Singh Leads By Four in California

By Sports NetworkDecember 15, 2001, 5:00 pm
A three-shot swing on the par-3 17th hole gave overnight leader Vijay Singh a four-shot lead over tournament host Tiger Woods after 54 holes of the Williams World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
 
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.
 
Full-field scores from the Williams World Challenge
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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.