Fact Pack: Honda Classic

By Will GrayFebruary 26, 2013, 6:48 pm

This week the PGA Tour begins its annual Florida Swing as a strong field tees it up at The Honda Classic. PGA National has hosted majors and the Ryder Cup, and the 'Bear Trap' from holes 15-17 presents one of the most difficult stretch players will see on any course this year outside of the four majors. Rory McIlroy returns to defend his title, but three other players inside the top six of the world ranking will be eager to take the trophy from him this week. With that in mind, here is a look inside the numbers to see which players may contend for the title and help your Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge team in the process:

• Thus far in 2013, backing up a PGA Tour win hasn't been exactly easy. None of the 2013 champions have cracked the top 20 in a start since hoisting the trophy, though three of the eight winners have yet to play since their victory (Brandt Snedeker, John Merrick and Matt Kuchar). The most precipitous fall belongs to Dustin Johnson, who since winning at Kapalua has made only one cut in four stroke-play starts, a T-51 showing at Torrey Pines, and was bounced in the first round at Dove Mountain. Johnson, Merrick and Tiger Woods will all hope to bring an end to this stat with a high finish this week at PGA National.

• On a course as difficult as PGA National, hitting the greens in regulation is especially important. Last year, 12 of the top 15 names on the leaderboard also finished T-10 or better in GIR percentage for the week. That group was led by Charl Schwartzel, who hit 56/72 greens in regulation - three more than Lee Westwood in second place. They were the only two players to hit more than 50/72 greens last year, while Rory McIlroy found 48 in regulation en route to victory.

• While many golf fans remember Woods' final-round 62 and runner-up finish, the name of his co-runner-up is likely more difficult to recall - Tom Gillis. Along with McIlroy, Gillis was one of two players with all four rounds in the 60s here last year, and his $501,000 paycheck represented more than 40 percent of his official money won during the 2012 season. He has notched only two top-10 finishes since his run at this event last year, highlighted by a tie for ninth at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in November.

• Should a relatively unknown player come from the pack to claim the title this week in Palm Beach Gardens, it may bode well for their chances at the majors later this year. In 2004, Todd Hamilton won the Honda at the Country Club of Mirasol before his shocking win at Royal Troon later that summer, while Y.E. Yang used a victory here four years ago as a springboard for his 2009 season, one that ended with him hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy at Hazeltine in August. 

• While McIlroy will have positive memories upon which to build from last year's win, defending champions have not necessarily fared well in this event. Jack Nicklaus remains the only player to go back-to-back in this event, winning in both 1977 and 1978, and the best finish for a defending champion since the event moved to PGA National in 2007 came from Ernie Els, who finished T-22 in 2009 after winning the year prior. The only other player to even make the cut upon returning to the Champions Course was Rory Sabbatini, who finished T-62 last year in defense of his title.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.


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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."