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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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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.