For now, PGA still last shot for golf's big shots

By Ryan LavnerAugust 9, 2017, 6:20 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Better savor this while we can, a PGA Championship that stays true to its identity as golf’s final major.

That won’t be true in two years, after one of the sport’s worst-kept secrets was made public: Beginning in 2019, the PGA will slide from its traditional August date to the third week in May.

The benefits look good on a PowerPoint presentation – ending the season before football begins, opening up venues around the country and offering five consecutive months of big-time tournaments – but there’s no doubt that the PGA’s core identity will change.

That’s a shame, because this week offers a reminder of precisely what makes this tournament unique. It’s the final opportunity to bag a major before eight months of reflection and excruciating buildup.

For Rory McIlroy, that means one last shot to reaffirm his status as golf’s alpha dog.

For Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, it’s one last shot to redeem a lost major season.

And for Jordan Spieth, well, it’s one last shot to make this a historic year.

This week he has a chance to – all together now – become the sixth player to complete the career Grand Slam, and at 24, he’d be the youngest to accomplish the feat.

Listening to Spieth, though, you’d never know what’s at stake. Perhaps in an effort to deflect attention, he opined that he isn’t the favorite this week – your serve, Rory – nor is he burdened by the possibilities in front of him.


PGA Championship: Tee times | Full coverage


Become the youngest to win all four majors? Nope, not a “burning desire.”

Check off the Grand Slam on his career to-do list? Eh, there’s plenty of time – this is his first of 30 PGAs.

Already with a major this year, Spieth is approaching this week with the casualness of a Panthers preseason game.

“I’m free-rolling,” he said, “and it feels good. I’m as free and relaxed at a major as I think I’ve ever felt.”

Must be nice, because the scrutiny of McIlroy has rarely been this intense.

What could have been a monster season has been reduced to a “transitional” year after a rib injury, a wedding, an equipment change and a caddie split. And yet here we are, at Quail Hollow, in a major that seems like his destiny ever since it was announced in 2010. In seven career trips around this place, McIlroy has two wins, a playoff loss and three other finishes inside the top 10.

“Once you go back to a place where you do have great memories,” he said, “all that starts to come flooding back to you and it makes you feel good about yourself.”

On Wednesday, McIlroy carried drives 365 yards (with only 7 feet of curve!) and cracked 3-woods three bills off the deck, rendering the range useless. Historically, Quail Hollow has been the launching pad for some of the best driving performances of his career, but all of that firepower will be of little use if he can’t control his wedges.

Last week at Firestone, he pounded driver all over the lot and had 35 approach shots from inside 125 yards. He played those holes in – gulp – 4 under par. From 125-150 yards, McIlroy would rank dead last in proximity to the hole this season if he had enough rounds to qualify.

This week, he has added a 3-iron but eliminated one of his wedges, a curious move, because it leaves a six-degree gap (48, 54 and 60) that will require even more precision with his shorter clubs.

Now three years removed from his last major title – and with his chief rival, Spieth, claiming three in that span – there is a sense of urgency for McIlroy to reassert his authority, even if the former Boy Wonder continues to stress patience.

“I don’t want to be in the mindset this week of wanting to make any type of statement or go out and prove myself. I’m past that point,” he said. “I’ve proven myself over the last nine years of my career.”

So have Johnson and Day, but unlike in previous years they’ve fallen flat in the majors in 2017.

Running off three titles in a row, and playing the best golf of his life, Johnson entered the Masters as the prohibitive favorite. Then he slipped on a set of stairs, injuring his back, defusing his explosive driver and leading to a string of middling results, a rarity for one of the game’s most consistent performers. Now, though, he says that his body feels good. And so does his swing. And so, most importantly, does his driver.

“I feel it’s close to when I was playing really well before Augusta,” Johnson said, but failing to snag major No. 2, or at least contend, would be a disappointment for a player who this spring appeared on the verge of utter domination.

Day, meanwhile, admitted that he’s still searching, that he’s growing increasingly impatient with the “plateau” in his game that has dropped his world ranking from No. 1 to No. 7 in the past six months. His slide is most noticeable in the big events: He has posted 10 major top-10s since 2013, but this year hasn’t finished better than 22nd.

“You’re not panicking or anything,” he said, “you’re just wondering why. You’re up at night thinking, OK, what do I need to do to get back to that winning form?”

Day posed that question to Phil Mickelson Tuesday night at the PGA Champions Dinner. Mickelson explained that the key to busting out of a slump is to keep practicing and stay disciplined, because players at this level are usually one small tweak away.

“You just never know what’s around the corner,” Day said.

Well, what we do know is that after this week, there isn’t a career-defining event for the next eight months. That’s the subtle beauty of the PGA. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.

THE MAJORS

Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish

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U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)

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The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself

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PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS

AT&T Pebble Beach

Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

Travelers Championship

Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts


FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE


PHOTO GALLERIES

Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret

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Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."