Freddie Dips Into the Honey Jar Again
This from a guy who has finished 131st and 103rd on the money list in each of the last two years. (OK, the Winnie The Pooh reference is a little obtuse, but we'll get back to that shortly.)
Couples cruised (isn't that redundant?) to a three-shot victory Sunday in the Shell Houston Open at a brand new Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy design called Redstone Golf Club. The 43-year-old Couples hadn't won since the 1998 Memorial and many of us wondered if he ever would again. Now all of a sudden we can look forward to Couples being part of the scene for at least a little while longer.
He has always been as monstrously talented as he is wildly popular. The prospect of him playing on more Ryder and Presidents Cups teams is a delicious one. Much of this renaissance stems from a six-hour session on the range early in the week of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in early February. That's where Couples met with teacher Butch Harmon and swore he wanted to rededicate himself to golf. Harmon took Couples at his word, refused to coddle his ego and the two got down to brass tacks.
Couples finished 38th that week on the Monterey Peninsula. But the following week he managed a T13 at the Buick Invitational. Then a seventh in the Nissan Open at Riviera. And a 10th at the Players Championship. And a 13th at BellSouth.
Houston was a culmination. And now golf has another interesting storyline for 2003 to go with the four players - Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Mike Weir and Davis Love III - who have won 11 tournaments between them already this season. Houston was Couples' 15th career victory. One of those (the 1992 Masters) is a major. He is closing in on Hall of Fame numbers.
Such a languid swing he possesses. Such prodigious distances he hits the ball.
And he hasn't really changed in his approach to fans or the media. A former PGA Tour media official once said interviewing Couples was like talking to Winnie The Pooh because Freddie would wander all over the place with his answers. It was really kind of delightful the way he would do it. And he was back at it again late Sunday after a victory achieved despite double-bogeying the seventh hole both Saturday and Sunday.
Somebody mentioned that they didn't know if he or the city of Houston was happier with his win.
'Well, we'll call it a tie,' Couples began. 'To be the first University of Houston guy to win is - I don't think it's any different for any of the rest of the guys. It's different for me, and what a school, what a great, great school to go to, and as I set out there, this was a great course. The Woodlands, I played all right, and I will end it with that and coming to Redstone, I loved this golf course from the start. My caddie is around here somewhere. We were laughing because we saw (Steve) Elkington talk about 20-under par may win here.
'I said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, right,' and four days later, there were a lot of guys under par, but I think that's - we didn't have much bend and the course dried up, but someday when they get a little bit more rough and they play, it will be phenomenal score-wise. It's a great golf course.
'I feel honored to win again. I played a very, very good round of golf, and there were some other guys doing a lot of work, and, you know, someone asked me if I watched the leaderboard, and I watch it all day, and it went up and it went down and then it went up again, then Calc (Mark Calcavecchia) went crazy, then (Hank) Kuehne went nuts then (Stuart) Appleby. It was a lot of fun to be a part of it. Just to finish strong and make some birdies and get a big cushion was a nice feeling.'
Enough said. Let the man play. Let the man ramble. Hope he comes back next week, next month and next year. Welcome back, Freddie.
Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion
Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.
Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.
“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.
It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.
“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”
The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.
“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”
Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey
Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:
Tiger sighting on the range! pic.twitter.com/rcJYLCes7R— Morning Drive (@GCMorningDrive) January 23, 2018
Back on TOUR.pic.twitter.com/OPmjaXFo1l— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 23, 2018
Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open
The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.
Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.
Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:
1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.
2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.
3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.
4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.
5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.
6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.
7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.
8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.
9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.
10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.
Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'
It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.
Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.
"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."
Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.
That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.
"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.
"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."