Defending Champion Back on Top

By Sports NetworkFebruary 26, 2004, 5:00 pm
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Defending champion Frank Lickliter II fired a 9-under-par 63 Thursday to lead after the opening round of the Chrysler Classic of Tucson.
Per-Ulrik Johansson stumbled to a double bogey at the ninth, his last, to join Steve Allan, Mark Hensby and Carlos Franco in a tie for second place at 7-under-par 65.
Lickliter, who used a 63 in the second round of this event last year en route to his second career victory on the PGA Tour, jumped out of the gate at Omni Tucson National with a birdie at the par-4 first under optimal scoring conditions.
'This is the nicest day I've ever played out here weather-wise,' said Lickliter. 'All the practice rounds, tournament rounds previously, this is the nicest day I think I've ever seen.'
He added three more birdies on the front nine and reached 5 under with a birdie at the par-5 10th.
Lickliter then caught fire late on the back nine. He picked up a birdie at the 13th and followed that up with a birdie at the very next hole after his approach to the par-4 14th landed within five feet of the cup.
The 34-year-old played his third shot to six feet at the par-5 15th and drained the putt to make it three in a row.
At the par-4 16th, Lickliter dropped his second inside five feet and converted the putt for his fourth consecutive birdie to secure the outright lead.
Johansson started at the 10th and collected two birdies and a bogey over his first nine holes before going on a tear on the front side.
The Swede ran off three consecutive birdies from the first and added an eagle at the par-4 fifth to move to 6 under. Johansson kept on rolling with birdies at the sixth and the seventh before his second shot to the par-5 eighth found a greenside bunker.
Johansson hit out of the sand to two feet and tapped in for his third consecutive birdie to join Lickliter at minus-9.
The 37-year-old found trouble at his closing hole, however, and walked away with a double bogey for his share of second.
Franco, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, birdied each of his first two holes and reached 4 under after his approach to the par-5 eighth stopped within five feet of the hole for an eagle.
The 38-year-old added four birdies and a bogey on the inward half to finish two shots off the pace.
'Every first round is good for confidence,' said Franco. 'The weather today is excellent and the course condition is not looking too difficult.'
Angel Cabrera, Brian Henninger, Harrison Frazar, Bill Glasson, Mike Heinen, Tim Clark, Olin Browne and Vaughn Taylor finished in a tie for sixth at 6-under-par 66.
John Daly continued his resurgence on Thursday with an opening-round 67. Daly, who won his first PGA Tour event in nine years two weeks ago at the Buick Invitational and followed that with a strong showing last week at Riviera, did his damage early with three birdies and a bogey over his first five holes.
Daly reached the green in two easily at the par-5 eighth and converted a 14-foot putt for an eagle. He added a birdie at the 10th before parring his last eight holes to finish at 5 under par.
'It's nice to start out good. Of course, if you hit the fairways you can go low, but I struggled a little bit on the back nine with my irons,' said Daly. 'But it's a great start. I'm happy with it.'
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  • 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.

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    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.

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    "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.

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    "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."