De Jonge leads by 1 over group including Spieth, Stenson

By Doug FergusonMarch 14, 2015, 12:06 am

 PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) - Brendon de Jonge rolled in a pair of long putts on his way to a 2-under 69 and the 36-hole lead Friday in the Valspar Championship. Based on the holes remaining, he is halfway home to his first PGA Tour title.

Considering how many players are still in the mix - essentially everyone who made the cut - the weekend might feel even longer.

Only seven shots separated de Jonge from the players who made the cut on the number, the first time the first-to-worst gap has been that small since the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George's.

"Obviously, gives you a good chance for the weekend," de Jonge said. He was at 6-under 136, the highest score to lead after 36 holes at Innisbrook in six years.


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De Jonge said that after he finished his round in the morning, uncertain how hard the wind would blow and who might get hot with the putter. The wind died, no one could sustain a great round without a few mistakes and he had the 36-hole lead for the fourth time in his career.

But not by much.

Jordan Spieth made a birdie putt from the fringe on the 18th for a 4-under 67 to match the best score of the round. Henrik Stenson, playing the Copperhead course for the first time and apparently enjoying it, made eagle on his first hole and wound up with a 70.

They were one shot behind, along with Ryan Moore (68), Kevin Streelman (69) and Derek Ernst (70).

Ernst, who had only one round in the 60s this year, ran off five straight birdies around the turn to reach 8 under par until he started missing greens, missing putts and making bogeys to fall one shot behind de Jonge.

"Starting the day if you told me I would have shot 1 under I would have been very happy with it," Ernst said.

Lucas Glover had a 69 and joined Moore and Streelman as the only players to break 70s for both rounds. He was two shots behind, along with Sean O'Hair (72), Ricky Barnes (72) and Ian Poulter (70). Poulter hasn't been to Innisbrook since 2010, and he was asked what had kept him away.

"Because I'm a buffoon," Poulter said. "I mean, stupid. This golf course I can compete on because it's fiddly, it's position off the tee, small greens, need to chip it well, good pace putting when you're above the hole. All those things I do well."

Poulter recalls the greens being sloppy the last time he played, and so he instructed his caddie to never allow him to return. Seven holes into his pro-am round, he said he told his caddie, "What the ... was I doing not being here?"

Justin Thomas (72) and Vijay Singh (70) were in the group at 3-under 139, with Luke Donald (68), Matt Kuchar (70) and Patrick Reed (68) among those four behind.

Adam Scott is about the only guy who doesn't have a chance because he didn't make the cut. Scott missed four putts from inside 5 feet on his way to a 75 and missed the cut by three shots. It's the first time he had the weekend off at a golf tournament since the 2012 Byron Nelson Championship.

What makes Innisbrook so mysterious is that players are irritated by the shots they left out on the course, only to realize they're not in bad shape. Such was the case of Stenson, who made a 25-foot eagle on his opening hole, a 20-foot birdie putt on his final hole and nothing but pars and two bogeys in between.

"I didn't get it close enough to give myself too many birdies," Stenson said. "All in all, pretty pleased."

Spieth rammed in a 20-foot birdie on the third hole that he said left a ball mark on the back of the cup. So that was a good break. He made a 30-foot birdie on No. 6 and rolled it in from 18 feet on the final hole. That was enough to put him in the final group, even if he's not sure how he got there.

"This is one of those random places where you feel like you should have shot better than you did, but you're not out of it," he said. "You can make birdies. The problem is there is trouble around every corner."

There was even trouble in the fairway. Early in the round, Charley Hoffman stopped when he saw a 10-foot alligator walking across the third fairway.

"We weren't going anywhere fast," Hoffman said. "And neither was he."

DIVOTS: Jonathan Byrd made a hole-in-one on the par-3 15th hole, but he ended up missing the cut for the first time in 12 trips to Innisbrook. ... Ernie Els snapped an iron across a pine tree trying to play a shot on the 16th hole. He recovered fine, except for a three-putt from 6 feet for double bogey. He missed the cut.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x