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Thomas, Schauffele grouped together at CIMB

By Will GrayOctober 10, 2017, 6:16 pm

Three weeks after they shared the spotlight at the Tour Championship, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele will walk the fairways together as both men make their season debuts. Here are a few early-round tee times to keep an eye on as the PGA Tour kicks off its three-week stop in Asia with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia (all times ET):

8:40 p.m. Wednesday, 9:40 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Gavin Kyle Green

Thomas headlines this week's field as he looks for his third straight win in Kuala Lumpur, where he sparked his Player of the Year campaign 12 months ago. Schauffele is making his first start since capping his rookie year with a Tour Championship win, while Green rounds out the trio 14 months after representing Malaysia in the Olympics.

8:50 p.m. Wednesday, 9:50 p.m. Thursday: Brendan Steele, Jhonattan Vegas, Charl Schwartzel

There's no rest for the weary, as Steele hopped on an intercontinental flight hours after winning the season-opening Safeway Open for the second straight year. Last year he followed a victory in Napa with a T-26 finish in Malaysia, and he'll look to better that effort while playing the first two rounds with Vegas and Schwartzel, who are both making their first starts since the Presidents Cup.

9 p.m. Wednesday, 10 p.m. Thursday: Gary Woodland, Anirban Lahiri, Thomas Pieters

This trio includes two men who have come close to victory in Kuala Lumpur, as Woodland was a runner-up here in 2013 and 2014 while Lahiri was unable to hold on to a 54-hole lead last year, when he faded to a tie for third. One year after his breakthrough Ryder Cup performance, Pieters will make his tournament debut and first PGA Tour start since the PGA Championship.

9:40 p.m. Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. Thursday: Paul Casey, Si Woo Kim, Davis Love III

At No. 14 in the world, Casey is the second-highest ranked player in the field behind only Thomas and closed the playoffs with three top-5 finishes in his final four starts. Kim has been inconsistent since his Players Championship win, including his performance two weeks ago at Liberty National, while Love embarks on another new season at age 53.

9:50 p.m. Wednesday, 8:40 p.m. Thursday: Hideki Matsuyama, Pat Perez, Branden Grace

Matsuyama won last year in China, and he returns to Asia with hopes of sparking a turnaround after injury and fatigue led to a disappointing close to his PGA Tour season. He'll be joined by Perez, who made the Tour Championship for the first time last month at age 41, and Grace, who bowed out of the postseason after a T-25 finish at the Dell Technologies Championship.

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Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

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Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.

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Thomas was asked about that.

“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

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Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.

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The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 21, 2018, 7:00 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.