Simpson, Casey take Sony Open lead

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2015, 3:24 am

HONOLULU – Webb Simpson made his debut with a conventional putter Thursday at the Sony Open and might have wished he had used one sooner.

One year away from the new rule that outlaws anchored strokes, Simpson ditched his belly putter for a regular one for his 2015 debut and ran off eight birdies over his last 10 holes for an 8-under 62 that gave him a share of the lead with Paul Casey.

On a day that made the 144 players feel they were in paradise with sunshine and barely a breeze, Simpson and Casey led the low scoring at Waialae.

What set them apart is how they got there - Simpson with his conventional putter, Casey with his return to Honolulu for the first time in a decade.

''Today was a big day for me,'' Simpson said. ''I was extremely nervous - first round on the PGA Tour with a short putter. But I just had a couple (Bible) verses in my yardage book today that I kept reading, and I stayed calm. All thanks to God for giving me strength to just get through today.

''Today was a hurdle I felt like I needed to get over, and just real thankful.''

Camilo Villegas would have joined them at 62 except for failing to make birdie on the par-5 18th hole. He shot 29 on the front at Waialae before cooling slightly for a 63. Robert Streb also had a 63, the low score from the afternoon.


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Rory Sabbatini had a 64, while Jason Day, Matt Kuchar were in the group at 65. Defending champion Jimmy Walker played in the afternoon and was in the large group at 66.

Casey says he gave up his European Tour membership to concentrate on playing the PGA Tour, spending time with his newborn son and getting his game back into the top 50 in the world. He hasn't played in a Ryder Cup since 2008. He hasn't been in the top 50 in nearly three years.

And that's why it has been 10 years since he has been at the Sony Open. He typically is starting his season in the Middle East.

''For as long as I've been professional I've been a member of the European Tour,'' Casey said. ''For a long, long time now, I've been trying to play both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, and some years I've done it brilliantly, and other years I've failed miserably, and I just didn't want to keep putting myself in kind of a position where I'm struggling to fly around the world.''

Playing both tours is easier from inside the top 50, which effectively guarantees four majors and four World Golf Championships. Casey, who won the Dutch Open last year, is now at No. 78.

Simpson said he stopped off in Las Vegas to work with Butch Harmon on his way to Hawaii to make sure he was up so speed with swing changes he made in the fall. But this day was all about his putter. He won the U.S. Open in 2012 with the belly putter, which has been his club since the fall of 2004 when he was at Wake Forest. And he used it last fall in Japan, but there was something about a PGA Tour event that made him nervous.

''It was one of my best putting rounds I've ever had, to be honest,'' he said. ''I've been putting well with it, but it's easy to putt well at your home course playing with your biddies. So today there was a lot of pressure. Didn't sleep that great last night, but had a good morning, talked to my wife, good warmup, and it was big to see a few putts go in early. Real thankful for how the day unfolded.''

He made four birdie putts of at least 15 feet on his front nine, a pace that will be tough to maintain all week.

DIVOTS: Geoff Ogilvy made his first hole-in-one on the PGA Tour with a 5-iron from 211 yards on the fourth hole. He said he has made five or six aces on other tours. The ace only helped so much. He opened with a 69. ... Simpson's 28 tied the front-nine record at Waialae set by Toshinori Muto three years ago. ... Of the five Champions Tour players in the field, Kenny Perry led the way at 67, while Paul Goydos shot 69. Vijay Singh had a 71, and Davis Love III and Fred Funk each had a 72. All but Singh are going over to the Big Island next week to start the Champions Tour season. Singh did not get an exemption.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry