Taylor ready to make amends at Turning Stone

By Associated PressAugust 4, 2010, 6:17 pm

Turning Stone 2007 Logo

VERONA, N.Y. – Nearly a year later, Vaughn Taylor still laments what might have been.

With the Turning Stone Resort Championship there for the taking in a sudden-death playoff with Matt Kuchar early last October, Taylor let it slip away. After watching his 21-foot putt for birdie stop just shy of the cup, Taylor made double-bogey on the sixth extra hole to give Kuchar his first victory on the PGA Tour in seven years.

“It took me a little while to kind of get over it, but at the same time it helped me lock up my card, and you know, it was a good thing,” Taylor said. “I used it as confidence. Coming into this year, when I’ve been in the hunt, I’ve felt a lot better because of last year and the playoff. So it’s been a positive all in all.

“Still think about it every now and then, wish I had a shot or two over again, but that’s the way it goes.”

While Kuchar tees off at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio on Thursday, Taylor will be back at Atunyote Golf Club to compete in the Turning Stone Resort Championship.

The 34-year-old Taylor, who has two victories on tour – the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2004 (in a playoff) and again in 2005 – is brimming with confidence after finishing sixth at the John Deere Classic two weeks ago, his fifth top 10 of the year.

“I think confidence is definitely high,” said Taylor, 38th on the money list with $1.5 million. “Anytime you play well somewhere and you come back, you have good memories, good feelings.”

Turning Stone is part of the race for the FedEx Cup title this year after being part of the Fall Series since its inception. And good things have happened to its past two champions.

Dustin Johnson was 357th in the Official World Golf Rankings the week before he won at Turning Stone as a rookie two years ago. Johnson has since won twice on tour, and his victory at Pebble Beach in February made Johnson the first player since Tiger Woods to win in his first three years on tour after leaving college.

Kuchar ranked 101st in the OWGR the week before his playoff victory over Taylor and went on to record top 10s in four of his next five starts. This year, Kuchar is ranked No. 26, two spots ahead of Johnson, and both are poised to qualify for their first Ryder Cup team.

Among those in the Turning Stone field of 132 are: Steve Flesch, the inaugural winner in 2007, David Duval, Rocco Mediate, and Australian John Senden, who has two top fives in three starts at Atunyote.

Notah Begay III, the tournament’s ambassador, will play this year after missing last year’s event because of a knee injury that required surgery. Begay has not made a cut in eight tries on tour this year.

“I’ve got no expectations. I’ve made zero money on the tour this year,” said Begay, who played 15 events in 2009 before taking a medical exemption. “For me, just getting through a tournament without being in pain is a success, and I’m hoping to do that.”

Turning Stone Resort chief executive Ray Halbritter originally gave himself a sponsor’s exemption to play in the tournament, then recanted on Sunday. The 60-year-old Halbritter, who has passed a PGA of America playing ability test, was the driving force behind landing a PGA Tour event here four years ago and said he didn’t want to be a distraction.

Two players did receive exemptions. Chris Smith, whose wife was killed in a fiery automobile crash in northern Indiana just over a year ago, has made just one cut in eight events this year as he tries to rebound from the tragedy. The other exemption went to 15-year-old phenom Gavin Hall of Pittsford, N.Y., who will be making his first career PGA start.

If Hall makes the cut – and that’s entirely possible because two weeks ago the left-hander shot a 10-under-par 62 to set an all-time scoring record at the U.S. Junior Amateur – he would be the second-youngest player in PGA Tour history to do so (Bob Panasik was the youngest, at the 1957 Canadian Open).

“It’s exciting,” Begay said. “He may never play another tour event again, but I’m hoping that he just enjoys it and doesn’t get too caught up in the competition.'

“Nobody’s expecting him to do well, so I think it’s more important for him to have fun and to really take as much experience as he can from the process and help him become a better player.”

Divots: The PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, the final major of the year, has reserved two spots in case the winners of this week’s Bridgestone Invitational and the Turning Stone Resort Championship are not already eligible. The first two alternates are D.J. Trahan and Matt Jones.
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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.