Bradley's road leads from S.C. to China

By Doug FergusonNovember 2, 2011, 12:10 pm

SHANGHAI – Keegan Bradley remembers how special it felt to be driving home from South Carolina at the end of the Nationwide Tour season, knowing that he had earned his way to the big leagues and curious where it might lead.

“I definitely didn’t have China on my schedule,” Bradley said.

Yet there he was in the Bund district of Shanghai, posing in the middle of a paper dragon during a promotion for the HSBC Champions. Later that night, he was at dinner with former – and fellow – PGA champions David Toms and Martin Kaymer, all of them swapping stories about what they did with the Wanamaker Trophy.

Bradley’s photo covers one of the elevator doors at Le Meridien, the host hotel at the final World Golf Championship of the year. In conversations about the PGA Tour Player of the Year, his name still gets mentioned.

And to think that drive home from South Carolina was a year ago this week.

“It’s kind of surreal to be here,” Bradley said.

Bradley is putting the final touches on an amazing rookie season in which he won the Byron Nelson Championship in a playoff, then rallied from a five-shot deficit with three holes to play to win the PGA Championship in a playoff at Atlanta Athletic Club.

Since then, he has traveled to Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, which he won. He was invited to the lucrative Shanghai Masters last week at Lake Maleren. And he is featured at Sheshan International, site of the HSBC Champions that starts Thursday.

It’s a tournament he wants to win because so many of the best players in golf are here – the four major champions, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood, defending champion Francesco Molinari and FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas, the American who kept Bradley from a spot on the Presidents Cup team.

That would be the one negative to his rookie season, and it’s not enough to spoil anything.

“It’s been a great season,” he said. “And to think that a year ago, I was just graduating from the Nationwide Tour. It’s pretty special.”

Perhaps there is more to come.

Bradley didn’t realize the HSBC Champions would count as official if a PGA Tour member were to win it. Neither did the PGA Tour, which is why it delayed sending out its postseason award ballots until after this week.

Luke Donald, who withdrew because his wife is expecting their second child, is viewed as the big favorite, even by Bradley. It is difficult to top the fact that Donald, the No. 1 player in the world, won two tournaments, won the money title and the Vardon Trophy and had 74 percent of his finishes in the top 10.

Bradley has two wins, including a major, although he also missed 10 cuts and had only two other finishes in the top 10. Even so, to have a Tour-leading three wins – one of those a major, the other a World Golf Championship – at least keeps him in the picture.

“It wouldn’t hurt, I’ll put it that way,” Bradley said. “I think that Luke Donald and Webb Simpson … have had unbelievable years. I’d love to win Player of the Year, but most of all I’d love to win this tournament. I think Luke Donald and Webb Simpson have done a lot to prove themselves to be the winner of that award.”

Bradley is quite content having the largest of the major championship trophies – so large that he developed blisters from holding it – on a table at home in Florida.

“It’s right on my table where I keep my TV, so when I’m in bed or I wake up, it’s the first thing I see every day,” Bradley said. “It’s kind of weird to have a trophy like that in there. I’ve had other PGA Tour pros who live in the area walk in, and it reminds me of the way that they look at it how special it is to win the tournament.

“It’s weird to see it in there,” he said. “But it’s where I want it to be where I can see it every day.”

Before long, Bradley ducked outside into the rain at Sheshan International for his pro-am round, before facing four more days until the official end of his season. He still has the Shark Shootout and Chevron World Challenge in December, two more places he never imagined being at the start of the year.

One place he won’t be is Australia for the Presidents Cup unless Steve Stricker decides he’s not fit to play. U.S. captain Fred Couples chose Haas over Bradley, though he has said Bradley would be his first choice as a replacement.

It was disappointing, to be sure, though it’s hard for Bradley to be too upset.

He still has that Wanamaker Trophy in his bedroom next to the television. He was featured in the HSBC promotion with the paper dragon. And there was that moment with Toms and Kaymer, a simple dinner conversation that made him realize the company he could keep.

“We were talking about how big the case is for the trophy, and how traveling around with it is so difficult,” Bradley said. “As they were talking, I was thinking to myself, ‘This is one of the coolest moments of my career.’

“It was another moment on the PGA Tour that you can’t believe you’re part of it.”

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

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.