Day looks to fend off pack of PGA pursuers

By Rex HoggardAugust 16, 2015, 1:38 am

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Every major has its own distinct genetic fingerprint, which is why, variety being the spice of life, the Grand Slam gatherings hold a singular distinction in the crowded golf landscape.

It’s why Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors; not everyone likes Rocky Road. The Masters slowly builds to a crescendo and Sunday roars, the U.S. Open is the annual endurance test and the Open Championship captivates through the uncertainty of Mother Nature.

The PGA Championship also manufactures its share of drama, although not always of the desired variety (see Johnson, Dustin 2010), via a mixture of relatively low scoring for majors and a history of leaderboards so crowded, contenders often need nametags.

Whistling Straits PGAs in particular have a tendency to draw large crowds both outside the ropes and atop the leaderboard. Simply put, Rory McIlroy doesn’t win by eight at Herb Kohler’s creation, a byproduct of acres of aches and pains combined with pressure that surfaces only at the game’s Grand Slam stops.

Consider that the PGA’s two previous trips to the land of 100,000 mosquitos and the golf course of more than 1,000 bunkers have produced just as many playoff finishes. As an aside, just imagine what could be in the offing for the 2020 Ryder Cup that will be played on this slice of Middle American farmland?

Given that historical penchant for playoffs, it’s not a stretch to imagine how things are going to play out on Sunday even with Jason Day’s two-stroke advantage after 54 holes, to say nothing of the affable Australian’s full recovery from the vertigo that derailed his title bid at June’s U.S. Open.

If history truly repeats itself, Whistling Straits appears locked in a familiar loop – play, playoff, repeat.

PGA Championship: Full-field scores

The modus operandi stayed to script on Saturday, with Matt Jones cruising to a two-stroke lead until the ninth hole. In a Straits Course twist the Australian scrambled from the porch of a corporate tent built atop a collection of bunkers for a bogey. The irony being that Dustin Johnson was penalized two strokes at the 2010 PGA when he grounded his club in a bunker adjacent to the 18th hole that is now covered by a corporate tent.

Four players – Branden Grace, Jones, Day and Tony Finau – were tied at 12 under late into a postcard-perfect afternoon, before Day pulled away with a driver-pitching wedge combo on the 563-yard, par-5 11th hole for eagle.

Day, a major bridesmaid on nine occasions including the 2010 PGA here at Whistling Straits, added birdies at Nos. 13 and 14 to move to 16 under and three clear of the field before needing two swings to get out of a bunker on the 15th hole on his way to a double bogey.

Things can change that quickly in a Wisconsin minute and it at least partially explains why so many have come so close at Whistling Straits.

It was signature Straits, prolonged periods of grinding defense broken up by the occasional fast break. And it will happen again if history holds.

“You can’t count the guys out behind us because there's especially a lot of long hitters,” said Day, who will head out in Sunday’s final group for the second major this season following a third-round 66. “Tomorrow is just going to be fun, it really is going to be a lot of fun. I'm really excited just to get to tomorrow.”

It’ll be a familiar object in his rearview mirror on Sunday, although these days Jordan Spieth is always closer than he appears.

Spieth kept his hopes of winning the Triple Crown of American major championships in a single season intact, with the top-ranked player from the United States scorching the inward nine with six birdies for a 7-under 65 on Day 3 and 13-under total.

Spieth’s charge also kept the prospect of an American Slam alive, with the 22-year-old having won the Masters and U.S. Open followed by Zach Johnson’s victory at the Open Championship, and set the stage for the final chapter of a truly historic season.

Spieth can become the first player to win the three American-based majors in the same season. It’s an opportunity Spieth has chosen to not take lightly.

“We don't get to play another event like this until April of next year,” said Spieth, who is 50 under par in the majors this year. “That makes you think, wow, there really only are a few of these, and they are precious, and you need to make the most of them.”

But the cast of potential party crashers doesn’t stop at golf’s newest wunderkind.

At the 2010 PGA, eventual champion Martin Kaymer began the final round four shots out of the lead. On Sunday, he will start the day in the same position at 11 under par along with seven other players within six strokes of Day.

Among that group will be major champion Justin Rose and Grace, who posted the day’s best score on Saturday (64), with Johnson – the tragic figure from the 2010 PGA whose brushes with major greatness have become frequent and unforgiving – in a large group tied at 9 under par.

Another playoff seems likely. Another eventful finish seems almost certain.

Pete Dye’s golf course designs are generally considered diabolical and always unique, but the essence of Whistling Straits goes beyond narrow fairways and bunkers as far as the eye can see. The Straits Course seems defined by its ability to deliver drama and derail any potential blowout.

“It's not a golf course someone will run away shooting two or three 65s. You need to keep your score together,” said Kaymer, who moved into the hunt again at Whistling Straits with a third-round 65 “You need to be very, very patient and wait for your chances. You can’t really force it.”

And the way things have gone the first three days you can’t really expect anything different on Sunday, not at this major and certainly not on this golf course.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry