FedEx fatigue taking hold at Crooked Stick

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 9, 2016, 11:24 pm

CARMEL, Ind. – What does FedEx Cup fatigue look like?

It’s Matt Kuchar, trudging to the scoring area with his hat pulled over his face.

It’s Jordan Spieth, screaming “Fore!” four times in a five-hole span.

And it’s Rickie Fowler, stomping around in the bushes after tugging a drive way left. He was so far left on the fourth hole, in fact, that Justin Thomas, following along online with the shot-by-shot tracker, paused to consider whether he, too, should take that route, because Fowler surely knew of some better angle to go that far off-line.

“Then he got up to the tee,” Fowler said, “and saw where I had hit it. He was like, ‘Oh, jeez.’”

Suffice to say, Fowler is among the many players in dire need of a break next week.

The BMW Championship is the third event in a row in these FedEx Cup Playoffs, which has turned the postseason into a battle of endurance as much as skill.

With the condensed schedule because of the Olympics, players braced themselves for a long, grueling year. In the past 86 days, there have been three majors, one World Golf Championship, the Games and three playoff events. That’s a lot of important golf, and now it has begun to take its toll.

Henrik Stenson, who has been dealing with a knee injury, withdrew from the BMW to rest up for the Ryder Cup, even though he was in position to advance to the Tour Championship. (He is now projected 35th in points.)

Justin Rose feels Stenson’s pain, though not literally. The Olympic gold medalist has been running on fumes in recent weeks and, barring a weekend miracle, won’t advance to East Lake for the first time since 2009.

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“You could look at my performance and say I’m dragging,” he said. “You can’t do it all. I focus on the majors. I focus on the Olympics. I’m happy to sacrifice this for a season. It’s the way it is. You can’t do it all the time.”

Rose still isn’t fully fit after suffering a back injury in the spring. By missing the FedEx Cup cut, he’ll have two weeks off before the Ryder Cup, one of the longest weeks of the year.

“It’s not the end of the world,” he said of not reaching the Tour Championship. “It might turn out to be a good thing, Ryder Cup-wise.”

Unlike Rose, Fowler is squarely on the FedEx Cup bubble – he’s projected No. 30 through two rounds – which only adds to the stress.

Desperate to make the Ryder Cup team, Fowler added the Wyndham Championship as an emergency start, but it made a hectic year even more so. It’s the first time since his rookie year that he’s played five events in a row.

World No. 1 Jason Day said his “threshold” for consecutive starts is three. Any more than that, he said, and he begins to make mental errors because of fatigue. (Note: This is Day’s third event in a row, and he is currently 10 shots off the lead.)

“Three is a really good number,” Fowler said. “Four gets tough. And five is very tough. I’m not saying that you can’t go play well. Guys have won in their 12th and 13th week in a row, and by no means is it an excuse, to be like, 'Oh, this is why I’m playing bad.'

“But yeah, I’m fatigued. It’s tough to grind it out mentally week in and week out when you play multiple weeks in a row.”

Fowler had one goal in mind during this stretch – to make the Ryder Cup team. But he has only one finish better than 22nd during this span, and it was his blown 54-hole lead at the Barclays. So, really, has he helped or hurt his cause with this exhausting run of golf?

His Olympic teammates should be just as worn out. Bubba Watson is playing for the sixth time in seven weeks; Patrick Reed for the seventh time in eight weeks; and Kuchar for the eighth time in nine weeks.

How does the fatigue manifest itself on the course? Every player is different, of course, but for Fowler …

“It’s in little mistakes, dumb mistakes, stupid mistakes – stuff that makes you go, ‘Why the heck did I just do that? How the heck did that just happen?’” he said. “If you’re playing well, it’s easy and you just kind of cruise along and it’s not mentally taxing. But it’s tougher when you’re not fresh.”

He was quick to remind that it’s not an excuse, that every time he plays he must be ready to compete against the world’s best. But his body and mind need a break.

“I am really looking forward to a week off next week,” he said.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.