More stories

  • in

    Tensions Flare in Ryder Cup as the U.S. Team Takes a Commanding Lead

    The Americans were calmly overpowering the European side, but then things got testy.HAVEN, Wis. — Golf is a game of decorum.Except in the Ryder Cup, where some combination of pressure, patriotism and pride routinely leads players to engage in frisky gamesmanship, clash over rulings and stoke or shush fans if it gives them an emotional advantage.This year’s Ryder Cup, however, was shaping up to be an exception to the usual peevishness. As the midpoint of the three-day event neared on Saturday, the American team was calmly overpowering the European side, whose golfers appeared lifeless and beaten. But that changed in the stretch of roughly one hour when there were four testy episodes involving players from both teams.Brooks Koepka defiantly and profanely disputed the decision of two rules officials who declined to give him a free drop. His American teammate, Jordan Spieth, and the caddie for his European opponent Jon Rahm had an animated quarrel about the proper place for a drop after Rahm hammered a shot into Lake Michigan. Bryson DeChambeau and Shane Lowry each gestured with their putters in protest after short putts were not conceded, although DeChambeau’s putt was far lengthier.Bryson DeChambeau of the United States laid his putter on the green in protest after his opponents refused to concede a short putt.Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesPerhaps not by coincidence, what was looking like an American rout suddenly became a tight, taut contest. After the United States won three of four team matches on Saturday morning to take a six-point lead in the event, the European team stormed back in the afternoon and at one point appeared capable of winning three of those four matches.But as the sun was setting along Lake Michigan in central Wisconsin, the Americans rallied to earn two victories that gave them a commanding 11-5 lead heading into Sunday’s 12 singles matches, which are each worth one point. The Americans would need to win only three and a half points on Sunday to win the Ryder Cup for just the second time since 2008.Dustin Johnson, left, and Collin Morikawa are undefeated as a team for the United States.Charlie Neibergall/Associated PressSteve Stricker, the American captain, smiled broadly Saturday evening as he assessed his team’s chances.“Those afternoon session matches were so important. If they blank us, they’re right back in it,” Stricker said of the European team. “But getting a split and two more points was really big. Right now, it’s about getting our guys some rest; we’ll get back to the hotel, eat and get into bed.”Justin Thomas, the emotional leader of the United States team, would not predict victory but said, “All of us have the faith now.”Sergio García, Thomas’s counterpart on the European side — at least when it comes to his leadership style — was not bowed.“Everybody knows one thing: We’ll be out there until the end and we’re not going to give up,” García said of his team. “It’s going to be difficult, but I assure you we’ll give our best.”The Saturday afternoon drama was enhanced by strong winds that whipped across Whistling Straits, the Pete Dye-designed course that is devilish even in benign conditions. Some players donned woolen winter caps in the elements and others were in short sleeves. The format for the matches was four-ball, in which each golfer plays his own ball and the lower score for a team decides the result on a hole.Three of the four matches were hotly contested and one was not, as the undefeated American team of Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa cruised to a comfortable 4-and-3 victory against Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter. The combination of McIlroy, who has played in six Ryder Cups, and Poulter, a stalwart and firebrand for the Europeans since 2004, has produced an 0-2 record. McIlroy has been on the losing side of each of his three matches.Jon Rahm, left, and Sergio García of Spain have won all three of their matches as a team for Europe.Mike Segar/ReutersThe heavyweight showdown was between Spieth and his partner Koepka and the Spanish pairing of García and Rahm, the world’s top-ranked player who has been spectacular at this Ryder Cup. The Rahm-García pairing came into the match against Spieth and Koepka undefeated in their two previous matches. They did not trail in the match through 16 holes. Spieth, usually so reliable when facing pivotal putts, missed a handful of makeable birdie or par attempts that could have wrested the lead from Rahm and García, who won, 2 and 1.Like Rahm and García, their teammates Shane Lowry of Ireland and Tyrrell Hatton of England held the lead or were tied with the Americans Tony Finau and Harris English through 17 holes. Still, with the European team’s hopes of a comeback on Sunday all but hanging in the balance, Lowry faced a 10-foot uphill par putt to win the match. With a steady, rhythmic stroke, Lowry drilled the putt in the center of the hole for a 1-up victory.Not surprisingly, the most unpredictable and volatile match involved DeChambeau, who was teamed with Scottie Scheffler against Tommy Fleetwood of England and Viktor Hovland of Norway. While the lead was traded back and forth, after 14 holes the match was tied — until Scheffler sank an 18-foot birdie putt on the 15th green to give his team a one-hole edge. That lead was later extended, with Scheffler and DeChambeau eventually winning 3 and 1.The Americans, who won five of eight matches on Friday, turned in another commanding performance in Saturday morning’s foursomes matches, in which players alternate hitting the same golf ball on a hole. The Johnson-Morikawa team led for its entire match against Englishmen Paul Casey and Hatton and eventually closed out a 2-and-1 victory. The poised Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay methodically eliminated their opponents Lee Westwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick of England with a string of steady pars, winning the match 2 and 1.Thomas and Spieth, who were teamed in a losing effort on Friday, were reunited with a more productive result when they came from behind against Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger, who had the edge in the first 13 holes of the match. But the Thomas-Spieth combo won four of the final five holes to claim a 2-up victory. More

  • in

    U.S. Routs European Team to Take Back the Ryder Cup

    Collin Morikawa’s birdie putt on No. 17 secured the half-point the U.S. team needed to clinch its victory against Europe on the way to a 19-9 rout.HAVEN, Wis. — The first tee on a Ryder Cup Sunday is usually a place of high tension. But not on this Ryder Cup Sunday.When Justin Thomas stepped onto the tee for his match with Tyrrell Hatton of England, the home fans in the surrounding grandstand implored Thomas to chug a beer, as he had at the same spot Saturday afternoon when the American team built a nearly insurmountable lead ahead of the competition’s final stage.Thomas, preparing to play one of 12 climactic Sunday singles matches, smiled, but waved off the cans of beer being offered.“Yeah, later,” a fan yelled from the rollicking grandstand. “He’ll catch up on the beers later.”Yes, he would. And the Champagne, too.The U.S. golfers, beleaguered for most of the last 25 years of Ryder Cup competition, on Sunday completed a three-day rout of the normally dominant European team to win the event for just the third time this century. Though they needed to win only three and a half points on Sunday to secure the Ryder Cup trophy — each match victory is worth one point and a tie is worth half a point — the Americans attacked brazenly, capturing eight of a possible 12 available points to trounce the Europeans, 19-9.The 19 points are a record in a modern format for the event, established in 1979. The previous record was 18½ points, which was accomplished by the United States in 1981 and the Europeans in 2004 and 2006.The American Patrick Cantlay, who remained undefeated in this year’s event with a decisive 4 and 2 victory over Shane Lowry of Ireland on Sunday, summarized his team’s uncompromising attitude during the three days of competition at Whistling Straits, a daunting golf course along two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline in central Wisconsin.“I woke up this morning and told the guys, ‘Let’s get 20 points,’” Cantlay said. “This is the next era of Ryder Cup teams for the U.S.A., and I wanted to send a message. Everyone on our team has a killer’s instinct and we’re going to bring that to future Cups.”Collin Morikawa added, “It was imperative that we win this Ryder Cup for American golf, but it’s not just a win, it’s a dominant win, and that matters.”The American team deliberately rode a youth movement to victory, with a roster that included eight players under 30 and six who were making their Ryder Cup debut. It was the youngest American team in the 94 years of the event and notably devoid of golf luminaries, like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who had defined the squad since the 1990s. But from 1993 until this week, those American teams had lost nine of the 12 Ryder Cups contested.With American golf — competitively and recreationally — undergoing a changing of the guard, it was fitting that the U.S. Ryder Cup team was built around nine players ranked in the top 10 of the men’s world golf rankings, who collectively have an average age of 26.2. The youngest in the group, Morikawa, 24, was undefeated in this year’s event and secured the half-point that clinched victory on Sunday afternoon. At roughly the same time, the team’s elder, Dustin Johnson, 37, won his match to become just the fifth player to have a 5-0 record in one Ryder Cup.The U.S. team celebrated with the Ryder Cup trophy after winning on the final day of the tournament.Tannen Maury/EPA, via ShutterstockFor the Europeans, the lopsided score was a shock, even if the Americans had the stronger lineup of golfers, if measured by world rankings and tournaments won this season. Jon Rahm, the top-ranked men’s golfer, was the only European player in the world top 10. Moreover, the European team relied on a bevy of Ryder Cup veterans, including four who were over 40.Ian Poulter, a fiery leader and Ryder Cup stalwart, failed to provide the emotional boost he usually brought to the team in the first two days of team matches. Although Poulter, with his 3 and 2 victory over the American Tony Finau on Sunday, remained undefeated in Ryder Cup singles matches.“Congrats to Team U.S.A., they owned each of those team sessions on Friday and Saturday,” Poulter, 45, said late Sunday afternoon. “They made it very tough on us and this week is deflating. But we’ve got good young players too, and they will take this forward. They are more than capable of coming back the next time.”The European captain, Padraig Harrington, praised his American counterpart, Steve Stricker, who adjusted the U.S. selection process so that half his team was named at his discretion. In the past, most of the players qualified by a points rubric based on many months of results. Stricker made it a point to name a team of players whose personalities meshed — and whose games were on the rise in recent weeks.“They got their plan right,” Harrington said. “Of course, we’re disappointed, but the U.S. outplayed us. You have to see the facts.”Rory McIlroy reacted after the European team’s loss to the United States on Sunday.Charlie Neibergall/Associated PressRory McIlroy, who played prominent roles in past European victories, was in tears Sunday, even after winning his singles match against Xander Schauffele. McIlroy struggled in the two opening days of the event.“I love my teammates so much and I should have done more for them this week,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been extremely disappointed that I haven’t contributed more for the team.”Wiping his eyes, McIlroy congratulated the Americans and looked forward to a rematch in two years when the Ryder Cup resumes in Italy.“The more I play in this event, the more I realize it’s the best event in golf,” he said. “Just the best.”Morikawa’s clinching point was earned in a tie with Viktor Hovland. In addition to Cantlay’s victory for the Americans, Thomas defeated Hatton, 4 and 3; Scottie Scheffler beat Rahm, 4 and 3; Bryson DeChambeau overcame Sergio Garcia, 3 and 2; Brooks Koepka defeated Bernd Wiesberger, 2 and 1; Daniel Berger rallied past Matthew Fitzpatrick, 1-up; and Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood tied.Asked about his winning management style, Stricker said: “We took away a lot of the fluff and kept things as simple as we could. We put the players together in pairings that they helped shape with their input. And they wanted to come together — they all did.”As an example, Stricker insisted that Koepka and DeChambeau, whose sniping social media feud has been an overarching story line on the PGA Tour this year, asked to play together.“That shows you how together our team had become,” Stricker said with a grin.Although Stricker never paired the two.But in a show of the spirit and camaraderie that can envelop even heated rivals during a record-setting Ryder Cup performance, as the American team was celebrating its victory Sunday — with copious amounts of alcohol — Koepka and DeChambeau slapped hands and briefly hugged.Only on a Ryder Cup Sunday. More

  • in

    Steve Stricker Hopes to Lead U.S. Ryder Cup Team to a Win

    In 2008, Paul Azinger led the United States to victory over Europe after dividing his team into three four-man “pods.” Would that system change the Americans’ luck this year?“Pod” is not a golf word. And yet it has been on the tongue of nearly everyone in the golf community during the last, tense days before this week’s Ryder Cup, the biennial, pressure-packed team competition between American and European pro golfers that begins Friday.Paul Azinger, the American Ryder Cup captain in 2008 and a former PGA Tour pro, deserves the credit, or the blame, for injecting “pod” into the golf vernacular. Thirteen years ago, after learning that Navy SEAL units bonded by training and living together in small, carefully selected platoons, Azinger decided he would divide his 12-man team into three four-man units before that year’s Ryder Cup. The hope was that a finite, close-knit group could match the unity exhibited by Europe’s triumphant teams.Called the pod system, Azinger’s four-man corps were chosen after each player took a personality test. Grouped together based on compatibility, the players did almost everything together before the Ryder Cup matches — practice rounds, meals, nightly table tennis games. When the competition started, they were paired together in matches and routed the Europeans to claim the first U.S. victory in nine years and just the second since 1993. Azinger was celebrated for his innovation.But in a show of the stubborn individualism that may be hampering the overall American Ryder Cup effort, the U.S. captains who succeeded Azinger rejected or diluted his approach. Only one of those teams won, in 2016, when Davis Love III embraced the pod system.At other team competitions in professional golf, including the Solheim Cup, which pits women’s golfers from the United States against those from Europe, leaders chose to adopt Azinger’s model with success and failure. Last month, the American Solheim Cup captain, Pat Hurst, implemented the pod system and her team lost, 15-13.Even Azinger, now an analyst for NBC, which will broadcast the three days of Ryder Cup matches from Friday to Sunday, has questioned the current efficacy of his idea.“The way I did it wouldn’t even work today, to be honest, even though the concept was good,” he said last week. “I just think the pods, they don’t work all the time. We keep getting beat. If everybody’s still using the pods, pods isn’t the answer. It’s something bigger than that.”The pod debate has not stopped or impeded the discussion about the best way to replicate Azinger’s success on the American side. In the run-up to the event, the overarching intrigue is how Steve Stricker, this year’s U.S. captain, will make up the two-man partnerships he sends out for the 16 matches against Europe’s two-man teams on Friday and Saturday. (On Sunday, the Ryder Cup concludes with 12 one-on-one singles matches.)The American hand-wringing about their player pairings has generally been a source of quiet amusement for the European squad. Devising the pairings on their team is rarely controversial or the product of profound, multilayered planning. Players often form natural partnerships based on which European country they represent.“The Europeans are bonded by blood, which means everything to them,” Azinger said. “The Spaniards play together. The Englishmen, the Irishmen, the Swedes, they’re bonded by something that really gives them a full-blown 1 percent advantage.”From left, Shane Lowry, Bernd Wiesberger, Tommy Fleetwood, Captain Padraig Harrington, Tyrrell Hatton and Lee Westwood of Europe walked with the Ryder Cup trophy on Monday before leaving Heathrow Airport.Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesAzinger said a 1 percent advantage may not seem like much, but in the three days of a Ryder Cup competition, more than 4,000 shots are likely to be put in play. A 40-stroke swing, or 1 percent, could conceivably decide a couple of matches, where one point is awarded for each victory and half a point for a tie. Europe has won nine of the last 12 Ryder Cups, but on four occasions the margin of victory was a single point.Seizing on that 1 percent edge, Azinger said of the Europeans: “They bring an intangible with them. It’s a fact.”Outside the golf world, there may be some precedent to explain how the European team’s geographic makeup improves its Ryder Cup results.Some of the strongest, most effective troops during World War II were soldiers assembled from the same town or village, according to Charline Russo, a senior lecturer in organizational dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania and a consultant on executive coaching and team development.“It wasn’t just because they grew up together, there was also that accountability factor,” Russo said. “You didn’t want to go home and admit that you screwed up.”Russo, who has a Ph.D. in organizational leadership, has a deep familiarity with the personality tests that Azinger used 13 years ago. Stricker, who was on the 2008 team, last week conceded that he would employ a variety of tactics to devise his pairings, although he declined to be specific on whether he would use the pod system. Russo said the assessments could be valuable tools, but cautioned, “You need somebody who knows what they’re doing with it because these things can be dangerous.” Azinger, for example, consulted at length with a clinical psychologist.Moreover, Russo, who worked for pharmaceutical and biotech companies and assembled teams for large-scale initiatives, insisted that there was a “special sauce” for winning teams.“There’s a magic to it, too,” she said. “You’ve got a team of rivals and you want to bring them together to face something that’s greater than all of them. And that’s not easy to do.”It may be even more difficult if Brooks Koepka, who qualified for the team but injured his wrist last month, is healthy enough to play. Koepka and his American teammate Bryson DeChambeau have spent most of this year feuding on social media. Stricker has asked the two men to put aside their differences during the Ryder Cup, and each player has been discreet of late, but do not expect Koepka and DeChambeau to be paired for a match, or even assigned to the same pod — if there is a pod system.Justin Leonard, who was a member of several American Ryder Cup teams including the 2008 squad, said that keeping Koepka and DeChambeau apart should be “real easy,” especially if the players are in pods.“We ate breakfast together, we ate dinner together, we played our practice rounds together, and when we were in the same room with the whole team, we sat at a table together,” Leonard said of 2008, adding that the arrangement provided a level of comfort because there were no surprises when the pairings were announced.Additionally, Leonard, who is now an NBC golf analyst, said he expected the pod system to return for the Americans this week because Phil Mickelson, who was on the 2008 team, is a nonplaying vice captain to Stricker.“Phil Mickelson was a big proponent of the pods,” Leonard said. “He loved that system. Him being a vice captain, I feel fairly confident that we’ll see something similar to that.”Azinger said he did not have a clue how Stricker might proceed.“I don’t know what’s he’s doing,” Azinger said. “He’s not told me.”Statistically, the Americans would appear to enter the Ryder Cup with a significant advantage since eight of the top 10 players in the men’s world rankings are on their side. (Jon Rahm, the top-ranked male golfer, is the only European player in the top 10.)But Azinger laughed and swatted away predictions.“The Ryder Cup, it’s a different animal,” he said. “Getting those right players together, I mean, I did personality types, and I felt that trumped analyzing their golf games. So that was my philosophy. The players fell in love with it. I gave them ownership of it. They made the decision. So it worked out great.“But it was still up to them once the bell rings.” More

  • in

    At the Tour Championship, Bryson DeChambeau Can Hear Himself Think

    Sheriff’s deputies and security personnel shadowed the golfer during his first round to enforce a new PGA Tour ban on fans who heckle him. No one dared.ATLANTA — A Tour Championship crowd at East Lake Golf Club will never be confused with a gallery at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, but on this particular Thursday, the scene could have been mistaken for a solitary stroll in a park.Two days after the PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan, issued a no-tolerance policy for the “disrespectful” outbursts that have haunted Bryson DeChambeau all summer, the crowds following the penultimate twosome around East Lake during the first round minded their manners. People were reluctant to shout out Bryson’s real name, much less a derisive “Brooksie!” — his rival on the PGA Tour is Brooks Koepka — especially with two DeKalb County sheriff’s deputies and three PGA Tour security officials shadowing him around the course.The peace and quiet did little to lift DeChambeau as he dropped a stroke to his playing partner, Jon Rahm, on each of the first four holes. But he rallied with three consecutive birdies and finished with a one-under-par 69, tied for third with Harris English and five shots behind the leader, Patrick Cantlay, and three behind Rahm.Over the summer, DeChambeau has become the most divisive player in golf. After tossing away a share of the lead with a back-nine 44 at the United States Open at Torrey Pines and shrugging it off as “bad luck,” his relationship with the news media began to sour. He angered his equipment sponsor, Cobra, with harsh criticism of his driver. He denied, despite video evidence, that he had repeatedly failed to shout “Fore!” on errant drives into galleries. And then he delivered a curious explanation for refusing to get vaccinated and missing the Olympics after testing positive for Covid-19.In response to the criticism, DeChambeau will talk only to news outlets that are PGA Tour partners. At the same time, the fallout from his long-running feud with Koepka has generated taunts of “Brooksie!” everywhere DeChambeau has gone, making life miserable for him between the ropes. The situation boiled over last week at the BMW Championship at Caves Valley, where DeChambeau reportedly confronted a heckler who had shouted, “Nice job, Brooksie!” at him after he lost a thrilling six-hole playoff to Cantlay.On Tuesday, DeChambeau spoke to the Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis and admitted that the “Brooksie!” heckles were “another variable that I have to take account for.”Like wind direction or the grain of the greens.Monahan doesn’t think it should be a variable, and on Tuesday, he announced a new fan behavior policy under which “disrespectful” shouts directed at players would not be tolerated and could result in fans’ being removed from the course.“The barometer that we are all using is the word ‘respect,’ and to me, when you hear ‘Brooksie’ yelled or you hear any expression yelled, the question is, is that respectful or disrespectful?” Monahan said. “That has been going on for an extended period of time. To me, at this point, it’s disrespectful, and that’s the kind of behavior that we’re not going to tolerate going forward.”Several tour players, including Rory McIlroy and Cantlay, defended DeChambeau.“I certainly feel some sympathy for him, because I certainly don’t think that you should be ostracized or criticized for being different — and I think we have all known from the start that Bryson is different and he is not going to conform to the way people want him to be,” McIlroy said. “He is his own person. He thinks his own thoughts, and everyone has a right to do that.”He added: “There are certainly things that he has done in the past that have brought some of this stuff on himself. I’m not saying that he’s completely blameless in this. But at the same time, I think he has been getting a pretty rough go of it of late, and it’s actually pretty sad to see, because he — deep down, I think — is a nice person, and all he wants to do is try to be the best golfer he can be. And it just seems like every week, something else happens, and I would say it’s pretty tough to be Bryson DeChambeau right now.”DeChambeau tried to downplay the impact of what some have labeled harassment on the course.“I can take heat — I’ve taken heat my whole entire life,” he told the Golf Channel. “And it’s because I’m a little different, and I understand that. And I appreciate that, too. No matter what, if you’re a little different — whether it’s Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos or whoever it is — there’s always going to be heat, and I recognize that, and I respect that.”He added: “At the end of the day, people are going to say things they’re going to say because they have the right to do so. It’s been going on for months now. Everybody has their own limits, and everybody has their own tipping points and whatnot. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of realizing: ‘You know what? I’m going to let that fuel me in a positive way.’”McIlroy, the current chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council, supports the commissioner’s crackdown on fan behavior.“There’s no room in golf for people to abuse someone on the golf course when all they’re trying to do is do their best and win a golf tournament and follow their dreams,” McIlroy said. “So there’s no place for that in our game. And that might sound a little stiff or snobby or whatever, but that’s golf, and we have traditions.”DeChambeau, left, and Jon Rahm walk up the fourth fairway at the Tour Championship.Erik S Lesser/EPA, via Shutterstock More

  • in

    Steady, Stoic Cantlay Outlasts a Mighty DeChambeau in Maryland

    The BMW Championship was settled after six gripping playoff holes between two rising stars of the post-Tiger Woods generation.OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Patrick Cantlay, a creative if stoic player, was asked on Saturday night to look forward to Sunday’s final round of the BMW Championship when he would be paired with Bryson DeChambeau, the tinkering and volatile former college physics major.The golfers would begin the day tied for the lead.“Artist versus scientist?” a reporter inquired.Cantlay smiled and answered: “You should be able to decide.”The pair dueled across more than six entertaining hours and 24 holes on Sunday, with Cantlay typically imaginative and quietly effective while DeChambeau’s swashbuckling style and mighty swipes at the ball overpowered the Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore.But what transpired was more than a riveting contrast of styles. It became a test of will between promising 20-something golfers, young faces who are at the advent of the sport’s transition from the Tiger Woods era. It was a show and the cast of characters were all new.The tournament lead shifted several times, but neither golfer was able to escape his final pairing shadow. Raucous whoops and hollers greeted DeChambeau’s gargantuan drives, animated fist pumps and purposeful, marching strides. Respectful, if restrained, applause followed Cantlay’s steady, emotionless efforts and languid pace of play.It could have been golf’s version of the folk tale, “The Tortoise and the Hare.”Finally, on the sixth playoff hole, Cantlay, 29, sank an 18-foot uphill birdie putt and offered a subtle, most rare grin. DeChambeau, 27, could not match his opponent’s resolve as the sun began to set in Maryland, missing a nine-foot putt that would have extended the contest.It was Cantlay’s fifth victory on the PGA Tour and his second this year. The win puts him in a commanding position entering the season-ending Tour Championship, which is the last of the three stages of the FedEx Cup playoffs, with a $15 million prize for the champion.“It was an unbelievable atmosphere all day and I just tried to stay in my own little world,” Cantlay, who is ranked 10th in the men’s world golf rankings, said afterward. “The fans were so energized and into every shot. It’s really nice to have them back.”DeChambeau has been a crowd favorite since he gained 40 pounds last year and began launching awe-inspiring 370-yard drives. He has learned to stoke and play to his galleries and for most of Sunday’s round he was the people’s choice. But in time, the understated Cantlay nurtured a following of his own.Perhaps impassive is the new cool. Or as Cantlay noted, toward the end of Sunday’s round fans had begun chanting a new nickname at him: “Patty-Ice.”“I’ve never heard that,” Cantlay said.DeChambeau, as he has for the last several weeks, did not meet with reporters after Sunday’s round. But he did speak to Cantlay about his golf course etiquette when the two were on the 14th hole. In an unusual exchange, DeChambeau asked Cantlay to stop walking as DeChambeau was preparing for one of his shots.“He just wanted me to stop walking,” Cantlay explained. “The rules officials had told us to speed things up. But it was no big deal. Those things kind of happen out here from time to time.”When the contest moved into a playoff after 18 holes left Cantlay and DeChambeau tied, the drama only intensified. Cantlay nearly sank a crafty pitch attempt on the first playoff hole but settled for par, a result matched by DeChambeau when his lengthy birdie putt slid just past the cup. On the next hole, Cantlay left his approach shot to the par-4 18th green more than 50 feet short of the hole but artfully two-putted for par. DeChambeau had a six-foot birdie putt to end the tournament, but as he did several times earlier in the round, he yanked his golf ball left of the hole.Bryson DeChambeau after missing a putt on the third playoff hole. Nick Wass/Associated PressOn the fourth playoff hole, DeChambeau made a startling error when he splashed a tee shot into a creek to the right of the 18th hole. But he overcame the misplay and a par was good enough to send the competition to a fifth playoff hole, which also ended in matching pars.The closing moments of the initial 18-hole round also did not lack for intensity. Indeed, Cantlay appeared to have squandered his chances on the 16th hole when a substandard chip shot led to a par. DeChambeau moved ahead by a stroke when he birdied the hole. Then, Cantlay’s tee shot on the 186-yard 17th hole landed 10 yards short of the green and bounced sideways into a pond before he finished with a bogey.But DeChambeau, who struggled with his chipping throughout the tournament, flubbed a pitch from the rough just inches from the green and made bogey, a score Cantlay matched. At the par-4 18th hole, each player reached the green in two but Cantlay rolled in his curving, right-to-left, 22-foot birdie putt while DeChambeau badly pulled his 15-foot birdie putt to the left and made a par.When his victory was secured Sunday evening, a smiling and even giggling Cantlay remained on the green and saluted the spectators by doffing his cap and waving it at the grandstand. He repeatedly said, “Thank you,” although his words were drowned out by applause. More

  • in

    Bryson DeChambeau Soars. Patrick Cantlay Drags Him Back to Earth.

    After shooting a 60 the previous day, DeChambeau allowed Cantlay to catch up, and the two are tied for the lead at 21 under par heading into the final round at the BMW Championship.OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Bryson DeChambeau stood next to his golf bag on the first tee, contemplating which club to hit on the opening hole of Saturday’s third round at the BMW Championship. When he retrieved an iron rather than his powerful driver, a groan erupted from fans crammed into a grandstand overlooking the tee.DeChambeau turned, shrugged and said, “Sorry, next hole.”“We want the driver every hole,” a voice yelped.“I know,” DeChambeau muttered. “I know.”It has been tough for DeChambeau to make anyone happy the past two months, which is another turn of fortune in the capricious world he has inhabited since early 2020. Fittingly, at the up-and-down, topographically diverse layout of the Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore, that has changed for DeChambeau in the last two days.On Saturday, one day after a 12-under-par 60 had given him the tournament lead, DeChambeau was mostly enveloped by cacophonous cheers as he shot a five-under 67, in a round that included eagles on consecutive holes, five birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. Patrick Cantlay, who began the day trailing by one stroke, shot a 66 to tie DeChambeau at 21 under for the overall tournament lead.But more on that later.First, to recap the topsy-turvy summer of 2021 for the divisive American golfer.In June, leading in the final stages of the United States Open, DeChambeau, the defending champion, collapsed with a 44 on his final nine holes. He credited bad luck.Within two weeks, DeChambeau split with his longtime caddie, Tim Tucker, who had carried DeChambeau’s golf bag for each of his eight PGA Tour victories. Days before his next major championship, the British Open, DeChambeau had to defiantly dispute accusations that he failed to yell “Fore” and imperiled spectators in the path of his long, and sometimes wayward, tee shots. Then, after a middling opening round at the event, he adamantly blamed his driver for his troubles, which brought a swift rebuke from a representative of his equipment sponsor, Cobra, who compared DeChambeau to an 8-year-old child. DeChambeau apologized.Later that month, although he was one of four American golfers who had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, DeChambeau had to withdraw after a positive Covid test. He said that he had not been vaccinated because he was young and healthy and had not wanted to take the dose away from someone who needed it more. His remarks were ridiculed.All of this has been set against the backdrop of an ongoing social media feud with his fellow tour pro Brooks Koepka, which has been exacerbated by noisy, giggling fans in tour galleries who taunt DeChambeau with shouts of, “Let’s go, Brooks-y.”Consider, for example, this interchange among spectators alongside the third green Saturday.Listening to cheers after DeChambeau had birdied the hole, a young boy asked his father, “Is Bryson everyone’s favorite?”“Yeah, everybody likes Bryson,” the man replied.Said a fan standing nearby, “Brooks doesn’t.”In a few weeks, DeChambeau and Koepka will represent one-sixth of the 12-man American squad at the Ryder Cup, where tensions among teammates are heightened even when everyone is on good terms.Jon Rahm, left, and DeChambeau, right, watched as Patrick Cantlay missed his putt on the 18th green.Julio Cortez/Associated PressWhat does DeChambeau think of all that has transpired since June?It is hard to say, as DeChambeau, in the weeks since he acknowledged that he had not received a Covid vaccine, has declined to speak with reporters covering the PGA Tour, except for the tour’s broadcast partners and a golf news outlet that pays him as a contributor.On Saturday, DeChambeau began his round with a routine birdie on the par-3 third hole but then sank an eagle putt of 25 feet on the par-5 fourth and a 53-foot eagle putt on the par-4 fifth. DeChambeau made the turn at 30 and continued to cruise when he knocked his second shot to the par-4 11th hole to within a foot of the hole for another birdie and a four-stroke lead over Cantlay. But on his approach shot to the 12th, DeChambeau sliced a long iron into a bordering pond. (Broadcast microphones picked up DeChambeau blaming a smudge of mud on top of the ball for the mis-hit, although the television camerawork also seemed to show that DeChambeau’s club face was open, which would induce a slice.)The miscue led to DeChambeau’s first bogey in 30 holes, and he followed that setback with another ball plunked into the water protecting the front of the par-3 13th hole. The error led to a double bogey. The large, raucous crowd that had been following DeChambeau seemed thunderstruck.But DeChambeau rallied by draining a 10-foot birdie putts on the 14th and 16th holes. He also needed four shots to reach the 489-yard par-4 15th hole and made bogey. In the end, 67 was a splendid score considering that DeChambeau had hit only nine of 14 fairways. He was, however, second in the field in driving distance.Cantlay, a measured, methodical player, made his charge more consistently, with an eagle, a birdie and seven pars on the front nine. Playing with DeChambeau and the reigning U.S. Open champion, Jon Rahm, Cantlay surged as the others in his group floundered, making birdies on three consecutive holes beginning with the 11th. It appeared that Cantlay was going to be the solo third-round leader until his tee shot on the 18th hole found the rough and served as the catalyst to a closing bogey.Still, as he had been trailing by four strokes with seven holes remaining in the third round, Cantlay was asked afterward if he had been energized when DeChambeau deposited two balls in the water.“No, I felt pretty much the same, just working on my business,” said Cantlay, who rarely shows emotion on the golf course. “I’m just trying to stay in my own little bubble out there. I feel like that’s the best way I can go about doing my thing and gives me the best chance to succeed.” More

  • in

    Brooks Koepka Explains Why He Won’t Drop Feud With Bryson DeChambeau

    Ahead of the British Open, Koepka said the two were “not going to be high-fiving” each other as Ryder Cup teammates and traced the reason back to 2019.The feud between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau survived the trip across the Atlantic to the British Open with barbs intact, erupting and entertaining anew on Tuesday. Among the highlights:At a news conference ahead of the tournament at Royal St. George’s in southeast England, a reporter began his question to DeChambeau with a cheery “Hi, Brooks.” More

  • in

    Mackenzie Hughes, Louis Oosthuizen, Russell Henley tied for lead at U.S. Open

    Mackenzie Hughes, Louis Oosthuizen and Russell Henley are knotted at five under par, but Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm enter Sunday’s final round as threats.SAN DIEGO — There were plenty of intriguing story lines, but little sizzle, in the opening half of the 2021 United States Open. Richard Bland of England, who qualified for the championship by winning his first European Tour event after 477 failed attempts, was tied for the lead with Russell Henley, a PGA Tour veteran whose last tournament victory was four years ago.The spotlight of America’s national golf championship was desperately looking for a familiar face.In the third round on Saturday at Torrey Pines Golf Course, the sport’s headliners finally stepped to the edge of the stage, an experienced, decorated crew that may forecast a star-powered and suspenseful finish to Sunday’s final round.Henley finished the round at five under par overall and remained atop the leaderboard and was tied by another lesser-known player, Mackenzie Hughes of Canada. But with a thrilling 52-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole, Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion from South Africa, also vaulted into a tie for first. Moreover, Rory McIlroy, the five-time major champion, and Bryson DeChambeau, the defending U.S. Open champion, mustered charges that left them two strokes off the lead at three under.Jon Rahm, a prominent pretournament favorite because of his stellar play in the last month, was at two under, as was the resurgent Matthew Wolff, last year’s runner-up in the event, and Scottie Scheffler, another promising young player with several recent top finishes. Not to be overlooked at just four strokes off the lead were last year’s Masters champion Dustin Johnson, who shot a 68 on Saturday, and Collin Morikawa, the winner of the 2020 P.G.A. Championship.“Yeah, it was moving day, I guess,” McIlroy said afterward. “A lot of guys are playing well and getting in the fight. That’s what you have to do in the third round of a major.”McIlroy played his shot from No. 7 on Saturday. He finished the round with a 67.Gregory Bull/Associated PressMcIlroy started slowly on Saturday but had four birdies and a bogey on his final nine to finish with a 67, which was six strokes better than his second-round performance. His late run started when he chipped in from 33 yards at the 12th hole, and it concluded with a nervy downhill two-putt from 62 feet at the par-5 18th hole.Although McIlroy said the biggest shot of his back nine had been a 4-foot bogey putt at the 15th hole.“This is the only tournament in the world where you fist-pump a bogey,” he said. “That putt was huge for momentum — to not give away two strokes.”The superstitious McIlroy also said he was going to eat the same chicken sandwich he had had for the previous five dinners this week at Torrey Pines.“It’s really good, and it’s really working for me,” McIlroy said.DeChambeau had the most error-free day among the leaders, shooting a 68 without making a bogey. DeChambeau’s round could have been better, as he pounded many drives roughly 340 yards. But his approach shots did not consistently find the greens. Still, DeChambeau overpowered the lengthy first and sixth holes to make birdies on each and took advantage of the par-5 13th hole for a third birdie.Most encouraging for DeChambeau was his sharp short game, something he relied on during his victory at last year’s U.S. Open. As much as DeChambeau is known for how far he hits the golf ball, efficient play near the greens, and accurate putting, has usually been the best predictor of his success.As has been the case for the past few weeks, DeChambeau on Saturday was also taunted by fans who shouted “Let’s go, Brooks-y” after many of his swings — a nod to the running feud with his colleague Brooks Koepka.DeChambeau said afterward that he had learned to treat the shouts “as a compliment.”“I’m embracing it — I smile,” he said.DeChambeau prepared to putt on No. 15. He finished the day with a 68.Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesKoepka, who like DeChambeau began the day at even par, did not improve his position with three birdies and three bogeys for a 71.Wolff had an erratic day and shot 73 with four bogeys, but after not playing competitively for the last two months, he was satisfied that he remained in the hunt for the championship.“I was a hair off out there at times,” Wolff, 22, said. “But I felt like I grinded pretty good and kept the scores as low as possible to give myself a good chance going into tomorrow.”Henley was one under par on his opening nine holes and held a two-shot lead on the field, an edge he kept when he lofted a shot from a right greenside bunker on the 11th hole and watched his ball bounce once and then disappear in the hole for a birdie.But it was Henley’s last birdie in an even-par round of 71.Hughes caught Henley with a blistering back nine, shooting a four-under 32. He will play in the final group on Sunday, paired with Oosthuizen.“You get goose bumps thinking about it,” Hughes said Saturday evening of the matchup. “I know I’m going to be nervous tomorrow. But yeah, I’m going to try and enjoy it lots. You know, it’s where you want to be.”Bland, after his stunning surge in Friday’s second round, seemed calm throughout his opening nine holes on Saturday with an uncomplicated swing that consistently set up par and birdie putts. But some of the magic of his putting stroke was missing. Bland had converted 31 of 31 putts inside 10 feet in the first two rounds. That streak ended on the fifth hole, when he missed an 8-foot par putt and made bogey.Things got worse, with consecutive bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes. Bland then left a 7-foot par putt short on the 16th hole, and his 20-foot par putt on the 17th green slid past the right side of the hole. The par-5 18th hole brought a most ignominious ending when Bland’s third shot plunked into the pond fronting the green. That led to a third successive bogey as he finished with a 77 and was one over for the tournament.“That’s the U.S. Open — some days it’s just going to beat you up all day,” Bland said shortly after his round. “And today was my day.” More