Fearsome Foursome: Rory, Rickie, Jordan - Patrick

By Rex HoggardMay 14, 2015, 11:35 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – This has all the makings of a high-stakes game of one-upmanship with no end in sight.

You know the deal, whatever you can do, another guy wants to do better. But in this case, those other guys are an assortment of infinitely talented twenty-somethings trading challenges and championships with regularity.

Prodigy see, prodigy do.

Jordan Spieth, 21, got on the board in the biggest way in 2015, winning the Masters by four strokes; he was followed in order by 26-year-old Rory McIlroy’s 121-hole marathon triumph at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and 26-year-old Rickie Fowler's extra-inning victory at The Players.

It only stands to reason that it would be 24-year-old Patrick Reed’s turn to get back into the game, and he did so with authority on Thursday with an opening 66 at the Wells Fargo Championship that left him one stroke off the lead held by Robert Streb.

That he reinserted himself into the mix playing alongside McIlroy only serves to thicken a plot that will become more intriguing as we inch closer to the next major episode – June’s U.S. Open.

It a dramatic landscape shift from where the game was just five years ago, when Tiger Woods vs. the field was always an easy bet and few were able to mount any type of challenge to his dominance.

“It seems like from top to bottom now in fields that more and more guys are having the ability, if they're on that week ... to win the golf tournament," said Reed, who has a win of his own this year at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. "It's great for the game of golf because it's not the same guy every week that, ‘Oh, well, he's going to win the event, so might as well hand him the trophy. Who is playing for second?’”

Wells Fargo Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Instead, it’s becoming a favorite-by-committee world, where one man’s victory is another man’s bulletin-board material.

Even McIlroy, the world No. 1 by a healthy margin, is both inspired and intrigued by the play of his rivals, so much so that each Monday morning he checks his lead in the rankings.

“It was very inspiring to see what Jordan did at Augusta, seeing how Rickie won last week, Patrick already won this year,” said McIlroy, who was tied for 30th after a first-round 70 at Quail Hollow.

“There’s a lot of good young guys coming through and playing well and it’s nice. I mean when you see those guys winning you feel like you need to step it up a little, too. Nice healthy rivalry.”

Despite recent developments from Augusta, Ga., to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., it’s a rivalry that expands well beyond the current twenty-something circle.

Jason Day, fully healthy for perhaps the first time in his career, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka all have victories this year on Tour.

“There's a handful of guys to a couple dozen that have a chance of winning the golf tournament if they're on,” Reed said. “If all of them are on, it's going to be a battle.”

Perhaps, but to put it in NASCAR terms – which seems fitting with the Tour in the heart of racing country this week – it’s the four twenty-somethings that appear to be drafting off one another, as evidenced by Reed and McIlroy’s play on Day 1 at Quail Hollow.

The two were on the verge of making the Wells Fargo a two-man match until they both got run over by the layout’s infamous Green Mile.

McIlroy bounced his 8-iron tee shot off the rocks and into the lake for a double bogey-5 (dropping him from 4 under to five back) at the 17th hole, while Reed – who stormed into the lead with the help of four consecutive birdies beginning at the fifth hole – failed to convert his par putt after a sloppy blast from a greenside bunker (costing him a share of the lead).

Still, the two are poised to continue the trend and a cycle that’s equal parts self-fulfilling and entertaining.

“When you watch a guy like Rickie or Jordan have success and you’ve competed against them, you’ve beaten them and they’ve beaten you, but when they have success [on the Tour] you think, ‘I can do that, too,’” Reed said.

It’s a notion that is quickly becoming the norm on Tour, as the fearless foursome continues to trade accomplishments and raise the stakes one title at a time.

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."