Janzen Leaps Into Match Play Field

By Sports NetworkFebruary 12, 2002, 5:00 pm
Lee Janzen, who hasn't brought home the hardware since his second U.S. Open victory in 1998, has used his quick start to the 2002 season to earn a spot in the field for next week's World Golf Championships-Match Play Championship at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, Cal.
 
Coming into this year, Janzen was ranked 106th in the world with just 10 top-10 finishes since capturing the USGA's flagship event by one shot over Payne Stewart nearly four years ago.
 
He missed the cut in his first start of the season last month at the Bob Hope Classic. But the 37-year-old Janzen posted a tie for fourth at the Phoenix Open, a tie for third at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a tie for 11th Sunday at the Buick Invitational to move up to 63rd in the weekly golf rankings.

Janzen, whose first U.S. Open title came by two strokes over Stewart at Baltusrol in 1993, has never made it past the second round in his two match-play appearances.

The top 64 players in the world as of Monday determined the original field for the Match Play Championship, the first World Golf Championships event of 2002, although some tweaking has already been necessary with No. 23 Jose Coceres of Argentina and No. 24 Thomas Bjorn of Denmark withdrawing due to injuries.

That means 11-time PGA Tour winner John Cook, the world's 65th-ranked player, and European Tour veteran Peter O'Malley of Australia, currently No. 66, will get to tee it up when the first-round matches get under way Feb. 20th.

The way the field is set now, O'Malley would draw top-ranked Tiger Woods in the opening round. However, Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, who was forced to pull out of last month's Johnnie Walker Classic after aggravating an old back injury, hasn't committed to the tournament and may not want to jeopardize his health with the Masters on the horizon.

Should Monty opt out and barring any further withdraws, No. 67 Bob May would grab the final seed, setting up a rematch of the 2000 PGA Championship playoff between May and Woods.

Woods hopes to be rested for whomever he has to meet on the first day of the Match Play Championship. The six-time major winner decided to withdraw from this week's Nissan Open in an effort to shake the flu-like symptoms he's battled the last two weeks.

The match play tournament is the only one of the four World Golf Championships events that Woods hasn't won. He has captured all three NEC Invitationals that have been held since 1999, won the American Express Championship in 1999, and joined forces with David Duval to win the EMC2 World Cup for the United States in 2000.

Phil Mickelson, who returned from a five-month hiatus to win the Bob Hope Classic three weeks ago, remained No. 2 in the world rankings and will therefore get the second seed at La Costa.

The next seven players also held their spots from last week. The third-ranked Duval was followed by Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, David Toms, Retief Goosen, Davis Love III and Vijay Singh.

Phoenix Open champion Chris DiMarco moved up one spot to 10th, the highest position of his career. He supplanted Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who slipped to 11th.

Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, a surprising 4 and 3 winner over Woods in the match-play finals two years ago, climbed one spot to 12th in an exchange of places with Canada's Mike Weir this week.

Clarke was seeded 19th when he beat the top-seeded Woods in 2000. Jim Furyk and Germany's Bernhard Langer stayed put in 14th and 15th, respectively, while Scott Verplank rose one place to 16th and Bob Estes three places to 17th. Kenny Perry, Japan's Toshi Izawa and Montgomerie rounded out the top 20.

Estes, a two-time winner in 2001, finished alongside Woods in fifth place at the Buick Invitational. So did South African Rory Sabbatini, who vaulted 11 spots to 61st and will make his first appearance in a WGC event.

Dudley Hart and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez were the only players to drop out of the top 64. Hart fell from 64th to 68th and Jimenez from 63rd to 70th.
 
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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.