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Stock Watch: Tiger up, prognosticators down

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 30, 2018, 2:50 pm

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

RISING

J-Day (+9%): His oft-injured back remains a serious concern going forward, but it’s easy to forget how special of a talent he is when he’s on. No shot or moment is too big.

Haotong Li (+7%): Shooting 63 with no pressure at Birkdale was one thing. Chasing down Rory McIlroy on the back nine in Dubai proves this 22-year-old from China is the real deal.

Tiger (+5%): The over-analysis was inevitable, but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture: After playing just four times since 2015, Woods grinded it out, shot all four rounds of par or better and posted a top-25 at one of the PGA Tour’s most difficult regular-season stops. A solid start.

Alex Noren (+3%): The 35-year-old Swede joined the Tour this season to learn how to play American-style courses (and better prepare for the majors), and his first start as a member couldn’t have gone much better – he was fourth in strokes gained-tee to green, looked fearless in crunch time and took a major winner to six playoff holes.

Brittany Lincicome (+1%): For a player who takes her downtime seriously, Bam Bam sure knows how to start strongly, winning the LPGA season opener for the second consecutive year. 



FALLING

Jon Rahm (-1%): Maybe the opportunity to become world No. 1 overwhelmed him, or perhaps his swing abandoned him at the wrong time. Whatever the case, Rahm’s 75-77 weekend at Torrey Pines – when he entered the third round just one shot back – was surprising.

Catriona Matthew (-2%): In 2019, she’ll have to face off against undefeated U.S. leader Juli Inkster, who at this point should just be named captain in perpetuity.

Rickie’s Torrey record (-3%): As a Farmers ambassador he’ll continue to play the event, but Fowler has now gone MC-T61-MC-MC-MC there since 2014.

Tiger forecasters (-4%): Already, a few longtime observers have declared, emphatically, that Woods will win this year. And maybe he will. But can we totally ignore the serious issues with his long game – including that career-low 30-percent driving clip – and the competitive reality that he plays a limited schedule against the top fields on the most difficult courses? Let’s slow that roll.

J.B. Holmes (-8%): It wasn’t just the excruciating amount of time that Holmes took to play (what was eventually a poor layup into) the 72nd hole. It was his apathetic attitude afterward that made him such a villainous figure in the ongoing slow-play debate.

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Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 8:07 pm

Tiger Woods looks in complete control of his iron play at PGA National.

Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first Saturday birdie via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:

Woods hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.

The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.

One hole later, Woods added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.

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O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 5:13 pm

DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.

The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.

David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.

Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.

Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.


Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.

''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''

Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.

But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.

''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.

The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 24, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 4:32 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.

Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.

In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.

Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.

The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.

“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”

Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.

ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.

“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”

ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.

“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”