Merritt leads RBC Heritage by 3; Spieth 5 back

By Associated PressApril 18, 2015, 11:07 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Troy Merritt shot a 2-under 69 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead into the final round of the RBC Heritage, while defending champion Matt Kuchar and Masters winner Jordan Spieth stayed within reach.

A day after tying the course record with a 61 to build a four-stroke advantage at Harbour Town, Merritt had four birdies and a double bogey to reach 14-under 199.

Kuchar, Brendon Todd and Kevin Kisner were tied for second.

Todd made the big move with a 63, the day's lowest round. Kisner shot 67, and Kuchar 68.

Jim Furyk led a group another stroke behind after a 68, with Spieth five shots back, also following a 68. Spieth believes he can shoot even lower Sunday to chase a second straight jacket, this one tartan.

Brice Garnett and Branden Grace were tied with Furyk in fifth. Garnett shot 65, and Grace 66. Bo Van Pelt was 9 under along with Spieth after a 67.


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The pack of seven players at 8 under included 2013 RBC Heritage winner Graeme McDowell, past British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen and former world No. 1 Luke Donald.

Spieth thrilled the gallery with his bounce-back 62 on Friday and it was a full house around the first tee when the 21-year-old Texan got started. But Spieth played more like he did in Thursday's opening 74 than in the second round, fighting to put shots close and make putts on the way to 68.

Still, it was Spieth's 18th time breaking par in his past 19 rounds, a monthlong run of success that included the Valspar Championship title, seconds at Texas and Houston and that record-tying Masters win from last week where he matched Tiger Woods' mark of 18 under from 1997.

And the fans continued to celebrate that accomplishment, shouting and applauding Spieth wherever he walked. One more round and Spieth can get some rest: He's not playing the Zurich Open next week.

Spieth isn't counting out his chances of another round like Friday's. ''There's a low one out there and I think it's certainly possible'' to win, he said.

Only Bernhard Langer in 1985 followed a Masters win with success at the RBC Heritage.

Merritt had one-upped Spieth's round Friday with a 61 to tie the tournament's course record set in 1994 by David Frost. It moved Merritt to the top of the leaderboard and looked like it might give him a strong jump start to keep things going Saturday.

And Merritt opened with birdies on the second and third holes to move to 14 under. But a double bogey on the par-4 eighth hole bounced him back down. Merritt eventually regained that edge with a birdie on the ninth hole and on the par-3 14th hole after knocking his tee shot within 4 feet. He made pars the rest of the way and will take to the course Sunday seeking his first career PGA Tour victory.

Kuchar overcame a double-bogey 5 on the seventh hole to keep within reach of playing partner Merritt.

Todd, nine strokes behind when his round began, got his run going with five birdies on the front nine to quietly move up. By the time he chipped in from 70 feet out on the 18th hole, Todd had moved into solo second place with only Merritt in front.

Todd, last year's Byron Nelson Championship winner, has struggled to take that next step forward this year. He hadn't finished better than 23rd in his past four events and missed the cut at last week's Masters after shooting 80-71.

Todd said he struggled with his putting coming in and was glad to see his short game heating up to post his lowest round on the PGA Tour since shooting 63 in the second round of the Humana Challenge in January 2014. ''Maybe it's just coming a little bit early this year,'' he said.

Divots: Threat of rain Sunday had the tournament organizers moving up tee times. Groups of three will go off the first and 10th tees between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. ... Tom Watson was first on the course Saturday and his five birdies on the first 14 holes had the 65-year-old thinking he might shoot his age. But Watson had bogeys on two of the final four holes to finish with a 69. ... Two-time RBC Heritage champion Boo Weekley shot a 77 on Saturday, his highest round ever in 35 career rounds at Harbour Town.

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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.