Appleby begins new chapter with low round at AT&T

By Rex HoggardFebruary 7, 2014, 2:33 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The 42-year-old father of three did what his instincts dictated – wait patiently.

Stuart Appleby had just birdied his second hole of the day – the 11th at Monterey Peninsula Country Club – when the weather horn sent players, caddies and fans scrambling for cover.

After weeks of drought, and a solid few years of fair weather for the PGA Tour’s northern California stop, Crosby weather returned for the opening round of this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

For nearly three hours Appleby waited out the tempest without a hint of anxiety or anxiousness.

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That’s what more than two decades of Tour experience and a burgeoning family does to a man.

“It was fine, really. It was just a solid day all the way around,” Appleby said of his opening 65 that left him two strokes out of the lead held by rookie Andrew Loupe.

In its simplest terms, Appleby’s calm in the middle of Thursday’s storm comes honestly.

Once a perennial contender, the Australian is three years removed from his last Tour victory and hasn’t advanced to the Tour Championship, the ultimate litmus test for top players, since 2008.

Nagging injuries led to swing flaws that can at least partially explain Appleby’s malaise, but when he was asked to assess the last few years the easiest answer is life.

For all the right reasons, Appleby has been distracted by his growing family in recent years with three children under 8 years old.

“They definitely play a role. Your emotional energy changes a little bit towards your family. Your attention, your focus, your time. Sometimes that’s a struggle,” he said. “You have more family commitments, which I really purely love, as you get older. You focus all your time on your family.”

As his children have aged, however, Appleby’s focus and time have returned to golf. He refined his swing during this offseason and adjusted his putting stroke to more of a “downward hit,” which might explain his ability to navigate the normally bumpy coastal greens.

He rolled in a 20 footer for birdie on the 11th before the delay and followed that with a 15 footer at the 14th hole when play resumed. His bogey-free round was his lowest start on Tour since a 65 at the 2012 Canadian Open.

In fact, his 6 under card was his best ever at the Clambake, an event he once jettisoned from his schedule because of the habitually bad weather and five-hour-plus rounds.

But he returned to the Monterey Peninsula in 2010 and hasn’t missed the Pro-Am since, a nod to his growing maturity and an appreciation for the golf – if not the views.

“If it’s not raining everyday here it’s a good tournament,” Appleby said. “I normally avoided the amateur format a bit like the plague. But I’ve grown up a bit, matured a bit.”

If Appleby needs a blueprint to follow as he reinvents himself he should look no further than Steve Stricker, who didn’t find his way on Tour until he was well into his 40s and earned a spot on last year’s Presidents Cup team playing a limited schedule.

“Look at Steve, he’s won massively in his 40s. Really his whole career has been in his 40s,” he said. “He wants to spend more time with his family now. (But) I love playing out here, I want to compete, I want to play.”

After nine Tour victories and more than $22.5 million in career earnings, it would be easy for Appleby to go quietly through the next few years on his way to the Champions Tour.

But that doesn’t appear to be on the agenda.

After being understandably distracted by quality of life concerns the last few years, Appleby has been reinvigorated by the call of competition.

Following a long, wet day, Appleby was asked what motivates the middle aged, and for a moment he appeared to channel his 20-year-old self.

“The chase, the hunt, the elusive almost at your fingertips next level of golf that’s just at arm’s reach,” Appleby said. “It feels like it is always there, that next rung on the ladder to pull yourself up. Golf gives you so many opportunities like no other sport.”

For Appleby, it turns out the ultimate career mulligan is a mind unclouded by life’s concerns and the clarity of thought to win again.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

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

Former 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 Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted 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