Brian Murphy

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Brian Murphy covered golf for the San Francisco Chronicle and now talks about sports in the mornings on KNBR Radio's "Murph & Mac" show in the San Francisco Bay Area.

  • Stage is set for Phil Mickelson drama at U.S. Open

    For this week, it's "Phil-hurst."

    Pinehurst No. 2's United States Open golf championship is about Phil, Phil, and more Phil. And when in doubt, talk more about Phil.

    We've been waiting 11 months for this, ever since Phil Mickelson kissed the Claret Jug at Muirfield on that July Sunday, just after crafting the finest golf round of the 21st century, that final-round 66 that brought him his fifth major, endless respect and the third leg of the coveted and historic career Grand Slam.

    The hand-operated amber scoreboards at the 2013 Open Championship were barely taken down before the golf world asked: Now … can Phil finally win the U.S. Open? Can Phil finally win his country's national championship? Can Phil join The List, that list of Masters-era career Grand Slam winners?

    Not a bad list, by the way: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.

    That's varsity-only, sports fans.

    So with apologies to the world No. 1 Adam Scott, and the world's No. 1 cad, Rory McIlroy,

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  • Why Japan's Hideki Matsuyama has traits to become PGA's future 'mega-star'

    This is getting good now.

    We've journeyed from a desultory 2014 PGA Tour season into a second consecutive week of pyrotechnics.

    If it wasn't Caroline Wozniacki, Rory McIlroy's recently dumped fiancée, changing her avatar to a witch stirring her brew, it was Rory himself playing as if hexed, going from a Thursday 63 at Jack Nicklaus' Memorial to a cursed Friday 78. And if it wasn't lefty Bubba Watson seizing a 54-hole lead at prestigious Muirfield Village, only to see it slip away on a messy Sunday, it was lefty Phil Mickelson trying to clean up his own mess when it was revealed he was questioned about possible insider trading by the FBI.

    So much for that mental preparation for Pinehurst's U.S. Open next week. Philly Mick's got the feds on his tail. That'll clutter a swing thought.

    And in the end, we enjoyed a second consecutive week with a big-name winner, which always pleases this column. We dig stars around here, and when 22-year-old Hideki Matsuyama of Japan made a hugely clutch

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  • How Rory McIlroy went from heartache to redemption in one week

    Lord, have mercy. The golf gods have awakened.

    After a springtime of Brendon Todds and Matt Joneses and Steven Bowditches as our winners, plus the attendant head-scratching, the golf world decided to throw a big old kegger this weekend.

    Adam Scott, the new No. 1 in the world, won the PGA Tour Colonial!

    Colin Montgomerie won for the first time on U.S. soil, in a Champions Tour event, a major no less!

    And then there was Rory.

    Upstaging them all, McIlroy won the prestigious BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour, taking the cake on the best day of golf in 2014.

    My goodness. Rory McIlroy, 25 years old, the kid out of County Down, Northern Ireland, the Ulsterman with the Nike swoosh, with the Nike bankroll, with the two major championships, with the career gone sideways, with the globally famous engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, then with the suddenly globally famous breakup with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

    What to make of young Rors, confused, addled, without a win in

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  • Mike Weir takes big step on PGA's comeback trail

    So, another PGA Tour Sunday, another winner you have to Google and Wikipedia and try to find an angle where there may not be one, so you know what?

    Let's talk about the runner-up.

    No disrespect intended. Huge congratulations to 28-year-old Brendon Todd for his first PGA Tour win at the Byron Nelson in Texas. We'll get to him in the next segment.

    To be honest, Todd's triumph falls victim to a too-frequent 2014 storyline – the Champion Nobody's Heard Of. It's intriguing for a while. But after so many tournaments ending in a Matt Jones win, or a Steven Bowditch win, or a Matt Every win, the storyline gets redundant: While the stars hibernate, and while Tiger Woods rehabs off the radar, the Tour is being defined by a new generation whom we just don't quite know yet. Even Todd himself said after his win, "This is sort of what it was like before Tiger, right?"

    As for the runner-up? Him, we know.

    Mike Weir shot a 67 in the final round of the Byron Nelson. (Getty Images)That's why Mike Weir gets his turn in the spotlight here.

    Mike Weir! I bet a bunch of you thought

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  • Martin Kaymer authors storybook finish to win Players Championship

    Martin Kaymer, in the evening at TPC Sawgrass, winner of The Players Championship, author of a comeback tale, called it "a good day."

    Considering the weather, the golf course, his nerves, his double-bogey on No. 15, his miracle par on No. 17, and his journey from No. 1 in the world and major champion to forgotten schlub and 61st-ranked player in the world to winner of the Players on Mother's Day, six years past since his beloved mother passed away, it was more than a good day.

    It was an amazing day for Martin Kaymer.

    Kaymer is only 29 years old, which means he has a ton of good golf left in him. He's already done things most players could only dream of. He's won a major – the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits that most of you remember as Dustin Johnson's Waterloo. He's been No. 1 in the world – for eight weeks back in early 2011, when he was just 26 years old, the second-youngest player, at that time, to be The Big Kahuna other than Tiger Woods. And now he's won a Players

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  • J.B. Holmes completes comeback from two brain surgeries with Wells Fargo victory

    The man himself called it "low-risk" brain surgery, and in terms of all-time oxymora, that ranks right up there with the old George Carlin standbys "jumbo shrimp" and "business ethics."

    J.B. Holmes said it about the two surgeries performed inside his skull in 2011. And Holmes, who once was a two-time PGA Tour winner and member of the victorious 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team, is about the last guy you'd expect to be reading about after the star-studded field played 72 holes of golf at Quail Hollow for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It's not just that he was ranked 242nd in the world entering Quail Hollow, or that it had been six years since he won. It's that in the time since he last tasted glory, he'd had his brain operated on twice. We won't even mention an ensuing elbow injury and broken ankle while rollerblading last year. Just focus on the guy coming back from brain surgery – pardon me, two brain surgeries – to beat back Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Jim Furyk and a cast of thousands to

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  • Seung-Yul Noh gives touching tribute to South Korean ferry victims while winning Zurich Classic

    Not to start everyone's day off with a Grouchy McGrouch thought, but it looks like they threw a PGA Tour stop in New Orleans and a Web.com slugfest broke out.

    This is not to totally diminish Seung-Yul Noh's maiden victory at the tender age of 22, a life-changer that earns him entry into the Players Championship, the PGA Championship and next year's Masters, among other things. He's only the fifth Korean-born player to win in the States, and he did so while wearing ribbons on his hat to memorialize the victims in the tragic ferry accident in his home country, and his tender emotions about it were the most redeeming thing about Sunday.

    But as far as drama goes, Noh – who most of you, like me, knew nothing about – outdueled the likes of a Robert Streb and an Andrew Svoboda down the stretch. Yes, it was a Noh-Bob Streb-Andy Svoboda showdown, and that means there wasn't much "show" to it.

    Even Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo sounded like they were checking their watches halfway through the round,

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  • Fortune finally smiles at Matt Kuchar: Amazing chip-in on 18 wins RBC Heritage

    Matt Kuchar said something after his scintillating win at the RBC Heritage at lovely Harbour Town that defied explanation.

    "I believe in a golfing god," he said, by way of explaining his epic Sunday 64, and his highlight-reel hole out from a greenside bunker on the 18th, the margin of victory over a game Luke Donald.

    Kuchar's grin, always ear-to-ear, seemed to glow with extra wattage.

    What Kuchar meant was, if he kept grinding away and asking the golfing deity for success, he would be rewarded. Seems logical.

    Except, this is a curious take from a guy who, while ranked top-10 in the world, and a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, has never won a major and spent the previous two weeks getting the business end of the stick from those same golfing overlords.

    A golfing god? Yeah, if he means Old Testament-style. You know, vengeful, wrathful, wings-off-flies type of guy.

    Here's what I mean: Two weeks ago, Kuchar had the win wrapped up in Houston. He was in the fairway on the 18th hole with

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  • Bubba's second green jacket looked nice, but The Masters still missed Tiger and Phil

    If this turns out to be one of those "The Masters really missed Tiger and Phil" columns, do you promise not to yell and scream and tell me about Bubba Watson's tee shot on 13, and his crazy approach through the trees on 15 and his adorable moment with his son Caleb on the 18th green?

    Because – shhhh! – this Masters did miss Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

    Now, now. That is not to slight Bubba's triumph, his second green jacket in three years, his growing reputation as a man who may not be finished winning amid the cathedral of pines. Given his length, his creativity, his demolition of par-5s and, yes, his left-handedness, he fits the bill at Magnolia Lane.

    The bigger problem was the cast of characters around Bubba. This Masters lacked fireworks. That whole "roars amid the pines" thing we get every April? Could have fooled me. The reverential say Augusta National is like a church. It was as quiet as one on the back nine Sunday.

    Even Bubba himself shot a mostly ho-hum even-par 36 on the

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  • With Tiger missing, who's the favorite at this year's Masters?

    It's Masters week, and that means we should all ponder the question: If they hold a Masters, and Tiger Woods doesn't play, does that Masters exist?

    What a silly question. No Tiger? No red shirt on Sunday? No quest for a fifth green jacket? Of course it doesn't exist.

    Kidding! Kidding! Relax, golf fan.

    The Champions locker room has plenty of lockers without the name "Woods" on it, as I was just saying to my good friends Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

    In fact, Woods' absence could be greeted with sharper-edged query. Like, since Tiger Woods hasn't won a Masters since 2005, who really cares that he'll miss it? He wouldn't have won, anyway.

    This Masters figures, like most, to be a donnybrook. There is no clear favorite, and yes, I'm talking to you, Rory (Watch Out, I Shot 65 at Houston Sunday) McIlroy. Fun fact: Rory has played five Masters, and has yet to finish in the top 10.

    There are, instead, about 40 candidates to win. And, yes, Rory would be one of them. He's only 24,

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Pagination

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