Walker bests Day by one to win PGA Championship

By Nick MentaJuly 31, 2016, 11:23 pm

With a bogey-free round of 3-under 67 and a nervy par at the 72nd hole, Jimmy Walker edged a charging Jason Day by a shot to win the PGA Championship and claim his first major title. Here's what went down on a marathon day at Baltusrol, where Walker went 36 holes on Sunday to take the title.

Leaderboard: Walker (-14), Day (-13), Daniel Summerhays (-10), Branden Grace (-9), Hideki Matsuyama (-9), Brooks Koepka (-9)

What it means: It took Walker nine years and 188 starts to win his first PGA Tour title at the Frys.com Open in 2013. Now, less than three years later, he’s a six-time Tour victor and a major champion. Up one to start the final round thanks to four back-nine birdies in Sunday morning's third round, Walker opened his round with nine straight pars before holing out from the greenside bunker for birdie at 10. He immediately followed with a birdie at 11 to reach 13 under. A third and final birdie at No. 17 gave him the slim cushion he needed when Day capped his round with an eagle at the par-5 18th. After a highly questionable decision to go for the 18th green in two, Walker pitched onto the green and two-putted for par from 34 feet to take the title. In a testament to the strength of major championships, at 48th in the Official World Golf Ranking, Walker is the lowest-ranked major winner since Keegan Bradley won the PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011. He’s also now only the third wire-to-wire PGA champion in the last 20 years, joining Tiger Woods (2000) and Phil Mickelson (2005), who also did it at Baltusrol. Walker’s win also makes 2016 only the fifth year in the modern era to boast four first-time major winners, with Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Stenson, and – finally – Walker.

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Biggest disappointments: The defending champion and the No. 1 player in the world, Day got off to a poor start with bogeys at Nos. 1 and 3 and they proved to be his downfall. Thereafter, he played the rest of the round in a spotless 5 under par and nearly forced a playoff with a dramatic eagle on 18. Unfortunately, two wayward drives in his first three holes came back to bite him. Separately, Stenson, the reigning Champion Golfer of the Year, got himself to one back of Walker with a birdie at the sixth and followed that with eight straight pars before taking himself out of contention with a mess of a double bogey from over the back of the 15th green. Another challenger who faded away, Koepka, playing 36 holes on an injured ankle, opened with 10 straight pars and had himself just two back before he whacked a tree on an attempted punch into the fairway at 11. He traded two birdies and two bogeys on his last eight holes.

Round of the day: Playing their final rounds while the leaders were still working through Round 3, Joost Luiten and Soren Kjeldsen posted matching 5-under 65s to finish 3 under for the week, tied for 33rd. Those were the best scores, but Walker's 68-67 Sunday was most impressive.

Best of the rest: Summerhays headlined a group of five players – including Martin Kaymer, Kevin Na, Kyle Reifers and Bradley – who turned in 4-under 66. With his third-place finish, Summerhays (89th in the world) earned a spot in the next year’s Masters. It will be his first trip to Augusta National.

Shot of the day: Walker’s birdie from the bunker (as seen above) at the par-4 10th to spark his 3-under par back nine.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x