Beginning of 2015 proves it's harder than ever to win on Tour

By Doug FergusonFebruary 11, 2015, 12:49 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Five weeks into the new year, all five winners on the PGA Tour were among the top 50 in the world.

Jason Day didn't need numbers to illustrate what is becoming increasingly clear.

''The game is kind of changing,'' Day said after winning a four-man playoff at Torrey Pines. ''It's evolving into very young, tall, big, strong-looking guys out here that hit it a mile and have fantastic touch. It's getting tougher. It's really tough to win out here.''

That's easy for him to say with only three PGA Tour wins in eight years. For all his talent, the 27-year-old Australian has been cursed by nagging injuries. His hope is to stay healthy all year and finally achieve, or at least make significant progress, toward his lifelong goal of being No. 1 in the world.

The road to the top, however, is starting to look like a California freeway at rush hour.

Day was 18 when he first started playing on the PGA Tour in 2006, the year that Woods won multiple majors for the second straight year and ended the season by winning his last six PGA Tour events. Woods made it look easy.

The new target is Rory McIlroy, who also can make it look easy. McIlroy already has four majors, one by a record margin (eight shots in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island) and two in wire-to-wire fashion (US Open at Congressional, British Open at Hoylake). McIlroy is going to make Day's goal a lot harder to reach.

But it's everyone around him that will make the road feel even longer.

It's easy to jump on Day's bandwagon because he is blessed with enormous power and skill, he believes he has his injuries under control and is more motivated than ever. Day has six top 10s - and no finish out of the top 20 except for injury-related WDs - since the British Open last summer.

But look around.

A week earlier, Brooks Koepka was hailed as a rising star for his victory in the Phoenix Open. The 24-year-old Floridian is powerful, the prototype of the modern golfer, and his quiet work ethic figures to take him even further than he already has come.

Don't forget Jimmy Walker and his nine-shot win at the Sony Open, the largest margin on the PGA Tour in nearly six years. That was Walker's fourth victory in his last 32 starts in America. No one has won more during that stretch, and remember, Walker lost a four-shot lead on the back nine at Kapalua and was only two shots out of the playoff at Torrey Pines last week.

The winner at Kapalua? Patrick Reed, who at 24 picked up his fourth career victory.

The list keeps growing.

Koepka was in the mix at the Phoenix Open with Hideki Matsuyama, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and hard-charging Jordan Spieth, the 21-year-old Texan who is becoming a fixture among the top 10 in the world. Day was in a playoff at Torrey Pines with Harris English, an athletic 25-year-old from Georgia who already has two PGA Tour wins and has the game that makes other players watch.

''The game is in a good spot, especially with the younger guys,'' Day said. ''It's evolving into a fantastic, powerful sport.''

Most of the players, particularly the younger ones, are a product of the Tiger era. They are better off because they only watched him, they didn't get beat by him.

''A lot of people of my generation are used to getting our heads bashed in by Tiger,'' said Charles Howell III after he missed the playoff at Torrey Pines by one shot. ''These guys don't really seem to be afraid of anything and they come out ready to win.''

Howell mentioned Spieth and Justin Thomas, a 21-year-old rookie who already has played in the final group on weekends at two tournaments this year.

''Where Tiger used to be the motivating factor,'' Howell said, ''these young kids are now.''

Day is playing the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week, and he can move up two spots to No. 2 with a victory. He's still miles from McIlroy. A year ago, Day won the Match Play Championship to reach No. 4 and had legitimate ambitions to reach the top of the ranking. Woods was No. 1, though there were early signs that he was fading. Day wound up missing most of the next three months with a thumb injury, and McIlroy soon ruled the world of golf.

Day always thought he would have to beat Woods. Now it's McIlroy.

''There's certain players that come along in this world of golf and make winning look so easy, and he's one of those guys that make winning look very easy,'' Day said of McIlroy. ''I can tell you right now, it's not easy. It's not easy to win.''

And that makes the road to the top even harder.

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.