A Hot Start Now About the Finish

By George WhiteJanuary 10, 2006, 5:00 pm
For the third straight year, Stuart Appleby wins the Mercedes Championship. For the third straight year, he wins the seasons first tournament, an elite event for winners only. And for the third straight year, people are asking whether this might mean a breakout season for him.
 
It didnt mean much in 2004 and 2005. In 04, he went on to miss the cut at the Sony Open and finish T40 at the Bob Hope in his next two tournaments, and though he played well in spurts, he couldnt duplicate winning.
 
Last year, he had a child born the week after the Mercedes and didnt play again until LA six weeks later. And, once again, he couldnt duplicate the victory at Kapulua. He finished T58 at the Nissan in a tournament that lasted only two rounds. In his next outing (the Accenture), he needed 19 holes in his opening match to knock off Joakim Haeggman before losing the second to Ian Poulter. After that, he wouldnt finish in the top 20 until the Booz Allen in June.
 
To be fair, lets concede that Appleby suffered most of the first half of the season with a nerve problem in his hip. But I managed - when I got over the ball, I could swing it all right, Appleby conceded. I was really surprised because my comfort level was not very good, but when I got to hit a shot, I actually felt all right.
 
This year, though ' no problem. I'm in better shape than last year, he said flatly.
 
So what has happened to Appleby the last couple of years to submarine the excellent starts? Well, last year he could point to the child and the injury, though really he didnt do a whole lot the entire year. In 2004, he played pretty consistently, though he never could close the deal.
 
Surprisingly, Appleby has mostly putted his way to the Mercedes wins. This, despite the fact that he was way down at No. 165 in the putting rankings last year.
 
It's pretty hard to miss a fairway, pretty hard to miss a green, said the man who averaged 300 yards a drive in 2005, 19th on the rankings. Don't have to chip much, all have you to do is putt. I putted well.
 
There was no question that his golf game was AWOL after the Mercedes last year. I certainly didn't hit it as good - didn't swing it as good, I should say - and I didn't have any weeks where I putted as good as that, offered Appleby. I think that showed. That (putting) probably cost me 10 to 15 spots on the list right there, minimum. Whereas '04 was a year that was a bit more stable. I finished ranked 12th.
 
Appleby lives now in Florida, but he in a native Australian and he traditionally spends Decembers playing tournaments in Australia in the short golf season Down Under. Jim Furyk noted that fact, hoping that that is the reason he has dominated the Mercedes the past three years.
 
He either gets it back very, very quickly or he's been working pretty good in the off-season, one of the two, Furyk said.

Maybe he's been playing a little bit at home. A lot of us live in good weather. It doesn't mean we're always out there practicing. A lot of guys, you want to spend Christmas and kind of be with your family during the holidays.
 
This year, of course, the tournament missed four men who would have been favorites for the championship ' Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen. But Tiger and Goosen, at least, were in attendance the other two years. So Applebys Mercedes wins were against the top competition. And this year he won a playoff over Vijay Singh, so there wasnt much of a dropoff of talent there.
 
What does he have to do to step it up to the worlds top 10? Its simple ' he has to putt much better. He was in the top 30 in putting routinely until 2004, when he finished 56th ' and thats not bad, mind you. But 165th ' now, thats bad.
 
This year, hes going to become a father again shortly. Fatherhood, naturally, didnt affect his putting last year. The hip ' possibly it did. But there should be no excuses this time around. This time, the 34-year-old has to make that extra leap. He has shown the past three years that he can be potentially as successful as anyone save Tiger ' at least at the first tournament of the year. Now he just has to learn how to do it the following 47 events.
 
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry