Notes: Stenson No. 1, but no fan of Dove Mountain

By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2014, 9:12 pm

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.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry