James comes through in clutch, wins Volvik WLD Champ.

By Will GraySeptember 7, 2017, 4:26 am

THACKERVILLE, Okla. – In a sport filled with bold personalities, Justin James can often stand out by simply not standing out.

James is quiet and soft-spoken, and this week at the Volvik World Long Drive Championship he has been all business. The small talk was kept to a minimum, and the steely focus never left his face.

That is, until he uncorked a 435-yard bomb that made him the best long driver in the world.

James, 27, needed only to find the grid with one of his final four balls against Mitch Grassing, but he won in style by serving up one of the longest shots of the evening at the Winstar World Casino and Resort. With his ball still mid-flight, James watched its trajectory carefully on the big screens that lined the stage.

Once it landed in bounds, the “Snapping Turtle” threw his club high in the air and went straight for the championship belt that is now deservedly in his possession.

“There’s a time to celebrate,” James said. “You can’t do it too early, or you might look dumb. So you’ve got to wait.”


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James’ wait paid off, as he quickly scaled the wall behind the tee box to begin celebrating the biggest win of his career with his wife. It’s also his third victory of the 2017 season on the World Long Drive Tour and lifts him from No. 3 to No. 1 in the world.

James’ confidence never wavered, and when he left the stage after winning his Round of 16 match he stated simply, “I’m the best, so come get me.” The competition couldn’t keep pace in Wednesday’s finale under the lights, as James breezed past Paul Howell and Nick Kiefer to earn a spot in the finals.

“Regardless of the result, I felt like I was the best,” James said. “I try not to be too results-oriented, but honestly, there’s just so much anxiety and nerves this week because it’s such a huge event.”

James was able to breathe a little easier when Grassing was unable to find the grid with any of his eight balls in the final. He went 0-for-7 in his quarterfinal match with Wes Patterson before launching a 435-yard shot to escape with a win, but he couldn’t find similar magic with his back to the wall against James.

“The finals of the World Long Drive Championship, it’s a whole different level of pressure,” Grassing said. “The first few balls, I kind of missed them. I think I started rushing a little bit, maybe the pressure got to me. I made an equipment change, but I just couldn’t find it.”

But Grassing had plenty of company this week among players who couldn’t stack up to James’ towering totals. He may not have the flashiest personality or the loudest voice, but after three days of 400-plus yard shots seemingly fired at will, James has the belt that all of his other peers covet.

“It’s crazy. I can’t really describe it,” he said. “You know they say when I watch games, ‘There are no words,’ and I think they’re stupid. But now I’m the stupid one, because there’s no words to describe this. It’s the best thing ever.” 

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

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.