After Further Review: Best LPGA rookie class ever?

By Nick Menta, Randall Mell, Rex HoggardApril 19, 2015, 11:13 pm

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on an amazingly gifted LPGA rookie class, the greatness of Harbour Town Golf Links, the monkey that is no longer on Jim Furyk's back, and Jordan Spieth's commendable keeping of a commitment.

The LPGA’s rookie class may end up being the story of the year in women’s golf. The South Korean rookies, in particular, make this potentially the best rookie class the LPGA has ever seen. If you don’t want to see South Koreans taking over the women’s game, and there’s a large contingent of you, judging by reader comments, then you probably missed one of the wildest finishes in the men’s or women’s game. Rookie Sei Young Kim’s dramatic winning finish Saturday night in Hawaii made viewers jump out of their seats. I know, I was one of them. Her chipping in for an all-world par at the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Inbee Park was a crazy turn. Her following it by holing out from 154 yards at the first extra hole was doubly stunning. With Kim, Hyo Joo Kim, Ha Na Jang and Q Baek leading these South Korean rookies, you better get used to seeing them. - Randall  Mell

One of the most enduring golf courses on the PGA Tour delivered again on Sunday. Harbour Town Golf Links, home to the Heritage since it joined the circuit in 1969, has a history of identifying the best player, whether that player is bomber or a plodder. Consider that in his day Davis Love III was one of the Tour’s longest and collected five tartan jackets from 1987 to 2003. In recent years, however, it has been players with more measured games that have excelled at Harbour Town, like this year’s champion, Jim Furyk. Defying stereotypes, it might be the true sign of a great golf course. Rex Hoggard

It’s funny how one putt can shape perception. Jim Furyk made that 12-footer on the second extra hole at Harbour Town, and now he’s being praised for his grittiness and his persistence, for how he put aside four and a half years of disappointment and won his 17th title. But what if he had missed? What if he had made 10 birdies and it still wasn’t enough for the long-awaited win? Here’s guessing that the conversation would be a lot different, that the C-word would get thrown around, that he’d still be a punch line, this time because he couldn’t beat the 257th-ranked player in the world. Furyk deserved this win – he’s far too talented a player to go 100 starts between titles – but there is an added bonus here: Now he won’t have to deal with all of the here-we-go-again drama the next time he grabs the lead. Good for him. – Ryan Lavner

Jordan Spieth could have skipped out on the RBC Heritage this week and no one would have held it against him. He didn't. Once he showed up, he could have packed it in after an opening 74, gone home, and spent the weekend watching TV in his green jacket. He didn't. Instead, he closed with rounds of 62-68-70 to finish T-11. It's an admittedly low bar to judge character - asking a 21-year-old to go play Harbour Town knowing he can win money so long as he can tap into even 50 percent of his world-beating talent. But the new No. 2 honored his commitment, becoming the first Masters champ to play the following week since 2007, and then fought his way to a higher finish than anyone would've expected after Round 1. Again, it’s a low bar, but Spieth sailed over it when he could have easily, understandably, snuck under it. – Nick Menta

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x