Every club in the bag: Shots that shaped 2016

By Doug FergusonDecember 20, 2016, 11:57 pm

The year began with PGA Tour rookie Smylie Kaufman hitting the opening tee shot into the blue horizon at Kapalua. It ended 319 days later when PGA Tour rookie Mackenzie Hughes rolled in an 18-foot par putt from the fringe to win at Sea Island.

One way to look back on 2016 is through every club in the bag - not necessarily the best shots, but those that shaped the year.

DRIVER: Justin Thomas hit the longest drive at 414 yards on the 16th hole at Firestone.Dustin Johnson hit the most impressive drive on the 18th hole at Oakmont in the U.S. Open. But this club goes to Jim Herman, who arguably faced the most pressure.

Herman was among 12 players who won for the first time on the PGA Tour, and this wasn't exactly handed to him. He had a one-shot lead over Henrik Stenson on the 18th hole of the Shell Houston Open, with water down the left side and a large bunker ready to catch any shot played away from the water. Herman smoked it right down the middle, made his par and headed to the Masters.

FAIRWAY METAL: Needing an eagle on the par-5 18th at the Sony Open to get into a playoff, Zac Blair hit a 3-wood so pure that moments after contact, he smiled and said, ''Oh my gosh, that is SO good .'' And it was, settling 10 feet away. Alas, he missed the putt. But that's not the only reason Blair gets the nod for this club.

On the previous hole, he was just off the green when he chose to putt with a fairway metal. Because of the length of the club, it looked as though it might have been anchored against his chest. The ban on anchored strokes had been in effect for only one week. Blair had to review it with PGA Tour officials and was cleared.

2-IRON: Jason Day is among the few who carry a 2-iron, and there's a reason. He can rip it. The world's No. 1 player had no choice. He was in the 18th fairway at Baltusrol in the PGA Championship, two shots behind Jimmy Walker, when he hit 2-iron to 15 feet. The cheer was so loud that Walker backed off his birdie putt on the 17th twice. Day made the eagle, but only after Walker had made his birdie. Walker went on to win by one.

3-IRON: Stenson was one shot behind Phil Mickelson in the third round of the British Open when he came to the par-3 17th and hit what he described a ''flat-out 3-iron'' into the wind to 20 feet for birdie. Mickelson made bogey for a two-shot swing that gave Stenson the lead going into the final round at Royal Troon, and set the tone for one of the great duels in major championship history.

4-IRON: Rory McIlroy took a bow to mock the boisterous fans at Hazeltine after sinking an eagle putt to end his first day of the Ryder Cup. The shot that set up the eagle was a 4-iron on the par-5 16th that never left its target and landed pin-high, allowing him and Thomas Pieters to close out Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

5-IRON: Day was one shot behind Kevin Chappell with no realistic birdie chances over the final two holes at Bay Hill, except that Day can hit some unreal shots. The best was a towering 5-iron that settled 10 feet behind the hole for a birdie. Chappell bogeyed the 18th, and Day had his first victory of the year.

6-IRON: Johnson thought he was leading the U.S. Open, but having not looked at a leaderboard because of a potential penalty at the end of his round, he didn't know by how much. All he saw was the flag 190 yards away. He wanted to hit a cut 6-iron with the wind and pulled it off to near perfection. The ball plopped down next to the pin and settled 5 feet away for birdie. He got the penalty, and it didn't matter. He won by three.

7-IRON: Canadian teen Brooke Henderson rallied on the back nine of Sahalee to get into a playoff at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship against Lydia Ko, the No. 1 player in the world, who was going for her third straight major. Henderson stole the show with a 7-iron to 3 feet on the first playoff hole to win.

8-IRON: This wasn't about the club as much as it was the decision. Ko was trailing at the ANA Inspiration, unaware that Ariya Jutanugarn was in trouble on the 17th. She wanted to take on the water at the par-5 18th at Rancho Mirage until her caddie persuaded her that a miss would end it, and Ko could still make birdie by laying up. She laid up with an 8-iron, made birdie and won the first major of the year.

9-IRON: Jordan Spieth had a five-shot lead going to the back nine at the Masters until bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes. But the shot that gets replayed the most was his 9-iron at the flag on the par-3 12th that hit the bank and tumbled back into the water . That was the start of his triple bogey, and he never caught up.

PITCHING WEDGE: McIlroy was three shots behind with three holes to play when he holed out with a pitching wedge on the 16th hole at East Lake. That was the start of a rally that got him into a three-man playoff, and he won with a birdie on the third playoff hole to win the Tour Championship and capture the FedEx Cup.

SAND WEDGE: Jason Dufner had not won since the 2013 PGA Championship, and it looked as though he had squandered a chance at the CareerBuilder Challenge when his tee shot to the island-green 17th at PGA West called ''Alcatraz'' went over the back. But it hung up on the rocks, and Dufner took out a sand wedge and gave it a whack. It came out so perfectly that it rolled into the pin and led to a tap-in par. He wound up winning in a playoff.

PUTTER: Stenson said his 50-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole at Royal Troon felt like a slap shot. He scored. Every week, someone makes a big putt. Stenson's stands out because it was biggest putt in the final round of the British Open, the best major of the year.

Getty Images

Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

Getty Images

Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

Getty Images

Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

Getty Images

Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.