Aug 02

Troy Merritt finishes off first PGA Tour win with rousing birdie

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- In his 96th PGA Tour start, Troy Merritt is a winner.

With a final round 4-under 67 at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, Merritt took the Quicken Loans National for his first professional win since a 2009 breakthrough on the Tour. 

Merritt shot 18-under 266 and finished three clear of Rickie Fowler, the pre-tournament favorite, whose scorecard had plenty of circles and squares on it with six pars, seven birdies and five bogeys. Fowler closed with three birdies in his final five holes to make a late charge at Merritt, posting a closing 69.

Entering the final day, Merritt shared the lead with Kevin Chappell and was being pursued by the likes of Rickie Fowler and Bill Haas, much more accomplished contemporaries seemingly more accustomed to the pressure of closing out PGA Tour wins for seven-figure paychecks. That didn't prove the case on Sunday, however, as Merritt, who turns 30 in October, carried himself like a player who was working his way through a Thursday opener. Merritt made two birdies in the final three holes to lock up the win, including a bonus 35-footer to end the tournament. 

David Lingmerth finished in third at 14 under par, with six players tied for fourth at 12 under par, including Justin Rose, Bill Haas, Danny Lee, Justin Thomas, Jason Bohn and Carl Pettersson.

Tiger Woods, who fell out of contention following a Saturday 74, shot 3-under 68 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 18th place along with Chappell, whose Sunday 78 derailed his hopes for a first PGA Tour win.

The win gets Merritt into next week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 02

Tiger Woods closes Quicken Loans National with modest 68

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- Tiger Woods gained back the three shots he lost to par on Saturday with a final-round 3-under 68 on Sunday at the Quicken Loans National. However, he lost a shot to eventual first-time winner Troy Merritt, ending his own tournament 10 shots out of first and in a tie for 18th place.

Woods got off to a hot start, making three consecutive birdies after a pair of opening pars. He was 5 under on the day through 10 holes before Woods took three steps back with three bogeys in the next four holes, including a pair of penalty shots for finding water hazards. A final birdie on the 18th wrapped up a modest final round.

"Today I started off well and really hit the ball well and I looked at the whole week in general and felt like I made some big strides," Woods said afterward.

Though Woods wasn't in the thick of it on Sunday, he took positives away from a tournament where he had three very good rounds.

"I changed my patterns ... and now I got to get a feel for it," he said. "My short game starting to come back to where it used to be. Everything kind of trending in the correct direction now."

The problem now for Woods is that his season is likely about to come to a close. Woods needed a win to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and he has only otherwise scheduled a start in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in two weeks. On Friday, he teased potentially playing for the first time in the Wyndham Championship as a last-gasp effort to make the FedEx Cup playoffs, but he'll have until the Friday of the PGA to decide for sure.

Woods didn't seem so concerned about the here and now, however, waxing philosophically on his long-term prospects to rediscover the winner's circle.

"I've got years ahead of me," he said,"that's how I look at it, not just this season."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 02

Inbee Park wins seventh major at Women’s British Open

Inbee Park did it again.

Closing with a tournament-best-tying final-round 65, Park caught and passed 54-hole co-leaders Jin Young Ko and Teresa Lu to secure her first Ricoh Women's British Open at Turnberry in Scotland. It's the seventh major title for Park, who has won six of her seven majors in her last 14 major starts. That's a whopping 43 percent clip. 

Park, who won the first three majors of 2013, has now won two in '15, including the first-ever Women's PGA Championship.

Late in the round, J.Y. Ko appeared to have a good chance to win in her first-ever major start, but her approach to the 16th found a water hazard and led to a double-bogey 6. Ko secured solo second with a lengthy two-putt par at the finishing hole. 

So Yeon Ryu and Lydia Ko shared third place at 8 under par. At one point in the round, Ko had pulled within a shot of the lead. However, when she found herself bunkered at the 12th, she was left without much chance. The resulting double bogey cost her a chance to become the youngest major champion.

Instead, Park has now won four of the five LPGA majors, taking the ANA Inspiration as part of her 2013 run, the last three Women's PGA Championships (formerly the LPGA Championship) and two U.S. Women's Open titles. The only major that eludes Park is the next one: The Evian Championship is the youngest on the LPGA schedule, earning that designation in 2013. Park, however, won the event in 2012, the year before it became a major. 

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 02

Despite Saturday 74, Woods’ National final round still important

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- Tiger Woods is not going to win the Quicken Loans National. However, all is not lost.

Woods can make progress in prolonging his season with an aggressive, well-played final round at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. The world No. 266 sits nine shots behind 54-hole leaders Troy Merritt and Kevin Chappell, but his target is the top 10. Tied for 42nd place, Woods is six shots below that water mark. Why the top 10? That's a borderline must for Woods to have even a chance to sneak into the FedEx Cup playoffs and avoid missing the PGA Tour's postseason for the third time in five seasons.

Entering this week, Woods was 315 points out of 125th place and the final qualifying spot. Winners of PGA Tour events get 500 points for each victory, with points awarded to every player who makes the cut. If Woods finishes in the top 10 on Sunday, he'll snag somewhere in the area of 75 points, still leaving him well outside of the playoffs.

Woods still has at least one remaining start this season, coming at the PGA Championship, where FedEx Cup points are boosted by 20 percent. A runner-up finish -- however unlikely that sounds right now -- at Whistling Straits would get Woods into the playoffs. If that doesn't materialize, then Woods has the nuclear option: playing the Wyndham Championship.

The 14-time major champion has never teed it up as a pro at the Greensboro, N.C., event, but Woods surprised on Friday when he suggested there's a first time for everything. 

“Well, I’m playing the PGA in a couple weeks,” Woods said after his second round. “Hopefully I can play next week at Bridgestone if everything goes well this week, and then we’ll see about Wyndham after that and hopefully I’ll be in the playoffs.”

With the stated goal of extending his season, even if by a week or two, into the playoffs, Greensboro is in play. However, even if Woods plays Sedgefield Country Club, he'll have to post what would be a third-consecutive high finish to skate by into the playoffs. 

If Woods flails about again on Sunday after a Saturday 74, then his season is all but over. Woods won't be doing the mental FedEx Cup math by the shot, but it should become clear pretty quickly if he is long for September golf.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 02

Golf’s greats renew friendly rivalry at the 3M Championship

Greg Vara is covering this week's Champions Tour stop, the 3M Championship, for Devil Ball Golf.

BLAINE, Minn. -- Saturday at the 3M Championship is a special day. It's the day fans get to make memories for a lifetime.

The names Nicklaus, Player and Trevino are that of legend, great players of the past that once ruled the PGA Tour. Unfortunately, by the time the 1980s rolled around, when I was born, their best golf was already behind them, save for Nicklaus' fantastic week at Augusta in 1986.

Since 2005, however, on 3M Championship Saturday, the past has come alive. The greats of the game, those past not only their PGA Tour prime, but their Champions Tour prime, put on a show for the golf fans in Minnesota. With a scramble format and a laid-back atmosphere, there’s plenty of room for banter among the players and healthy back-and-forth with the fans.

Though there is an official event going on here, much of the audience at the 3M is more interested in getting a glimpse of the greats of the game. Four groups vied for the title this year, but the atmosphere is, to put it mildly, relaxed. It’s nearly impossible to go a single hole without a barb flying from one competitor to the next, all delivered with the smiles of deep respect these players share.

When Lee Trevino slightly mishit a drive on the ninth hole, Gary Player quipped, “When Lee misses, it’s still in the center of the club. The last time he missed a fairway, the Pope was still an altar boy."

While Trevino and Player ham it up for the audience, Nicklaus plays it cool. The competitive juices don’t leave a person just because of age, and Nicklaus might be the most competitive player to ever walk a fairway. After both teammates fail to hit the green on the long par-3 seventh hole, Nicklaus takes it upon himself to save the group and stripes a 5-iron within 3 feet. Even after such an impressive shot, there’s no show -- Nicklaus is here to win.

As for the other event going on today, Kenny Perry eagled the par-5 18th hole and shot a ho-hum, course-record-tying 61 to take the lead heading into Sunday.

Aug 01

Lehman giving the home fans a show at the 3M Championship

Greg Vara is covering this week's Champions Tour stop, the 3M Championship, for Devil Ball Golf.

BLAINE, Minn. -- The year was 2011 and the loyal fans that attend the 3M Championship on an annual basis were finally able to show their appreciation for the “hometown kid” in person.

Though eligible to play the 3M Championship since 2009, Tom Lehman, like many top PGA Tour professionals before him, still had some life in his game at the age of 50 -- enough to linger on the PGA Tour past the half-century mark. His refusal to give up on the PGA Tour and a hectic schedule made it nearly impossible to get back to the 3M Championship for his first couple of years on the Champions Tour, but when he finally got his chance to pay-back the golf fans of Minnesota, he didn’t disappoint.

Lehman opened with a 65 in 2011 and though he played well throughout the week, he fell just short of Jay Haas, who simply was not to be denied that year. Those in attendance that year figured it was only a matter of time before Lehman captured this title, but, due in large part to illness the past two years here, it’s been largely a struggle for Lehman at the 3M Championship…until this year.

Though annual attendance figures at the 3M Championship are very strong, there aren’t many fans that are willing to put in the time and effort to follow their favorite player all day. It may sound strange, but walking under the heat of the August sun for four to five hours is actually quite the commitment, but it’s a commitment that Lehman’s followers are willing to make. While sitting near the seventh green at the TPC Twin Cities, it’s not uncommon to overhear a conversation about which players are walking up the fairway, but no such conversations are needed when Lehman pierces the horizon. The horde that follows Lehman around this course is unmistakable, he is, without question the No. 1 draw here.

The love affair between Lehman and the Minnesota fans goes both ways. When asked what winning this event would mean, he responded, “It would mean a lot, I’ve won most of the biggest tourneys in this state and this would be a nice way to cap it off."

Even after posting an impressive opening-round 64, Lehman knows there is still plenty of work left. When asked if his experience in 2011 will make him more aggressive on the weekend this time around he said, “There’s no room for getting conservative out here."

If the wind continues to howl this weekend as it did all day Friday, Lehman may have to adjust his thinking and dial it back just a bit. However, no matter how fiercely the wind blows, the fans will be here all weekend, cheering aggressively for one of their own.

Jul 31

Billy Hurley III’s father found in Texas hotel

The father of PGA Tour player Billy Hurley III has been found in Texas after his family didn't know his whereabouts for more than nine days.

Willard Hurley Jr. was found "safe and sound" in the Lone Star state, according to Leesburg, Va., police. Someone recognized Hurley from news reports and notified police. Hurley declined to explain to officers why he had left home on July 19 in his truck with clothes and some cash.

Hurley was reported missing July 27, with his Naval Academy graduate son going public on Tuesday in hopes of identifying what happened to him. 

"I'm just hoping that he goes to check my tee time or check my score and sees this and understands that dad, we love you and we want you to come home," Hurley said Tuesday.

Hurley will make the cut at the Quicken Loans National at 2-under 140.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 31

Tiger Woods fires season-best 66, in contention at Quicken Loans National

Most no one expected this. Tiger Woods is in contention to win again on the PGA Tour.

Woods shot 5-under 66, tying his low round of the year and setting his best mark in relationship to par, to get into contention at his Quicken Loans National at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va.

The 14-time major winner started his Friday round on the 10th hole, where Woods started a run of four consecutive birdies on Thursday to complete the comeback from a hideous 3-over-through-four start. He wasn't able to capitalize like the day prior, but got off to his now typical slow start, sprinkling in a bogey at the par-5 14th after Woods barely got off the tee following a near whiff with his tee shot. However, Woods again rallied quickly, sticking his approach to the 15th to 3 feet for an easy birdie. Woods played an efficient 18th, leading to a 10-foot birdie to turn under par.

From there, Woods was all systems go. He stuck it close at the first and drained a 20-foot birdie at the fourth, both holes he bogeyed on Thursday. He again birdied both front-nine par 5s, with the second being his last birdie to round out the 66.

At 8-under 142, Woods posted his best 36-hole total since he went 66-61 en route to an eighth title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, next week's tournament the world No. 266 can only qualify for with a victory, which would get him back into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Woods hasn't put four good rounds together in a long time, so it's easy to hedge and wonder if he'll explode on the weekend under the pressure of securing an unlikely 80th PGA Tour win. However, Woods seems to know something we don't.

"I'm in a good spot. I'm looking forward to the weekend," Woods said with a knowing look. "I'm looking forward to getting after it."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 31

Tiger Woods rallies from rough start for 3-under 68 at Quicken Loans National

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- Through four holes, it was looking like another reprisal of the Passion of Tiger. Snap-hook and a bogey on the first hole. A short-side miss from the fairway leading to a second bogey at the third. Another dropped shot at the fourth.

At 3 over through four holes, it seemed Woods was a few more bad ones away from indifference, the subsequent reemergence of the chipping yips and then a post-round head-hanging explanation of what went wrong -- again.

That's not what happened.

Instead, Woods somewhat surprisingly rallied to shoot a 3-under 68 that has him in the top third of the field at the Quicken Loans National.

The 14-time major winner began the comeback with routine-looking birdies on the two par 5s on the front nine at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, completing the opening half with a par at the ninth.

It was on the 10th tee where Woods started his rally. He his four consecutive approach shots inside 12 feet, making all four birdies putts to turn a 1-over round into a 3-under effort that had the weather-weakened crowd buzzing as though Tiger was actually back to his old self. 

Woods played effective golf to the house, but couldn't sink any of three slightly longer mid-range birdies bids to improve his score. He trails Retief Goosen and Ryo Ishikawa by five shots heading into Friday's second round.

The world No. 266 admitted this was a test of will.

"I didn't do anything different (after the poor start)," Woods said afterward. "I said stay patient and it will turn, which I did. I turned it around."

Woods said he aimed to get back to even at the turn, which wasn't outlandish considering the two par 5s still ahead of him. He was able to attack some of the easier holes on the first-time host course, managing to fix a hook tendency at the start of the round. 

Ahead of the tournament, Woods said in a news conference that he hasn't been able to use his strengths to turn potential disaster rounds into respectable scores. Reminded of that comment after his Thursday effort, Woods savored in what he accomplished.

Woods said, "This is one of those days."

Baby steps, perhaps.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jul 30

Support wounded warriors by playing in World’s Largest Golf Outing

Entering its fifth year on Aug. 3, the World's Largest Golf Outing has become a day of gratitude, charity and patriotism.

The brainchild of Billy Casper Golf, WLGO is a one-day, nationwide event which brings together four-player teams to enjoy a day of golf and raise money in support of Wounded Warrior Project. Some 140 courses, owned and operated by BCG, Troon Golf and Toll Golf, participate, offering a 9- or 18-hole round, cart, lunch and prizes, and includes a $10 per player donation to WWP. 

Players do not need a USGA handicap to participate and can sign up as a single or part of a group of two or four. Over 8,100 players have signed up so far, with 500 wounded warriors among the entrants. In 2014, over 10,000 players participated.

All players are entered into a drawing to win a trip for four to the Nike headquarters in Oregon for custom club fitting. The highest fundraising team wins a trip for four to Kiawah Island, S.C., to play the Ocean Course at the resort which hosted the 2012 PGA Championship.

Participating courses often organize unique events to inspire reflection on the purpose of the day, ranging from a performance of the national anthem to color guard ceremonies to the presence of military vehicles.

In the previous four years of the event, more than $2 million has been raised in support of the organization which offers programs to help injured soldiers integrate back into society and live fuller lives.

The deadline to sign up to play is July 31, with online fundraising continuing through Aug. 7.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.