Davis' absence a big miss for women's golf

By Randall MellJuly 11, 2017, 9:30 pm

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – They say you can’t play defense in golf.

You should have been in the U.S. Women’s Open media center Tuesday at Trump National.

A Jujutsu grand master would have been proud.

One player after another deftly blocked, deflected or dodged questions about President Donald Trump.

USGA executive director Mike Davis, however, didn’t bother playing defense. He didn’t bother playing at all. He didn’t show up. Remarkably, he wasn’t there for the organization’s annual U.S. Women’s Open news conference.

Yes, Davis doesn’t always make an appearance at this annual women’s news conference, which is troubling enough in itself, but his absence Tuesday was especially glaring.

Davis’ last appearance at the U.S. Women’s Open annual USGA news conference was 2014, but this one demanded his square jaw, even if he was only going to deflect, block or dodge, like all the players he left to answer the hard questions.

Funny thing, though. While Davis didn’t have to dodge any hardballs Tuesday, he’s the one who got the black eye.

“It's probably been several years since he has been here,” USGA public services director Beth Major said of the news conference’s makeup. “I know this is the team assembled last year. We are being consistent with the same team.”

Davis is consistently missing in action at this important women’s news conference.

He needed to be there Tuesday if only to send a message with his mere presence.

Davis needed to be there to reassure the women in his charge that he cares about their event just as much as he does the men’s event. He needed to be there to face what they faced.

U.S. Women’s Open: Articles, photos and videos

You want to elevate the U.S. Women’s Open?

It would help by showing up for the women’s big annual news conference.

By the way, USGA president Diana Murphy wasn’t at Tuesday’s news conference, either.

The USGA sold Tuesday’s media event as being focused on course setup and fan experience. Well, the one fan everyone’s talking about is the most powerful man in the world, and President Trump just might show up Sunday to present the trophy.

Davis insists he doesn’t want to engage in the “politics” he sees in this controversial U.S. Women’s Open, and so Tuesday he avoided the hardball question USA Today columnist Christine Brennan asked.

How is the topic of sexual assault politics?

“I think we've already issued our statement on that discussion,” said Stu Francis, the USGA championship chairman who was left to answer for Davis. “We really are here to conduct a great golf championship.”

Even if Davis believes there is politics wrapped around that question, he could have showed up to answer other relevant but less volatile questions.

For women who are concerned about where the USGA is leading them, who are concerned about your commitment to making the game better for them, what would you like them to know?

That would have been a good question for Davis.

It isn’t a Trump question.

It’s an important women’s golf question.

There were a lot of tough Trump questions for players Tuesday, but a lot of the same answers.

Donald Trump is a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women. Now, he’s hosting the crown jewel of women’s golf? What do you think of that?

That was another Brennan hardball.

“I take my role as a female role model very seriously,” Michelle Wie said. “This week is about the golf.”

The last half of Wie’s answer was the player mantra for all variety of Trump questions.

There was Lydia Ko. . .

“I'm excited to play the U.S. Women's Open and not think of it in a political way.”

There was Inbee Park . . .

“We are here to play golf, not here to talk about the politics, so I don't have any better answer about it.”

There was Lexi Thompson . . .

“It's an amazing golf course and great track for this championship, and I'm just going to focus on my play this week.”

There was Danielle Kang . . .

“We're here to play a golf tournament. We're here to play a major championship hosted by the USGA. We're all just really happy to be playing the U.S. Open.”

There was no Mike Davis, though, but come Sunday we just might see Donald Trump.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”

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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).