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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.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).