Knox, Kisner lead DJ by 1, Spieth by 3

By Doug FergusonNovember 8, 2015, 1:22 am

SHANGHAI - Even with two majors, five victories, a FedEx Cup title and more than $22 million in earnings this year, Jordan Spieth offered an honest appraisal about the final World Golf Championship of the year. He really didn't think he would have much of a chance in the HSBC Champions.

Now he does.

The third round at Sheshan International ended Sunday morning when Russell Knox returned to play one hole and it proved to be a wiser decision than trying to finish in the dark. He made birdie for a 4-under 68 and tied Kevin Kisner for the 54-hole lead.

Dustin Johnson played mistake-free to get within one shot. Also one back was Li Haotong, the 20-year-old who gave China hope one of its own could win on a world stage.

And then there was Spieth, right where he has been so much of the year.

"My theory on the tour and trying to win is your lead is never safe because some guy is going to make birdies," Kisner said after a 70. "Look at Jordan today. His name popped up. I don't even know where he started and he was on the leaderboard."

Some 24 hours earlier, Spieth was 12 shots behind and wondering if he could even make another par. He ended Friday with two birdies, and then raced up the leaderboard in soft conditions Saturday with a 9-under 63 to go from the middle of the pack to three shots behind.

"This will be the first and only time I would say this, but I was not expecting myself to be in this position come Sunday when the week started," Spieth said with a smile. "I came in with very little confidence in my trust of what I'm trying to do in my swing. ... But yeah, I'm extremely pleased just to be in contention."

Finishing it off doesn't figure to be easy.

Kisner chipped in for birdie on the 15th hole to go from a two-shot deficit to a tie for the lead when Knox three-putted for bogey, and the 31-year-old American pulled ahead with a birdie on the 16th and two pars to finish at 16-under 200.

Johnson, who won the HSBC Champions the last time he was here two years ago, has made 10 birdies in his last 21 holes and shot a 65. Li wasted no time getting the Chinese gallery fired up when he opened with four straight birdies on his way to a 66.

"It's going to be a dog fight tomorrow no matter what," Kisner said.

Spieth felt he was struggling to avoid his club face being shut during the final month of the PGA Tour season, and he has been working on a fix that is difficult for him. But he found a swing thought on the practice range Saturday morning and hit the ball so well that he shot 63 despite missing four putts inside 10 feet.

"I'm not going to complain about the round, but I felt like the way I played could have been 10 or 11 (under) for sure," Spieth said.

He finished with a bold move. Spieth had 239 yards to the hole, which required a precise carry over the water, on the par-5 18th. He could get there with a 3-iron if he flushed it, so caddie Michael Greller suggested he play it safe.

"Michael said, 'It's a bad number. Let's lay up and make birdie with a wedge,' Spieth said. "I said, 'I'm not laying up from 239. So I hit a 3-wood and aimed 30 yards left of the green with a big cut. I cut it a little too much. I was trying to get in the middle of the green, and it went further right and closer to the hole."

He missed the eagle putt from 15 feet, typical of his round. He still had another chance to win, typical of his year.

Knox birdied his opening three holes and built a two-shot lead with a birdie on the 11th. But he three-putted the 15th, narrowly avoided another bogey on No. 16 by making an 8-foot putt and missed on a short birdie attempt on the 17th. With the option to finish in the dark - as Kisner and Branden Grace did - Knox chose to wait.

Li might have wished for this day to never end.

China's brightest young star, he played the PGA Tour China series last year and earned Web.com Tour status, and he was in range to earn a PGA Tour card this year until fading late in the season. Playing before a home crowd - he grew up in Shanghai and plays out of Lake Malaren, home of next week's BMW Masters - he prepared Friday night to cope with the stress and pressure and turned it into the most fun he's had on a golf course.

"I never thought I could play that good," Li said. "Can't believe it."

Liang Wenchong, who tied for eighth in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, is the only other Chinese player to finish in the top 10 in a PGA Tour event. Even though Li is only one shot behind, he kept his goal modest. He wants to finish in the top 10.

Can he win?

In a press conference in Chinese, Li answered in English with a big laugh.

"I don't think so," he said.

Patrick Reed (68) and Ross Fisher (65) joined Spieth at 13-under 203, with Grace playing the final three holes in 3 under for a 70. He was four shots behind. Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler each shot 68 and were eight shots behind.

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Lexi involved in a(nother) rules controversy at LPGA Thailand

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 26, 2018, 2:50 am

Jessica Korda stole the show this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand, winning the star-studded event by four strokes in her first start since undergoing serious jaw surgery to address a significant overbite that led to ailments ranging from facial cramping to headaches to sleep apnea.

But just four strokes behind Korda finished Lexi Thompson, who may have challenged for the win on Sunday if not for another rules controversy during the second round of the event.

Thompson, who was famously assessed two two-stroke penalties last year at the ANA Inspiration that ultimately cost her the title, was hit with another two-stroke penalty on Friday in Thailand after she moved a sign out of her swing path at Siam Country Club.

The 23-year-old mistakenly thought a billboard on the 15th hole was a moveable object, when in fact, the local rule deemed this particular advertisement a "temporary immovable obstruction."

The two-stroke penalty was assesed after the round, where the par she made on the hole became a double bogey and what would have been a 66 ballooned into a 68.

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After Further Review: JT may face serious Ryder Cup heckling

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 26, 2018, 2:09 am

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

On Thomas getting heckler thrown out ...

Justin Thomas polished off a playoff win at the Honda Classic despite the efforts of a fan who screamed for his ball to head for a fairway bunker on the 16th hole.

Thomas signaled for the fan to be ejected after striping his tee shot on No. 16, telling him, “Enjoy your day, buddy. You’re done.” It’s the second straight week that Thomas has had issues with fans, having bristled at some of the behavior he encountered while grouped with Tiger Woods at the Genesis Open.

Thomas’ stance is that golf has earned a reputation as a “classy sport” that should place it above jeering and catcalls from the gallery. It’s a view that is as noble as it is unachievable.

As long as tournaments continue to serve alcohol well into the afternoon hours, there will be outlier fans who will look to get a rise out of players with comments before, during or after swings. Thomas was within his right to ask for the fan’s removal, though I’d imagine the European fans planning to attend this year’s Ryder Cup in Paris might take note of the apparent impact the gallery can have on Thomas while in the heat of battle. – Will Gray


On the debate over rolling back the ball ...

The opening salvos in what promises to be one of the most polarizing eras in golf were exchanged this week. First, USGA CEO Mike Davis, via Jack Nicklaus, announced his arrival: “Mike said, ‘We’re getting there [on the distance issue]. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there,’” the Golden Bear explained when asked about the growing drumbeat to curtail how far modern players hit the golf ball.

A few days later, former Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein fired back: “Mike Davis has not told us (Acushnet/Titleist) that he is close and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there.”

Perhaps this will turn out to be a misunderstanding and the game’s rules makers and manufacturers will all end up on the same sideline, but it doesn’t feel that way right now. Rex Hoggard


On Tiger turning up the notch on his comeback ...

It’s safe to say the Tiger Woods comeback is ahead of schedule. After looking lost with his long game in his first two starts of the year, he led the field in proximity to the hole and third in driving distance. He flighted and shaped shots both directions, seemingly at ease, looking nothing like the player we saw at Torrey and Riviera.

If that form continues at Bay Hill and beyond, this has the potential to be one of the greatest comebacks in golf history.  Ryan Lavner


On Korda's journey from pain to promise ...

Jessica Korda is the leader in the clubhouse for best story of the year in women’s golf. She won her first start of the season Sunday at the Honda LPGA Thailand just a little more than two months after undergoing a complex and painful double-jaw surgery to alleviate headaches caused by her jaw’s alignment.

She did so in record-breaking fashion, shattering tournament scoring records against a star-studded field that included the top six players in the world. If Korda can so quickly overcome the challenges of that daunting offseason, there is no telling what else this determined young American star might achieve this year.  Randall Mell

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List loses playoff, may have gained performance coach

By Randall MellFebruary 26, 2018, 1:52 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Luke List didn’t win in his playoff with Justin Thomas Sunday at the Honda Classic, but he thinks he may have found a pretty good new performance coach.

The guy’s name is “Moose.”

He’s a former Australian rules football player.

Actually, his full name is Brent Stevens, a friend of List’s caddie, who put them on the phone together for the first time last week at the Genesis Open.

List liked a lot of the performance keys Stevens gave him and posted some of the advice in his yardage book, so he could reference them.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


“Effort over result” was one of the ideas List scribbled down.

“I feel like I've got the ability to play at this level,” said List, who was seeking his first victory Sunday at PGA National. “It just hasn't quite happened yet, but the more I think about it, I feel like the worse I do. So I focus on what's in front of me, the effort into the shot. I did a really good job of that this week.”

List said he’s interested in maybe visiting Australia to take Moose’s training to another level.

“He's a very fit dude,” List said. “He's got some clients that he brings down to south of Melbourne, to run the sand dunes,” List said, “and if we keep in contact, which I'm sure we will, I'm going to have to go down there and get my butt kicked.”

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Both in contention, Thomas hears 'crickets' from Woods

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 26, 2018, 1:36 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods has become a friend, confidant and something of an adviser for Justin Thomas.

Whenever Thomas has been in contention in his young career, Woods has often texted him advice or good luck on the eve of the final round.

That wasn’t the case Saturday night after the third round of the Honda Classic.

“Got crickets last night,” Thomas said, laughing.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


That’s because Woods was in contention, too, beginning the final round seven shots off the lead.

“I knew he had one thing in mind, and we both had the same thing in mind,” Thomas said. “I thought that was pretty funny.”

Thomas added that he was “very impressed” with Woods’ 12th-place finish at PGA National.