Rookies share lead, 54-hole scoring record at Sony

By Doug FergusonJanuary 13, 2013, 5:46 am

HONOLULU – Scott Langley and Russell Henley joked around as if they were a couple of rookies fresh out of college.

They sure don't play like rookies.

After they set the Sony Open scoring record at 17-under 193 to share the lead, Henley walked into a news conference Saturday evening and realized Langley, who moments earlier had been sitting in the same chair, left behind his PGA Tour credentials and sunglasses.

Langley came back into the room - turns out he forgot his golf clubs, too - and Henley waved the credentials and called out to him, ''What a rookie.''

Put them on the golf course, though, and they look awfully tough to beat.

Langley relied on his stinger 3-wood on the fast fairways of Waialae and another solid round putting for a 5-under 65.

Henley took a suspect swing from the range and made it work on the course, turning a so-so round into a 67 by keeping bogeys off his card for the second straight day. He smashed a high draw on the par-5 18th over the bunker and just through the fairway, leading to a two-putt birdie that allowed him to catch Langley.

They had a three-shot lead over Tim Clark, who is finally feeling healthy again.

''I'm sure they won't be too intimidated,'' Clark said. ''That's going to be fun to see them play. There's all these young guys coming out these days, and they're ready to go right from the start. So it's going to be a fun battle.''

Langley and Henley started the Sony Open playing in the same group, not unusual because rookies are often put at the back end of the draw. They will play together Sunday for the fourth straight day, this time with a lot more at stake.

A chance to become the first rookie to win his PGA Tour debut since Garrett Willis in the 2001 Tucson.

A two-year exemption on tour.

And the sweet reward of an invitation to The Masters, rare for a rookie.

''A month ago I was at orientation, and Scott just done with Q-school, and I gave him a ride to the airport,'' Henley said. ''We had lunch and I was telling him how awesome it was I was on the PGA Tour. This is kind like a dream. It's weird. It's like I'm not awake. Very weird.''

Perhaps reality will set in Sunday, though there has been no evidence of that for three days - not the way these guys putt.

''The Vegas odds on me winning were probably not very good,'' said Langley, not a betting man himself. ''I hope somebody bet on me and I make him a lot of money.''

Langley made seven birdies to offset a pair of bogeys. Henley has been steadier, and he carries a streak of 43 holes without a bogey into the final round.

Henley looked relaxed when he finished his round and still feels as though he's playing with house money.

''Win this tournament or not, it's already been a very successful week,'' said Henley, who won twice on the Web.com Tour last year to earn his card.

''Obviously, I've played great golf, and I feel like I can compete out here. And I think when I get confidence like that, I can compete. It lets me get out of my way a little bit. It's a long year. Whatever happens tomorrow, I'm going to learn from it.''

The rookies have ruled along the shores of Oahu, and if not for Clark, it would have been even more pronounced. Clark made a birdie on the last hole that put him into the final group.

Otherwise, that spot would have been occupied by Scott Gardiner of Australia, who had a 64 and was four shots behind.

Charles Howell III, twice a runner-up at the Sony Open, had a 67 and also was four behind.

''We'll see what happens,'' Howell said. ''Those young kids are running away with it, but I'll just do my best tomorrow to have a nice week.''

Seven players were within five shots of the lead, which included Monday qualifier Danny Lee and Pat Perez, whose goal to have a more positive attitude was severely tested on the final hole when he missed a 40-inch birdie putt. Perez still had a 67 and was at 12-under 198.

Henley and Langley shared low amateur honors at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open, and then became fast friends by flying together to Northern Ireland for the Palmer Cup. They were thrilled to be playing together for their rookie debut in the opening two rounds.

Neither had any idea they would still be together going into the final round. Nobody has been able to catch them.

''I never imagined that,'' Langley said. ''It's certainly odd. But you know, if there was a guy in the field that I would love to do it with, it would be Russell because we play pretty similar games, and we're kind of the same guy on the course. We play pretty quickly and pretty easy going, kind of feel our way around, not too technical. So there are a lot of guys that I enjoy playing with, but Russell is definitely one of them.''

Langley was two shots behind until a two-putt birdie on the ninth and a short birdie putt on the 10th to tie for the lead. He pulled ahead with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 13th, and after a three-putt bogey, regained the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th.

He kept in front with a 7-foot par save on the 17th, but took himself out of an easy birdie chance on the 18th when his ball settled just in front of a large tree root.

In another veteran move, he took a steep swing so that the club narrowly passed over the exposed root and struck the ball cleanly, though it still left him a wedge into the green.

Those expecting to see the rookies get stage fright in the final group on the weekend quickly learned that these aren't ordinary rookies - at least not on Saturday. Both played with remarkable poise and kept this Sony Open a two-man show.

Except for John Daly, of course, who always manages to keep it interesting. He pulled his tee shot into the hill on the sixth hole, hit a rock and hurt his shoulder.

He made triple bogey, took four shots from 20 feet on the next hole for double bogey, made another triple bogey on the eighth and then holed a 50-foot birdie for a 45 on the front nine. That gave him a 79.

A far more subtle meltdown belonged to Chris Kirk. He was two shots out of the lead when he hit a tee shot into the canal on the par-5 ninth, his next shot out of bounds and made a 20-foot putt to escape with a triple bogey. He played the other par 5 much differently, chipping in from 80 feet for eagle on the 18th to salvage a 68. He was five behind.

Henley started the third round with a two-shot lead and he didn't give it up until Langley holed a 12-foot birdie from just on the fringe at the 13th. They play different styles, with Langley hitting low shots with great control, but both of them can putt.

Henley showed that with a number of par saves early on, along with his 15-foot birdie on the second hole and another birdie from about 8 feet on No. 8.

He made nine straight pars after that until his birdie on the last hole.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.