DJ's star once again shines brightest at WGC

By Rex HoggardMarch 6, 2017, 12:40 am

MEXICO CITY – So begins the age of DJ.

That would be the preferred hot take following the broad-shouldered bomber’s second victory in as many starts to become just the sixth player to win in his first event after taking over the top spot in the world rankings.

Dustin Johnson, the man who looks like he was made in a laboratory to play golf, overcame a quirky-cool golf course, inconsistent greens and the year’s deepest field to win his 14th PGA Tour title on Sunday at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Simply stated, he was better. Better than anyone with his iron play (first in proximity to the hole), better than all but four players in greens hit, better than all but three in driving distance, not that his length has ever been a surprise.

His only blind spot, relatively speaking, was the “goalie” guarding every hole for the better part of 2 1/2 days, which was DJ’s unique way of saying that putts that could have gone in and should have gone in, simply, had not.

But that wasn’t a problem on Sunday as he began the day in the final group, a stroke behind Justin Thomas. There was a 15-footer at the second, 5 1/2-footer at No. 6, 29-footer at the eighth and 8-footer at No. 9 – all for birdie.

Just around siesta time in Mexico City, Johnson made the turn with a four-stroke advantage, his second victory of the season and place atop the world order all but assured.

That he stumbled bringing this title to the house only adds to the style points, with Johnson losing his four-stroke advantage in four holes to Jon Rahm. But he prevailed with a late birdie at the 15th hole to reclaim the lead and a clutch par at the last to keep it, which is what truly great players do.

“Starting the beginning of last year my game really has felt solid and it hasn't really let up any,” said Johnson, whose lead in the Official Golf World Ranking has now been extended to a decisive 2.36 points advantage. “I've got a lot of confidence in the game. I feel like I'm controlling my ball very well and I feel like my driver is a little straighter, which if I can drive it straight I'm going to play well every week.”

Johnson’s current run has been impressive – dominant, even. But like most hot takes, the view from 30,000 feet often provides a skewed perspective.

With a monsoon of respect, giving DJ the keys to the kingdom before the season’s first major would ignore so much.


WGC-Mexico Championship: Articles, photos and videos


It would gloss over the fact that Thomas already has three victories this season and said of his swing earlier this week that it made him want to “throw up” and yet he still found himself in contention late on a Sunday at one of the game’s biggest events.

That Rory McIlroy went from the trainer’s table and six-weeks of rehabilitation for a rib injury to in the WGC-Mexico hunt with a performance that the Northern Irishman admitted exceeded his own expectations.

“I was hoping to sort of improve as the week went on,” said McIlroy, who faded on Sunday with a 71 to tie for seventh in his first Tour start of 2017. “That was obviously the plan, that's the plan every week. I hit it pretty well every day. The course changed a little bit as the week went on. I didn't quite adjust to it.”

That Phil Mickelson is showing the kind of life that will make him much more than a novel pick at the Masters despite a tee ball that spent more time in the trees than an arborist. Lefty wasn’t entirely pleased with his tie for seventh place, but his optimism going forward is well-founded.

“This is a good tournament for me to build off of. It was disappointing yesterday, but to come back and play a good solid back nine and get a little bit of momentum now, I'm looking forward to the upcoming stretch,” said Mickelson, who at 46-years-old may still be the most entertaining player in the game.

That first-year Tour player Rahm may actually be better than advertised, as evidenced by his Sunday rally at Club de Golf Chapultepec that propelled the Spaniard into the lead late in the round until a pair of sloppy three-putts at Nos. 16 and 17 dropped him into a tie for a third.

That Jordan Spieth has finished inside the top 15 at five of his six starts this year (he was T-12 in Mexico), won at Pebble Beach by four shots and should be, regardless of the official line, the favorite next month at Augusta National.

Johnson might be the most underrated player of his generation, having won at least once every season since he joined the Tour in 2008. Only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus started their careers with that kind of consistency in the modern era.

On his way to victory, he had his golf ball get stuck in a tree just long enough to cost him a stroke at the 16th hole on Saturday, rolled in 137 feet of putts in Rounds 1 and 2 combined (16 feet less than Tyrrell Hatton rolled in just on Day 1) and began his week with a relatively pedestrian 70. Despite it all, he still claimed his fourth WGC title, second only to Woods, with a one-stroke victory over Tommy Fleetwood. But even after that performance, DJ acknowledged the champions-by-committee reality of today’s Tour.

“The competition is so good out here, they are all good players,” he said. “You look at a leaderboard and there are a couple of names you don’t want to see, mine would be one of them.”

One of them.

Winning last year’s U.S. Open turned a page in the novel that is DJ and he’s come by his lofty position atop the world heap honestly, but this is far from a one-man show. He might be the lead character in golf’s current production, but the marquee still has plenty of stars.

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Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."