Late birdie-eagle finish has Fowler in the hunt

By Jason SobelMarch 2, 2013, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rickie Fowler stood over his ball in the left rough of PGA National’s par-5 closing hole on Saturday afternoon hoping to end with a flourish. On a day when swirling winds made conditions progressively difficult, a strong finish would put him into serious contention for the Honda Classic title entering the final round.

Not too far away, clustered amongst the legions of orange-clad fans wearing flat-bill hats in the gallery, was his 21-year-old sister, Taylor. She had walked the opening nine holes with big brother, but retired to the clubhouse for much of the back nine to rest her ailing back for a little while.

It was just two-and-a-half weeks ago, on Feb. 11, that Taylor was following Rickie in another way. Returning from a mountain bike ride near their Murrieta, Calif., home, he was in front when they came to a steep hill for which there are a few different options.

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“The way I go down is there’s a jump at the top and it’s probably a couple of hundred yards long and there’s a kicker at the bottom,” Rickie explained. “I’ll go cruise, hit it pretty fast.”

“I usually go around,” Taylor conceded, “but this time I hit a little jump at the bottom.”

She flew over the handlebars and landed on her head. Finding it difficult to breathe, Taylor got onto her back as they called an ambulance.

This is the part of the story where it should be noted that the Fowlers are so used to bumps and bruises that a little thing like landing on your head while mountain biking isn’t considered too serious. Rickie grew up racing motocross bikes and the entire family remains active in various outdoor activities.

“We’re a pretty extreme family, so no one was really freaking out,” Rickie said. “While she was laying there, we had to wait for paramedics to come take her out on a backboard. We were taking pictures, she was smiling. We’re a pretty easygoing family. Unless someone is knocked out, like a really serious injury, we’re used to it. It wasn’t like, 'oh my gosh, we need to get to the hospital right now.'”

When they finally did get to the hospital, it was discovered that Taylor had fractured her T3 through T7 vertebrae – essentially, the bones right between her shoulder blades.

No big deal. She’s a Fowler.

So after spending three days in the hospital, Taylor was fitted for a back brace and the next week was again on the road following Rickie, although this time at a golf tournament, watching him play the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

And no, she’s doesn’t blame him for leading her down that hill.

“We’ve done so much together,” said Taylor, who graduated from Cal State Fullerton in December. “I ride with him a lot, so it’s not like, ‘Oh my God, I just took my sister on a ride and almost killed her!’ It’s just how we are. I don’t blame him. I might hold it over him for a while, but I don’t blame him.”

That last sentence is accompanied by a cheery giggle, an unexpected yet refreshing sound from a young woman who suffered such a tough injury so recently.

But that’s just the Fowler way. Shake it off and move on.

That attitude helps to explain Rickie’s perpetual optimism on the golf course. It was on display once again Saturday, as bogeys on the second, 11th and 16th holes could have been enough to derail his hopes of contending.

He got one back with a birdie on 17, then stood in the rough on 18, exactly 238 yards from the hole, knowing he needed one final good swing to keep that momentum.

With Taylor watching – well, sort of.

“I could barely see, I was standing behind tall people,” she said. Big brother belted a hybrid to 14 feet and sank the eagle putt.

It put him at 5 under entering the final round, just three strokes behind co-leaders Luke Guthrie and Michael Thompson in search of his second career PGA Tour victory.

Taylor is hopeful that she’ll be able to walk all 18 holes Sunday, a remarkable achievement only if you fail to consider that she comes from a family in which injuries are nothing new.

Perhaps underscoring that is the fact that Rickie hasn’t made any declaration toward his sister this week. There won’t be a “Win one for the Gipper” speech. He isn’t playing this event for her or even especially motivated by her appearance in the gallery.

All of which is just fine with Taylor.

“He can win one for himself,” she said. “We’ll just be cheering him on.”

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."