June 20, 2016 - 9:53am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Dustin Johnson
@usopengolf on Twitter
Dustin Johnson hit plenty of clutch shots on his way to overcoming a four-shot deficit to start the day to win the 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont on Sunday. Perhaps none better than his approach with a 6-iron on the final hole.

It takes a lot of clutch shots to win a major championship.

Dustin Johnson hit plenty of clutch shots on his way to overcoming a four-shot deficit to start the day to win the 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont on Sunday.

Here's a look at five of his best:

Johnson nearly drove the green on the 320-yard, par-4 second hole, setting up a stressfree two-putt from just of the green for his first birdie of the day:

 

A stellar approach to the ninth hole with a 7-iron from 169 yards out to grab a share of the lead at the time with Shane Lowry:

 

A strong bunker shot on the par-3 13th that set up a crucial par:

 

A clutch par save at the par-3 16th hole:

 

Finally, this laser-like 6-iron from the middle of the fairway on the par-4 18th hole, which set up a short birdie putt to finish in style. Johnson called this approach the shot of his life:

 

U.S. Open: 5 clutch shots Dustin Johnson hit in the final round
Shane Lowry
USA Today Sports Images
Ireland's Shane Lowry began the final round of the U.S. Open with a four-shot advantage, but wound up finishing in a tie for second, three strokes behind winner Dustin Johnson.

OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) -- Shane Lowry stood on the 18th green for an awards presentation at the U.S. Open, just how he planned.

It's where Lowry stood, however, that will stick with the affable Irishman for a while. Maybe a long while.

While Dustin Johnson donned the gold medal, held the trophy and got the kiss from the girl after exorcising some very real major championship meltdowns of his own while conquering Oakmont in the final round Sunday, Lowry rubbed his beard and tried to smile through the anguish.

It wasn't easy. Not even close. Up by four when he stepped onto the first tee, Lowry settled for a share of second after a 6-over 76 and a four-round total of 1-under 279, three shots back of the beaming Johnson. The 29-year-old's best finish at a major was little consolation.

"Bitterly disappointed, standing here," Lowry said. "And, you know, it's not easy to get yourself in a position I got myself in today. It was there for the taking and I didn't take it."

There was no singular moment where things went wrong, just 18 holes of average to mediocre golf when something far better was required. His round included seven bogeys against just one birdie and a string of three-putts on the back nine that gave Johnson all the breathing room he needed despite a one-stroke penalty when the ball moved as he was getting ready to address it on the fifth green.

"I just kept on hitting, you know, OK shots," Lowry said. "It wasn't even great shots, it wasn't even bad shots. Kept hitting it 25, 30, 35 feet. On these greens, it's tricky. Kept leaving myself a lot of work to do."

Too much, far too much, to keep pace with Johnson. Lowry's struggled played in stark contrast to his near flawless Saturday, when he cruised through 32 holes in 3 under during a marathon day that sent him soaring up the leaderboard. When he finished the third round off early Sunday morning with birdies on the 15th and 17th, he had a four-shot lead and unknown Andrew Landry as his playing partner.

Lowry described his dreamlike tour of Oakmont on Saturday as the most comfortable he's ever felt on a golf course. That comfort disappeared in the late Sunday heat. By the turn he was trailing Johnson by a shot, well aware of how the towering American was doing thanks to the reaction from a solidly pro-Johnson crowd shouting "USA! USA!" at nearly every turn.

Still, Lowry was in it and had a wedge in his hands on No. 14 when he failed to get it close. Three putts later the deficit had grown.

"It just kind of spiraled out of control from there," Lowry said. "It was one of those where I'd give anything to have that wide shot on 14 back again."

It grew another shot several minutes later when his comeback putt on the 15th slid by. The championship slipped out of reach on the 16th, when he couldn't get down in two from 49 feet on the par-3.

"Everything happened quickly," Lowry said. "But, you know, that's the way -- that's what happens when you play a few bad holes. They're kind of over before you know it. You'd like to have them back again."

By the time Lowry reached the 18th green, the winner's welcome he anticipated felt decidedly anticlimactic. Johnson was already in the scorer's tent signing his card and getting his ultimately inconsequential penalty sorted out while celebrating with wife Paulina.

Lowry endured the closing ceremony gracefully, clasping hands with Johnson and examining the silver medal for joining Scott Piercy and Jim Furyk in the tie for second before going over to give Johnson's fiancee, Paulina Gretzky, a hug.

It's what gentlemen are supposed to do in a gentlemen's game. And Lowry made it a point to praise Johnson's near flawless play on a day when only seven players finished under par.

"He's a deserving champion, he played the best golf," Lowry said.

Yet Lowry became the first player since Payne Stewart in 1998 to lose after leading by at least four shots going into the final round. A year later Stewart did come through following a Sunday duel at Pinehurst with Phil Mickelson. It's a fact that may provide solace later, but not now.

Lowry left Oakmont quickly for the airport, where a long flight to Ireland — and a long time to analyze what happened on Sunday — awaits.

"The more I think about it, the more upset I get," he said. "So that's the way golf is."

Shane Lowry "bitterly disappointed" after late U.S. Open collapse
Justin Rose
USA Today Images
Justin Rose was involved in a rules debate Saturday concerning whether his ball moved at address.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in May 2014

PGA Tour officials required slow-motion replay and high-definition television screens to determine whether Justin Rose's ball moved as he was about to address it Saturday during third-round action at The Players Championship. Did the ball move when he was lining up for his chip? Officials first docked him two strokes, then changed their minds Sunday morning, citing the new decision that went into effect on Jan. 1 dealing with situations "not easily discernible to the naked eye."

ROSE'S PENALTY RESCINDED: PGA Tour officials rely on Decision 18/4

But when you're playing a round at your local course, it's up to you and your partners to know Rule 18-2b and its consequences. According to Bryan Jones, co-vice chairman of the PGA Rules Committee, the rule is really pretty simple to remember: "Address the ball, ball moves, replace the ball, one-stroke penalty."

Here's the actual language from the rule book concerning what to do in that specific situation:

"If a player’s ball in play moves after he has addressed it (other than as a result of a stroke), the player is deemed to have moved the ball and incurs a penalty of one stroke.

MORE ON DECISION 18/4: "Visual evidence" rule to take effect Jan. 1

"The ball must be replaced, unless the movement of the ball occurs after the player has begun the stroke or the backward movement of the club for the stroke and the stroke is made.

"Exception: If it is known or virtually certain that the player did not cause his ball to move, Rule 18-2b does not apply."

For example, you set your club behind the ball and it rolls from its position -- whether you touched it or not -- that's a violation of Rule 18-2b. That's because "the player is 'deemed' to have caused this movement," Jones said.

GOLF GLOSSARY: A dictionary of terms, from A to Z

So whether you're playing stroke play or match play, that's a one-stroke penalty. But what does the rule mean by "replacing" the ball? Jones said you have two options, depending on the situation.

"Remember, replace can mean place or drop," Jones said. "If the previous location of the ball is precisely known, it is placed back in that spot. If not, it is dropped. The exception is on the putting green, where it is always placed."

Interestingly enough, if the ball moves because of gravity, it is considered a violation of Rule 18-2b. Replace the ball, take the penalty. If the ball rolls backwards at address and is stopped by the clubhead, that's also covered under Rule 18-2b. Replace the ball, take the penalty. 

There are some exceptions. For example, if the ball moves in a bunker without being affected by the player's stance or approach to the ball, that's not a penalty. And if the ball only wobbles and remains in its original position, Decision 18/2 says there's no penalty and no need to replace. We've seen "oscillation" brought up in tournament play in the past.

Jones calls Rule 18-2b a "default" rule.

"A couple of other examples are Rule 16-2 which 'deems' a ball that is overhanging the hole to be 'at rest' after 10 seconds even if it is still moving," Jones said. "And Rule 27-1c, Ball not found after 5 minutes, 'deems' a ball love after a five-minute search even if it is found and identified by the player at five minutes and one second."

So even without TV cameras and instant replay, you should be able to determine conclusively if you've run afoul of Rule 18-2b and what to do about it. 

 

Golf rules: What to do when your ball moves at address
June 19, 2016 - 6:20pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Jason Day
@usopengolf on Twitter
Jason Day is rallying late at Oakmont in the 116th U.S. Open. Will this chip-in eagle at the 12th be the spark he needs to finish up strong?

Don't count Jason Day out of the U.S. Open just yet.

On a day where Oakmont is showing its teeth, par can be a player's best friend. But an eagle? That will allow you to make up a lot of ground in a hurry.

Just off the green in two on the 618-yard, par-5 12th hole, the reigning PGA Champion and current world No. 1 went ahead and did this for an incredibly timely 3:

The eagle brought Day to even par for the tournament -- 1 under on his round -- and within five shots of leader Dustin Johnson.

Five shots isn't as much as you might think at a course like Oakmont where anything can happen on the back nine. If Day can snag a couple more birdies on the way in and give the leaders something to think about, look out. 

U.S. Open: Jason Day chips in for eagle on 600-yard par 5
June 19, 2016 - 5:14pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Sergio Garcia
@usopengolf on Twitter
Sergio Garcia, still in search of his first ever major win, is in prime position at Oakmont after he holed this bunker shot for an unlikely birdie.

On 20 occasions, Spain's Sergio Garcia has finished inside the top 10 at a major championship. Famously, however, he has no wins to show for it -- just reels and reels of video of how agonizingly close he's been.

Is Sunday at Oakmont the day that changes?

Garcia is climbing up the leaderboard in the final round because of shots like this one on the par-4 eighth where he holed out from a greenside bunker for an unlikely birdie:

 

After that birdie, Garcia moved to 2 under and just three behind leader Shane Lowry. 

And then seconds after making birdie, Garcia saved a little birdie:

 

U.S. Open: Sergio Garcia climbs leaderboard with bunker hole out
andres gonzales, us open
USA Today Sports Images
Andres Gonzales' Twitter bio? "Half man, half amazing."

I've done a fair bit of ranking in the past week, whether it's Dustin Johnson's best shots of the week or Shane Lowry's biggest career moments.

But this ranking is too important and monumental for me to take on alone.

Let's take a look at some of the best beards in golf, in honor of U.S. Open leader Shane Lowry. But I need some help.

So here, presented without comment, are seven of the best beards in golf. It's up to you to rank them.

 

Our first entrant is Andres Gonzales, the representative for mustache-wearers worldwide:

 

 

Next is Boo Weekly, whose beard seems to have aged him several hundred years:

 

Then we have Graham Delaet, who probably has the most famous beard on the PGA Tour:

 

A social media favorite would be Andrew "Beef" Johnston, who's beard-game was so strong he was mistaken for Lowry:

 
Thomas Bjorn brought a beard worthy of the list to the 2014 Ryder Cup, bearing resemblance to another famous beard:
 
And then there's of course Shane Lowry. He gets bonus points not only for leading the U.S. Open but also for trash talking another competitor on this list:

 

Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram who has the best beard in golf!

Shane Lowry's beard is great, but is it the best in golf? Here's some contenders