TPC Cartagena strengthens Tour presence in Latin America

By Mike BaileyOctober 14, 2014, 3:00 pm

CARTAGENA, Colombia - Hoping to capitalize on what could be an expanding market in South America, the PGA Tour officially opened its 33rd Tournament Players Club over the weekend with the grand opening of the TPC Cartagena at Karibana.

In addition to bringing the 2-year-old Karibana Resort course into the TPC family, the PGA Tour also announced that the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout will play host to a new Tour event early next year. The Karibana Championship, which will offer a $700,000 purse, will be played March 5-8 as part of the Tour's early season launch in Latin America. It will be the second Tour event in Colombia. In February, Alex Cejka won the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship in Bogota.

The addition of TPC Cartagena, located on the northern coast of Colombia on the Caribbean Sea, marks the second TPC course in Latin America and first in South America. The timing gives golf a boost in South America, especially in light of the recent obstacles in the building of the new 2016 Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Gil Hanse-designed Olympic Course has run into multiple roadblocks from political, business and environmental groups. Organizers still hold out hope, however, that the course will be ready sometime next year for a test run before golf returns to the Olympics for the first time in more than a century.

But while Cartagena and Rio are several thousand miles apart, both TPC and resort officials are banking on growing enthusiasm for the game in South America over the next decade and think that the Olympics will put golf in the spotlight for the region.

"The PGA Tour has viewed South America as an important part of a larger picture," said Jim Triola, COO of golf course properties for the TPC Network. "Post-Rio, I think there will be a revolution, hopefully over time. I think it will expand in two years. It may not be at an explosive pace. It will probably take a little time."

There were two other reasons that the TPC Network has been looking at Karibana the last couple of years: its location and the resort itself.

Cartagena is a tourist city with warm weather, fabulous restaurants, historic ruins, festivals, shopping, beaches, fishing and a growing list of luxury hotels.

Located about a half hour from Rafael Nunez International Airport, Karibana is Colombia's first luxury resort and real estate development. It offers a beach club, spa services, exceptional dining, tennis and luxury apartments. Construction will begin soon on a luxury hotel that will be managed by Hilton. The hotel will include a 1,000-person convention center, meeting rooms, spa and rooftop pool. Guests will have access to all resort amenities, including the golf course, which opened in 2012.

The golf course, which plays 7,074 yards from the tips, should provide a good test for the players. With four sets of tees and wide fairways, it doesn't beat up resort guests, unless the wind is blowing. There's an abundance of water hazards, including the ocean that runs along the last three holes. Additionally, plenty of bunkers and subtle greens on this all-paspalum course should keep scoring in check.

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, part of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward the back-right hole location, about 25 feet away, closer than both Fleetwood and Johnson.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back after the opening round. He tied for second here a year ago.

Johnson is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."