McIlroy too good for Mickelson, Fowler, Stenson

By Ryan LavnerAugust 11, 2014, 3:28 am

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One by one they trudged across the dimly lit back patio at Valhalla, their faces flush from the humidity, the exhaustion and, yes, the frustration.

The challenge in chasing down Rory McIlroy is that it requires near-flawless golf, and not even some of the biggest names in the game could keep pace Sunday at the 96th PGA Championship.

Phil Mickelson, a five-time major winner, cracked.

So did Rickie Fowler, who finished in the top 5 in all four majors this season.

Ditto for Henrik Stenson, the No. 3-ranked player in the world.

Rory? Oh, he cracked all right – a 281-yard 3-wood into the 10th, leading to a game-changing eagle. On 16, one of the last trouble holes, he uncorked a 331-yard drive (the longest of the day by 17 yards) to turn out the lights.   

For years, the careers of even the most extravagantly talented were stunted by Tiger Woods’ dominance. Now, there is a new master in McIlroy, a player who has proven adept at both blowing out and outlasting the field.

Forget the muted annoyance of the four-ball finish. For these nearly-men, they bemoaned another well-played major that still wasn’t enough.

Start with Mickelson, who only eight days earlier was so despondent about his game that he said a good round would have to come “out of nowhere.” What a remarkable turn of events, then, because in the past week he shot a Sunday 62 at Firestone; posted consecutive 67s to put himself in the penultimate group at the PGA; and then held a share of the lead at Valhalla with three holes to play.

As thrilling as it was to see Lefty charge into the lead, it was equally deflating the way he kicked it away. Twenty yards short of the 16th green, he hit his pitch shot too hard and then left the 10-foot par putt short.  

“Costly,” he said.

To win, Mickelson figured he needed a back-nine 32 – in total, a final-round 63 – and indeed, that score would have won by two. He just wasn’t sharp enough to capture major No. 6.

In fact, Mickelson said repeatedly that he needed to “regroup” after this year – to focus on his driving and short irons, areas that once were strengths but now have held him back. Like what happened on No. 4, when he had 74 yards to the flag for his approach. In the past, he would have thought about holing that shot. On Sunday, the best he could do was 16 feet.

“Pathetic,” he said. “Things like that have been happening this year, and I can’t let that happen anymore.”

With only a four- or five-year window remaining, he realizes he can’t be average in those areas and remain competitive, especially in this new world order.

“These next three or four months will be critical for me to make sure that I address the issues and be ready to go for 2015,” he said.

Meanwhile, the future has never looked brighter for Fowler, whose game finally matches the garish outfits.

Four majors produced four chances. The 25-year-old admittedly wasn’t ready to win when he entered the final round of the Masters only two shots back, and a Sunday 73 left him well behind. He was in the final group at both summer Opens, but to win he needed both an all-world performance and a historic collapse.

This major?

“I really felt like I could win this one,” Fowler said, which is why there was more pain than pride when he came off the course, his 14-under 270 two shots shy.

Now considered a big-game hunter, his back-nine performance Sunday will provide plenty of motivation this offseason.

First, there was the uncommitted swing on 14 that led to a bogey. Then the approach into 17 that he didn’t hit cleanly, despite a perfect club (9-iron) and number (161 yards). And finally the three-putt from long range on 18 in near darkness.

Yes, Fowler became only the third player in the modern era to post a top 5 in all four majors in a season, but Tiger and Jack are in a different league – at least they won one during those magical seasons.

“This is probably the one that hurts the most for me,” Fowler said. “This one I felt like I could go out today and win it.”

Stenson’s expectations were tempered not only because of his position (four back) but also because of the player he was chasing – a high-powered birdie machine who typically moves only one direction: Forward.

McIlroy’s flat start and Stenson’s front-nine surge (30) gave the Swede a chance for a long-awaited major title, but his rally-killing three-putt on 14 dropped him out of the lead, and a mud ball in the 18th fairway ended any hopes for a closing eagle.

Against a player like McIlroy, every miscue is magnified. 

“I gave my all on every shot and every hole,” Stenson said. “That’s all you can do.”

In this new age, against this new king, even that won’t always be enough. 

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."