Hogan would have approved of Kisner

By Rex HoggardMay 28, 2017, 11:44 pm

“When I practiced, I practiced to get it right.” - Ben Hogan

FORT WORTH, Texas – Just the other side of the Fort Worth railhead at Shady Oaks Country Club, that famously truncated notion from the Hawk is engraved on a plaque under the famous tree where Hogan would spend hours looking for answers.

It gives some insight into why Hogan was the Hawk, a perfectionist with a singular focus to hone an action, the golf swing, that defies such lofty ideals.

It also provides an interesting comparison to Kevin Kisner’s Sunday display at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational. Although Kisner would never be confused for Hogan – and, in truth, he doesn’t have much interest in such historical things – but his final-round performance was something straight out of “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” Hogan’s seminal take on the golf swing.

At Hogan’s Alley – one of three similarly named places, actually – Kisner was first in the field in fairways hit (40 of 56) and second in greens hit in regulation (53 of 72) on his way to a 10-under 270 total and a one-stroke victory over defending champion Jordan Spieth, Sunday staple Jon Rahm and Sean O’Hair.

But beyond his tee-to-green play what was truly Hogan-esque was Kisner’s dogged attitude at Colonial.

After starting the day three strokes behind 54-hole front-runner Webb Simpson, Kisner made the turn at 7 under, two strokes clear on an increasingly crowded leaderboard.

“At the turn I was handing him a new golf ball and he said, ‘Give me one that will go 5 under,’” said Kisner’s caddie, Duane "Dewey" Bock.

Kisner would manage only a 3-under closing loop, but it turned out to be enough for his second PGA Tour victory.

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It was a torrid stretch of three consecutive birdies at Nos. 10-12, a run that included 55 feet of made putts, that moved Kisner into the lead. Despite a bogey at the 16th hole when his tee shot ran past the flag and into the fringe, the 33-year-old salvaged a par from the collection area behind the 18th green for victory.

Earlier in the week Kisner was asked where Colonial ranks on his list of favorite courses on Tour.

“Top 5, if not the best,” he said. “I love Hilton Head just because it's a home game pretty much, but this is just like what I grew up on. Tight, small greens. You got to fit it in windows of not a lot of long irons into holes, which we've become accustomed to on the PGA Tour.”

But don’t confuse affinity for comfort. Asked if he’s uncomfortable on any shots, he quickly explained, “Oh, there is tons. [No. 13] nobody wants to hit that shot where that pin is and into the wind. You know, 5, nobody likes that hole either, but it's just a great hole.”

While most of the Tour frat brothers like courses that fit their eye or games, for Kisner it’s the unique challenge of Colonial that makes it stand out from the parade of sprawling ballparks the circuit normally visits.

Similarly, it was the situation, almost as much as the result, which made Sunday at Colonial worthwhile for Kisner. A player who can admittedly become complacent if a title isn’t on the line, he thrives in situations like the final round in Texas.

Throughout the closing nine, three players loomed within a shot of the lead, with Spieth blinking first with a missed 12-footer for birdie at the 17th hole.

The biggest challenge, and perhaps incentive, was Rahm, who was paired with Kisner on Day 4. The first-year Tour player played Colonial his way, which is with a driver and no small amount of bravado, and pulled to within a shot of the lead with a 6-footer for birdie at the 17th hole.

But the Spaniard, who now has seven top-10 finishes this season in just 14 starts, failed to convert from 12 feet at the last for a birdie that would have forced overtime.

It was the kind of head-to-head duel with an undisputed heavyweight that seems to bring out the best in Kisner.

“He's a little bit of a bulldog. Kind of reminds me of Corey Pavin a little bit. A little bit of a chip on his shoulder seems like,” said Steve Stricker, who was paired with Kisner for Rounds 1 and 2 this week and will captain this year’s U.S. Presidents Cup team.

Where the Hogan comparison splits with Kisner was clear on the 18th green, when he calmly rolled in the game-winner from 5 feet for par. The champion would finish the week third in strokes gained: putting. The Hawk famously dismissed the importance of putting in golf, but the practice comparison remains.

“Our whole motto has been that we know what we need to do to get better, so every day we have to do our job and only our job. Any detours make us worse,” said Kisner’s swing coach, John Tillery. “A detour is a day we didn't get better. So, no experiments, no excuses, no, ‘What about if I tried this or felt that?’ Do your crap and go home. Period.”

Hogan would like that.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.

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With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

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Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.