Bunker Shots Spotlight on Europe

By Randall MellMay 18, 2010, 8:42 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from the European Tour’s flagship event to the LPGA’s return to match play and the PGA Tour’s salute to Lord Byron ...

PGA TOUR

PGA Tour (75x100)

HP Byron Nelson Championship

Nobody in the top 10 in the world rankings will tee it up in suburban Dallas this week.

Hunter Mahan’s the highest ranked player in the field at No. 17.

There’s tough competition this week overseas, where the BMW PGA Championship in England is attracting a stellar field with the top international players competing in the European Tour’s big event.

Bunker shot: Who’s the best player under 30? According to the world rankings, it’s Rory McIlroy, who at No. 9 ranks highest in that age category. Anthony Kim (No. 10), Martin Kaymer (No. 11) and Camilo Villegas (No. 14) are next. If you’re going by PGA Tour victories, Adam Scott’s the best. With seven PGA Tour titles now, he’s more than doubled the totals of any other player under 30. But Scott’s leaving the ranks of the twentysomethings this summer. He turns 30 on July 16. None of those players just mentioned are in the field at the Byron Nelson, but there’s lots of young talent on display this week. That brings us to Dustin Johnson and Sean O’Hair, who are in the field. They’re tied with Kim and Villegas behind Scott with three PGA Tour titles each among players under 30. Mahan and J.B. Holmes, twentysomethings with two PGA Tour titles apiece, also are scheduled to play. Rickie Fowler doesn’t have a PGA Tour title, but the rookie arrives at the Byron Nelson No. 54 in the world rankings. Ricky Barnes, Michael Sim and Yuta Ikeda are in that young class worth watching this week.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Rory Sabbatini. Contender – Hunter Mahan. Darkhorse – Rickie Fowler.

  • Course: TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas, Irving, Texas. Par 70, 7,016 yards (Designed by Jay Morrish, opened in 1996, redesigned by D.A. Weibring in 2008).
  • Purse: $6.5 million (winner’s share, $1,170,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m., replay 8:30-11 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, CBS, 3-6 p.m.
  • Last year: With a 6-under-par 64 to close, Rory Sabbatini finished two shots better than Brian Davis.


EUROPEAN TOUR

2009 European TourBMW PGA Championship

Five of the top 10 in the world rankings lead a strong field in the European Tour’s flagship event.

No. 3 Lee Westwood, No. 6 Ian Poulter, No. 7 Ernie Els, No. 8 Paul Casey and No. 9 Rory McIlroy join Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson in an event that will feature lots of world ranking points.

Bunker shot: If it’s a big event, Westwood will be knocking on the door at the end, but will he finally barge through? Westwood’s enjoying a terrific run of contention in majors and quasi-majors, but there has to be frustration failing to win any of them. This season, Westwood became the first player in 33 years to lead the Masters and The Players Championship after 54 holes in the same year, but he came away without a trophy. He tied for fourth at The Players, finished second at the Masters. A year ago, he tied for third at the PGA Championship and the British Open. The year before that, he finished third at the U.S. Open. He’s come up a shot short of forcing playoffs at the U.S. Open and British Open in the past two years. Makes you wonder if the close calls inspire or frustrate, encourage or discourage. Only Westwood truly knows.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Lee Westwood. Contender – Rory McIlroy. Darkhorse – Francesco Molinari.

  • Course: Wentworth Club’s West Course in Surrey, England. Par 71, 7,261 yards (Designed originally by H.S. Colt and opened in 1927).
  • Purse: 4.5 million euros (winner’s share, $750,000 euros).
  • TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., replay 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., replay 7-9:30 p.m.
  • Last year: Paul Casey defeated Ross Fisher by a shot.


LPGA

LPGA Tour _newSybase Match Play Championship

After a two-year hiatus, match play returns to the LPGA.

Seon Hwa Lee (2007), Brittany Lincicome (2006) and Marisa Baena (2005) won this championship the first three times it was staged.

Sixty-four players will compete. In a bustling weekend, the round of 16 and quarterfinals are planned for Saturday with the semifinals and finals on Sunday.

Bunker shot: Asian dominance is the early storyline this LPGA season. Asians have claimed all six of the events played so far. Japan’s Ai Miyazato has won three of the titles, South Korea’s claimed two with Hee Kyung Seo and Se Ri Pak winning and Taiwan’s claimed a title with Yani Tseng a winner at the year’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco. This season also has been witness to South Korean Jiyai Shin’s rise as the first Asian to be No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Michelle Wie is the only American to win an LPGA title in the last 12 months.  

Mell’s picks: Winner – Brittany Lincicome. Contender – Morgan Pressel. Darkhorse – Azahara Munoz.

  • Course: Hamilton Farm Golf Club’s The Highlands, Gladstone, N.J. Par 72, 6,585 yards (Designed by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry).
  • Purse: $1.5 million (winner’s share, $225,000).
  • TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 1-3 p.m., replay 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 2-5 p.m., replay 9:30-11:30 p.m.
  • Last year: Was not played.


NATIONWIDE TOUR

Nationwide TourThe Rex Hospital Open

There’s a new leader atop the Nationwide Tour money list.

Even with a bogey at his final hole last week at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, Kevin Chappel earned a tie for second and enough money to vault him to the top of the money list with $190,621 in earnings, a little more than $4,000 ahead of Bobby Gates.

Bunker shot: Jamie Lovemark’s doing everything but win his rookie year. The 2007 NCAA champ from USC tied for second last week at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, his fourth top-5 finish in eight starts this season. He jumped four spots to No. 8 on the Nationwide Tour money list and appears poised for a bigger move.   

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jamie Lovemark. Contender – Justin Hicks. Darkhorse – Jeff Gallagher.

  • Course: TPC Wakefield Plantation, Raleigh, N.C. Par 71, 7,257 yards. (Designed by Hale Irwin, opened in 2000).
  • Purse: $550,000 (winner’s share, $99,000).
  • TV times: No TV.
  • Last year: Kevin Johnson defeated Gallagher in a playoff for his fifth Nationwide Tour title.
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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