Rahm 1 back as trio shares Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2017, 10:40 pm

He doesn't hold the opening-round lead at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, but Jon Rahm is still very much a factor. Here's a look at how things stand after the first round at Colonial, where the red-hot Rahm sits just one shot off the pace:

Leaderboard: Derek Fathauer (-5), Kelly Kraft (-5), J.T. Poston (-5), Jon Rahm (-4), Graeme McDowell (-4), Scott Brown (-4), Phil Mickelson (-3)

What it means: Swirling winds took a toll on the field during the afternoon wave, and Fathauer's opening 65 was the score to beat for several hours. He was eventually caught by Kraft and Poston, with all three in search of their maiden victory, while the chase pack includes Rahm, a winner already this season, and Mickelson, who won this event twice but hasn't played Colonial since 2010.

Round of the day: Fathauer was a standout player at Louisville, but he was battling for his card at Web.com Tour Finals as recently as 2015. Fathauer hasn't made a cut since a T-32 at the RBC Heritage last month, but he opened with a birdie on No. 10 and then added five more birdies in an eight-hole stretch from No. 18 to No. 7, gaining more than three strokes over the field on the greens in the process.

Best of the rest: Kraft was a runner-up earlier this year at Pebble Beach, and he won the 2011 U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills, the site of next month's U.S. Open. Kraft was bogey-free Thursday in Fort Worth, with three birdies over his first seven holes and a 40-footer on No. 16 to grab a share of the lead. He also got up and downs on each of the five holes where he missed the green in regulation.

Biggest disappointment: Players champ Si Woo Kim was unable to carry his momentum from TPC Sawgrass to Colonial, as he carded a 2-over 72 in the first competitive round since his breakthrough victory. Kim started on No. 10 and made the turn in 2 under but struggled on the second nine, with two bogeys and a double over his final four holes to drop seven shots off the lead.

Main storyline heading into Friday: With three unexpected names at the top of the leaderboard, the focus belongs on the chase pack. Specifically, Rahm appears poised to bounce back from a surprising MDF at TPC Sawgrass, while Mickelson and another two-time champ, Zach Johnson, lurk just two shots off the pace. And don't count out defending champ Jordan Spieth, who capped a tumultuous round of even-par 70 with a pair of birdies.

Shot(s) of the day: Spieth was in danger of a seriously high number before nearly holing each of his final two approaches. He hit it from 148 yards to 3 feet on No. 17, then stuffed it to 5 feet from 104 yards on the home hole.

Quote of the day: "To be honest, that energy and positivity probably helped me today. If they could do that, why couldn't I play well today?" - Rahm, a former Arizona State standout who watched the women's golf team win its eighth NCAA national title Wednesday.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days engaging pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGCC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.