After Further Review: When is slow play too slow?

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on the fairness of slow-play officiating on the PGA Tour, the "weak" (in the judgment of the King himself) 16th hole at Bay Hill, and the South Korean rookies making noise on the LPGA tour.

While most observers will dismiss Henrik Stenson’s complaints over being put on the clock during Sunday’s final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he needed six putts to play the next two holes and went from leading by one to trailing eventual champion Matt Every by one shot, and there is something to be said for the Swede’s concerns.

Although no one wants to see slow play continue to fester in the game, at the highest level on Sunday afternoon there seems to be too much ambiguity when it comes to applying the rules. Anyone who watched Padraig Harrington’s languid final round last month at the Honda Classic can vouch for the PGA Tour’s selective enforcement efforts when it comes to slow play. - Rex Hoggard


The “aesthetically weak” greens got the most attention this week at Bay Hill, but it sounds like Arnold Palmer has more in mind for his golf course than merely installing some TifEagle.

The King revealed on Wednesday during a pre-tournament news conference that he “may change [No.] 16. That’s one hole that’s really the weak spot of the golf course right now. As you all know, it’s a very weak par 5 and I will lengthen it a little and maybe change the green a little.”

Asked in the 18th tower by Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller on Sunday what exactly he has planned, Palmer simply said he’ll make the hole “different.”

Sure, the par-5 16th hole was the easiest on the golf course this week, playing to a scoring average of 4.3, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The reachable par 5 creates an exciting finish at Bay Hill – with eagles, birdies and worse should someone find the water - and provides a perfect complement to Nos. 17 and 18.

It’s a hole on which Zach Johnson made an albatross Sunday and Henrik Stenson and Matt Every only made par.

It may prove wise to move the fairway a little left and bring the water a little more into play, but the important thing to remember in an age when golf courses keep getting longer is this - an easy hole isn’t always a bad hole. - Nick Menta


We all thought Inbee Park was being pushed to greater heights by Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko in this “Big Three” competition. Of course, she is, but now we’re seeing there’s another giant motivational influence pushing Park – a remarkably good crop of South Korean rookies.

Hyo Joo Kim is the second South Korean rookie to win this year. She’ll go to No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week. Sei Young Kim won the second LPGA event of the year. She’s No. 22 in the world.

We might already have three South Korean rookie winners if Ha Na Jang’s putt had fallen to force a playoff at the end of the season-opening Coates Golf Championship. Jang is No. 21 in the world.

There’s yet a fourth South Korean rookie in this mix just waiting to make her mark. That’s Q Baek. She’s No. 12 in the world.

“I’ve played with most of them,” Park told us a day before this new season began. “We can almost not call them rookies. I think this is probably one of the strongest rookie classes the LPGA is going to have.”

These rookies seem intent on breaking up this Big Three talk. They’re pushing each other as much as they’re pushing Park. – Randall Mell

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.