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Daly flashes ’95 form, shoots 69 at Old Course

It was looking a lot like 1995 on Thursday at the Old Course – at least for a few hours.

John Daly, who won the ’95 Open Championship at St. Andrews, got off to a brilliant start in Round 1 of The Senior Open. After a bogey at the second, he made birdie at the par-4 third and then made eagle-3 at the par-5 fifth.

He continued that run with birdies on Nos. 6 and 7, and then added another at the par-3 11th.

Daly was at 5 under par and challenging for the lead. But the inward nine proved more difficult as players turned into a stiff wind.

Daly bogeyed the 12th and 15th holes and parred in for a 3-under 69. He finished the day four shots off the lead, held by Kirk Triplett.

Daly has struggled with his right knee since a freak accident in April, when a car crashed into his RV in a parking lot during Masters week. He did not compete in the U.S. Senior Open when the USGA denied him the use of a cart. He also withdrew prior to the start of last week’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Fransson Named to C-USA All-Freshman

Old Dominion men’s golfer Gustav Fransson has been named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team, the league office announced on Wednesday.

Fransson capped off a stellar freshman campaign with a fourth-place finish at the C-USA Championship en route to All-Tournament Team honors. 

The Sweden native led ODU in scoring average in 2017-18 with a stroke average of 73.8. Including the conference tournament, Fransson was the top-placing Monarch at each of the final two events, as he tied for 11th at the ECU Intercollegiate.

Fransson is the first-ver ODU men’s golfer to be named to the All-Freshman Team.

2017-18 Conference USA Men’s Golf Awards

Golfer Of The Year: Ian Snyman, North Texas

Freshman Of The Year: Tyler Johnson, Middle Tennessee

Coach Of The Year: Brennan Webb, Middle Tennessee

First Team

Ian Snyman, North Texas

Mitchell Meissner, Rice

R.J. Keur, UAB

Conor Purcell, Charlotte

Zander Lozano, UTSA

Second Team

Alex Weiss, Marshall

Tyler Johnson, Middle Tennessee 

Mario Carmona, Rice

Charles Corner, UTEP

Billy Tom Sargent, WKU

All-Freshman Team

Tyler Johnson, Middle Tennessee

Gustav Fransson, Old Dominion

Michael Rome, UTSA

Viktor Forslund, North Texas

Vitek Novak, North Texas

The 22 Times Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods Played in The Same Major

You may not realize this, but the two greatest major champions in golf history — Jack Nicklaus with 18 and Tiger Woods with 14 — actually crossed paths in the majors on 22 occasions.

In a recent interview with Cigar Aficionado, which you can watch here, Michael Jordan — arguably the greatest basketball player in history — was asked who he believed to be the best golfer of all time.

It was no surprise that His Airness, who also happens to be a golf aficionado, wasn’t falling into that trap.

“They’re both great and I would never say one is greater than the other,” Jordan said.

Jordan also said, “Jack and Tiger never played against each other. They never played in the same tournament. They never played with the same equipment. They never played with the same length of golf course. I never played against Wilt Chamberlain. I never played against Jerry West. To now say that one is greater than the other is being a little bit unfair.”

Not all of that is entirely true, though we do understand Jordan’s point. Woods and Nicklaus actually played in many of the same events early in Tiger’s career, but at that point, the Golden Bear was well past his prime while Tiger was coming into his own.

Since the talk is always about majors when it comes to Nicklaus and Woods, we decided to breakdown the 22 occasions in which the two played in the same major.

A couple of fun stats that came out of this:

  Nicklaus got the better of Woods on five of the 22 occasions, most notably his T6 to Tiger’s T8 in the 1998 Masters when Nicklaus was 58 years old.

   In four of the five majors where Nicklaus bettered Woods, Woods was still an amateur.

   Perhaps most remarkably of all, in the 22 majors where Woods and Nicklaus were both in the field, Woods collected seven of his 14 majors and finished in the top 10 nine times.

Dustin Johnson reclaims spot as World No. 1

Dustin Johnson emphatically reclaimed the No. 1 ranking Sunday, holing out for eagle from 170 yards on the final hole for a six-stroke victory in the St. Jude Classic.

“What a cool way to end the day,” Johnson said.

Johnson shot a 4-under 66 for his second PGA Tour victory this year and 18th of his career to take back the No. 1 ranking he held for 64 straight weeks before dropping down a month ago. He won the event for the second time, finishing with the eagle, three birdies and a bogey for a 19-under 261 total.

Andrew Putnam started the final round with a share of the lead for the first time in his career. He shot 72 and finished at 13 under.

Preparing for the U.S. Open, Johnson took the lead to himself with a par on No. 1, while Putnam double-bogeyed, and cruised to the $1.18 million winner’s check. Johnson turned in the lowest score under par by a winner here since David Toms won at 20 under in 2003, and that was before the course was redesigned with par dropped from 71 to 70 after the 2004 tournament.

Johnson, who won the U.S. Open in 2016, heads to Shinnecock Hills after stringing together four straight rounds in the 60s. He went 67, 63 and 65 before wrapping up a final round that felt almost like a practice round with the only question remaining how low Johnson would go.

At least until his dramatic walk-off eagle. Johnson was in the intermediate rough to the right of the fairway, and the ball bounced twice before rolling into the cup to bring fans to their feet.

J.B. Holmes (67) was at 9 under. Stewart Cink (72) and Richy Werenski (71) tied at 8 under. Brandt Snedeker (70) and Retief Goosen (66) tied four others at 7 under.

Phil Mickelson had a 65 and was at 6 under.

Putnam, a two-time winner on the Web.com Tour, had only one bogey through his first three rounds. He pushed his opening tee shot into the right rough and his approach in the rough left of the green. He wound up three-putting for double bogey. Johnson rolled in a 4-footer for par and a two-stroke lead at 15 under on a sizzling day with the temperature feeling like 99.

Johnson worked on keeping the ball in the fairway, hitting 3-wood off the tee on the first of the course’s two par 5s. Even with the 3-wood, Johnson had the second-longest drive of the day, hitting 333 yards on the 554-yard hole.

Even when Johnson three-putt No. 5 to drop to 15 under, Putnam also bogeyed protecting Johnson’s lead at three strokes. Putnam pulled within two strokes with a birdie on No. 7, rolling a putt 11 feet after Johnson parred the hole.

Johnson hit an iron 307 yards off the tee at No. 10. After hitting iron off the tee at No. 12 and going left of the cart path, Johnson saved par with a 16-foot putt to protect his two-stroke lead. Then Johnson hit a drive 359 yards on the par-4 No. 13, leaving him 95 yards to the pin. Johnson then hit his approach to 3 feet for his second birdie to go 16 under.

He previewed his dramatic finish on the par-5 16th. Johnson’s tee shot found the trees right of the fairway, and he threaded a shot through a couple trees to just off the green. He chipped to 5 feet and birdied for a four-stroke lead.

Tiger Woods happy with where game is despite Sunday struggles

Tiger Woods made it interesting again, but slipped from contention on the last day of a tournament.

Despite being done in by some poor putting at the Memorial, he believes there still was valuable progress.

“I keep getting a little better,” the 42-year-old Woods said after shooting an even-par 72 on Sunday at Muirfield Village. “Week in, week out, I keep getting just a little bit more fine-tuned. For instance this week, just to be able to make the slight adaptations after the first nine holes and be able to flip it around and shoot a respectable number.”

Woods started the final round five shots off the lead, the third time this year he has been within five to start the last day and couldn’t turn it into a win. Bryson DeChambeau won the event in a playoff.

Playing in the Memorial for the first time in three years, Woods birdied two of the first five holes Sunday before hitting from a fairway bunker on No. 6 to the rough in the back of the green. Still, he managed par.

He hit his approach over the green on No. 7 and settled for par again. He couldn’t make up any ground on the par-3 No. 8, either, leaving his second shot just short of the hole.

Missing a 3-foot par putt on No. 10 was a killer. He made a slick birdie on the par-5 No. 11, but missed a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 12, then hit his tee shot out of bounds on the 13th and finished with a bogey.

He bogeyed the par-3 No. 16 when he missed another short putt, an unfortunate trend for Woods in a week when he was hitting the ball well off the tee.

He now turns his attention to the U.S. Open in two weeks.

“I just need to hit better putts,” he said. “This week I didn’t really have, didn’t feel comfortable with my lines, and my feel was a little bit off. Consequently, I missed a bunch of putts. But I hit it really good this week, so that’s a positive going into Shinnecock, where ball striking is going to be a must.”

Moving up and then falling back has become a trend for Woods in his comeback bid.

He was one shot behind going into the final round at the Valspar Championship in March and finished tied for second, a shot behind winner Paul Casey. He was five back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the next week, but couldn’t do better than a tie for fifth, eight shots behind winner Rory McIlroy.

He knows he has to improve but is happy with his game overall, especially because before back surgery in April he didn’t know if he would ever walk again, let alone play competitive golf.

“Overall, if I just keep building on this, with how I’m hitting it right now, I’m in good shape for two weeks from now,” he said.

His participation dialed up the energy level here all week, with thousands following him on the course and roaring their approval with every good shot. The crowds were supportive and respectful all week, he said, and he tried to just appreciate being here again.

“It’s incredible to be able to play golf again at this level,” he said. “Not to have any worries about being able to walk again, like I was. I was struggling there for a while, and now I’m on the other end of the spectrum.”

DeChambeau chuckled when asked whether he was hoping Woods would make a run Sunday so they could duel it out. He answered with a firm “no.”

“To be able to have this type of caliber (of players) all chasing is kind of special,” he said. “I knew I had to go out there and play well. I couldn’t make many mistakes.”

John Smoltz (yes, the Hall-of-Fame pitcher) qualifies for US Senior Open

The 51-year-old Smoltz qualified for the U.S. Senior Open on Thursday, emerging from a three-man playoff to take the final spot.

What an incredible day of golf at Planterra Ridge GC! Jack Larkin and Sonny Skinner tied for medalist honors and John Smoltz secured the third qualifying spot in a playoff! Good luck in the #USSeniorOpen!

Final Leaderboard — Georgia State Golf Association (@GSGA) June 1, 2018

Three places were up for grabs in the 18-hole qualifier at Planterra Ridge Golf Club in Peachtree City, Georgia, about 30 miles south of Atlanta. Jack Larkin and Sonny Skinner got through in regulation by shooting 4-under 68, with Smoltz and two others one stroke back.

Brian Tennyson was eliminated on the first playoff hole with a bogey. On the third extra hole, Smoltz finished off Brian Ferris despite making double bogey.

Smoltz spent most of his career with the Atlanta Braves. He finished with a record of 213-155 with 154 saves — making him the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves. He was an eight-time All-Star and captured the NL Cy Young Award in 1996.

Smoltz also was an avid golfer in his spare time, along with teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux. All three were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

The 2018 U.S. Senior Open will be held June 28-July 1 at The Broadmoor-East Course in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

World Golf Hall of Famer Doug Ford, golf’s oldest major champion, passes at age 95

World Golf Hall of Famer Doug Ford Sr., the oldest living major champion and one of golf’s most durable competitors, died Monday evening in Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. Ford, who had suffered a pair of strokes over the past year, was 95. Born Douglas Michael Ford on Aug. 6, 1922, in West Haven, Connecticut, he was the son of a PGA Professional and had three uncles who also became PGA Members. Doug Ford captured the 1955 PGA Championship, winning in his first attempt when the event was conducted as match play. Ford went on to win the 1957 Masters, become PGA Player of the Year that season and play on four U.S. Ryder Cup Teams. “We are saddened to learn of the passing of Doug Ford, a champion who bridged the transformation of our PGA Championship from the match-play to stroke-play eras to become an honored member of the PGA family. He was rightfully enshrined forever as a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame,” said PGA of America President Paul Levy. “Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with his son, PGA Member Doug Jr., and his family.” Ford was one of nine PGA Champions who were sons of a PGA Member. Ford’s father, Mike, was his only golf coach. “I only went to my Dad for help when I was having a problem,” Ford said in 2017. “I never took a lesson from anyone else. He knew my swing so well.” During World War II, Ford served in the U.S. Coast Guard Air Division. He turned professional in 1949 and won for the first time in 1952, at the Jacksonville Open. It would be one of his 19 career professional victories. Ford’s first major triumph, the 1955 PGA Championship, came at Meadowbrook Country Club in Northville, Michigan. He was the 36-hole qualifying medalist, the last to do that and win a Championship. On his way to the finals, Ford rallied to defeat Ted Kroll, 2 and 1; and followed with his rout of Wally Ulrich, 12 and 10, in the third round. “Wally and I were friends,” said Ford, confirming they remained that way after the match. “I had a lot of confidence that week.” In the 36-hole final against Cary Middlecoff, Ford halved the morning 17th hole by making a downhill 10-foot birdie putt to remain one hole down. In the afternoon, Ford used some unique gamesmanship. His son, Doug Jr., then 10 years old, carried a chair that Ford used judiciously for rest while waiting for Middlecoff to play. “In those days, there were no gallery ropes keeping you back. Marshals rolled them up until the players and caddies arrived at their balls,” said Doug Jr. “I had a small folding chair that my dad used. It really showed up as we reached the back nine in the afternoon. My dad got stronger.” Ford pulled ahead for good in the match on the 26th hole and built a two-hole advantage by the time the twosome arrived at the 32rd hole, a long par-4. Doug Jr. recalled that “there were thousands of fans following, and they were getting on Middlecoff about his pace of play.” Ford was closer in two to the hole than Middlecoff was in three. When the pair arrived at the green, Middlecoff lit a cigarette, and didn’t putt until the whole cigarette was gone. It didn’t faze Ford, who won the hole. Two holes later, he closed out Middlecoff, 4 and 3. A few hours after the Championship, Ford and his family jumped into the family Lincoln that also pulled a trailer and arrived at Akron, Ohio the next morning. Few believed that Ford would play that week, but he ended up losing a playoff in the Rubber City Open. A week later, Ford won the All-America Championship in Niles, Illinois, and finished those three straight weeks of play by earning $9,886.67. “It didn’t dawn on me that it (the PGA Championship) was a major,” recalled Ford, as golf’s modern Grand Slam wouldn’t be popularized until 1960. “I wasn’t looking for majors; I was looking for money.” Ford received a parade back home in Yonkers, New York, where his father was PGA Head Professional at Putnam Country Club. He also had three uncles who were golf professionals. Despite the struggle Tour professionals faced to earn a representative take-home purse, Ford won 19 times in the 1950s, including 14 on the PGA Tour. He closed out the 1957 Masters by holing out for birdie from a plugged lie in the bunker on the 18th hole, capping a rally to beat Sam Snead by three strokes. The last of his PGA Tour wins was the 1963 Canadian Open. Ford was a member of Ryder Cup teams in 1955, ’57, ’59, and ’61. He was inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 1972; the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame (1992) and the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011. Ford once said that as long as he was able to swing a club, he would find a way to the course. In 2016, he attended the Champions Dinner at The Masters, and a couple days earlier got the chance to play Augusta National Golf Club one last time. He was accompanied by one of his longtime friends, 1968 Masters Champion Bob Goalby. Ford returned to Augusta National for the last time in 2017, attending the Champions Dinner. His health had been in decline, yet he made the trip. “My dad was not only a great player, he was a great man,” said Doug Jr. “He was from the Greatest Generation.”

Whitehouse, CNU Women’s Golf Run Away with Inaugural CAC Women’s Golf Championship

In the first ever Capital Athletic Conference Women’s Golf Championship, the Christopher Newport Captains overwhelmed the competition, placing all five starters in the top six on the leaderboard to capture the first conference title ever awarded in women’s golf. Rookie Erica Whitehouse (+4) ran away with the individual medalist honors to lead the way for CNU, who captured the team title by 141 strokes over second-place York (Pa.). The league championship featured three first-year programs competing for the conference title on the Palmer Course at the Bay Creek Resort in Cape Charles, Va. A 54-hole event, the Captains fired a three-day 993 (326-345-322), good for 129-over Par. York finished in 1134 strokes (381-377-376) at +270 and Southern Virginia University finished in 1311 (440-431-440) for a +447 score. The Captains historic win came courtesy of the program’s lowest single round of the year, scoring a 34-over 322, one stroke better than the previous mark set at the Jekyll Island Women’s Collegiate. In addition to the team’s record-breaking performance, Whitehouse also put together the finest individual performance in the young history of the program. With back-to-back 73’s in the first two rounds, the freshman set a new CNU scoring record, while adding a 74 on the final day, good for the third best score of the year. Whitehouse (+4) won the individual championship with a 220 (73-73-74) in a dominating performance. The Mechanicsville, Va. native led the event in Par 3, Par 4, and Par 5 scoring, while also leading the 14-player field in pars and birdies. On the long holes, Whitehouse was two-under with an average score of 4.83, six strokes better than the next player on the chart. In Saturday’s final round, Whitehouse made the turn at Even par with one double-bogey paired with back-to-back birdies on five and six. On the back nine, she had four bogeys, two more birdies, and three pars. Over the three-day tournament, she had just one double bogey per round with 12 total birdies and 29 pars. CNU was nearly perfect as a team, placing all five starters in the top six finishers. Behind Whitehouse was runner-up Cameron Cook (+30), third-place Katie Thome (+35), fifth place Abbey Forde (+63), and sixth-place finisher Harper Lurie (+65). Cameron Cook scored a career-low 77 in the final round and was particularly impressive on the front nine Saturday morning. She finished the first nine holes in just 34 strokes, carrying a two-under score into the turn. She birdied three holes and bogeyed just one with five pars on the front nine. Cook finished the 54-hole event in 246 strokes (82-87-77). Katie Thome wrapped up a consistent appearance at the CAC Championship with a 251 (84-84-83). Abbey Forde scored on the final day with a 16-over 88, also establishing a new personal scoring low. Forde finished in 5th place with a 279 (89-102-88). Finally, Harper Lurie closed out a sixth-place finish with a 281 (87-101-93). Christopher Newport now has two wins and two runner-up finishes in the first year of the program. Heading into the postseason tournament, the Captains were ranked 50th in the GolfStat Relative Rankings, while Whitehouse was ranked in the top 50 individually with a 78.50 stroke average. After this weekend’s tournament, Whitehouse improved her season stroke average to 77.8, which would rank her in the top 30 nationally based on the most recent statistical update.

Stephen Curry in talks to host PGA Tour event in 2019

It’s no secret that Stephen Curry loves golf. The Golden State Warriors star played respectably at a Web.com Tour event last fall, shooting 74-74, but failing to make the cut. Now, Curry is in talks to host a PGA Tour event of his own, according to ESPN. The tournament would be played in the fall of 2019, and ESPN notes that of the three domestic fall events on the PGA Tour’s schedule, only one is near Curry’s home in the Bay Area: The Safeway Open. That tournament — located at the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa Valley — will be played from October 1-7 this year, and is being sponsored by Chevron. The PGA Tour did acknowledge that they were in talks with Curry’s team. “There’s no doubt Stephen Curry brings a young, new, diverse audience to the PGA Tour through his passion for this great game and support for the community,” PGA Tour spokeswoman Laura Neal said to ESPN. “We’re excited about the prospect of partnering with an iconic athlete of his caliber in the future.”

93-year-old gets first hole-in-one in his final round of golf ever

Never give up on your dreams. After nearly 70 years of playing golf, a 93-year-old Ohio man got his first-ever hole-in-one in April, according to the Zanesville Times Recorder. The shot came on the 152-yard third hole at Green Valley Golf Course in Zanesville, where Ben Bender teed off with a 5-wood. When we reached out to the course, an employee said that while they usually get five or six aces in a year, most come on hole No. 16, a 73-yard Par 3. Here’s what the third hole — where Bender notched his ace — looks like: The 93-year-old has hip bursitis, and after basking in the glory of his hole-in-one, his hip started to bother him, forcing him to call it a day afer just a couple more holes. He decided it would be his last round of golf ever. Not a bad one to go out on. “I’d come close to some hole-in-ones, but this one was level on the green before it curved towards the hole and went in,” Bender said to the Times Recorder. “I was in awe watching it. I played a few more holes, but my hips were hurting and I had to stop. It seemed the Lord knew this was my last round so he gave me a hole-in-one.” Bender apparently started playing golf when he was 28, after he bought clubs and a bag for from the manager of a shoeshine shop for just $50. When living in Florida, Bender began playing six days a week, slowly working down to a 3-handicap. “I was lucky to play golf this long, but I never expected (a hole-in-one),” he said to the Times Recorder. “It was the last time I was able to play, and I think God had a hand in this. I loved the game and hate to give it up, but I can’t play forever.”