Golf Channel to Showcase 80 Junior Golfers Competing in 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals from Augusta National, Live on Sunday, April 3 at 8 a.m. ET

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMarch 14, 2016, 4:15 pm

Special Live From the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals Pre-Game Show to Introduce Viewers to Field of Finalists Beginning at 8 A.M. ET

 

Golf Channel to Dedicate Five Hours of Coverage Displaying Skills of Regional Representatives from Across U.S. and Canada, Including a Series of Dedicated Features on Several Competitors in the Field  

Golf Channel announced its production plans for exclusive, live coverage of the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, airing on Sunday, April 3, beginning at 8 a.m. ET, when 80 junior golfers from across the U.S. and Canada will gather at Augusta National Golf Club to officially kick off Masters week. The 40 boys and 40 girls set to compete emerged from more than 250 local qualifying events, followed by 50 subregional and 10 regional qualifiers.

“One of the proudest moments all year for us as a network occurs each April when we have the privilege of showcasing these talented and charismatic competitors fulfilling their dreams in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals on the grounds of Augusta National,” said Molly Solomon, executive producer, Golf Channel. “In partnership with the Masters Tournament, the USGA and the PGA of America, the event serves as a wonderful platform to promote the game in a fun and compelling way to young golfers on golf’s most storied stage.”

Live From the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals Pre-Game at 8 a.m. ET

Golf Channel – in its third year of televising live coverage of the National Finals – will highlight the skills and personalities of the competitors in the field, beginning with a special Live From the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals pre-game show from 8-9 a.m. ET, originating from the network’s Golf Central Live From the Masters set on the grounds of Augusta National. The pre-game show will introduce viewers to the stories behind each of the 80 national finalists, which will be supplemented with a series of dedicated features offering a closer look at several competitors across the eight respective age groups (Boys/Girls 7-9; 10-11; 12-13 and 14-15). Guests scheduled to join the pre-game telecast include industry leaders Billy Payne (chairman of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament); Diana Murphy (president, United States Golf Association); and Derek Sprague (president, PGA of America). Steve Sands will host, while Charlie Rymer and Kay Cockerill will help set the stage for the premier youth golf event.

Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals Coverage, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. ET

Beginning at 9 a.m. ET, coverage will shift to join the competition in progress with the individual Drive, Chip and Putt skills challenges across each age group. The Drive skill will be contested on Augusta National’s Tournament Practice Area, with each player hitting two drives, and the longer of the two (provided it is in bounds) will be counted for score. The Chip, (also conducted on the Tournament Practice Area) will include two chips and be calculated based on cumulative proximity to the hole. And the Putt skill, which will be staged on Augusta National’s 18th green, will be measured based on finalists’ cumulative proximity to the hole from two different putting distances. As competitors complete all three challenges, champions for each of the eight age groups will be awarded for each of the skill categories, along with the recognition of the overall champions from each age group.

Rich Lerner will handle play by play duties, with Peter Jacobsen joining him in the booth as lead analyst. Reporting from the Tournament Practice Area and alongside the 18th green will be Rymer, Cockerill and Michael Breed. Sands also will conduct interviews. Past Masters champions and Tournament Invitees are expected to arrive at Augusta National during the telecast, interacting with finalists and conducting interviews to discuss the value of the youth initiative in helping to grow the game. In addition to its on-air telecast, Golf Channel also will dedicate pre- and post-event coverage on its daily news shows, Golf Central and Morning Drive, and on GolfChannel.com.

The Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals will kick off Golf Channel’s weeklong coverage of the Masters, which will feature nearly 60 live hours of the network’s Golf Central Live From the Masters news coverage, focusing on emerging storylines, analysis, features and guest interviews, beginning Monday, April 4.

For more information, visit DriveChipandPutt.com.

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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.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)