Putting a wrap on a stellar West Coast swing

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2016, 1:00 pm

LOS ANGELES – Before the year’s final redeye flight, it’s time for a few West Coast revelations. From Maui to Monterey, the PGA Tour’s annual Left Coast swing didn’t disappoint.

Most improved. When the WGC-Match Play Championship packed up and headed east (Austin, Texas) for the warmer confines of spring it left a hole in the West Coast lineup that was filled by the circuit’s annual soiree to Tinsel Town.

With five of the world’s top 10 players and 60 world ranking points going to the Northern Trust Open winner, the Los Angeles stop wasn’t just the best event on the West Coast this year, but the deepest field in golf in 2016.

“This is definitely going to be a regular for me on the schedule going forward. I really enjoyed it so much,” said Rory McIlroy, who played Riviera for the first time. “The golf course is great, but the area, staying in Santa Monica and having the beach there, there's so many great things to do.”

West Coast dreaming. Whether you count Hideki Matsuyama’s victory over Rickie Fowler at the Waste Management Phoenix Open as an upset – the Japanese player was ranked 19th in the world when he outdueled Fowler in a playoff – the Left Coast produced its share of surprise champions.

Fabian Gomez stunned Brandt Snedeker to win the Sony Open and Vaughn Taylor (above) won for the first time in more than a decade at Pebble Beach when he finished a stroke ahead of four-time Crosby winner Phil Mickelson.

The new time zones also helped change the narrative for the 30-somethings. Five of the seven West Coast winners were in there 30s, including the last two Watson (37) and Taylor (39).

Bon Appétit. West Coast exit fare normally starts with fish tacos at the Brigantine in Del Mar, Calif., the week of the Farmers Insurance Open, and ends with a late-night dinner at In-N-Out Burger (double-double, animal-style, please).

But new digs emerged this year at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Slappy Cakes in Lahaina, Hawaii, is worth the 13-hour trip from the East Coast.

The Hawaiian pancakes with banana, pineapple, macadamia nuts and whipped cream are the perfect remedy for jetlag.

Tale of two Jordans. Jordan Spieth won by eight strokes to start his year in Maui and missed the cut by five shots after an opening-round 79 at Riviera.

In between he showed flashes of inspired play mixed with mediocre results, all of which seemed to be the likely byproduct of a hectic schedule that stretched from Hawaii to the United Arab Emirates and back to California.

Bounding up the hill two steps at a time following his second-round 68 at Riviera, however, he seemed to suggest he wasn’t too worried as golf inches toward the major championship season.

“I guess Rory is considering this the start of his run to the Masters. This was not my start to the run at the Masters. Mine will start the next time,” he smiled.

Something Left. For a guy who has won more on the West Coast than anyone not named Tiger, Phil Mickelson likely wouldn’t consider this year’s swing a victory, be it moral or otherwise.

But after a difficult few years, his tie for third at the CareerBuilder Challenge and runner-up showing at Pebble Beach were signs of progress for a player that doesn’t have much left to prove.

Torrey tough. Snedeker likely shot the round of the year (69) in brutal conditions on Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open, not that many will remember by the time we reach September.

To put Sneds’ final round in perspective, he beat the field average by 8.9 strokes, which was the most shots better than the field by a winner in the last 20 years on Tour.

“It's like playing a British Open on a U.S. Open setup. This course is so tough, it's blowing 25 mph, gusting out there and windy and rainy conditions, it's really tough,” Snedeker said following his final round.

Snedeker had to wait nearly 24 hours after completing his round before being able to hoist the hardware, but at least he wasn’t on that golf course any longer.

Maui magic. They say timing is everything, which should be good news for the folks at Kapalua who enjoyed the deepest field in a decade as well as an endearing champion in Spieth.

After Hyundai announced it would replace Northern Trust as a title sponsor of the Los Angeles stop next year, that left the folks in Maui searching for a replacement title.

The good news for fans of sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and whale watching is after one of its most successful years in recent memory the Tour’s year opener will be an easier sell to any potential replacement.

405’ed. Kudos to the Northern Trust Open folks and tournament director O.D. Vincent for transforming the L.A. stop into a must-play event, but logistically the tournament ranks just behind the likes of Bethpage Black and Merion in degree of difficulty.

There’s not an event on Tour that challenges one’s patience, both on and off the golf course, like Riviera.

“If someone compares the traffic in [Atlanta] with LA you know one thing about that person. They've either never been to [Atlanta] or never been to LA,” Roberto Castro tweeted on Friday.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.