Kisner's hole-out sends Zurich to Monday playoff

By Ryan LavnerMay 1, 2017, 1:17 am

AVONDALE, La. – With daylight and his team’s hopes fading, Kevin Kisner had only one thought as he lined up his 30-yard pitch shot on 18.

Don't leave it short.

His chip from the front of the green clanked off the flagstick and dropped for an unlikely eagle-3, stunning the team of Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith and pushing the Zurich Classic into a Monday finish for the second consecutive year.

The sudden-death playoff will begin at 9 a.m. ET, live on Golf Channel.

“It’s one of those shots you dream about,” Kisner said afterward.

It was a wild final round at TPC Louisiana, even before Kisner’s heroics.

Four shots down to start the day, Kisner and partner Scott Brown looked unstoppable early on Sunday, rattling off six birdies in a row, including five on Kisner’s own ball.

Then came the horn, and a six-hour, 22-minute weather delay in the first team event on the PGA Tour in 36 years.

Of course, Team Aiken doesn’t get perturbed by much, especially not something as unpredictable as weather, and so Kisner spent some of the break in the clubhouse with his feet propped up on Jordan Spieth’s bag.

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“We didn’t do much strategizing,” Kisner said. “We know each other so well that we knew the game plan was to go make a ton of birdies. Every time we made one, I kept saying, 'Let’s birdie the next one, buddy.'”

Meanwhile, the suspension offered a much-needed break for Blixt and Smith, who used the delay as an opportunity to regroup.

After sailing through the first three days, the overnight leaders had sputtered out of the gates, staying bogey-free but mustering only one birdie over the first six holes. Despite their relative struggles, and their red-hot playing competitors, they still enjoyed a three-shot cushion over the rest of the field.

By the time play resumed, at 5:30 p.m. ET, most of the fans had gone home, sent packing after a round of severe storms dumped more than 2 ½ inches of rain on TPC Louisiana.

They missed quite a finish.

Kisner-Brown went out in 28 and took a two-shot lead. They added birdies on 10 and 11 but struggled to adjust to the slower speed of the greens, recording six consecutive pars midway through the back nine. 

Blixt and Smith took advantage, making 5-foot birdies on 16 and 17 to grab a one-shot lead heading to the par-5 18th.

Smith appeared poised to seal the victory and earn his first Tour title, after he played a deft pitch from 57 yards that nestled within 2 feet of the cup. 

But as Kisner studied his 94-footer, using only the light from the video board in the middle of the pond, Brown walked by and told his partner: “Just knock it right in. You’ve already chipped in twice today, so one more time wouldn’t hurt.”

With nothing to lose, Kisner went flag hunting.

“All I was trying to do was make sure I didn’t leave it short, and I couldn’t see much,” he said. “I knew it was breaking a little right, and when it hit the flag, I said, ‘Don’t you come out of there.’”

The eagle capped a 12-under 60 and forced a playoff at 27 under par. It also touched off a spirited celebration from Kisner, who flung his wedge into the air and whirled his arms, as if trying to take flight.

“It was a good shot,” Smith said.

“Honestly, I didn’t really expect that,” said Blixt, after his team shot a closing 64, “but that’s part of golf. You’ve got to expect the unexpected. We get another shot at it tomorrow, and we’ve just got to leave this behind and go out there and make birdie or eagle tomorrow on 18 and try to win this tournament.”

It’s the second consecutive year that the Zurich has gone into a fifth day, after last year’s event was shortened to 54 holes because of weather.

Monday’s finale should have decidedly more drama.

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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 engaging 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 WGCC-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.