Hooks & Cuts: Golf part of major sports weekend

By Rich LernerApril 28, 2015, 1:00 pm

With the Masters behind us, golf's stars are in full bloom and hopefully just in time for a big weekend in sports.

• One veteran Tour pro described Jordan Spieth this way: “He’s a really good kid but between the ropes an absolute bad a@@.” That rhymes with mass, as in mass appeal.

• On a weekend featuring Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, LeBron and likely D-Rose in the NBA playoffs, and American Pharoah and Dortmund at the Kentucky Derby, golf could use Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth in Match Play primetime.

• Dustin Johnson is 50 shades of cool. He doesn’t walk as much as he ambles, golf’s high plains drifter. The game seems easy for DJ, the harder battles fought within.

• I saw Steph Curry go for 39 in New Orleans, and I’m comfortable saying that in my more than 40 years following pro ball he’s one of the best I have ever seen. Dribbling, passing and shooting, he’s made the game high art. By the way, his pop, Del, shot 78 at English Turn earlier that day. Blessed with touch, the Curry family puts up nice numbers.

• For what it’s worth, Tim Barter, Sky Sports commentator and respected golf instructor, thinks Tiger’s closer to the Butch Harmon move from 2000 than he’s been in a long time. He also told me that Tiger’s comeback from what appeared to be chip yips was an enormous psychological victory for Woods. Bottom line, Barter, a no-nonsense type who’s covered the game for years, feels Tiger’s on his way back.

• Wednesdays may not be as tense as they used to be in the one-and-done days of the Match Play, but Saturday and Sunday should be much better.

• Keegan Bradley says his ceiling is much higher as a putter with the conventional method than it was with the anchored style. Alignment was easier with the big stick, but his feel is superior with the new approach.

• I’d love to hear Howard Cosell bellowing, “Down goes Mayweather, down goes Mayweather, down goes Mayweather.”

• If Jim Furyk were a fighter, he’d be the guy with excellent ring generalship.

• Steady and strong, organized and smart, Justin Rose may well be like Furyk in another 10 years, on the cusp of, or into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

• Lydia Ko and Spieth: They’re thinkers, not bombers. How refreshing.

• It was a good week for golf in China, and therefore a good week for golf, in general. Wu Ashun became the first Chinese player to win a European Tour event on his home soil at the Volvo China Open. Plus, 19 year old Li Hao-Tong contended throughout. On top of all that, Woods rolled into China on a promotional trip and gave basketball legend Yao Ming a golf lesson. When you’re 7’6” as Yao is, can you ever get comfortable over the ball? Seriously, Yao is one of China’s most popular figures and just the sight of him swinging a club could give golf a boost there. Yao against Charles Barkley on the links could be fun, too.

• Speith is suddenly golf’s American idol. Funny, 25 years ago moms and dads wanted to be like Mike. Now they want their kids to be like Jordan.

• On the mic for the big fight this weekend, Jim Lampley once called golf. He now owns the boxing space, a modern day Don Dunphy. On my all-time list of play-by-players, Vin Scully does baseball, Curt Gowdy pro football, Keith Jackson college football, Marv Albert basketball and the late, great Flyers’ announcer Gene Hart does hockey. And I also happened to like a young Vince McMahon with Gorilla Monsoon on pro wrasslin’.

Getty Images

Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x