The Social: Talking the talk

By Jason CrookMarch 7, 2017, 7:00 pm

Players are (thankfully) still telling us how they really feel, Dustin Johnson takes a page out of Billy Madison's book and even when he's down, Justin Thomas' friends are there to give him a hard time. All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

A couple of weeks ago Pat Perez was vilified after giving his opinion on Tiger Woods’ latest injury issues, and it was fair to wonder if the trickle-down effect would be less honesty and more robot-like answers from professional golfers looking to avoid what could be a distracting spotlight in the age of the 24-hour news cycle.

If the past week is any indication, we have nothing to worry about.

The USGA and R&A rolled out some proposed changes to the Rules of Golf, which were met with plenty of reaction on social media. While much of it was positive, the pros who weren't 100 percent on board with the new rules opted for a not-so subtle approach to express their opinion, for which we thank them.

They say honesty is the best policy, and that is unequivocally true ... for us. So here's to hoping the truth serum continues to flow through the world of golf.

As for the golf this past week, here's a quick recap of what went down at the WGC-Mexico Championship, where Dustin Johnson once again came out on top:

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DJ cemented his status as world No. 1 with his fourth WGC victory on Sunday, and then he went home to his adorable son,Tatum, new puppy, Perla, and pregnant swing pupil, Paulina Gretzky, who were cheering him on from Instagram. It doesn't suck to be Dustin Johnson right now.

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As for the guys Johnson beat in Mexico, well, they had their moments. The best of which probably came from Thomas, who aced the 232-yard par-3 13th hole on Saturday - forever immortalized by a Spanish soccer announcer calling it as if JT had just won the World Cup in extra time:

The worst of which? Well, that would also be from Thomas, not only fading into a tie for fifth on Sunday, but also immediately letting go of his driver out of frustration on the par-5 11th hole and nearly hitting the gallery with it.

Thomas apologized afterward but caught some heat from television analysts and folks on social media for his actions. Luckily, his friends were there to console him ... by making fun of him on Twitter, like real friends do.

As for the fan, hey, at least it wasn't a hockey game. Those guys make sure the gallery gets involved.

Forgot something back there, bud.

Back to hockey.

Another PGA Tour event for Andrew "Beef" Johnston, another outing to see one of the local professional sports teams.

On the west coast of Florida for this week's Valspar Championship, Beef made his way to the Tampa Bay Lightning game on Monday.

Despite it being his very first "ice hockey" game, he ended up on live TV and taking pictures with the mascot, so it looks like he got the hang of it pretty quick.

Ice hockey time

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Had a great time at the HOCKEY. see I'm learning haha. @tblightning u have a new fan

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And if we use last year's U.S. Open as a barometer, there's a good chance Beef made a large deposit at the team's pro shop and walked out of the arena with enough Lightning swag to clothe a small Beef-sized army.

Fresh off a girls trip to Las Vegas, Cheyenne Woods was lucky enough to be sitting courtside for the weekend's most exciting sporting event, a Phoenix Suns basketball game (seriously).

Tiger's niece just happened to have the camera rolling from her seat as the Suns scored 5 points in the final 5 seconds to stun the Boston Celtics. Down by 2 with less than 10 seconds left in the game, the Suns got a layup, a steal and a 3-pointer to win the game.

Here's what the crazy finish looked like from the floor:

Born and raised a Suns fan! #sunsvsceltics

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Now about that girls trip to Vegas, don’t worry, we got you covered.

Let the girls' weekend commence...

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My girls

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Round 3

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.