Defending champ Matsuyama shares lead at Memorial

By Doug FergusonJune 5, 2015, 12:13 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – Hideki Matsuyama was bracing for a rough day at the Memorial and wound up with a share of the lead Thursday.

Tiger Woods still doesn't know what to expect.

Matsuyama made a bold start in his bid to join Woods as the only repeat winners at Muirfield Village by running off four straight birdies on the back nine and one strong par save on his way to an 8-under 64 that tied the Japanese star with Bo Van Pelt.

''To be honest with you, up until yesterday I was not hitting the ball very well, I was not chipping very well, I was not putting very well,'' Matsuyama said through a translator. ''And I don't know what happened overnight. We just caught magic.''

It was a dream start for Van Pelt for other reasons. He grew up across the state line in Indiana and used to play hooky from school to attend the Memorial from the time he was 10 until he got out of high school. Muirfield Village is where he first dreamed about playing the PGA Tour. In calm conditions under an overcast sky, Van Pelt made a career-best 10 birdies for his best score in 41 rounds at the course Jack Nicklaus built.


Memorial Tournament: Articles, videos and photos


''Other than the Masters, this tournament means more to me than any one I've ever played,'' Van Pelt said. ''So it's always good to play well around a place that means a lot to you.''

Woods, a five-time winner of the Memorial, wasn't sure what he was going to get. He hooked his tee shot and started with a bogey for the eighth time in his last nine starts on the PGA Tour. He went so far right off the tee at the 18th that it went out-of-bounds (the next tee shot wasn't much better) and made double bogey to go out in 40. He hooked his 3-wood on the first hole. It was looking like another big number.

Instead, Woods battled to save pars and convert birdies, and he salvaged a 73 that left him nine shots behind.

''Physically, I feel good. Mentally, I feel beat up,'' Woods said. ''To turn that round around like I did today ... that was hard.''

He was determined to stick with the changes he is making to his swing under a fourth coach as a pro, no matter how long it takes. Considering he hasn't had a top 10 in his last 13 events dating to the end of 2013, this could take time.

''I was just trying to stay committed to what we're working on, to what we're doing,'' he said. ''I hit it awful, yeah. So what? I was going to go through this phase and stick with it, keep sticking with it. And some of the shots I hit were really, really good. But then I also had some really bad shots, too. And we need to work on that.''

Matsuyama won the Memorial last year in a playoff. It was his first win in America and validated him as one of the many rising stars in golf.

He said every course on the PGA Tour feels difficult to him, and even when he made a pair of 15-foot birdie putts on his way to a 32 on the front nine while playing with Phil Mickelson (72) and Rickie Fowler (72), he wasn't comfortable.

''I was just trying to hang on,'' he said.

So was Jason Dufner, the former PGA champion, whose tied for eighth last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson ended a stretch of 17 events on American soil without a top 10. He was tied for the lead after making a 60-foot eagle putt on the 15th hole and was still poised to join Matsuyama and Van Pelt at 64 until he pulled his tee shot into the water on the 18th and closed with a double bogey.

That put him at 66, along with Russell Knox, who fed his putts off the ridges beautifully in making seven birdies.

Harris English and Kevin Kisner were among those at 67. Masters champion Jordan Spieth, who saved the start of his round with a world-class short game, was cruising along until one mistake turned a birdie into a bogey on the par-5 seventh late in his round. He had to settle for a 68.

English (No. 70 in the world) and Kisner (No. 61) each have a chance to do well enough at the Memorial to avoid U.S. Open qualifying next week. Another important start belonged to Patrick Rodgers, who has his last chance to gain special temporary membership on the PGA Tour.

Woods grabbed the most attention for two reasons. He's Tiger Woods, still enough to attract the biggest gallery. And there remains a mystery about the game of a 79-time PGA Tour winner who has plunged to No. 172 in the world.

Most intriguing about his assessment of Thursday's round was a stubbornness to see the changes to a conclusion, no matter how long that takes. Previous changes have taken as long as 18 months for Woods to figure it out. Time is no longer on his side, however, not at his age and with five surgeries behind him.

''I've gone through phases like this, rounds like this, where yeah, it's easy to revert back and go ahead and hit some old pattern,'' he said. ''But it doesn't do you any good going forward. And I've done it. Sometimes it's taken me about a year and then it kicked in and I did pretty good after that. ... If you believe in it, do it. And eventually it will start turning.

''And when it turns, I've had periods where I've played good for four or five years, where I've won close to 20 tournaments in that stretch.''

Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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