McGirt takes two-shot lead in NTO

By Doug FergusonFebruary 15, 2014, 11:24 pm

LOS ANGELES – A city known for its star power has a PGA Tour event filled with fairy tales off Sunset Boulevard.

Start with William McGirt, who ran off eight birdies in 13 holes at Riviera on his way to a 6-under 65 on Saturday to build a two-shot lead in the Northern Trust Open. Going into his fourth full season, McGirt has never won on the PGA Tour. His last victory was on the eGolf Tour in the Carolinas, where the $16,000 winner's check paid off his credit cards. Asked to name the mini-tours he played, McGirt said he would run out of fingers and toes counting them.

''When you're around mini-tours for eight years and go through a bunch of heartaches at Q-school, once you finally get here, you really have to appreciate it,'' he said.

He was at 12-under 201, two shots ahead of George McNeill (66) and Charlie Beljan (68).

McNeill was working in a pro shop until giving the Tour one last shot, and it already has produced two wins, though neither was enough to get into the Masters. Beljan lost in a playoff at Riviera last year. He is best known for being wheeled off the course at Disney on a stretcher because of a panic attack, and winning two days later.

And then there's Jason Allred.


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He hasn't played a PGA Tour event since qualifying for the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. His wife is due with their third child at the end of the month, so Allred came over to try to Monday qualify. After opening with a 73, he followed with a 64 on Friday and a 67 on Saturday and now is just three shots behind.

A victory would give him a two-year exemption, trips to the Masters and PGA Championship, Kapalua and Bay Hill and the Memorial and Firestone, even Shanghai.

He got choked up talking about support from his wife and the treat to be able to have a week like this.

''Making the putt on 18 is probably the most excitement I felt from the crowd ever in my career,'' said Allred, who holed a 10-footer on the final hole. ''I can't tell you how much it means to me to be able to be at a place in my life. I just have so much to be thankful for with my amazing family. It just feels great to be out here and soak it up.''

One of them could emerge a big winner Sunday, though there are plenty of stars right behind them.

The leaderboard at times was more crowded than the 405, which has been reduced to two lanes this weekend because of construction, causing traffic that is bad even by LA standards. When the third round ended, 15 players were within five shots of the lead.

That's not much at Riviera, on Sunday, chasing someone who has never had a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour.

The group at 8-under 205 featured Jordan Spieth (67), Dustin Johnson (69) and Jimmy Walker (67), who is going for his fourth win of the season after winning last week in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am. Also in that group were a pair of Masters champions, Bubba Watson (64) and Charl Schwartzel (68).

Behind them were a pair of former champions at Riviera, Bill Haas and Aaron Baddeley.

''I've just got to go play my game tomorrow and hope that it's good enough,'' McGirt said.

McGirt held up nicely the last time he had a chance like this. He was in the last group at the 2010 Canadian Open, one shot out of the lead, and stayed near the lead all round until making bogey on the tough 18th hole at Hamilton Golf and Country Club to finish one shot behind Scott Piercy.

The 34-year-old from South Carolina has much at stake Sunday. McGirt has played in only one major, the PGA Championship two years ago. He hasn't won a proper event in nearly seven years, and even his one claim-to-fame comes with a caveat. McGirt made two aces in one round at a charity event, the second one worth a car.

Turns out the event failed to pay for insurance in case a professional made the hole-in-one. McGirt received a weedwacker shaped like a golf club, instead.

First place at the Northern Trust Open is worth $1,206,000, which is $22,000 short of his best season on Tour.

McGirt is among four players from the top 12 who have never won on Tour. The others are Brian Harman, who had a 68 and was three shots behind, Cameron Tringale, who had a 67 and was in the group four shots behind, and Allred.

This week already has been more than Allred could have dreamed, and he dreams a lot.

''I need to be honest, it's totally blown them out of the water,'' he said of his expectations. ''But also to be honest, even when I go out to practice, whether it's to prepare for a gate way tournament or this week, I still have that belief in me that I have in me to win big golf tournaments. At times, even I have a hard time believing that over the years, but it sure is fun to be out here and be able to have a chance.''


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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”