Spieth birdies No. 18 to grab share of lead at Kapalua

By Doug FergusonJanuary 4, 2014, 3:16 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Jordan Spieth thought the Plantation Course was a blast to play when he arrived at Kapalua. He had even more fun Friday.

Coming off a sensational rookie season, Spieth opened the new year by never coming close to bogey and making a 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 7-under 66. That gave him a share of the lead at the Tournament of Champions with fellow newcomers Michael Thompson, Chris Kirk and Webb Simpson.

''It's a course that I shouldn't make a lot of bogeys on if you keep the ball in play and just think your way around the course,'' Spieth said. ''Ultimately, I did some good preparation and did a lot of hard work the last two or three weeks getting ready for today, and now just happy to be in good position after the first round.''


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The wind off the west coast of Maui was the biggest surprise, shifting direction and speed throughout the opening round on a mostly sunny afternoon. But with an inch of rain overnight, the Plantation Course was soft enough that only two players in the 30-man field of PGA Tour winners failed to break par.

Kirk thought he might be one of them when he first got to this slice of paradise. He had not played since winning the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island two months ago, and his first practice round was a skins game with Matt Kuchar and Scott Brown. Kirk got shut out and figures he shot about 80.

When it counted, he was on the money, especially late in the round by closing with five straight birdies.

The last two were not easy, especially with the wind blasting into him on the 17th hole, a par 4 that measures 545 yards down the hill. He hit a poor tee shot and had to smash a 3-wood into 30 feet for an unlikely birdie. He had to hit 3-wood and 9-iron for his final two shots on 18 to make birdie.

''Some slightly more exciting birdies in the last few holes,'' he said.

For the opening round of the year, where players are still trying to shake off some rust, the leaderboard has rarely been this tight.

PGA champion Jason Dufner had four birdies and an eagle on his front-nine 30, only to settle into a string of pars on the back nine for a 6-under 67. Kevin Streelman bogeyed his last two holes and also was at 67, along with Zach Johnson and Ryan Moore. The top 10 players were separated by three shots.

Adam Scott, coming off a two wins and a runner-up in Australia, and defending champion Dustin Johnson were among those at 70

On a day like this, experience might have been overrated.

''I think the more times you play it, the more advantage you have,'' Kirk said. ''Today was a little bit funny. Today was a day with the wind ... I've never played in this wind. All the guys who have played here a bunch of times, you're very rarely going to see that wind. So that could throw some people off that were used to it.''

Even the players at Kapalua for the first time have watched enough of it on television to know how the ball reacts on the ground. That's why Thompson was so surprised to see that his tee shot on the 18th bounced back a few feet.

''From what I understand from guys that I've talked to, that ball at least rolls 40 yards,'' Thompson said. ''So it's playing obviously very different.''

Spieth is getting plenty of attention going into a new year, mostly to see if he can back up his amazing rookie season. He had no status on any tour at this time a year ago, and by the end of the year he had won a tournament (John Deere Classic), finished No. 7 in the FedEx Cup and played on the Presidents Cup team.

He is easing his way into the year, coming out to Maui with only his agent, still finding time to enjoy the Pacific and everything else at Kapalua.

''It's almost like a vacation tournament in a sense,'' Spieth said. ''It's been an awesome week so far. Obviously, I'm here for this reason, and I don't have my family here with me. So there's definitely more of an emphasis on golf than maybe some other guys are putting into it here. Maybe that's an advantage.''

DIVOTS: Along with 13 newcomers to Kapalua, there were a few new - or different - faces on the bags. Simpson is using the caddie of Bubba Watson because the wife of his regular looper, Paul Tesori, is about to have a baby. The biggest change was with Patrick Reed, whose wife has carried his bag for his entire professional career. She is expecting their first child, so her brother is taking over. ... Kapalua is the toughest walk on tour, especially for the caddies. So it didn't help when Kip Henley, the caddie for Brian Gay, felt the bag heavier than usual on the fourth tee. He searched into the umbrella pocket and found a bottle of red wine that had been in the bag since the OHL Classic in Mexico last November. Gay gave it to his wife, who was in the gallery.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen: