Notes: Streb in right place at right time at Sony Open

By Doug FergusonJanuary 14, 2014, 10:11 pm

LONG TRIP PAYS OFF: Robert Streb figured he would be an alternate in the Sony Open, but he bought a ticket to Hawaii, anyway. It was freezing in Kansas City, Mo. He could always try to Monday qualify. And there were worse places he could be.

Streb wound up in the right spot.

He was the second alternate when the final field was announced. He missed out on Monday qualifying by two shots. But the first alternate, Shawn Stefani, chose not to fly to Hawaii from Houston. And when Hideki Matsuyama withdrew after the pro-am, Streb was in.

''I just figured I'd hang around and see if I got lucky,'' Streb said. ''And I did.''

Stefani can't be faulted. As a rookie, Carl Petterson was the first alternate when the field was set. He waited three days, up until the last group teed off Thursday, and headed to the airport.

''It's obviously a lot of money and time to come out here,'' Streb said. ''If you don't feel you have a good chance, it's perfectly understandable.''

Streb closed with a 73 to tie for 68th, earning three FedEx Cup points. That's not much, but keep in mind that a year ago, Streb missed out on the playoffs by 10 points. Without full status, he hopes to get 15 starts this year, including Monday qualifying. If that doesn't go well, he'll try some Web.com Tour events.


HUDSON AND HARRIS: A new season means new faces on the PGA Tour, such as Hudson Swafford.

Or was that Harris English?

The two former Georgia Bulldogs – and residents at Sea Island – have been mistaken for each other dating back to their junior golf days. Both are 6-foot-3 with a languid walk, smooth swing, gracious manners and an easy smile. And they're best of friends. English was late getting to Hawaii because he was in Swafford's wedding on New Year's Eve.

''Larry Penley was the best,'' Swafford said, referring to the Clemson coach. ''I don't think he knows Harris English exists. It was always 'Hudson' to me and him.''

Swafford is two years older, so it was English who most often was called by the wrong name. That's changed in the last few years, especially around Sea Island. English won twice last year and is in his third year on tour. Swafford, always the big brother to English, is a rookie.

''Around Sea Island, I'm Harris now,'' Swafford said.


HIGH ROLLER: Pat Perez might not face greater pressure all year than the final day of 2013.

He got engaged to his girlfriend of two years, Ashley Pendley, on New Year's Eve in Las Vegas. Typical of Perez, this was no ordinary engagement. He was going to a private party at the MGM Grand, where Stevie Nicks was to perform. Perez persuaded MGM officials to give him the stage before the show. All they said was to be ready.

''It was for all their high rollers – and me. Their $280 million in credit and my $500,'' Perez said. ''So they call me. There's 2,000 people in there, and I'm hammered. I know a lot of the MGM guys, and they were giving me fireball shots at 8 o'clock. I'm getting nervous now. I get the microphone and I call her. They walked her over, I somehow get it out and I drop (to a knee), and they go crazy.''

She said yes. Perez knew that. After all, Penley picked out the ring.

The entire setting has a diameter the size of a dime. Perez said the center was 6 karats, and the entire ring was 11 karats. He declined to say a price, only that ''it's more than this bag is worth'' as he pointed to his golf bag.

The wedding is planned for the end of the year, depending on how his season goes.


UP FOR ELECTION: Jason Bohn, Charley Hoffman and Kevin Streelman are on the ballot to join the PGA Tour policy board.

The tour named its 16-man Player Advisory Council for 2014, which advises and consults the policy board and Commissioner Tim Finchem on various issues. Among the newcomers to the PAC is Lee Westwood, who rejoined the two years ago. His selection is noteworthy as one of the PAC member selected by the players on the board.

The players on the board chose Bohn, Hoffman and Streelman to run for chairman of the PAC through an election that ends after Pebble Beach. Whoever is elected will serve a three-year term on the policy board starting in 2015.

The rest of the PAC includes Stewart Cink, Ken Duke, Trevor Immelman, Matt Kuchar, Scott Langley, Marc Leishman, Davis Love III, Will MacKenzie, Geoff Ogilvy, Michael Putnam, Webb Simpson and Brendon Todd.


DIVOTS: Mark Loomis returns to golf as the coordinating producer for golf production and studio programming at Fox Sports. His experience should come in handy when Fox begins its 12-year deal with the USGA to broadcast the U.S. Open and the rest of its championships. Fox currently does not broadcast any golf tournaments. Loomis previously worked for ABC when it covered PGA Tour events. ... The Champions Tour gets underway this week on the Big Island in Hawaii with the Mitsubishi Electric Championships open to winners the last two years, senior major winners the last five years and eight special exemptions. The exemptions went to four major champions, along with Esteban Toledo, Mark Wiebe, Willie Wood and Kirk Triplett. Vijay Singh did not get an exemption. ... Rory McIlroy plans to play the Scottish Open this year the week before the British Open.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Seven of the eight winners on the PGA Tour this season have shot 66 or better in the final round. The exception was Ryan Moore, who closed with a 70 and won a playoff in Malaysia.


FINAL WORD: ''I feel like to play well in the Masters and U.S. Open it's important to start the year right and get in contention, because you don't want to be in the final group on Sunday of a major having not been in that position earlier in the year.'' – Phil Mickelson.

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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.)