Snedeker leads Sony after flawless 65 in Round 2

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2016, 2:52 am

HONOLULU - A new driver, a new swing and Brandt Snedeker is starting to feel just like new.

Coming off a great weekend at Kapalua, Snedeker played bogey-free Friday and rolled in a couple of long birdie putts that carried him to a 5-under 65 and a one-shot lead over Kevin Kisner after two rounds of the Sony Open.

Snedeker was at 12-under 128.

"I feel like I'm playing great, so it should be fun," Snedeker said about the weekend at Waialae.

It could be fun for a lot of players.

Two dozen players were separated by five shots at the halfway point. Scoring conditions were so ideal that 87 players from the 144-man field made the cut, meaning there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

Kisner, who played with Snedeker, kept pace with him on Thursday (both opened at 63) and on Friday until a two-shot swing on their 12th hole. Snedeker made a 35-foot birdie putt and Kisner missed a 5-footer for par. Kiser kept his wits even as his putts kept missing. Even though he missed three birdie chances inside 10 feet and had several others in the 15-foot range that caught part of the cup, he hung in there long enough to make a 12-foot eagle putt on his last hole for a 66.

British Open champion Zach Johnson (66) and the resurgent Luke Donald (65) were among those two shots behind, while the group three strokes back included Sean O'Hair and 49-year-old Jerry Kelly. Vijay Singh, who turns 53 next month and can become the PGA Tour's oldest winner, had a 69 and was four behind.

Dating to his final two rounds on Maui - 65-67 to tie for third - Snedeker is 26 under over his last 72 holes. That beats the way he finished the up last year. He went to the Australian PGA Championship and opened with an 84.

He made a full commitment to an overhaul of his setup, and Snedeker said he worked hard with Butch Harmon and then showed up in Maui early, playing a couple of practice rounds with Jordan Spieth. And it helped that Kapalua's fairways are among the widest in golf.


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"Maui being wide open off the tee a little bit helped me get comfortable with it," Snedeker said. "And then I realized this week ... how it feels, what should happen, and when I do hit a bad shot, I kind of know where it comes from. So I feel way more comfortable with it this week and excited about it, because the bad shots haven't been near as bad as they have been."

Kisner was a runner-up in the HSBC Champions and won the RSM Classic at Sea Island in his final two tournaments of 2015, and he started the new year by finishing ninth at Kapalua on a weekend where his putter went cold. And here he is again, contending on the weekend after a year in which he had four runner-up finishes at a victory.

"To go out and play the way I did on Sunday at the RSM with a three-shot lead was a huge confidence builder," Kisner said. "It wasn't that favorable that I took a month-and-a-half off after it, but to come back and get right back into the fire and have a chance to win this weekend is going to be huge for me."

Two-time defending champion Jimmy Walker finished with nine straight pars for a 68 to finish on 3-under 137 and make the cut on the number. He was nine shots back.

Kisner and Snedeker were right of the fairway on the par-4 third, having to punch out low to avoid the palm trees. Kisner's shot caught a frond and came down short of the green, and he pitched to 5 feet and missed the par putt. Snedeker's shot ran all the way onto the green, and he holed a 35-foot birdie putt for a two-shot lead.

On the par-3 fourth, Snedeker made a 20-foot birdie putt, and then finished with a good chip out of the rough to 4 feet for birdie on the par-5 ninth.

Kisner's frustration was starting to get noticeable when he bent over so far that his hands nearly touched his shoes on the fifth, but with that eagle on the ninth, he still was only one shot out of the lead.

"I was proud of the way I stayed patient all day," Kisner said. "That round could have been a few more bogeys if I'd have let not holing any of the putts get to me, but stayed patient, kept hitting good shots and good way to finish it on 9."

DIVOTS: All three players who are staying on for the Champions Tour season debut next week on the Big Island - Singh, Fred Funk and Davis Love III - made the cut. ... Robert Allenby missed the cut by four shots in his return to Honolulu. He shot a 68 on Friday. That was his lowest score since Aug. 2. ... Five players who were at Kapalua last week missed the cut - Russell Knox, Justin Thomas, Chris Kirk, Graeme McDowell and Troy Merritt.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 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%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


FALLING

Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.