Couples trails Sluman on Day 1 of Regions Tradition

By Associated PressJune 6, 2013, 10:22 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Jeff Sluman birdied No. 17 en route to a 7-under 65 and a one-stroke lead over Fred Couples on Thursday after the first round in the Regions Tradition, the second of five Champions Tour majors.

Sluman, who had eight birdies, and Couples both had their only bogeys on No. 16 at Shoal Creek. The Legends of Golf winner with Brad Faxon in April, Sluman matched his best opening-round score on the Champions Tour.

''The greens are very fast out there, but they're as good as we've seen all year certainly, or the last five years that I can remember,'' he said. ''They were just perfect speed and I was getting the ball to the hole.

''On days like today, it feels like it's easy and then sometimes you come out the next day and it feels like an alien took over your body. I hope that doesn't happen to me (Friday).''

Couples, the Presidents Cup captain and World Golf Hall of Famer, made a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 sixth hole and a 30-footer for birdie on the next hole. His only blemish was a bogey on the par-3 16th when he overshot the green and landed just into the line of spectators.

The 1992 Masters winner has had a whirlwind few weeks, visiting the White House recently as Presidents Cup captain, playing two rounds with Tiger Woods last week at the PGA Tour's Memorial and getting inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in May.

Couples said his golf has been ''fair'' but called the rest of the year ''truly fun.'' He has endured a memorably bad experience at Shoal Creek.

Couples had four consecutive bogeys to blow a one-stroke lead after 12 holes in the 1990 PGA Championship and lost by three strokes to Wayne Grady.

Couples still likes the course and finished fourth at the Tradition last year.

''I didn't play well at all a couple years ago and then last year I had a good last round to move my way up there,'' he said. ''But I never really had a shot at beating Tom (Lehman). I think I shot a 7 under the last round so I was not even really a factor but at least it felt like I could shoot another good round here. I played really well (Thursday).''

Duffy Waldorf and Peter Senior shot 67, and Mark Calcavecchia, Michael Allen, David Frost and Corey Pavin followed at 68. Two-time defending champion Lehman was one of 11 players with a 69

The course received nearly two inches of rain starting with a shortened pro-am on Wednesday, when Couples got in 14 holes.

''The fairways were the best they've ever been here for the three years, and the greens took a little bit of water (Wednesday) night that you never saw,'' he said. ''If you were in the rough, you could get the ball on the green. Obviously it made the course play a little easier.''

Sluman had few complaints, He nearly managed to save par on 16 and then hit a sand wedge to about 3 1/2 feet on No. 17 to take the lead.

''Relatively speaking, it was a dead-straight putt, the kind of putt you're supposed to make if you've got your name on the bag,'' said Sluman, who came within inches of a closing birdie.

Waldorf had five birdies on the final eight holes after finishing the first 10 at even par. He said he missed several 10-foot birdie chances but recovered with a nice bunker shot to set up birdie on No. 11 and a 50-footer for another one at the next hole.

''It was almost like I felt like I was prepared for the course and everything, but then two inches of rain came or however much rain came (Wednesday) evening,'' Waldorf said. ''It kind of felt like I was feeling the course out again as far as how the ball was rolling, how the greens were running and all that.''

Lehman said ''brutal putting'' prompted him to switch to a cross-handed grip on No. 8 that he'd been practicing with for the last month, and he had three birdies and a bogey after that.

''Frustration and I didn't feel like I had a chance to make it,'' Lehman said. ''You know how it is when you just feel like you just can't make the putt. I had no confidence so I just changed my grip up and felt more comfortable.''

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x