Taylor Climbs to the Top at Wild Bay Hill

By Sports NetworkMarch 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- With players around him giving away shots at an ugly pace, Vaughn Taylor found a happy place and made some birdies.
'I was just trying to imagine I was in Reno,' said Taylor, whose only two PGA TOUR wins came at the Reno-Tahoe Open.
Arnold Palmer
Tournament host Arnold Palmer watches Saturday's action. (WireImage)
Taylor shot a 3-under 67 Saturday to take the lead heading into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He stands at 8-under-par 202, two shots better than Ben Curtis.
Among a star-packed field of players beginning their tune-up for the Masters next month, Taylor's 67 tied for the best round of the day.
A blustery Bay Hill chewed up and spit out almost everybody else, leaving only nine of the 79 players to break par in round three.
Overnight leader Rocco Mediate and playing partner Paul Casey exemplified Saturday's string of surprising meltdowns. The duo combined to go 12 over par in their last 11 holes, hitting hazards and the long rough and missing makable putts on just about every hole during that stretch.
It left many wondering if Mediate, 44, was experiencing back problems again. He said he was not, and even smiled after earning some measure of salvation with a birdie at No. 18.
Curtis avoided too many mistakes and shot a 1-under 69 to move into second place at 6-under 204.
Vijay Singh had a quiet 67 to match Taylor and climbed from 19th place overnight into a share of third. He was joined at 5-under 205 by Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, who had a 69.
'As the round went along, the wind died a little bit and gave us more chances for birdies,' said Singh.
Sergio Garcia remained in the hunt despite a 71 and is tied for fifth place with Trevor Immelman (70), Jerry Kelly (70), Shaun Micheel (71) and John Rollins (72) at 4-under 206.
Tiger Woods, who won four straight Bay Hill Invitationals from 2000-2003, parred each of his last nine holes and still made up ground on the leader. He shot a 70 -- three strokes better than Friday's 73 -- to share 10th place with six other players, including Retief Goosen (70).
'At least I know I played better today,' said Woods. 'I had a chance to shoot under par, I just didn't do it.'
Woods' group is five shots back at 3-under 207. Among them are Mediate, who finished with a 76, and Casey, who had a 73. All in all, not a bad deficit considering the kind of day it was.
'I'm surprised. I thought the (leading) score would be 10 under,' Woods said.
Beyond the wind, players also had to deal with the half-foot rough Arnold Palmer had waiting for them this week. It dealt blows to everyone Saturday, eating up countless shots, especially among the early leaders.
Casey gave away strokes to the rough at Nos. 8, 12, 13 and 14, and it gobbled up shots from Mediate at Nos. 6 and 14. Mediate also found water at the 16th.
At different times during the day, Mediate held a three-shot lead and Casey owned a two-shot advantage.
The day's best shot came from the same shin-deep rough that was giving everyone fits. Woods, stuck in the high grass at the 16th, knocked his approach over a tree and within 9 feet. Still, he missed the putt and settled for par.
'On this golf course, if you miss a fairway it's almost automatic bogey,' Woods said.
Taylor had a pair of early bogeys at Nos. 3 and 4, then made the first of five birdies at No. 6 before adding back-to-back birdies to finish the front nine. He made another birdie at No. 12, then took a one-shot lead with a 10-foot birdie at 15.
He saved par from 12 feet at the 18th to retain his two-shot lead on Curtis.
Taylor has some recent history to reverse if he has any shot at winning his third tour title on Sunday. So far this season, he ranks 166th in final-round scoring with a 74.2 average.
'I'm just going to play like I've been playing the last few days and hope things go my way,' he said.
Looking ahead, Taylor offered his Ryder Cup experience as a crutch.
'That was the greatest pressure I've ever played under,' he said. 'Once you have done that, everything else is easier.'
Chris Couch (69) and Bo Van Pelt (70) share 10th place alongside Woods, Goosen, Mediate and Casey; while Chad Campbell (68), Stewart Cink (69), Bart Bryant (70) and Sean O'Hair are a shot further back at 208.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard
  • Full Coverage - Arnold Palmer Invitational
  • TV Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

    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.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    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.

    Getty Images

    Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

    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.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “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. 

    Getty Images

    Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

    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.”

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    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.” 

    Getty Images

    Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

    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.

    Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos

    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