Day himself, not Spieth, biggest obstacle on Sunday

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2015, 2:50 am

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – There’s never been a better opportunity for Jason Day to shed the label of golf’s nearly man in the majors.

Yet to hear Day here at Whistling Straits, it’s clear that his biggest opponent Sunday isn’t the birdie-making phenom who seems hell-bent on capping an already historic season.

It is Day himself.

With a two-shot cushion over Jordan Spieth and his first solo 54-hole lead in a major, Day sounds as though he’s trying to talk himself into winning this PGA Championship, preaching “patience” and “discipline” and “focus.”

“It’s all the boring stuff, really, that you guys don’t want to hear,” he said, “but it’s really the honest truth that I’m trying to get out, because I can’t get in my own way.

“The moment I start seeing what Jordan is doing or what (Justin) Rose is doing or the guys behind me are doing, the moment I see I’ve made a mistake here, I should have done this, I get in my own way. And I can’t let that happen.”

If heartbreak is a prerequisite to major glory, consider Day fully qualified to break through.

Dustin Johnson often gets labeled as golf’s hard-luck loser, but no one has thrown himself into the fire more often than Day. This is the eighth time in his career that he’s been inside the top-5 in a major heading into the final round. All he has to show for it so far are learning experiences.


PGA Championship: Full-field scores


Though Day has earned his first multiple-win season on Tour, this year has been defined by his close calls in the majors.

First came the U.S. Open, where he shared the third-round lead despite a scary bout with vertigo.

Then, last month at St. Andrews, he soared into the lead but made 12 consecutive pars coming home – including a birdie putt on the last that he left short – to finish one shot out of a playoff. It was his ninth top-10 in a major since 2010.

“I’ve done all the hard work, especially over the last four or five years, to get to the point where I actually believe in myself,” he said, “to know that I’m one of the best players in the world and can beat anyone on my day.”

Day, 27, possesses a rare combination of power, finesse and moxie, and he sure looked ready to assume a leading role Saturday at Whistling Straits, recording six consecutive 3s on his card to stake himself to a two-shot lead.

Even Spieth, playing a few groups ahead, stopped to take notice of Day’s torrid run.

“I saw Jason was at 16 under,” Spieth said, “and I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. When is he going to slow down?’”

Soon, it turned out.

Day’s rally came to an end on 15, when he pulled his approach into a greenside bunker and needed two shots to escape, leading to a double bogey. He appeared poised to immediately bounce back from that mistake, smoking an into-the-wind, 260-yard 3-wood on the par-5 16th, but his ball trickled over the back of the green and into a gnarly lie near the collar.

“Looked like someone stood on the bloody ball,” he said.

Day made par on the easy hole, but showed some grit by running in a 27-footer on 17 to regain a two-shot lead.

Now comes the hard part.

He is the sixth player in history to hold at least a share of the 54-hole lead in three consecutive majors.

The other five guys won at least one major in that span – even the most tormented Australian of them all, Greg Norman.

“I think the hardest thing for a player is when they’re trying to close, they kind of get in their own way, start thinking to themselves if they can do it, if they can’t do it, is the shot too hard, is the shot too easy,” Day said. “A number of things can happen, especially on the final round of a major championship. I’ve done all the hard work right now to get into contention, to have this lead. So tomorrow I just need to be patient with myself, and I need to make sure that I stay disciplined with my targets.”

Trouble is, Day might already be overthinking his position.

Only a few minutes after Spieth ambled into media tent and talked about relishing another chance to win a major, it was announced that Day was postponing his media obligations so that he could sneak in a range session before dark.

As Day striped long irons in the fading daylight, his caddie/swing coach, Colin Swatton, crouched behind him and recorded cellphone video of each swing.

Day had just shot 66, with eight birdies and an eagle. Seriously, what else was there to work on?

“I’m really excited just to get to it tomorrow,” he said.

Denying Spieth in the final group Sunday would be a huge boost for a player still looking to realize his awesome potential.

No player in the game is as comfortable in his own skin as Spieth, a player who is keenly aware of his strengths and weaknesses, of how his body reacts in the most critical moments. Day is still learning, sometimes painfully, what it takes to close out tournaments. Seven times in his career he has held a 54-hole lead. Only once has he gone on to win, back in 2010.

“Sometimes it takes a while before you finally see how you’re supposed to do it,” he said. “It would be very gratifying. It’s delayed gratification, rather than just instant gratification, which most of us tend to want. But it’s the work and the process that we’ve put into our game to really build us up to the points or possible wins.”

For golf’s nearly man, the possibility of a breakthrough has never been greater.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.) 

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Teenager Im wins Web.com season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Web.com Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Web.com Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Web.com Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Web.com Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.


11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.


1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.