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15 Jun

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With a majestic show of force over his right knee next to the 18th green Friday night, Patrick Reed authored one of the visual highlights of the 119th U.S. Open.

Reed’s heated club snap gained plenty of online traction in the hours after his second round at Pebble Beach, where a series of miscues from short range caused the former Masters champ’s blood to boil. He didn’t speak to reporters after the emotional close to his second round, but given a few hours to cool off he spoke about the incident following a 1-over 72 in Round 3 that left him at 3 over for the week.

In Reed’s mind, the club snap was cathartic – and undeserving of further scrutiny.

“To me, it’s no big deal,” Reed said. “It was comical after watching it afterwards. But it wasn’t comical having to go through hitting poor wedge shot after poor wedge shot, especially when I pride myself on my short game and being able to get up and down.”

Reed’s issues on the 18th hole Friday began when his 6-iron attempt to extract his ball from the rough barely went 100 yards. From there he found a greenside bunker, bladed it over the green, missed the green again coming back and flubbed another chip from the thick grass.

It was at that point that his 61-degree lob wedge met its untimely demise.

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“Oh yeah, it deserved it. There’s a reason why I call it ’61 and done,’ and that’s why it’s done,” Reed said. “We always call it ’61 and done’ because it usually gets me out of jail all the time. It kept me in jail on that one.”

Reed used his 57-degree sand wedge for his sixth shot, and eventually rolled in a short putt to make the cut on the number. While social media lit up with slow-motion video of his visceral outburst, he believes it pales in comparison to some other on-course sins.

“I mean, at the end of the day, I got my anger out. I didn’t do anything to the golf course, I didn’t say any obscenities or anything like that. It was a split-second and I moved on,” Reed said. “You have Sergio (Garcia) with what he did on the greens (in Saudi Arabia). I’ve seen multiple guys tear up golf courses, slam clubs. I mean, Rory (McIlroy) threw his club in the water on 8 at Doral (in 2015). You had Lucas Bjerregaard send his driver in the water here. It happens.

“The thing is, things like that probably shouldn’t happen, but at the end of the day as long as you respect the golf course, as long as you’re not doing anything that is damaging the golf course or damaging the players that you’re playing with, I’d rather let it out than keep it in.”

Reed couldn’t recall the last time he broke a club in anger on the golf course, though he did note that he had three club shafts break on commercial flights over the last year. He regularly travels with three lob wedges in case one gets damaged during play, and he put one of those backups into his bag for the third round – albeit for a far different reason.

“To basically miss the green from 20 yards and then basically advance the ball 3 inches from 6 feet off the green, it’s not normally how my short game is,” Reed said. “But that’s what a U.S. Open, and rough like this, will do to you.”

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15 Jun

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Louis Oosthuizen is 36 holes away from joining one of the game’s most exclusive clubs.

The South African, who shot 1-under 71 Friday at the U.S. Open to move into solo third and three shots back of leader Gary Woodland, can become just the third player to win major championships at St. Andrews and Pebble Beach. Oosthuizen won the 2010 Open Championship on the Old Course for his lone PGA Tour victory and can join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to win a Grand Slam on two of the game’s most iconic venues.

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He will need to clean up his scorecard on the weekend if he’s going to make history. He had six bogeys Friday after posting just a single bogey on Day 1.

“Seven birdies and six bogeys. I’m not a big fan of bogeys, I had a lot of bogeys on my scorecard,” said Oosthuizen, who hit just 11 of 18 greens in regulation. “But you miss these greens, it’s so difficult around the greens out of the rough. And you can’t control the ball. You basically are guessing what it’s going to do.”

Following a decent start to his round, Oosthuizen turned in 1 under par before things got wild with bogeys at Nos. 10, 12, 13 and 16. His only par on the closing nine came at the par-5 18th hole.

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15 Jun

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Having won his U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Graeme McDowell knows exactly how demanding the layout can be. What he didn’t expect on Friday was a birdie run that put him into contention.

Following two bogeys through his first three holes, McDowell converted from 8 feet for birdie at No. 4, 15 feet at No. 5, 4 feet at No. 6, and 9 feet at No. 7.

“You make four straight, you don’t feel you should do that at a U.S. Open. I saw the stats yesterday. It looked like it was close to three shots easier for Round 1 than it was in 2010,” said McDowell, who won the ’10 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

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The rest of his round, however, was pretty much exactly what he’s come to expect from Pebble Beach. Following another birdie at the 10th hole, he bogeyed the 11th and 14th holes for a 1-under 70 and a 3-under total that was six shots off the pace.

After two days of relatively benign scoring conditions, McDowell predicted that the layout will continue to firm up over the weekend and become an increasingly difficult test.

“It hasn’t shown its teeth yet,” he said. “You have to be careful what you wish for out here, because you could be out there tomorrow thinking there’s the teeth and I don’t really like them anymore.”

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15 Jun

Phil Mickelson got an assist from above Friday at the U.S. Open.

After hitting his drive down the fairway at Pebble Beach’s par-4 10th hole, Mickelson watched as a seagull swooped down and waddled over to Mickelson’s ball. After a few attempts to pick up the ball in its beak, the seagull gave up.

It did get the assist, though. Mickelson went on to birdie the hole to move back to 2 under for the championship.

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14 Jun

The par-4 third hole at Pebble Beach is playing as one of the easiest holes this week at the U.S. Open, but Friday, Ian Poulter made it look like the most challenging.

Poulter’s approach shot landed just over a greenside bunker, but nestled down in the tall, thick fescue grass that lined the edges. Despite having an awkward stance, Poulter took a jab.

After finally making it out of the thick stuff and on to the green, Poulter would go on to three-putt and card a quadruple-bogey 8.

Luckily for Poulter, he would bounce back with a birdie on the par-4 fourth to get one of those dropped shots back, only to give it away with a bogey on the fifth. What a roller coaster.

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14 Jun

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The twisting and picturesque fairways of Pebble Beach weren’t supposed to be Brooks Koepka’s brand of vodka.

This wasn’t Bethpage Black, where Koepka powered his way to his fourth major in his last eight major starts, or Erin Hills, where he won his first major on wide, welcoming fairways. Yet after an eventful first round there he was perched just four strokes off the lead.

Maybe this is the ultimate chip for a player who relishes the role of being the overlooked superstar. Although he’d mentioned a promotional spot for this week’s championship that didn’t include him as a perceived slight, perhaps the real fuel comes from the idea that this wasn’t supposed to be his kind of course.

It certainly didn’t look that way early in his round when the two-time defending champion birdied four of his first six holes to move to within a stroke of the early lead.

There were hiccups coming in – a missed green at No. 8 that bounced hard and into the hay, a wayward drive at No. 13 and a tee shot at the iconic 17th hole that airmailed the green. They all led to bogeys and added up to a 2-under 69 that was four shots off the pace set by Justin Rose.

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“It’s a battle if you’re not going to hit fairways. If you’re not going to hit greens, it’s going to be tough,” said Koepka, who hit just seven of 14 greens in regulation. “I’m actually quite pleased.”

If that doesn’t exactly sound like the guy who is on the verge of becoming the first player in over a century to win three consecutive U.S. Opens, it’s yet another indication that Koepka is not a machine despite his often-stoic demeanor.

The best evidence of this came at the par-5 closing hole when Koepka pushed his 3-wood off the tee well right of the fairway and opted to play his second shot off a cart path. As he made his way to the green a group of fans cheered from one of the palatial homes along the fairway.

“I was trying to hit your house,” he said with a smile.

Koepka has learned in an amazingly short amount of time the ebb and flow of major championship golf and that if your worst day is under par, particularly at a U.S. Open, you’re doing fine.

“I would have liked to have shot a couple more. But considering how I hit it coming in, I’m pretty pleased,” he said. “I didn’t shoot myself out of it. I’m right there. I feel like if I get out tomorrow and get off to a good start, I’m right back into it.”

He’s earned this calmness honestly. He was tied for 33rd after Day 1 last year at the PGA Championship and tied for 46th after his first 18 at the ’18 U.S. Open on his way to victory at both. By comparison his tie for 16th at Pebble Beach probably feels like a reason to sleep easy.

He might not have started his week like some would have expected, but he’s still on pace to finish exactly where one would imagine.

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14 Jun

Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee marveled over the ball-striking display Rickie Fowler put on Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but he wondered if Fowler’s flat swing makes it tougher for him to win a major.

Fowler opened with a 5-under-par 66, one shot behind the leader, Justin Rose.

“What he did today, I would dare say, was something we may never see again,” Chamblee said on “Live From the U.S. Open”. “I don’t know that I have ever seen it. He led the field in driving accuracy, and he was second in driving distance. He led the field in greens in regulation.

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“It was brilliant. He averaged 321 yards off the tee missing just one fairway.”

Chamblee, however, said he believes Fowler’s flat swing may be the reason he has struggled to break through and win his first major. Fowler, 30, is making his 39th start in a major. He has eight finishes of T-5 or better in majors with three of those second-place finishes.

“Why his path to a major championship victory has to come from the fairway is because, unlike some of the players we have talked about, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose or Tiger Woods, who have been good out of the rough on the way to winning major championships, this is where Rickie Fowler struggles,” Chamblee said. “He has a very flat golf swing. As a matter of fact, maybe the flattest golf swing I have ever seen. Certainly, the flattest on the PGA Tour. Subsequently, a very shallow angle of attack with a little flip.”

Fowler ranked 168th on the PGA Tour in proximity to the hole from the rough two seasons ago, 151st last season, and he is 132nd so far this season.

“You need to be able to dig it out of the rough at major championships, where it’s a little thicker than in regular tour events,” Chamblee said. “He typically hasn’t been very good out of the rough.”

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13 Jun

It’s not a glitch in the matrix. You have seen Brandt Snedeker do this before.

Snedeker on Thursday made his second birdie of 2019 from the rocks along Pebble Beach’s iconic 18th hole.

After his drive narrowly avoided the Pacific Ocean, Snedeker played his second shot back over the sea wall and onto the golf course. Following a flagged approach from 147 yards, he was in for birdie.

Weirdly, it’s not as impressive as the last time he did it, back in February at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

So if you see Snedeker aiming down the coastline the next three days, don’t worry — he knows what he’s doing.

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13 Jun

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Rory McIlroy rode his hot putter to a final-round 61 in his seven-shot victory on Sunday at the RBC Canadian Open.

So common sense would dictate he’d probably want to bring that same putter to this week’s U.S. Open. That almost didn’t happen.

For the trophy ceremony, McIlroy momentarily traded his putter for a Toronto Raptors jersey with the CEO of Golf Canada, Laurence Applebaum, and they nearly forgot to trade back. 

“I traded him. He gave me a Raptors jersey, and I gave him my putter and thought he was going to give it to [caddie Harry Diamond] up at the scoring area or whatever,” McIlroy said on Wednesday at the U.S. Open. “And I saw Harry. He goes, Where’s your putter? And I said, I better go find it. So, no, I definitely didn’t give it away. I know I’ve done some stupid things in the past, but that would have been right up there.”

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The win in Canada was McIlroy’s second victory of the season, and he enters the week at the Pebble Beach on the short list of favorites to break his major drought that dates back to 2014.

The four-time major winner’s chances would’ve taken a hit had he left his flatstick in a different country.

“I said to Harry, Could you go and find Laurence? He’s got my putter. And put it back in the bag and make sure the bag gets on the plane and goes to California,” added McIlroy. “That was really it … the guy I gave it to was running the golf tournament. He knows it’s not for him.”

McIlroy tees off in search of his second U.S. Open victory and fifth major title on Thursday at 10:51 a.m. ET with Jon Rahm, Marc Leishman.

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13 Jun

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Only Dustin Johnson has a chance to move to world No. 1 this week at the U.S. Open.

There are 12 scenarios in which Johnson can pass No. 1 Brooks Koepka, including the most simple: A win.

The other scenarios for Johnson:

  • Solo 2nd provided Koepka doesn’t win
  • Solo 3rd and Koepka finishes worse than two-way T-4
  • Solo 4th and Koepka finishes worse than three-way T-7
  • Solo 5th and Koepka finishes worse than solo 13th
  • Solo 6th and Koepka finishes worse than two-way T-19
  • Solo 7th and Koepka finishes worse than two-way T-25
  • Solo 8th and Koepka finishes worse than solo 40th
  • Solo 9th and Koepka finishes worse than solo 49th
  • Solo 10th and Koepka finishes worse than two-way T-58
  • Solo 11th and Koepka misses the cut

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In any event, Johnson needs at least a two-way tie for 11th (or a four-way T-10 or better) to have a chance to pass Koepka.  

As for the other players, Tiger Woods, now ranked fifth, would rise to No. 3 in the world with a victory this week at Pebble Beach.

To pass Justin Rose, Woods needs at least a two-way T-3 or better (depending on Rose’s finish), and to leapfrog Rory McIlroy, Woods needs at least a three-way T-2 or better.

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