Stock Watch: Grillo jumps, Poulter scrambles

By Will GrayOctober 20, 2015, 1:20 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf. 

RISING

Emiliano Grillo (+8%): Look, this guy was already the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year before he won the Frys.com Open. Now he has cemented his long-term status, not to mention a spot in the OWGR top 50, and will be teeing it up next to friendly rival Jordan Spieth at several big events next year. This is only the first of many for the Argentinian. 

English golf (+7%): Unheralded Andy Sullivan became the only three-time winner on the European Tour this season with his nine-shot rout in Portugal, yet another English player having a breakthrough year. Matthew Fitzpatrick won just a week ago, and this year we've seen Danny Willett and Tommy Fleetwood both shine bright on big stages. The Ryder Cup replacements for Westwood, Poulter et al are on their way.

Kevin Na (+6%): Went down swinging in extra holes. The shot didn't go as planned, but anyone willing to pull driver off the deck in overtime - and absolutely own the decision in its immediate aftermath - deserves a bump. 

Justin Thomas (+5%): After a career-best T-3 finish in Napa, only one word is required: soon. 

Lexi (+3%): It's not a major, but it's still a win. After watching Lydia Ko race past her at the Evian, Lexi Thompson got the job done this past week in S. Korea. It's her second win of the year, and any victory for one of the stars - especially the American stars - is good for the LPGA brand. 

Safeway (+1%): Replacing Frys.com as the new title sponsor in Napa. Anyone willing and able to keep the Tour in the heart of wine country through at least 2020 is fine by me.


FALLING

Tom Watson (-1%): The PGA of America Hall of Fame Class of 2015 was announced, and it did not include Tom Watson, who declined a spot over the ousting of friend and former PGA president Ted Bishop. A heartfelt gesture, sure, but not a good look for the two-time Ryder Cup captain.

Rory (-2%): The Ulsterman made good on his obligation in Napa, finishing a solid T-26, but the putter remains ice cold. McIlroy said he would have rather been in Wales watching rugby, and at times his on-course interest level reflected the honesty in that statement. Expect that to change when the Race to Dubai rolls around.

Grillo from close range (-3%): He got the win, but Grillo nearly gave it away with a 3-foot miss on the first extra hole. It was a carbon copy of the shortie he missed to win in Puerto Rico in March, and he three-putted the 72nd green to finish second on the Web.com Tour a month ago. A little practice from inside the leather could go a long way.

Jarrod Lyle (-4%): The comeback story everyone wants to see isn't playing out as planned. Lyle missed the cut in Napa, his first start since May, and he hasn't played on Sunday in almost a year. What began as a shoe-in medical extension, 20 starts for $283,825, is now a less-than-certain hurdle - $217,680 with only nine starts remaining.

Sammy Schmitz (-5%): Rising last week, falling this week. Qualifying for the Masters is great and all, but launching a GoFundMe to foot the bill for your various Augusta National practice rounds this winter? I know a lot of folks that would pay big bucks to tee it up alongside you, but I'm not sure they'd pay just for you to have that pleasure - even if there is a loophole in the amateur bylaws to let it happen.

Jason Bohn (-6%): The veteran played like a rookie down the stretch at Silverado. He chunked a 60-yard pitch shot on No. 16 to give up sole possession of the lead, then needing a birdie on 18 he hit his approach onto a dining table in the hospitality area. Unlike Na, his winless drought - which dates back to 2010 - looks ready to continue.

Ian Poulter (-8%): The match-play ninja nearly lost his spot at Hazeltine because of divisor math. Poulter had to scramble a trip to Hong Kong just to keep his European Tour card, the downside of falling outside the OWGR top 50. He was near the same bubble last fall, but played his way back up the standings with a T-6 finish in China. This year he won't have that same chance. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”