Woods, McIlroy & Koepka tee off as US PGA heralds return of major golf

By Sports Desk August 06, 2020

Tiger Woods made a flying start but two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka dropped an early shot as the US PGA Championship got under way on Thursday.

Golf's first major championship of the disrupted 2020 season was in its early stages at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, and Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas were in a star-studded group among the early starters.

The Woods-McIlroy-Thomas group got going at 08:33 local time (16:33 BST), beginning on the back nine, and all three made birdies at their opening hole, the par-five 10th.

Koepka went out at 08:11 local time, also starting at the 10th, and was joined by a pair of reigning major champions in US Open winner Gary Woodland and Open Championship victor Shane Lowry.

Winner of this tournament in 2018 and 2019, Koepka found rough to the right of the green at the par-three 11th, going on to miss from inside seven feet for par.

His par attempt lipped out, leaving a short bogey putt.

Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson formed another eye-catching group, with the former dropping an early shot while his playing partners both moved to one under par after two holes.

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    Bryson DeChambeau said it was special to join elite company in Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus with his U.S. Open victory.

    DeChambeau pulled away for his first major success, winning by six strokes at Winged Foot in New York.

    The American, 27, carded a three-under 67 in the final round on Sunday and was the only player to finish under par.

    DeChambeau joined Woods and Nicklaus as the only players to win the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open and an individual title at the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship, and it was company the winner was delighted to join.

    "It's just an honour. I don't know what else to say. It's been a lot of hard work," he said.

    "Mr Nicklaus has been always awesome to me. He gave me a sponsor's invite. Tiger has always been great to me. I can't say thank you enough to them for them helping me push me along to be a better person and a better golfer, as well.

    "But to be in the likes of the names of that company is special. I'll forever appreciate that."

    As overnight leader Matthew Wolff fell away in the final round, DeChambeau mixed an eagle with two birdies and a bogey.

    The pair traded eagles at the ninth and DeChambeau said his 39-foot putt led to him thinking about lifting the trophy.

    "It's kind of interesting, on nine is when I first thought, 'Okay, this could be reality'," he said.

    "I made that eagle, long eagle putt and I shocked myself by making it, too, and I thought to myself, I could do it. And then immediately after, I said, 'Nope, you've got to focus on each and every hole', and I just kept throughout the course of the back nine telling myself, 'Nope, we've got three more holes, we've got four more holes, we've got five more holes', whatever it was.

    "I just had to keep focused, making sure I was executing every shot to the best I possibly could."

  • McIlroy surprised by DeChambeau's powerful U.S. Open win, cautious ahead of Masters McIlroy surprised by DeChambeau's powerful U.S. Open win, cautious ahead of Masters

    Rory McIlroy admitted he was surprised by the manner of Bryson DeChambeau's six-stroke victory at the U.S Open as the former world number one hinted at another big Masters win for the powerful American.

    DeChambeau claimed his maiden major crown following a dominant display at Winged Foot, where he carded a final-round 67 to top the leaderboard ahead of overnight leader Matthew Wolff on Sunday.

    A topic of discussion on the PGA Tour after his weight gain and smash approach, DeChambeau only hit six fairways on the final day and 23 for the week in New York as he was the only player in the red following 72 holes.

    "I don't really know what to say because that's just the complete opposite of what you think a U.S. Open champion does," four-time major champion McIlroy, who finished tied for eighth at six over, told reporters. "Look, he's found a way to do it.

    "Whether that's good or bad for the game, I don't know, but it's not the way I saw this golf course being played or this tournament being played. It's kind of hard to really wrap my head around it."

    "I played with him at Colonial [the Charles Schwab Challenge] the first week back out, but I sort of said, okay, wait until he gets to a proper golf course, he'll have to rein it back in," continued McIlroy, who closed the tournament with a five-over-par 75.

    "This is as proper as they come, and look what's happened. Yeah, he's got full belief in what he's doing, and it's pretty impressive."

    Asked if he was concerned ahead of the rescheduled Masters at Augusta in November, McIlroy said: "I don't shudder, but if he can do it around here, and I'm thinking of Augusta and thinking of the way you sort of play there.

    "I stood up here a few weeks ago and said the game's moved on a lot in the last 14 years since the U.S. Open's been played here, and you're seeing what the game has become, what he's doing out there."

    "I think it's brilliant," McIlroy said. "But I think he's taken advantage of where the game is at the minute. Look, again, whether that's good or bad, but it's just the way it is. With the way he approaches it, with the arm-lock putting, with everything, it's just where the game's at right now.

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  • DeChambeau pulls away for six-stroke win at U.S. Open DeChambeau pulls away for six-stroke win at U.S. Open

    Bryson DeChambeau clinched his maiden major title after a strong final round at the U.S. Open on Sunday.

    The American was the only player in the red on his final round as a three-under 67 propelled him to a dominant six-stroke victory at Winged Foot.

    Making his 16th major start, DeChambeau, 27, closed out a win as the rest of the field, particularly overnight leader Matthew Wolff, struggled at the tough course in New York.

    Wolff battled to a five-over 75 in the final round, but it was enough to finish outright second at even par.

    DeChambeau, whose win marked his seventh on the PGA Tour, had struggled at majors since his debut in 2015, securing his first top-10 finish earlier this year at the US PGA Championship.

    Much of the talk around DeChambeau earlier this year centred on his weight gain, but he has been in fine form since the season restarted in June amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    His U.S. Open victory is his second win since the campaign resumed, while he has four other top-10 finishes.

    Wolff's two-stroke overnight lead disappeared quickly before he traded eagle putts with DeChambeau on the ninth.

    DeChambeau holed a 39-footer and Wolff responded with a much shorter effort to be a stroke behind heading onto the back nine.

    But that would be as close as Wolff would get from that point, DeChambeau pulling further ahead with a birdie at 11 after the 21-year-old bogeyed the 10th.

    Whatever slim hope Wolff, bidding to become the first tournament debutant to win the U.S. Open since 1913, had disappeared with another bogey at 14 and a double at 16 as DeChambeau parred out.

    A one-time winner on the PGA Tour, Wolff gave up a three-stroke lead heading into the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July, when DeChambeau was also victorious.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Championship winner, finished third at two over after his 73.

    Harris English (73) was a shot further back and ahead of Xander Schauffele (74), while world number one Dustin Johnson carded a 70 to finish in a tie for sixth.

    After his opening-round 65 put him in a strong position, Justin Thomas (72) ended up tied for eighth at six over alongside the likes of Rory McIlroy.

    McIlroy double-bogeyed the first hole and was not able to recover as he fired a 75.

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