Notes: Spieth would take mulligan at St. Andrews

By Doug FergusonDecember 23, 2015, 12:09 am

If he could take one mulligan this year, Jordan Spieth knows exactly where it would be - the final round at St. Andrews.

Trying to become the first player to capture the third leg of the modern Grand Slam, he was tied for the lead at the British Open until he missed an 8-foot par putt on the 17th hole and failed to birdie the 18th. Spieth missed a playoff by one shot.

But that's not where he'd take the mulligan.

''My first putt on No. 8,'' Spieth said.

He had a long birdie putt on the par-3 hole that he ran so far by the cup that it stopped just off the green. He took three putts from there for a double bogey.

''I made a mistake, and it cost me at least a shot,'' Spieth said. ''The wind was sideways and it was into the rain and I was thinking it would be slow. I'd left it short all week and I didn't want to leave that one short. And, obviously, I didn't.''

Spieth figures if he had two-putted for par, the 50-foot birdie putt on the 16th ''becomes the one that won the tournament.''

That's a lot of conjecture. Then again, there are no mulligans in the majors.

''You can say maybe the putt on 17,'' Spieth said. ''But everyone missed that putt - it's not an easy one. And everyone says the wedge on 18.''

He came up just short of the 18th green instead of making sure he at least had a 25-foot look at birdie, as Zach Johnson did before him.

Still, No. 8 gnaws at him.

''That was an easy fix,'' he said.


MATCH PLAY MATH: The biggest blowout in the Match Play Championship was Tiger Woods winning every hole on the front nine and closing out Stephen Ames, 9 and 8, at La Costa in 2006. This was two days after Ames, the No. 64 seed, jokingly said anything can happen in match play, ''especially where he's hitting the ball.''

Mathematically, it could have been worse.

Much worse.

Consider what happened to Phil Mickelson in the Presidents Cup this year. He did not know about the one-ball condition and used a different model on the par-5 seventh hole in a fourballs match. The penalty is a one-hole adjustment, and because Jason Day won the hole (Mickelson mistakenly was not allowed to finish the hole), the International team went from all square to 2 up.

That led to two questions: What other rules and conditions allow for a ''hole adjustment?'' And what would be the earliest an 18-hole match could end?

Kathryn Belanger, the assistant manager of rules communications for the USGA, provided the answer. It's a long shot. Odds are it will never happen.

But follow along, because it is possible.

A player carries a non-conforming club (Rule 4-1).

He changes the weight of his driver after teeing off, but he does not make a stroke with the club after the adjustment (Rule 4-2).

He starts his round with 15 clubs (Rule 4-4a).

He has two caddies (Rule 6-4).

He violates the one-ball condition on the opening two holes (Appendix I, Part C, Item 1c).

He has a parent as a caddie when they are not allowed (Appendix I, Part C, Item 2).

He takes an unauthorized ride in a cart on both holes (Appendix I, Part C, Item 8).

If all of these violations are discovered on the second hole, each would carry a two-hole adjustment to the state of the match. That's 14 holes. Assuming the player also loses the first two holes, he now is 16 down with 16 to play.

His opponent could win the 18-hole match on the third hole by a score of 17 and 15.

Maybe Ames got off easy.


MAKING THE CUT: Tiger Woods is duly impressed with today's young stars, with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth winning two majors in successive years and Jason Day picking up his first major at the PGA Championship and getting to No. 1 in the world.

Only one aspect perplexes him - too many weekends off.

Spieth already has missed the cut 12 times in his three full seasons on the PGA Tour. McIlroy has missed the cut eight times in the last three years. Rickie Fowler has missed the cut 11 times in the last two years.

''In today's game, you don't have to make cuts,'' Woods said in his Time magazine interview earlier this month. ''And I see these guys miss so many cuts when they're that good. ... It doesn't compute, because I haven't done it. I think I've missed only 15 cuts in my career.''

Woods has missed the cut 16 times, including six in the last two years.


MCILROY AWARD: Rory McIlroy won the Association of Golf Writers trophy, given to those born or living in Europe who made the most outstanding contribution to golf. He joined Seve Ballesteros and Lee Westwood as the only three-time winners of the award.

McIlroy won three times on the European Tour, and once on the PGA Tour. He also captured the Race to Dubai, even though he missed two months with an ankle injury.

He narrowly won over the Walker Cup team that handily beat the Americans at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Third place went to Andy Sullivan of England, who joined McIlroy as a three-time winner on the European Tour.


TALE OF TWO SEASONS: Matt Kuchar already knew what happened to him this year before he was presented with some statistics.

''I felt like the first half of the year I didn't hit it great but I putted well,'' he said. ''And the second half, it flip-flopped. I hit it well and struggled with the putter. The beautiful thing about the game is you need everything to work in order to have good tournaments.''

One statistic is all that mattered to Kuchar: This was only the second time in the last seven years that he failed to win on the PGA Tour. Kuchar had two chances early at the Sony Open and Humana Challenge, and Rickie Fowler beat him with birdies down the stretch at the Scottish Open.

''I wasn't real happy with my year. It's not what I'm accustomed to, it's not what I expect out of myself,'' Kuchar said. ''There was a lot of frustration.''


DIVOTS: Tom Weiskopf has been chosen to renovate the North course at Torrey Pines. Work is to begin immediately after the Farmers Insurance Open. Weiskopf told The San Diego Union-Tribune, ''My challenge is to not get caught up in what the best players in the game are going to do here in one round a year.'' ... Of the top 10 players in the world ranking at the end of the year, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk are the only ones who lost more points than they gained in 2015. ... The 2018 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball is going to El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, California. ... Anirban Lahiri has received a sponsor's exemption to the Farmers Insurance Open, along with Robert Garrigus, Aaron Baddeley, Jhonattan Vegas, Ollie Schniederjans and Xander Schauffele.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Based on the current Olympic rankings, 14 players in the 60-man field are outside the top 200 in the world ranking.


FINAL WORD: ''My bad golf is a little bit better now.'' - Anirban Lahiri on how he improved in 2015.

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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.)