Bae, Jacobson lead Northern Trust at halfway point

By Doug FergusonFebruary 16, 2013, 1:45 am

LOS ANGELES – A move down the California coast hasn't changed a thing for Fredrik Jacobson.

One week after his best finish in more than a year, Jacobson birdied the two toughest holes at Riviera on his way to a 6-under 65 on Friday and a share of the lead with Sang-Moon Bae going into the weekend at the Northern Trust Open.

The Swede did just about everything well, from his tee shots to his iron play, just what it takes to get around the classic design of Riviera. And it helps to get a little luck, such as a 55-foot birdie putt from just off the green at No. 9 that bumped along until disappearing for an unlikely birdie.

''That was probably the biggest bonus of the day,'' Jacobson said.


Northern Trust Open: Articles, videos and photos


Bae played in the morning and began with four straight birdies, all of them from tap-in range until holing a 25-foot putt on the 13th. He wound up making birdies on half of his holes in his round of 65.

They were at 9-under 133, one shot clear of John Merrick (66) and John Rollins (65).

Still very much in the picture was Luke Donald, who chipped in twice for birdie and worked his short-game magic around the course for a 66. Playing for the first time in two months, Donald didn't look as if he had much rust. He was two shots behind.

Lee Westwood birdied the last hole for a 68 to join the group at 6-under 136 that includes a pair of major champions, Charl Schwartzel (67) and Webb Simpson (66).

Phil Mickelson was lurking, despite a sloppy double bogey on the 10th hole. Mickelson still managed a 67 and was five shots back.

''I had a little hiccup on the 10th,'' Mickelson said. ''I was just trying to make 4 and I couldn't even do that. But 4 under is not a bad round, with the exception of No. 10. That took a great round and turned it into a pretty good round.''

It sets up for a wide-open weekend along Sunset Boulevard.

Twenty players were separated by five shots. That included defending champion Bill Haas (67) and Matt Kuchar, who had a pair of double bogeys in a 73. They were four shots behind. Sergio Garcia bogeyed three of his last five holes for a 73 and was in the group at 4-under 138 that included Mickelson, Ernie Els and Adam Scott.

Jacobson has chronic back issues, and he has them under control at the moment.

Since his lone win at the Travelers Championship in the summer of 2011, he has only two top 10s in official PGA Tour events – a tie for eighth in Hartford as the defending champion, and his tie for seventh last week at Pebble Beach.

''I obviously take a lot out of that, just being in contention again,'' he said. ''I've had some good practice sessions before, but to bring it on the course and play under pressure, that's what it's about. And the sooner I can get back and put myself in this position where I can get some pressure, that's the best practice you can get.''

The shocker was that everyone finished the second round, a rarity at Riviera with a 144-man field. Robert Streb had to make par on his last hole for 70 players to make the cut. Instead, he missed a 5-foot putt and took double bogey. That not only allowed 10 players into the weekend at 2-over 144, but Streb wasn't one of them. His double bogey dropped him to 3 over.

Ryo Ishikawa, who made bogey on the 18th from the middle of the fairway, wound up making his first cut of the year.

Donald, the No. 3 player in the world, was one of three players from the top 20 who had yet to play a tournament this year, and they all played in the same group. Scott is still in the mix, while Graeme McDowell had a 72 and missed the cut by one shot.

Donald doesn't have the well-rounded game that took him to No. 1 in the world as recently as six months ago. His short game has carried him, a product of how much work he spent during his break from tournament golf over the last two months.

He holed a tough chip for eagle on the 10th hole Thursday, knocked in a chip just short of the 15th green Friday, and chipped in from about 70 feet short of the green on the par-3 fourth hole for his last birdie of the day.

''Tee to Green, I'm getting closer,'' he said. ''I'm very excited being sharp with my short game. It's nice to be in the mix this early. It's never easy to come off a long break and get straight back into the thick of things. A lot of my score comes from a good short game.''

Donald began his rise to No. 1 in the world two years ago by working with Dave Alred, a performance guru from Britain who is famous for working with rugby players such as Johnny Wilkinson. The latest influence is none other than Michael Jordan, though Donald says it's nothing more than spending time with the NBA great.

Donald spends half the year in south Florida, where Jordan is building a home.

Jordan loves to play golf. Donald loves to take his money.

''I usually give him six (shots) a side,'' Donald said. ''And that's usually not enough for him.''

Donald won an NCAA title at Northwestern and he first met Jordan in Chicago. He says they are simply friends – ''In no way am I working with Michael at all'' – although it doesn't hurt to be around someone with such a winning pedigree.

''It's great just to be around someone that was arguably the greatest of all time in his sport, just to see how he reacts, his demeanor, see his attitude toward things,'' Donald said. ''It's been nice just to spend a little bit of time with him.

''I try to pick up things from just watching him,'' he said. ''I ask him some questions and he gives me answers sometimes. Certainly, it's not like a working relationship. It's just nice to have access to someone that was that great at his sport.''

Donald still doesn't understand how he has played the 10th hole so well this week. That hasn't been the case for others.

Dustin Johnson started Friday morning on the 10th hole and went over the green, and then his next shot plugged slightly in the back bunker. His third shot popped onto the green, just barely, and rolled back into his big footprint in the sand. It took him two more shots to get out, and he was happy to leave with a double bogey. Another short-game error late in his round led to a double bogey, and Johnson had a 69, to miss the cut by one shot.

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.

Class of 2011: Who's got next?

By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

The sprawling legacy of the Class of 2011 can be traced to any number of origins, but for some among what is arguably the most prolific class ever, it all began in June 2009.

The 99-player field that descended on Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., for the AJGA’s FootJoy Invitational included Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and so many others, like Michael Kim, who up to that moment had experienced the weight of the ’11 class only from afar.

“It was that year that Justin won the FootJoy Invitational and that got him into [the Wyndham Championship]," Kim recalled. "That was my first invitational and I was like 'these guys are so good’ and I was blown away by what they were shooting. I remember being shocked by how good they were at that time.”

Tom Lovelady, who like former Cal-Berkeley Bear Kim is now on the PGA Tour, remembers that tournament as the moment when he started to realize how special this particular group could be, as well as the genesis of what has become lifetime friendships.

In the third round, Lovelady was paired with Spieth.

“We kind of hit it off and became friends after that," Lovelady recalled. "The final round I got paired with Justin Thomas and we became friends. On the 10th hole I asked [Thomas], ‘Where do you want to go to school?’ He said, ‘Here. Here or Alabama.’ My first reaction was, ‘Don’t go to Alabama.’ He’s like, ‘Why?’ I wanted to go there. I knew the class was strong and they only had so many spots, but that’s where I really wanted to go.”

Both ended up in Tuscaloosa, and both won an NCAA title during their time in college. They also solidified a friendship that endures to this day in South Florida where they live and train together.

While the exploits of Thomas, Spieth and Daniel Berger are well documented, perhaps the most impressive part of the ’11 class is the depth that continues to develop at the highest level.

To many, it’s not a question as to whether the class will have another breakout star, it’s when and who?



There’s a good chance that answer could have been found on the tee sheet for last week’s RSM Classic, a lineup that included Class of ’11 alums Lovelady; Kim; Ollie Schniederjans, a two-time All-American at Georgia Tech; Patrick Rodgers, Stanford's all-time wins leader alongside Tiger Woods; and C.T. Pan, a four-time All-American at the University of Washington.

Lovelady earned his Tour card this year via the Web.com Tour, while Schniederjans and Rodgers are already well on their way to the competitive tipping point of Next Level.

Rodgers, who joined the Tour in 2015, dropped a close decision at the John Deere Classic in July, where he finished a stroke behind winner Bryson DeChambeau; and Schniederjans had a similar near-miss at the Wyndham Championship.

To those who have been conditioned by nearly a decade of play, it’s no surprise that the class has embraced a next-man-up mentality. Nor is it any surprise, at least for those who were forged by such an exceedingly high level of play, that success has seemed to be effortless.

“First guy I remember competing against at a high level was Justin. We were playing tournaments at 10, 11 years old together,” Rodgers said. “He was really, really good at that age and I wasn’t really good and so he was always my benchmark and motivated me to get better.”

That symbiotic relationship hasn’t changed. At every level the group has been challenged, and to a larger degree motivated, by the collective success.

By all accounts, it was Spieth who assumed the role of standard-bearer when he joined the Tour in 2013 and immediately won. For Rodgers, however, the epiphany arrived a year later as he was preparing to play a college event in California and glanced up at a television to see his former rival grinding down the stretch at Augusta National.

“Jordan’s leading the Masters. A couple years before we’d been paired together battling it out at this exact same college event,” he laughed. “I think I even won the tournament. It was just crazy for me to see someone who is such a peer, someone I was so familiar with up there on the biggest stage.”

It was a common theme for many among the Class of ’11 as Spieth, Thomas and others emerged, and succeeded, on a world stage. If familiarity can breed contempt, in this case it created a collective confidence.

Success on Tour has traditionally come slowly for new pros, the commonly held belief being that it took younger players time to evolve into Tour professionals. That’s no longer the case, the byproduct of better coaching, training and tournaments for juniors and top-level amateurs.

But for the Class of ’11, that learning curve was accelerated by the economies of scale. The quality and quantity of competition for the class has turned out to be a fundamental tenet to the group’s success.

“Since the mindset of the class has been win, win, win, you don’t know anything other than that, it’s never been just be good enough,” Lovelady said. “You don’t think about being top 125 [on the FedExCup points list], you think about being as high as you can instead of just trying to make the cut, or just keep your card. It’s all you’ve known since you were 14, 15 years old.”

It’s a unique kind of competitive Darwinism that has allowed the class to separate itself from others, an ever-present reality that continues to drive the group.

“It was constantly in my head motivating me,” Rodgers said. “Then you see Jordan turn pro and have immediate success and Justin turn pro and have immediate success. It’s kind of the fuel that drives me. What makes it special is these guys have always motivated me, maybe even more so than someone like Tiger [Woods].”

The domino effect seems obvious, inevitable even, with the only unknown who will be next?

“That’s a good question; I’d like for it to be myself,” Lovelady said. “But it’s hard to say it’s going to be him, it’s going to be him when it could be him. There are just so many guys.”