Weary Stricker opens with 66 3 off Sony Open lead

By Associated PressJanuary 13, 2012, 9:37 am

HONOLULU (AP)—Steve Stricker became a footnote in PGA Tour history bywinning comeback player of the year in consecutive seasons.

Coming back after a win?

That’s been a little more difficult.

Three days after winning on Maui at the Tournament of Champions, Strickerwas back to work. He did well Thursday in the Sony Open to open with a 4-under66 and finish three shots behind Graham DeLaet of Canada. What made itimpressive is that Stricker felt as if he were in a daze part of the time atWaialae Country Club.

“A little sluggish at times,” Stricker said.

That’s nothing new. In the seven previous times that he played the weekafter winning, the best he could manage was a tie for ninth in the Deutsche BankChampionship in 2007.

He won the John Deere Classic the last three years, flew across the Atlanticfor the British Open and has never been a factor. When he won the Northern TrustOpen at Riviera in 2010, he headed over to Arizona for the Match PlayChampionship and became only the second No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round.

This week’s trip was only a short hop over from a different island, but it’sno less taxing.

“I’m still excited from last week,” Stricker said. “You turn around andyou’re right back in the competition. You’ve got to be focused. And I was, forthe most part.”

The Plantation Course at Kapalua is a big walk, and Stricker said he waseven more drained from nearly losing five-shot leads on the last two days andfighting off the contenders. Winning itself always takes a toll, so Strickertook Tuesday off, then spent Wednesday in what he described as a pro-am that wascluttered with media requests, not to mention dozens of players stopping tocongratulate him.

“It’s a nice problem to have,” he said

But he’s back to work, now, and in the first full-field event of the PGATour season, feels as though he at least gave himself a chance to join Ernie Els in 2003 as the only players to sweep the Hawaii tournaments.

Walking toward the clubhouse, Stricker was approached by the Golf Channeland asked if he could come on the set for a few minutes. One of the producerssaid it wasn’t imperative, and Stricker—as if it were the hardest thing heever did in his life—said no.

After changing shoes in the locker room, and speaking briefly with a PGATour media official to provide quotes for the Honolulu newspapers, he made adetour on his way to the hotel so he could do the Golf Channel interview.

There’s one big advantage coming off a win, however.

“When you can win, it just boosts that confidence level way up theretoday,” Stricker said.

DeLaet didn’t have reason for a lot of confidence considering he had notplayed in any PGA Tour event in nearly seven months. His excitement level washard to match, though.

It was about this time a year ago when the Canadian’s lower back hurt somuch that he had major surgery, in which part of a disk was shaved off toalleviate pressure on a nerve. He thought there might be a chance he would neverplay again, this right after a rookie season in 2010 in which he finished arespectable 100th on the money list to easily keep his card.

“I’m just so excited to be back out,” DeLaet said. “I had a good seasonmy rookie campaign, and then it was all basically just taken away. And I realizenow how fortunate we are to be playing golf for a living. My whole attitude isdefinitely better.”

DeLaet surged to the top of the leaderboard when he chipped in from justshort of the green on the par-5 ninth, then holed a 35-foot birdie putt on the10th and hit his approach to 6 feet on the 12th for another birdie. He took theoutright lead with birdies on the last two holes, getting up-and-down from justshort of the green on the par-5 18th.

Carl Pettersson and former Sony Open champion K.J. Choi were among those at65, while Stricker was in the group at 66 with Webb Simpson and Bud Cauley .

Thursday was a gentle start of the season on the PGA Tour, with the oceanbreeze barely strong enough to move fronds on the palm trees that line thefairways. Sixty-three players in the 144-man field broke par, including Oahunative Tadd Fujikawa , who was given a late sponsor exemption.

Cauley, who last year became the sixth player to go from college to the PGATour without Q-school, didn’t show any signs of rust from having not played innearly two months. He ran off four straight birdies around the turn until hestalled, then dropped a shot on the 17th and missed a birdie opportunity on the18th when he tried to hit fairway metal out of a bunker and topped his shot.

“I did a lot of things right,” he said. “I did a lot of things I wasdoing last summer.”

DeLaet’s injury was nothing new, first suffered when he was playing hockeyas a junior. His lower back would give him fits, and then the pain wouldsubside. Toward the end of his rookie season in 2010, however, it got so badthat he couldn’t sit for more than a few seconds.

Surgery took care of the pain, and DeLaet tried to return in the summer inthe two tournaments sandwiched around the U.S. Open. His next start was supposedto be the AT&T National at Aronimink, but after playing a few holes before theWednesday pro-am, he realized he was trying to get back too soon.

“I think I wanted to be there so bad that I felt that I was betterphysically than I actually was,” DeLaet said. “I just knew that it’s hardenough to compete out here when you’re healthy, and I just knew that I wasn’t ingood enough shape to compete.”

For the moment, he feels great.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.