Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Billy Hurley III to skip British Open to attend sister's wedding

Billy Hurley III has made his choice, and he's going to choose family over the British Open.

The newly minted PGA Tour winner announced Tuesday that he'll attend his sister's wedding the week of the year's third major instead of making the trip to compete at Royal Troon.

The Naval Academy grad earned a spot in the Open after winning the Quicken Loans National on Sunday, but he knew he had a pretty big conflict.

“I wouldn't miss my sister’s wedding for the world, and I think that at this point in time for me and my family and the trajectory of our family, it's very important for me to be there to support her and her new husband,” Hurley said, according to USA Today.

“It was a pretty easy decision at the end of the day. She tried to not really influence me a ton on Sunday night, but I called her while I was playing, and she started crying. I mean, so she was pretty thrilled that I'll be there.”

Hurley's emotional win, which came a year after making a public plea at the same tournament to find his father who had left home without warning, not only got him into the year's third major, but it also landed him a spot in this week's no-cut WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

“I don't think they were expecting me here," Hurley said. "My locker is kind of in the corner and there's a parking spot back in the back of the lot and everything. But happy to have just both of those this week, to be honest.”


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Muirfield members will vote again on admitting female members

Muirfield members voted six weeks ago on changing their club's constitution and admitting female members for the first time. They came up just short of the two-thirds majority required to make that change.

The fallout has been substantial, including the R&A removing Muirfield from the British Open rotation until the club changes its membership policies. That and further fallout from that failed vote, largely driven by just 33 members of the club, has spurred interest in trying this vote for a second time.

The club's male-only membership will pursue a follow-up vote on the question, announcing the decision on Monday.

“A substantial majority of our members voted for change and many have voiced their disappointment with the ballot result and with subsequent events,” said Henry Fairweather, captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

“The Club Committee believes that a clear and decisive vote in favor of admitting women as members is required to enable us to begin the task of restoring the reputation of the Club that has been damaged by the earlier ballot outcome."

In the May vote, 64 percent of voters wanted to admit female members for the first time in the club's history.

Club members seemingly would like for Muirfield to remain in the Open rotation and continue on hosting beyond the 16 times it has already been site of the world's oldest major golf championship.

This year's Open host, Royal Troon, will vote on Friday to combine its separate male and female memberships. In a test ballot, 75 percent of the membership suggested support for the measure.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Jason Day, Shane Lowry bow out of Olympic consideration over Zika

Add two more, including the world No. 1, to the list of players bowing out of consideration for the 2016 men's Olympic golf tournament.

Jason Day and defending WGC-Bridgestone Invitational champion Shane Lowry announced on Tuesday that they will not represent their countries in the Olympics over fears of Zika virus.

Day said a decision to compete in Rio de Janeiro would “absolutely comes with health risks to me and to my family.” With hopes of adding to the two children he has with wife Ellie, Day said, in part, “playing golf cannot take precedent over the safety of our family.”

The decision may not be all that surprising considering Day's allusions at last week's PGA Championship media day, saying he wanted to add to his family and had to consider that as a factor in his choice. Day had made the choice last week, but he didn't want to announce it so as to take away from the Quicken Loans National, hosted by friend and mentor Tiger Woods.

Lowry, who was recently married, wants to start his family in the near future.

“Based on these circumstances, I have received firm medical advice that I should not travel to Rio this summer," Lowry said in a statement released shortly after Day's decision.

The 29-year-old Irishman and the 27-year-old Day join Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel, Tim Wiklinson, Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez as players who have withdrawn their names from consideration. 


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Power rankings: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

The PGA Tour is getting into the meat of its Olympics-influenced schedule, with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational moving up from the week before the PGA Championship into the July 4 weekend.

Shane Lowry is the defending champion of a 61-player field, somewhat depleted because the European Tour chose not to co-sanction the event this year in favor of supporting the 100th French Open. However, Dusitn Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day are the headliners this week.

Here are our top five players for this week:

1. Dustin Johnson -- The U.S. Open champion comes back after winning at Oakmont. He's been playing incredible golf all year. This course, given how he drove the ball at Oakmont, makes a lot of sense. However, his Firestone record isn't all that great.

2. Jason Day -- It's a good week for Day to come through, just like Oakmont. Long and firm. Day has been in the top 12 here in the last two years, and this tournament came amid a great run for him last year.

3. Adam Scott -- Scott was the 2011 winner here, and he's become a practical top 15 lock here. Coming off a respectable T-18 at the Open.

4. Brooks Koepka -- This course should set up well for Koepka. He was sixth here last year. The question mark is driving, which undid his Sunday bid for 63 or better at Oakmont...but that was with long irons and Open pressure.

5. Jordan Spieth -- Spieth has been largely forgettable of late and was a total non-factor at Oakmont. However, he was in the top 10 here last year, and his relative lack of length shouldn't hurt him at Firestone.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Monday, June 27, 2016

Branden Grace joins the ranks of those skipping the Olympics

At this point, the question isn't who's not playing in the Olympics.

It's: Who actually is playing in the Olympics?

South African Branden Grace became the third player just this week to announce he was removing his name from consideration for the 60-player men's Olympic golf tournament in Brazil in August. Grace, like his fellow countrymen Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, has concerns about Zika virus.

Golf Channel first reported on Grace's decision, confirmed by his representation at IMG.

Grace had been in line to take a spot in the field, but the 11th-ranked player who already won at Harbour Town this year is taking a pass. At this point, the two South African berths in the men's tournament go to world No. 59 Jaco Van Zyl and world No. 101 Brandon Stone.

Add Grace to Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell on the list of players this week to say they're not going to make the trek to Rio de Janeiro. These three join Schwartzel, Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Vijay Singh, Tim Wilkinson and Miguel Angel Jimenez on the list of players who have withdrawn their names from consideration.

World No. 1 Jason Day is also on the fence about competing, as are Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Danny Willett.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Sunday, June 26, 2016

IOC member thinks golf should be out of the Olympics without stars

They're dropping like flies, or mosquitoes, from the men's Olympic golf tournament.

Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Graeme McDowell, Branden Grace, Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen, Vijay Singh, Tim Wilkinson, Charl Schwartzel and Miguel Angel Jimenez have all withdrawn their names from consideration for the 60-player tournament in Rio. Some have voiced concerns over Zika virus. Others have spoken of scheduling conflicts, including McDowell, whose wife is set to give birth to the couple's second child in September.

There are still other big names on the sidelines, including Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

The International Olympic Committee has noticed, and an IOC member said that golf's potential inability to deliver its stars could make its place on the Olympic program short-lived.

Barry Maister is the IOC member, and he didn't mince words in offering his feelings on the rash of withdrawals.

"I think it is appalling," said Maister to New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB, according to Inside the Games.

"I don't like it and I don't think the sport should be allowed to continue in the Games under that scenario. Once they've got in, they have got to deliver. Just getting in with your name, and then putting up some second- or third-rate players, is so far from the Olympic ideal or the expectation of the Olympic Movement. The Olympics is about the best, and they pledged the best."

To that end, Maister has a point. The International Golf Federation, the Olympics-recognized governing body of the sport in the program, promised golf's stars would clamor to play in the Games after a 112-year absence. Then again, golfers didn't sign up for Zika virus, contaminated water, a Brazilian economy in free fall, a host city infamous for its crime problems and an unstable government. None of that mattered to Maister, apparently. He thinks all Olympic sports should showcase only the best in the world.

"Quite frankly," he said, "any sport that cannot deliver its best athletes, in my view, should not be there."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Tiger Woods not certain he'll play in 2016

With so much conjecture and rumor-mongering about when he'll return to golf, Tiger Woods made it somewhat clear a return isn't imminent.

Woods, who was tournament host at this week's Quicken Loans National, spent some time in the 18th hole tower with CBS' Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo. Before Woods left the booth, Nantz asked Woods if he had an idea of when he would return.

"I don't know," said Woods. "I want to play. Put it that way. I want to play. I don't know if I will. But I do want to. But I'm trying. I'm trying each and every day I'm doing my workouts. ... I'm working my tail off."

The 14-time major champion said earlier in the week that he has made progress in his rehab, now able to play 18 holes and improving his recovery and turnaround time from practice sessions. However, Woods maintained his stamina isn't where it needs to be to even give a PGA Tour event a test run. Woods also said it was critical that he can enjoy a standard of living off the course that will somewhat concurrently indicate his back and body are ready for rigors of competitive golf.

The 40-year-old recognizes the precarious nature of this potential comeback from two back surgeries last fall and three such procedures dating back to March 2014. 

Woods said, "I'm going to do it right so I don't have another surgery."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Tiger Woods' son Charlie finished T-2 in U.S. Kids junior event

Charlie Woods is apparently a chip off the old block -- at least inside the ropes.

Tiger Woods' son is a solid golfer, finishing tied for second place on Thursday in a U.S. Kids Golf South Florida Tour event near their home in Jupiter, Fla. Charlie, who is 7 years old, shot 55 in the nine-hole event at Mayacoo Lakes Country Club, finishing five strokes behind the winner.

The 14-time major winner apparently took a break from hosting this week's Quicken Loans National near Washington, D.C., to fly down to see his son play.

[Via Golf Channel]


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

The Greenbrier Classic canceled after floods at W. Va. resort

The PGA Tour and The Greenbrier resort announced Saturday that flooding and mudslides in southeastern West Virginia have forced the cancellation of The Greenbrier Classic.

Torrential rains fell in Greenbrier County midweek, leading to flooding that has so far killed 26 people in the region. The flooding spread over the resort's golf courses, including the Old White TPC, which plays host to the PGA Tour event. With less than two weeks until the tournament is set to start, there was no choice but to postpone the event.

“We are heartbroken by the devastation that the residents of West Virginia are experiencing at this time and the reports of lives lost due to the terrible flooding,” said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement.

“Cancelling The Greenbrier Classic is certainly the most prudent course of action as our foremost concern is the well-being of those who are having to live through this tragic situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, who is also the Democratic candidate for governor in West Virginia, founded the tournament in 2010 after purchasing the resort the year prior.

“All of our focus needs to be on helping all of the people of our great State," said Justice. "So many have lost loved ones, their homes, and have no place to go."

The resort and the tour have an agreement to continue the event until 2021. The PGA Tour will not schedule a make-up date for the event for this season, opting to return on the 2016-17 schedule.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Branden Grace joins the ranks of those skipping the Olympics

At this point, the question isn't who's not playing in the Olympics.

It's: Who actually is playing in the Olympics?

South African Branden Grace became the third player just this week to announce he was removing his name from consideration for the 60-player men's Olympic golf tournament in Brazil in August. Grace, like his fellow countrymen Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, has concerns about Zika virus.

Golf Channel first reported on Grace's decision, confirmed by his representation at IMG.

Grace had been in line to take a spot in the field, but the 11th-ranked player who already won at Harbour Town this year is taking a pass. At this point, the two South African berths in the men's tournament go to world No. 59 Jaco Van Zyl and world No. 101 Brandon Stone.

Add Grace to Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell on the list of players this week to say they're not going to make the trek to Rio de Janeiro. These three join Schwartzel, Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Vijay Singh, Tim Wilkinson and Miguel Angel Jimenez on the list of players who have withdrawn their names from consideration.

World No. 1 Jason Day is also on the fence about competing, as are Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Danny Willett.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Friday, June 24, 2016

Watch Spencer Levin lose his freaking mind at the U.S. Open

Look, golf is a tough game. And the U.S. Open is the toughest test of golf in America. So you can forgive Spencer Levin for a Friday afternoon outburst in which he let fly all his demons at once.

Levin was playing the seventh hole of the second round, the second round of 18 holes he'd played on the day, when a shot drifted into a bunker. Levin finally decided that he'd seen enough of this freaking course:

Surely some purists will say that Levin should have kept his composure, should have maintained some measure of grace under pressure, should have preserved the dignity of the game, blah blah blah. Whatever. Oakmont is a brutally hard course, and sometimes the only way to take out your frustration is to bash the earth like you're Thor. Hang in there, Spencer. We've all been there.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Greenbrier is underwater after major flooding in southeast W. Va.

Less than two weeks away from The Greenbrier Classic, the iconic West Virgnia resort's golf courses are underwater after major flooding from torrential rains in the southeastern portion of the state.

Thursday rains in Greenbrier County led to the declaration of a state of emergency. Many residents of White Sulphur Springs, the town in which The Greenbrier is located, were stranded in the highest rooms of their homes, awaiting rescue and hoping to avoid the flood waters.

In addition to substantial flood damage, landslides and mudslides have been reported in the mountainous area. Officials said anywhere from 1-4 inches of rain fell in a three-hour period on Thursday evening.

“It’s like nothing I’ve seen,” said Greenbrier owner Jim Justice in a Thursday statement. “But our focus right now isn’t on the property, the golf course or anything else. We’re praying for the people and doing everything we can to get them the help they need.”

Bubba Watson, who has a home in The Greenbrier's Sporting Club development, is in the area. and shared video and imagery of the flooding on the host course, the Old White TPC.

It's unclear right now if the tournament can still be held, though it appears doubtful. Justice, who is also the Democratic candidate for West Virginia governor, had intended to offer free admission to the tournament as part of a political fight with Republicans in the state legislature over their nearly $4 million in annual support for the event.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Don't worry, Brexit won't stop the Ryder Cup

The Brexit -- the U.K.'s decision to withdraw from the European Union -- may collapse the pound, cost the country billions in economic development and isolate it from the rest of the continent, but it won't affect the makeup of the European Ryder Cup team.

The European Tour, which handles the selection process and management of the biennial matches for the continent, made clear Thursday that the referendum results won't change how their 12-player side is determined.

"The UK remains a geographical part of Europe, even though it will no longer be part of the political or economic structure of the European Union," the European Tour said, according to ESPN.com.

"The criteria for being European in Ryder Cup terms is a geographical one -- from countries who make up the continent of Europe -- not a political or economic one (countries who make up the EU). Therefore the result of the UK referendum has no bearing in Ryder Cup qualification terms."

The likes of Danny Willett, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Andy Sullivan and Lee Westwood could make the team. That won't change.

The European Tour also won't change its flag for the Ryder Cup, continuing to use the same blue-and-gold flag.

"In terms of the flag flown to represent the European Ryder Cup team," the Tour said, "we consider that the blue and gold flag of Europe represents the continent of Europe and, as a broad symbol of Europe as a whole, we therefore plan to continue to use it."

At least one thing didn't get screwed up today by the U.K. vote.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

Branden Grace joins the ranks of those skipping the Olympics

At this point, the question isn't who's not playing in the Olympics.

It's: Who actually is playing in the Olympics?

South African Branden Grace became the third player just this week to announce he was removing his name from consideration for the 60-player men's Olympic golf tournament in Brazil in August. Grace, like his fellow countrymen Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, has concerns about Zika virus.

Golf Channel first reported on Grace's decision, confirmed by his representation at IMG.

Grace had been in line to take a spot in the field, but the 11th-ranked player who already won at Harbour Town this year is taking a pass. At this point, the two South African berths in the men's tournament go to world No. 59 Jaco Van Zyl and world No. 101 Brandon Stone.

Add Grace to Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell on the list of players this week to say they're not going to make the trek to Rio de Janeiro. These three join Schwartzel, Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Vijay Singh, Tim Wilkinson and Miguel Angel Jimenez on the list of players who have withdrawn their names from consideration.

World No. 1 Jason Day is also on the fence about competing, as are Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Danny Willett.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: How the USGA screwed up at Oakmont and how to fix it

U.S. Open Round 1 wrapup: Dustin Johnson, rolling early yet again

The opening round at Oakmont took more than 30 hours, thanks to multiple weather delays and an early closure to Thursday's competition. A marathon Friday kicked off early, and halfway through, we saw the end of the U.S. Open's first round. Here are the high points at the tournament's quarter-pole.

Dustin Johnson doing Dustin Johnson things. If you were laying odds on a player to find the top of the leaderboard at any point during a tournament, you'd bet the house on Johnson, who always seems to come up big ... at least for a time. Last year, he held a share of the lead at Chambers Bay after the first round, and this year, he's just one stroke behind at the same point. Johnson's troubles are in closing out tournaments, as the rest of the universe reminds him every major, but what's indisputable is that he puts himself into position to win. On Friday, he followed his usual routine: bomb the hell out of the ball off the tee, send it screaming into the green on approach, and then futz around a bit with the putter until he jars it. The strategy worked on Friday; Johnson's bogey-free round was the first at Oakmont in the U.S. Open since Loren Roberts in 1994.

The Big Three are the Big 15 Over Par: The bet of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy vs. The Field drew some takers coming into the week, and why not? Winners of seven majors between them, in late contention or victorious at every single one of the past six, it stood to reason that at least one of them would hammer this course. It could still happen, but it's going to take a herculean effort. McIlroy finished the first round at +7, Day at +6,, and Spieth with the by-comparison decent +2, six strokes off the lead. There's plenty of time, but for now, The Field is a huge favorite.

Andrew Landry's flawless day: Landry set a record for fewest strokes in a single day at any tournament in golf history: one. All right, technically it's not really a record, but Landry had only a lone birdie putt on Friday to finish out a round that saw him at -4 and in sole possession of first place thanks to an Oakmont-record 66. How long will he remain in contention? At least until Saturday, when he's scheduled to start his second round.

Sergio? Sergio! Sergio Garcia has spent so much time atop the Best Never To Win A Major list that he might as well get the damn thing named after him. Conventional wisdom holds that the Open Championship is likely Garcia's best chance to snag that elusive major, but after one round at Oakmont, he finds himself just two strokes off the lead. Playing in Johnson's grouping, Garcia rode in DJ's wake, and now finds himself near the lead of a tournament where he's never placed higher than T3, and where he has only four top-10s in 16 attempts.

The second round began before the first even concluded. Whole lotta golf for some players; 36 holes of major-level competition at Oakmont is as draining as this game gets. Anyone able to reach the weekend within sight of par will consider themselves lucky.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jason Day will 're-evaluate' golf career when he turns 40

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Jason Day doesn't sound like a guy who is long for a long career in golf.

The world No. 1 said Wednesday at PGA Championship media day at Baltusrol Golf Club that he'll stop at the age of 40 to decide if he'll press on, or if he'll walk away from the sport.

"When I get to 40, I'm going to re-evaluate everything and then go from there," Day said. "Because when I get to 40, I would like to see where I'm at in my career because I might want to go, 'You know what, I'm done. I'm just happy with everything,' and I'm going to go off my merry way and I'll probably never pick up a golf club ever again."

Day, father of 3-year-old Dash and 8-month-old Lucy, said his children's interest in the game would be a factor. So, too, would be where he ranks against his peers and if his body, which had given him trouble in the past, held up against the rigors of pro golf.

"But it also depends on if Dash is playing, if Lucy is playing, if I'm still competitive and my body's great, because I'm just trying to extend," he added. "What I'm doing with my body and with my golf game, I'm trying to extend the longevity of my career."

Day has been working with a trainer in hopes of sculpting his body into a condition that would prevent the kinds of injuries that plagued his early career. Pressed on where his fitness is, Day said his trainer estimates the Aussie is some 18 months away from reaching his goal. 

Despite winning 10 times, Day said last week at the U.S. Open that number isn't nearly enough. He's pursuing trophies with the vigor of a desperate man, perhaps aware he won't remain at the top of his game forever. So, Day, who said he has gotten up at 5 a.m. since he was 14 to practice and exercise, will continue to push himself and his body as far as he can until the moment comes when there's something else more important.

"It's over when you don't want to improve anymore. It's over when you're done improving yourself on and off the golf course," Day said. "That's probably the biggest thing, because winning is taken care of by the process that you put into your game. The small victories that you have along the way, with regards to practicing that extra hour when you didn't really want to, or being out there practicing when you didn't want to practice that day. Going to the gym when you felt like, 'You know what, I'll just take a day off and go tomorrow.'"


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

Podcast: How the USGA messed up at the U.S. Open & how to fix it

The USGA's handling of the Dustin Johnson fifth green situation at the U.S. Open was, well, not good. We explain why in detail and try to figure out how to prevent something like this from happening again. We also talk about why we're OK with Rory McIlroy skipping the Olympics over fears of Zika.

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle Play MusicTuneInPlayerFM or Stitcher.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Tiger Woods says he would've been more vocal had he been in DJ's shoes

Tiger Woods was blunt in his assessment of how the USGA handled penalizing U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson in the final round at Oakmont on Sunday.

"I watched, and as I was alluding to last night, it was awful because no one -- no one knew what was going on," Woods said.

On the fifth green in the final round, Johnson was preparing to putt a 6-footer for par. He took two quick practice strokes next to the ball, then moved his putter head in back of the back. Before soling the putter, the ball moved slightly. Johnson recoiled and called over an official to explain the situation. Johnson said he did nothing to cause the ball to move. Playing partner Lee Westwood agreed. The walking referee concurred and said there should be no penalty under Rule 18-2. 

However, on the 12th tee, USGA officials told Johnson they were reviewing the situation and could penalize him a stroke for the ball moving if they deemed he was "more likely than not" to have caused it to move. They also said the decision on the penalty could wait until the end of the round.

The USGA's decision to wait to penalize meant Johnson had to play knowing he might have to win in regulation by two to avoid a playoff or yet another heartbreaking loss in a major. 

Woods said that was ridiculous.

"D.J. didn't know how he stood. The rest of the guys who were ahead of him didn't understand what was going on. The final group didn't know what was going on. No one had a clue," Woods said.

"Am I tied for the lead, am I leading the tournament, am I one back or am I tied? No one understood where they stood in the tournament so that determines what you're going to do. Am I going to challenge the flag, try and get back there, am I going to play conservative, do I try and hit driver off 17, where do I -- so much depends on scenarios and where you stand to dictate how you play."

Ultimately, Johnson played with a string of pars, except one bogey, before coming to the 18th with a two- or three-shot lead. He made birdie on the last, hitting a 6-iron to 6 feet to lock up a win, no matter what happened. Then the USGA inexplicably gave Johnson the penalty anyhow to reduce the winning margin to three.

"I didn't think it was fair to anybody," Woods said. "It wasn't fair to Dustin, it wasn't fair to other players who had a chance, it just wasn't fair to anyone."

Woods said he wouldn't have been as quiet about it all as Johnson.

"How I would handle it?" Woods said. "You know, I'm a little bit feistier than Dustin so I think I probably would have said a few more things during the round."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

Jason Day will 're-evaluate' golf career when he turns 40

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. -- Jason Day doesn't sound like a guy who is long for a long career in golf.

The world No. 1 said Wednesday at PGA Championship media day at Baltusrol Golf Club that he'll stop at the age of 40 to decide if he'll press on, or if he'll walk away from the sport.

"When I get to 40, I'm going to re-evaluate everything and then go from there," Day said. "Because when I get to 40, I would like to see where I'm at in my career because I might want to go, 'You know what, I'm done. I'm just happy with everything,' and I'm going to go off my merry way and I'll probably never pick up a golf club ever again."

Day, father of 3-year-old Dash and 8-month-old Lucy, said his children's interest in the game would be factor. So, too, would be where he ranks against his peers and if his body, which had given him trouble in the past, held up against the rigors of pro golf.

"But it also depends on if Dash is playing, if Lucy is playing, if I'm still competitive and my body's great, because I'm just trying to extend," he added. "What I'm doing with my body and with my golf game, I'm trying to extend the longevity of my career."

Day has been working with a trainer in hopes of sculpting his body into a condition that would prevent the kinds of injuries that plagued his early career. Pressed on where his fitness is, Day said his trainer estimates the Aussie is some 18 months away from reaching his goal. 

Despite winning 10 times, Day said last week at the U.S. Open that number isn't nearly enough. He's pursuing trophies with the vigor of a desperate man, perhaps aware he won't remain at the top of his game forever. So, Day, who said he has gotten up at 5 a.m. since he was 14 to practice and exercise, will continue to push himself and his body as far as he can until the moment comes when there's something else more important.

"It's over when you don't want to improve anymore. It's over when you're done improving yourself on and off the golf course," Day said. "That's probably the biggest thing, because winning is taken care of by the process that you put into your game. The small victories that you have along the way, with regards to practicing that extra hour when you didn't really want to, or being out there practicing when you didn't want to practice that day. Going to the gym when you felt like, 'You know what, I'll just take a day off and go tomorrow.'"


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

Rory McIlroy, then Graeme McDowell pull out of Olympic consideration

Rory McIlroy became the biggest name yet on Wednesday he would not compete in the men's Olympic golf tournament. The world No. 4, who had flip-flop-flipped on the issue, arrived at his decision after consulting with his fiancee, Erica Stoll, and the rest of his family about the potential risks of Zika virus.

“I’ve come to realize that my health and my family’s health comes before anything else," McIlroy said in a statement. “Even though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless and a risk I am unwilling to take.”

McIlroy was slated to represent the Republic of Ireland in the 60-player men's Olympic golf tournament. Initially, McIlroy was on board to compete. However, after winning the Irish Open, McIlroy expressed some reservation about the potential spread of Zika while in Brazil. His fears seemed assuaged when he spoke at the Memorial Tournament before the U.S. Open.

“Even if I do contract Zika, it’s not the end of the world,” he said then.

However, McIlroy has apparently settled on not competing.

The International Golf Federation, the Olympics-recognized governing body of the sport in the Games, issued a statement after McIlroy's announcement: "The IGF is disappointed with Rory’s decision but recognizes that some players will have to weigh personally a unique set of circumstances as they contemplate their participation in golf's historic return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, with the Zika virus foremost among them. It is unfortunate that the Zika virus has led to Rory's decision to withdraw from the Olympic Games, knowing how much he was looking forward to taking part. As we have stated before, the Olympics is the world's greatest celebration of sport and we remain excited about golf's return after a 112-year absence. It will truly be a special occasion for our sport and we are confident that the 60 men and 60 women who will represent their respective countries will find it an experience they will cherish forever."

On Thursday, McIlroy's countryman, Graeme McDowell, said he will not compete either. McDowell's wife is pregnant with the couple's second child and due in September. Zika can cause birth defects if a pregnant woman becomes infected with the virus.

"I made the decision many months ago, before I was on the team, that I would not play or travel outside the U.S., where my family and I live, in the weeks running up to the birth," McDowell said. "Unfortunately, I will therefore not be available to replace Rory on the team. I have informed (Irish Olympic golf captain) Paul McGinley and the Olympic Council of Ireland of my decision."

McIlroy and McDowell join Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Vijay Singh and Tim Wilkinson as players who have pulled out. No female players of significance have made a similar announcement.

More names could be coming. World No. 1 Jason Day appears to be leaning toward not competing, saying at PGA Championship media day on Wednesday that he plans to have more children with wife Ellie. Danny Willett has expressed reservations. Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler have said they're looking closely at the situation as well.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fowler looking to end cuts-missed skid at Congressional

Rickie Fowler has missed the cut in each of his last three starts, including a disappointing 11-over performance in last week's U.S. Open.

Fortunately for Fowler, missing the cut at Oakmont gave him some time over the weekend to reconnect with golf teach Butch Harmon, working on some basic fundamentals that can go awry for most any pro at any point in a season. With that work put in, Fowler needs to try to figure out Congressional Country Club, a venue he hasn't played well in the past, be it missing the cut in the 2011 U.S. Open or in this tournament.

"I've always loved the look of the golf course," Fowler said Tuesday. "Unfortunately I just haven't been able to play well here yet. It's time to change that."

The Oklahoma State product will have some inside-the-ropes support help him end this pair of skids. For the first two days, the PGA Tour has grouped Fowler with Smylie Kaufman and Justin Thomas. The three -- along with Jordan Spieth, not in the field this week -- became social-media and millennial darlings when they broadcast their post-Masters Bahamas vacation, dubbed #SB2K16, all over social media.

Fowler's been pleading for a grouping with these guys. On a week when the field isn't very strong, the PGA Tour obliged.

"It's going to be fun playing with some of our best buds," Fowler said. "I definitely think pairings where you're paired with buddies and you get to go out and feed off each other, it can definitely make a difference.

"So we're all excited about it and we just hope we're feeding off each other with birdies and get everyone going."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

Making pro debut, Rahm looks to build on U.S. Open performance

Just days after winning low amateur honors at Oakmont Country Club, former world No. 1 amateur Jon Rahm joins the paid set. 

The Arizona State product is making his pro debut this week at the Quicken Loans National in Bethesda, Md.

"This week, I couldn't be more excited," Rahm said Tuesday. "It's a huge honor to be at Congressional Country Club. I've seen a lot of tournaments here, I've seen a lot of videos of the golf course. It's obviously amazing. My expectations were really high when I came here, and the golf course just exceeded them all."

Rahm has the length that can bring the 2011 U.S. Open host to its beefy knees. He was at the top of the driving distance stats during the U.S. Open, giving Dustin Johnson a run for his money as the guy in the field who make Oakmont look smallest. Coincidentally, Rahm has signed an equipment deal with TaylorMade-adidas Golf, which also sponsors the new U.S. Open champion.

However, Rahm's Open performance wasn't what convinced him that he might be able to play at this level. Rather, it was his T-5 finish in the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open that told the two-time Ben Hogan winner that he could make it on the PGA Tour.

"That week was key in my career," Rahm said. "That week gave me the confidence that I needed to know that I could compete with the best. Doing that in Phoenix, in my hometown with such an ASU crowd support, it was amazing."

The Spaniard starts the difficult quest of earning PGA Tour status fresh out of school this week, with more starts already lined up at opposite-field events like the Barbasol Championship next week, the Barracuda Championship opposite the British Open, as well the John Deere Classic, played opposite the men's Olympic golf tournament.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Dustin Johnson may be penalized for moving ball, or maybe not

OAKMONT, Pa.—Standing on the 12th tee, Dustin Johnson held a two-stroke lead in the U.S. Open. Then several USGA officials approached Johnson, and his lead might not have been so large after all.

Back on the fifth green, Johnson had stood over a short par putt, then backed off and called in a rules official. His ball had moved. Johnson wanted to let the official know of the movement, and that he had not grounded his club. If he had, he would be facing a one-stroke penalty.

The rules official at the fifth hole was satisfied that Johnson hadn't incurred a penalty, so Johnson continued on, draining the putt.

But video replay may have shown rules officials otherwise. USGA officials approached Johnson on the 12th tee to inform him that the tale of the moving ball wasn't yet finished.

After the discussion with officials on the 12th tee, Johnson's playing partner Lee Westwood appeared to be pleading a case to the USGA officials as they walked toward the fairway. Fox Sports commentator Curtis Strange approached the USGA officials, asking for clarification. They refused.

"Really?" Strange, a two-time U.S. Open winner, wondered aloud.

Yes, really.

USGA officials then informed Johnson that he might be facing a one-stroke penalty. Or he might not. In other words, Johnson would be forced to play the remaining holes not knowing whether he needed to put a two-stroke margin ahead of the rest of the field.

Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director for Open championships, visited the Fox Sports set soon afterward to indicate that the USGA believed the ball had moved because of Johnson's actions, and asked him—during the critical moments of one of the most important tournaments of his life—if he could think of any other reason why the ball might have moved a fraction of an inch. According to Hall, Johnson did not give a definitive answer, which, given the circumstances, was not surprising. However, it is worth noting that the greens have been mowed, pressed, and dried to a fine sheen, and a ball that might not otherwise move could very well move on Oakmont's slick greens.

Three former World No. 1s took to Twitter to scorch the USGA for its decisionmaking:

Soon after the officials spoke with Johnson, Shane Lowry drew within one stroke ... or perhaps he was even. No one would know until the end of the round.
Johnson, of course, lost a chance at a playoff in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits when a rules committee determined that Johnson had grounded his club on the 18th hole in a poorly-marked bunker. He missed out on a playoff by a single stroke.

Sergio Garcia scores birdie, rescues birdie on the same hole

The birdie puns took flight (see?) on Sunday afternoon at Oakmont.

Sergio Garcia, four strokes behind leader Shane Lowry, holed out from a greenside bunker at the 8th to notch an impressive 2 at the tricky par-3. And then, somewhere between the green and the walkway over the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Garcia found himself a little friend:

Yes, Garcia managed to save two birdies on one hole.

Yahoo Sports spoke to the woman in pink, who informed us that the bird was taken to the trees and released. We'll have to wait for Garcia's side of the story until he finishes his round. The bird was unavailable for comment.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Jordan Spieth four-putts his way right out of the U.S. Open

Jordan Spieth. (AP)Jordan Spieth won last year's U.S. Open at Chambers Bay by keeping his head while those around him lost it. He wasn't quite so lucky this year, slipping and faltering around Oakmont half a dozen strokes behind the leaders. 

Spieth entered the day eight strokes behind leader Shane Lowry. Spieth had said after Saturday's rounds that he would need to "pull a Johnny Miller"—i.e. shoot a 63, the number Miller shot in 1973 to win another Oakmont U.S. Open.

As unlikely as that was, Spieth cemented the impossibility with a triple-bogey at the 194-yard, par-3 sixth. Here's how the carnage went down. After escaping a greenside bunker with his second shot, Spieth found himself 16 feet from the hole. And from there:

Shot 3: 20-foot putt, four feet to hole
Shot 4: Eight-foot putt, five feet to hole
Shot 5: Seven-foot putt, two feet to hole
Shot 6: Two-foot putt for triple bogey

Yep, that'll do it. That nightmare left Spieth at +8 and looking toward the Open Championship. Hey, at least this time he didn't lose the tournament on the back nine. Small victories.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

U.S. Open: What you need to know for Sunday's final round

The U.S. Open trophy at Oakmont. (AFP)Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! As is always the case, the U.S. Open concludes on Father’s Day, which means Dad has carte blanche to watch golf all the live-long afternoon. The weather delays from Thursday still resonate; the third round didn’t end until Sunday morning, giving the leaders only a few hours of sleep Saturday night and a few hours of rest Sunday morning. Here’s what you need to know heading into Sunday’s final round.

End of heartbreak? Sunday’s leaderboard features the three most notable active members of the Best Player Never To Win A Major club. A victory by Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood or Dustin Johnson would set off waves of sympathy across the sport; all three of these men have been so very close so many times. Westwood was the last man out before two recent playoffs for the ages: Tiger Woods vs. Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines in 2008 and Stewart Cink vs. Tom Watson in the Open Championship in 2009, plus he was caught and run down by Phil Mickelson at Augusta in 2010. DJ’s major breakdowns are nightmare fuel, from a Whistling Straits bunker fiasco to a Pebble Beach collapse to last year’s three-putt from 12 feet to lose Chambers Bay. Garcia has had 20 top 10s in the 70 majors he’s played, including four second-place finishes. All three are more than due.

The Shane Lowry story: Lowry spent the third round stepping on the gas while everyone else edged their way around Oakmont. He’s not particularly well known to American audiences, but he’s won acclaim in Europe and his native Ireland, where he won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009. Much like Masters champion Danny Willett, he’s been building a rep across the pond and arrives in the United States ready and able to capture any major. Lowry’s seven-under score after 54 holes tied Ernie Els in 1994 for the lowest mark at Oakmont; Els, for his part, won that particular tournament.

Andrew Landry’s fairytale rolls on: Look, nobody really expected Andrew Landry to even compete this week; one Vegas sports book reportedly took just one bet on Landry, at 1000-1 odds, for just $5. Even when he tied the score for the lowest first round at Oakmont, nobody really believed in him. So the fact that the 624th-ranked player in the world stuck around until late in the third round, when the bogeys started to pile up, is impressive enough in itself. But tied for second at three-under, in the final pairing at the U.S. Open? Come on. That’s great theater right there.

Jason Day’s time: The Big Three vs. The Field was the talk of every pre-U.S. Open thinkpiece, the idea being that Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth were the equal of every other player teeing off at Oakmont. Not so; McIlroy missed the cut with a late collapse, Spieth was inconsistent every round, and Day began the week with an uncharacteristically bogey-heavy performance. But a four-under third round left Day inside the top 10 heading into the final round, and the eight players ahead of him have a combined total of zero majors.

Keep an eye on: Branden Grace, who was right in the mix for last year’s U.S. Open until blasting a late drive onto the train tracks at Chambers Bay and taking himself out of contention. Also watch out for the nattily-attired, scientifically-minded Bryson DeChambeau, playing in his first major as a professional and sitting neatly inside the top 10. Also watch for American Daniel Summerhays, who posted one of the lowest scores of the week with his second-round 65. He’s played in only three majors in his career, but a strong finish at Oakmont will get him invited to a few more.

Wicked Oakmont: Heavy rains earlier in the week softened up and slowed down Oakmont’s legendarily slick greens, giving players every opportunity to post low scores as the course dried out. Some took advantage; others, like Bubba Watson and Adam Scott, did not. Oakmont will play its toughest on Sunday, and combined with the USGA’s (and the club membership’s) desire to make this golf’s most brutal test, the players are going to look a whole lot like you do out there on the course. Whichever player has the physical dexterity and mental toughness to deal with the madness will be very happy indeed come Sunday evening.

The 63 factor: Oakmont is the home of one of the most remarkable rounds in major championship history, Johnny Miller’s 63 to win the U.S. Open in 1973. Miller had entered the day in 12th place, six strokes behind the leaders, giving hope to 20 players in the exact same position or better this week. Expect to hear plenty about Miller's landmark on Sunday, and deservedly so.

The final round will begin Sunday afternoon on Fox. Should a playoff be necessary, it will run 18 holes and take place on Monday. Enjoy the tournament!

 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Taking a page from Woods' book, Day moves up U.S. Open leaderboard

OAKMONT, Pa. -- Jason Day tried taking a page from Tiger Woods' playbook on Saturday.

The world No. 1 tried to scare the inexperienced and unsuccessful pack of leaders into coming back to him.

"I felt like if I can just put my name on the score board, hopefully they'll start to slow down a little bit," Day said Saturday night.

At the start of the week, Day said he's never felt more stressed than he does right now. Late in another long day, he tried to project that stress on the guys ahead of him.

It's an old Tiger trick, when he would make fields tremble with fear as he slashed and charged his way up the leaderboard. When Woods' name went up, others' often went the opposite direction. That's precisely what Day did to start his third round of this disjointed U.S. Open. Day made four birdies in the first five holes, nearly drawing back to even par for the U.S. Open, just before the leaders were set to start the third round at Oakmont.

Day then got stuck, making six pars in a row. That helped Day move up the leaderboard, which, now halted, only has six players under par for the championship. However, with an eagle on the par-5 fourth, Day got back to even par for the first time since he teed off on Thursday. After missing with his tee shot, Day hit a 4-iron toward the green from 260 yards, finding the back of the putting surface. Faced with a slick, downhill swinger, Day, who leads the PGA Tour in putting, drained it.

"It was a tough putt, but one of those ones where you pick up and you run with it because you're not really expecting to make an eagle there, especially where I was," he said.

The Aussie couldn't hang on, however, dropping a shot at the seventh. A pair of pars into the house, and Day had carded a 4-under 66, tied with Branden Grace for the clubhouse best in Round 3. Now, Day gets the benefit of sleeping in for the first time all week.

Shane Lowry, the leader on the course at 5 under par, still has four holes left. He'll have to come back, along with the rest of the unfinished portion of the 67-player weekend field, to restart the third round at 7 a.m. For Lowry, who went off in the next-to-last group, just before 5 p.m., on Saturday, he'll need to play 22 holes of golf on Sunday. With lots of sun and little wind expected, the 85-degree temperatures could take their toll on the returning players.

Day? He'll get up, have breakfast with his wife and kids and have an opportunity to relax.

"So that really does help a lot, especially in the temperature that we're playing in, more so lately, later in the week," Day said.

Day made his charge and used his Tiger trick. Now he'll try to do something Woods could never do: win a major from behind. Woods won all 14 of his majors

Woods has been mentoring Day for a while now, clearly seeing something in the world No. 1 that leads him to believe he could be just as prolific and intimidating. However, Woods has said he won't give Day a step-by-step guide to world domination.

"All I say is, I'm not going to tell how to make your game better. Ask it the other way around, of how I did it, and I'll answer it that way," Woods said in May at Congressional Country Club. "Jason asks great questions, in-depth questions, and he wants to get better."

Sunday is an opportunity for Day to show he's gotten better, to employ some of what's learned from Tiger and on his own in the heat of battle.

Day still had one champion's device left to use before he went home on Saturday night. Like so many other major winners before him who were looking for the slightest edge to aid their comeback bid, Day used the power of the podium to not so subtly plead for Sunday to be the most difficult day of this championship.

"I just want it to play hard and fast," Day said. "I think the harder the better, like a normal U.S. Open Sunday should be. I think it would be fun for everyone."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

Dustin Johnson clocks U.S. Open fan, ends up in concession stand

When you're watching Dustin Johnson in a major, you know what you're going to get: moments of astonishing brilliance punctuated by instances of how-in-the-hell-did-that-happen? Sometimes Johnson's problems are of his own making, and sometimes they're just plain strange. Take, for instance, his tee shot on the second hole of Saturday's third round:

Yep, that's Johnson clocking a guy in the skull; the ball caromed off the fella's noggin and ended up deep in a concession stand:

Johnson recovered his ball:

And, after a bit of relief, found a direct line to the green amid some very brave photographers:

From there, Johnson chipped to within inches and tapped in for your basic tee-skull-tent-gravel par. Just another day in the life of Dustin Johnson, Major Hunter.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

The real Oakmont is almost ready for its U.S. Open close-up

OAKMONT, Pa. -- We're about to see the real Oakmont.

The course we saw for the first two rounds, spread out over two-and-a-half days? That was a facsimile. It was close, but some of the details were lost in transmission.

For the final 36 holes, we'll have an original copy.

As players wrapped up their second rounds on Saturday morning, they weren't breathing a sigh of relief that they had made the cut or were in contention at the U.S. Open. Oh, no. They were looking at their watches, keeping their ears open for the sound of mowers and feeling the drying sun beating down on them.

After 3 inches of rain soaked this historic club on Wednesday, Thursday, including some overnight precipitation, the poor weather has given way to flawless, beautiful sunshine. There's no chance for rain the rest of the way. Temperatures will be in the mid-80s. It's the kind of weather that can dry up a golf course -- at least the parts that aren't muddy -- in a hurry.

On Saturday morning, the greens were rolling here at 14.6 on the Stimpmeter. That's high for a regular PGA Tour stop, which runs in the area of 11-12 on the meter. However, Oakmont members will tell you this course can get a liiiittlle bit faster. That's where the USGA will take the putting surfaces over the final 36 holes, culminating in a difficulty that a lot of the field spoke of on Saturday morning.

Louis Oosthuizen shot 5-under 65 in his Round 2. He knows that score is going to be hard to find the rest of the way.

"The greens are definitely getting faster, and it's firming up," he said. "I think it will be a bit of a different golf course this afternoon and definitely tomorrow."

Then there's 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott. Typically cerebral and not prone to hyperbole, Scott signaled conditions out of a horror film.

"We'll see fast greens this afternoon, but we're going to see some crazy ones tomorrow," said the former world No. 1.

And that's coming from a guy who has seen the green speeds on the Sandbelt courses of his native Australia.

"I'm sure they're going to put it right to the limit tomorrow because they just haven't been probably exactly where they want them. They'll be just a little bit firmer, and then I think they're really cutting them a lot at the moment, and they can go again tomorrow. I think we'll see some crazy stuff tomorrow."

Pennsylvania native Jim Furyk, trailing by three shots heading into the final 36, was more understated about what's coming. As a former champion -- at a very un-U.S. Open-like Olympia Fields in 2003 -- perhaps he has a Boy Scout's preparedness for all things U.S. Open. He knows the USGA is doing this out of necessity.

"The greens are still holding some moisture out there right now," he said. "They're quick, and I expect them to get even quicker as the week goes on. That's the defense right now."

Really, this course needs to go on offense. So far, there have been 33 rounds in the 60s. There were only eight for the entire championship in 2007 on what amounted to the same setup. Those rounds in the 60s aren't going away, and there still could be a few unearthed in the final two rounds. Oakmont has already claimed 89 scalps. But, if the USGA, and the Oakmont members, and these Pittsburgh fans are going to get what they want this weekend, they're going to have to push these players to their breaking point. And the only way they can do that? One putt at a time.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

U.S. Open Round 3 cheat sheet: What happened to Andrew Landry?

Andrew Landry hits from rough on the sixth hole. (AP)OAKMONT, Pa. — Thought Andrew Landry would shrivel up under the U.S. Open pressure and go away, didn't you?

Looked that way for a moment, when the stunning first-round leader went bogey-bogey-double on the front nine of Round 2 Saturday to fall from 4-under to even par. But Landry held tough – real tough. He birdied 13, drained a long birdie putt at 17, then stuck his approach at 18 to three feet for another birdie.

And just like that, the 624th-ranked player in the world worked his way into the final group when Round 3 begins sometime around 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Landry (3-under) will be paired with Dustin Johnson (4-under) and Scott Piercy (2-under).

"I feel very comfortable," Landry said after firing a second-round 71. "I feel like this golf course suits me very well. I can just get out there and play my game. I don't have to – I'm not the player that's going to go out and shoot 28 under par. I've never been that guy, so I'm always the guy that's going to kind of just dink it around right there and make pars and throw in a couple birdies."

Who is Gregory Bourdy?

If you're familiar with Gregory Bourdy, then hello Ma and Pa Bourdy. For the uninitiated (ie. most of the rest of us), here's a little bit about the guy who should have been the 36-hole co-leader of the 116th U.S. Open, but after a brutal 18th, will settle for a tie for third:

He's a 34-year-old Frenchman ranked 135th in the world and he once beat Rory McIlroy in a tournament … in 2009.

He's never played in the U.S. Open before, his cumulative score in majors prior to Saturday's 3-under 67 (that should have been a 5-under 65) was plus-72, and he's never finished better than 39th in a major.

And as of the close of Round 2 Saturday, he had 1,880 followers on Twitter.

He's become a solid player on the European Tour, finishing in the top 25 in nine of his last 15 tournaments.

But he caught an unfortunate break on the 18th, when his approach shot rolled off the green and into a divot. He flubbed the ensuing chip and missed a short putt, turning what looked to be a chance at 64 into a 67 after a double bogey.

How are the Big Three looking heading into the final 36 holes?

Happy to be still playing (for now), but a long way back.

Jason Day (+5) needed a 1-under 69 Saturday morning just to extend his time at Oakmont. (The cut is projected to be 6-over.)

Jordan Spieth, still on the course, has the red-ass going as he makes his way around Oakmont in Round 2. He's currently 3-over for the round and 5-over four the tournament.

And Rory McIlroy did what Rory McIlroy has tended to do in majors, muck up his first round (7-over 77), then start to rally. He had himself back to 3-over before three-putting from inside five feet on No. 3. Things have gone the wrong way from there. McIlroy is back to 6-over.

Why does Jason Day still think he has a shot?

Because many think Oakmont is going to start showing its teeth.

Though there were some scores to be had Saturday morning – Louis Oosthuzen shot 65 and Bourdy had 64 in his sights – the greens are starting to harden up under a relentless sun that's pushing temperatures to the mid 80s. That means the already lightning-quick greens will get even quicker, which is why both Day and Adam Scott are predicting even par could win the tournament.

"We'll see fast greens this afternoon, but we're going to see some crazy ones tomorrow," Adam Scott, at even par, said. "I'm sure they're going to put it right to the limit tomorrow."

"I think, if I can get back to even par, that I may have a good chance at giving myself a shot at winning," Day said.

 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Watch Spencer Levin lose his freaking mind at the U.S. Open

Look, golf is a tough game. And the U.S. Open is the toughest test of golf in America. So you can forgive Spencer Levin for a Friday afternoon outburst in which he let fly all his demons at once.

Levin was playing the seventh hole of the second round, the second round of 18 holes he'd played on the day, when a shot drifted into a bunker. Levin finally decided that he'd seen enough of this freaking course:

Surely some purists will say that Levin should have kept his composure, should have maintained some measure of grace under pressure, should have preserved the dignity of the game, blah blah blah. Whatever. Oakmont is a brutally hard course, and sometimes the only way to take out your frustration is to bash the earth like you're Thor. Hang in there, Spencer. We've all been there.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

U.S. Open Round 1 wrapup: Dustin Johnson, rolling early yet again

The opening round at Oakmont took more than 30 hours, thanks to multiple weather delays and an early closure to Thursday's competition. A marathon Friday kicked off early, and halfway through, we saw the end of the U.S. Open's first round. Here are the high points at the tournament's quarter-pole.

Dustin Johnson doing Dustin Johnson things. If you were laying odds on a player to find the top of the leaderboard at any point during a tournament, you'd bet the house on Johnson, who always seems to come up big ... at least for a time. Last year, he held a share of the lead at Chambers Bay after the first round, and this year, he's just one stroke behind at the same point. Johnson's troubles are in closing out tournaments, as the rest of the universe reminds him every major, but what's indisputable is that he puts himself into position to win. On Friday, he followed his usual routine: bomb the hell out of the ball off the tee, send it screaming into the green on approach, and then futz around a bit with the putter until he jars it. The strategy worked on Friday; Johnson's bogey-free round was the first at Oakmont in the U.S. Open since Loren Roberts in 1994.

The Big Three are the Big 15 Over Par: The bet of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy vs. The Field drew some takers coming into the week, and why not? Winners of seven majors between them, in late contention or victorious at every single one of the past six, it stood to reason that at least one of them would hammer this course. It could still happen, but it's going to take a herculean effort. McIlroy finished the first round at +7, Day at +6,, and Spieth with the by-comparison decent +2, six strokes off the lead. There's plenty of time, but for now, The Field is a huge favorite.

Andrew Landry's flawless day: Landry set a record for fewest strokes in a single day at any tournament in golf history: one. All right, technically it's not really a record, but Landry had only a lone birdie putt on Friday to finish out a round that saw him at -4 and in sole possession of first place thanks to an Oakmont-record 66. How long will he remain in contention? At least until Saturday, when he's scheduled to start his second round.

Sergio? Sergio! Sergio Garcia has spent so much time atop the Best Never To Win A Major list that he might as well get the damn thing named after him. Conventional wisdom holds that the Open Championship is likely Garcia's best chance to snag that elusive major, but after one round at Oakmont, he finds himself just two strokes off the lead. Playing in Johnson's grouping, Garcia rode in DJ's wake, and now finds himself near the lead of a tournament where he's never placed higher than T3, and where he has only four top-10s in 16 attempts.

The second round began before the first even concluded. Whole lotta golf for some players; 36 holes of major-level competition at Oakmont is as draining as this game gets. Anyone able to reach the weekend within sight of par will consider themselves lucky.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

At 43, Lee Westwood contending for a first major title

OAKMONT, Pa. -- The best player to have never won a major is in contention to win his first here at the U.S. Open.

I'm not talking about Dustin Johnson. I'm talking about Lee Westwood.

The 43-year-old came back on Friday to an Oakmont that had been drenched on the day prior and overnight by more than an inch and a half of rain, polishing off a 3-under 67 by playing his final four holes of the round in 2 under par.

The Englishman has rejuvenated his career in 2016, starting with a great week in April at the Masters, which ended with his as co-runner-up to eventual winner Danny Willett.

"I sort of picked up where I left off at the Masters and the last three weeks I've played," he said Friday.

It's been a good stretch for Westwood. He finished tied for 10th in nasty conditions at the Irish Open. He was T-15 at the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour's flagship event. Then he was tied for eighth in blustery weather in Sweden at the Nordea Masters.

Notice there wasn't a single start on the PGA Tour in that four-event run.

That's because Westwood has committed himself to playing only on the European Tour in 2016, a decision he made after he got divorced from his wife, Laurae, in 2015. Westwood moved from Florida, his prior U.S. base, to England so that he could be closer to his children, Sam and Poppy, who moved back to Scotland with their mother. Westwood wanted to be near his children.

Not only was the move back home an opportunity to live closer to his children, but it was also a chance to regain his confidence. When he moved to the United States in 2012, he was in the top five in the world. At the end of 2015, he had dropped to 50th.

"I think it’s fair to say that while living in the States my career didn’t move in the direction I wanted it to move, but obviously that’s not the reason why I am doing this," Westwood told the Daily Mail in October 2015. "But it’s nice to be back. There are a few events over here I’ve missed not playing in, and I’ve dropped a lot in the world rankings, so I need to address that."

He has. The runner-up at the Masters went a long way in helping his ranking, which, heading into the U.S. Open, was 30th. That's still a long climb to the top for a man who has spent 22 weeks atop the summit of the Official World Golf Ranking. At 43, that's not likely to happen again, but Westwood has showed he still has the game to win a major.

Westwood enjoyed his best stretch in the majors between the 2009 U.S. Open and the 2010 Open Championship, where he finished tied for third twice in the final two majors of '09 and second in the 2010 Masters and Open Championship. Since then, he's posted eight major top-10 finishes, including the runner-up at Augusta National in April. However, that Masters effort came on the heels of a seven-major stretch in which he broke the top 40 just once.

Lee Westwood isn't Dustin Johnson. He doesn't have the raw power and talent that could back into a major. Unforunately, their short games are similarly bad. But Westwood remains a world-class ballstriker, and that gives him a chance on an Oakmont course that really isn't that long. If he can play classic U.S. Open fairways-and-greens golf, he'll have a good opportunity to win on Sunday or Monday, whenever they finish this thing.

If Westwood were to win his first -- and maybe only -- major at the U.S. Open, it might come as a surprise to some. After all, Westwood has enjoyed his closest major calls at the Masters. But, given all that has happened in his life since moving to the United States and having only won twice in this country, taking the national championship would be a bittersweet capstone on a remarkable career.

"I think I've had my chances at the Open," he said, "but I think, if you did look at my game, I suppose the U.S. Open should suit me more than others."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: TaylorMade-adidas CEO David Abeles joins us from Oakmont

US Open: Why Phil Mickelson will play 36 holes Friday while Andrew Landry will hit one putt

OAKMONT, Pa. — The 2016 U.S. Open is a mess, mostly because of stop-and-go rain Thursday that threw the schedule into chaos, but partly because of how the USGA has responded to said chaos.

Consider this: At 7:30 a.m. ET Friday morning, when Round 1 play resumed, tournament leader Andrew Landry lined up a 10-foot putt on his final hole, drained it, then went home for the day.

Two hours later, Phil Mickelson, who didn't play at all on Thursday, teed off to start his U.S. Open. If his round takes about 4½ hours to complete, that puts him in the clubhouse at around 2 p.m., giving him about than two hours to regroup before he heads back out to the course for another 18 holes.

So, Phil Mickeslon is going to play 36 holes Friday, while Andrew Landry will hit one putt.

Fan leave the course during the third rain delay on Thursday. (AP)And it's going to be like that for the entire field.

Tee times for the first two rounds are set up in waves – there's a morning wave and an afternoon wave, with players flip-flopping between Rounds 1 and 2. So if you played in the morning wave on Thursday, you'll play in the afternoon wave on Friday, and vice versa.

This is done in the interest of fairness, even if it doesn't always work out that way.

But when rain blasted Oakmont Country Club on Thursday, that all changed. Only nine players actually completed their rounds before play was halted at 3:51 p.m. Another 78 – or fully half the field – hadn't even started their rounds.

Friday morning began with Thursday's first wave (let's call them Group A) completing their rounds, with the second wave (Group B) beginning sometime after 8 a.m.

Got that?

The USGA has opted to keep the flip-flopped schedule, which originally called for Group (which includes Landry, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy) A to tee off beginning at 7:15 p.m. Friday. That plan has been scrapped. Instead, Group A will tee off Saturday morning, leaving Group B (which includes Mickelson, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson) to play 36 on Friday.

Fairness will kick back in on Saturday, when Group A (at least those who make the cut) will play 36 as Round 3 begins.

The USGA's expectation is the tournament will be back on schedule come Sunday.

 

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