Fowler's 61 stole the attention from Tiger - for a bit

By Rex HoggardDecember 3, 2017, 10:33 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – It was Tiger Woods who was wearing his signature red and black on Sunday, but it was Rickie Fowler who produced a Tiger-esque performance at the Hero World Challenge.

Only a 59-watch could have wrested away the enormous attention heaped on this week’s host, and only Fowler has the celebrity to share the spotlight with Woods, who was making his competitive return following fusion surgery on his lower back in April.

For most of the week, the actual competition was very much an afterthought, with Woods’ return dominating the conversation; but on Sunday, Fowler quickly altered the narrative with a torrid start.

After starting the day seven strokes off the lead held by Charley Hoffman, Fowler birdied his first seven holes and added another at the ninth to turn in 28 and move into solo possession of the lead.

“He just made me look like I was playing absolutely horribly,” said Patrick Reed, who was paired with Fowler on Sunday at Albany. “Once he got his speed down on the first hole, making the first putt, it just seemed like the hole was about the size of a dinner plate. It was awesome to watch.”

Fowler extended his lead to three shots with a birdie at the 13th hole and his focus drifted from winning the 18-man challenge season event to something else – shooting a 59.

“I knew when I got in there on 13 that was going to be a bonus, and I knew if I made that putt that 59 was a chance because 14 and 15 ahead are birdie holes,” said Fowler, who conceded he didn’t know where he stood in relation to the rest of the field as he made his way toward the finish. “I was definitely happy with the way I played the last six holes or so, not really knowing the situation. Obviously [I had] a little bit of that 59 thought in there but I wasn't going to necessarily press for it.”


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Full-field scores from the Hero World Challenge


Fowler added another birdie at the par-5 15th hole to move to 11 under par for the day before playing his final three holes even for a closing 61 and a four-stroke victory over Hoffman, who closed with a 72.

Still, Fowler’s course-record-setting round and commanding victory couldn’t escape the long shadow cast by Woods’ comeback.

Earlier in the week Woods had talked of playing practice rounds with the likes of Fowler, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson to prepare for his first competitive start in 301 days.

“These guys are awesome, they want to play almost every day,” said Woods, who closed with a 68 to tie for ninth. “They want to compete, they want to see me back out there, and it's really nice to have that type of camaraderie.”

Of course, Fowler found some inspiration of his own alongside Woods.

After played just once since the Presidents Cup in late September – albeit in a runner-up showing at the OHL Classic – Fowler figures he played five casual rounds with Woods before Thanksgiving to stay sharp. It wasn’t a stretch to see that the rounds also provided some extra motivation for the four-time PGA Tour winner.

“I think he sharpened me up a little bit. I've gotten a little scared of how good he was playing at home, thought I needed to start playing a little bit better or something,” Fowler smiled.

Although the Hero isn't a PGA Tour event, the Official World Ranking points he picked up in at Albany will boost Fowler's status, moving him to seventh in the world. And others, like Jordan Spieth in 2014, have used a victory at the Hero World Challenge as a springboard to a breakout season.

For Fowler, a "breakout" would need to include a major championship.

“We only get four chances a year, so there's four big weeks that we always think about it,” Fowler said. “But I put myself in position to be in contention at majors so we're just going to keep knocking at the door.”

Whether his success this fall translates into a major breakthrough remains to be seen, but he did accomplish a major feat on Sunday by compelling the golf world to pay attention to a player not named Tiger, at least for a few moments.

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm

Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.