Day on the verge of taking over the golf world

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 19, 2015, 11:48 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Jason Day’s mind was clouded. His supercharged driver was misfiring. His focus was drifting.

“It really feels like I was shooting 80 out there compared to the last two days,” he said.

But just when it seemed like he was vulnerable, like he was losing control, like his big lead would be trimmed to only a few shots, he drained a cold-blooded 20-footer on the 18th hole to restore order to this BMW Championship.

Day wasn’t perfect Saturday; his four bogeys were two more than in his previous two rounds combined. But it’s a testament to his level of play – and the difficulty of the course in a northern wind – that he still increased his lead, from five shots to six, after a 2-under 69. It's the largest 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour this season.

“Playing the way he is,” Rickie Fowler said, “there’s not a whole lot we can do unless the tournament goes into seven, eight, nine, 10 rounds.”

Even then it might not matter.

With another victory Sunday, Day would join Tiger Woods (10 times) and Vijay Singh as the only players in the last 20 years to win five or more events in a season. He will also achieve a career goal by reaching No. 1 in the world.

“I think this was one of the more important rounds to get through,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over, and I extended the lead by one more shot. I’m pretty happy with how things are going.”

And how things ended.

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Worse in every statistical category on Saturday, he hardly resembled the player who shot 18-under 124 here and tied a PGA Tour scoring mark.

He found only half of the fairways – a crucial mistake when they were playing preferred lies – and pumped one tee shot out of bounds.

He hit only 11 greens – three less than in each of his previous two rounds.

He failed to get up and down on three occasions.

And his course management wasn’t as sound either, whether it was the “horrible” play off the tee on the short 15th (which led to a bogey) or a layup in the rough on the par-5 finisher.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter.

After receiving two-and-a-half inches of rain Friday, Conway Farms surrendered plenty of red numbers but nothing absurdly low because of the north breeze and more difficult hole locations.

Said Day of his 69: “I really feel like I got everything that I possibly could out of today’s round. That was the best score I could have shot.”

He is at 20-under 193, six clear of Scott Piercy and rookie Daniel Berger.

The only hope the field has is if Day backs up, but that seems highly unlikely, especially on the rain-softened course.

Day has played 33 rounds since early June. He has signed for an over-par score in only two of them. In other words, it’ll take a super-low round to even challenge him.

“It’s almost playing golf darn near perfect,” Fowler said.

Though Day has a suspect record with a 54-hole lead – 3-for-9 – he has closed out his last two victories, including at the PGA. Coughing up a six-shot advantage would tie a Tour record.

And besides, Day will be plenty motivated Sunday.

He is looking for his third win in his last four starts, and fourth in his last six. That run has put him squarely in the mix for the No. 1 ranking – one of his lifelong dreams. He will seize the top spot with a victory, no matter how Rory McIlroy (4th) or Jordan Spieth (T-11) finish.

“This kid must be eating trophies for breakfast,” Piercy said. “I’d love to know what he’s having.”

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.