Game's best still looking over shoulders at Match Play

By Rex HoggardApril 27, 2015, 5:39 pm

Fans got a glimpse at the new-look WGC-Cadillac Match Play on Monday as officials unveiled the 16 groups that will compete against each other the first three days via a lottery-style selection process.

While the PGA Tour’s only individual match play event has previously defied conventional wisdom with a straight bracket absent power protection, this new format would seem to finally favor the higher-ranked player.

That said, Tuesday’s selection process seemed to temper some of those expectations with some competitive groupings.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy drew Billy Horschel, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner in the first group, and Group 13 may end up the proverbial “group of death,” with Rickie Fowler, Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry and Harris English.

The new format will include 16 four-player groups, with the top 16 players in the World Golf Ranking anchoring each group followed by players picked randomly from one of three pools. Pool No. 1 included players ranked from 17th to 32nd, followed by Nos. 33 to 48 in the second pool and Nos. 49 to 64 in the last pool.

Every player will compete in three days of round-robin play, with the winners of each group advancing to single-elimination match play starting on Saturday.

“The old format of straight knockout can be a little harsh," McDowell said. "You can show up, like I did a few years in Tucson [Ariz.], and shoot your 66, lose and go home. And that can be difficult, especially for the sponsors when their top players are flying home on Wednesday night.” 

“Even if you lose on Day 1 you still have something to play for.”

McDowell has advanced to the weekend the last two years at the WGC-Match Play, while English beat Lee Westwood and McIlroy in his first start in the event last year. In 2013, Lowry beat McIlroy in Round 1, and Fowler won the consolation match last year.

The rankings, however, don’t always tell the full story even with the new format. Group 9, for example, includes Adam Scott, Chris Kirk, Paul Casey and Francesco Molinari.

Although Scott is the highest-ranked player in that group, he’s struggled this season as he continues his transition to a non-anchored putter, and Molinari has been sidelined recently with a wrist injury. Conversely, Casey, No. 37 in the world, is playing solid golf in 2015 and has two runner-up finishes in the WGC-Match Play.

Similarly, Jimmy Walker drew match-play magician Ian Poulter, who won this event in 2010, long-hitting Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson in Group 11.

“It’s match play and you have to learn to expect the unexpected,” said Walker, who played Poulter in a four-ball match in last year’s Ryder Cup. “It’s going to be fun.”

J.B. Holmes in Group 12 also drew a tough lineup for the first three days in Brooks Koepka, Russell Henley and Marc Warren.

Masters champion and world No. 2 Jordan Spieth will play Lee Westwood, Matt Every and Mikko Ilonen, who was a last-minute addition to the field when Phil Mickelson announced on Sunday he would not play the WGC-Match Play for personal reasons.

Here are the groups selected Monday for pool play:

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
Rory McIlroy Jordan Spieth Henrik Stenson Bubba Watson
Billy Horschel Lee Westwood  Bill Haas Louis Oosthuizen
Brandt Snedeker  Matt Every  Brendon Todd  Keegan Bradley 
Jason Dufner  Mikko Ilonen  John Senden  Miguel Angel Jimenez 
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
Jim Furyk Justin Rose Jason Day Dustin Johnson
Martin Kaymer  Ryan Palmer Zach Johnson  Victor Dubuisson
Thongchai Jaidee  Anirban Lahiri  Branden Grace  Charl Schwartzel 
George Coetzee  Marc Leishman  Charley Hoffman  Matt Jones 
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
Adam Scott Sergio Garcia Jimmy Walker J.B. Holmes
Chris Kirk Jamie Donaldson  Ian Poulter Brooks Koepka
Paul Casey  Bernd Wiesberger Webb Simpson  Russell Henley 
Francesco Molinari  Tommy Fleetwood Gary Woodland  Marc Warren 
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
Rickie Fowler Matt Kuchar Patrick Reed Hideki Matsuyama
Graeme McDowell  Hunter Mahan Ryan Moore  Kevin Na 
Shane Lowry  Stephen Gallacher  Danny Willett  Joost Luiten 
Harris English  Ben Martin  Andy Sullivan Alexander Levy 
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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “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. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.


Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)