Langer passes Nicklaus with back-to-back majors

By Associated PressMay 28, 2017, 10:32 pm

STERLING, Va. – Bernhard Langer knew it wouldn't be easy to come from one stroke back to beat Vijay Singh, who's five years younger, drives the ball 30 yards farther and routinely competes with players young enough to be his sons.

Ultimately, the 59-year-old German star's confidence with the putter, a club that has frequently bedeviled him, was the difference as he edged past Singh in a tense back-nine duel to win the Senior PGA Championship at Trump National on Sunday.

Langer won his record ninth senior major and the only one that had eluded him during his dominant decade-long run on the 50-and-over circuit. He tied Jack Nicklaus' record of eight majors last week with a comeback victory in the Regions Tradition. He's also the first player to win the career ''super slam'' of all five senior majors.

Despite a few dozen protesters, the drama remained on the course at President Donald Trump's club on the shores of the Potomac River, about 25 miles outside Washington. Trump, coming off a nine-day trip abroad, did not attend the final round.

Langer pulled ahead of Singh with 12-foot birdie on the par-4 16th. Singh three-putted 17 to give Langer a two-shot advantage. After Singh birdied 18, Langer calmly tapped in for par and a one-shot victory, embracing his daughter, who flew in from Seattle to surprise him, on the 18th green.

Langer shot a 4-under 68 to finish at 18-under 270. Singh closed with a 70.



''I think what really frustrated him was my putting,'' Langer said. ''I made a bunch of putts just to keep in touch and he didn't really make anything.''

Langer knows what that feels like, having struggled with the putting yips off and on throughout his career. Langer's latest challenge came at the beginning of last season, when golf's governing bodies banned the anchored putting stroke he had used for more than a decade. Langer continued using the long putter, moving his top hand an inch away from his chest.

''I found a way now that I feel reasonably comfortable most of the time, not always,'' Langer said. ''It's encouraging for me to see that even under pressure I can make some putts.''

The final pairing teed off amid steady rain and the weather appeared to bother Singh, who rushed his pre-shot routine. Langer, implacable as ever, birdied the par-5 third and the par-4 fifth to move one shot ahead.

Langer made his only bogey of the day on No. 6, and the two remained tied for the next nine holes as the rain tapered off and the wind picked up, blowing from a different direction than it had the rest of the week.

Singh tried to overpower Trump National as he had the first three days, but Langer used his guile to maintain a share of the lead. On the short par-4 ninth, Singh drove the green and had 7 feet for eagle. Langer, unable to reach the green with a driver, hit a hybrid off the tee. His approach shot spun back to 20 feet, but he buried the putt and raised his fist in the air. Singh then missed the eagle putt and stood frozen in disbelief.

Singh's unease grew throughout the afternoon. He practiced his full swing with his putter on the side of the sixth green and rehearsed his putting stroke on several tee boxes. On 12, after hooking his second consecutive tee shot into the rough, he took out his frustration on some tall grass, taking four hard practice swings.

Langer missed just two fairways and one green in regulation, and he led the field for the week in both categories. His accuracy and persistence finally paid off on 16. Singh missed another fairway and two-putted for par. Langer hit 6-iron to 12 feet and his birdie putt was so pure that he started his fist pump before it dropped.

''I missed a lot of putts out there. If I would have putted nicely, this thing probably would have been over a long time ago,'' Singh said. ''But Bernhard played really solid. He never missed a shot and he was always on the green and he putted nicely as well, so he deserved to win.''

No one else posed much of a threat. Billy Andrade twice pulled within two shots of the lead but faded on the back nine. He shot 71 and finished five shots back, tied for third with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who closed with a 68. Scott McCarron and Bob Estes tied for fifth.

The 54-year-old Singh still plays a full PGA Tour schedule and was playing in his first Senior PGA, which is the oldest of the five senior majors.

Langer had four previous top-five finishes in the championship, his best chance coming in his first attempt. He led after three rounds in difficult conditions at Oak Hill in 2008, but shot a final-round 76 to lose by one stroke to Jay Haas.

Langer has three straight wins in the Senior Players Championship and two straight at the Regions Tradition, along with two Senior British Opens and one U.S. Senior Open.

''It means a great deal to win two majors at age 59,'' Langer said. ''And to surpass Jack's record of eight majors out here is pretty neat. I'm a good friend of Jack's and I think very highly of him, and whenever you can do something just similar or close to what he's achieved, you've done something pretty special.''

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.


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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.