Wild weather continues to be a factor on PGA Tour

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2013, 11:11 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – They don’t keep official statistics for such things, but it’s safe to assume Mother Nature is staked to a commanding lead at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

A bitterly cold morning that began with ominous clouds soon became a sideways rain that eventually turned into a heavy snow, coating the fairways and greens at Dove Mountain on Wednesday and reducing grown men to snowball fights and amateur photography.

Brent Henley, Robert Garrigus’ caddie, laid down and made a snow angel.

A few other loopers scurried to the top balcony of the clubhouse, found the best angle of attack and lobbed snowballs at their unsuspecting colleagues.

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Every player with a smartphone posted a photo on social media.

As for Jason Day, who authored one of the most impressive performances Wednesday?

“Well, there’s a bunch of yummy chocolates in (the locker room),” he said, “and you just sit there and eat chocolates and drink a lot of Coca-Cola.”

Sure, it was fun and games and gorging on snacks, but it also was some of the wackiest weather a few longtime Tour observers have ever seen. Asked where this ranks on his personal list of weird-weather occurrences, Mark Russell, who has worked for the Tour for the past 30-plus years, nodded his head and said softly, “It’s right there.”

Russell has gotten plenty of face time this season, which is always an alarming sign for golf fans. Already this year there has been a wind (Kapalua), fog (Torrey Pines) and now a snow delay. Next week the Tour heads east for the Florida Swing. Tour officials would be wise to brace for a locust attack.

Though unusual, this isn’t the first time it has snowed at a Tour event. In fact, in the last 40 years, it has snowed six times – four of which, incredibly, have come in the Tucson area. That includes the 2011 Match Play final here, when Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer awoke that Sunday morning to a dusting of snow and were delayed, albeit briefly, by a sleet-coated fairway.

Oh, was this different.

About an inch and a half of snow fell before play was officially called for the day at 1:05 p.m. local time. None of the 32 first-round matches were completed. Twenty of the 64 players have yet to reach the first green, including Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who were still an hour away from teeing off.

At least Webb Simpson hit a shot – OK, one. He smacked his opening tee shot, only to hear the horn sound to signal the suspension of play. So he marched down the fairway to mark his ball, then retreated – quickly – to the clubhouse as heavy snow and sleet began to fall.

Such conditions reminded the reigning U.S. Open champion of a college tournament in Las Vegas. During a delay, Simpson and his Wake Forest teammates purchased toboggans in the pro shop and charged them to the head coach’s credit card. “He wasn’t happy about it,” he said.

The snow also brought back good memories for Vermont’s own Keegan Bradley, once an avid skier who now must be considered one of the favorites here at Dove Mountain, especially if the Match Play becomes a slalom competition. Yes, he has played in snowy conditions “a million times,” but of Wednesday’s match against Marcus Fraser (in which he is all square through three holes), Bradley said, “This was pretty bad.”

Not like the players were ill-prepared. Day wore four layers of clothing, and said afterward that only the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George’s posed worse conditions. Of course, he seemed unaffected by the frigid conditions Wednesday. He went out in 4-under 32, including concessions, and built a 6-up lead over Zach Johnson with eight holes to play.

Justin Rose was on a similar tear, jumping out to a 4-up lead through five, only to lose a few holes and take a 2-up advantage into the back nine.

“It’s been amazing how accurate the forecast has been,” said Rose, uttering words never before spoken. “They’ve been talking about snow for about four days, and pretty much at 11, the forecast time, boom, it was down and the end of the day.”

After play was called, Tour meteorologist Stewart Williams soon arrived at the media center, always an ominous sign.

Russell joked that he prefers for Williams to have walk-around days – “That means he can walk around, goof off, do whatever he wants to do, and doesn’t have to sit there and look at that computer,” Russell said.

Wednesday at the Match Play was not one of those walk-around days, not even close, unless you count trudging from the course to the clubhouse in wet snow and socks.

“I worked the last two (at Pebble Beach and Riviera) and had a light two weeks,” Williams said, “so now I’m paying for it today.”

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."