Notes: DJ riding wedge play on prolonged hot streak

By Doug FergusonMarch 29, 2017, 12:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas - Just over a year ago, Dustin Johnson headed to the range at Riviera in the rain to begin work on his wedges, the one area of his game that has contributed the most to his No. 1 ranking.

He talks all the time about the improvement with his short clubs. He also showed at Austin Country Club how much he trusts them.

The par-4 13th hole over the water was easily reachable for him with a driver, and that's what Jon Rahm did in the final of the Dell Technologies Match Play that sparked his rally. Johnson never hit driver one time all week. Not this year. Not even last year.

Alex Noren squared their quarterfinal match on the 12th, and then hit driver to the throat of the green, 60 feet from the flag. Johnson still went with iron off the tee, hit a wedge to 10 feet and made birdie. Noren missed from 7 feet, and Johnson was on his way.

''It just doesn't ever work out well,'' Johnson said. ''For me, if I hit a great shot it's going to land on the green and go over the back. And it's just a really hard up-and-down. I feel like I've got a better chance wedging it from the fairway.''

Johnson said the last time he tried to drive the 13th green was in a practice round in 2016.

''After that ... there's just no reason,'' he said. ''So ever since then, I've laid up every time.''

Perhaps it's no wonder that when asked if he were more proud of his power off the tee or his precision with the short clubs, Johnson chose the wedges.

That doesn't mean he's perfect with them.

In the semifinals against Hideto Tanihara, he came up short of the green with a wedge on the 13th, 15th and 18th holes (he also stuffed one to 6 feet on the par-3 17th, the money shot, when the match was all square).

''I'm going to keep working on them,'' Johnson said. ''You can't be too good with one.''


DIFFERENT VIEW: Nick Faldo has seen tee shots into Rae's Creek on the 12th hole at Augusta National - Greg Norman in 1996 comes to mind.

What amazed him about Jordan Spieth making triple bogey last year in the Masters is why he didn't go back to the tee. Spieth, like many others, chose to drop short in the expanse of grass short of the creek and hit that fat and into the water.

''It's not a ball drop. You just find your own angle,'' Faldo said. ''You've never practiced it. It's a really weird place to be. And the depth perception is horribly difficult because all you see is creek, bank and the green is just a sliver. There's no depth perception, and then you see two bunkers in the back.''

Faldo said the shot from there is compounded by the emotions.

''It's a crazy, difficult shot, let alone you're thinking, 'What have I just done?''' he said. ''It just shows you, when you get in a spiral, you can't spell your bloomin' name.''


DARQUEA'S WIN: Daniela Darquea keeps crossing off benchmark moments for Ecuador.

A year ago, she became the first player from Ecuador to play in the U.S. Women's Open. On Sunday, she closed with a 5-under 67 in the IOA Championship to become the first Symetra Tour winner from Ecuador.

''It's such a special feeling knowing that kids in Ecuador can look up to someone and say, 'I can play golf and be successful,''' she said. ''Golf is not a very popular sport in Ecuador, so this is so special and really important to me.''

Darquea isn't even sure how she got hooked. Her parents joined a club when she was little, even though no one in the family played and Ecuador has only seven courses.

Darquea is second on the money list. She also has partial status on the LPGA Tour by tying for 29th in Q-school.

''I didn't really expect to win this quick,'' he said. ''I just love to play golf and compete, and I'm super excited about this.''


BUBBA'S TIPS: Bubba Watson has never had a formal swing coach, but he got some help with his putting at the Match Play.

Who? He's not entirely sure.

First, he said Brandt Snedeker helped him with his ball position. But asked about those tips a day later, Watson said, ''I messed it up. It was Brooks Koepka that really helped me out.''

And now, a word from Koepka.

''I was looking at Bubba on Tuesday and we were talking about some things,'' Koepka said. ''Sneds gave him a lot of advice and I was trying to give him a little bit more.''

So it was both of them? Apparently so.

''He asked me to take a look at his putting and I saw some stuff that I've seen for a while,'' Snedeker said. ''I told him what I would do differently. I was giving him a hard time - 'You've got nowhere to go but up. You're not putting very good right now at all' - It was fun. Glad to see he's playing well.''

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x