Notes: Furyk (wrist) hopes to return at Pebble Beach

By Doug FergusonJanuary 5, 2016, 10:30 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Jim Furyk wanted nothing more than to be in Kapalua for the start of the new year on the PGA Tour. His left wrist refused to cooperate.

Furyk hasn't played since he walked off the course in the first round of the BMW Championship on Sept. 17 with what turned out to be a bone bruise on his wrist. He wound up missing the Presidents Cup, and took the rest of the year off to make sure it was fully healed.

But it's taking longer than he expected.

After hitting balls for a few days, he noticed a little soreness and questioned whether he could play an entire week.

''It's not 100 percent,'' Furyk said Tuesday from his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. ''I don't want to get out there and play and show up just to show up. I've been hitting balls since early December, but I wasn't going to be as strong as I needed to be. To push it and try to get there early didn't seem like the right move. In my mind, it's not the right way.''

Furyk hasn't been to Kapalua in five years. He ended the longest drought of his PGA Tour career by winning the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head in a playoff over Kevin Kisner.

In previous years when Furyk didn't win, he typically started his year at the AT&T Pebble Beach National.

Now that's the goal.

''First and foremost, I want to be healthy and get stronger,'' he said. ''It's been a long, long layoff. In a perfect world, I think I'd be ready for Pebble and LA, but I know I'm going to be rusty. I'd like to play those two and evaluate where I'm at. It would be nice to go into March and hit the road running.''

Considering how the last three months have gone, he's not sure what to expect.

''That bone bruise, from what I've learned about it, is real tricky,'' he said. ''They didn't put a cast on my wrist because they felt it would get too stiff. It's going to take some time. The doctor said this could be great in two to three weeks, or it could be two or three months. It's frustrating because there's nothing I can do.''


GWAA AWARDS: Jordan Spieth completed his sweep of all the awards when the Golf Writers Association of America voted him male player of the year.

Spieth, whose five wins in 2015 included two majors and led to a record $12 million in PGA Tour earnings, previously won PGA Tour player of the year (voted by players) and the points-based award from the PGA of America.

He received 98 percent of the GWAA vote.

''It's a great way to end a very special year,'' Spieth said.

Lydia Ko won the female player of the year, and Jeff Maggert won the vote for senior player of the year.

Ko won with 56 percent of the vote over double major winner Inbee Park. Ko won her first major at the Evian Masters to go along with four other victories, and she won the Race to the CME Globe. She also won the points-based LPGA player of the year award.

Maggert won two majors on the Champions Tour, including the U.S. Senior Open, and two other titles. He won the award with 70 percent of the vote over Bernhard Langer.

They will be honored April 6 at the GWAA's annual awards dinner in Augusta, Georgia.

''I'm looking forward to the dinner, especially if Jordan is there,'' Maggert said. ''He's my little guy's idol. And my daughter loves him, too. Maybe they can get an autograph.''


NEW TATTOO: Rickie Fowler showed up at Kapalua with a new tattoo packed with plenty of meaning.

It likely won't be seen by the public because it's on the underside of his left bicep and covered by the sleeve of his shirt. He showed it proudly over the weekend. It's three words written in Japanese - the name of his grandfather, Yutaka Tanaka.

Yutaka is Fowler's middle name.


TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPION: Woody Blackburn is believed to have his own footnote in the history of the Tournament of Champions.

He has one individual title in his PGA Tour career. He has made two appearances in this winners-only event.

The Tournament of Champions, which began in 1963 in Las Vegas, wasn't always the season opener. In 1985, it was held in May at La Costa a few weeks after the Masters. Blackburn won the Andy Williams San Diego Open at Torrey Pines that year in a playoff, and that got him into the Tournament of Champions, where it finished 11th.

The PGA Tour then decided to move the event to the start of the year, and it took all the winners from 1985.

Blackburn returned to the Tournament of Champions the next January and finished 30th in a 31-man field.


LONG TIME: Brad Whittle, the caddie for Russell Knox, had a lucrative end to his season. Knox not only won the HSBC Champions (worth $1.4 million), he flew to Mexico and lost in a playoff, making $545,600.

That's nearly $200,000 for Whittle in two weeks, and while the money was great, being on a winning bag leaves a good taste - especially when it had been more than 20 years since Whittle experienced winning.

''That was a long time,'' Whittle said.

How long? He was working in 1994 for David Frost when he beat Greg Norman in the Greater Hartford Open. Whittle also has been the caddie for a major champion. His previous win was with Wayne Grady at Shoal Creek in the 1990 PGA Championship.


RETURN TO FITNESS: Chris Kirk kept busy the last two months of the year off the golf course. The 30-year-old from Georgia is back in the gym.

''I always worked out in college and my first five years as a pro,'' Kirk said. ''It's been lacking in the last three years since I had kids.''

Kirk has been spending time at SPARC, a sports performance center Athens, and is in the early stages of a program that is more geared toward the back end of his career than the 2016 season.

Recent history is enough to give him pause.

''When I stopped working out, I had the best year I ever had,'' Kirk said with a laugh. ''Then the following year I started working with Scott (Hamilton) and got my golf game efficient and I had that huge season a year ago. This year I played well, I just didn't putt quite as well and my ball striking was so-so for the standard I set for myself. But I started thinking, 'What am I going to be like 10 years from now?'

''Where I'm at now is fine,'' he said. ''But I need to start going in the other direction instead of further away from being fit.''


DIVOTS: Brooks Koepka (formerly Titleist) and Tony Finau (Callaway) are among 10 players who have signed with Nike. ... Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has listed Jordan Spieth at 6-1 for winning two majors this year, and 100-1 to win the Grand Slam. It has Rory McIlroy at 15-2 to win two majors and 150-1 to win all four, and Jason Day at 12-1 to win two majors and 250-1 for a sweep of them. ... Lance Bennett, who formerly caddied for Matt Kuchar, is now with Bill Haas through at least the West Coast Swing. ... Fourteen players are making their debut at Kapalua. That includes Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who was always taking a long winter break when he previously won on tour.


STAT OF THE WEEK: The wraparound season has produce this anomaly: The Tournament of Champions has two rookies in the field - Emiliano Grillo and Smylie Kaufman, who won in the fall.


FINAL WORD: ''I thought the U.S. Open would make me happier. It made me happy, but you start looking forward to the next thing, and then you get lost.'' - 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.

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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