Singh By Four in Williams World Challenge
Woods closed the gap to one after a three-foot birdie putt on the par-5 16th and a scrambling par by Singh at the same hole. Woods had the honor on 17 and hit his tee shot into the right rough, causing him to pace around the tee box after slamming his club into the ground.
Singh played his drive left of the hole on the fringe but only 15 feet from the stick. He drained his birdie putt to reach 11-under-par while Woods ran into trouble from the side of the green.
Woods' second shot was impacted by mud on his ball and three strokes later, Woods was in with a double-bogey-5 and down by four.
'It was windy and blustery out there. I didnt figure it out all day,' said Woods, who finished with a 2-over 74 in the third round. 'I was long, I was short, I was left, I was right. It was tough out there. You could wait 15 seconds and your club selection would change three times.'
Singh was one of just three players who broke par on another windy Saturday with a 1-under 71 for a three-day total of 11-under-par 205. Woods is alone in second at 7-under while Bernhard Langer is third at minus-5.
'You had to be very careful out there. It was hard to judge distances,' said Singh, the 2000 Masters champion. 'This is a tough golf course when the wind blows. These greens are not easy to putt on with the undulations.'
Singh struggled to a 1-over 37 on the front side and dueled with Fred Couples for the lead throughout the opening nine. Couples fell off the lead with back-to-back bogeys at seven and eight but Woods was lurking near the top.
The three-shot swing at 17 was not the only one of the round between Singh and Woods. At the par-4 10th, Woods seemed to have a clear advantage as he bombed his tee shot into a greenside bunker, nearly hitting Couples, who was playing his sand shot in the group ahead.
Singh found the fairway with his drive but he had 52 yards, an awkward distance to play a full shot. He hit a lob wedge that hopped a few times before falling into the cup for an eagle 2.
Woods blasted out to four feet for what looked like an easy birdie, but he missed the putt and still had three feet coming back. That par save lipped out of the cup on the right side giving the tournament host a bogey and a four-shot deficit.
Both players birdied No. 11 but Woods inched closer to the lead with a six-foot birdie putt at the par-5 13th. Singh found the trees off the 14th tee and was forced to pitch out into the fairway. He failed to get up and down and took a bogey, dropping the lead to two strokes.
Singh and Woods both sailed the green at the difficult par-3 15th and left with bogeys but Woods got within one with a three-foot birdie at 16 after Singh was lucky to leave with par.
It was at 17 where the second two-shot swing of the round gave Singh a good chance at the $1 million first-prize check.
This season was a winless one for Singh and although he finished fourth on the PGA Tour money list and won twice on the European Tour, he would still like to visit the winner's circle.
'Everybody wants to win,' Singh said. 'I don't think anybody is trying to have fun.'
Langer may be in third place but he took an interesting path getting there. His second shot at the par-5 16th turned left and landed somewhere near a tree. Langer could not find his ball so he helped his caddie climb the tree before joining the search himself in the large oak. The ball was recovered and he saved par but posted a 74 for the day.
Couples once again found the 15th hole to be his nemesis like Friday, when he carded a double-bogey-5 after dropping it in the drink. On Saturday, Couples took the water out of play by blasting his tee shot over the green in an awkward lie. He hit too much ball on his second and the ball skidded across the green into the water. Couples hit from the same spot for his fourth but ran it past the hole and two-putted coming back for a triple bogey.
Couples, who shot a 77 in the third round, is tied for seventh with David Toms and David Duval at 2-under par.
One player who had a good round was Denmark's Thomas Bjorn. He fired an 8-under 64 to match the Sherwood Country Club course record originally set by Davis Love III, Woods and Sergio Garcia last year. Bjorn might be too far off the lead after Friday's 80 as he tied with Ryder Cup teammate Colin Montgomerie at 1-over-par.
Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey
SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.
The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.
It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.
“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”
Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.
According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.
“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”
Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.
And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.
As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.
He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.
“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.
Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.
“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”
Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.
Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.
“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.
Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.
Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1
SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.
After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.
With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.
“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”
Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'
SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.
“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”
On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”
Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”
Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.
“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.”
Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines
SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.
The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.
Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.
Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.
Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:
• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10
• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1
• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1