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Curry misses Ellie Mae Classic cut, but win-win with second straight 74

Curry misses Ellie Mae Classic cut, but win-win with second straight 74

AKRON, Ohio – This week Firestone Country Club is the gathering place for 49 of the world’s top 50 players. All four reigning major champions are here, as are dozens of other elite names, all with accomplished backgrounds.

It’s an exclusive field with a lucrative purse to match, and it’s the final opportunity for guys to hone their craft before heading to the season’s final major.

And yet, despite all of the pedigree that accompanies the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the biggest story in golf this week revolves around an amateur who will miss the cut 2,500 miles away.

Any questions over the merits of Steph Curry’s unrestricted sponsor exemption into this week’s Ellie Mae Classic on the Web.com Tour were roundly silenced by his opening-round 74 that exceeded all expectations. What had the potential to become a cringe-worthy spectacle instead captivated a hefty amount of attention.

The crossover potential was fully realized as Curry had golf fans and non-golf fans alike buzzing about his round on a developmental circuit that some likely had never heard of before.

In essence, the grand experiment worked.

It also got the attention of several of the PGA Tour’s biggest names.

“To be honest, I think it’s pretty special for a two-time MVP to be able to shoot 74 at a pro event and beat other pros,” said Jason Day. “I mean, we play our whole lives and the guy plays basketball and he beats some of the pros. It’s very impressive to see.”

Curry’s inclusion in the field initially drew some resistance, including from professionals who felt he was taking a spot from someone who could better put it to use to pursue his livelihood. But the Web.com field archives show that the “unrestricted” sponsor invites – of which each tournament receives two – often go to players who have no true aspirations of competing week in and week out on Tour.

The other unrestricted spot this week in California went to Colt McNealy, the teenage brother of top-ranked amateur Maverick McNealy, who took top honors in an 18-hole qualifier. The spots simply serve as a tool by which the tournament can bolster its profile, whether by investing in a budding young player or bringing in new fans by the truckload thanks to a certain NBA star.

After a second straight 74, Curry won’t be around for the weekend, and he’ll beat only a handful of players. But his ability to hold his own in a sport he considers a hobby was not lost on those who play it as a job.

“It’s so rare to have a player in another sport of that caliber playing during his career,” said Brendan Steele. “Like, he’s in the prime of his career in the other sport. That’s what I think is so cool about it. There are plenty of guys that will want to play the PGA Tour, Web.com after they’re done and they get to practice for five years or whatever. But he’s in the prime of his career.”

Curry’s effort around TPC Stonebrae had its rocky moments, but he also produced a handful of highlights including a lengthy birdie make after which he channeled Jordan Spieth’s memorable Open exchange by directing his caddie to retrieve the ball from the hole.

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Jordan Spieth dominates late to win the Open Championship

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USATSI

Jordan Spieth dominates late to win the Open Championship

On the back of a roller-coaster 1-under 69 and one of the most enteraining back nines of his career, Jordan Spieth won the 146th Open Championship on Sunday by three strokes over Matt Kuchar. Here’s how Spieth emerged from the practice area's equipment trailers to claim the claret jug on Sunday at Royal Birkdale:

Leaderboard (click here for full field scores): Spieth (-12), Kuchar (-9), Haotong Li (-6), Rory McIlroy (-5), Cabrera Bello (-5), Matthew Southgate (-4), Marc Leishman (-4), Alex Noren (-4)

The Champion Golfer of the Year: The win gives Spieth his 11th career Tour victory, his third major championship, and the third leg of the career Grand Slam. He did not make it easy on himself. Spieth squandered his three-shot lead in four holes and went to the back nine tied with Kuchar at 8 under after going out in 3-over 37. Still tied at 8 under through 12, Spieth played one of the most unforgettable holes in golf history at 13. After sailing his drive into a dune, he took an unplayable, walked onto the adjacent practice area, took relief from the parked equipment trailers and somehow – over the course of a half-hour – made bogey. Seemingly refocused and re-energized by the ordeal, he followed up with a birdie the par-3 14th and an eagle the par-5 15th and another birdie at the par-4 16th to take a two-shot lead with two to play. Thanks to yet another birdie at 17 and a par at 18, Spieth played his final five holes in 5 under to win by three - the same margin he started with on Sunday. He is now just one of two players – along with Jack Nicklaus – to win his third different major before the age of 24. He will have his first chance to complete the slam in three weeks at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

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Koepka cruises to first major at U.S. Open

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AP

Koepka cruises to first major at U.S. Open

LEADERBOARD

ERIN, Wis. – Amid a crowded leaderboard and facing difficult conditions, Brooks Koepka barely broke a sweat en route to winning the U.S. Open.

Koepka had six birdies during a final-round 67 that turned a one-shot deficit into a four-shot win over Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama. It is Koepka’s second career PGA Tour victory, and at age 27 he is now a major champion.

"It's unbelievable. I don't know what to say right now," Koepka said. "To do it here, where I played the 2011 U.S. Amateur, is really special. it was a real team effort."

With winds gusting upwards of 30 mph at the start of the day, Koepka birdied each of his first two holes to move to the top of the standings. He added a lengthy birdie on No. 8 and despite a three-putt bogey on No. 10 he maintained at least a share of the lead across the entire back nine.

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