Johnson, Spieth, Reed making Match Play look easy

By Ryan LavnerMarch 26, 2016, 12:35 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Is your head still spinning from all of the points and the playoffs, the standings and the scenarios?

At least Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson and Patrick Reed have made it easy on us: Three days, three matches, three wins … and they’ve trailed for a total of one hole.

Friday at the WGC-Dell Match Play was all about survival, but it turned into another stress-free round for Spieth, Johnson and Reed.

Spieth, the hometown favorite and No. 1 overall seed, disposed of friend and rival Justin Thomas, 3 and 2, to punch his ticket to the round of 16.

Johnson enjoyed another blowout – this time a 4-and-3 victory over Shane Lowry – that left enough time to scout the last three holes.  

But it was Reed who starred on the third and final day of group play. Playing in one of the four winner-take-all matches, Reed turned the day’s most-anticipated duel into a rout, thumping Phil Mickelson, 5 and 4, to remain unbeaten.

Neither Spieth (46 holes) nor Reed (47) have trailed at any point this week; Johnson lost the first hole during his second-round match against Martin Kaymer – and then went on to win, 8 and 6.

Reed was asked if it’s felt as easy as he’s made it look.

“I wish,” he said with a laugh.

On Friday, he jumped all over Mickelson after Lefty butchered the first two holes to fall into an early hole. Staked to a quick lead, Reed poured it on, making birdie on the fourth and fifth holes, and then eagling No. 6 after dropping a 44-footer. Six up at the turn, Reed holed a 95-yard wedge shot to provide the exclamation point.

All Mickelson could do was walk up to Reed and give him a fist-bump.

Reed’s three days here have reinforced the belief that he’s one of the best match-play performers in the world, his skills honed at Augusta State – where he went 6-0 in match play during a back-to-back NCAA title run – and then strengthened two years ago at Gleneagles, when he posted a 3-0-1 record and was one of the few bright spots during another U.S. loss.

“I relish every time I get to go in this format and go up against one guy,” he said. “It’s something that I love and something I’m pretty good at – just going out and getting in a dogfight.” 

WGC-Dell Match Play: Full coverage | Bracket

Reed’s dominance has overshadowed the superb play of Johnson, who has made such quick work of his competition this week that he played the 16th, 17th and 18th holes Friday afternoon for practice because he hasn’t needed to play them during a match.

His stellar play isn’t a surprise – he’s coming off a top-10 last week at Bay Hill and Austin CC, this event’s new home, is a strategic Pete Dye layout that rewards steady golf and strong iron play, both of which are Johnson’s strengths.

That’s what makes his Round of 16 match against Rory McIlroy all the more compelling, because it’s a fun clash of styles.

McIlroy, the defending champion, is riding a 10-match winning streak in this event, but he has needed to rally in each of his first three matches here. The latest comeback came Friday against Kevin Na, in a win-or-go-home match that went 20 holes and ended when Na hooked his tee shot into the hazard.

“It’s a sigh of relief,” McIlroy said.

Spieth was pleased just to get past Thomas, his college rival and one of his best friends on Tour.

“We were in a tricky situation,” Spieth said. “I know he wanted to beat me pretty bad. And that made it a tough match for us.”

No one has played fewer holes this week than Jason Day, a dose of good fortune after he injured his back during his opening match. He played only six holes Friday, with Paul Casey conceding the match because of a stomach virus.

“I’ll take it,” Day said with a smile.

It's the first time since 2006 that the top three seeds reached the round of 16.

The final day of pool play wasn’t as chaotic as anticipated. There were only four sudden-death playoffs to determine a group winner, and only seven matches of significance reached the 18th hole.

Eight of the 16 top seeds advanced to the weekend, including each member of the so-called Big 3. The biggest surprise was 63rd-seeded Patton Kizzire, who defeated Emiliano Grillo, 2 up, to emerge from a stacked group that included big-hitting Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes. A late addition to the tournament, the PGA Tour rookie is only the fourth player in the last decade seeded 61st or worse who made the round of 16.

Saturday begins the knockout stage of the tournament, as the Match Play reverts to its simplest form: Win or go home.

“It only gets harder from here,” Reed cautioned.

Unless, of course, he never trails.

Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai

By Grill Room TeamNovember 18, 2017, 5:20 pm

While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.

Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai

By Associated PressNovember 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.

The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.

The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.

Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.

''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.

Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.

Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.

''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''

The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.

Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.

''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon: