Popovic leads Australian PGA, Ogilvy in mix

By Associated PressDecember 13, 2012, 2:35 pm

COOLUM, Australia – Daniel Popovic shot an 8-under 64 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Australian PGA Championship on Thursday, revealing afterward that his father is battling incurable cancer.

Popovic, on his first year on the Australasian PGA Tour, birdied his first four holes at the Palmer Coolum Resort, and later had a string of five straight birdies.

Fellow Australian Scott Strange shot 66 and was alone in second, followed by 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and OneAsia Tour regulars Zhang Xinjun of China and Singapore's Choo Tze-huang, who carded 67s.

Popovic said his father, Radi, who gave him his start in the game, is battling a form of bone cancer.

''You are unsure of when the actual day will come, but he is a strong man and a very stubborn man and I think he'll be here for a little while longer,'' Popovic said. ''He doesn't have too much energy.

''Last week he came up to Sydney, but he just sort of saw my first tee shot and when I came through nine and that was it. But he will be in tears today.''

Veteran Peter Senior, who won last week's Australian Open, was in a group tied for sixth after a 68. Darren Clarke, the 2011 British Open champion, shot 70, including a 10-footer for par on 18.

Rory Sabatini of South Africa shot 76.

Greg Norman pulled out after two holes - both bogeys - due to food poisoning. Tournament officials said Norman was treated in his hotel room by a local doctor and was expected to make a full recovery.

Norman flew by helicopter with resort owner Clive Palmer to the Gold Coast for a private function later Thursday.

''Greg was trying to soldier through and clearly it wasn't possible ... he was quite ill,'' said PGA of Australia chief executive Brian Thorburn.

Popovic, who won last year's qualifying tournament to secure his card for 2012, looked set to break the course record of 62 when he was 8-under after 12 holes. But after eight birdies and a bogey, he shot par the rest of the way in, including a testing 4-footer on the last.

''It wasn't the best of conditions, but after last week at the Australian Open I got used to hitting a lot of wind shots,'' he said. ''I didn't really want to attack the flags, but after a while I talked to my caddie and we decided to start hitting straight at them.''

The 25-year-old Popovic said he only realized he was among the leaders early on his final nine.

''Through nine, I sort of thought I might be up there, then on the second (his 11th hole) I saw my name up there on the leaderboard. And I thought it might be time for a few more birdies. It didn't happen, but I'm not too disappointed.''

Strange has played on both the European and Asian tours recently, but failed in his qualifying attempt for Europe next year and his status in Asia also is not guaranteed.

''If I managed to roll putts in there, I would have had my European card back,'' he said. ''But that is the nature of the beast - live by the sword, die by the sword.''

The Palmer-owned resort and the PGA of Australia were not able to come to an agreement to keep the event at the Sunshine Coast course, so it will move elsewhere next year in Queensland state.

Golfers this year were greeted by a giant tail-flipping, roaring replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur between the ninth green and 10th tee, part of billionaire mining magnate Palmer's plans to turn the resort into a theme park.

''I'm astonished. I never thought I'd see a dinosaur on a golf course,'' Zhang said. ''During the practice round its eyes were moving and his tongue looked, well, almost real. It certainly makes the course look different.''

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x