MARANA, Ariz. – Third-ranked Henrik Stenson is the top seed in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship with No. 1 Tiger Woods and No. 2 Adam Scott skipping the tournament. Stenson will open Wednesday against Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat at The Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain. The No. 64 seed has beaten the No. 1 seed four times in the 14-year history of the event, including last year when Shane Lowry edged Rory McIlroy. ”It doesn’t really matter if you’re the No. 1 seed or if you’re No. 50,” Stenson said. ”It’s going to be down to how you play and how you can get things working.” The Swede won the World Golf Championships event in 2007 and was third in 2008, both down the road at The Gallery. ”I had two great years and then we changed courses,” Stenson said. ”The record hasn’t quite been the same since. … We’ve been going home Wednesday afternoon every year since. I played poorly, once I was sick, and just haven’t got it going on this golf course.” Last year, Stenson became the first player to sweep the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and European Tour’s Race to Dubai. Playing through a right wrist injury, he won the Deutsche Bank Championship and Tour Championship in the FedEx Cup playoffs and took the European Tour’s season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai. ”The wrist has been OK,” Stenson said. ”I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried that it could be an issue at some point, too, in the season. But it’s been holding up pretty good to this first month of the year and practicing. But I don’t think it’s the last time I hear from it. But as of now, it feels all right.” He’s making his first U.S. start of the year after playing three European Tour events in the Middle East, the last early this month in Dubai. ”I had two nice weeks in Orlando, seeing the kids, seeing the family, bit of practice,” Stenson said. ”Just feeling like we could put the suitcase down and relax for a little bit. So that’s nice. I’m feeling a bit fresher than I did when I came back from Dubai.” Stenson was the last foreign winner on the PGA Tour. Since his Tour Championship victory, U.S. players have won the first 13 events in the wraparound season. SUNNY FORECAST: A year after snow covered the cactus-lined High Sonoran Desert course, warm, sunny conditions are expected. ”To have snow the last two or three years, my boys expect it when we come here,” defending champion Matt Kuchar said. ”I think they’re still planning on it snowing. I think the rest of us are awfully happy to see proper Tucson weather.” A high of 79 degrees with wind gusting to 20 mph in the afternoon was forecast for the first round Wednesday. On Thursday, the forecast high is 74 with wind up to 15 mph. On Friday through Sunday, it is expected to be in the upper 70s with light wind. ”I think the ball is going to be flying this year,” 2012 winner Hunter Mahan said. ”Should be going pretty far, especially off the last two weeks playing basically at sea level.” Last year, first-round play Wednesday was suspended when rain gave way to snow from a storm that dumped close to 2 inches and dropped the temperature to 33 degrees. More snow fell at night and play finally resumed Thursday afternoon. The 2011 championship match also was delayed by snow. MANO A MANO: Bubba Watson is coming off a victory Sunday in the Northern Trust Open. He shot 64-64 on the weekend at Riviera. ”I can shoot 64 tomorrow and my playing partner shoots 63, so I played great, but I’m still a loser,” Watson said. ”I’m going to go out there and keep the same things going. I’m really focused on what I’m doing right now, committed to each shot. I’m making some putts.” Watson will open against Finland’s Mikko Ilonen. ”You’re not really looking at who it is you’re playing against,” Watson said. ”You’re looking at his golf ball. You’re looking at what he’s making. … You’re not trying to kill the person. You’re trying to kill their score is what you’re really trying to do.” WELL-RESTED WILDCAT: Jim Furyk is making his third straight start after playing only one event – the World Challenge in December – since the Tour Championship in September. The former University of Arizona player will open against McGladrey Classic winner Chris Kirk. ”I don’t know if I have expectations,” Furyk said. ”Obviously I’d like to play well. I went to school here. I have a lot of support here. Match play is just a strange. It’s just strange for us to play. You can play pretty well and end up losing a match. You can play poorly and end up winning a match.” Winless since the 2010 Tour Championship, he tied for 35th two weeks ago at Pebble Beach and tied for 23rd at Riviera on Sunday. ”I feel like I’ve played pretty well for my first two weeks back after a long break,” Furyk said. ”I feel like there’s a few things I wanted to improve on. … I’ve had a couple of days here to work and improve.” DIVOTS: The winner will receive $1.53 million from the $9 million purse. Second place is worth $906,000, third $630,000 and fourth $510,000. The quarterfinal losers will get $280,000, the third-round losers $148,000, the second-round losers $99,000 and the first-round losers $48,000. … Jimmy Walker, a three-time winner this season, is one of 19 newcomers in the 64-man field. … The United States has 27 players in the field, two more than Europe. … Jack Nicklaus designed The Ritz-Carlson course.
If a tree falls at TPC Sawgrass, does anyone hear it? If the PGA Tour travels to Asia, will anyone play? And if the PGA of America stumbles on the way to the high road, is the association beyond reproach? Answers in this week’s edition of Cut Line. Made Cut DL 2.0. From host to PGA Tour title hopeful in a single news cycle. Not bad for a 50-year-old grandfather. After an eventful week spent entertaining sponsors, doling out trophies and, just for good measure, finishing tied for 41st place at his own McGladrey Classic, Davis Love III managed to make his flight to Malaysia for this week’s CIMB Classic and is tied for 12th placeafter opening 68-71. Not bad for a part-time Tour player and fulltime host last week at Sea Island. Despite officially reaching his golden years, the 20-time Tour winner doesn’t seem to have much interest in slowing down. “Now family and business will allow me to expand my horizons a little bit, so I’m going to try to play a little bit more all around the world, try to play in some of these events that I’m invited to,” Love said this week. “At 50 years old, now I can start my world travels, I guess.” Who knew 50 was the new 30? All access. It was, as Tour commissioner Tim Finchem explained last week, “really the only [issue],” with the circuit’s new wraparound schedule and it appears to be atop the Tour’s to-do list. The lack of playing opportunities for Web.com Tour graduates, the result of deeper-than-expected fields in the fall, turned into the Tour’s primary action item heading into the second split-calendar season. The Tour responded with the expansion of field sizes at the Frys.com Open and Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, from 132 players to 144; the addition of the Sanderson Farms Championship, which was historically played in the summer as an opposite-field event; and news last week the McGladrey Classic would go to a two-course rotation and expand from 132 players to 156. Combined, the Tour will have added 180 new playing opportunities next fall and the moves have already started to produce results, with 13 more players from the Web.com Tour category playing the Las Vegas stop and 25 more at the McGladrey Classic. For an organization often associated with slow play, the Tour certainly deserves credit for reacting quickly. Tweet of the week: A well-known tree at TPC Sawgrass has succumbed to old age, disease. http://t.co/y1dZRyVpxa pic.twitter.com/KoY3YwGI8U— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 30, 2014 Although the loss of the iconic tree adjacent the Stadium Course’s sixth tee shouldn’t be a surprise – this is, after all, the same course that struggled to grow grass in time for The Players this year – it will be missed. Not by Cut Line, who has clipped the thing on numerous occasions, but we’re sure someone will miss it. Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF) Playing favorites. It is a sign of the times that the PGA Tour had to dip beyond the top 125 from last season’s FedEx Cup list to fill the field for this week’s no-cut, 78-man, guaranteed money CIMB Classic. Even players who could likely benefit from an early-season points boost passed on a trip to Malaysia, which would explain how Nicholas Thompson, who finished last season 127th on the points list, earned a spot in the field. Even more concerning for Tour types is the number of members who made the trip to Asia but are playing the BMW Masters in Shanghai, the first of four European Tour post-season stops, instead of the CIMB Classic. Both events have $7 million purses, but the BMW Masters is allowed to dole out appearance fees, which might explain why some U.S. players – including Ryan Palmer and Kevin Stadler – are in China and not Malaysia. Competition is a healthy part of every business, but when it comes to this type of head-to-head duel with the European circuit, the Tour is playing six clubs short of a full bag without being able to woo players with appearance fees. Speed dating. At first blush it would appear the McGladrey Classic has it all: a respected golf course (Sea Island’s Seaside layout), stability (McGladrey announced a five-year sponsorship extension last week) and leadership (Love). The only thing missing is a permanent, and workable, spot on the calendar. Since the inaugural event in 2010, the McGladrey has been played the first week in October, the first week of November and everywhere in between; and next year the event will try out another spot on the schedule. The 2015 McGladrey Classic will be played the third week of November, one of two dates offered to tournament officials and, according to some, the best of two bad options. The alternative was the second week of November, which would have put the event just after the WGC-HSBC Champions and likely have kept many of the Tour’s biggest names away. Love and officials at the McGladrey have given the Tour everything they have asked for. It’s time for the Tour to return the favor. Missed Cut Crisis management. There is no escaping the fact that it was Ted Bishop, not the PGA of America’s board of directors or anyone in the media, who pressed the “send” button last Thursday. It was Bishop who allowed his emotions to get the best of him. It was Bishop who thumbed in the fateful tweet that ultimately cost him his position as PGA president. The PGA’s board and staff, however, are not without some blame in arguably the most surreal saga in the association’s history. It was a senior staff member who, according to Bishop, advised him to “go underground and be silent for 24 hours and see what happens.” It’s crisis management 101 – always go on the offensive. There is also an issue of semantics. According to Bishop, when he pressed for the reasons behind his dismissal the PGA board of directors gave him three – negative feedback from the media, potential damage to sponsor relations and negative responses from PGA members. In a memo sent to various leaders and PGA section directors, however, the association stated, “The board felt that the comments made through social media violated the PGA of America Code of Ethics Bylaws.” In his own missive made public on Wednesday, Bishop warned the association’s membership what the ruling could mean going forward. “This is powerful and for someone who served six years on the PGA Board of Control it clearly sets an eye-opening precedent. I want to emphasize to all of you the severe importance in the use of your social media platforms. Do not be cavalier with your words and succumb to a Code of Ethics violation,” Bishop wrote. Bishop has no one to blame for his removal from office but himself, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more than enough blame to go around.
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Humana Challenge leader Matt Kuchar was asked if was surprised that there have only been six 59s on the PGA Tour and that no has shot 58. ”No. We’re talking about golf,” Kuchar said. ”It’s a difficult game. It’s a very challenging game. Fifty-nine, that’s a lot under par. That is quite an amazing feat.” Ryan Palmer was in position to do it Friday after playing an eight-hole stretch in 10 under. Needing to go 3 under on the final eight to shoot 59, he bogeyed the next two holes and ended up with an 11-under 61. ”Walking off 10, after I got to 10 under, I was staying calm, trying not to think about anything, just trying to keep my momentum going, my pace with my walk,” Palmer said. ”It’s hard not to think about it.” After opening with two pars, Palmer had two eagles and six birdies on the next eight holes to match the longest eagle-birdie streak in PGA Tour history. He stumbled with the bogeys on the par-4 second and par-3 third and couldn’t get a couple of late putts to fall. ”Couple loose swings there,” Palmer said. ”I guess the bogeys did kind of calm me down a little bit more and I didn’t worry about, obviously, the number.” Palmer birdied the fourth and sixth holes and made another on the par-5 eighth after missing an 8-foot eagle try. A 59 no longer possible, he missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the ninth in a closing par. The 38-year-old Texan holed out from 97 yards for eagle on the par-4 12th to start the streak on PGA West’s Jack Nicklaus Private Course. He birdied the next three holes, made a 20-foot eagle putt from the fringe on the par-5 16th and added three more birdies. ”I putted well,” Palmer said. ”I didn’t make anything long, except for the eagle on 16.” Humana Challenge : Articles, videos and photos He tied the birdie-eagle streak record set by Billy Mayfair in the 2001 Buick Open and matched by Briny Baird in the 2003 FUNAI Classic. Mayfair and Baird were 9 under during their runs, making seven birdies and an eagle. At 9-under 27, Palmer matched the tour record for relation to par for nine holes and was a stroke off the record of 26 set by Corey Pavin on a par-34 nine in Milwaukee in 2006. Six players have shot 59 on the PGA Tour. Al Geiberger did it in the 1977 Memphis Classic, Chip Beck in the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational, David Duval on the Palmer course in the final round of his 1999 Bob Hope victory, Paul Goydos in the 2010 John Deere Classic, Stuart Appleby in the 2010 Greenbrier Classic and Jim Furyk in the 2013 BMW Championship. Ryo Ishikawa shot the lowest round on a major tour, a 58 to win the 2010 Crowns on the Japan Tour. Palmer had a 12-under 132 total after opening with a 71 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club. He was three strokes behind Kuchar. Kuchar, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 11, had a 64 on the Nicklaus course. He tied for third last week in Hawaii in the Sony Open. ”Game feels solid,” Kuchar said. ”I feel like I know where it’s going, feel like I’m hitting it in the center of the clubface.” Bill Haas and first-round leader Michael Putnam were a stroke back. Haas had a 63 at La Quinta. He had nine birdies in a 10-hole stretch, making seven in a row on Nos. 2-8. ”The putter was what’s got me in the hunt,” Haas said. ”We don’t play better greens on tour than these greens here.” Putnam shot a 67 on the Arnold Palmer Private Course. Justin Thomas, Nick Watney and Scott Pinckney were 13 under. Thomas had a 63, Watney shot 64, and Pinckney 67 – all on the Nicklaus course. Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton had a 66 at La Quinta to get to 12 under. ”I’m kind of surprised, but I had a really good offseason,” Compton said. ”I’m more surprised with my emotions and temper. It’s been a goal of mine just to be as steady as I can and to control the emotions.” Phil Mickelson was 7 under in his first start since the Ryder Cup in September. He birdied his final five holes for a 66 on the Nicklaus course. ”It took me 31 holes to get my game to click,” Mickelson said. The 44-year-old Mickelson won the event in 2002 and 2004. He’s winless in 27 PGA Tour starts since the 2013 British Open. DIVOTS: Defending champion Patrick Reed, paired with Kuchar, was 9 under after a 70. He’s coming off a playoff victory two weeks ago in Hawaii in the Tournament of Champions. … Blake Adams followed his opening 64 on the Nicklaus course with a 79 at La Quinta. He had hip replacement surgery in July and is making his first tour start since March.
DOHA, Qatar – Branden Grace and Bernd Wiesberger birdied their last holes to keep a share of the lead after round three at the Qatar Masters on Friday. Defending champion Sergio Garcia, after opening with a pair of 69s, shot 77 and plummeted 52 spots on the leaderboard, to a tie for 62nd. All Garcia’s damage came on the back nine. He made the turn in 1-under 35, then started the back with a birdie on the par-5 10th. He would make only one more birdie, to go along with three bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey. Grace’s 4-under round of 68 featured a remarkable birdie after driving into the trees on the fifth hole. He snap-hooked a wedge to 6 feet to stay in contention. ”I could only hit a big, snapping hook with a wedge and when I hit it, I couldn’t see the ball,” Grace said of his near-impossible shot. ”We heard the claps and next thing you know, managed to make a nice little 5-footer for birdie that definitely got it kick-started.” Wiesberger also carded 4 under, while Grillo shot a bogey-free 5-under 67 to be in contention for his maiden European Tour title. Grillo putted magnificently, including a 20-foot birdie on the 11th. ”I hit the ball better today, so I’ve got a good feeling for tomorrow, and want to try to get my first win,” Grillo said. ”You have to learn first to win out here, and I’ve learned a lot.” Wiesberger got off to a flying start when he birdied the second and third before converting another birdie from 15 feet at the eighth. ”It’s nice to start the day in the lead and hang on to keep it,” he said. ”It was just that bad swing on 16 which cost me a bogey there … I finished nicely with a birdie and it gives me a bit of momentum for tomorrow.” Warren made four birdies in his first 10 holes, but bogeyed the 14th before making birdies on the next two to match Grillo’s score for the day. ”The last few years I’ve shown a lot of progress again,” Warren said. ”It’s one thing to be confident, and to actually do it is another thing. I’ve definitely got a spring in the step.” Pepperell, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Thursday, carded Friday’s best round of 7 under to be at 11 under with Canizares and Coetzee.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – As if the Wyndham Championship were his first PGA Tour victory, Davis Love III panicked when he reached the microphone on Sunday and started thanking everyone in the St. Simons Island, Ga., phone book. There was his swing coach, his sports psychologist, his manager, his brother and his physical trainer, along with a physical therapist. “We could sit here until midnight and I could thank people, therapists, doctors, trainers, sports psychologists,” Love said Sunday at Sedgefield Country Club. Even his son, Dru, received an assist from Love, who at 51 years young became the third-oldest winner in PGA Tour history. “My son broke his putter; we haven’t gotten the whole story on that, so I shipped him some,” Love laughed. “After [foot] surgery, I went looking for a putter to use and the only one I could find was one of his old ones.” Getting Love to his 21st Tour victory truly took a village. Love used that hand-me-down putter to charge from four strokes back to start the final round and win the Wyndham Championship for the third time much like, as fate would have it, he did in 1992 when he closed with a 62 in brutal conditions to win by six strokes. Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos The grandfather went out in 31, a nine that included two bogeys and an eagle, to move into the hunt and added a second eagle on the back nine to finish with a 64 and a 17-under total. After that he waited more than an hour as each contender came up short, much like he’d waited seven years since his last Tour victory at the 2008 Children’s Miracle Network Classic – impatiently. By his own admission, Love is the ultimate “type A,” driven by the task at hand and haunted by inactivity. If idle hands are truly the devil’s workshop, then Love has been cleansed by activity. It’s why at 51 when most of his friends are off enjoying the golden parachute that is the Champions Tour he has remained focused on the Big Leagues. Even after a career that seems destined for the Hall of Fame, Love clung to the notion that if his body would cooperate there was still work to be done. There were times when his resolve drifted, like after neck surgery in 2013 and foot surgery earlier this year. “I had some doubts,” he conceded. “The neck surgery went pretty smoothly, this one [foot surgery] went smoothly but the rehab didn’t come around as fast as I wanted. “You just wonder, is the body going to wear out. I’ve seen it with a lot of great players in my day, the only thing that stopped them was their body wearing out.” Love knew that if his body was willing his mind and game were still up to the task, as evidenced by his play this week at Sedgefield Country Club where he averaged 303 yards off the tee and hit 56 of 72 greens in regulation. He was also driven by the reality that next season will be his 30th on Tour, a benchmark that deserved his best. “It kills me the last couple of years not to play in The Players,” said Love, who is a two-time winner of the Tour’s marquee event but last played TPC Sawgrass in 2013. “I did not want to end not playing The Players again or playing the Masters again.” Getting there, however, had started to look like a long shot. Love began this week 186th on the FedEx Cup points list and hadn’t had a top-3 finish on Tour since 2009. The foot surgery that sidelined him for almost three months was more extensive than he’d expected and until the Wyndham Championship he’d struggled to walk 72 holes in a single week. His attention had also been pulled in other directions. Last year’s U.S. Ryder Cup task force thrust him back into the role of captain for next year’s matches and he was appointed for another term on the Tour’s policy board earlier this year. But the call of competition kept bringing him back to the range. It wasn’t that he had something to prove as much as it was a desire to exit the game, whenever that moment occurs, on his own terms. It’s why his one-stroke victory on Sunday at the Wyndham Championship was much more than just another trophy on an already crowded mantelpiece. “It means everything, to have neck surgery and then foot surgery. I mean, up until two weeks ago his foot was still bothering him and we were talking to the surgeon,” said Mac Barnhardt, Love’s manager with Lagardere Unlimited. “A week before the PGA we’re out practicing and it was still hurting but he just kept going.” The reluctant senior, he’s played just four times on the Champions Tour since turning 50 in April 2014, now has the freedom to dictate his own exit strategy thanks to another Sunday charge. And why wouldn’t he keep playing? “I love the fact that he’s playing out here. It’s brilliant,” said Paul Casey, who at 13 years Love’s junior finished two strokes back at Sedgefield. “Why wouldn’t you?” Love answered that question on Sunday in a blur of birdies and eagles. In simplest terms, he continues to press ahead in a young man’s game because it’s what he does best.
Vaughn Taylor climbs out of the career abyss, Phil Mickelson coughs up a 54-hole lead, Bernhard Langer wins without anchoring, “celebrities” steal the show and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble: Maybe this was too much, too soon for Mickelson. It’s hard enough to compete when undergoing a swing change. The task is exponentially more difficult when putting a revamped swing under the gun for the first time while trying to snap a career-long winless drought. In retrospect, Mickelson was doomed as soon as he flew in his swing coach, Andrew Getson, on the eve of the final round for an emergency session. It showed he didn’t have enough confidence in his new swing to close the deal. Really, it’s a testament to his otherworldly short game that Phil even had a chance to win this AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He hit only nine greens each of the last two rounds, yet he still was only one 5-footer from forcing a playoff against journeyman Taylor. Had they gone head-to-head in overtime, the odds certainly would have been in Lefty’s favor: Prior to Sunday, he had twice as many wins at Pebble (four) as Taylor had in his entire Tour career. This loss likely will sting, if only for a few days, because the confirmation of his career revival now has to wait. With a cast of largely unproven players behind him, Mickelson squandered a two-shot lead and his best chance to win since that unlikely triumph at Muirfield in summer of 2013. But the big-picture takeaway here is this: Despite legitimate concerns about his age (45), his health (arthritis), his desire and his swing change, Phil is once again a factor. He might be mired in an 0-for-53 slump, but never has winning seemed more attainable. 1. Vaughn Taylor, a winner at Pebble Beach? We can’t believe it, either. Among the many did-that-just-happen? nuggets: He trailed a Hall of Famer by six shots entering the final round. He was the first alternate into the event, playing only on past champion’s status. He used a carry bag, because he didn’t want to get dinged with an excess baggage fee. His main goal Sunday was to finish in the top 10, so he wouldn’t have to race down to Riviera in time for the Monday qualifier. The 39-year-old won twice on Tour, but never had he beaten the best players in the world – both of his wins came at the Reno-Tahoe Open, an opposite-field event. More than that, he hadn’t won in 10 1/2 years, nor has he owned a full PGA Tour card since 2012. He finished 151st on the 2015 FedEx Cup points list, meaning he was thisclose to securing conditional status for this season. He was ranked 447th in the world, a few spots behind an idle Tiger Woods. His last two playing opportunities came on the Web.com circuit, including a stint 11 days ago in Bogota, Colombia, where he came down with food poisoning and needed an IV. And, yes, now, improbably, he’s back in the winner’s circle, after beating the best field to date, with six of the top nine players in the world in attendance. “Just absolutely amazing,” he said. “I didn’t know if it would ever happen again, to be honest.” 2. The victory at Pebble secured Taylor a spot in his hometown event. Fortunately for him, that happens to be the Masters, which he hasn’t played since 2008. “Playing in the Masters is my Super Bowl,” he said. In three previous appearances at Augusta, he missed a pair of cuts and tied for 10th (2007). He is the first player this year to win and get in to the year’s first major. 3. Taylor’s out-of-nowhere performance was a reminder that it just takes one week to change the fortunes of a PGA Tour journeyman. When Mickelson’s putt rimmed out, Leot Taylor sobbed uncontrollably while holding her 2-year-old son, Locklyn. “There are so many ups and downs in this career,” Taylor’s wife told the San Diego Union-Tribune afterward. “And this goes to show you that you don’t count anyone out. Everybody can win out here, and I’m happy my guy won this week.” The victory was worth $1.26 million. Taylor hasn’t earned more than $547,000 in a season since 2010. 4. You might recall that Taylor was a member of arguably the weakest U.S. Ryder Cup team ever assembled, in 2006, a squad that also featured Brett Wetterich, J.J. Henry and Chad Campbell. It’s a wonder (miracle?) the Americans mustered 9 1/2 points while getting lapped at the K Club. Well, how about this: Taylor now sits at No. 12 in the U.S. team standings. 5. Mickelson was a perfect 23-for-23 on all putts inside 7 feet last week. Until the 72nd hole, that is. He powered his 5-foot-1-inch putt through the break, caught the top lip and spun out. “It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t make that one,” he said. Seems nerves can affect even 42-time Tour winners. ShotLink was only available at Pebble Beach, but it’s worth noting that Mickelson finished the week second in strokes gained-putting. Though he missed a few crucial putts – including five tries from inside 10 feet on Sunday – he also rolled in a 9-footer for par on 9, an 11-footer for birdie on 13, a slippery 11-footer for par on 16 and a dramatic 13-footer for birdie on 17 just to stay alive on a day when his ball-striking betrayed him. 6. The close call at Pebble Beach pushed Mickelson’s “near-miss total” to 58 – that’s how many runners-up and third-place finishes he has in 530 career events on Tour. He is nothing if not exciting. How does that compare to the other great players in his generation? Tiger Woods: 48 (327 events) Davis Love III: 46 (723) Jim Furyk: 46 (544) Ernie Els: 35 (405) 7. It’s overshadowed by Woods’ insane rate, but Mickelson has been a reliable closer for much of his career: Prior to Sunday, he had gone on to win 18 of the 22 times that he held at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Taylor became just the third player (Woods and David Toms) to beat Mickelson when the left-hander had at least a two-shot advantage. Which is why Mickelson’s final-round stumble served as a reminder of the difficulties that Woods will face when, or if, he returns to competition. It’s really hard to win on Tour these days. For the better part of three rounds, Mickelson was nearly flawless with the putter on a course that he clearly enjoys a significant advantage as a four-time winner. But the Tour’s depth is such that he still was passed by a journeyman without status who shot 67 on Saturday and matched a career best with a 65 in the final round. For Phil, Tiger or any of the other members of the old guard to win, they have to be nearly perfect for four days, especially with the putter. And that’s a lot to ask. 8. Langer on Sunday won for the 26th time on the Champions circuit, but the first without anchoring. For all of the consternation over how Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson would fare without their long wand, it was Langer, 58, who stood to lose the most. But after a steady, unspectacular start to the PGA Tour Champions season – when he tinkered with three putting methods all the way up to his tee time – Langer seems to have found a solution: He moved his left hand ever so slightly away from his sternum and stroked the putt. His hand doesn’t appear to be more than an inch off his chest, and he keeps it anchored until the moment before he pulls the trigger (hopefully he doesn’t have a senior moment), but he opened 62-66 and won the Chubb Classic by three. This method might not work as effectively in windy conditions, but for now it’s a relief that a shortsighted decision by golf’s governing bodies won’t end the career of one of the game’s best seniors. 9. Lydia Ko only gets more impressive the more we learn about her. Yes, she now has 15 pro titles at the age of 18, but a week after she openly rooted for Ha Na Jang to win the LPGA event in Ocala, she donated her entire $33,000 first-place check from the New Zealand Open to help her home country. Special kid. 10. Jordan Spieth was relegated to an undercard Sunday at Pebble Beach. When’s the last time we could say that? Spieth and Dustin Johnson – two pre-tournament favorites – finished on the ninth hole while the final groups were coming down the 18th at Pebble Beach. After three frustrating rounds, the world No. 1 salvaged a T-21 finish following a closing 66. It represented his worst result, anywhere, since a missed cut over Labor Day weekend. His biggest issue? He ranked near the bottom of the pack in proximity to the hole at Pebble, and he was “sloppy” with his play on the par 5s. Prior to Sunday (when he picked up two birdies), he played the longest holes in even par. Mickelson, by contrast, was 8 under on the par 5s. 11. The European Tour made good on its promise to call out violators of its new pace-of-play policy, announcing that Spieth, Daniel Brooks, Benjamin Hebert, Eddie Pepperell and Gavin Green each received monitoring penalties for taking longer than 40 seconds to play a shot once their group was deemed out of position. The potential for a $2,800 fine isn’t the deterrent here; it’s the threat of being publicly shamed. Here’s hoping the European Tour continues to release its monthly, um, “traffic” report. Bill Murray apparently can do no wrong on the course at Pebble Beach – after all, it was only a few years ago that he pulled an elderly woman from the stands, danced with her, flung her around in a bunker and wasn’t publicly reprimanded. But the legendary comedian crossed a line off the course last week when he reportedly became so irritated with a group of selfie-seekers that he hurled their cellphones off a second-story balcony. (Murray has agreed to pay for the damages.) He was probably just tired from six hours of entertaining, making him grumpy and susceptible to this Kanye-esque meltdown. Whatever the reason, if the 65-year-old flips out at a ritzy post-round party in Carmel, how does he handle the aggressive paparazzi at LAX? News, notes and observations from the past week … • Sure, a win is a win, but it’s hard to read too much into Charl Schwartzel’s latest European Tour victory, for two reasons: (1) It was an incredibly weak field, as he earned only five more world-ranking points than the winner of the Asian Tour’s Bashundhara Bangladesh Open, and (2) eight of his 11 career titles have come from November to February. • There are plenty of stars this week in Hollywood: Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Johnson and Justin Rose are all in the field this week at Riviera. A proper end to the West Coast swing. • Even though a judge surprisingly dismissed the caddies’ lawsuit against the PGA Tour, that the loopers’ treatment at Tour events is now being discussed is a sign of progress. • Apparently, Patrick Reed’s ankle is OK. The injury, which led him to withdraw from Torrey Pines (and caused a tiff on social media, thanks to cranky Canadian Graham DeLaet) didn’t appear to affect Reed as he shot 65 Sunday and tied for sixth at Pebble Beach. It was his eighth top-10 in his last 10 worldwide starts. • Ryder Cup vice captain Tiger Woods suggested that prospective team members take a fishing trip to get better to know each other, that it’ll only help them come fall. Or maybe Tiger is just bored. • If you’re keeping score at home: With his tie for 11th at Pebble Beach, Jason Day leapfrogged McIlroy and returned to No. 2 in the world. • Give it up for Mike “Fluff” Cowan. All he did last week was fill in as caddie for Sung Kang, who came to his 18th hole Friday at Monterey Peninsula needing a birdie for 59. He settled for 60, denying Fluff an incredible feat: Looping for two players who shot 59. Cowan’s boss, Jim Furyk, who is recovering from wrist surgery, shot 59 at the 2013 BMW. • Jonas Blixt’s last nine starts: MC-MC-MC-MC-MC-28-6-MC-3.
VICTORIA, British Columbia – Scott McCarron eagled the par-5 12th and shot a 5-under 66 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead in the Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship. The 51-year-old McCarron made an 8-foot putt for the eagle and added a birdie on the par-3 16th in chilly, overcast conditions at scenic Bear Mountain Resort, the first-year venue in the PGA Tour Champions event that was played in Hawaii from 2012-14. McCarron had a 14-under 128 total after shooting a course-record 62 on Friday. The three-time PGA Tour winner won the Principal Charity Classic in June in Iowa for his first senior victory. Doug Garwood was second after a 66. Winless on the 50-and-over tour, Garwood played the front nine in 6-under 20, birdieing the first three holes and the last three. He lost the lead with a bogey and McCarron’s eagle on 12, had a double bogey on the par-3 14th and birdies 17 and 18. Colin Montgomerie was 11 under. The Scot birdied the final two holes for a bogey-free 67. Scott Dunlop birdied the last two holes for a 65 to reach 10 under, and Jeff Maggert, Mark O’Meara and Brian Henninger each shot 64 to join Olin Browne (67) and Jeff Sluman (68) at 9 under. Vijay Singh was 6 under after a 69. He bogeyed three of the last five holes. Fellow Hall of Famer Bernhard Langer bogeyed the last for a 68 that left him 10 strokes back at 4 under. The 59-year-old German star leads the tour with four victories this season. Jim Rutledge topped the four Canadians in field, shooting a 69 to move into a tie for 51st at even par. Stephen Ames was 1 over after a 69
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – If there’s no better tale in sports than the reclamation project, count Jason Day among this week’s crowd favorites. It’s easy to overlook the round-faced Australian. You can dismiss his name on a crowded Players Championship leaderboard as standard fare or a foregone conclusion, a player doing exactly what he should be doing. After all, he’s won the PGA Tour’s flagship event before, back in 2016, to go along with his dozen victories and he’s fresh off a gritty triumph last week at the Wells Fargo Championship. You know, business as usual, nothing to see here. But for a week that’s gone wildly off script, with many of the pre-tournament favorites headed home after two turns around the Stadium Course and those who remain bound for early tee times on Saturday, Day’s play has been nothing short of inspired. It was, after all, about this time last year when Day’s competitive and personal world was spiraling. A few weeks earlier he’d withdrawn from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, revealing that his mother, Dening, had been diagnosed with cancer. Full-field scores from the The Players Championship The Players Championship: Articles, photos and videos Day struggled throughout the summer, missing the cut at the U.S. Open and failing to win on the Tour for the first time in four seasons. He was understandably distracted and uneasy on the golf course, which he now admits was the byproduct of being unwilling – or maybe he was unable – to do the things that lifted him to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking off the course. For Day, the top spot in the World Ranking was the result of hard work. While some players dismiss the ranking as simply the result of winning, the 30-year-old goes at it from the other side of the coin, figuring if the ultimate goal is being world No. 1 than that means all the other things, the winning and contending and check cashing, have fallen into place. “Obviously there’s some distractions last year that kind of took my mind off it. I got burnt out being No. 1,” Day said. “Last year was a good kick in the butt, not playing great and then seeing a lot of the other guys succeed. There was no jealousy there or envy. It was more disappointing, I feel like I’ve got all this talent.” From unfulfilled expectations has come a renewed desire. This off-season he dedicated himself to the same regime that took him to the top of the world and the results were immediate, with his victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in January ending a title drought that stretched back to the ’16 Players. Last week in Charlotte, Day made another monumental leap back toward that lofty status with his victory at Quail Hollow. If January’s overtime victory at Torrey Pines was a test of mind and body, his two-stroke triumph last week is even more impressive considering he had something much closer to his C game for the week. “I think my C game last week, well, it was my A game because that’s the best I could have done,” he reasoned on Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass. It’s that kind of win-at-all-costs ability that separates good players from great ones. It certainly was a key component to Day’s game when he won eight times in a 17-month stretch beginning in 2015 and one of the reasons why he’s gravitated to Tiger Woods in recent years. “I’ve won out here numerous times not playing well but found a way to score and get the job done. And that’s what he’s doing,” Woods said of Day this week. For Day, Woods was the inspiration growing up in Queensland, the reason he believed he had what it took to be among the world’s best. After last year, the 14-time major champion and mentor also became something of a blueprint. Throughout all of Woods’ health issues in recent years he’s preached of his inability to put the time and effort into practicing and playing his way back to competitive relevance. It seems Day has been listening. “That year-long stretch that I didn’t win, my head was kind of elsewhere. But now I’m very motivated,” said Day following his bogey-free round. “I’m more motivated about winning and trying to get back to the top. When I have a goal of trying to reach the top of the mountain, that usually motivates me to do everything I can to win tournaments.” Although Day’s return to winning form isn’t in the same ballpark as Woods, who as recently as last fall openly questioned if he’d ever play professional golf again, it’s a comeback worth appreciating.
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Brooks Koepka didn’t suddenly wake up with strong opinions. He did wake up earlier this season believing he was established enough to step up as one of the Tour’s strong voices. Three major championship trophies on your mantel will do that. “You’re actually, probably, getting the real me now,” Koepka said after playing the Honda Classic pro-am Wednesday. “I think, before, I was just trying to be politically correct, not stir any bubbles and just kind of go on with things and be unnoticed.” He sure isn’t that guy anymore. Koepka is making headlines for more than his game this year, calling out Sergio Garcia for “acting like a child” with those tantrums at the Saudi International, and calling out Bryson DeChambeau and the game’s governing bodies because “no one ever has the balls to penalize” slow play. Koepka also broke the news that Patrick Reed “kind of apologized” to Ryder Cup teammates. So what’s the deal with all the unfiltered candor? “I feel like now, where I’ve put myself in the game, I’ve kind of established myself,” Koepka said. “I feel like I actually do have a voice, and it will be heard. I can do that now, where when you’ve won once on the PGA Tour, you can’t really say the thing you want to say.” Koepka won’t be withdrawing into a shell anytime soon. “There are a lot of things I’ve got opinions on,” he said. “I’m going to say it now. I’m not going to hold anything back.” There was another factor in Koepka deciding it was time to begin speaking his mind about the issues of the day in his sport. He’s an NBA fan. He’s an athlete who mixes easily with athletes from other sports. He sees how NBA players shape conversations in their sport. “That’s kind of where I got it from, just from all these guys who play basketball,” Koepka said. “They speak their mind. They’re going to do what they want to do. They are going to say what they want to say. “I don’t think I’m speaking anything but the truth.” Full-field tee times from the Honda Classic Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos The game’s blessed with smart, insightful young voices. Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and DeChambeau are among the them. So is Justin Thomas, the defending champion this week. He didn’t hesitate speaking up to get a heckler thrown out of the final round of last year’s event, then afterward eloquently defending the game’s principles. Thomas wasn’t surprised hearing Koepka’s voice emerge this year. He didn’t see the development as any change in Koepka. He saw it as a change in Koepka’s opportunities to speak up. “Somehow, he was one of the most underrated players ever, and, no offense, but nobody really talked to him,” Thomas said of media interest. “It’s not that he wasn’t speaking his mind. There was no one to speak his mind to, other than us.” Thomas appreciates Koepka’s candor. He said there are times when it’s required. “I’m very similar,” Thomas said. “There’s no reason for me to sit up here and tell you guys that I think the Rules of Golf, the changes, are great, because I don’t. I think they’re terrible. So, why would I say that? I think anything you can do that’s going to change the game positively, or have a good impact on something, then there’s no reason to feel like you need to hold back.” With Koepka 28 and Thomas 25, these guys might just be clearing their throats. As two of the game’s biggest stars, they are interested in more than shaping shots. They’re interested in shaping policy. “There are a lot of good things [in the game], and there are some things that need to be changed,” Koepka said.