Notes: Spieth heading to bro's college basketball game

By Doug FergusonDecember 20, 2016, 11:13 pm

Jordan Spieth is headed to Rhode Island this week to watch Brown host Maine in college basketball. His younger brother, Steven, is a senior who is averaging 15.4 points a game for the Bears.

The former Masters and U.S. Open champion is doing everything he can to prepare, because this apparently involves more than sitting in the stands to cheer on little brother. Spieth suggested that there might be a little contest Thursday morning before the Brown game.

''I'm not sure. He kind of set up something,'' Spieth said. ''We might be playing horse, and it might be videoed. At the moment, I'm starting my grind in the gym, shooting a thousand shots a day so I don't embarrass myself.''

Asked if he knew where the public might see this video, Spieth said: ''Even if I knew, I certainly would not be announcing that. I think it's through ESPN. I'm not sure.''

However it turns out, perhaps Steven might consider coming out to Augusta National early for a putting contest.


MAJOR LEAGUE ATTITUDE: With five victories, Jonathan Byrd had such a productive PGA Tour career that spending any time on the developmental Web.com Tour never crossed his mind. His only stop in the minor leagues was in 2001, so long ago that it then was known as the Buy.com Tour.

A year after his playoff victory in the 2011 Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, however, Byrd had wrist surgery. He missed three months to start 2013, and his game and confidence slowly eroded to the point that he was trying to make cuts, make money and keep his job.

''You stop trying to bring your best and you're trying just to stay out here, and that's no way to play,'' Byrd said last month at the RSM Classic. ''The tighter you hang on, the farther you get away from what you're doing.''

With nothing but past champion status that would offer him limited starts, his best option to regain a full PGA Tour card was to spend a year on the Web.com Tour. That can be a tough pill for someone who had never come close to losing his PGA Tour card before the injury.

Byrd, who turns 39 in January, brought with him an attitude that is worth emulating for anyone who winds up in that spot.

''It was humbling,'' Byrd said. ''To go back to the Web was difficult. There's so many reminders every week that you're not where you want to be. But I tried to embrace it. ... I didn't want to be the grumpy old tour player talking about how great it is on tour and how bad it is out here and how good I used to be. I made friends out there. I enjoyed it. I focused on enjoying the competition.''

Byrd event turned down a half-dozen exemptions to PGA Tour events last year. He finished 48th on the money list (the top 25 get PGA cards) and he didn't earn one of the 25 additional spots from the four-tournament series at the end of the year.

Even so, he was upbeat about his progress. Besides, being around a bunch of kids in their early 20s has helped.

''You've got to play good to beat these guys,'' he said. ''But what I've learned from being out here so long is that I've got what it takes. Guys who have won five times on the PGA Tour, it's a short list. I've got something in there that's good enough. And I still think it's good enough.''


POWER MEMORIES: Jim Furyk is used to players smashing it by him off the tee. One of the shorter hitters in golf, he still has managed to win 17 times, including the U.S. Open. But there was something about the 2009 Cadillac Championship at Doral that he still remembers clearly.

''I was paired with Adam Scott and Rory (McIlroy) the first two days, and I was hitting it real short,'' Furyk said. ''I'm already short anyway, but I had a driver that I was hitting straight but real short. We're playing Doral. You know, Adam and Rory are hitting it 30 (yards) by me all day and I'm like, 'I need to get a new driver.'''

It got worse. The next day, he was paired with a 23-year-old named Dustin Johnson, who was in his second year on tour. Furyk didn't know anything about him.

''He's hitting it like 50 by me,'' Furyk said. ''I was like, 'Who is this guy?' We got paired later in the year at Boston, and he had a good event. He's always been impressive.''

By the way, Furyk played that fourth round with a tall Spaniard in a straw hat named Alvaro Quiros, one of longest players on the European Tour.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)