Punch Shot: Who most needs to win World Challenge?

The Northwestern Mutual World Challenge is this week. It's an unofficial Tour event, but world ranking points count and, as host Tiger Woods showed by winning in 2011, a victory this week could lead to greater things next season. With that in mind, GolfChannel.com writers offer up who most needs a win at Sherwood Country Club.


By RANDALL MELL

Jim Furyk could use the boost that comes from beating a small but talented field in Tiger's event. While Furyk has enjoyed an excellent career, the near misses in the last couple of years have to be aggravating. The failed chances to close can't sit well with this proud champion.

With the PGA Tour reviewing its Hall of Fame criteria, you have to wonder where Furyk will stand in future consideration with 16 PGA Tour titles that include one major. An unofficial win this week just might help Furyk gain the momentum he needs to make a final push to finish off a Hall of Fame career with another major next year. 


By REX HOGGARD

Maybe this was always going to be Bubba Watson’s modus operandi. Either by design or DNA, the big left-hander doesn’t scream consistency, but following his maiden major in 2012 the masses expected more.

More than just three top-10 finishes in 21 starts this season; more than just one legitimate chance at victory at the Travelers Championship, which was spoiled by closing rounds of 70 and a heated exchange with his caddie; more than a 37th-place finish on the final FedEx Cup point list and a playoff run that ended at the BMW Championship.

A victory this week at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge wouldn’t turn an underwhelming season into something worth celebrating, but it would make the normal winter break a little more cheerful.

Nor would a victory this week be entirely out of character for Watson, who has finished inside the top 10 in his last two starts at Tiger Woods’ invitational (T-9 in 2012 and T-6 in ’11), and he began his 2013-14 campaign with a tie for eighth at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

More than any of the other 17 world-class players assembled this week at Sherwood, Watson needs a victory, be it official or otherwise, to give him something to remember from what was a forgettable season.


By RYAN LAVNER

His performance in Australia passed the eyeball test, but another victory would confirm that he is truly back (or close) to the player who ruled 2012. A streaky talent, Rory McIlroy has the chance to rewrite expectations for 2014 if he can rattle off back-to-back wins, this time against 17 of the top 30 players in the world. Unless his game disappears on the 13-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, he should be freed up after his first win in more than 12 months. Re-watch his winning putt – his exhale afterward told you all you need to know about how much it meant to him. With his swing sorted out (four top-6s in his last five worldwide starts), and with a comfortable driver-and-ball combination, he can return to being the freewheeling player who simply picks a target and makes an aggressive swing. We forgot how beautiful it can be.


By JASON SOBEL

Of the 18 players in this week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge field, none of 'em could use a win more than Jim Furyk.

Think about the enormous monkey that Rory McIlroy extracted from his back with that Australian Open victory this past weekend. There’s no denying he needed a title to both gain some confidence and silence the critics. But let’s keep this in mind: McIlroy’s winless drought lasted just over a year, while Furyk’s current streak is more than three times longer.

In the three years and three months since Furyk dually claimed the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup, he has experienced enough heartache and heartbreak for a lifetime. He was in pole position at last year’s U.S. Open with three holes to play … and lost. He was the 54-hole leader at this year’s PGA Championship … and lost. Despite 19 top-10 finishes and more than $8 million in earnings since that rainy afternoon at East Lake Golf Club, he hasn’t claimed any hardware.

With 16 career wins and one major, he’s resting on the fault line of a World Golf Hall of Fame induction someday. But he could certainly use a few more wins to help his case.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that potential candidates for this assignment have been crossing their names off the list in recent weeks. Jason Day broke through with a win in Australia. McIlroy finally got one, too. Maybe now it’s Furyk’s turn.

He won this tournament four years ago, a prelude to the winningest season of his career. Repeating that feat would be the first step to winning more in the future, too.


By WILL GRAY

It’s hard for me to believe there’s much urgency for any player in the 18-man field to win this week’s unofficial – albeit lucrative – event. That being said, the person that might need it the most would be Lee Westwood.

It seems like a decade has passed since the Englishman topped the world rankings, and it’s been 18 months since his last worldwide victory. Westwood has had a solid 2013 campaign, but his year will likely be remembered most for the one that got away – his squandering of a 54-hole lead at the British Open en route to a tie for third. Much like Graeme McDowell used his victory last year at Sherwood to break out of a mini-drought and propel him into a new season that included three worldwide wins, so, too, Westwood could parlay a victory in California into even more success as the calendar flips to 2014.

Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''


Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.