Bae leads, hopes for better finish at Riviera

By Doug FergusonFebruary 15, 2014, 2:09 am

LOS ANGELES – Sang-Moon Bae is off to another great start at the Northern Trust Open. The next step is a better finish.

Bae played bogey-free Friday on another gorgeous day at Riviera for a 5-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead over Aaron Baddeley and Robert Garrigus going into the weekend.

Baddeley, who hasn't won since Riviera three years ago, birdied his last four holes for a 65. Garrigus played in the afternoon, when it's a little more difficult to make putts, and managed just fine with a 67.

Bae was at 9-under 133.

The 27-year-old South Korean was tied for the lead going into the weekend at Riviera last year. Bae struggled to a 76 in the third round and never got back into contention.

''It was really, really good experience, and I learned a lot,'' Bae said. ''I improved a lot from last year.''


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He wound up winning the Byron Nelson Championship a few months later for his first PGA Tour victory.

Patience surely will be required at some point over the weekend on what has shaped up as one of the best weeks of weather at Riviera - an abundance of sunshine and only a trace of wind. Despite what would appear to be pristine scoring conditions, no one has reached double digits under par this week, a testament to one of the best golf courses on the PGA Tour.

''It's a strong course, especially when it's dry and firm like it is,'' Baddeley said. ''If you miss it out of position, it's really hard to get the ball up and down. Today was good, because I made a couple good saves but coming in, I had some good looks and made them.''

And while Bae is in the lead, the tournament remains wide open, with 22 players separated by only five shots.

One of them is Dustin Johnson, who led after the first round and opened with two quick birdies. Johnson never made any more progress, however. He dropped shots on the 12th and 15th holes to negate a few more birdies, and missed several good looks inside 12 feet. He had to settle for a 70 and was three behind at 6-under 136.

''I played pretty solid today, just hit a couple of bad drivers on the back. But that's going to happen,'' Johnson said. ''But I still had a lot of really good looks at birdie and just couldn't capitalize on any of them.''

Also three shots out of the lead was Jim Furyk, who had a 68.

Among those missing the cut was Matt Kuchar, who failed to qualify for the weekend for the first time since the 2012 PGA Championship. His streak of 30 straight cuts was the longest active on Tour, though still far behind the record 142 by Tiger Woods.

Baddeley was in the middle of the pack until he hit his approach on the 15th hole to about 8 feet. He followed with a short birdie putt on the par-3 16th, rolled in a birdie putt from 15 feet on the par-5 17th and finished it off with a 25-foot birdie on the 18th.

Garrigus has made the cut only once in four previous trips to the Northern Trust Open. He decided to bring a new attitude, and it seems to be working.

''I have pretty good willpower, so as soon as I stepped on the first hole this week, I'm like, 'I absolutely love this place.' ... And I'm really starting to like it,'' Garrigus said.

He also figured it would be one last chance to get into the Match Play Championship next week, though someone will have to break the news to him that the Match Play field is closed. Garrigus won't be playing even if he wins.

Jordan Spieth managed to get in the mix, especially after he was on the cusp of leaving early.

The 20-year-old Texan had tough par putts on four straight holes at the start of his round. When he finally missed one on the fourth hole for his first bogey, he took off. Spieth birdied four of his last five holes for a 66, leaving him in the large group that was at 4-under 138 along with Keegan Bradley and Jimmy Walker, still in the hunt for his fourth win this season.

''I putted great today, a lot of par saves on the front,'' Spieth said. ''I could have been 4 or 5 over at the turn, and instead I was at even, so very happy with the finish. Back in contention.''

Not so fortunate was Fred Couples, who had a tiny cut on the tip of his left thumb that opened up to the size of a dime, making it difficult for him to hang on to the club. Couples has gone his entire Hall of Fame career without wearing a glove.

Asked if it bothered him, he said, ''Yeah. I couldn't hit the ball.'' Couples made his 32nd appearance in this tournament, but at 2-over 144 was certain to miss the cut.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.