D. Johnson leads at Riviera; Walker one back

By Doug FergusonFebruary 14, 2014, 2:24 am

LOS ANGELES – Dustin Johnson moved down the coast of California and brought his game with him Thursday in the Northern Trust Open.

So did Jimmy Walker.

Johnson made six birdies on a warm, sunny day at Riviera for a 5-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead when the opening round was suspended by darkness. Walker birdied his last three holes and was in the large group at 67 that included Francesco Molinari of Italy and Torrey Pines winner Scott Stallings.


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Four days ago, Johnson closed with a 66 in the gray, cold weather of Pebble Beach to finish one shot behind Walker. In conditions that could not have been any different - and could not have been any better - he made birdie on all of the par 5s at Riviera and only had one bogey on his card, at the long par-3 fourth.

The only comparison was the quality of his golf.

''It was cold, windy and wet at Pebble on Sunday. Here, it's not a lot of wind and perfect conditions. It's sunny and a really nice temperatures,'' Johnson said. ''It's still golf, though. You've still got to adjust no matter what you're doing.''

That was no trouble for Walker, whose victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was his third of the season. He drove his RV down from the Monterey Peninsula, got up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to appear on Golf Channel, and then went right back to work.

Walker was in the middle of the pack until his tee shot on the par-3 16th settled just over a foot from the cup. He nearly reached the par-5 17th in two to set up a simple birdie, then finished with one of his best shots - an 8-iron from 184 yards out of a flyer lie in the rough to the back of the green and a 30-foot putt.

''It's four more days of golf,'' Walker said. ''You can ride the momentum of really good play. But everyone started at even and you just have to be like, 'Let's go get it again.'''

It was a glorious day off Sunset Boulevard, and Riviera was in ideal shape - firm and fast, particularly on the greens.

The warmth meant a little more distance, such as the 349-yard tee shot Johnson hammered down the middle of 13th fairway, a slight dogleg left framed by eucalyptus trees. That left him only 97 yards, and he stuffed it. And on the par-5 17th - 608 yards up the hill, no help from wind - he reached it in two and had a two-putt from just over 20 feet. His only glitch was coming up just short of the green and in the bunker on the 225-yard fourth.

Johnson isn't playing a lot this season, but when he does, he plays well.

He already has a win at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. He shared the 54-hole lead at Kapalua and tied for sixth, and then took off four weeks before returning at Pebble Beach. That was a good sign for Johnson, who said he doesn't have a good history of playing well in the first event after a long break.

''This time, I stayed with it. I worked hard at home,'' Johnson said. ''It was tough at Pebble because of the weather, and it was hard to keep your concentration.''

Life is bliss right now for Walker, who is going for his third win in California this season, starting with the Frys.com Open at CordeValle in October. The only struggle was a bogey on the par-5 11th when his tee shot just missed the fairway and buried in a small indentation in the long grass. He followed that with another bogey on the tough 12th, and then rallied at the end.

''I don't know what it's like for some of those guys that are winning 40 times and they have done this a ton,'' Walker said. ''But right now, enjoy it. It's fun. It's a good place to be.''

Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler were among those at 68.

Jordan Spieth looked as though he might be among the leaders after holing out from 125 yards for eagle on No. 7 to reach 3 under. He was in position for a birdie on the 11th until leaving a shot in the greenside bunker and missing the par putt. Spieth caught a huge break on the next hole when his tee shot was hooking out-of-bounds until hitting a tree, though he had to scramble for bogey.

He also made three par putts in the 5-foot range to hold it together, but dropped a shot on the 18th when he tried to punch a hybrid around some Eucalyptus trees. He had a 73.

Spieth was playing with Fred Couples - the 20-year-old Texan was born a year after Couples won the Masters - and the old guy held his own. Couples had a lost ball on his second shot at No. 11 and made double bogey, rallied with two birdies and then made bogey on the final hole for a 72. Couples is playing the Northern Trust Open for the 32nd time.

DIVOTS: The 10th hole was perilous as ever at 314 yards, especially for Scott Verplank. He took two shots from the front bunker and three from the back on his way to an 8. ''That was fun,'' Verplank said. The rest of the day wasn't. The 49-year-old Verplank, who has been battling injuries the last few years, withdrew with a bad back. ... Billy Hurley missed last week at Pebble Beach because his wife, Heather, gave birth to their first daughter (and third child), Madison Joy. Then, he got in as an alternate when Harrison Frazar withdrew. Hurley opened with a 70.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry