PGA Tour — Rory McIlroy's hot putter appears to have lasted just one week after he finished second last for putting in the BMW Championship and was squeezed out of the Top 5 in the FedEx Cup standings who have control of their destiny in the Tour Championship in a fortnight.
The world No 3 appeared to have finally found the missing link in his game when he hooked up with new putting coach Phil Kenyon and promptly won the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston last week, coming from six shots behind Paul Casey to win by two.
Ironically, Casey leapfrogged McIlroy in the FedEx Cup standings, when he was second to an impressive Dustin Johnson in a thrilling duel at Crooked Stick.
McIlroy shot a level par 72 to tie for 42nd with Graeme McDowell, who is eliminated from the playoffs. But while McIlroy goes on to East Lake in a fortnight ranked sixth in the FedEx Cup standings and at the mercy of the top five of Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Jason Day or Casey who can all take the title with a win.
McIlroy was excellent again from tee to green but while he was ranked first for proximity to the hole, he was 68th of 69 for strokes gained putting, using the blade 32, 32, 30 and 32 times.
Compare that to US Open championship Johnson, who was first in the putting averages in Indiana, where matched Casey's five under 67 to win by three on 23 under for his third win of the year.
Johnson now appears to be moving inexorably towards No 1 in the world and McIlroy's old pal Brandel Chamblee is gleefully predicting that the big man from South Carolina can not just get past Jason Day but remain No 1 for "triple digit weeks."
Golf Digest discussed the love for Johnson on Golf Channel, which began before the final round when Chamblee "emphatically predicted it."
“Not only do I think Dustin Johnson has the talent to be the next number one, but I think he has the talent to hold that position for triple-digit weeks.”
That would be close to a two-year run at minimum, and no doubt many would disagree with Chamblee. They often do. But his co-analyst David Duval, who has held the No. 1 ranking himself, said nothing to dispute the prediction.
“All the tools he has I believe are unmatched,” Duval said. “The ease to which Dustin Johnson makes it look, especially when he’s starting to wedge it in the last year like he has and his putting, is a great thing.”
The highlight of Sunday's duel with Casey came at the par-five 15th where the Englishman holed a 25-footer for eagle and Johnson coolly followed him in from 18 feet for an eagle of his own to maintain the lead.
If McIlroy is to compete at this level, he not only has to bring his putting to Johnson's level, he has to improve his wedge play and develop that bulletproof attitude.
Asked about the 15th, Casey said he knew Johnson would match his eagle.
He said: "I knew he would make it. I knew he was making it. He had to. He had to. It was the only way to write the story line wasn't it either that or blow it past and 4-putt. But he wasn't going to do that."
What impressed the Englishman was the American's resilience in round three, when he made a couple of early bogeys and came straight back as though nothing had happened.
"We talked about shots gained with attitude yesterday and I think a great example of that was when he bogeyed 2 and he bogeyed 3. And then he steps up and he birdies 4 and 5. And it's like just brilliant. You would never have known that he just had a couple of dropped shots. It's not that many guys out here who play or have that ability to deal with good and bad. Brilliant."
Shane Lowry can ease up on himself over what happened at the US Open. Johnson's ability to deal with the ruling he got there was another example of a special talent who was once regarded as an underachiever, amongst many other things.
Power tied 16th as DeChambeau secures PGA Tour card
Web.com Tour — Seamus Power briefly threatened the lead only to drop three shots in a four hole stretch and finish tied 16th in the first event of the Web.com Tour Finals in Ohio.
Power was within two shots of the lead on five under when he picked up two birdies on his front nine in the DAP Championship at Canterbury Golf Club. But he double bogeyed the par-three 11th with a three putt after a bunkered approach, then bogeyed the 14th to card a 71 and finish tied 16th on two under.
Former US Amateur and NCAA champion DeChambeau (71) made a four way playoff with Andres Gonzales, Nicholas Lindheim and Julian Etulain on seven under par.
DeChambeau and Gonzales knocked out Etulain and Lindheim with a pair of birdies on the first playoff hole at Canterbury Golf Club, and DeChambeau holed a four-foot par putt on the next trip down the 18th to secure his first win as a professional.
With this win, DeChambeau earns his PGA TOUR card and becomes the 15th player in Web.com Tour history to win in his first start. He’s also now the youngest winner on the Web.comTour this season at 22 years, 11 months, 26 days.
“Oh my gosh, it’s amazing. It’s beyond my wildest dreams. I’m just so ecstatic about today,” DeChambeau said. “All these guys out here could play on the PGA TOUR no problem. It’s just about getting it done, staying patient, executing shots, and that’s luckily what I was able to do this week.”
The 2015 NCAA Individual Champion and U.S. Amateur Champion stuck his approach shot on the first playoff hole—the 439-yard par-4 18th—to four feet. Lindheim and Etulain both failed to advance after Lindheim missed the green left and Etulain missed a birdie putt that was well over 50 feet. However, Gonzales sunk a 29-footer for birdie to put the pressure firmly on DeChambeau, who was facing a slick, sliding four footer. DeChambeau buried it to send the playoff back to the 18th tee.
“So what’s funny is right when I got behind it, I looked at it, and I knew the read, I knew how much it was going to break,” DeChambeau said. “It was an inch outside the hole, and I sat it down and I was really calm. It was really weird, a calmness came over me, and it was just about executing. The same thing happened to me on 16 when I made that 12-footer. A calmness came over me, I said just execute, and I was able to execute. It went right in the middle of the hole and I said let’s go.”
On the second playoff hole, DeChambeau hit his approach shot to about 20 feet while Gonzales short sided himself with a tough pitch from the left rough to a tucked front left pin. Gonzales hit his pitch to outside 10 feet and failed to convert the up-and-down. DeChambeau sunk his par putt to secure the victory.
“It’s very unorthodox, but I think the name of the game out here is if you believe in what you’re doing, you’ve gotta keep believing in that,” Gonzales said of DeChambeau. “You have to think that what you’re doing is the right way to do it, and it’s amazing how far that can take you, self-belief out here. If you don’t have self-belief in this game, you might as well hang ‘em up.”
Fresh off a missed cut at last week’s Omega European Masters—where he shot nine-over-par—DeChambeau posted a bogey-free opening-round 64 on Thursday to put himself one back of leader Bobby Wyatt. After discovering that the face of his driver was cracked on Tuesday of this week, DeChambeau replaced his driver head and got more comfortable with his tee game, as evidenced by the 14 of 14 fairways he hit Sunday.
“I wasn’t going to use my driver after Tuesday and tried a new driver head and it started to perform well,” DeChambeau said. “For me, it was nice knowing that my ball-striking was incredible and had been all week, and all I had to do was make a couple putts and I was going to be right there.”
On a day where seven different players bounced in and out of the lead, DeChambeau’s 1-over 71 Sunday was enough to earn a spot in the four-man playoff, despite his 31 putts on Sunday. He missed a par attempt from inside five feet on the par-4 second and three-putted the par-3 17th but didn’t let his missed opportunities affect him.
“Well, I knew they would drop. Unfortunately, I three putted on 17, first three putt of the week, but I was still able to stay strong and push through,” DeChambeau said. “This is only going to help me in future times, where we’re right there, really close to the leader, and it’s going to allow me to push through and push through to make a couple more birdies if that situation ever arises.”
Power headed home for his brother's wedding this week and some celebrations at West Waterford after he secured his PGA Tour card for next season. He will be back in the US for the last two events.