Devil Ball Golf
  • Dustin Johnson, Danny Willett, and Henrik Stenson. (Getty)

    SPRINGFIELD, N.J.—There comes a moment in every tournament when a player knows the day is lost. That moment can come late in the proceedings, like in this year’s British Open, when Phil Mickelson dueled Henrik Stenson right to the final holes.

    Or it can come very, very early, as it did with Dustin Johnson at the PGA Championship, when he double-bogeyed the third hole and kicked off a tailspin that, in one afternoon, undid all the good he’d done in majors all season long.

    Johnson, along with Stenson and Danny Willett, made up this year’s version of the famed major winners grouping, the trio of calendar-year winners that the PGA Championship traditionally pairs together in the first two rounds. Johnson’s U.S. Open trophy, Stenson’s Claret Jug and Willett’s green jacket were enough to get them yoked together, but they weren’t enough to get two-thirds of the trio playing anything approaching decent golf.

    “I think all of us are

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  • Jimmy Walker watches a tee shot at Baltusrol. (Getty)

    With one day of the PGA Championship in the books, it’s time to take a look back at what went down, and a look forward at what we can expect on Friday.

    Jimmy Walker, dynamite: Walker, a 37-year-old PGA Tour journeyman, holds the first-night lead after putting together a pair of very strong halves. Walker survived the opening “Sobering Seven” holes at one-under, and carded four birdies on the final six holes of the second nine to wrap with a five-under round and sole possession of first place.

    Major disappointment: Strong players, weak efforts. Reigning U.S. Open champ Dustin Johnson was absolutely atrocious, carding only one birdie en route to the ol’ double hockey sticks: a seven-under-par 77. Rory McIlroy was only three strokes better, and even though he finished the day early was on the putting green as late as 7:00 p.m. trying to find a solution to his flat-stick woes.

    Big names: The leaderboard sports very few big names and a

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    SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Phil Mickelson did on Thursday what all-time great golfers do: He saved a bad round and turned it into a modest one.

    Mickelson was 4-over through 11 holes of the PGA Championship at Baltusrol’s Lower Course, looking drained of all energy that propelled him to a second-place finish two weeks ago in an epic duel against Henrik Stenson the British Open. Then, a funny thing happened, not all that uncommon to Mickelson: He rallied.

    Three birdies in the final seven holes, including on back-to-back, 500-yard-or-so par 4s, got him all the way back to a 1-over 71 that has him six back of leader Jimmy Walker.

    “I’ve been playing very well at the British and in my preparation, and to come out hit shots like I hit those first 11 holes was very disappointing,” Mickelson said. “However, I’m proud that I hung in there, fought and got three back coming in.”

    Stenson’s 20-under performance at Troon and Jason Day’s similar score a year prior in this championship aren’t the norm –

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    SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — For the first time in 2016, Jason Day has started a major in the 60s.

    The defending PGA champion, who didn’t see Baltusrol’s host Lower Course for the first time until Wednesday, opened with a smooth 2-under 68 that has him in contention on Day 1.

    “I’m very excited about how I hit it today,” he said. “I hit a lot of good quality shots. Hasn’t been like that lately. To be able to go out there and hit it exactly where I’m [aiming] and see the shot and what I need to do and actually execute it was exciting for me. Really positive stuff going into the next three rounds.”

    Day hit 17 greens in regulation, only converting on three of those opportunities. However, as conditions toughened in the afternoon heat, Day’s round looked better and better. The Aussie probably didn’t anticipate the good score, given both his recent major starts and the start of this week.

    He opened the Masters in April with 72-73. He started the U.S. Open with a 76 that was the difference between him

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  • Baltusrol Mountain looms behind the clubhouse. (Getty Images)

    SPRINGFIELD, N.J.—Baltusrol Mountain looms over the clubhouse at Baltusrol Golf Club, a presence both obvious and subtle. Local knowledge holds that every putt on every green bends away from the mountain. Local knowledge also holds that there’s a dark story behind the name Baltusrol, and as the golf world’s best convene here for the PGA Championship, the grim story is once again seeing the light of day.

    The hill once belonged to a farmer named Baltus Roll, who lived with his wife and son in a small house that still stands, growing apples and raising livestock on the same land that’s now the home to one of the nation’s preeminent golf courses. It was an idyllic life, or as close to idyllic as life in the 1830s could get.

    It came to a sudden, violent end. On the night of Feb. 22, 1831, Roll and his wife were awakened by a loud banging on their front door. Someone outside was shouting, demanding Roll get up. When he didn’t, the

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  • Baltusrol's par-10 finish is anything but boring

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    SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — As one player said this week, Baltusrol will “par 4 you to death.”

    And if you’re not dead by the time you get through 16 holes of long par 3s and many par 4s hovering around 500 yards, then you finally get to the Lower Course’s par 5s.

    The first is a rarity these days in major championship golf: a true three-shot hole. At 649 yards on the card, with crossbunkers dividing the hole at 350 yards, not even U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson can find his way on board in two shots.

    “Yesterday I hit a pretty good drive,” said the U.S. Open champion on Wednesday. “It was a little downwind and I still had 295 front or something. So it’s not really doable, unless it firms up.”

    The hole demands a good tee shot out of a partial chute into the fairway, otherwise risking finding deep, gnarly rough just yards off the short stuff. The lay up is a little uncomfortable, too, requiring a long iron to get over the cross bunkers and around a tree that somewhat hides the modest landing

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  • Dustin Johnson nonplussed on path to add a second major in 2016

    SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Not much bothers Dustin Johnson.

    “Bad drivers. That’s about it,” he said Wednesday.

    And that’s normally speaking. So imagine how Johnson feels when he’s gone through a stretch where he won the U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, finished tied for ninth at the British Open and was co-runner up at the RBC Canadian Open. He’d play a golf tournament just about anywhere at anytime right now, so you’d understand that Johnson isn’t concerned about bumping up the PGA Championship, the season’s final major, by a week to accommodate golf’s return to the Olympics.

    “Whatever the schedule is, I feel like I’m at a point where I can prepare for it,” Johnson said. “You know, it’s definitely different, playing so many majors pretty close together. But I don’t know, I’ve done pretty well this year, so I kind of like it.”

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    Yeah, tied for fourth, a win and a tie for ninth is good.

    He comes to Baltusrol confident in all facets of his game.

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    The PGA Championship begins Thursday at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey, the fourth of golf’s majors. Who’s going to win? How’s it going to go down? We know, and we’ll tell you right here.

    Wait, another major? Didn’t we just have one of these?

    We did indeed. Henrik Stenson concluded his thorough throttling of Royal Troon at the British Open barely 10 days ago, and here we are back at it again. Blame it on Rio, to coin a phrase; the Olympics forced golf to adopt a much tighter-than-usual schedule, and the PGA Championship got bumped back up the calendar a bit.

    Ah yes, the Olympics.

    Right. As you already know, most every major golfer has bowed out of the Olympics, claiming fears of Zika virus while not exactly opposing the idea of getting a bit more rest in advance of the FedEx Cup playoffs and Ryder Cup. So while the PGA Championship gets a bit of mocking, it’s also got a far better field than the Olympics could ever imagine.

    Why’s everybody always dumping on the PGA

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    SPRINGFIELD, N.J.—The cheers rolls out over the sun-baked fairways of Baltusrol, full-throated and keening: “BEEEEEEEEEF!”

    The man of the moment, Andrew “Beef” Johnston, grins a toothy grin, waving and posing and smiling and signing damn near anything that’s not on fire. This is the Summer of Beef, and he’s determined to enjoy every minute of it.

    Speaking on Wednesday morning, hours removed from a chaotic 11-hole practice round that took nearly five hours, Beef could only shake his head in amazement at the route his life’s taken. “It was like the first real time where I’ve had that much attention,” he said. “And I come off the course and I was like, that was crazy. That was mad.”

    In a world where wearing a white belt constitutes an edgy fashion statement, the burly, shrub-bearded Beef is a revelation, a cheery cannonball into the placid pool of professional golf. He’s inspired fans to wear beards and take pictures of themselves driving

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  • SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Most pros spend weeks, months, even years studying major championship courses, assessing every hill and dale, every green and swale, looking for that infinitesimal edge that could pay off with a major championship and immortality.

    And then there’s Jason Day, who’s rolling into this week’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol like a senior in the last weeks of high school: late, sick and just barely prepared.

    “I haven’t played a practice round,” Day said Wednesday morning. “I haven’t seen the course. I don’t know what it looks like.”

    That … that seems problematic.

    In the midst of a rigorous schedule that includes three tournaments, two of them majors, in three different countries across just three weeks, Day is running on fumes. It’s far from ideal when you’re in the running for a critical major, the last one for seven months.

    Before Wednesday, the sum total of Day’s preparation for Baltusrol was the 30 minutes he spent with club pro

    Read More »from Jason Day rolls into Baltusrol sick, barely prepared for PGA Championship

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