Golf

Tiger Woods misses opportunity to put himself in contention at U.S. Open

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USATSI

Tiger Woods misses opportunity to put himself in contention at U.S. Open

PEBBLE BEACH, CA. -- Tiger Woods' game plan appeared the be paying off for most of Friday at Pebble Beach. 

The 15-time major champion was plodding away, playing conservatively and hoping to give himself some putts from below the hole to take advantage of. Those opportunities likely would come during Woods' back nine -- the course's front -- but he was unable to vault himself into contention. Woods missed makeable birdie putts on holes 1, 2, 4 and 6 and was sitting at 1-under-par for the day and 2-under-par for the championship. 

Still, he strolled to the Par-4 eighth trailing Justin Rose by only five strokes after carding 1 birdie and 15 pars in his first 16 holes. 

Then, things started to slip away. 

After splitting the fairway with his tee shot, Woods' approach ended up short of the green in the thick rough. His flew his third shot well past the hole, leaving him 15 feet for par. A putt he was unable to convert.

Woods compounded the mistake on his final hole of the day by ripping his drive left and into the fairway bunker. His second shot landed short and left of the green, leaving him with 54 yards to get up and down to get into the clubhouse at 1-under-par. Woods' third shot was a good effort, leaving him with seven feet for par. The putt slid by the left edge and Woods tapped in for a bogey-bogey finish that has him at even par for the tournament and seven shots back of Rose. 

"Yeah, I'm a little hot right now," Woods said after his late slip-up. 

The 43-year-old lost 2.09 strokes putting to the field in Round 2, chalking it up to missing in the wrong spots throughout the round. 

"Yeah, I had a couple opportunities there," Woods said after the round. "I missed a couple. But overall I kept leaving myself above the hole. And unlike yesterday, when I missed it I missed the correct spots below the hole, today I never had that many looks from below the hole. And the one I did have, I made at 11."

With Pebble Beach likely to get firmer and faster over the weekend, Woods isn't planning on changing his approach despite being seven strokes off the lead. 

"No, no. You have your opportunities the first seven holes to get after it," Woods said. "And after that, it's plod away. There's some tough, tough green complexes. So if you're in the wrong spot, you've got to be defensive."

[RELATED: Koepka lurking with U.S. Open three-peat in sight]

The conservative approach has kept Woods within shouting distance of the leaders, but his iron play will need to be a lot crisper over the weekend if he wants to be a factor. Through two rounds, Woods is ranked 48th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, picking up only 1.14 strokes on the field. 

In order to gain ground at Pebble Beach, Woods needs to give himself scoring opportunities on a course that should get tougher as the championship draws on.

The opportunities were there on Friday. But the putts didn't fall and now Woods is hoping Pebble can bear its teeth and bring the leaders back to him. 

2020 Masters postponed due to coronavirus outbreak as golf follows suit

2020 Masters postponed due to coronavirus outbreak as golf follows suit

On Thursday, golf -- as the sport is known to do -- lagged behind everyone else.

As the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS and NCAA were suspending and canceling events for precautions over the coronavirus outbreak, PGA commissioner Jay Monahan announced the tour would continue playing the next four events as scheduled, just without fans. That lasted all of eight hours. After the first round of THE PLAYERS concluded, Monahan announced the tournament had been canceled as had the next our events leading up to the 2020 Masters. 

Then, Friday morning, chairman Fred Ridley and the board of Augusta National Golf Club issued a statement announced that the year's first major and golf's most prestigious event would be postponed until further notice. 

It was expected but shocking nonetheless. 

With golf in line, American sports, by in large, are standing as one amid the growing pandemic. 

You can thank, in part, Rory McIlroy for shaking the conscience of the golf world when he stepped off TPC Sawgrass on Thursday, calling for all players and caddies to be tested immediately and saying that if they got one positive the league should shut it down. 

That was a message to Monahan more than anything else about the fine line he was walking by letting his players, caddies and essential personnel continue to travel during these times and play on courses in Florida and Texas. 

Monahan did the right thing and shut it down. The Masters followed. 

[RELATED: Sports' coronavirus response helps awaken, enlighten America]

There's no telling when the tournament will be played. The course typically closes during the summer months. Will it stay open? Will they move the tournament to the fall? Perhaps after the FedEx Cup Playoffs?

It's all on the table. 

The important thing is that golf, with a little help from its star, did the right thing. 

Brooks Koepka's quest for PGA history heads to 'big boy' Harding Park

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USATSI

Brooks Koepka's quest for PGA history heads to 'big boy' Harding Park

SAN FRANCISCO -- Last June, Brooks Koepka arrived at Pebble Beach looking to make history.

With a win, he would become the first person to win three straight U.S. Opens since Willie Anderson in 1903-05. Koepka unfazed by major pressure or the weight of history, made a run at his three-peat but ultimately fell short, finishing three strokes behind eventual champion Gary Woodland. Koepka became the first golfer in U.S. Open history to shoot four rounds in the 60s and not take home the trophy. 

Ever since he notched his first major championship at the 2017 U.S. Open, Koepka has become an unstoppable force. An unrelenting beast devoted to laying waste to major championship fields. He is unbothered by the pressure of the moment. Unfazed by what his competitors throw at him.

He's golf's Godzilla.

While his first run at a major championship three-peat came up short at Pebble Beach, Koepka will have another chance come May when he looks to become the first golfer to win three straight PGA Championships since Walter Hagen won four straight in the 1920s. Koepka once again will make his run at golfing history in California when TPC Harding Park hosts the 2020 PGA Championship. 

"It would be incredible," Koepka said Monday at the 2020 PGA Championship Media Day. "Obviously you look at Walter Hagen is a name everybody knows, every golf fan knows. To even have a chance to put my name with his would be incredible and it would be super special. Coming back, obviously two-time defending, it's a different feeling, and one you want to win this year for sure.

"It's something I'm looking forward to and can't wait to get the year started."

Godzilla will reemerge from the Pacific Ocean looking to wreak havoc on a brawny golf course that has one of the most picturesque finishes in golf with the Cypress Trees vividly outlining the closing stretch along Lake Merced.

Koepka hasn't set foot at Harding Park since the WGC-Match Play in 2015.

Now golf's elite destroyer of major championship fields, he's ready for the challenge the San Francisco municipal course will present.

"It's a big boy golf course," Koepka said. "You have to be able to hit it long. It's very difficult. It's a major championship golf course. You know that. You look at -- this finish will be interesting. I think it will be a great finish. You look at the back nine there, starting on about 13, 14, it gets really interesting. You're going to see a lot of -- it will be exciting, especially if it's close on Sunday. I think those holes let up for quite a few disasters and some good golf.

"You know the rough is going to be thick. You know what you're going to get. You have to be able to hit it far and you have to be able to hit it straight. There's been a precedent on making sure accuracy is big, and you know that when you come out here."

Koepka, who spent three months rehabbing from a knee injury, now is healthy. He tied for 17th at his return to golf at the Saudi International. He struggled at Riviera Country Club this past weekend, finishing in a tie for 43rd at the Genesis Invitational.

[RELATED: Rivalry or not, Rory and Brooks destined to duel in 2020]

But the four-time major winner has become known as the robot programmed to destroy the best fields in golf and not worry about the rest. He famously quipped before the 2019 British Open that he practices before majors, but doesn't ahead of other tour events.

His focus is singular in nature.

The Olympics? Not that important. FedEx Cup? The paycheck would be nice, but otherwise ... yawn.

Majors are what legacies are built from. Koepka has amassed four since 2017 and believes he can make it to double digits as he enters his golfing prime.

He'll be ready to descend upon San Francisco in May with the sole goal of romping over the field just as he did at Bethpage Black last May.

Conquering the golf's best on the biggest stage is all that matters. Filling his trophy case with relics of major glory is the only thing that can bring golf's great titan satisfaction.