Harrington loses lucky charm on Day 2

By Doug FergusonMarch 16, 2012, 11:35 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Jason Dufner and Padraig Harrington felt cautious at times for different reasons Friday in the Transitions Championship. They also had a far different outcome.

Harrington was 12 shots worse than his course-record 61 in the opening round.

Dufner, trying to play more conservatively when he doesn’t feel confident about attacking, made it through another round at Innisbrook without a bogey and posted a second straight 5-under 66 to take a two-shot lead into the weekend.

“Pretty stress-free round,” Dufner said.

Harrington didn’t feel as though he hit the ball much worse in a round of 73. He realized it would be difficult to back up his record score on the Copperhead course with another low score, and it crept into his putting, especially on the back nine.

“I’m happy with my game, but when you shoot a good score, it’s hard to match the next day,” Harrington said. “When you’re leading the tournament, it’s hard not to be a little bit cautious, and I think at times I was on the greens.”

William McGirt had a 68 and joined Harrington at 8-under 134.

Luke Donald, who can return to No. 1 in the world with a win, had a 68 and was in the large group at 7-under 135 that included Puerto Rico winner George Mcneill.

Harrington was still leading when he hit weak putts, all of them for birdie from inside 15 feet, on three straight holes. It caught up with him on the sixth, when he marked his ball but failed to go through his routine and wound up missing a 15-inch par putt. Then, he three-putted the seventh hole and suddenly found himself two shots behind.

The good news—at least before he was picked for a drug test—was that Harrington was still in the mix.

“I didn’t do too much damage today,” Harrington said. “It wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I didn’t have those two three-putts. It could be OK. But the great thing is, having shot a good score yesterday, I felt that if I played the best golf on the weekend, I would be the winner. I’m still in good position.”

Harrington figured he would either post another good score and have a chance to run away from the field, or get an ordinary score and have to work hard on the weekend. It turned out to be the latter. Twelve players were separated by four shots.

Dufner thought he would need another good round to get into contention. Being in the lead was a bonus.

“You have to do a little bit of chasing, and you’re kind of hoping in the back of your mind he comes back to you a little bit,” Dufner said. “I don’t know why that’s so hard. I’ve dealt with it; every player has dealt with it. You shoot a great number and you feel like you’re going to shoot under par every day, and you kind of back up the next day. That seems to be like a law of averages thing.”

Dufner just did his own thing.

He handled the par 5s, making three birdies. He made birdie putts of 15 feet on the third hole and 25 feet on the ninth. And he never had to sweat over any par putts.

Dufner is 0-for-159 on the PGA Tour, and as much as he follows golf, no one had to tell him that he’s the only player from the top 50 in the world ranking who has not won on any major tour. Dufner is at No. 39, and he realizes he’s there for a reason. He is playing good golf, doing just about everything right, except winning.

His best chance last year was at the PGA Championship, when he dropped shots down the stretch and lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley at Atlanta Athletic Club. Dufner feels his time is coming, and he even decided to change the way he plays.

As much as he likes to keep the ball in play, an aggressive side of him wants to fire at every flag.

“It’s a bit of a mind game with me,” he said. “I tend to be a little too aggressive at times and get myself in trouble. After last week, I kind of thought about it. If I felt comfortable or if I had a good number, I would play aggressive. But I think when I was a little bit uncomfortable or had a bad number with a club, I would try to find the fat of the green and maybe make a par from 30 feet.”

A good example of that came on the par-3 13th, with the pin in the front. He hit 6-iron to 30 feet for a par. A 7-iron would have worked, but missing slightly with that club might have put him in the water.

As for being the lone guy in the top 50 without a win?

“It’s a good thing that I’ve played that well to be ranked that high without a victory, because the victories really jump you up in the world rankings,” he said. “It’s a little disappointing that I have not won yet, but there’s a lot of events this year and next year and the year after.”

Jim Furyk, who won two years ago at Innisbrook, felt similar to Harrington. He was playing better than his score. He had to settle for a 70 on Friday and was in the group at 6-under 136, along with Sergio GarciaJohn Senden and Kenny Perry, the only grandfather in the field at age 51.

Harrington also built some optimism for Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, both of whom are trying to qualify for the Masters. They were in the group just five shots behind. Goosen is just outside the top 50 in the world ranking, while Els would have to win at Innisbrook to get into the top 50—and a win makes him eligible, anyway.

DIVOTS: Heath Slocum opened with a 69 and had to withdraw before the second round with what he believed to be food poisoning. … John Daly bogeyed his last two holes for a 72, but he made the cut on the number. …Geoff Ogilvy wore a green pants, and some in the gallery reminded him he was a day early. Padraig Harrington had a different take. “It’s St. Patrick’s Day in Australia,” he said.

Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


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They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

“I have no idea,” he laughed.

Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

“So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.

After Further Review: Whan deserves major credit

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 11:18 pm

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

On Mike Whan's really, really good idea ...

If LPGA commissioner Mike Whan hasn’t earned a gold star yet for creating the Race to the CME Globe four years ago, he deserves one now. The race’s finish at the CME Group Tour Championship has become a spectacular fireworks show. Stacy Lewis said it best on Saturday. She said the pressure the top players feel at CME is the “worst” those players feel all year, and by that she meant the “most intense,” the kind that makes for the best weeks.

You can argue there’s more pressure on the top women at the CME than there is in a major. The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring, the Rolex world No. 1 ranking and the money-winning title all seem to come down to this final week, when there’s also the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot up for grabs. You have to think the weight of all that might have had something to do with Lexi Thompson missing that 2-footer at Sunday’s end. She came away with the Vare Trophy and $1 million jackpot as nice consolation prizes. We all came away thrilled by Ariya Jutanugarn’s birdie-birdie finish amid the gut-wrenching drama. - Randall Mell


On Austin Cook's improbable winner's journey ...

Despite becoming a Monday qualifying sensation on the PGA Tour in 2015, Austin Cook still had to head to Web.com Tour Q-School that winter. There he collapsed over his final four holes to blow a chance at full status, and one year later the cancellation of the Web.com Tour Championship because of Hurricane Matthew left him $425 short of a PGA Tour card.

But Cook put to rest all of his recent near-misses with four days of nearly flawless golf at Sea Island. Now he’s headed to Augusta National in April and exempt through 2020, afforded ample time to look back at how tough breaks in the past helped to shape his unique journey to the winner’s circle. - Will Gray

On what Cook's win says about PGA Tour depth ...

Players talk regularly about the depth of talent on the PGA Tour, claiming that anyone in a particular field can come away with a trophy on any given week.

To prove the point, Austin Cook, No. 306 in the Official World Golf Ranking, rolled over the field at the RSM Classic with rounds of 66-62-66-67 for a four-stroke victory. Before Sunday at Sea Island Resort, Cook’s only triumph in a professional event was at a mini-tour winter series tournament. That payday was $5,000.

His victory at the RSM Classic was worth considerably more and proved, yet again, the depth of the modern game. - Rex Hoggard

Snedeker feels close to 100 percent after RSM week

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:09 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Even if the result – a tie for 29th place – wasn't exactly what Brandt Snedeker is accustomed to, given his journey back from injury he’ll consider his final regular-season start of 2017 a success.

Snedeker had been sidelined with a sternum injury since June and overhauled his swing with the help of his coach John Tillery in an attempt to alleviate future injury. Needless to say, his expectations at the RSM Classic were low.

After starting the week with back-to-back rounds of 67 to move into contention, Snedeker wasn’t as sharp on the weekend, but he was still pleased with his week.


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“It was great to see how my swing held up and the golf course toughen up today and the changes we made. Inevitably you kind of revert back to what’s comfortable and natural,” he said. “But now my body feels good. I was shocked. I thought I’d be close to 75 percent this week and felt closer to 100 [percent]. Hopefully it continues to stay that way.”

Snedeker said he has a busy schedule planned for early next season on the West Coast and also plans to play next month’s QBE Shootout.

“Every time I’ve come back from injury I’ve been kind of like, well I’m close but not quite there,” said Snedeker, who added that he was pain-free for the entire week. “This is the first time I’ve come back and been like it’s there.”

Cook hopes RSM win starts a ROY campaign

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook cruised to his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the RSM Classic, a nearly flawless performance that included just two bogeys for the week and a 21-under total.

Earlier in the week, Cook’s caddie Kip Henley said Cook was playing the most effortless golf he’d ever witnessed. But as is so often the case, it can be tough to tell what is really going on inside a player's mind.

“A lot of stuff going on, especially up here,” Cook laughed pointing at his head. “A little tenseness. This week my ball-striking was great, and for the most part my putting was great as well. All around my game was just incredible this week.”


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Following a bogey at the second hole on Sunday that cut his lead to two shots, the rookie responded with a birdie at the seventh hole and added three more over his final four holes to beat J.J. Spaun by four strokes.

It was a timely victory for a player who has set rather lofty goals for himself.

“My goal coming into the year was to win Rookie of the Year and I’ve gotten off to a good start. Now my goal is to make a long deep run into the FedExCup playoffs,” he said.

Cook became the second consecutive rookie winner of the RSM Classic following Mac Hughes’ victory last year.