Archives May 2021

Rose, Bjerregaard share lead in Hong Kong

first_imgHONG KONG – Justin Rose and Lucas Bjerregaard led the Hong Kong Open by four strokes after Saturday’s third round. The Englishman and Dane were on 15-under 195 overall at Hong Kong Golf Club. Rose began the day with a one-shot lead over his Danish opponent, who never let him out of his sight. Bjerregaard twice nosed in front at the par-70 Fanling Course before settling for shared honors. Rose completed another bogey-free round – he has made only one bogey all week – and finished with a solid 6-under 64, which included two eagles and two birdies. ”It was really a fun day playing with Lucas and flip-flopping birdies and eagles and stretching away from the rest of the field,” said Rose, who had monster putts of 25 and 50 feet on Nos. 3 and 13 respectively for eagles. Bjerregaard rolled in eight birdies to card 63, the best round of the day, and only a bogey at his final hole prevented him enjoying the sole lead going into the final round. European Tour rookie Anirban Lahiri of India shot 65 to move to 11-under 199 and grab second place. India’s Jeev Milka Singh (65) and England’s Matt Fitzpatrick (66) were next on 10-under 200. Ian Poulter started two shots behind leader Rose but carded a disappointing 3-over 73 to finish 11 shots off the pace. Poulter had made a frantic dash to make it to the Hong Kong Open and was only able to play because American Rich Beem had given up his spot so that the Ryder Cup star could meet the requirements of keeping his European Tour membership. ”The tank was empty and I’m really gutted,” Poulter said.last_img read more

Waldorf flirts with 59, leads Toshiba by 3

first_imgNEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Duffy Waldorf missed a chance to shoot the second 59 in Champions Tour history Saturday, parring the final two holes for an 11-under 60 in the Toshiba Classic. Waldorf missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th, coming up short and right. ”It was a trickier putt than I wanted,” Waldorf said. ”I didn’t hit the putt hard enough. I had been reaching the hole all day, so I didn’t think that would be a problem.” He drove behind a tree into the left rough on the closing hole, statistically the easiest hole at Newport Beach Country Club, and hooked a hybrid approach through the green and into the back bunker. ”I tugged it a little,” Waldorf said about his drive. ”Yeah, it was nerves, but I felt like if I just hit one solid, I would be in pretty good shape. It didn’t really work out that well. I mean, I thought I might just get a look at the hole.” Kevin Sutherland is the only player to shoot 59 on the 50-and-over tour. He had a 13-under 59 last year in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open. ”I wasn’t keeping track until I saw the board on 17,” Waldorf said. ”Coming into 18, I knew what I had in front of me.” Waldorf tied the course record set by Tom Purtzer in 2004 and matched by Nick Price in 2011, both en route to victories. Waldorf had a 15-under 127 total to break Price’s 36-hole record by a stroke. The 53-year-old former UCLA player had a three-stroke lead over defending champion Fred Couples in the final full-field event of the year. Couples, also the 2010 winner, had a 65. ”I felt like somebody was going to shoot a low round,” Couples said. ”What he shot today was exceptional. Duffy went flying by everyone.” Waldorf birdied the first three holes and added three more on the front nine, including a 20-footer on the ninth. He made two more birdies and had another three-hole birdie streak that he capped with a 50-footer on 16. Waldorf finished with 11 birdies, hitting wedges into seven of the greens. ”If I get 10 drives in the fairway, I like my chances hitting short irons into greens,” Waldorf said. ”I definitely want to be in the fairway here.” Sutherland (66) was four strokes back along with Woody Austin (63), Kenny Perry (65) and first-round leaders Steve Pate (68) and Scott McCarron (68). The top 30 on the money after the tournament will qualify for the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship next week at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona.last_img read more

Tour tales: Rankings confirm Tiger’s dominance

first_imgJason Day ends the year at No. 1 in the world ranking, another indicator of how much and for how long Tiger Woods dominated golf. This is the eighth straight year that a different player was at No. 1 in the final world ranking – Woods in 2009, Lee Westwood in 2010, Luke Donald in 2011, Rory McIlroy in 2012, Woods in 2013, McIlroy in 2014, Jordan Spieth in 2015. Dating to 1998, Woods was at No. 1 in the final ranking in 11 out of 12 years. Woods ends this year at No. 652, because he didn’t play for 15 months until the Hero World Challenge in December. What happens next year? ”He’s got to go play,” Jack Nicklaus said. ”If he plays, he’ll find out if he can come back or not.” In the meantime, there still was plenty of action without him, and an endless supply of entertainment. From inside and outside the ropes, here is this year’s collection of ”Tales from the Tour” before moving on to another year. During the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, an Australian journalist was at Spyglass Hill following Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, along with their amateur partners, country singer Jake Owen and hockey great Wayne Gretzky. At the end of the round, the journalist couldn’t find a shuttle back to the main press center at Pebble Beach. Gretzky spotted him and offered a ride. Gretzky grinned as he recounted the conversation. ”Mate, I’ve never seen a hockey match, but I trust you were better at hockey than you are at golf?” the journalist inquired. ”Well,” Gretzky replied, ”I did well enough that they invited me to play in the tournament.” ”Oh, that’s great, good for you,” said the journalist, oblivious to Gretzky’s sport, his career or that his nickname is ”The Great One.” Nothing annoys PGA Tour caddies more at the Sony Open than a sign with large block letters outside the clubhouse door at Waialae Country Club. ”NO CADDIES.” Caddies are not allowed in the clubhouse at other tournaments, though none has such a contemptuous sign on the door. The club had no choice but to bend the rules by the end of the week. Fabian Gomez of Argentina won the Sony Open in a playoff over Brandt Snedeker. A tradition at the Sony Open is for the winner to speak to members in the clubhouse dining room. Gomez doesn’t have a great command of English, and so he summoned Jose Luis Campra, a fellow Argentine, to help him with the speech. Campra is the caddie for Emiliano Grillo. Patrick Reed isn’t afraid to dish it out to anyone, and neither is Phil Mickelson. They were paired at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and during a backup on the par-3 14th hole at Monterey Peninsula, Reed noticed the watch on Mickelson’s wrist. ”Isn’t it time for an upgrade?” Reed said. Lefty looked at his Rolex and then stood on his soap box to explain to this youngster the way of life and watches. ”You’re right,” Mickelson said. ”This is a ‘classique.’ This is 10 years old. See, what young people don’t quite understand is that new doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes style is found in the classic, elegant look.” Reed waited for Mickelson to finish and replied, ”Thanks, Grandpa.” As usual, Mickelson had an answer. He smiled at Reed and said, ”Yeah, well, Grandpa just blew it by you 20 yards on the last two holes.” Bob Ford is one of the most respected golf professionals in the country, with more than 40 years in charge at Oakmont Country Club while spending the winter months in South Florida at Seminole Golf Club. He retired this year as director of golf, a few months after Oakmont hosted its ninth U.S. Open. Ford made the cut in two U.S. Opens, including at Oakmont in 1983, and he decided to give it one more try. He did so without a hint of privilege. The host pro is exempt into the final stage of qualifying. Ford, however, gave Oakmont’s spot to his successor, Devin Gee, and instead went off to local qualifying. He failed to advance and later joked he wanted no part of Oakmont. Because an uneven number of players made the cut in the U.S. Open, Justin Hicks played the final round as a single with a noncompeting marker, which typically is the head pro. It would have been the perfect retirement gift for Ford, except that he turned it over to Gee. The day after the U.S. Open, Arnold Palmer drove his cart to the back entrance of his office in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.last_img read more

Monday Scramble: Good, but good enough?

first_imgRickie Fowler rejoins the race, the world’s best (save for Jason Day) head south of the border, Pat Perez buries Tiger Woods and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble: Sunday was billed a must-win for Fowler, and he delivered.  A must-win because he hadn’t established himself as a strong frontrunner. (More on that later). A must-win because one of golf’s most popular players had been lapped by his peers and close friends, including Justin Thomas, who won as many times in five starts this season (three) as Fowler had in his entire career. And a must-win because, with the Masters now just six weeks away, he needed to prove to himself that his game was where he wants it. No, it wasn’t always pretty Sunday at PGA National, but then again few rounds were during the final round at PGA National that featured the strongest wind of the week. It was enough for Fowler’s first Tour title in 18 months and his first victory anywhere in 13 months, and it returned him to the top 10 in the world ranking. “I didn’t play great. It wasn’t a pretty round,” he said. “But we got the job done. A win is a win.”  And a much-needed win at that.  1. NBC analyst Johnny Miller had an interesting take as Fowler stood on the 18th hole, staked to a five-shot lead. “I don’t know what this does for him,” Miller said. “Obviously a win is a win, but you’ve gotta learn to finish out Sundays like a true champion. He hasn’t learned how to do that yet.” Miller, as usual, was lit up on social media. The most common comeback: Miller’s comment overlooked Fowler’s heroics at The Players, where he went 6 under for the final six holes to get into a playoff he eventually won. Luke Donald offered this: “The art of a great player is getting it done despite not having your best. Great patience, resilience and putting by Rickie today.” Maybe it wasn’t as dire as Miller suggested, but Fowler still offered reasons for pause Sunday. As good as he looked in 2015 at The Players, he also played the role of pursuer, not frontrunner. It’s a big difference mentally, and something Fowler is still learning to handle. He still hasn’t broken par when he’s had a 54-hole lead on Tour: 2010 Memorial: 1-over 73 (finished 2nd) 2011 Quicken Loans: 4-over 74 (T-13) 2016 Wells Fargo: 2-over 74 (T-4) 2016 Barclays: 3-over 74 (T-7) 2017 Honda: 1-over 71 (won) It just so happened that this time, he had a big lead and his fellow competitors couldn’t make up the deficit on a very demanding track. 2. The club that allowed Fowler to hang on to win? “My putter saved me,” he said. He made a field-high 134 feet worth of putts in the final round and finished second in strokes gained-putting for the week.  Most crucial were the 30-footer on No. 8, the 38-footer on 12 and the 23-footer on 13. “If I don’t make those putts,” he said, “I’d have a pretty tight race.”  3. It’s easy to knock on the easygoing Fowler, whose career résumé doesn’t yet match his visibility. (A fair question: Given the immense marketing muscle behind him, will it ever?). But Sunday offered a timely reminder of (1) just how difficult it is to win on Tour, and (2) how special this group of young stars is.  With the youth takeover on Tour well underway, it seems like there’s dozens of kids with a handful of victories. Not true. Only SIX players 28 or younger have four or more Tour titles: Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama, Thomas and, yes, now Fowler.  4. Helping Fowler was that no one made a sustained run behind him – or at least couldn’t make it to the clubhouse. Tyrrell Hatton, who was paired with Fowler, turned in 3 over to fade from contention. Morgan Hoffmann missed a 4-footer on the last. Billy Horschel rinsed his second shot into 18. Jimmy Walker played the 15th and 17th holes in 5 over. The biggest threat was Gary Woodland, who pulled within one. But his putter turned cold, three-putting the 17th, and then he laid up into the water on 18 for back-to-back bogeys. On the leaderboard, at least, it added up to an easy four-shot victory.  5. The big names (Spieth, Dustin Johnson and now Fowler) have enjoyed big blowouts the past three weeks on Tour. The action hasn’t been electrifying, but these Sunday snoozers are more rare than you might think.  It’s the first time since July 2005 that the Tour saw three consecutive winners by four or more shots. This stands in stark contrast to last year, when 12 tournaments in a row were decided by one stroke or a playoff, beginning with the Sony Open and extending to the Masters.  6. Fowler and 49 of the top 50 players in the world will head to Mexico this week for the first World Golf Championships event of the year. The only one missing? Day. The world No. 2 withdrew Sunday because of a double ear infection and flu.  The WGC-Mexico was set to be the first event with all of the OWGR top 50 since the PGA Championship.  7. If you’re thinking to yourself, Boy, Jason Day sure seems to get sick a lot, you’re not alone.  A quick Google searched confirmed that Day has cited the flu, or flu-like symptoms, five times in the past 13 months. What’s more problematic: His back or immune system? 8. Here’s another illustration of how Tour players are never more than a few tweaks away from playing great golf.  Entering the Honda, Ryan Palmer was ranked 211th out of 213 players in strokes gained-putting. It’s hard to compete like that, and so he had missed four of five cuts this year. At the urging of his manager, Palmer met with Dave Stockton and his son, the putting savants. They moved the ball further back in his stance. They kept his putter lower through impact, to keep his left hand from breaking down. And they sped up his routine, even telling him to look at the hole, not the ball, on shorter putts. It proved to be only a quick fix – he shared the 36-hole lead before a forgettable weekend – but it never ceases to amaze how quickly these guys can go from also-rans to leaders. 9. Palmer will be a popular man to root for this year. His wife, Jennifer, is undergoing treatment for stage 2 breast cancer. She has five more radiation treatments to go. “Things are clear and she’s doing awesome,” he said.  10. Is PGA National’s 17th tee getting out of hand? Sergio Garcia was told by a numbskull fan “Hope your marriage fails,” and Billy Horschel was among those who voiced concerns about the raucous atmosphere surrounding the tee on the par 3. Hey, it’s all good at TPC Scottsdale, because it’s a straightforward, easy hole, but that isn’t the case here, with a 190-yard carry over water, a narrow green and a deep bunker left. The party brings non-golfers to the tournament, and that’s great. But it doesn’t need to be directly on top of the players. 11. This week’s WGC-Mexico Championship is a bit of a mystery. (And who could forget Donald Trump’s “I hope they have kidnapping insurance” line last June?). One thing we do know: They’re playing at 7,600 feet, which should lead to some unusual club choices.  For comparison, Reno plays about 5,500 feet above sea level.  Said Adam Scott: “I think TrackMan is going to get a workout next week to find out how far you actually hit it.” 12. This disjointed Florida swing won’t change in 2018. The same lineup is set for next year, with Honda, Mexico, Tampa and Bay Hill before heading to Texas. Only 12 of the top 25 players in the world teed it up at the Honda. Many have mentioned how it makes more sense for the Tour to go from Riviera to Mexico to Florida, but keep in mind that the circuit is weighing dramatic changes to the schedule beginning as early as the 2019-20 season, which could include moving The Players back to March.  13. Meanwhile, the field for the Arnold Palmer Invitational is taking shape.  It’s expected to be an emotional week at Bay Hill, Palmer’s second home, and so far five of the top seven players in the world have signed up. Those who likely won’t commit to the March 16-19 event: Johnson and Spieth. As great as it’d be to have a full turnout to celebrate Palmer’s life and career, it’s also unrealistic.  Spieth, for example, will play Mexico, Tampa, Match Play and Houston. Adding Bay Hill would mean that he plays five events in a row leading into the Masters.  Perez found himself in the middle of a very non-golf story last week.  Calling out a peer? That happens all the time in team sports, and sometimes even in an individual pursuit like tennis. But it is exceedingly rare in golf, which values its traditions, decorum and professionalism. Among other things, Perez said that Woods was playing just to keep his sponsors relevant and that, deep down, he “knows he can’t beat anybody.” Which is true, of course, because it’s impossible to beat players while face down on a massage table.  Only Tiger Truthers took exception with Perez’s content. Others railed at his tone, which they said was unnecessarily harsh considering the résumés of the two players in question. But even that argument falls flat – Perez was chatting ON HIS OWN RADIO SHOW, and last we checked, calm, measured discourse doesn’t play well on the airwaves, and it definitely isn’t Perez’s brash style.  The surprise wasn’t what Perez said. (Can’t we all agree that Woods’ future looks bleak?). It’s that, in the deferential world of pro golf, he actually had the stones to say it.  This week’s award winners …  Comeback of the Week: Brendan Steele. Seven over after his first eight holes, Steely didn’t mail it in – he played the rest of the tournament in 11 under to tie for 14th. Pro.  Freefall of the Week: Cody Gribble. The rookie winner co-led after an opening 64, barely made the cut after a 76 then added rounds of 71-80 on the weekend to finish last among those who made the cut. At Odds with the USGA: Bryson DeChambeau. The 2015 U.S. Amateur champion had some harsh words for the blue blazers, whom he says steered him away from side-saddled putting after deeming one of his face-on putters non-conforming: “The USGA essentially doesn’t like me doing it. I’m pretty much done with it. They’re not a good organization, and you can quote me on that. I’m part of their family, and as a family it’s very frustrating to see them stunt the growth of the game.” He apologized two days later, saying “my emotions got the better of me.” But maybe the USGA was doing DeChambeau a favor – he’s ranked 209th out of 213 players in putting.  One Guy Who Didn’t Have Putting Problems: Fowler. He was a perfect 57 for 57 (!) inside 7 feet at the Honda. Desperate Times Call For …: Jaco Van Zyl. Struggling with his putting leading into the Joburg Open, Van Zyl opted for Cleveland’s Smart Square Stubby, which is originally designed as a training aid because it requires a player to strike the putt in the center of the face. Somehow, Van Zyl made the cut, but he changed putters for the final round and finished in a tie for 83rd.   A Fair Process?: Joburg Open. The European Tour event (part of the year-long Open Qualifying Series) was shortened to 54 holes, but it still sent three players to Royal Birkdale. That doesn’t sit well, especially with the potential for the 51st-ranked player in the world to be left home come July.  Unnecessary: McIlroy’s explanation. According to a story in the New York Times, 50 of the 56 players polled said they would play a round with President Trump if asked (just like Tiger and Ernie Els did). That McIlroy even had to justify this was ridiculous. Welcome Back: Inbee Park. In her first start since the Olympics last summer, the seven-time major winner tied for 25th in Thailand. More important, she expressed confidence in her injured thumb.   Couldn’t Have Said It Any Better Ourselves: Justin Thomas-Rickie Fowler “tale of the tape,” with both players about 5-foot-10, 150 pounds and averaging 309 yards off the tee.  That’s a fight nobody would want to waste their money on https://t.co/P58fAvG6Qo— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) February 25, 2017 The Things You’ll Do to Try and Make the Cut: Shawn Stefani. After finding the hazard off the tee, and with his only other option to drop in the rough 30 yards back, Stefani stripped down to his Calvin Kleins and splashed out of ankle-high water. He made bogey, missed the cut by two, and, well, sorta apologized afterward: “Hopefully my wife wasn’t disappointed. But I was out there fighting for my family. I was fighting to make the cut.” Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Russell Knox. A great one-and-done pick, because of his record at PGA National (top-3s two of the past three years) and his week-to-week consistency, finishing in the top 20 in five of his six starts this season. And so of course he missed the cut by five. Sigh.last_img read more

Quiet Fitzpatrick continues to make noise with clubs

first_imgORLANDO, Fla. – Don’t let the baby face fool you. Matthew Fitzpatrick has heard all the jokes before. He knows his fresh-faced appearance makes him seem more likely to be someone’s pro-am partner on Wednesday than playing partner on Thursday. Every time he walks by Jason Day, he still gets needled about the time last year at Doral when he forgot his players’ credential and couldn’t get past the locker room attendant until Day popped out and vouched for him. Then there was the time at the 2014 Open Championship when someone saw him carrying around a bag of Nike balls on the range at Hoylake and thought he was Tiger Woods’ ball boy. But as Fitzpatrick has shown through two rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, looks can be deceiving. “He looks like he’s 12,” said Harold Varner after playing alongside Fitzpatrick for the first two days at Bay Hill. “But he plays like a grown man.” The soft-spoken Englishman has displayed a steady hand this week despite some early weather conditions that seemed more suitable for London than Orlando. An opening 67 was followed by a 3-under 69, and he sits two shots adrift of Charley Hoffman after making just two bogeys through 36 holes. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos His appearance on a leaderboard might come as a surprise to some casual fans in the U.S., but at age 22 Fitzpatrick has already more than earned standing in Europe. Now he has an opportunity to let his game do the talking on this side of the Atlantic. Does he still get carded for R-rated movies, let alone bars? Perhaps. But beneath the youthful visage lies some serious game. “I think the image doesn’t help him gain the respect that he deserves,” said Graeme McDowell. “I’ve played with him a few times and I probably can’t get my head around how good he is, because he continues to post good numbers on big, tough golf courses.” Those credentials include three wins already on the European Tour, highlighted by a victory at the season finale in Dubai in November that Fitzpatrick called “massive” for his confidence. He also made his first Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine and originally burst onto the national stage when he cruised to victory at the 2013 U.S. Amateur at The Country Club. “I think that it’s not Matt’s demeanor to put himself out there,” said Rory McIlroy. “He’s a quiet kid, and he gets his business done, and he does it very efficiently and very well.” Fitzpatrick is used to the questions and comments, and takes them each in stride. But he’s also not in a rush to see fans – or competitors – size him up as anything but an unassuming underdog. “I don’t really mind that. I think it’s quite funny,” he said. “I would rather that than people think, ‘Oh, he’s going to win every week.’ I can’t really imagine the sort of pressure that Rory and Jason Day and those guys have. It’s probably tough to keep up with.” Fitzpatrick may work his way into their company before too long. He entered this week ranked No. 30 in the world and has finished T-16 at each of the season’s first two WGC events. Then there was his run up the leaderboard during the final round at last year’s Masters, when a closing 67 gave him a share of seventh place and ensured he’d make a return trip this spring. “He’s such an unassuming lad. He looks like he’s 15 years old, still in high school,” McDowell said. “He just doesn’t look like he fits out here, even though he’s probably right now one of the top 10 or 20 players in the world.” Fitzpatrick is now presented with an enticing opportunity this weekend as he looks to diversify his playing schedule. He has yet to earn a PGA Tour card, but his goal this season is to earn special temporary membership with eyes on a fully-fledged card for next season. Fitzpatrick’s girlfriend, Lydia Cassada, is finishing up her degree this spring at Northwestern, and he hopes to relocate to the U.S. perhaps as soon as next year, with the plan to play a full slate on both the PGA and European tours. That specific location remains to be seen, and will likely depend on where Cassada finds a job after graduation. Perhaps he’s not that different from a typical 22-year-old after all. But Fitzpatrick’s options may widen considerably should he win this week at Bay Hill, where the tournament’s three-year exemption would give him status in the U.S. through August 2020. Who knows, by then he might even look the part. “He’s a legit player,” McDowell said. “It’s only a matter of time before he plays his way into people starting to understand that he’s the real deal.”last_img read more

Colonial cast worthy of a Jenkins tale

first_imgFORT WORTH, Texas – On Tuesday, university officials are going to name the press box at nearby TCU stadium after legendary sports writer Dan Jenkins. The Fort Worth native is as much a part of this community as BBQ and Ben Hogan. Well, BBQ for sure. But it does make one wonder why the press center at Colonial isn’t already named in his honor. Just imagine if the all-world scribe, who made a cameo at Colonial earlier this week, was perched behind his laptop at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational on Saturday. His signature simplicity would probably recall that 54-hole front-runner Webb Simpson is the guy who won the U.S. Open that should have gone to Jim Furyk if not for a filthy set-up curveball from the USGA on Sunday. That Stewart Cink, who is tied for fourth place with Kevin Kisner and three shots off Simpson’s pace, is the guy who won Tom Watson’s Open Championship in ’09 at Turnberry; and Paul Casey – who is tied for second place at 7 under with Danny Lee – was last seen dusting off the American side with a walk-off ace at the 2006 Ryder Cup. None of that is fair or even accurate – Simpson has won since his U.S. Open breakthrough in ’12 and Casey has reinvented himself into a top-15 player – but then Jenkins’ gift has always been his insightful brevity. Jenkins would have commented about Saturday’s heat, which included a heat index of 108 degrees. Perhaps figuring that Texas has four seasons – drought, flood, blizzard and twister. He’d also probably make a biting observation over the lack of brisket in the Dan Jenkins Press Center media dining. But most of all, Jenkins would marvel at the play through three windswept and simmering days at Colonial, which includes a shrine to the World Golf Hall of Famer in the clubhouse. Dean & DeLuca Invitational: Articles, photos and videos Having played Colonial regularly, perhaps even with Hogan himself, he would consider Simpson’s third-round 67 something much more impressive than the sum of its math. Simpson had just a single bogey on Day 3, played the aptly named Horrible Horseshoe, Nos. 3 through 5, in even par and pulled away from the field with birdies at Nos. 10 and 11 for a two-stroke advantage on a course that rarely allows that type of breathing room. “I’m thrilled to have the lead. I think it’s been awhile. I don’t know how long it’s been,” said Simpson, who dropped an overtime decision to Hideki Matsuyama earlier this year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. “I was happy to go out in the last group today and hit some good shots, make some good putts in this environment to kind of get me ready for tomorrow.” Jenkins would recognize the journey that Casey has been on the last few years as he recovered from injury and off-course distractions to become a world-class player again. He’s found the consistency he once enjoyed but now must discover a way to translate that into trophies. At 39 years old, perspective has become a sympathetic counterpart for the Englishman. “It’s pressure every week. It’s still a stacked leaderboard. A lot of very talented, brilliant guys near the top of it,” Casey said. “I feel a pretty good calmness. Yeah, I’d desperately love to win and I will try my best tomorrow. I don’t know, 17 years of doing this I’m certainly not soft, but there is more calm than there used to be.” Cink’s story would resonate with Jenkins. Although the six-time Tour winner described Colonial as “cute,” which is probably not what anyone this side of the Trinity River would care to hear, he is playing this season on a career money list exemption; think of it as a lifeline for those who aren’t interested in the golden fairways of the PGA Tour Champions just yet. Cink missed six weeks last year to be with his wife, Lisa, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and understandably struggled for much of 2016. But if sentimentality doesn’t make fans for Cink, his perspective after two decades on Tour surely counts for style points. “It’s exciting to get a chance,” he said of his Sunday outlook. “I think in your career out here, season after season, you give yourself five or six chances to win, being in the mix on Sunday, and of one of those times it might happen; maybe more.” Jenkins may also point out it hasn’t been a great week for chalk, with the week’s top-ranked players struggling with the wind and heat. Jordan Spieth, whose caddie succumbed to heat exhaustion and had to be replaced midway through the round, avoided the type of early lapse that defined his first two rounds at Colonial, but failed to make up any ground on the lead with a 2-under 68 that left him tied for eighth place, five shots back. Phil Mickelson rebounded on Saturday with a 69, but his 5-over card on Friday means he’ll start the final lap in the middle of the pack; and Jenkins may have appreciated Sergio Garcia’s purple pants, TCU’s colors, if not his 1-over card or the 29 putts he needed to finish his Saturday. But most of all, Jenkins would point out the brilliance of Colonial, which is something of a museum piece on the modern Tour at just over 7,200 yards, but has once again produced a crowded and compelling leaderboard.last_img read more

McIlroy feeling right at home at Shinnecock Hills

first_imgSOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Rory McIlroy has never been more at home on a U.S. Open venue. That’s what you concluded listening to him as he made his final preparations before Thursday’s start at Shinnecock Hills. It’s so familiar to him, this links-ish layout in the Hamptons. It’s almost as if he can whiff the Belfast Lough. “It sort of reminds me of some of the courses from back home a little bit, the way the golf course has been playing,” McIlroy said. The Ulsterman wants to get himself back on track in a U.S. Open, a major he won seven years ago but has struggled to get comfortable in the last couple years. “It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve been in the mix at this championship,” McIlroy said. “With how my game feels, hopefully I can do the right things over the first few days and put myself in a position to win another one.” U.S. Open: Tee times | Full coverage McIlroy missed the cut at Oakmont in 2016 and again at Erin Hills in ’17, but this U.S. Open has been circled on his calendar for some time. Shinnecock Hills is a test that intrigues him. He likes the strategy required to penetrate its defenses. The place earned his affection back when he first played it four years ago. “I love the golf course,” McIlroy said. One of the game’s premier power players, McIlroy won’t be in full attack mode at Shinnecock Hills, not with a certain finesse required to get at pins on greens that don’t play nearly as large as they look. It’s a second shot course, but that second shot can’t be from the deep fescue. “These greens are quite large, but they play a lot smaller than they actually are, just because of runoffs and the way they’re designed,” McIlroy said. “I think I’ll adopt quite a conservative strategy off the tee. “Even if you’re leaving yourself back, and maybe hitting a couple of extra clubs into these greens, it’s not such a bad thing. I’d rather be doing that than hacking my way out of the rough. So that’s sort of my strategy this week.” McIlroy is looking to win his fifth major, his first in four years, since winning the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, a links-ish layout on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s been a good year already, a nice bounce back from his winless campaign in ’17. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but he also let an opportunity go with a chance to complete the career Grand Slam in April. Three strokes down going into the final round at the Masters, he shot 74. That memory’s there for McIlroy and fans alike. “My game feels good,” McIlroy said. “The first major I played well. I sort of struggled a little bit on Sunday. But I’ve got a win this year, which is great. I’ve gotten myself into contention quite a few times.” Former world No. 1 and Golf Channel analyst David Duval believes it will take a secure frame of mind to win this U.S. Open. “I think some of it is where he is mentally,” Duval said. “Is he in a good place? Is he calm and looking forward to the challenges and the hair pulling that Shinnecock can make players do?” McIlroy answered that Wednesday, detailing in his news conference how he took last week off to come to this area and play some of the great courses on Long Island. He said he did that more to have fun with friends than he did to get extra prep for the U.S. Open. He played National Golf Links, Friars Head and Garden City while also getting looks at Shinnecock Hills. “It was more for fun,” McIlroy said. “I think it does put you in a different frame of mind. You’re relaxed out there, and maybe that sort of bleeds into your mindset whenever you’re here in a big championship. “Obviously, there is a separation of the two, but the more you can get into that mindset of being relaxed and enjoying it, the better you’re going to play.” McIlroy hopes to enjoy late Sunday the most this week.last_img read more

Fall guys: European Tour schedule banks on big finish

first_imgANTALYA, Turkey – Perhaps the best way to describe the new European Tour schedule is optimistic opportunism. It took the PGA Tour more than two years to fit all of the pieces into place for what would become the circuit’s most significant schedule makeover beginning next year. European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley and Co. only had a few weeks to produce an answer. On Monday the European Tour released its 2018-19 schedule and it was immediately clear the circuit veered down the path of least resistance. In response to the U.S. circuit’s move to a condensed lineup next year that will include the PGA Championship moving to May, The Players sliding to March and a pre-Labor Day weekend finish to the season, the European Tour planted it’s flag in the fall by shifting six of its top 10 events according to the Official World Golf Ranking after the Tour Championship in Atlanta. The move included moving the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event, to the third week of September and the Italian Open from June to October. “It was very tricky to put all of our good events into good months, especially if you look at the PGA Tour schedule. For the players who play both tours it’s very tricky to come back to Europe between February and June, so I think the European Tour did as good as they could,” Martin Kaymer said on Tuesday at the Turkish Airlines Open. “It puts the Rolex Series events in a place where they can ask players who play both tours to come back and play.” Your browser does not support iframes. Just three of the eight Rolex Series events will be played during the heat of the PGA Tour season from February to August, including stops in Abu Dhabi in January and Ireland and Scotland in July. The remaining five, which include the three Race to Dubai events, will be played in the fall after the PGA Tour’s big finish at East Lake. Essentially the European Tour decided that discretion is the better part of valor and going head-to-head with a PGA Tour schedule that will feature five months of must-play events was a battle that couldn’t be won. Not only will the Euro Tour’s biggest events move outside the PGA Tour shadow, but it seems the circuit is focusing its resources into these marquee stops considering that the European Tour currently has just a single event scheduled in April (not counting the Masters which is a co-sanctioned event) and has two tournaments in August, which is during the FedExCup Playoffs in the United States, that don’t currently have venues or sponsors. “When [the PGA Tour] came out with the schedule it was very hard for the European Tour to put the tournaments into decent positions,” Kaymer conceded. For the top Europeans who play both tours the two schedules align nicely and largely avoid the type of conflicts that require tough choices, like this year when the BMW PGA was played the week before the Memorial. “It’s hard for a European to go against the European Tour too many times because you want to support the tour,” Danny Willett said. “Finishing in August kind of opens up the last three months for the European Tour.” There will be a cost, however. By avoiding conflicts with the PGA Tour, the European Tour has essentially extended an already busy calendar by three months. From early July through the DP World Tour Championship in late November the top Europeans who play both tours will go directly from The Open to the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, FedExCup Playoffs, BMW PGA, Italian Open, WGC-HSBC Champions and finally the Euro Tour’s final three events starting at the Turkish Airlines Open. For many, the best-case scenario would be a dozen starts in 19 weeks. “The season becomes so long with big events. Starting in February on the PGA Tour until the last big tournament in Europe is pretty much about 10 months,” Kaymer said. Finding breaks in a schedule without any will be the biggest challenge for players next season, but for the European Tour there weren’t many options and relocating the majority of the circuit’s marquee events outside the PGA Tour window may create a higher profile for the circuit’s finishing stretch. At least that’s what officials are optimistically hoping for after taking advantage of the best opportunities available.last_img read more

Mickelson leads Luck by 1 at Desert Classic

first_imgLA QUINTA, Calif. — Phil Mickelson birdied four of his last five holes Friday in the Desert Classic to take a two-stroke lead into the weekend in his first event of the year. A day after matching his career-low score with 12-under 60 at La Quinta Country Club, the 48-year-old Mickelson had a 68 on PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. “I struck the ball every bit as well, I just didn’t putt anywhere close to as well as I did yesterday,” said Mickelson, the tournament winner in 2002 and 2004. Lefty will play the final two rounds on PGA West’s Stadium Course. Full-field scores from the Desert Classic Desert Classic: Articles, photos and videos “I’m starting to drive the ball a lot longer and straighter than I have in a while and so that sets up nicely for that course,” Mickelson said. “I feel like I can play aggressively with the way I’m hitting it off the tee.” Curtis Luck was second after a 66 on the Nicklaus layout. The 22-year-old Australian rebounded from a bogey on the par-3 eighth with a closing birdie on the par-4 ninth. “Just like yesterday, very solid, lot of greens, a lot of fairways,” said Luck, the 2016 U.S. Amateur champion. “Just missed a couple of short ones today, unfortunately. But putting’s been great.” Adam Hadwin and Steve Marino were 13 under, and defending champion Jon Rahm was another stroke back with Wyndham Clark and Joey Garber. Mickelson birdied the par-4 fifth and sixth holes, the par-5 seventh and closed with another on No. 9. On his opening nine, he birdied the par-5 11th and par-3 12th , then gave back the strokes with a double bogey after hitting into the water on the par-4 18th. “It really wasn’t as hard a shot as I made it look,” Mickelson said about his approach on 18. “I had a decent lie after dropping off the cart path, but I had the ball a little bit below my feet and a slight uphill lie, which the tendency on those shots is to pull it and I just didn’t adjust for that very well and I pulled it right in the water.” Mickelson is making his first tour start since early October and first competitive appearance since beating Tiger Woods in Las Vegas in November in a one-day, made-for-TV event. He won the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship last year for his 43rd PGA Tour title and first since the 2013 British Open. “There’s two areas that guys tend to decline when they hit about mid 40s or so forth,” Mickelson said. “One is speed and one is putting. The last two years I’ve done a good job of improving my putting. I’ve actually putted better the last few years than I ever have in my career. The last thing is speed, because if I have speed with the driver then I can worry more about accuracy.” Hadwin had a 66 at La Quinta, the course where the Canadian shot 59 two years ago. “I’m playing some extremely good golf again here in the desert and just got to keep moving forward,” Hadwin said. Marino had a hole-in-one on the seventh hole at La Quinta in a 65. Your browser does not support iframes. “There was like probably 15 people behind the green, but it was weird, they didn’t really go bananas,” Marino said. “So we thought it was in, but it wasn’t like a hundred percent sure and luckily we went up there and it was in the hole.” Rahm had a 66 on the Nicklaus Course. He also will play the final two days on the Stadium Course. “It’s still a very, very difficult golf course and you have to hit it good,” Rahm said. “Hopefully, I just keep the mojo that I had last year going.” Clark shot 67 on the Nicklaus layout, and Garber had a 64 at La Quinta. Top-ranked Justin Rose was tied for 28th at 8 under after a 68 on the Nicklaus layout. He’s the first No. 1 player to play the tournament since the world ranking began in 1986.last_img read more

Monday Scramble: Major intrigue as we reach Players week

first_imgFrancesco Molinari storms to victory, Rory McIlroy’s final-group futility continues, Tiger Watch commences, Alexa Pano stars and more in this week’s edition of  Monday Scramble: How would Francesco Molinari begin to back up his career year? With another big moment in another big event. The Arnold Palmer Invitational was just Molinari’s third start of the new year, taking a respite after his breakout campaign in 2018, when he won three times, including his first major at The Open, and posted a 5-0 mark at the Ryder Cup. And despite some shaky ball-striking over the first three rounds at Bay Hill, the Italian stallion was brilliant on Sunday, firing a bogey-free 64 on a fiery, firm course to come from five shots behind and win by two. Late last year Molinari expressed some apprehension about how he’d follow up a year in which he transformed himself into a global force, at age 35. Of the top 10 players in the world, he’s by far the shortest off the tee and historically the worst putter. But over time he’s proven to be a world-class iron player (he’s breaking in new Callaway clubs) that keeps him competitive anywhere, and he now has the self-belief after rising to the occasion at Carnoustie and Le Golf National. As we approach major season, it’s clear: The tougher the challenge, the tougher Molinari is to beat. Your browser does not support iframes. 1. Boy, if Francesco Molinari starts holing putts … Molinari has always been fueled by his strong ball-striking, but at the Arnold Palmer Invitational he was downright sublime on the greens. Sunday in particular: 25 putts, 146 feet worth of putts holed and he gained more than four strokes on the field. “I think it’s been the best putting round ever in my career,” he said. Indeed, it was. Molinari made a strong case for global player of the year honors last season despite being a below-average putter (182nd) on Tour. This season, with a small sample size, he’s 19th and credited his ongoing work with coach Phil Kenyon, who has made Molinari’s stroke more repetitive and helped him start more putts on-line.    2. Molinari’s big day on the greens included his 45-foot bomb on the last to seal the victory. More interesting than the length was the fact that he’s the first on Tour to hole a winning putt on 18 with the flagstick in. Funny, because his brother, Edoardo, is one of the most outspoken about the new rule, believing that it’s actually disadvantageous to leave in the stick. “He’s probably going to tell me off when I speak to him later,” Molinari said. “I thought for a second to take it out, but then I thought maybe it was going to help me judge the lagging better, so it worked out all right.” Your browser does not support iframes. 3. Wrote more about it in this live column from Bay Hill on Sunday night, but Rory McIlroy is now 0 for his last 9 when playing in the final group. He’s lost his Sunday mojo.  And yet he’s still this scribe’s favorite for the Masters …  4. The Arnold Palmer Invitational was one of the qualifying events for The Open. Honda winner Keith Mitchell kept it rolling, finishing in a tie for sixth, while Sungjae Im and Sung Kang also punched their ticket into the year’s final major. “Crunchy Pete” at Royal Portrush? Sign. Us. Up.  Your browser does not support iframes. 5. After a year-long hiatus, Tiger Watch is back! That’s right, we’re left wondering whether an injured Tiger Woods will play a golf tournament, after he was a late withdrawal from the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Woods said that he hoped to be ready for The Players, but as of this writing, it’s unclear whether he’s fit enough to give it a go. Right now, he’s planning on a 10:30 a.m. ET Tuesday presser at TPC Sawgrass and is one of the early-round featured groups, alongside Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson.  NBC Sports analyst Paul Azinger expressed concern that Woods’ neck issue is “serious,” but it appears as though Woods is trending toward teeing it up. Reserving a spot in the interview room and a tee time alongside the defending champ? He’s had to have given the Tour some direction. Speaking of injury concerns … 6. Jason Day’s status for The Players is uncertain, as well, after he withdrew during the opening round at Bay Hill. In the locker room, he told GolfChannel.com colleague Will Gray that an MRI earlier in the week showed a tear in one of his discs, but he hoped that it’d loosen up and he’d be able to play. Apparently not. A day later, he was still in Orlando – standing in line for a ride at Disney World, with his family. He was hammered on social media for the bad optics, but what was he supposed to do, receive treatment 24/7 and remain bedridden? 7. Phil is getting even harder to predict. After his resounding win at Pebble Beach, Mickelson turned in his third straight listless performance. His play at Bay Hill was even harder to fathom. He opened with 68 despite taking a double bogey after this head-scratching play near an out-of-bounds fence: The next day, he plummeted to a 78 to miss the cut, and afterward sounded so frustrated that his appearance at this week’s Players Championship can’t be taken for granted. “If I hit it like this, it’s pointless,” he said. He was decidedly more optimistic on Sunday, tweeting from TPC Sawgrass that the course was Augusta-like with its minimal rough.  That’s good news for Mickelson, whose lone win at TPC came in 2007, the first year that the event was held in May. He has only three top-10s in 25 career starts there, and Mickelson has said that he no longer wants to play where he can’t win. Tyrrell Hatton is a delightfully unstable presence in tournaments, but this was pure gold. In the second round, Hatton flared his approach short and right of the green. He turned to his caddie and muttered, “Have you seen a worse golf shot?” The caddie fell silent, thinking the question was rhetorical. “No, answer the question,” Hatton pressed. The caddie offered a quiet “No,” and on they went. Over the years we’ve seen pros hit all sorts of bad shots – chunk-skied drives, topped long irons, shanked bunker shots, whiffed 1-footers – but never did they handle the rare misfire with the humor of Hatton (and his caddie). This week’s award winners …  Remember the Name: Alexa Pano. The 14-year-old shared the 54-hole lead on the LPGA’s developmental circuit over the weekend before ultimately finishing in a tie for eighth. Golf has a history of producing phenomenal, single-minded teenage talents, only for them to get worn down and burnt out. Here’s hoping Pano can continue her upward trajectory.   Four-Horse Race: World No. 1. Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas all will battle for the top-ranked position in the world rankings this week at The Players, adding even more intrigue to the best non-major of the season.    Bunched Board: Qatar Masters. A record 11 players tied for second behind Justin Harding at last week’s European Tour stop, a new record. So the winner received € 259,669 while the runners-up got … € 68,988. Don’t see that everyday. Warning! Don’t Watch If Squeamish: Jeff Maggert. You might say that his speed was a little off here … though, to give him credit, he bounced back the following day with a 63. Coming to a Pro Tournament Near You …: Viktor Hovland. The Oklahoma State junior and reigning U.S. Amateur champion tied for 40th at Bay Hill. Exempt into the first two majors of the year, he’s likely to turn pro after the U.S. Open in June since he can attempt to qualify on his own for Portrush. He projects as a Paul Casey-type. RIP: Dan Jenkins. His Ownself was the gold standard for golf writers everywhere, and his witty prose spawned a generation of copycats who never could master his inimitable style. He’ll be missed in major press tents.   Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Jason Day. A winner at Bay Hill in 2016, he’d finished in the top 15 in all five made cuts this season, but his early exit (and potentially serious back issue) was a tough pill to swallow on Day 1. Sigh.last_img read more