Am Tour: Easy swinging on the Palmer Private course at PGA West

By Brandon TuckerSeptember 24, 2013, 7:49 pm

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Who doesn't love 'The King'?

Arnold Palmer surely has a fan of his golf course design in Christopher Winslow, who carded his first ever ace on the 17th hole of the Palmer Private Course at PGA West.

'I'd been joking for months back home,' said Winslow, from Scottsdale, Arizona. 'I'd say 'I'd get a hole-in-one today but I'd rather save it for the National Championships.'

With a pin position in the extreme front of the long, narrow green wedged between a canal and mountainside, it was just a 100-yard shot for Hogan flight competitors today.

La Quinta and PGA West have been the site of numerous Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships, but this is the first year the Palmer Private course has been included in the rotation. While it's next door to the Nicklaus and Stadium Courses, and a short drive from the Norman Course, it's a facility that looks and plays far different.

A stretch of holes on the back nine juxtapose the natural rock formations along the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains with a manmade canal running alongside fairways and greens, though both serve as tough hazards.

'It's got its pitfalls because I took a lot of penalty shots,' said Winslow. His other playing partner, Michael Ohmer, had to follow Winslow's ace on 17 and found the water.

'I was trying to top him so I pulled mine and hit it into the water,' said Ohmer. 'It was tough to follow.'

In 1999, David Duval scored his 59 on the Palmer course during the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic (now the Humana Challenge) on the PGA TOUR. Palmer course designs tend to be a little less penal than Dye and Nicklaus courses, and the scoring results in this year's national championships thus far show that to be true. The Hogan flight (handicaps 8-11.9), has played the Stadium, Nicklaus and Palmer Courses in the first three rounds. With a scoring average of 86.27, the Palmer is over three shots easier than the Stadium Course (89.41), while the Nicklaus is second at 89.09.

The biggest difference is reflected in the amount of double bogeys each course has claimed. Only 296 were recorded on the Palmer, compared to 364 and 416 on the Nicklaus and Stadium, respectively.

Ford celebrating 10th Nationals appearance in a row

This is Atlanta tour member Scott Ford's 10th National Championship, dating back to when it was the American Amateur Tour in 2004. In his first appearance that year in La Quinta, he won the Snead (20-plus handicap) flight.

A lot's changed for the better since then, including Ford's handicap. He's clawed his way up over the years to the Hogan Flight (8-11.9 handicaps), where he'll likely finish in the middle of the pack this year. But for Ford, the main appeal of nationals is to play great courses and run into old friends from coast-to-coast.

'People ask me 'why don't you join a country club?'' said Ford. 'This is my club. I've got a core group of guys we always travel with. It's an opportunity to play great courses like PGA West, Chambers Bay and Blackwolf Run.'

Ford has had his moments in 21 events plays thus far on Am Tour this season, including two second place finishes in two majors: Myrtle Beach and Orlando.

Murphy shoots his way back into Championship flight mix

Normally, an opening round in the 80s in the Championship flight doesn't bode well. Oakley Murphy is the exception. After shooting an 82 on Sunday on the Stadium Course, he bounced back with a 71 yesterday on the Nicklaus. Today, however, he became the first Championship flight golfer of the week to post a score in the 60s with a 68.

'I was ten behind [after the first round] so I didn't think I had a chance,' said Oakley, who said a heavy dose of range work, particularly the long irons, got him back in the grove.

The work has paid off and now Murphy finds himself in the last group and two off the lead shared by Michael Bunker and Hardeep Dhani.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

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

Former 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 Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted 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