McIlroy, Spieth trail Pieters by 2 in Bridgestone

By Doug FergusonAugust 3, 2017, 9:24 pm

AKRON, Ohio - Rory McIlroy had his best friend on the bag and his best start on American soil in 18 months. For Jordan Spieth, it was more of the same with two long putts and another comment filled with bravado directed at his caddie.

Both of them opened with a 3-under 67 at the Bridgestone Invitational, leaving them two shots behind Thomas Pieters of Belgium.

Pieters, playing only for the sixth time since he challenged briefly at the Masters this year, holed a 30-foot birdie putt on his final hole at Firestone to finish a day of good scoring with a one-shot lead over Russell Knox.

The opening two rounds were moved up to the morning because of a forecast of thunderstorms in the afternoon.

McIlroy split with J.P. Fitzgerald, his caddie of nine years, after The Open. He decided to use Harry Diamond, who played amateur golf for Ireland and was the best man at McIlroy's wedding, for the Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship next week.

It didn't have much bearing on McIlroy's game, which was fine. McIlroy won at Firestone the last time he played it in 2014.

''We both did the numbers and I sort of consulted him a couple of times. Yeah, it was good,'' McIlroy said. ''There was a couple of shots that I hit or a couple of clubs that I pulled that I maybe should have just thought a little bit more about. It's been a while since I've paced yardages off and written notes in my book.''

One of them was at No. 9, his last hole, when he went some 50 feet long on his approach and three-putted for bogey. Even so, it was a solid start, and that's what has held back McIlroy in recent months when he missed three cuts in four tournaments, and then started poorly at The Open.


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Spieth has no such concerns, having won two straight events going into this World Golf Championship with an eye toward next week at the PGA Championship and his shot at becoming the youngest player to complete the Grand Slam.

Winning a major turned this into a great year for Spieth, regardless of what happens at the PGA Championship. He is feeling as good as ever about his game, particularly the way he finished off Royal Birkdale with the amazing escape on the 13th hole and the birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie stretch that followed. The biggest putt was the eagle from 50 feet on the par-5 15th at the Open, now famous for Spieth playfully barking at his caddie, ''Go get that!'' when it dropped in.

Thursday brought another such moment.

Spieth got back into range of the lead with a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 5 and a 50-foot birdie putt on the next hole that got him to 3 under. But he was in trouble at No. 8, well right of the fairway with trees blocking his view of the green. He couldn't punch under them because he had too much rough to cover with a punch shot beneath the branches. But he did see about a 3-foot gap way up in the trees. And he was feeling it.

His caddie, Michael Greller, got the yardage and came over to see what Spieth had in mind.

''I said, 'Michael, just put the bag over there, stand over there and watch this,''' Spieth said.

Spieth rehearsed his swing with a pitching wedge and pulled it off.

''I split a hole that was 60 yards in front of me and cut it to get onto the green,'' Spieth said. ''It was really a cool shot. I was shocked I pulled it off.''

Greller smiled, bumped fists with his boss and handed him the putter.

The opening round was no place to lose ground in such good scoring conditions. Dustin Johnson did his part with a 68. He hasn't won since the Match Play just two weeks before his staircase injury that knocked him out of the Masters. Johnson only wants to give himself a chance to win, and he says all the parts are in working order for that.

Bubba Watson, also showing signs of getting his game turned around, was also in the group at 67 that included Kevin Kisner and Jon Rahm.

The surprise might have been Knox, who has missed his last three cuts and is in danger of falling out of the top 50 in the world for the first time since he won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in the fall of 2015. The difference was a change in the shafts of his irons, and a change back to the putter he used when he won in Shanghai.

The question is why he would ever take that putter out of play.

''Golfers are sick,'' Knox said. ''You always blame your equipment rather than yourself. So maybe I just have to take the blame and say I (stunk) and the putter worked.''

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.