Matsuyama tops Na in Memorial playoff

By Doug FergusonJune 1, 2014, 10:59 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – With every swing, Hideki Matsuyama appeared to join a cast of top players throwing away a chance to win the Memorial.

A tee shot in the water on the 16th for double bogey. An approach over the back of the green on the 17th that led to bogey. And then a drive to the right that made the Japanese star so disgusted that he lightly slammed his club into the turf, and the head of the driver broke off.

The ball hit a tree and took one last bounce back into the fairway, and Matsuyama seized on the break. He took dead aim with a 7-iron to just outside 5 feet for birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff with Kevin Na, and then won for the first time in America with a 10-foot par putt on the first extra hole.

''Right from the 15th hole, I had a lot of missed shots,'' Matsuyama said. ''The double bogey at 16, bogey at 17, not a real good tee shot – I thought – at 18. But when I saw the ball on the fairway on the 18th hole there, that's when I was able to think I still have a chance.''

The 22-year-old Matsuyama earned validation as one of the game's bright young stars Sunday by closing with a 3-under 69 and making two clutch putts on the 18th hole for his sixth career victory, the previous five on the Japan Golf Tour. This was his first win against a field of the world's top players.

''I just think you've just seen the start of what's going to be truly one of your world's great players over the next 10 to 15 years,'' tournament host Jack Nicklaus said.


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Nicklaus spent much of the back nine in the broadcast booth, and it was a brand of golf that was unfamiliar to golf's greatest champion. The Memorial became only the latest event where proven players faltered badly.

Masters champion Bubba Watson had a one-shot lead with five holes to play. He was 3 over the rest of the way. Adam Scott, the No. 1 player in the world, was tied for the lead until playing the last seven holes in 4 over.

''The whole thing is frustrating as I stand here right now,'' Scott said after his 71. ''But everyone is going to feel like that. We all could have done something different. If we all did, who knows what the result would be?''

Scott fell apart by hitting one shot into the water, taking two shots to get out of a bunker and losing all hope when his third shot to the par-5 15th hit the pin and caromed back into the fairway, leading to a bogey.

Watson dropped three shots by hooking two tee shots. The most damaging was his drive on the 15th that was so high, so powerful and so far right that it cleared the trees and went into a neighborhood, leading to a double bogey.

Needing a birdie on the 18th, his shot looked good until it took one small hop and stayed in the rough. A few inches closer and it would have fed down the slope for a short birdie chance. He closed with a 72 and finished third, moving him to No. 3 in the world ahead of the injured Tiger Woods.

''It's tough,'' Watson said, who was going for his third win of the year. ''I made one bad decision. If I hit 4-wood off the tee instead of driver on the par 5, we make 5 and we win by one. But I made double, so we lost by one.''

Na finished his round of 64 about two hours earlier. He was in the clubhouse at Muirfield Village, leaning against two pillows on a sofa as he watched the calamity unfold, even joking he might win by not hitting another shot. Thanks to Matsuyama, he had to. And it wasn't pretty.

Na hooked his tee shot on the 18th in the playoff, and it went into the creek. He still had 10 feet for bogey when Matsuyama made the winning putt. Na did not speak to reporters. A PGA Tour official tracked him down in the parking lot, and he gave credit to Matsuyama for making a great putt.

Adding to the bizarre ending was how Matsuyama played the extra hole.

It was not an angry slam of the driver after his tee shot on the 18th in regulation, and he was shocked to see the head fall off. He could have replaced the club because the playoff is not considered part of the round, but he had no replacement. Instead, he went with 3-wood off the tee in the playoff, and it went into the front bunker.

He hooked his 5-iron, hitting a spectator in the knee left of the green, and hit a flop shot safely to 10 feet.

It was the first par he made on the 18th hole all week. Matsuyama became the first player to make birdie on the closing hole at Muirfield Village four straight rounds.

''To win my first PGA Tour event is enough,'' Matsuyama said. ''But to win it here at Mr. Nicklaus' course, it really gives me a lot of confidence now going on. And hopefully, I'll be able to use this week as a stepping stone to further my career.''

Matsuyama became the fourth Japanese player to win on the PGA Tour, the most recent being Ryuji Imada in the 2008 AT&T Classic. The Memorial, even with Woods out with a back injury, featured the strongest field of the year outside the Masters, World Golf Championships and The Players Championship.

 

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."