kept going, I kept believing, I kept telling myself, you’re doing great, just keep doing what you’re doing.”

The fiery Spaniard’s improved attitude hasn’t gone unnoticed by his peers.

“Since he’s had kids, he’s definitely a lot mellower on the golf course,” Snedeker said. “He gives himself a lot more grace than he probably used to. He used to beat himself up a lot, and I don’t see that nearly as much anymore. I think it’ll lead to a lot of good golf for him going forward, because as everybody knows, he’s super talented.”

Garcia let his talent shine and caught Malnati in dramatic fashion, begging for a 5-wood from 260 yards to clear the front bunker at the par-5 14th hole. It did and trickled to inside 4 feet for eagle. Then he delivered the knockout punch at 18, planting an 8-iron from 172 yards to inside three feet for birdie to finish 19-under 269.

“To hit it that close,” he said, “it was a dream come true.”

It was the same club that Garcia used to stiff his second shot at Augusta National’s par-5 15th hole that set up his playoff victory and his lone major title. This time, Garcia hit it so close he could’ve made the putt with his eyes opened or closed. He tapped in, pumped his fist, and looked to the sky with the realization that he was a winner again and a boost of confidence for next month’s Masters and all that is still to come.

“It showed me a lot of what I still have and what I still can do,” he said “I feel like I’m starting to be like the old me.”

SOURCE: golfweek.usatoday.com

Hudson Swafford prevails at PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Club and Resort Championship

Hudson Swafford lost control of the tournament without ever losing any confidence he could hit the right shot when it counted.

Standing in the 13th fairway Sunday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship, he had a four-shot lead. Walking off the 15th green, he was tied.

“Honestly, I hit one bad golf shot all day,” Swafford said of his 9-iron that he didn’t finish and led to the bogey on the 15th.

With the tournament on the line, he delivered.

Swafford hit a three-quarter 6-iron on the par-3 17th to 10 feet for birdie to regain the lead, and then reminded himself how well he had been putting when he stood over an 8-footer for par on the final hole for the victory.

“Its like, ‘Man, just hit another solid putt. Just one more solid putt,’” Swafford said.

He closed with a 3-under 69. The birdie on the 17th allowed him to break out of a tie with Tyler McCumber and Mackenzie Hughes, and the par putt on the 18th avoided a playoff with McCumber.

It was his second career victory on the PGA Tour, the other coming at the Desert Classic in January 2017. That was a year before he missed time with a rib injury, which was followed by foot surgery in the summer of 2019.

Swafford hopes he’s on the right path again. The victory gets him into the Masters next April, which will be his first major since the 2017 PGA Championship.

McCumber rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 66. In the group ahead of Swafford was Hughes, who made bogey from short of the 18th green for a 70 to fall two shots behind.

Swafford was on the front portion of the green and left his 40-foot putt up the ridge 8 feet short. He made that for the win, finishing at 18-under 270.

Swafford was playing on a medical extension from his foot surgery and now gets a two-year exemption, along with invitations next year to the Masters and PGA Championship, along with the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Maui.

McCumber was bogey-free in the final round and never seemed to be part of the picture until the end. He worked his way around the back nine with a collection of tough par saves, birdies on the par 5s and then a must-make birdie on the 18th.

Adam Long, the 54-hole leader, shot 38 on the front and closed with a 75 to finish fifth, four shots behind.

Swafford nearly stumbled to the finish line. Staked to a three-shot lead at the turn, he missed good birdie chances with a 6-foot putt on the 11th hole and a 7-iron for his second shot to the par-5 12th. But he pulled that enough to go down to a steep collection, the first chip came back to his feet and he had to hit a super pitch to escape with par.

On the next hole, he wasn’t so fortunate.

From left of the 13th, another chip came back down the hill. His next chip was 12 feet short and he missed the putt, taking a double bogey. Ahead of him, Hughes birdied the par-5 14th. And when Swafford missed the 15th green from the fairway and failed to get up-and-down, he was tied.

The 6-iron to the 17th, where so many other players had come up short, changed everything.

“A good-flighted 6-iron,” he said. “Done it 100,000 times. I love hitting that golf shot. It was a good one, and even a better putt.”

Will Zalatoris, coming off a tie for sixth in the U.S. Open, tied for eighth. Zalatoris, who plays the Korn Ferry Tour but cannot get a PGA Tour card until next year, can get into the next PGA Tour event because of his top-10 finish.

SOURCE: ESPN.com

2020 U.S. Open leaderboard, winner: Bryson DeChambeau powers way through Winged Foot to capture first major

DeChambeau, 27, put his added muscle to good use at one of the toughest courses in the United States

Bryson DeChambeau saved his best round for last at the 2020 U.S. Open, carding a 3-under 67 at Winged Foot on Sunday to claim his first career major championship. DeChambeau’s closing round was just two strokes off the best 18-hole score of the week (65) as he grinded out grueling, sometimes gusty conditions with an effortless combination of his length off the tee and control around the greens.

DeChambeau, who caught and then surpassed 21-year-old Matthew Wolff (the 54-hole leader), was the only golfer in the field to finish with a final-round score under par, cementing himself in the history books in his seventh career win on the PGA Tour. The last time a U.S. Open champion owned the only final-round score under par was 1955 — 38 years before DeChambeau was born (!) — when Jack Fleck pulled off the feat after beating Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff. He polished off hole No. 72 in style, too, dropping in a par save and letting out a roar.

It has been a breakout year for DeChambeau, who captured golf’s first major of the 2020-21 season on Sunday. In the last year, he’s added a significant amount of muscle to his 6-foot-1 frame and built himself into the longest golfer off the tees in the world. What’s come of the new edge is five top-five finishes this calendar year, a (previous-best) top-five finish at the PGA Championship last month and an advantage off the tees that’s becoming more pronounced with each passing event.

DeChambeau finished fourth in strokes gained off the tee this week and fourth in driving distance on Sunday. He was also the first player to make an eagle in his final round and win the U.S. Open since 1937, per Justin Ray. DeChambeau accomplished that on the ninth hole and cruised to victory from there.

“On 9 was when I first thought, ‘OK, this could be a reality.’ I made that long eagle putt and shocked myself making it, too. I thought to myself I could do it, and then immediately after I said, ‘Nope, you gotta focus on each and every hole.’ I just kept telling myself ‘Nope, we’ve got three more holes, we’ve got four more holes, we’ve got five more holes.’ Whatever it was, I just had to keep focused, make sure I was executing every shot the best I possibly could.”

Finishing runner-up is the aforementioned Wolff, who was on the precipice of making his own history before surrendering his 54-hole two-stroke lead. If he had closed it out, Wolff would have become the youngest U.S. Open winner since 1923 (Bobby Jones) and youngest major champion since Tiger Woods (1997 Masters). Instead, he finished with a final-round 5-over 75 as he tried to keep up with DeChambeau’s mesmerizing performance. It’s Wolff’s second consecutive top-five finish in a major, however, on the heels of a T4 finish at the PGA Championship last month.

Rounding out the top five is a two-way tie for third between Harris English (+2) and Louis Oosthuizen (+2). There was a three-way tie for fifth with Dustin Johnson, Will Zalatoris and Xander Schauffele all finishing 5 over on the week.

1. Bryson DeChambeau (-6): DeChambeau’s built his game around length off the tees. It’s fitting, then, that he finished third in the field this week in strokes gained off the tee, strutting to his first major championship on the strength of his best skill. DeChambeau had just one bogey all day (on No. 8) and found a new stride after an eagle on No. 9. He played the front nine at 2 under and played a bogey-free back nine at 1 under.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it,” DeChambeau said after the round on NBC. “It’s just an honor. It’s been a lot of hard work.”

2. Matthew Wolff (-E): It’s easy to look at Wolff’s runner-up finish as a disappointment after he held the 54-hole lead, but finishing runner-up in a major championship at his age is the stuff of legend. In fact, Wolff, 21, is the youngest runner-up at the U.S. Open in 80 years (Jack Nicklaus, 1960). How he hit only two fairways on Saturday and still squeaked out a 5-under 65 will forever remain majestic. Wolff’s weaknesses, particularly with his putter, showed in his 5-over 75 on Sunday, losing strokes on the field with his putter. But being one of only two professional golfers on tour to not be over par this week at wicked Winged Foot is something he can build off.

3. Louis Oosthuizen (+2): One-time major champion Oosthuizen finished in sole possession of third — his second-best finish at the U.S. Open ever — on the strength of a final-round 73. Oosthuizen played with control all week, finishing in the top 20 in greens hit in regulation and in fairways hit. As treacherous as Winged Foot played all week, it was a distinct advantage he used to overcome his lack of length off the tees.

4. Harris English (+3): Best finish in a major ever for 31-year-old English. He’s coming off one of his most productive seasons on the PGa Tour and was in the thick of it all week. Kicking his day off with a double bogey put his back to the wall early Sunday, he rallied to play the final 17 at 1 over. He finished the week second in the field in fewest number of putts at 111.

5. Xander Schauffele (+4): In each of Schauffele’s four wins, he has entered the final round trailing by at least two strokes. And so entering Sunday, just five strokes off the lead, a comeback didn’t seem likely … but it also didn’t seem entirely impossible. He had a strong even-par opening nine to hang around, but had five bogeys in his last six to drift just outside the mix. Strong overall showing for him this week, finishing first in the field in strokes gained with his short game and 11th putting.

SOURCE: CBSsports.com