Walker, Matsuyama tied for 54-hole Hyundai lead

By Doug FergusonJanuary 12, 2015, 2:47 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii - Jimmy Walker was surprised by the break on the green on one hole. He was fooled by the wind on the next hole. And when he finished his third round Sunday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he wasn't sure what to think except to be happy that his final putt fell for birdie and a share of the lead.

In his second year playing at Kapalua, he's still not all that comfortable.

Tied for the lead going into the final round? He's a lot more comfortable than he was about 15 months ago.

Walker did most of his damage early with five birdies in 10 holes, and a late birdie gave him a 6-underr 67 and a share of the lead with Hideki Matsuyama. The 22-year-old from Japan made four birdies on his last six holes, including a delicate chip to the par-5 18th that he played beautifully, and matched the best score of the tournament for the second straight day with a 66.

They were at 17-under 202, two shots clear of Sang-Moon Bae (69) and Patrick Reed (68).

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Walker will have a chance to become the fifth player to win on both PGA Tour courses in the Hawaii swing. He won the Sony Open a year ago, part of a stretch in which he won three times in eight starts. He has experience, sure, along with some nerves.

"I'm sure I'm going to feel more comfortable, just being out here longer, more mature, more experienced, that type thing," he said. "I'll tell you I was nervous driving to the first tee on Friday for the first round and didn't eat all my breakfast this morning because I was pumped about the day. So I'll be excited and ready to go."

The first PGA Tour event of the year doesn't have a cast of stars with Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Martin Kaymer staying at home, though the co-leaders going into the Monday finish are examples of why it's getting tougher to win on the PGA Tour.

Walker is going for his fourth victory since his inaugural win at the Frys.com Open to start the 2013-14 season, and he was among the few bright spots in a U.S. loss at the Ryder Cup last September.

Matsuyama was the first rookie to win the Japan Golf Tour money list, played in the Masters twice as an amateur (both times making the cut) and had a breakthrough win last year at the Memorial. He is a strong player, with a pause at the top of his swing and plenty of power through impact.

Only three other players have won at Kapalua in their debut since this winners-only event moved to Kapalua in 1999. Matsuyama is not sure why he is playing so well, except for the scenery.

"I like the view and so I like the course," he said.

The show doesn't belong entirely to them, of course. Johnson was two shots behind going into the final round last year.

Brendon Todd (69) and Russell Henley (70) were three shots back and still very much in the game.

Henley was among four players tied for the lead going into Sunday and played reasonably well except for a few mistakes. One was a chip on the reachable sixth hole, which moved about 5 feet and just onto the green, leaving a fast putt. He three-putted, turning birdie into bogey.

Defending champion Zach Johnson, also tied for the lead, took double bogey on the par-5 fifth hole and didn't have much go his way in a 73 that put him six back.

Walker was happy with how he played, though he wanted more. After reaching 16 under with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole, he looked to be going for a knockout punch. But he left an 18-foot birdie putt woefully short on the 11th hole, came out of a 15-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole and left another birdie putt from about 18 feet short on the next hole.

And while he made a par on the reachable par-4 14th, he was lucky.

Walker hit driver with a slightly helping wind, and came out of the shot. It sailed to the right toward the native grasses, which in years past have been 4 feet high and even now have been cut back to a foot. Returning the club to the bag, Walker had both hands near the neck of the club like he wanted to strangle it.

The good news? They found it. With thick strands of grass around the ball, he was happy to get out short of the green, and then caught another break when it was sitting up in the Bermuda grass. That allowed him to control his chip, and he played perfectly to a foot to escape with par.

He liked the chances at birdies, though he didn't make any until the end. Even after only two birdies on the back nine, he was tied for the lead and feeling a lot more comfortable about it than before he began winning tournaments.

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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.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.