GR PGA running diary: First major action in Rd. 1

By Jason CrookAugust 7, 2014, 11:50 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – I did a lot of things right yesterday.

I drove around town, managed not to crash the car or get lost, took photos, blogged my experiences, and even went to dinner with my GolfChannel.com team and managed not to embarrass myself.

But I did one thing wrong, and it was kind of a big.

I left my power cord at the Valhalla media center, and my computer died while I waited for my compatriots to bring it to my rescue. This resulted in a pretty-late publish time for my PGA running diary, and I am 100 percent sure a lot of you stayed up hitting refresh until it appeared.

So for that I would like to apologize, because no PGA Championship coverage is complete without the full Grill Room treatment. I hope that you will all grant me this one-time rookie mistake as we move into actual tournament play, because now I'm in the field, and reporting some pretty hard-hitting stuff.

Thursday

6:35 a.m. ET – Alarm clock goes off. I like the direction we’re trending on this trip. A few more days and we might be at my normal wake-up time of 11ish. (I don’t work until 2 p.m. a lot of days. The Grill Room is a no-judgment zone. Get off your high horse.)

7:14 – Make it across the street to the media shuttle bus with several seconds to spare. I use all of my extra time to stare blankly at the back of the seat in front of me.

7:45 – Arrive at Valhalla.

7:56 – Head to the media dining area to grab some breakfast. GolfChannel.com writer Ryan Lavner informs me that the singular bourbon cocktail he ordered at dinner last night had too much sugar in it and kept him up all night. I bring up the fact that he ate an entire apple pie for dessert and perhaps there may have been a small amount of sugar in the, again, entire apple pie that contributed to his sleepless night. He dismisses this notion. We keep on living our lives.

9:34 – Decide to follow Tiger Woods’ group after some early work. Immediately regret this decision as soon as I find his group on the 13th hole.

9:49 – Hear “this is ridiculous, I can’t even move” for the 373rd time in 15 minutes. I think 374 times does the trick. Like a super-extended backwards version of Beetlejuice, I say it hoping it will make everyone disappear. It doesn’t work.

9:50 – I want to leave, but I wasn’t raised a quitter. It’s why I can’t quit drinking and also why I don’t stop believing. Just kidding, that was Journey.

9:52 – Meet Joe Dirt. Pretty chill dude, big Tiger fan.

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10:22 – Tiger hits his approach fat. Ends up short and left of the green. He curses and throws his club. I laugh loudly.

10:24 – Tiger chips in for birdie. They say laughter is the best medicine. l take the credit for the shot to anyone who will listen. I get a lot of weird looks.

11:00 – Spot a grown man, and he wasn’t the only one, dressed head to toe like he’s ready to play. I mean the whole deal: spikes, slacks, collared shirt, hat with a ball marker attached. I’m not advocating for an Oakland Raider Black Hole vibe to golf, and I know Steve Flesch almost got in the tournament today through a freak set of circumstances as the 93rd alternate, but what is going through this guy’s head when he gets ready this morning? You ain’t playing dude. Put on a t-shirt and grab a beer.

11:14 – Man almost falls on rough terrain to my right. Mark my words: someone is going to eat said terrain before the week is out. Odds on me are increasing with every step I take while looking down to write this.

12:11 – Remember that stupid diatribe earlier about me not being a quitter? What can I say? I lied. Deal with it, because I can't deal with the Tiger masses anymore.

2:18 p.m. – Time to watch the defending champion in all his glory. I bet he’s as excited as I am.

2:25 – Find Jason Dufner’s group on No. 2. I wasn’t looking for his wife, Amanda, but it’s really hard to not not notice her. Sure, she’s really, really, really ridiculously good looking, but also everyone pointing and staring is kind of a dead giveaway.

2:32 – Duf’s group that also includes past PGA champs Keegan Bradley and Y.E. Yang come off the second green. The lone Yang fan in the state of Kentucky makes himself known with a loud “Let’s go Y.E.!” He probably feels dumb right now. Just my guess.

2:35 – Spot a guy holding up a PGA Championship program with a hole cut out of it so he can take pictures without getting chastised by the evil empire that is the Mobile Device Policy Enforcement. You can spot these guys because of their bright green vests and their penchant for being telling people to shush and put away their phones. They’re almost as inconspicuous as a guy pretending to walk around all day with a giant program in front of his face.

2:55 – Finally make my move to get a picture of Amanda for the Grill Room gallery. She grants me a picture. Mission accomplished. Gallery page views, consider yourself up.

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4:54 – Still on euphoric high about my photo of Amanda as I put together the daily gallery, I don’t think there’s any other photos of her out there. Grill Room has the only one. I wonder what this means for our professional relationship going forward. I bet she seeks me out tomorrow to take another one.

4:55 – Jason Dufner withdraws. Crap. I drown my sorrows in media center nachos. A liberal portion, since that’s the recommended dose.

Tune in tomorrow for more of Grill Room's exclusive PGA Championship coverage. Click here for a link to today's gallery, and check out yesterday's running diary here.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.