Joao Mario: ‘I’ve grown up’

Joao Mario said he has “grown up a great deal” since his last Inter appearance and thanked the fans after his surprise start against Lazio.

The last Nerazzurri fans saw of the Portugal international was in a 1-1 draw with Fiorentina on January 5.

He was shipped off to West Ham United on loan, then couldn’t find a club prepared to pay for him over the summer, so remained on the bench.

That is until this evening, when Joao Mario was surprisingly picked in the starting XI for the 3-0 victory over Lazio.

“I prepared well and am trying to train to the max every day in order to earn this opportunity,” the 25-year-old said on Sky Sport Italia.

“The most important thing is to be ready. It was my turn in this game and I am very happy.”

It’s a far cry from the player signed for €40m from Sporting CP in 2016 and who declared only a few months ago that he didn’t like Italian football.

“I have grown up a great deal. It is in moments of difficulty that you really grow up as a person and I’ve been through a lot of those. I try to do better, become another person and another player.

“I said that I wanted to transform the jeers of the fans into applause. I am happy the supporters gave me this gift of applause as I left the field and I thank them.

“Now it’ll be important for me to be ready at all times, so I’ll keep working hard.”

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Cancelo: ‘Ronaldo born to win’

Joao Cancelo paid glowing tribute to his Juventus and Portugal teammate. “Barcelona without Lionel Messi win 5-1, Real Madrid without Cristiano Ronaldo lose.”

The Portugal international was on loan at Inter last season, but was bought by Juventus over the summer and is making a strong impact in Serie A.

“Every day I train with Cristiano Ronaldo and so far he has won five editions of the Ballon d’Or,” Cancelo told Sky Sport Italia.

“If Cristiano doesn’t win it this year, it’s just incredible. He is the best of them all and last season he was more decisive than any other player.”

Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammate Luka Modric is the favourite, mainly because he also reached the World Cup Final with Croatia.

“The Ballon d’Or can’t just be decided by the World Cup, because that tournament can only be won by a certain number of select nations. If you are born in France, Germany or Brazil, clearly sooner or later you’re going to win a World Cup. Seeing Portugal win the Euros, that is a huge achievement and very rare.

“Cristiano won the Champions League as an absolute protagonist, scoring 15 goals. When he plays for a team, that team becomes the best there is. The proof is in the latest Clasico result. Barcelona without Lionel Messi win 5-1, Real Madrid without Cristiano Ronaldo lose 5-1. That is the difference.

“I am talking about a player who makes the difference everywhere he goes because he is different to all the others. When he arrived at Juventus, not only did he raise the level of the squad, but also the individual level of his teammates.

“You see, millions can observe what he does during a game, but what he does in training is a spectacle for only a select few to enjoy. Watching the way he works, it makes you want to work harder and do better. He never lets go, even though he’s the best player in the world.

“Juventus have always been a great club, but now with Cristiano, they have been transformed in the eyes of the opposition to favourites for the Champions League.

“Cristiano was born to win and to help his teammates to win.”

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Spalletti: ‘Just one decent half’

Luciano Spalletti explained his choices and said the 3-0 victory away to Lazio shows Inter’s renewed ambition, but “we had one decent half.”

Mauro Icardi bagged a brace at the Stadio Olimpico for their sixth consecutive Serie A win, allowing them to catch Napoli in second place.

“The performance is the fundamental thing. We have the possibility to control games the way we did in the first half, whereas in the second we gave the ball away too much, allowed Lazio to cause us problems and in those situations I see a lot of what we shouldn’t do,” Spalletti told Sky Sport Italia.

“This is why I say we’re not the anti-Juve, because if we wander into those errors, we are anti-nobody. We had one decent half, that’s it. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

“Anyone who wants to leave things the way they are had better get out of the way. The President has spoken clearly. These are the ambitions of Inter, to have this attitude and control the game at the Stadio Olimpico against a very impressive Lazio.

“The results might not always be like this, but the approach has to be for Inter.”

Icardi scored twice, but Marcelo Brozovic also drilled in a fine goal on top of a strong overall performance.

“I think we have found a key player in Brozovic. He has a compass in his feet, he knows football and has this way of finding a free man with his passes.

“In that role, he has to constantly move the ball and make it difficult for the opposition to be aggressive in their pressing. He has become accustomed to the position now and is really showing what he can do, because he has the quality, the intelligence and the character to play there.”

Spalletti was asked why he left ex-Lazio defender Stefan de Vrij on the bench and chose Joao Mario for his first appearance since January.

“I didn’t think it was fair to play De Vrij when he’d be jeered by the entire stadium, which is what would’ve happened. He is a remarkably sensitive lad and if he’d made a couple of errors, he’d have gone into a spiral.

“With all these games to play, we need everyone. We take into account the effort of the previous match and try to use the best line-up for that situation.

“Joao Mario started to lose the ball a little as time wore on and he got tired. The idea was always to introduce Borja Valero after about an hour.”

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HT: Epic Inter lead Lazio

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The story behind the Phil Mickelson ad you can’t stop watching

You’ve probably already seen that Phil Mickelson ad where he does “The Worm” and dodges golf balls, which is pretty remarkable considering it came out on Thursday morning. It traveled quickly. One example among many: I put out the ad on my Twitter feed shortly after 9 a.m. ET on Thursday and in 24 hours it was up to 422,000 views.

The ad, by performance dress shirt brand Mizzen+Main, who made Mickelson a part-owner, was so outrageous that we decided we needed to hear the story behind the making of it.

Mizzen+Main CEO Kevin Lavelle: After signing Phil, my creative director said we should do an ad showing how our shirts stretch and perform by having Phil dodge golf balls being hit at him. Instead of just dodging balls, he should be dancing to … Ghostland Observatory’s “Vibrate.” I was not terribly excited about pitching this concept to one of the top athletes in the world mere weeks after he agreed to partner with us, already catapulting us into a new level of national conversation. Surely, he would doubt my sanity.

Shortly thereafter, we were meeting with him to go over a few things and Amy (Mickelson’s wife) was with us. I slowly eased my way into this pitch, then went for it and played the song on my iPhone. Amy immediately started laughing while Phil broke out into a big smile. Amy looked at him and said, “Should I tell him or should you?” to which Phil replied “Go for it.” Amy’s was overjoyed to share: “Phil can do The Worm!” At this moment I knew we would make this happen. I then got to see some home videos of Phil’s extraordinary dancing skills, along with The Worm and the high kick.

Phil: I don’t take myself too seriously. When I realized that I would be dancing to Ghostland Observatory, which I had to Google, Amy couldn’t help cracking up because, well, she’s been subjected to my dancing for years. It took me awhile to get comfortable with the idea of dancing on what would be on national television, but once I did, it was so much fun to shoot.

Amy Mickelson: Phil loves to have fun, and not many people have gotten to see the true extent of his dance moves. I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard the concept, because I knew he would absolutely nail it in a perfectly Phil way.

Lavelle: So from there, we started the quick turn of planning, including the warehouse, buying 2,000 square feet of golf grass to shoot on, and hiring our lighting, camera, and VFX crews.

Richard Ross, Director: We showed Phil the dance and he understandably was a little hesitant at first, but he was really gracious and gave it a go. We started breaking the routine down step by step, and he picked it up easily and nailed it. The Worm was obviously a highlight. My wife, Layne, choreographed it and did great teaching it to him. A huge team effort.

Lavelle: The ad took about 90 minutes to shoot. We’re a nimble crew, and Phil was a champ.

Ross: I’ve seen this video a hundred times and I’m still blown away by his performance. We were amazed when we first saw it. Even playback on set, the whole crew cheered him on.

Lavelle: We wanted to do something that highlighted what our product is capable of on one of the most well-known athletes of all time with this spot. Of course we wanted significant coverage, site traffic, sales, etc. Everyone always wants that. This ad was the absolute perfect combination of both of those main goals: demonstration of product and virality. It’s so much more than I thought it could be. I am absolutely thrilled, and I know Phil is too. He loves it.

What the company definitely nailed was eyeballs. Whether Mickelson was good or bad at dancing — that’s up to the viewers — one thing’s clear: it was so over the top that it’s impossible not to see — or unsee — what Phil was doing on Thursday.

“I’ll do private (lessons) for the right price,” Mickelson told the AP after his round at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Thursday.

Lyle, 36, chooses to stop leukemia treatment

Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle, who three times has undergone leukemia treatment, has decided to end his fight, according to social media posts by his wife, Briony.

Lyle, 36, who twice won on the Tour and has long been a revered figure in Australian golf, had returned to the hospital in May, six months after a third stem cell transplant to fight leukemia.

“Earlier today, Jarrod made the decision to stop active treatment and begin palliative care,” Briony Lyle wrote on the golfer’s Facebook page. “He has given everything that he’s got to give and his poor body cannot take any more. We’ll be taking him closer to home in the next couple of days so he can finally leave the hospital.”

Lyle first was diagnosed with the disease as a teenager in 1999, and it returned in 2012 before another recurrence last summer.

He made an emotional return to competition in late 2013 at the Australian Masters and then attempted to play a few Tour events to get ready for a return to the PGA Tour in 2014-15. He came back at the 2014 Open but made just three cuts in 10 starts and decided that he needed more time to get healthy.

Lyle returned that fall to try to regain his PGA Tour card but eventually headed home to Australia to pursue other golf endeavors.

According to the Golf Australia website, doctors told the Lyles that there is no trace of leukemic cells in his body, “but the damage done in the fight to regain his body’s immunity levels has taken an exhausting toll.” For a time, Lyle lost his eyesight.

“He has reached his limit and the docs have finally agreed that they can no longer strive for a positive outcome,” Briony Lyle wrote. “My focus as of today is on our girls and doing whatever I can to get them through the challenges ahead. Jarrod will be closer to them very soon and will spend as much as he can with them.”

Lyle and his wife have two young daughters.

How Brooks Koepka outlasted a stacked leaderboard to win the PGA

ST. LOUIS — The PGA Championship is never mentioned first in any discussion about which is the best of golf’s four major championships. On Sunday, at Bellerive Country Club, there was nothing but edge-of-your-seat, what-will happen-next drama from the moment the final groups stuck a tee in the ground at the first hole.

There was the U.S. Open champion, Brooks Koepka, trying to muscle his way to a third major championship. There was defending champion Justin Thomas making an early charge, announcing in his final round he wasn’t going to give away this title without a fight. There was Adam Scott, the Australian carrying the memory of friend Jarrod Lyle, who died this week after a long fight with cancer.

There was Rickie Fowler, perhaps the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to Best Player To Have Never Won a Major, trying to make a Sunday push despite an oblique injury that limited him all week.

And yes, there was Tiger Woods, this generation’s greatest champion, trying to end a decadelong major-title drought by making a final-round charge before a monstrous, loud, supportive crowd in St. Louis.

In the end, though, it was Koepka who held off the entire field and walked away with his second major title of the year. Here is why Koepka, and not someone else, is holding the trophy:

Why it was Brooks Koepka
Koepka has made note more than once this week that despite winning back-to-back U.S. Opens, he has flown under the radar. It’s clear it bothers him. On Sunday, it was clear the gallery at Bellerive Country Club wanted to see Tiger Woods turn back time. The roars were heard all over the golf course. Koepka wasn’t fazed, just like he wasn’t fazed by the firm and windy conditions that annoyed so many in the field at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. The other reason: He answered every challenge. With Woods charging and with playing partner Adam Scott making a move, he didn’t budge. Sure, Koepka made bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5 to give the field hope, but he rattled off three consecutive birdies to close his front nine and two more at Nos. 15 and 16 to close the deal.

Why it wasn’t Tiger Woods
That Woods is not holding up a major championship trophy for the 15th time in his life can be traced back to one club: his putter. It failed him all day Saturday, when he could not convert birdie putts to close his second round and throughout his third round during a 29-hole day in the St. Louis heat. On Sunday, even though his putter was more cooperative, two missed putts that stayed out by fractions of inches were why he walked away having just missed — again. On No. 11, Woods had 27 feet for birdie. The putt was right in the middle of the hole the entire way. All it needed was one more revolution. In 2005, at the Masters, he got that final turn on the 16th green at Augusta National. A commercial was born. This time, on Sunday at the PGA, the ball stopped. On No. 14, just one shot out of the lead, he had 14 feet for par. The ball looked good as it approached the hole, but it hit the right edge, went partially down the hole before violently lipping out.

Why it wasn’t Adam Scott
Scott didn’t do much for six holes. A bogey at the first, then five straight pars made him, it seemed, an afterthought amid all the drama around him. Then, without warning, he caught fire. He birdied No. 7. Then he made another at No. 8. After a par at No. 9, he rattled off three more birdies over his next four holes. The big swing, the one that likely cost him a chance at a second major title, came at No. 15. Both he and Koepka were looking at makeable birdie putts. Scott missed his from 18 feet; Koepka made his from 10 feet. That was it.

Why it wasn’t Rickie Fowler
He was in contention, on the verge of a major title. Sound familiar? It should. This has happened before. While the others chasing Koepka had a moment when things fell apart, Fowler never did. The problem is he never had any moments when there was hope this was his time for major. While others were making birdies all over Bellerive, Fowler did, well, nothing. He parred his first four holes, before bogeying the fifth. He didn’t register his first birdie until the 13th hole. By then, it was too late. The leaders had moved too far ahead. Fowler’s search for that elusive first major title goes on.

Why it wasn’t Justin Thomas
Thomas started hot, with three birdies in seven holes. He had another good look at No. 8, a birdie that would have put even more pressure on Koepka. Not only did Thomas miss that one, but he missed the short par putt coming back. Thomas, known to get angry then move on, recovered quickly with birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. But then trouble came up from out of nowhere on No. 14. In the middle of the fairway, with just 124 yards to the hole on the par 4, Thomas hit in the greenside bunker and failed to get up and down. Two perfect opportunities for birdies that instead became bogeys are the main reasons he didn’t hold up the Wanamaker Trophy for a second consecutive year.

Why it wasn’t Thomas Pieters
Pieters seemed poised to put up a low number the leaders coming down the stretch would have to stare at over the finishing holes. He birdied three in a row, at Nos. 14, 15 and 16, to go to 6 under on his round and 12 under for the tournament. That would be a scary number as the pressure mounted and the greens became even bumpier for the final groups. Then the 17th hole happened. He hammered his tee shot into the water up the right side. He dropped one and then promptly hit another in the water. By the time he was done, he posted a double-bogey 7. And just like that, his hopes for a PGA win and his first major championship disappeared

Brooks Koepka wasn’t losing to anyone, not even Tiger Woods

ST LOUIS — He could hear the roars. How could he not? It felt, at times, like the Bellerive Country Club was vibrating. Brooks Koepka, however, wouldn’t look in the direction of them. He just kept marching forward, often with his head down and a tiny smirk on his face.

Up ahead, it was obvious Tiger Woods was pouring in birdies. The fairy-tale finish at the PGA Championship that everyone seemed to be longing for was taking shape. It was starting to feel like a remake of the 1986 Masters, with Koepka playing the role of Greg Norman, and Tiger morphing into Jack Nicklaus. The sentimental favorite was going to conjure up some old magic, and the young and brash phenom was going to wilt. The pressure was mounting with each roar.

“Everybody on the golf course could hear it,” Koepka said. “You could hear it trickle down as they changed the scoreboards. You’d hear different roars every three seconds. It was pretty obvious when Tiger made a birdie.”

But this wasn’t 1986. There was one significant difference this time. In this version, the brawny, confident antihero never blinked. You don’t have to love it, but Koepka was so icy and impressive amid the circus, you have to respect it. After holding off Woods for a two-stroke victory, Koepka now has three major championships at the age of 28. He did what Woods used to do in his prime, grabbing the lead and then stepping on the accelerator every time someone got close.

“Other than me and my team, I think everybody was rooting for Tiger,” Koepka said. “As they should. He’s the greatest player to ever to play the game. [Woods] is the whole reason people of my generation are even playing golf. To duel it out with him, I don’t think I ever dreamed of that situation today.”

Historically, it’s always been easy to compare Woods and Nicklaus. They dominated their eras like no one before them or since. And interestingly, there are a lot of similarities between Koepka and Norman. They’re both fitness freaks, both historically great drivers and both walked with a swagger and a chip on their shoulder. There appears to be one major difference, however: Norman tended to melt in big moments, and Koepka seems to live for them.

Need an example? When Woods birdied the 15th hole on Sunday to pull within a shot at 13-under par — nearly dunking his approach from the fairway — it was bedlam. Even if you shouted, you could barely hear your own voice above the din. Woods punched the air in jubilation, seemingly feeding off the gallery’s energy. “I wish we could play in front of crowds like this every single week because this is a true pleasure,” Woods said.

Koepka couldn’t help but smile, listening to it unfold.

“It brought me back to when I was a kid, when I was watching him, and you heard those roars,” Koepka said.

But instead of getting starstruck, Koepka uncorked a 334-yard drive on 15, hit his approach to 10 feet and made the birdie.

“He’s a tough guy to beat when he’s hitting it 340 in the air,” Woods said, talking about Koepka’s game with the same kind of awe Woods’ elders used to talk about his. “[Hitting it] 320 in the air is like a chip shot [for him]. That’s the new game.”

Koepka wasn’t done. He stood on the daunting 16th tee, a 248-yard par 3, and hit arguably the best shot of his entire week, ripping a 4-iron that landed soft and trickled to within 6 feet of the pin.

“That was like a laser,” said Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott. “He had to push the button. He had to give himself a cushion coming down the last few holes. The wedge on 15 was huge too, but that 4 iron, it never left the stick.”

“That’s probably going to go down as one of the best shots I’ve ever hit under pressure,” Koepka said.

When he drained the birdie putt, Koepka’s lead was back to two strokes. A birdie by Woods on 18, and bogey by Adam Scott on the same hole, gave Woods sole claim to second place. But even a final-round 64, Woods’ best Sunday round ever in a major, wasn’t enough.

“Surreal, that’s all I can say,” Koepka said.

It’s hard to surmise, at the moment, just how good, in historical terms, Koepka might be. Only four other players have ever won the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship in the same year. It’s some pretty robust company: Gene Sarazen (1922), Ben Hogan (1948), Nicklaus (1980) and Woods (2000).

You can argue that Koepka, if he keeps this up, could go down as one of the best American golfers ever, a thought he said hadn’t even occurred to him until he was asked about it Sunday night.

“I actually never thought about that,” Koepka said, grinning as he turned that potential reality over in his mind. “Three majors at 28 — it’s a cool feeling. It really is. You know, hopefully I can stay healthy. I’ve kind of had some trouble with that over the past two years, three years. I think I’m much more disciplined now, so I should be able to play every major, making sure my body’s healthy. But I’m excited. I’m excited for the next few years. I mean, as fans — and I’m a fan of golf — you should be excited. I mean, Tiger’s come back. You look at what Dustin [Johnson is] doing, Justin [Thomas], Rory [McIlroy], [Jordan] Spieth. It’s a great time to be a golf fan. I can’t wait to duel it out with them over the next couple years.”

There was a time when Woods — having finished second — would have been on his private jet by the time the last putt dropped. But this time was different. He hung around until Koepka was finished and offered him a hearty bear hug after the winner had signed his scorecard.

“I could hear it!” Koepka said, referencing the roars.

In truth, we all could. It was still special. But the game rolls on, and new faces emerge. The past is fun to revisit, but as Koepka can attest, the present is pretty damn good too.

The holes that defined golf’s major championships

From the Masters to the U.S. Open, from The Open to the PGA, golf’s major championships did not disappoint in 2018. There was Jordan Spieth threatening to shoot 62 on Sunday at the Masters, only to narrowly miss catching eventual winner Patrick Reed. There was Brooks Koepka, doing at the U.S. Open something that hadn’t been done in nearly 30 years — winning back-to-back titles. There was Francesco Molinari, becoming the first Italian to win a major championship by hoisting the Claret Jug at Carnoustie. There was Koepka, this time at the PGA Championship, standing tall amid a wild final round to win his second major of the year and third in a little more than a year. And, of course, there was Tiger Woods, returning to the big stage as a threat on the weekend at both The Open and PGA, injecting an energy that had been lost since injuries forced him to watch more than play the past five years.

At each major, there were holes that shaped the tournament, ones that decided who would — and who would not — be standing on the final green as champion. Here are the holes that defined this year’s major championships:

The Masters: Augusta National

Patrick Reed
12th hole
Final round

Hopes for a green jacket often sink to the bottom of Rae’s Creek, which runs through the course and famously sits in front of the 12th green. Jordan Spieth was headed toward another green jacket. He stepped to the 12th tee with a one-shot lead in 2016, and walked off with a quadruple-bogey 7. And that was that. This year, Reed stood on the 12th tee coming off a bogey at No. 11, and with Spieth and Rickie Fowler making Sunday charges. Reed, meanwhile, played the front in even and just fell over par with the stumble at No. 11. Reed, though, stepped onto No. 12 and played safe, hitting his tee shot to 22 feet. Reed rolled in the putt, complete with a fist pump and a yell, for a birdie. He added another at No. 14 and held off Spieth and Fowler for his first major win.

“To make that one on 12 for birdie seemed to kind of give me that momentum and just really that belief going into the last couple [holes] that no matter what they throw at me, I can do this and have a chance,” Reed said.

Jordan Spieth
18th hole
Final round

Spieth started Sunday nine shots behind Reed in a tie for ninth. He was, simply, an afterthought. Then he shot 5-under 31 on the first nine. OK, he was making a move, but clearly he couldn’t make up that much ground, right? He birdied the 12th hole, long his nemesis, and the 13th, 15th and 16th. He was now right on Reed’s heels and threatening to post one of the greatest rounds in Masters history. Only twice had someone posted a 63 at the Masters. Nobody has ever shot 62. Spieth stood on the 18th tee needing birdie to shoot 62, get to 15 under for the tournament and be the leader in the clubhouse. His drive, though, clipped one of the Georgia pines that hugs the left side and traveled just 177 yards. He made bogey from there — the 62 gone, the chance to catch Reed gone, the hopes of the most epic comeback in Masters history gone.

“With eight people ahead of me starting the day, to get that much help and shoot a fantastic round was nearly impossible.” Spieth said. “But I almost pulled off the impossible.”

Sergio Garcia
15th hole
First round

Garcia could got not get any momentum in the first round, playing the first 14 holes in 2 over. The defending champion, who had won his first green jacket and major championship a year before, needed to do something to get himself going. The 15th hole at Augusta, a reachable par 5, has turned many rounds for many players. This time, it ended his tournament. See if you can follow:
Ball in water
Ball in water
Ball in water
Ball in water
Ball in water
Approach on green

Score: 13

“It’s the first time in my career where I make a 13 without missing a shot,” Garcia said.

U.S. Open: Shinnecock Hills

Phil Mickelson
13th hole
Third round

It will, perhaps, go down as the most memorable hole of this major championship year. It will come from a guy who shot 81 that day and finished T-48 for the event. Frustrated with his round and by the nearly impossible conditions at Shinnecock Hills on Saturday at the U.S. Open, Mickelson jogged after his putt as it was sailing by the hole and took a rap at it before the ball came to a stop. He incurred a two-shot penalty, but more he created an uproar that consumed the tournament. Was he disrespecting the sport? Should he be disqualified? Should he withdraw? Should he apologize? He remained in the field. At first, he refused to apologize. Four days later, in a statement, he eventually said he was sorry.

“I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down,” Mickelson said in a statement. “My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”

Tiger Woods
1st hole
First round

Woods entered coming off an 11th-place finish at The Players, where he closed with 65-69, and a T-23 showing at the Memorial. While he has had trouble off the tee at the opening hole throughout his career, he hit a perfect iron into the middle of the first fairway. That was the last bit of good news. He airmailed the green with his second shot. His pitch short came up short, and ended up rolling back to his feet. He put the wedge away this time, but the putter wasn’t much better. His putt didn’t reach the putting surface. He ran the next putt six feet by the hole, then missed that too. Finally, he tapped in for a triple-bogey 7. His tournament, essentially, over after one hole. He went on to shoot 78, followed that with a 72 on Friday and missed the cut.

“I just didn’t get off to a good start,” he said.

Tommy Fleetwood
18th hole
Final round

Like Spieth on Sunday at the Masters, Fleetwood was making a final-round charge after starting the day in anonymity. He teed off more than two hours before the final pairing of Tony Finau and Daniel Berger. He had worked his way all the way up the leaderboard, thanks to four birdies on the front nine, followed by a string of four consecutive birdies from holes 12 through 15. On 18, he had an eight-footer to shoot 62, which would have been the lowest score in U.S. Open history. His birdie putt tailed off at the last instant and he had to settle for par and 63. He lost by one stroke to Brooks Koepka. He was asked afterward about becoming just the second player to shoot 63 at the U.S. Open — Johnny Miller famously shot 63 at Oakmont in the final round to win the 1973 event.

“I wanted 62,” Fleetwood said.

Brooks Koepka
11th hole
Final round

Par is good at the U.S. Open. Sometimes, though, you’ll even take a bogey. That’s what Koepka wrote on his scorecard Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, and it might have been that one hole that earned him his second consecutive U.S. Open win. You cannot miss the green left at the short par-3. So, of course, Koepka missed the green left.

“I want to say I would have taken double [from there],” he said. “You can’t miss it there. To make that big of a mistake, you just want to walk away with bogey.”

He hammered his chip over the green, into the bunker. From there, he blasted out to five feet. That five-footer found the hole and probably changed the tournament for him.

“Luckily, that putt went in, and that built some momentum coming down the stretch and made me feel a little bit better with the putter,” Kopeka said.

The Open: Carnoustie

Francesco Molinari
14th hole
Final round

All the attention was on the guy playing alongside Molinari on Sunday at The Open. That, of course, was Tiger Woods. While Woods had highs and lows — birdies and bogeys and that one costly double — Molinari parred his first 13 holes. On No. 14, the only par-5 on the back nine, Molinari finally converted at just the right time. Moments after Woods knocked in a 25-footer for a birdie, Molinari stepped up and finished off his two-putt birdie to give him sole possession of the lead, one he would not surrender over the final four holes for his first major championship victory.

“To flush the drive on 14 on the fairway, that turns the hole into a par-4 really,” Molinari said. “So I think that was one of the key moments.”

Tiger Woods
11th hole
Final round

For Woods, you can point to a lot of holes at The Open. In the second round, when he tried to hit a blistering hook out of the rough on the second hole and nearly took out some fans. In the third round, as he was making a move to get into contention, his over-the-top, dead-left tee shot on 18 stayed out of the burn, he went on to make par and finished off a 66. In the final round, the wild second shot out of a fairway bunker that brought all kinds of trouble into play — leaving it in the bunker, hitting it in the burn in front of the green — that led to a par and him standing on the 11th tee with the lead with eight holes to play on Sunday at a major championship. But it was the 11th hole, particularly one shot, that did him in. A bad tee shot was followed by a bad second shot, which actually hit a fan and left Woods just off the green. Instead of a safe shot, Woods tried to hit a delicate flop shot over the bunker. He didn’t pull it off, missed the green and walked away with a double-bogey. He followed with bogey at No. 12, but it was his inability to minimize mistakes at 11 — namely the failed flop shot — that cost him.

“I made a couple of mistakes around the green,” Woods said.

Justin Rose
18th hole
Second round

Rose entered the event as one of the favorites, ranked third in the world behind Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson. After opening with 1-over 72, he had three bogeys and no birdies over his first 17 holes in the second round. So as he stood over his 18-footer at the 18th on Friday, he needed to roll it in if he wanted to make the cut be around for the weekend. He made the putt and then shot 64 on Saturday and 69 on Sunday. He walked off the course Sunday as the leader in clubhouse at 6-under. He ended up finishing behind Molinari, who won with 8-under 276.

“I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” Rose said.

PGA Championship: Bellerive

Tiger Woods
9th hole
Final round

Woods closed his first nine by missing another fairway, this one wide left. Woods did not hit a fairway over nine holes, the only player in the field not to find the short grass over the front side. He went wide left on No. 9, the ball settling near the cart path, requiring him to take a free drop. With trees in his way, Woods hit a high hook from 172 yards. With the massive crowd going wild, the ball settled 10 feet from the hole. Woods rolled in the birdie putt, complete with a shout and fist pump as the thousands of people huddled around the green roaring. He finished off a fairway-free, how-did-he-pull-that-off 3-under 32 on the front side and had himself very much in the hunt for his first major championship since 2008 as he headed for the final nine holes of the 100th PGA Championship.

“I just tried to hit a sweeping 9-iron up there,” Woods said. “Honestly, I was just trying to get it past the hole, so I would be putting down on the same level. It happened to hit on the hill and kill it. I had the most easy, basic, inside-right putt that you could possibly have and I made it.”

Brooks Koepka
16th hole
Final round

Most in the field just wanted to get through the 16th hole without doing serious damage to their scorecards. A 248-yard par-3, it was the fourth-hardest hole on the course Sunday. It yielded only nine birdies the entire day. Koepka, with Woods in pursuit, under the pressure of holding the lead with three holes to play at a major, made one of them.

“I hit a laser right at the flag,” he said after the round. “That will probably go down as probably one of the best shots I’ve ever hit under pressure.”

The birdie gave him breathing room — from Woods, from playing partner Adam Scott — and allowed Koepka to walk away with a two-stroke win and his third major title in the last six in which he has played (his missed this year’s Masters because of a wrist injury).

Gary Woodland
10th hole
Third round

Woodland had never played in the final group on the weekend at a major. But there he was Saturday, in the last pairing. He seemed to handle any nerves well, with a two-birdie, two-bogey even par front side. Things got a little crazy on No. 10. He hit his second shot in the front bunker, as did playing partner Kevin Kisner. Woodland then blasted his bunker shot over the green, into the back trap. He hit that bunker shot back over the green, back into the first bunker. Thing is, because they were playing in the last group, nobody raked that front bunker. So Woodland’s ball settled into footprints left by Kisner. By the time everything was done, Woodland wrote a triple-bogey 7 on his card.

“I thought [the second shot] was perfect, and it just came up short in the bunker,” Woodland said. “Then I hit a couple of bad bunker shots.”

Tiger thought he ‘was done’ at 2017 Masters

PARAMUS, N.J. — Tiger Woods has, on several occasions this year, noted how fortunate he feels to be playing golf at a high level again.

A year ago, Woods said, he wasn’t allowed to swing a golf club. And just a few months prior to that, he was in so much pain that the idea of playing again was far from his mind.

Woods dived a little deeper into that subject Wednesday when asked about comments made by six-time major winner Nick Faldo, who told radio host Dan Patrick that he overheard Woods at the 2017 Masters dinner for past champions say that he was “done” and that “I won’t play golf again.”

“At that time, I was done,” Woods said during the Northern Trust Pro-Am at Ridgewood Country Club. “I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. I had no golf in my future at that time. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t sit.”

Woods, 42, who begins play Thursday morning at the Northern Trust ranked 26th in the world and No. 20 in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings, has come a long way from the 2017 Masters, where he attended the Tuesday night champions dinner at Augusta National with uncertainty about his future.

Earlier in the year, he halted a comeback after just three tournaments due to continued lower back and nerve pain after having sat out all of 2016 while trying to recover from three microdiscectomy surgeries — the first in 2014, and two in 2015.

He had even tried to get ready for that year’s Masters, but he determined he was unfit to play golf. And he was still unsure what he would do going forward. Woods said he had yet to decide on the spinal fusion surgery that he ended up having two weeks later.

“I left from there to go see a specialist about what are my options,” Woods said.

Upon the advice of Jack Nicklaus, Woods first visited with a physical therapist named Pete Egoscue, but ultimately decided on surgery. And once that decision was made, Woods didn’t waste much time. The surgery, by Dr. Richard Guyer of the Center for Disc Replacement at the Texas Back Institute, was performed on April 19, 2017.

“I wasn’t confident; I was having a fusion,” Woods said. “At the time, I needed to try and get rid of the pain. It wasn’t so much about golf. I tried everything. I tried stem cell. I tried Lidocaine. I tried Marcaine, nerve block. Nothing took the pain away.”

Woods was told he would need six months for the fusion to take hold, and he wasn’t permitted to swing a golf club during that time. At last September’s Presidents Cup, where Woods made one of his first public appearances after the surgery and a rehab stint to deal with prescription pain medication issues, he said, “I don’t know what my future holds.”

Now he’s played in 14 PGA Tour events, with two runner-up finishes, five top-10s and a good chance to make the Tour Championship. He is also expected to be picked for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

“What he’s been able to do is unbelievable, remarkable,” Faldo, a CBS and Golf Channel analyst, told Patrick. “To go from a frozen back, I know he whispered to another Masters champion two Masters dinners ago, ‘I’m done. I won’t play golf again.’ And here we are 18 months later.”