Putting A Bow On The 2018 U.S. Amateur: Hovland Defeats Bling, Pebble Shines, Jack Provides Link To The Past

 Viktor Hovland

Viktor Hovland

Pebble Beach did not disappoint as a venue for the 118th U.S. Amateur and its fifth time hosting dating to 1929.

Viktor Hovland dominated his opponents all week including finalist Devon Bling. Hovland's winning scores in 2018 U.S. Amateur Match Play:

3&2
2&1
7&6
7&6
3&2
6&5

Yowsers!

Even better, Hovland is a big personality with a bigger brain and strong all around game that has even more upside. The first Norwegian to win the Amateur now heads back to Oklahoma State with likely spots in the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship as well as a chance to be a great international ambassador for amateur golf. 

The game stories are worth your time on this one giving the many dimensions to Hovland.

Ron Driscoll gives us the nuts and bolts of a match where Hovland dominated, yet had Bling just been a bit better, would have made very interesting, a compliment to his skill and persistence. 

Brentley Romine for Golfweek takes the college angle and explains how Hovland was an accidental find for OSU coach Alan Bratton, who was on the bag this week.

Ryan Lavner at GolfChannel.com has a wild anecdote about how Hovland killed some time in between the morning and afternoon sessions. If you had reading up on a philosophic debate over affirmative action in the pool, you win!

Dave Shedloski dives a little deeper into Hovland's wit and big personality.

Chris Keane's images from the final capture a bit of everything to perfectly sum up the combatants, the venue and the championship. 

Hovland's highlights in three minutes:

As for Pebble Beach, I believe my views are fairly well documented in past blog posts about some of the lost architectural potential of the course. But in a week that is a big sacrifice for the Pebble Beach Company to give up the course, all in all the assessment is a positive one.

The nostalgic fan of golf history in me welcomes any chance to celebrate the 1929 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, arguably the tournament I'd most love to go back in time to experience. So check out Joe Bissen's story about the winner back then, Jimmy Johnston, a stockbroker from St. Paul. 

And as The Forecaddie notes, it was a fantastic, amazing and slightly bizarre sight of having Jack Nicklaus walking the course early in the week (and not getting recognized by one player). Also, because of his history at Pebble Beach, here is a little-known link to that 1929 U.S. Amateur that Golden Bear buffs will enjoy

To really bring it full circle, Nicklaus Tweeted his pride at the effort by winner Hovland and runner-up Bling:

Best European Team On Paper Update: Olesen Jumps Ahead Of Poulter, Casey

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I'm not sure if the best European Ryder Cup team on paper remains so in Monty's mind after this week's move by Thorbjorn Olesen, but we have time to mull! At least on current form, however, getting Olesen on the team appears to be a positive. Particularly since Captain Thomas Bjorn has already said he will be hard-pressed to pick his fellow countryman for fear of looking biased.

Will Gray reports for GolfChannel.com on Olesen's second place in the Nordea Masters boosting his spot on the World Points list and within shouting distance of Tommy Fleetwood on the European Points list.

Even if Olesen fails to qualify automatically for Paris, the 28-year-old continues to bolster his credentials for a possible pick from his countryman, Bjorn. Olesen won the Italian Open in June, finished second at the BMW International Open three weeks later and has now compiled four top-12 finishes over his last five worldwide starts including a T-3 result at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.

Also on the outside looking in: Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia. 

Lexi's Back, Contending And Adds Another Rules Infraction

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Lexi Thompson is back on the LPGA Tour after taking a short leave to get refreshed and to gather her thoughts after a rough 2017.

And she's back to bad luck on the rules infraction side of things, though this one is most definitely on her shoulders. 

Kevin Casey explains why her taking lift, clean and place relief caused the infraction

U.S. Amateur Final Set: Bling v Hovland For The Havemeyer Trophy

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A 65 by Devon Bling and six-under-through-16 by Viktor Hovland sets up a battle of two prototypical modern stars in the making. The first 18 commences at 7:30 am PT with streaming coverage at USGA.org starting at 9:30 am PT prior to Fox network coverage of the afternoon 18 from Pebble Beach (1:30 PM PT/4:30 PM ET).

Brentley Romine at Golfweek sets up the final match-up for the Havemeyer Trophy.

Ryan Lavner with GolfChannel.com "snapshots" of the two combatants

If Tale Of the Tape is your preferred angle, Mike Trostel breaks down the two finalists by the numbers.

Dave Shedloski with more on Bling playing for his late mother.

If you're in the area, it'll be the best $25 you've ever spent walking the fairways of Pebble Beach watching two players displaying all-around talent.

As I write for Golfweek, it's been another grand amateur at Pebble. (With some architectural quibbling.)

Chris Keane and J.D. Cuban's images from Saturday capture just some of the incredible golf on display.

Hovland's highlights:

Bling's highlights:

Reminder: U.S. Amateur Semi-finals Feature Early Start; Bling v. Salinda and Hovland v. Hammer For Masters Invites

After some late afternoon golf the 2018 U.S. Amateur semi's get under way at 8 and 8:20, with Devon Bling playing Isaiah Salinda, followed by Cole Hammer vs. Viktor Hovland.

The winners earn a spot in the Masters.

Fox coverage begins at 9 am PT. 

My Golfweek story on Bling's remarkable match with Davis Riley where he never led until a bold line of attack at the 18th set up a winning birdie. 

A showdown of top amateurs features Hovland v. Hammer, and as Brentley Romine notes for Golfweek, Hovland is playing stellar golf coming off two straight 7&6 wins.

U.S. Amateur Quarterfinals Set At Pebble Beach, Fingers Crossed Fox Stays On To The Conclusion

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There are several typically compelling U.S. Amateur stories to follow, particularly at sun-splashed Pebble Beach Golf Links.  Ron Driscoll at the official site has a perfect roundup of the close Round of 16 action and a quarterfinal preview. Mike Trostel with more on the players who all earned exemptions to next year's Amateur at Pinehurst.

The lead quarterfinal match at 2:30 pm PT and features Davis Riley v. Devon Bling.

Brentley Romine at Golfweek has the Riley angle, while I penned this story on Bling's recent rise and play for his late mother.  Both are playing well and for a lot, so it should be a good one. 

Ryan Lavner reports on Isaiah Salinda's win over former US Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad. Salinda cracked a driver head but helpful technicians on hand were there to help with a replacement.  Stanford's Salinda recently won the Pacific Coast Amateur and is from South San Francisco.

Lavner reports on the unfortunate round of 32 loss by Akshay Batia thanks to a mistake ride taken by his caddie from what he thought was a rules official.

Mercifully, the Riley-Bling match starts off the afternoon and should finish inside Fox Sports 1's allotted broadcast window. The network signed off on Thursday's action with two matches All Square to rack up a tape of some sort of U.S. Women's Open mini-documentary.  I'm told an on-time sign off with action still going also occurred Wednesday.

So to recap: do you go with prime time match play golf from Pebble Beach or save an hour of overtime pay?  Fox execs went the save-money route for their USGA partners. 

It's little wonder then that fans do not make an effort to find USGA-Fox broadcasts. Overnight ratings for Thursday's Round of 16 coverage were down 29% from last year's Thursday play at Riviera, drawing a .05 despite the prime time slot and Pebble Beach. 

The quarterfinal matches starting late in the day for Fox

Today's coverage on FS1 starts at 4 pm PT.

Round highlights from the USGA social squad and Fox:

Does Tiger Need To Develop A More Controlled Game, Or Is He Already Doing So?

Golf Channel's Jaime Diaz pens an interesting look at the evolution of Tiger Woods' driving and feels we may be seeing a change in driving philosophy. Diaz argues that Woods should commit to a stronger pursuit of accuracy over distance in the face of a Brooks Koepka world, but I'd gently disagree that in the last few months the decline in clubhead and ball speed suggests he's already transitioned to an emphasis on rhythm and shot-shaping over yardage. 

As always, I'd encourage a full reading for context. But in the interest of discussion and before Diaz makes that case, I thought this was interesting:

But those numbers started to decline, in part because Woods never really quite felt as comfortable with oversized titanium heads and lightweight shafts as he had with a smaller metal head and heavier steel shaft.

Regarding Tiger's shifting approach:

In his post-round interview on Sunday, he twice – unprompted – pointed out that there is a level of drivers above him – not only longer, but straighter.

“He’s a tough guy to beat when he’s hitting it 340 in the air,” Woods said of Koepka. “Three-twenty in the air is like a chip shot. And so that’s the new game … Dustin’s done it now, Rory’s doing it … Those guys, if they’re driving it well, they have such a huge advantage because of the carry.”

It was a rare concession from Woods. In former days, if another player was better than he was at some part of the game – be it distance control with short irons, bunker play, lag putting – he would quietly make that strength a target to match or exceed.

The more distressing question for the game--given its history of older, more accurate players maintaining relevancy against young long hitters?

Whether giving up some power for accuracy is feasible given the extreme distances we're seeing. I believe so on a baked Carnoustie or Old Course, and maybe if Augusta National were firmer and faster, but otherwise it's hard to see the current emphasis on power providing us age and style-diverse leaderboards. 

Thankfully for Tiger's fans, his "short" drives are still long enough to compete. For now. 

Round Of 64 At Pebble: Upsets Galore, Hole-Outs, Hammer Wins And Hagestad Finally Wins One

 Stewart Hagestad (JD Cuban/USGA)

Stewart Hagestad (JD Cuban/USGA)

The 118th U.S. Amateur got underway after a 24-for-1 playoff (Ryan Lavner reports) Wednesday morning at Pebble Beach.

Brentley Romine of Golfweek on the top three players losing in round one.

Cole Hammer continued his great play, surviving a round one match by chipping in for eagle at the 18th, beating Alvaro Ortiz. The Western Amateur champion's highlights:

Zhen Kai Bai aced the 7th hole and his mom caught it on her cell phone!

Pepperdine's Clay Feagler holed out at 15 en route to a Round of 64 win.

Stewart Hagestad finally made it to match play in the U.S. Amateur, defeating the dapper Harry Hall of England and his strong fisherman's hat. My story for Golfweek.

Thursday's round of 32 tee times and other info.

Jack Returns To A Pebble Beach As A U.S. Amateur Spectator

My account for Golfweek on Jack Nicklaus' return to the scene of a U.S. Amateur and a U.S. Open win to watch his 49-year-old son Gary play the 2018 U.S. Amateur.

While there are so many great stories at the U.S. Amateur, seeing the greatest ever walking 36 and treating the other competitors with his usual touch of class, added something special to this year's U.S. Amateur. 

A few of my shots of the Golden Bear out spectating where he won this championship 57 years ago:

Distance Insights Project Goes Global To Confirm Good Players Are Driving The Ball Longer Than Ever

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And now, a survey...

The USGA and The R&A to Engage Global Golf Community in Distance Insights Project

Sports Marketing Surveys Inc. appointed to conduct research to secure feedback
and perspectives this fall

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. AND ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (Aug. 14, 2018) - In an effort to thoroughly inform the Distance Insights project through the lens of the global golf community, the USGA and The R&A will engage with golfers and a wide range of golf’s stakeholders to gather perspectives on the potential causes and impacts of increased distance, beginning in September. 

The Distance Insights project began in May as part of the governing bodies’ overall efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability of the sport. Primary and third-party research is currently being conducted to review historical data and ascertain the past, present and future implications of increased distance on how the game is played. 

In this latest phase of the Distance Insights project, research will be conducted with a series of golfers and stakeholder groups worldwide, banded into 12 general categories. Each group will be asked a series of universal questions to elicit broad perceptions of distance in golf, as well as group-specific questions relating to their area of expertise. The findings of the global perspectives research are expected to be a vital component of the full Distance Insights report, scheduled to be released in 2019.

Sports Marketing Surveys, Inc., an independent and international full-service sports research consultancy, has been selected through a global RFP process to provide multi-layered research and insight expertise for this phase of the project. 

Stakeholder categories are as follows:

  • Championship committees

  • Course Facility professionals/managers

  • Facility maintenance providers, including superintendents/greenkeepers

  • Golf administrative organizations

  • Golf course architects/construction professionals

  • Golf equipment retailers

  • Golf equipment manufacturers

  • Golf professionals/teachers

  • Golfers

  • Media

  • Non-golf stakeholders

  • Tournament golf spectators  

The SMS Inc. research will be conducted throughout the world and in several languages, including Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish, and involving golfers and those working in the industry in both established and emerging golf communities.

The work will principally focus on gaining an understanding from various stakeholder groups into how distance in golf has impacted them over their full golf experience, if at all, and its projected impact into the future. It will include analysis of feedback received to date from the global golf community, following the project’s initiation earlier this year. 

Information on the Distance Insights project, including frequently asked questions, historical data and general terms and conditions for submitting data, can be found at usga.org/distanceinsights or randa.org/distanceinsights

ShotLink On Brooks Koepka's 2018 PGA Win: If He Improves His Starts And Around The Greens, He's Really Unbeatable

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The PGA Tour and PGA of America have partnered at significant cost to provide ShotLink at the PGA Championship.

So a thank you as always to the crew on site and the volunteers documenting shots for helping us better understand the big picture. 

If only Brooks could chip better...he'd win by ten as evidenced by the above embed.

Then there were these numbers suggesting a driving exhibition like few others. A 25-yard advantage over the field average is pretty staggering given how soft the landing areas were following Tuesday's rain. And check out his starts in this year's majors.

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PGA Overnight: 6.1, Up 56% And Peaks At 8.3! PGA Second Highest Rated Major Of 2018

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Tiger Woods should have another gift basket waiting on his doorstep today, this time from Sean McManus to go with the ones from Mark Lazarus, Mike McCarley and Fred Ridley. Okay, maybe The Masters doesn't do gift baskets. 

Anyway, Tiger helped deliver a 6.1 overnight final round rating for the 2018 PGA Championship. The audience peaked at 8.3 late in the round. 

From Paulsen at Sports Media Watch, who has several other anecdotes about the ratings this year:

Sunday’s final round of the PGA Championship earned a 6.1 overnight rating on CBS, up 69% from last year (3.6), up 56% from 2016 (3.9) and the highest since 2009 (7.5). The previous mark was a 6.0 for the 2014 final round.

The 6.1 is tied as the highest golf overnight outside of the Masters since the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open (6.6).

Some might point out that the 6.1 much better than 2014's 6.0 at Valhalla featuring the unforgettable Rory-Rickie-Phil finish.  However, sports ratings have been on a decline and sizable numbers have moved to streaming, making the rating that much more impressive for CBS.

Also worth noting: the strong final round means the U.S. Open was the lowest rated final round of the four majors this year. The overnights for 2018:

Masters: 7.9
U.S. Open: 3.6
The Open: 5.0
PGA: 6.1

U.S. Amateur Primer: Pebble Beach Hosts For Fifth Time

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Here's a great look, with old film footage of the 1929 U.S. Amateur, of Amateur golf's history at Pebble Beach where stroke play qualifying begins Monday.

This photo gallery of 1929 is a real keeper

And as John Fischer reminds us, Bobby Jones losing early in match play led to golf at Cypress Point and Pasatiempo, and an affinity for Alister MacKenzie's work. 

As for 2018, Golfweek offers this look at players to watch.

Here is Amateurgolf.com's list of players they're watching.

Brian DePasquale's USGA.org full breakdown of the field.

Tee times.

You can follow scoring at USGA.org.

And their page devoted to event schedule and Fox television times.

Jack Nicklaus, whose son Gary qualified as a reinstated amateur, attended the event dinner Saturday and posed with some current Buckeyes. Nicklaus won the 1961 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. 

Here is the USGA's mood-setter on Pebble Beach:

ShackHouse 75: 2018 PGA Championship Wrap!

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Well it was a heartbreaker for Tiger Woods fans and a history-making performance for Brooks Koepka in winning his second major of the season to join Sarazen, Hogan, Nicklaus and Woods as the only players to win the U.S. Open and PGA in the same season (a feat that will grow tougher when the majors are played back-to-back next year). 

House is in surprisingly fine spirits, perhaps as a few of our prognostications worked, outside of birdie machine Tony Finau. 

The pod is available wherever you subscribe or available here:

Bellerive Saved By The Fans; Marks The End Of Jones Family Era Reign Of Venue Doctoring

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As I write for Golfweek's PGA Championship digital issue, Bellerive and the players were propped up by high energy and positive fans. But this design and many others mangled over the decades by Robert Trent Jones or son Rees are part of a phase in golf now in our rear-view mirror. Tastes have changed for the better. And now that nice golf course land at Bellerive deserves better too. 

Oh we still have to suffer though the dated, ordinary and blandness at Torrey Pines, and Rees will surely do his best to shield attention from being given to Tillinghast at Bethpage next year. Otherwise, the Jones family run has finally expired. 

Eamon Lynch also took on the Bellerive matter and noted how it was hurt by being given a 100th PGA for reasons no one will ever quite grasp. That put another target on the course's back and mercifully, history will look past that decision thanks to a great finish. 

As for its future, Bellerive seems assured of more events but the PGA currently only has two slots open before 2031 and The Forecaddie says one of those would go to the PGA's new headquarters course in Frisco, Texas.

PGA Of America Files: DUI Suspect And President Paul Levy Surfaces On Sunday

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The same organization whose board deemed Ted Bishop's "little school girl" social media reference worthy of a lifetime ban and forced removal from office, wheeled out recent DUI offender Paul Levy to front the CBS telecast and 2018 PGA Championship trophy ceremony Sunday.

Levy was otherwise not seen all week at Bellerive other than at a PGA Board meeting and no comment was made about his lack of presence at the PGA media conference Wednesday. The PGA President traditionally sits in that news conference.  

Levy is also the first PGA of America President to not actually have a job at a golf facility, or any current job. But he retains his position atop the PGA for a few more months until Suzy Whaley (right) takes over. Whaley, who strongly supported Bishop's ouster, is supporting Levy despite his having possibly committed a felony.  

Moral of this story: DUI's are ok, perceived sexist comment on Twitter with 28 days to go in office? Lifetime ban. 

Levy has yet to make a statement or apologize.

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PGA Instagram Wrap: Photos From Brooks Koepka's Third Major Win

The classic trophy shot is bicep friendly.

A #PGAChamp and his trophy. 😁

A post shared by PGA Championship (@pgachampionship) on

And this from the AJGA before Brooks hit the gym:

Probably a good time to bring this back up. #PGAChampionship

A post shared by American Jr Golf Association (@ajgagolf) on

The champion's money clip is swell, too bad Koepka under millennial law refuses to carry cash. 

The Koepka team, including mom, were on hand for this one:

@bkoepka & fam taking this one in! #PGAChamp

A post shared by PGA Championship (@pgachampionship) on

The greatest Olympian was also on hand to document the day:

@m_phelps00 is taking notes. 📝🐅

A post shared by PGA Championship (@pgachampionship) on

A fantastic shot of Tiger's reaction to birdie at the 18th:

Sorting Through The 2018 PGA Tough Beat: Tiger Goes 66, 64 And Still Doesn't Win

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All props, accolades and respect for Brooks Koepka in winning the 2018 PGA Championship. He had everything imaginable thrown his way in the form of a Tiger Woods charge and crowds respectful but certainly favoring the Woods pairing with Gary Woodland.

Nonetheless, on the heels of another near-miss at a major and this one with rounds of 66-64, there is nothing to complain about in terms of performance. Two putts were agonizingly close to going in and he saved multiple pars on top of eight birdie putts. 

Oh but let's complain! 

Hey Golf Gods, what gives? We've been teased enough. Stop it! 

Alright, I had to get that out. Your feelings. Let them flow...it's therapeutic. 

Poll: Who Will Win The 2018 PGA Championship?

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We have a fantastic final round on tap for Sunday at Bellerive outside St. Louis, with Brooks Koepka leading Adam Scott by two, with Rahm-Fowler-Woodland three back, and a big group at four back.  Westgate's Jeff Sherman has Koepka as the even-money favorite

The final twosome tees off at 1:55 pm CT. (Times and hole locations here.)

I'm having a hard time seeing Koepka lose this lead, though the back nine was tough for him today. He's still getting my vote. Who do you like?

Who will win the 2018 PGA Championship?
 
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