Punch Shot: Most anticipated early-season event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 2, 2013, 3:49 pm

The 2013 PGA Tour season begins this Friday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii. In this Punch Shot, GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with the early-season tournament they most anticipate.


The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Feb. 20-24, will mark the first gathering this year of the game’s biggest stars.

Yes, you can argue that the season will feel as if it’s beginning in earnest Jan. 17-20 on the European Tour at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, where Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will make their ’13 debuts, but the Accenture Match Play Championship will adorn Woods and McIlroy with a deeper all-star cast.

The World Golf Championship event gives us our best early perspective in how the stars are aligning themselves in the new season. Plus, the nature of match play, with its win-or-go-home finality, deliciously ratchets up the intensity right from the first tee shot. While stroke play is like a long-distance race, with contenders pacing themselves for the final back-nine Sunday push, match play creates pressure from the opening tee shot. There’s winning and losing from the first hole. The first day of the Accenture Match Play Championship may be the best day in golf outside the majors and the Ryder Cup.


Sure, Kapalua is loads of fun to watch – radiant sunshine, white-capped waves, a bombers’ track. But the field is too weak.

And yes, Abu Dhabi packs the most intrigue – Tiger and Rory, Rory and Tiger, making their 2013 debuts. But there is also a nine-hour time difference.

So the early-season event I’m most looking forward to? The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a U.S. Open test with majestic views, Tiger and Phil, Brandt and Rickie, DJ and Bubba.

Still not intrigued? Consider that there also is a mandatory players’ meeting on Tuesday of Torrey Pines week, when they are expected to discuss and decide when to implement the anchoring ban (perhaps as soon as October). Heck, that meeting alone could provide the early pyrotechnics. 


Sitting here at Kapalua right now, you can accuse me of drinking the Kool-Aid. At least, that's what I thought was in this tall glass with the mini umbrella on top.

I know the Hyundai Tournament of Champions doesn't have the greatest field; in fact, the eligible players who aren't here easily outshine the ones who are. And I also know that this event has some issues; the fact that players are rewarded this season because of something they accomplished last season has always bugged me.

But there's something about the gorgeous vistas that signifies a fresh start to the new year. Watching elite PGA Tour players compete while framed by a background of bright rainbows over the mighty Pacific is like golf's version of calling out, 'Gentlemen, start your engines!'

I love the Sony Open, because it provides a first opportunity to watch new players at the game's uppermost level and I can't wait for the Farmers Insurance Open and Abu Dhabi Championship to duke it out from opposite sides of the world on the same week.

Give me Kapalua, though, for what it symbolizes. And let me raise my glass of Kool-Aid for a toast: Here's to new beginnings.


Not far from the Yas Island links that will host this year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship looms Ferrari World and what is billed as the world’s fastest roller coaster, a white-knuckle ride that leaves riders pinned into their seats by excessive G-Forces and in search of a Dramamine milkshake afterward.

It is, all things considered, the perfect metaphor for the unofficial start of the 2013 season. With apologies to this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua – not to mention the Farmers Insurance Open, which previously held the title – Abu Dhabi has firmly established itself as opening day.

Last year’s stop in Abu Dhabi gave us Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy paired together for three days, in some ways a precursor to how the season would unfold, and this year’s event, which will be played Jan. 17-20, promises even more early-season intrigue.

Included in this year’s field will be world No. 1 McIlroy, who will likely be announced as Nike Golf’s newest staff player on Jan. 14 in Abu Dhabi, and No. 3 Woods, both making their ’13 debuts.

Adding even more intrigue to the week will be the European Ryder Cup captain’s announcement, and that’s all before the first official shot is hit at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. It’s a start almost as fast as that roller coaster at Ferrari World.

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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.