The Ohio Ace

By Associated PressJune 3, 2011, 10:55 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Steve Stricker had a hole-in-one on his 17th hole Friday in the Memorial to break out of a big pack and build a three-shot lead going into the weekend.

Stricker hit a 6-iron from 188 yards on the eighth hole for the second ace of his career. The other one came in the Phoenix Open in 1997 and earned him a car. All this gave him was a three-shot lead, which could eventually be even more valuable.

Stricker finished with a birdie for a 5-under 67 and was at 9-under 135.

“It’s a shock when you see that go in, obviously, but in a good way,” Stricker said. “A great way to finish the round.”

Rory McIlroy (72), Ricky Barnes (70), Jonathan Byrd (67) and the resurgent Rod Pampling of Australia - who lost his PGA Tour card last year and had a bogey-free 66 - were in a group tied for second.

McIlroy already has made 13 birdies over two rounds, proof enough that he’s swinging well and making his share of putts. He also has five bogeys and a sloppy double bogey Friday on the 14th hole, when he pulled his tee shot into the tiny stream left of the fairway and nearly went into the water on his next shot.

“I felt as if I played good enough to shoot something in the 60s, but I just made too many mistakes out there,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy wasn’t alone in the good and bad of Muirfield Village.

Rickie Fowler, the runner-up at the Memorial last year, has only 12 pars in 36 holes. He was at 3-under 141, six shots behind but still very much in the hunt at the halfway points.

“The conditions are scoreable, but bogeys can creep up on you quickly,” Fowler said. “You can make some birdies, but if there’s a tough pin and you don’t hit the right shot, you’ll make bogeys. It’s a fine line.”

Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III was a great illustration of that. He had six birdies and an eagle and shot 73. Love also hit two into the water on the par-5 11th to make a triple bogey, then took a double bogey on the 17th along with four other bogeys.

Luke Donald, in his debut as the No. 1 player in the world, had another strong rally by finishing with back-to-back birdies for a 69 that left him at 5-under 139, still very much in the hunt. Donald has not finished out of the top 10 in nine straight tournaments.

“Some careless mistakes out there,” Donald said.

Stricker made his share, too, such as back-to-back bogeys from the bunker as he was finishing his front nine. But he played the final five holes in 5 under, highlighted by his second career hole-in-one.

He thrust his arms in the air when he realized it had dropped into the cup, but that’s about as excited as he gets about an ace. Some players keep the golf balls from the ace. Stricker teed it up on the ninth, made birdie, that gave the ball to the official keeping score without informing him where that ball had been lately.

His other ace came in the 1997 Phoenix Open on the 16th hole, the biggest party scene on tour. That was the hole - during the same year, no less -  when Tiger Woods made an ace and was showered with beer cans and plastic cups in one of the most raucous celebrations ever seen in this royal and ancient game. The replay has been shown countless times.

“You didn’t see mine that year? No?” Stricker said with a grin.

His came in the final round, and there’s a reason hardly anyone remembered. For one reason, not many saw it.

“That day, I had teed off the back nine first,” he said. “So there wasn’t a lot of people there.”

The good news for Stricker is the Phoenix Open awarded a car for a hole-in-one on the 16th, but only in the final round. So that’s one thing he got that Woods didn’t - just not for long.

“I used it for a little while, and then traded it in for a minivan,” said Stricker, whose first daughter was born a year later.

With so many wild scorecards, leave it to Phil Mickelson to have a conservative one. That’s not necessarily a good thing this week. Mickelson has made only five birdies against three bogeys through 36 holes, leaving seven shots behind.

“I need something good tomorrow,” Mickelson said. “I had a chance to shoot something in the 60s and move up the leaderboard and didn’t capitalize on a lot of opportunities.”

McIlroy pulled his opening tee shot and made bogey, but two other bogeys on the front came from the middle of the fairway, with a wedge in his hand for one shot and a 9-iron for another.

But he also looked like he’ll be a factor on the weekend with consecutive birdies, including a shot that he thought was headed to the back of the 13th green, only for it to settle 6 feet below the hole.

“I’m happy enough,” McIlroy said. “I’m thereabouts going into the weekend. There’s still a lot of golf left to play. I know that and everyone else knows that. I just need to limit those mistakes. If I can keep the silly bogeys off the card, I think I’ll be all right.”


Getty Images

Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

Getty Images

Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:







Getty Images

Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

Getty Images

Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."