Villegas shoots 63, leads by one at Wyndham

By Associated PressAugust 14, 2014, 11:22 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Camilo Villegas got away from golf for a little while, and his game came back.

A recharged Villegas shot a 7-under 63 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round at the Wyndham Championship.

North Carolina natives Webb Simpson and William McGirt shot 64, and Scott Langley, Heath Slocum, Paul Casey, Andrew Loupe and Martin Laird were another stroke back in the final event before the PGA Tour's playoffs.

Villegas hasn't won since 2010 and has only two top-10 finishes in the last three years.

After pulling out of the Canadian Open after one round last month, he spent the past week back in his native Colombia for ''a little recharge'' - leaving his clubs behind in Florida.

''I just thought it was appropriate to hop on a plane and see mom and dad and recharge a little bit,'' Villegas said.

It helped him make a late charge up the Sedgefield Country Club leaderboard.

Starting on the back nine, he had three early birdies before getting even hotter late: He followed his birdie on the fourth with an eagle on the par-5 fifth, placing his second shot about 3 feet from the stick.

He claimed sole possession of the lead two holes later with a birdie, sinking a 15-foot putt on the par-3 seventh.

But early leads have been something of a curse at Sedgefield. Since the tournament returned to the course in 2008, the only first-round leader to win was Arjun Atwal in 2010.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, videos and photos


And first-round leads haven't exactly been kind to Villegas lately, either. He held two of them last year, but missed the cut at the Honda Classic and finished 71st at the John Deere.

''I've also played great rounds and played some good ones after that,'' Villegas said. ''It's a matter of just coming out here and playing good golf tomorrow. There shouldn't be any relationship between Thursday-Friday and Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday.''

Simpson, the 2011 winner, hopes to make an impression on U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. His three captain's picks are due next month. Simpson finished 15th on the Ryder Cup points list.

''It's on my mind a little bit, but there are so many things I can't control with what the captain does and how other guys play,'' Simpson said. ''I think if I have a good week this week - not just today but this week - it'll show that I really want to make the team. I want to make a good argument for myself to be a pick.''

Simpson has always been a local favorite and top draw at this tournament - even before he claimed his first PGA Tour victory here three years ago, and well before he won the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. The Raleigh native played college golf at nearby Wake Forest and lives in Charlotte.

Playing in the marquee grouping of the day along with fellow Wyndham winners Brandt Snedeker (2007) and Patrick Reed (2013), Simpson birdied his first four holes.

He was briefly at 7 -under before he wound up with a bogey on the 17th when his 3-foot par putt hit a spike mark.

''Normally, the ball will kind of pop right over, but it got it pretty good and went right,'' Simpson said. ''Late in the day, it happens to everybody.''

McGirt also played well after spending some time away from the game.

After his tie for 25th at the Canadian Open, the fourth-year pro took a break to paint his garage and - as the father of a 17-month-old son - joked that there were a ''lot of dirty diapers I got to change.''

He also made a visit to his coach in Charleston, South Carolina, but otherwise kept his clubs in their travel case. He said he typically doesn't play at all when he's home.

''I mean, I love to play golf,'' McGirt quipped. ''But not that much.''

The 35-year-old McGirt who grew up near the North Carolina-South Carolina line in Fairmont closed with five birdies on the back nine to make up for two early bogeys. He wrapped up by sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th.

Laird needs a strong week here to climb into the playoffs beginning next week in New Jersey. He arrived at No. 136 on the points list and the top 125 qualify for The Barclays.

It's a familiar position for him: As a rookie in 2008, he came to the Wyndham outside the playoff picture before his fourth-place tie pushed him into The Barclays.

''Since then, I've always liked this golf course,'' Laird said. ''It's just a position course. Get in the fairway and kind of pick and choose your spots where you can go at flags. That's the kind of golf I like.''

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.