Notes: Spieth sports AT&T logo like Tiger used to

By Doug FergusonNovember 4, 2014, 1:45 pm

SHANGHAI – For the first time in nearly five years, the AT&T logo can be found on a golf bag on the PGA Tour.

It belongs to Jordan Spieth.

Spieth showed up at the WGC-HSBC Champions with a black-and-orange golf bag promoting AT&T. He signed an endorsement deal with the Texas-based telecommunications giant earlier this year, and this was the first evidence of the logo while he was on the golf course.

AT&T is one of the top supporters of the PGA Tour, with title sponsorship at Pebble Beach and the Byron Nelson on the PGA Tour, and a Champions Tour event in Texas.

The last player AT&T endorsed on the PGA Tour was Tiger Woods. He had an AT&T bag when he returned from knee surgery early in 2009. The company ended its endorsement deal a month after revelations that Woods had multiple extramarital affairs.

Spieth is playing for the first time since the Ryder Cup. He is headed back home to Dallas after the HSBC Champions, and then returning to Asia to play in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan and then the Australian Open in Sydney before ending his year at the Hero World Challenge that Woods hosts in Florida.


KOEPKA'S DILEMMA: Brooks Koepka is spending a much-needed week of vacation in Thailand before two final events on the European Tour that could shape his schedule next year.

Koepka began his career on the Challenge Tour in Europe, winning three times to earn an instant promotion to the European Tour. He did well enough in his limited starts on the PGA Tour last year – a tie for fourth in the U.S. Open and a tie for third in the Frys.com Open – to earn his U.S. card.

He would like to play both tours again next year, but that can only happen if he's entrenched in the top 50 in the world. That would make him eligible for the World Golf Championships and the majors, which means he would need only limited starts in Europe to keep both cards.

But right now, Koepka is at No. 60.

Even though he was a European Tour member first, PGA Tour regulations do not allow the Floridian to claim Europe as his home circuit, meaning he would need to get a release to play overseas. Players typically are granted three ''conflicting event releases'' when playing 15 PGA Tour events, with one more release for every five more PGA Tour events they play.

One caveat is for players to claim an alternative home circuit, but only if they have been a member of that tour at least five years and commit to playing at least 20 times on the PGA Tour. Frank Nobilo of New Zealand went that route when he joined the PGA Tour after several years in Europe.

Koepka finishes his year in Turkey and Dubai, both of which will have strong world ranking points.


DUSTIN JOHNSON: That voluntarily leave by Dustin Johnson certainly isn't hurting his position in the world ranking.

Johnson was at No. 16 in the world after the Canadian Open when he announced he was stepping away from golf to seek professional help for ''personal challenges.'' He is No. 15 in the world now.

Johnson will start losing points, starting with the HSBC Champions. He won a year ago Sheshan International and is not back to defend.

His agent at Hambric Sports, David Winkle, said Tuesday that Johnson is not expected back until sometime early next year. Johnson's fiancé, Paulina Gretzky, is expecting their first child and Johnson won't play again until the baby is born.

''They haven't announced when the baby is due yet,'' Winkle said.


DIVOTS: Adam Scott is trying out another caddie this week at the HSBC Champions. He is using David Clark, who works for Cameron Tringale. ... Graeme McDowell says he will be joining a task force, only it has nothing to do with the Ryder Cup. McDowell says he has been asked by his alma mater, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, to be part of a group that studies the future of the football program. ... Tickets went on sale Tuesday for the British Open next year at St. Andrews. A daily ticket for adults will increase 5 pounds to 70 pounds (about $110) if bought before May 31, and to 80 pounds ($125) after that. Weekly tickets are available for 240 pounds ($380). A daily ticket went for 60 pounds ($95) in 2010 when The Open was last held at St. Andrews. ... Davis Love III tied for eighth in Malaysia, his first top 10 on the PGA Tour in two years.


STAT OF THE WEEK: McDowell is the only player with top-10s in every World Golf Championship this year. He was a quarterfinalist at the Match Play Championship, tied for ninth at Doral and tied for eighth at Firestone.


FINAL WORD: ''I know one thing for sure. We can't have more than 52 tournaments.'' – Henrik Stenson on what the golf calendar will look like in 10 years.

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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