Woods, Kuchar get a 'fresh' start

By Jason SobelOctober 4, 2013, 12:51 am

DUBLIN, Ohio – Matt Kuchar rolled in a birdie putt on the opening hole, flashed his familiar smile and started walking toward his partner. Tiger Woods smiled right back and walked toward Kuchar, too. They both knew what was coming next.

The two players slapped hands, but added a little flair. They each punctuated the slap by pulling their hands back to the right and tilting their heads in unison, much to the delight of the raucous gallery.

To some, it just looked like a silly celebration, a you-had-to-have-been-there moment stolen from the United States team room. To any child of the '90s, though, the move was instantly recognizable.

“That was definitely all me,” Kuchar later said, impervious smile still plastered to his face. “That stems from the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air.’”

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Even the International judge would give high marks for creativity and originality.

“I'm not a huge fan of bumping knuckles,” he continued. “I thought there was something a little extra, something fun to do. Baseball high fives look like a lot of fun, but look a little too complicated. So we went old school.”

It didn’t stop there, either.

When Woods rolled in a birdie putt to win the sixth hole, they did it again. When Kuchar posted another on the ninth, they did it again. Every time the duo won a hole, they did a perfect depiction of the Fresh Prince handshake.

And they won a bunch of 'em. Six to be exact, while losing only one. The end result was a relatively easy 5-and-4 fourball victory over the International team of Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman, leaving the Woods/Kuchar tandem celebrating in their first-ever match as partners.

“We ham-and-egged it pretty good,” Woods explained. “Kooch made a bunch of putts on the front nine, I got it rolling there for a little bit and on the back nine. It was him or me on each hole. We did pretty good.”

Come for the golf, stay for the wacky merriment. That could have served as the slogan for the day’s fifth and most lopsided match.

In a contest that held few questions throughout as to which team would prevail, perhaps the only queries surrounded the celebration itself. Not “Who?” nor “What?” so much as “Why?”

Why don’t players look like they’re having more fun in these competitions? Why does it appear so difficult to transition from an individual pursuit to a team venture?

Consider it a conundrum of chicken-or-egg proportions. It’s easy to play well when you’re having fun, but you can’t have fun unless you’re playing well.

“I think most people tend to play better when they are enjoying themselves,” Kuchar explained. “I don't know that one necessarily precedes the other, but certainly it holds true for me. I would say that if I'm in a good mood, I'm enjoying myself out there, tend to play a little bit better golf.

“And maybe it kind of carries over, maybe in the team competition, help a partner enjoy themselves, have a good time. It's just part of the teamwork out there.”

That teamwork led to Woods’ 21st career win in this event, the most of any player in its 10-year history.

It seems like similar words are written every year (if not every other year), but much as with Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker in the past, it certainly looked like Woods had found a long-term partner in Kuchar.

“We both play well at the same time, and we did that today,” he explained. “Kooch was solid all day. When he made a mistake, I was there; when I made a few mistakes, he was there. We were just never really out of a hole.”

If there was a newsworthy tidbit in the aftermath of this match, it came from U.S. captain Fred Couples, who revealed that the pairing didn’t simply materialize out of thin air.

“They both told me months ago that they wanted to play,” he said. “They just had a great time today.”

Not surprisingly, Woods and Kuchar will tee it up together once again on Friday, playing a foursomes match against Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

It will give them another chance to show off that fancy Fresh Prince handshake after each hole they win. It will also give them a chance to right a small wrong.

When Kuchar was asked about the genesis of the celebration, he maintained, “I figured this guy was the perfect Carlton.”

It’s a well-intentioned thought, but any child of the '90s should know that it was DJ Jazzy Jeff who shared a handshake with the Fresh Prince, not the Carlton character. Carlton’s thing? Well, he danced. Really badly.

Good luck to Kuchar if he wants to talk his partner into that celebration on Friday.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x