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Snedeker trying to earn Masters spot in Indonesia

By Doug FergusonDecember 5, 2017, 7:43 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – Tournaments in two countries last week might have gone a long way toward who finishes in the top 50 of the world ranking at the end of the year and gets into the Masters.

Dylan Frittelli, the South African who holed the winning chip for Texas when it won the NCAA title in 2012, defeated Arjun Atwal in a playoff in the Mauritius Open and moved to No. 55 in the world. Frittelli is playing the Joburg Open this week, the final event of the calendar year on the European Tour. He also is entered in the Indonesia Masters next week on the Asian Tour.

In the final event on the Japan Golf Tour, Sotoshi Kodaira closed with a 67 to tie for 21st. Only the top 22 received world ranking points, so it was a big finish for Kodaira because that allowed him to move up four spots to No. 49. Yusaki Miyazato won the tournament and moved up 16 spots to No. 58. Both Japanese players are entered in the Indonesia Masters next week.

And they will have company.

Brandt Snedeker missed five months with an injury to his sternum and slipped 15 spots to No. 47 before he returned for the PGA Tour's last official event of the year at Sea Island. He shot 70-70 on the weekend and tied for 29th. Snedeker fell to No. 50 this week and will keep losing ground.

But the American has entered the Indonesia Masters, the last event of the year that offers world ranking points. The field will get a tiny bump because Justin Rose (No. 6 in the world) has decided to play. That would be Snedeker's last chance to try to crack the top 50.

Players still have until March 25 to get into the top 50 and earn a spot in the Masters, but it would help to have that taken care of going into the new year.

Also playing in Indonesia is Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, who is No. 60.

Among those not playing is Ian Poulter, who is No. 52. Poulter did not play two weeks ago in the Hong Kong Open, where he is a past champion. He said in a text message it has been a long year and he needs time off, but that ''I will make the top 50 before the Masters I promise.''

Bill Haas also is outside the top 50. He has not missed the Masters since 2009.

A year ago, 12 players not already eligible for the Masters finished the year in the top 50 to earn invitations. That number will be smaller this year. Players who are assured of finishing in the top 50 are Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, Matt Fitzpatrick, Branden Grace, Ross Fisher, Yuta Ikeda and Bernd Wiesberger.

Among those who will have to earn their invitations in the spring is Lee Westwood, who is No. 66 and not playing the rest of the year. Westwood has been eligible for every major since he missed the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. The last time Westwood failed to qualify for the Masters was 2004.

JORDAN'S JACKET: Jordan Spieth doesn't know his jacket size. He only knows one of the jackets he owns - a green one - is too big.

''I never got it tailored, so it's huge,'' Spieth said of his green jacket from winning the 2015 Masters. ''I never trusted anybody, never wanted anyone to go do it. I didn't give them my size originally. I wore the one off the green that day, and I never gave it back to them to tailor or anything. I should now.''

Asked for his jacket size, Spieth wasn't sure, only that it was somewhere around a 40.

There's a reason he doesn't know. Spieth doesn't own a lot of jackets. He did get a couple of them before the Presidents Cup, and he put it on the tab of Justin Thomas.

''I bought two suits on Justin's Polo account ... and that's the only nice clothes that I've ever bought,'' Spieth said. ''I bought two suits and the shoes and sweaters and whatnot because he got a discount. So I got some really nice stuff.''

What did Thomas get out of the deal?

''I asked him if he wanted any underwear in return or something,'' Spieth said with a smile.

One of his top sponsors is Under Armour.

TOUR SWITCH: The European Tour has tapped into the PGA Tour to find its latest executive to oversee television production.

Stu Nichol, the senior vice president of broadcasting and programming for the PGA Tour, has left to become head of television production for the European Tour. Nichol is expected to start his new job in January at a time when the European Tour is taking control of European Tour Productions. Previously, it was a shared venture between the European Tour and IMG Media.

Nichol's decision stemmed from a chance meeting with European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley during the World Golf Hall of Fame induction in New York in late September. Both are Canadians. Nichol's first job in the late 1980s was at TSN in Toronto, where he was an assignment editor and Pelley was the producer.

Nichol was not looking to leave the PGA Tour, though the move became attractive when the PGA Tour decided not to opt out of its television contracts and consider the possibility of its own network. Nichol had been involved in potential models.

AILING KOEPKA: Brooks Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix by nine shots, then returned home for Thanksgiving and to get ready for the Hero World Challenge. Somewhere along the way, the U.S. Open champion felt soreness in his left wrist.

''I have some wrist issues,'' Koepka said in the Bahamas. ''I want to figure that out. I can't grip anything strong with my left hand.''

Koepka said he first felt some tightness on Saturday before going over to Albany Golf Club. He has the next month to let it heal or figure out if anything is wrong before starting the new year in Kapalua at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

TRAVELING MAN: A year ago, Justin Rose withdrew after the first round of the Hero World Challenge with a nagging back injury. This year, he's stronger than ever, and he has the airline miles to prove it.

Rose won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai and then went straight to the Turkish Airlines Open. He came home to the Bahamas for one week before returning to Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, then returned to the Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge. After a week at home with friends, Rose is off to Jakarta for the Indonesia Masters.

''It's been a test - I can't lie,'' he said. ''But I'm feeling good. I'm feeling really good.''

DIVOTS: Sony Corp. has agreed to extend its title sponsorship of the Sony Open another four years through 2022. Sony took over as title sponsor in 1999. The tournament has been held at Waialae Country Club down from Waikiki Beach since 1965. ... Ian Poulter missed the cut at the Valero Texas Open and thought he had lost his full PGA Tour card until he was spared by a technical oversight in tour regulations. Since then, he has made the cut in 19 consecutive tournaments worldwide to finish out the year. ... Scott Reid, formerly tournament director of the RSM Classic, will be the tournament director for the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. ... The World Cup returns to Melbourne next fall, only this time it will be headed to Metropolitan Golf Club. Metropolitan held the Match Play Championship in 2001 won by Steve Stricker.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Dustin Johnson will become only the third American to finish the year at No. 1 since the world ranking began in 1986.

FINAL WORD: ''You can't go through a career without some heartache.'' - Justin Rose.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.