Flanagan Stepping on the Gas

By Brian HewittMay 24, 2007, 4:00 pm
Australian Nick Flanagan doesnt have a residence in the United States. Which means he doesnt have a garage. Which means he doesnt have any place to park the shiny new BMW X5 he won Sunday for capturing the BMW Charity Pro-Am at The Cliffs.
Still, Flanagan told me Tuesday, Id like to get it out on the road and play with it a little bit. Ive never really owned a car.
Life is good right now for the 22-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion. Never mind that he failed to advance out of Mondays local qualifying at Pinewild (near Pinehurst) in North Carolina because his 1-under-par score for 18 holes wasnt good enough by two shots. And never mind that disappointment means he wont get to go back to Oakmont (the site of his 2003 U.S. Am victory) where theyre staging the U.S. Open next month.
Flanagan has won his last two starts on the Nationwide Tour. One more in calendar 2007 and he automatically earns an instant promotion to the PGA TOUR. Finishing in the top 25 on the money list is a virtual certainty which means, he said, he can play to win without worrying about money.
Thats my goal for the rest of the year, he said of the very real prospect of winning three Nationwide events. Theres no pressure to get in the top 25.
The last player to win three straight Nationwide Tour events was Jason Gore during his memorable 2005 season. Flanagan will try and duplicate that feat this week at the Mellwood Prince Georges County Open in Maryland.
Speaking of the Nationwide Tour, tournament director Teo Sodeman confirmed that Tommy Two Gloves Gainey requested an unrestricted sponsors exemption for this weeks event.
Gainey emerged as the winner of GOLF CHANNEL's Big Break VII: Reunion in the final episode broadcast Tuesday night. Through 54 holes at the BMW tournament last week he shared the lead. A Sunday 77 dropped him out of the top 25 which cost him an automatic berth at Mellwood.
Sodeman turned down Gaineys request and opted instead to invite two local golfers, former Naval Academy standout Billy Hurley and former University of Maryland player Del Ponchock.
His spectacular crash and burn at the Open Championship in 1999 at Carnoustie is still the signature moment of Frenchman Jean Van de Veldes career.
Now Van de Velde has confirmed he hopes to return to the scene of his infamy at this years British in July.
Earlier this year, R&A Secretary Peter Dawson announced his organization would not extend a wild card invitation to Van de Velde for Carnoustie. That means Van de Velde, currently ranked No. 179 in the world, will have to qualify.
All indications are that he will attempt to do so at the European International Final Qualifying set for July 2 at Sunningdale in England. As many as 120 players will play 36 holes that day at Sunningdale with spots going to no fewer than 12 players and no more than 20.
Im not playing very well at the moment, Van de Velde told The Daily Mail last week after rounds of 76 and 79 shut him out of weekend play at the Irish Open.
As to a return to Carnoustie: Of course I want to be there, Van de Velde said. Who would not be keen to play in a major championship? I have to qualify and I think I have got as good a chance as the vast majority of players. Would there be a hullabaloo around me? I dont know. But if so, it wouldnt be a distraction. I would be encouraged by it.
At Carnoustie in 1999 Van de Velde squandered a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole before losing a three-way playoff, that included Justin Leonard and Scotlands Paul Lawrie, the eventual winner.
Lawrie is in the field at Carnoustie by virtue of being a past champion. But its interesting to note that his current world ranking, 248, is 69 places worse than Van de Veldes.
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next 8-12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”