Willett hires Foley, loses PGA Tour status

By Will GrayAugust 10, 2017, 8:39 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A year of change continues this week for Danny Willett, whose days on the PGA Tour are officially numbered.

Fresh off a last-place finish at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Willett has parted ways with swing coach Pete Cowen, with whom he won the 2016 Masters, and has begun working with Sean Foley.

“We’ve worked really hard, I’ve done everything that I think has been asked and I just really wasn’t seeing results,” Willett said after an opening 73 at the PGA Championship. “It’s just very amicable. I want a different set of eyes looking at it, a bit of a fresh start really to try to get really excited about working on some different stuff. Things, in my eyes, that have to change.”

It’s another switch amid a season to forget for the Englishman, who has fallen from 11th to 49th in the world rankings, split with his caddie in the middle of the RBC Heritage in April and withdrew from both the Players Championship and U.S. Open because of a recurring back injury.

In steps Foley, who notably worked with Tiger Woods from 2010-14 and now includes Justin Rose and Si Woo Kim among his stable of players. Foley was crunching Trackman data with Willett on the range prior to the opening round at Quail Hollow, and he explained that the two men have known each other for nearly five years.

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“Basically, I just see a couple other areas that I think need attention but, you know, they’ve done such a good job,” Foley said. “Sometimes what happens, when you see someone for a long time you can start missing certain things. To have a guy who’s come from Pete Cowen, who’s one of my heroes, and to work with him, I feel very fortunate because a lot of the DNA is extremely good.”

Willett hasn’t won anywhere since donning the green jacket last year, and after finishing 76th at The Open he hinted at possibly considering surgery for his ailing back. While he insisted Thursday that he won’t need surgery, he’s still far from 100 percent.

“If I move incorrectly near the golf ball, and I’m not turning enough on the way back, then I’m jamming up pretty badly at 120 mph,” he said. “That’s not good for anyone’s back. So it’s more get the swing right and the back will then settle down.”

Willett and Foley both spoke of focusing on long-term solutions rather than a quick fix. But that plan likely will include less play on the PGA Tour, as this marks only Willett’s 11th start of the season. He’s 224th in the season-long points race, meaning he’ll miss the playoffs and fall short of the 15-start minimum required to maintain Tour status.

Willett has a five-year exemption from winning the Masters, but he’ll effectively be a non-member next season as a result. A similar situation played out two years ago when Martin Kaymer failed to meet his minimum-start requirement one year after winning the U.S. Open and lost his status for the 2015-16 season.

Willett will still be able to play in up to 12 Tour events next season on sponsor invitations or via past champion status, and with his wife, Nicole, due to give birth to the couple’s second child in December, he sees a silver lining in again focusing his attention in Europe next year.

“I think not traveling back and forth to the States as much as we have done this year is probably a good thing personally for the family, which is more important first and foremost than anything else we do,” Willett said. “After that, I’m still going to have three years’ exemption. Maybe by that time we’ve bought a house over here and we’re a bit more settled.”

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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