Knox wins WGC-HSBC Champions by two

By Doug FergusonNovember 8, 2015, 8:38 am

SHANGHAI - Russell Knox raised both arms in the air, closed his eyes and tilted his head toward the heavens as if he couldn't believe what he had just done.

Dating to when the World Golf Championship began in 1999, no one had ever won in his debut. Knox wasn't even eligible for the HSBC Champions until he got in 10 days ago as an alternate, and then it was a mad scramble in Malaysia to get a Chinese visa in time to play.

Walking out of the Sheshan International clubhouse on Sunday with a share of the 54-hole lead, Knox noticed a billboard with names and images of past winners at the HSBC Champions - Phil Mickelson and Martin Kaymer, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.

''Everyone who wins this tournament is a superstar,'' Knox said. ''I knew this would be the hardest day in my life.''

For a 30-year-old from Scotland who had never won in 92 previous tries on the PGA Tour, Knox made it look like a breeze. He broke out of a five-way tie for the lead with two quick birdies to start the back nine and was flawless the rest of the way for a 4-under 68 and a two-shot victory over Kevin Kisner.



''I always thought I was going to win a big one for my first one,'' he said. ''But this is going to take a long time to sink in.''

He played alongside Johnson, whose power can be so intimidating that Knox didn't watch him hit a shot for 12 holes. In the group ahead was Jordan Spieth, on his way back to No. 1 in the world. The cheers were for Li Haotong, the 20-year-old from Shanghai who received rock-star treatment during a wild final round that ended with the best finish ever by a Chinese player on the PGA Tour.

''Incredible for me this week,'' Li said. ''This for me is very, very big.''

Imagine how it felt for Knox, whose unexpected trip to China ended with a most surprising victory.

Knox finished at 20-under 268 and earned $1.4 million, along with perks that include his first trip to the Masters in April.

''I got married on Saturday of the Masters,'' he said. ''What a great wedding anniversary we're going to have.''

It was the fourth runner-up this year for Kisner - the other three were in playoffs. He closed with a 70, though his birdie putt on the 18th hole was worth an additional $285,000, a small consolation.

''That's all right,'' Kisner said. ''I'll keep finishing second and I'll keep giving myself a shot, and I know I'll win one of them.''

His birdie was expensive for Danny Willett, who closed with a 62 and tied for third with Ross Fisher (68). If Kisner had not made birdie on the final hole, Willett would have overtaken Rory McIlroy in the Race to Dubai on the European Tour. Willett is playing next week in the BMW Masters in Shanghai - McIlroy is not - and even if he doesn't pass him, the Race to Dubai will come down to the final event.

McIlroy closed with a 50-foot birdie putt for a 66, ending a week in which his energy was low while recovering from food poisoning, and his putter was cold, as it has been since he returned in August from his ankle injury.

Spieth, who started the final round three shots behind, didn't feel comfortable with his swing and didn't make enough putts in his round of 70. Two birdies on the back nine at least allowed him to tie for seventh, and that was enough to move back to No. 1 in the world.

''Everyone is pushing each other a little bit, and when that No. 1 ranking slips away, it leaves some unrest in you and you really want to get back at it,'' Spieth said.

Johnson wound up four shots behind, and with more reason than anyone to feel as though a third WGC title got away. He was one shot behind Knox on the par-5 eighth hole when his wedge covered the flag and appeared that it would land a few feet behind the hole or a tap-in birdie. Instead, it struck the pin and caromed harshly off the green and into the creek. A birdie turned into a double bogey, and Johnson never recovered. He closed with a 71.

The hopes were with Li, and the crowd stood four-deep behind the range with cameras on him at all times. The attendance this week (34,790) set a record, topping 2009 when Mickelson and Tiger Woods played in the final round.

But those hopes ended quickly. Li hooked his opening tee shot and had to scramble to make bogey. He hooked his second tee shot into the hazard and made double bogey. He didn't make a par until the seventh hole, and only because he missed a 4-foot birdie putt.

But he kept fighting until the end, making two late birdies and saving par after a second shot into the water on the 18th, finishing tied for seventh.

''He was really off with his game, but man, did he have heart,'' Spieth said. ''He didn't have his best stuff. If he did, he really could have done some damage today.''

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.


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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.