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The Back 9-Edition 7

1.       Next week’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst will be the last with Johnny Miller as the lead announcer. NBC TV lost the rights to the Open in a bidding war with Fox TV earlier in the year and loses its relationship with the USGA (who run the Men’s and Women’s Opens) early in 2015.  Two-time Major Champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member, Miller has always been the most honest and sometimes, brutal commentator in golf.  Like him or hate him, the often caustic Miller has always said exactly what is on his mind which is a rare attribute in the world of sports commentary.  NBC will continue to have a line-up of PGA Tour events including the Florida Swing and the 2016 Olympics so Miller will still be on the air, but this years’ Open Championships at Pinehurst No. 2 will be his swansong describing the oldest professional  Major Championships in America.

2.       This will be the first Major Championship contested at the iconic No. 2 since the course was re-designed by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw.  Original designer, Donald Ross once said of his masterpiece that it was “the fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed.”  Ross completed No. 2 in 1907 but would keep his association with the course until his death in 1948 and was always tinkering with and improving upon his fabled lay-out.  In 2010, Coore and Crenshaw were engaged to restore the course to the original way that it was supposed to be played.  Their most significant change was to remove 35 acres of turf and replace that with sandy waste areas, hardpan and native wire grasses.  They also widened the fairways by almost 50% (which was more in keeping with Ross’ original design) so it will be interesting to see how the finest players in the world respond in the next two weeks.

3.       “The World’s Most Interesting Golfer”, Miguel Angel Jimenez continued his good form with a tie for 5th in the European Tour’s, Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity this weekend.  The 50 year old Spaniard’s quest to be on the European team in this fall’s Ryder Cup is looking better and better.       

4.       Time may be running out for Phil Mickelson to win the only Major that has eluded him, the US Open.  Mickelson has been the runner-up in the U.S. Open 6 times compiling a record list of heartbreaking losses.  Those include the 1999 version where at this year’s venue, Pinehurst No. 2, when Payne Stewart made his historic 20-foot putt on the final green to best “Lefty” by one.  Mickelson has also not played his best this year and doesn’t have a Top 10 finish on the Tour in 2014.  When one factors in the ongoing FBI/Securities Exchange Commission investigation to see if Mickelson is guilty of insider trading, it would seem that the cards are stacked against the 43 year old Mickelson.

5.       Five days after qualifying to play in the U.S. Open, Jason Millard disqualified himself after he admitted to grounding his club in the greenside bunker on his 27th hole (qualifying is a 36-hole contest) at Colonial CC in Memphis.  Millard had spent the next five days after qualifying with a pair of 68’s tormented by the fact that he may have (he was genuinely unsure if he did or didn’t)  breached Rule 13-4 in the Rules of Golf (grounding your club in a hazard).  Said the 24 year old Millard:  “I’m pretty sure I grounded my club in the bunker.  I didn’t see anything for sure, but I felt something and I saw a small indentation.  It happened so fast, I really don’t know 100 percent but deep down, I believe I did.  I couldn’t find peace about it.  For five days, I practiced and I couldn’t get it off my mind.”  Well played, Mr. Millard.

6.       South Korea’s Inbee Park had been the #1 player in the Rolex World rankings for 59 consecutive weeks until she was relegated to the 2nd spot by Stacey Lewis after Lewis won the ShopRite Classic at the Stockton Seaview Resort and Golf Club last week.  Park’s response at this week’s Manulife Financial LPGA Classic in Ontario Canada was an impressive one.   Park entered Sunday’s final round in a tie for 2nd place with Michelle Wie trailing 3rd round leader Shanshan Feng by 2 strokes at 13-under par.  Park’s flawless final round of 10-under par, 61, would end up giving her a 3 shot win over American, Cristie Kerr and be her 10th win on the LPGA Tour.  Feng would finish a stroke behind Kerr while Wie faltered slightly to end up in a tie for 6th.  

7.       Earlier in the week, the PGA Tour announced that Jay Haas would be the new Captain for the American team in the 2015 President’s Cup to be played at South Korea’s Golf Club in Incheon.  Haas replaces three-time US Captain, Fred Couples who stood down after last year’s US victory at Muirfield GC in Ohio.  The International side will be led for the second time by Nick Price whose vice-captain will be South Korean star KJ Choi who could make history by being a captain and also being a team member.   

8.       38 year old Ben Crane took early command at the at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, TN after opening up with rounds of 63 and 65 that left him four shots clear of the field.   The tournament was marred with thunderstorms and heavy rains which created stop and start and stop again playing conditions but Crane weathered Mother Nature to record with a 1-under par, 69 in Saturday’s 3rd round to take a 3 shot lead into Sunday.  A shaky closing round of 3-over par allowed Crane to hang on and beat Troy Merritt by a single shot for his 5th career win on Tour but his first since the 2011 McGladrey Classic.      

9.       “I was shocked.  I thought it might have been $20-25 (million), but I had no idea that it was $55-57 million. It’s crazy”.  How John Daly responded to a recent interview question about how much money he lost gambling, between 1991 and 2007.