Fowler fires bogey-free 64 for SHO lead

By Associated PressMarch 31, 2017, 1:24 am

HUMBLE, Texas – Rickie Fowler shot an 8-under 64 for a one-shot lead over Sung Kang after the first round of the Houston Open on Thursday.

Fowler had his best round in six appearances at the tournament, topping a previous low score of 68. Fowler overcame damp conditions and a chilly, breezy morning to jump to a hot start.

Fowler won last month at the Honda Classic and is trying to keep momentum going into the Masters next week. The Honda Classic win snapped a 13-month, 25-start drought for Fowler.

Fowler held a three-shot lead over Vaughn Taylor and Keegan Bradley when he finished his round in the afternoon, then Kang closed the gap with his 65. The 29-year-old South Korean missed a putt from less than 5 feet to bogey on 18. Still, compared to last year's final round at the Houston Open when he shot a 6-over 78, he said he was satisfied with the improvement.

Kang is among the 115 players who need a victory to qualify for Augusta National, as Jim Herman did by winning in Houston last year. Among the 144 players in the Houston Open field, 29 already have invitations to play. It would have been 30, expect Dustin Johnson decided to take the week off after winning the Dell Technologies Match Play for his third straight victory.


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Behind Fowler and Kang, Stewart Cink, Jhonattan Vegas and Kyle Stanley all shot 6-under 66. Jordan Spieth struggled at times and shot 3-under 69. Herman shot 2-over 74, while 2015 Houston Open winner J.B. Holmes shot 1-over 73.

Kang said he doesn't want to get too ahead of himself by eyeing a last-minute ticket to Augusta after the first round.

''I don't know anything about the future, and whatever happens, happens,'' Kang said. ''I'll just keep doing what I can do the next few days, and I'll accept the results.''

Heavy rains canceled the pro-am event at the Golf Club of Houston on Wednesday.

The sun dried out the course later in the day, and the greens began to play faster. Several players commented on the balancing act of avoiding the water hazards but also not overplaying the speedy greens, which are designed to mimic Augusta.

Fowler said he was fortunate to not have been too thrown off by the muddy conditions.

''I felt like I got some good breaks with having mud on the same side as where the trouble was and that I could kind of keep it fairly conservative,'' Fowler said. ''If the mud was kind of kicking in, it ended up being a good shot.''

On Thursday night, Fowler traveled 20 miles south to downtown Houston to throw out the first pitch at the Astros' exhibition game against the Cubs. Fowler said he spent a lot of time with the Cardinals during spring training and said he's a friend of Astros owner Jim Crane, who he has played golf with at the Floridian National Golf Club.

''It's probably more nervous when you get out there on the mound than we really ever get or maybe close to Ryder Cup nerves,'' Fowler said. ''You're just hoping not to screw up.''

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.