Notes: Donald's day goes awry; Mahan smiles; more
Sunday, June 16, 2013
ARDMORE, Pa. It was a war of attrition at Merion in Sunday's final round at the U.S. Open. We had shanks, shots out of bounds, a hole-in-one and an improbable eagle. Yet in the end it was an Englishman who won the title, the first in a very long time since Tony Jacklin in 1970 at Hazeltine.
Luke Donald was in that third-to-last pairing with Rose, but stumbled early and never recovered.
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THE OTHER ENGLISHMAN: Luke Donald could not close the deal. Shooting a 42 on the front nine with a double bogey and five bogeys, Donald was more a spectator than a competitor while Rose was gutting out his first major win.
It went terribly wrong on the long par three, 3rd hole when Donald pulled his driver left and didn't know anyone was over behind the bent over pine tree, but when he got to his ball he saw one of the tournament's standard bearers lying on the ground after getting hit in the elbow by the wayward shot.
"She was in some pain and felt a little bit faint, and I felt a little bit faint, too, watching it," Donald said of the incident. "Unfortunately you never like that to happen, and it was a very tough break for her."
It clearly was a tough break for Donald as well with four consecutive holes over par. It seems mentally Donald never recovered from what happened, even though he contends it didn't bother him going forward.
"I felt pretty bad at the time," Donald said. "But it was business as usual in the fourth. Obviously I played that stretch pretty poorly. But I don't really use that as an excuse."
Donald's record in the U.S. Open is spotty at best with eight previous appearances, never cracking the top 10 while missing three cuts and withdrawing in 2008.
Yet, it would seem U.S. Open course would suit the Englishman very nicely. This one did for a long while finishing T-8 with Steve Stricker.
"I come away with some positive feelings," Donald said. "I got in position in a U.S. Open. I haven't really done that in my career. So there's definitely positives. I know what I need to work on. I need to continue to get better in my ball‑striking and control that trajectory and that line."
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IT'S ALL GOOD: Listening to Hunter Mahan you would have thought he won the U.S. Open. Never questioning his shots or his game Sunday, Mahan said it was a brutal test, but at the same time he did all he could to win the championship.
"I tried hard all day and had some opportunities, but just didn't make a few putts," Mahan said of his final-round 75. "But, man, it was brutal out there. It was tough finishing. But swung it pretty well, kept my composure. And keeping yourself in a good position, it's a good opportunity every time."
Mahan's record has not been stellar in the U.S. Open, three missed cuts and a T-6 in 2009, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy has one USGA trophy at home – he won the 1999 Junior defeating Camilo Villegas at the Country Club of York, but that was a long time ago and this was for much bigger stakes.
"It's different than another event," Mahan said. "It's not different from playing golf. You have to go out there and do it. But putting yourself out there and how you respond is important."
Mahan responded with no bogeys in the final round and went bogey-bogey for the last two holes, yet it was his best finish in a U.S. Open. Mahan said that gives him confidence for the future.
"I played hard until the end and I can't be too disappointed with the results or too down on it," Mahan said of his philosophy. "That's missing the whole point.
"I stepped on the tee today knowing I was going to win, and left the 18th green knowing I could win," Mahan said. "It's all good. "
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ON A RUN, UNTIL: Jason Dufner started the final round T-25 at 8-over and nine shots off the lead of Phil Mickelson.
With a fourth-place finish last year at Olympic shooting an even-par 70, Dufner had to know that he could make a move of any kind he could have a chance.
The former Auburn Tiger made two birdies on two par 4s, Nos. 1 and 7, to make the turn at 2-under 34 and put a dent into the nine shot deficit.
Dufner then went on a tear with three birdies on the back nine over the next four holes to move to 5 under – at that point, closing in on the leaders who just had teed off.
But then fate happened on the par 4, 15th hole. Dufner hit a shot out-of-bounds on Golf House Road and converted a chance to win the championship into a triple-bogey seven and a mere top-10 finish in another major.
"You wouldn't expect to birdie six of them on one round," Dufner said after a final-round 67. "But I birdied five of what I termed to be the easier holes on this golf course. "Unfortunately that front nine yesterday, and one bad swing on 15 today, is probably going to end me up a few short."
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STILL FINDING HIS WAY: Rory McIlroy has to wonder what he needs to do to win his third major. Because after a final round 6-over 76, it's clear he is still searching for the game that brought him his first major title just two years ago at Congressional.
"Everyone hits bad shots, but mine are just costing me too much at the minute," McIlroy said of his performance this week. "I'm seeing plenty of good shots out there, and sometimes at the U.S. Open good shots don't get rewarded like at other places. But that's fine. But the bad ones just need to come in a little bit."
McIlroy hasn't found the winner's circle in 2013, even though his results are trending in the right direction with a 10th at Wells Fargo and an eighth at the Players Championship last month.
Now McIlroy will start a stretch of golf that includes two majors, a WGC event in Akron and the FedEx Cup playoffs. It's also the same time that Mcilroy started to find his rhythm last year, when he won the PGA Championship, his second major.
"I sound like a broken record, but I don't feel like my game is that far away," McIlroy said. "That's what I've been taking out of this week. It's a matter of trying to let it all click into place."
McIlroy will play in just the Irish Open before making the trek over the Irish Sea to Muirfield and the Open Championship.
"I'm looking forward to playing that," McIlroy said of the Irish. "It's usually a good week, a week where I'm quite busy. But it's a good atmosphere and it's great to play in front of the home fans. It will be nice to get back there and play."