Punch Shot: Which celeb do you want as partner?

As we inch closer to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, GolfChannel.com writers debate which celebrity they'd like to spend the day with. While there are some obvious answers, others fly a little bit more under the radar. Good thing about this question is, there really is no wrong answer. Give us your take in the comments below.


By JASON SOBEL

Two years ago, I was dispatched to the Travelers Championship to shoot a TV piece with Carl Spackler himself, Bill Murray.

Instead of the standard Q&A that we've all seen a million times before, I aimed for something different. My goal was a feature in which I'd follow Murray around the course during his pro-am, talking to him as if we're old buddies and he wouldn't say a word. I know, I know. But trust me: It was even less hilarious than it sounds.

So I approached him on the driving range before he teed off, introduced myself and told him that I might ask him a few questions during the day, but he can just totally ignore me. "Well, I can do that!" he said extra cheerfully.

I didn't intrude too much, only speaking to him when he was walking down fairways and wasn't talking to any playing partners or signing autographs. And true to his work as brilliant actor, Murray ignored me the entire time.

To this day, I'm still not sure if he was ignoring me because that was the idea or because he just didn't want to be bothered. My guess is it was a little of both.

Anyway, he'd be the celeb I'd most want to hang with at Pebble Beach. I'd probably keep talking his ear off, acting like we were old buddies. Hopefully he'd actually respond back this time.


By RYAN LAVNER

There are so many delightful possibilities, aren’t there? An NBA world-beater like Kris Humphries. A talented musician like Soulja Boy. A multi-platform star and entreprenuer like Nicki Minaj. Hey, maybe one day we can form that dream foursome.

But really, if I’m going to spend five-plus hours at Pebble Beach, soaking in the sun and ruining all of the spectacular views with atrocious shots, it better be with Will Ferrell.

The reasons, I suppose, are obvious. He’s a Cali dude, so he’d know his way around, both before and, most importantly, after. He actually plays golf, which is a bonus. He knows how to tell a good story. And he’d keep the mood light, which means I’d play terribly and not care in the least. 


By WILL GRAY

Assuming that Ryan Lavner is unavailable, I’ll choose to play alongside Adam Duritz, the outspoken lead singer of the Counting Crows. Duritz may not carry a USGA handicap index, but he’s an avid sports fan and, let’s be honest – the scorecard takes a backseat when making your way around a course as beautiful as Pebble Beach.

A round of golf on the Monterey Peninsula is in and of itself a privilege, but to spend five hours (or so) shooting the breeze with one of the best songwriters of my generation would certainly add to the experience. If nothing else, we wouldn’t lack for conversation topics and the ever-relaxed Duritz likely won’t lose his cool when we inevitably combine for a three-putt double.


By RANDALL MELL

Bob Hope was “Mr. Golf.”

In the golden era of PGA Tour pro-ams, golf’s biggest stars were practically overshadowed by Hollywood’s stars. Hope, though, is one of just three celebrities enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame, joining Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore there.

Hope played in the 1951 British Amateur at Royal Porthcawl. He was once a 4 handicap. As a funny man, though, he was better than a scratch player. He documented his passion for the game in the book, “Bob Hope’s Confessions of a Hooker: My lifelong love affair with golf.”

Hope’s combination of skill and humor might have made him the greatest celebrity pro-am partner ever. He could reel off more entertaining one-liners in a round than any great pro could reel off birdies.

“I’m an international player,” Hope once said. “I can say `shank’ in 27 languages.”


By REX HOGGARD

Five hours with funnyman Bill Murray at Pebble Beach would be time well spent. Ditto for Ray Romano and Darius Rucker. But if you had to pick one all-time celebrity partner to play with at the National Pro-Am it would be the man himself, Bing Crosby.

The event that set the standard for celebrity golf is still referred to in these parts as the Crosby Clambake, the name it held until 1985 in honor of the famous crooner who invented the concept of the celebrity pro-am.

Crosby hosted the first Clambake in 1937 and the event is as unique now as it was then despite notoriously poor weather and a golf course rotation that has not exactly been among the most well-liked among PGA Tour types.

That’s all thanks to Crosby, who gave his name and personality to the event. He wooed his Hollywood friends to Monterey, including many members of the famed Rat Pack, and merged entertainment with sport in a way that had never been done before.

But more than anything Crosby was cool, entertaining galleries and amateurs with the perfect backdrop – Pebble Beach.

Arnold Palmer may have brought golf to the masses and Tiger Woods certainly introduced the game to an entirely new generation, but Crosby made golf cool.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

Getty Images

Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

Getty Images

Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).