Putter switch sparks Matsuyama to third-round 67

By Will GrayMay 15, 2016, 12:21 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Hideki Matsuyama will never be mistaken for a great putter.

A great ball-striker? Sure. But the putter has long been seen as Matsuyama’s Achilles’ heel, and the stats bear it out: while he ranks fifth this season in strokes gained tee-to-green, Matsuyama is 147th on Tour in strokes gained putting.

After a putter switch that sparked a third-round 67 amid difficult conditions at The Players Championship, though, that narrative has been flipped on its head.

Matsuyama was rolling in putts left and right Saturday on the Stadium Course, and he currently sits second in strokes gained putting among the 76 players still standing at TPC Sawgrass.

At 10 under, he shares second place with Ken Duke, and will share the tournament’s final tee time with Jason Day, who he trails by four shots.

The key to his turnaround on the greens?

“I wish I knew,” Matsuyama said.

After moderate success with a new, center-shafted putter during the first two rounds, Matsuyama returned to his “Ace” putter, modeled after a Scotty Cameron that he calls his “comfort blanket.”


The Players Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I’ve changed putters a lot in the past, mid-tournament, so that’s nothing out of the ordinary for me,” he said. “It was maybe just to try something new, get a fresh start, try to get the feeling back. And I made some putts with it and that feeling started coming back.”

While many players struggled with the difficult conditions of the greens during the third round, Matsuyama birdied each of his first three holes and never looked back. After contending at several majors and earning his maiden win at Muirfield Village in 2014, he knows how to handle a tough track.

“Today on the fifth green, the guys I was playing with had, they were, they putted and the ball went miles past,” he said, “And I saw that and I said, man, this is, I knew right then at the fifth green that today was going to be difficult.”

Matsuyama won earlier this year in Phoenix, but a victory at the Tour’s flagship event would mean even more for the Japanese phenom, who keeps the city of Kumamoto recently hit by an earthquake in mind with several buttons he has worn throughout the week.

“Hopefully to make people of Japan happy, especially the folks who are still struggling down in Kumamoto,” he said. “If I were to win, hopefully that would bring them some joy. And seeing them happy after the struggles that they have gone through, it would make me very happy also.”

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Woods goes from unsure of his pro golf future to resuming full golf activities

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Woods out and about in 2017

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm