Get ready for another grind in PGA finale

By Rex HoggardAugust 13, 2017, 12:59 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Remember when Nick Faldo made 18 pars during the final round to win the 1987 Open Championship?

Yeah, most people don’t; but for those astute historians that do recall that most mundane of majors 30 years ago the 99th PGA Championship is starting to feel a little bit like that – a sweaty, sweltering grind that left the field pretty much in the same position they were in when they started the day.

Playing the role of Faldo at Quail Hollow is Kevin Kisner, a bulldog of a player and a former Georgia Bulldog who didn’t manage 18 pars on Day 3 but his position at the end of the round had remained virtually unchanged.

Collectively, the top five players on the leaderboard were 1 over par on a day that wasn’t exactly separation Saturday, with Kisner maintaining his spot atop the field with a 1-over 72 for a one-stroke lead over Chris Stroud and Hideki Matsuyama.

In his prime, Sir Nick would have fit in perfectly at this Quail Hollow, all 7,600 yards of willowy rough and grainy deception. He also would have appreciated Kisner’s moxie.

The two-time PGA Tour winner went 25 holes around Quail Hollow without a bogey until his misstep at the 12th after wildly missing a fairway, which is itself wild considering Kisner’s consistency off the tee this week.

Two birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 padded his lead, which he never lost, before he found the water with his approach on the 16th hole for a double bogey-6. A bogey at the last set the stage for what promises to be survival Sunday.

This new and improved Quail Hollow will do that, even to the world’s best.


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog: Day 3 | Full coverage


Defense may win championships in team sports, but when Tour pros are relegated to putting for pars it makes for something less than awe-inspiring golf.

Unless Sunday brings a dramatic weather change, like the one that led to Friday’s scoring matinee, or the PGA of America suddenly goes inexplicably soft, it will likely be more of the same on Sunday.

“You have to play away from the hole on so many shots throughout the day, and then all of a sudden they give you a couple holes in a row on each side that you've got to attack,” said Kisner, whose stock in trade this week has been his driving (he’s fourth in the field in fairways hit) and greens in regulation (first in the field). “You've got to be able to take 30 feet and take your medicine. I think that's one of the biggest things out there.”

All you need to know about the PGA Quail Hollow is that the layout’s 18th and first holes are the first and second toughest frames this week, respectively. Those two holes would also rank as the third and fifth toughest on Tour this season. Consider it bookend round busters.

Kisner, who likes to “wheel” putts in on the high side with dying speed, relishes the role of dark horse, tackling Quail Hollow the way a chess master would go after Bobby Fischer, methodically with a plan and a purpose.

He estimated in his practice rounds there were four birdie holes each round, Nos. 7, 8, 14 and 15, while the other 14 required tentative precision, a drive that finds a fairway even if that leaves a lengthy approach. He’s hit a lot of 6-iron approach shots this week. He loves his 6-iron.

“Think his 6-iron has got a hole in it ... right in the sweet spot,” joked Kisner’s swing coach John Tillery.

The saving grace may be that unlike Muirfield in ’87 for Faldo, there are birdies to be had at Quail Hollow, which has been softened to a less-demanding version of its new Bermuda grass self by two days of on-again, off-again downpours.

Graham DeLaet cracked the code, however temporarily, when he nearly aced the 13th and 14th (a par 4) holes, added an eagle at the 15th and finished his run with a birdie at the 16th to go 6 under in four holes.

“It was difficult. It's a really, really, really challenging test out there, especially with the greens being as firm as they are. It's just so hard to get birdie looks,” said the guy whose 68 moved him into a tie for seventh.

It’s also a bit of a buzz kill following the last two majors where low scoring has been the rule rather than the exception.

Although there is a segment of the golf public that savors the old Grand Slam grind, where par is a good score and Tour professionals regularly look foolish, those types of slugfests don’t necessarily bring out the best in the brightest, as evidenced by a leaderboard that has exactly one top-10 player in the world ranking (Matsuyama) within six strokes of the lead.

“The PGA Championship I think is going to be the toughest for me,” said Jordan Spieth, who played his way out of the tournament, not to mention a chance to become the youngest player to win the career Grand Slam, with a third-round 71. “If we look historically back on my career, I think I will play this tournament worse than the other three majors just in the way that it's set up.”

Now whether Spieth was talking about this particular PGA or all of them will only be decided by time, but there was no denying that the relative difficulty of Quail Hollow is not a perfect fit for the game’s current marquee.

“The way they set the golf course up this week, it's made you play cautious golf. You have to be happy with 25, 30 feet,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who also did little to help his title chances with a 73 on his way to a tie for 47th. “Kevin Kisner led [he’s actually fourth in the field] in proximity to the hole with 36 feet. That is sort of the way of this golf course.”

That the tournament will in all likelihood be decided on the layout’s Green Mile, Nos. 16, 17 and 18, is only fitting, as foreshadowed by Saturday’s finale for the anchor threesome which played that stretch in a combined 7 over par that included Jason Day’s quadruple bogey-8 at the 18th hole.

This Quail Hollow is not for the timid, nor does it inspire the kind of scoring frenzy fans cheered at the U.S. Open or Open Championship. This PGA is relentless and may well be won by the player who, like Faldo, can make 18 pars and survive.

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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)


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Wie's goal to reach goals: Just. Stay. Healthy.

By Randall MellJanuary 23, 2018, 3:30 pm

Michelle Wie’s player bio should come with medical charts.

Her caddie would be well served if he could read X-rays as well as he reads greens.

Remarkably, Wie will begin her 13th full season as a pro when she tees it up Thursday in the LPGA’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

Wie is only 28, but on some days, she must feel like she’s going on 40.

It isn’t the years, it’s the mileage. Her body has too often been like an exotic sports car, a sleek and powerful machine capable of thrilling rides ... when it isn’t sitting it in the shop for weeks for repairs. There’s been one breakdown after another, spoiling her rides.

That’s why one burning desire trumps all others for Wie as she begins this new year.

“Being healthy, staying healthy, it’s my No. 1 priority,” Wie told GolfChannel.com. “I hired private physios at the end of last year, to work on my body. I’ve been working with my doctors in New York, and they’ve been doing a great job of getting me to a place where I’m pain free.

“For the most part, I’m feeling pretty good and pretty healthy. I’ve got little aches and pains from hitting so many balls over the years, but I’m really excited about starting this year. I feel really driven this year. I just want to be healthy so I can build some momentum and be able to play at 100 percent.”



Wie would love to see what she can do in an injury-free, illness-free year after all the promising work she put into rebuilding her game last year. She seemed on the brink of something special again.

“We worked last week, and Michelle looked really, really good,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “It’s quite impressive the way she’s hitting the ball. She is hitting it long and feeling good about her game. So, the main goal really is to see if she can go injury free.”

After winning twice in 2014, including the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie battled through a troublesome finger injury in the second half of that year. Hip, knee and ankle injuries followed the next year. She didn’t just lose all her good momentum. She lost the swing she grooved.

Wie rebuilt it all last year, turning her draw into a dependable fade that allowed her to play more aggressively again. She loved being able to go hard at the ball again, without fearing where it might go. The confidence from that filtered into every part of her game. She started hitting more drivers again.

And Wie found yet another eccentric but effective putting method, abandoning her table-top putting stance for a rotating trio of grips (conventional, left-hand low and claw). She would use them all in a single round. It was weird science, but it worked as she moved to a more classic, upright stance.

“It’s not pretty, but it’s working,” Stacy Lewis said after playing with Wie at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last summer.

Wie said she’s going back and forth between conventional and left-hand low now.

“I can’t promise I’ll stay the same way all year,” Wie said. “But even with different grips, I stayed with the same putting philosophy all year. I want to keep doing that.”

Leadbetter calls Wie a rebel in her approach to the game. She’s a power player, but she carried a 9-wood and 11-wood last year. She says the 11-wood will be back in her bag this week. Her unorthodox ways go beyond technique, strategy and equipment. She’ll be sporting pink hair come Thursday.

“She has never been orthodox,” Leadbetter said. “She doesn’t like to conform. She’s always liked to buck the system in some way.”

Wie looked as if she were poised to make a run at her fifth career title last season. She logged six finishes of fourth place or better the first half of the year. She contended at the ANA Inspiration, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

And then a neck spasm knocked her out of the U.S. Women’s Open.

And then emergency appendectomy surgery knocked her out for six weeks at summer’s end. It kept her from playing the year’s final major, the Evian Championship.

“I can’t list all the injuries Michelle has had in her career,” Leadbetter said. “I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue.”

Over the last three seasons alone, Wie has played through bursitis in her left hip, a bone spur in her left foot and inflammation in her left knee. She has battled neck spasms and back spasms. There have been platelet rich plasma injections to aid healing, and there have been too many cortisone injections for her liking.

There also have been ongoing issues in both wrists.

In fact, Wie, who broke two bones in her left wrist early in her career, is dealing with arthritic issues in both wrists of late. She underwent collagen injections this off season to try to be more pain free.

“I’ve had to pull back the last couple years, restrict the number of balls I hit, not practice as much as I would like, but I was able to put in a lot of work this offseason,” Wie said. “I’m excited about this year, but I’ve been smart about things.”

Leadbetter says he has been focusing on injury prevention when working with Wie. He worries about the stress that all the torque she creates can have on her body, with her powerful coil and the way she sometimes likes to hold off shots with her finish. His work, sometimes, is pulling her back from the tinkering she loves to do.

“Everything we do with her swing now is to help prevent injury,” he said.

Leadbetter relishes seeing what’s possible in 2018 if there are no setbacks.

“Michelle would be the first to admit she hasn’t reached anywhere near her potential,” Leadbetter said. “We all know what she is capable of. We’ve had fleeting glimpses. Now, it’s a matter of, ‘OK, let’s see if we can really fulfill the potential she’s had from a very young age.’

“She’s really enthusiastic about this year. She can’t wait to get back in the mix.”

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How Rahm can overtake DJ for OWGR No. 1 this week

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 2:50 pm

Editor's note: Information and text provided by Golf Channel's Official World Golf Ranking expert, Alan Robison.

Despite having fewer worldwide wins, fewer top-5 finishes, fewer top-25 finishes and more missed cuts over the past two years, Jon Rahm is poised to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win in this week’s Farmers Insurance Open. 

The Rise of Rahm is meteoric, but how is this possible? After all, Rahm has five worldwide wins vs. eight for Johnson in the same span? 

We’ll start with the raw numbers over the 104-week cycle of the Official World Golf Ranking. These numbers include a win for Rahm in this week’s Farmers (the only way he could get to No. 1; DJ is not playing):


  Dustin Johnson Jon Rahm
Events   46 40
Wins  8 (1 major, 3 WGCs) 5 (3 PGA Tour, 2 Euro)
Top 5 finishes   20 16
Top 10 finishes  26 19
Top 25 finishes  37 26
MC or 0 OWGR Pts earned  4 7

Johnson leads Rahm in every possible category, so you may be wondering, again, how is Rahm replacing DJ possible? 

To understand this, you would need to understand the Official World Golf Ranking, which is all about the power of math, a recency bias and the divisor.

The ranking system can feel a bit overwhelming, so here are a couple of topline bullet points:

  • The ranking is a 104-week period (two years) that evaluates a player’s performance.
  • Events are given a certain weight and bigger events have a higher point total.
  • Majors are worth 100 points to the winner. The Players champ is given 80 points. From there, you will see events weighted in the 70s for most WGCs, down to 24 for PGA Tour events opposite WGCs and majors.
  • The number assigned to an event has to do with the quality of field – the more top 10/20/50/100 players that are in a field, the higher the weighting.

Next, you can look at how recent the event was to determine its true value to a player. Dustin Johnson’s 2016 U.S. Open victory was given 100 points, but now he’s only receiving 23.9 percent of its original weight. Conversely, Rahm’s win at the CareerBuilder Challenge was only worth 40 points, but because it happened on Sunday, he’s receiving the full allotment of points.

Why is DJ getting 23.9 percent of his U.S. Open total? Doesn’t that seem arbitrary? Actually, the OWGR has an intricate formula to determine the value of events. Any event a player has started in the previous 13 weeks is given full value. For the remaining 91 weeks, events drop off at a rate of 1.09 percent until they eventually fall off. Here’s an example:

  • Event 25 weeks ago: 86.96 percent of value
  • Event 50 weeks ago: 59.78 percent of value
  • Event 75 weeks ago: 32.61 percent of value
  • Event 100 weeks ago: 5.43 percent of value

With a win at Farmers, Rahm would have three victories and a runner-up finish inside the last 13 weeks.  That would total to 175.60, given full-point value. After this week, DJ would only have three events in the last 13 weeks and those finishes are T9-win-T14, for a total of 67.32.

Rahm is taking advantage of the full value for three of his five professional wins.

There is still one more important piece of the formula and that’s the divisor.

The OWGR has determined that each player must have a minimum number of events and a maximum number of events, in order to protect players.

For instance, when Rahm won the Farmers a year ago he received 54 points. It was his 13th event and if 13 had been his divisor he would have had an OWGR total of 4.15, immediately placing him inside the top 20. Instead, to be more fair, it’s divided by the minimum number of 40 events played, giving him 1.35, which was around 110th (Rahm, though, had received enough points in his other 12 events that his win moved him to 46th in the OWGR at the time).

The maximum number is as important as the minimum. Many players compete in up to 60 events over the course of two years. Instead of hurting them by counting every event, the OWGR only counts the 52 most recent events in the 104-week cycle.

Why is the divisor so important? Because math. If a player wins a major (100 points) and has the minimum divisor, that major is worth 2.5 points (100/40). A player winning that same major who has the max divisor (52 events) only gains 1.92 points.

In the case of Rahm and Johnson, it’s Rahm who is taking advantage of his divisor in attaining maximum value for his play. Here’s a table of what it would look like after this week (again calculating for a Rahm win) to help explain:


  Dustin Johnson Jon Rahm
Total points earned:  960.82 557.26
OWGR valued points 493.08 433.39
OWGR divisor/events 46 40
Projected OWGR after Farmers 10.72 10.83

What’s amazing about these numbers is that Rahm is still maintaining 77.78 percent of his original value on the points that he’s earned. As we said earlier, three wins are 100 percent. His Irish Open win is 81.82 percent, while even his 2017 Farmers victory is still earning 56.5 percent of its original value.

On the other side, DJ is only maintaining 51.3 percent of his total points earned.

And there you have it. The math favors Rahm, who is still on the outset of his career. Eventually, it will hurt him. But, for now – and right now – Rahm has an opportunity to take all of these numbers and turn them into the world’s No. 1 ranking.

To do that, the scenario is quite simple: Win this week.