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Rosaforte Report: DJ's favorite stretch of the year

By Tim RosaforteFebruary 6, 2018, 4:10 pm

In this week's Rosaforte Report: Dustin Johnson's mini-vacation is about to end with his favorite part of the schedule coming up, Gary Woodland's gets a victory in Phoenix thanks to his "team" of coaches, Rickie Fowler blows another 54-hole lead and Hale Irwin is making a start on the PGA Tour Champions this week at 72 years old.

Unless you’ve been skiing in Aspen, or following Dustin Johnson and his fiancée Paulina Gretzky on social media, you’re probably wondering what the world’s No. 1 golfer has been doing for the past two weeks, since playing in Abu Dhabi.

The answer is - DJ has been getting ready, hoping to peak for his favorite part of the PGA Tour schedule. Over his next four starts, Johnson will be defending titles three times (Genesis Open, WGC-Mexico and WGC-Match Play) and playing a spot (Pebble Beach Golf Links) in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am where he has won twice, and where he gets to play with father-in-law Wayne Gretzky and Jordan Spieth.

The only tournament DJ will miss over the next month is technically a hometown event, the Honda Classic, but manager David Winkle knows better by now to intercede on Johnson’s favorite part of the schedule, especially the stop at Riviera for the Genesis, where he became No. 1 last year.

The Baller in Gary Woodland

As a high school and college basketball player, Gary Woodland is the type of golfer that is comfortable being coached in a team environment. His head coach is Butch Harmon. His assistant coaches are Pete Cowen (short game) and Brad Faxon (putting). That’s like having Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari and Tom Izzo on your bench.

All of the elements for Team Woodland were at work in his playoff victory over Chez Reavie at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He was second in ball-striking, which is Harmon’s department, and 16th in strokes gained-putting after listening to Faxon’s advice last winter at Old Palm. For the week, he made almost 359 feet of putts.

Under pressure, Woodland was also adept at the short-game advice passed along by Cowen, who first worked with Woodland at the QBE Shootout in December. He chipped in for par at No. 6 and Cowen noted the delicate chip he made on No. 17, facing the water on a green that ran away from him, to set up his third straight birdie.

Cowen compared it to the work he did with Brooks Koepka - who works with Butch’s son, Claude III - that led to his victory in the 2017 U.S. Open. “Sometimes, two heads are better than one,” Cowen said.

In the case of Woodland, it was actually three heads.

Another close call for Fowler

At his home in Las Vegas, Butch Harmon watched the final round of the Waste Management Open with a vested interest in both Woodland and 54-hole leader Rickie Fowler.

“It’s an interesting day having two of your players on top of the leaderboard for most of the day,” Harmon said on Monday. “It’s what you want of your players.”

As was the case, Harmon came away with mixed emotions. While Woodland had the most important closing round of his career (64), Fowler experienced one of his most disappointing with a final-round 73 that left him 1-for-6 with a 54-hole lead and some mixed feelings about the spectators at TPC Scottsdale.

“Rickie didn’t have his best day on Sunday,” Harmon said of the 73 Fowler posted to finish T-11. “He talked about the putts not dropping, which his true. But the fact he missed fairways (at Nos. 15 and 17) is uncharacteristic, especially to the left. He got back into some of his old traits that we’ll have to clean up. It’s frustrating to go through that.”

The frustration showed on Thursday when Fowler said he was disappointed in some of the comments made at the 16th hole, but come Sunday there were no hard feelings. Just as there wasn’t after a tough loss to Hidecki Matsuyama in 2016.

“For sure I love this place,” Fowler said in his closing thoughts. “The course and I, most of the time we get along well.” He exited by saying he would “keep pushing.”

The Original Bernhard Langer

At 72 years young, Hale Irwin will be competing in this week’s first full-field tournament on the 2018 PGA Tour Champions schedule, the Boca Raton Championship. His last of a record 45 senior tour victories came 11 years ago, when he was the same age (61) as Bernhard Langer will turn in August. Coming off a seven-victory season that moved him up to 36 victories, Langer very much has the Irwin record in sight, and Irwin knows it.

“I’m very proud of it, and not necessarily with (Langer) getting closer to it,” Irwin said of the record. “I played as good as I could, had some great years, but my goal was not to win 45 (times).”

Irwin acknowledges that he started cutting back at this point in Langer’s career to spend time with his family and grandchildren. That’s when his focus started to wane and his body - specifically a hamstring in his late-60s -started to break down. That was his curtain call.

Noting that he has a long way to go, Irwin added that Langer “is about as focused as you can get,” but there will come a time - based on his professional experience - when Langer loses the focus. “Whenever it is,” Irwin said, “I don’t know."

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Watch: Tiger highlights from Round 2 at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

Tiger Woods started at even par in Round 2 of the Honda Classic. Friday began with a bogey at the par-4 second, but Woods got that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:

Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.

At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. And the crowd was loving it.

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Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

Made Cut

Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

Stay tuned.

Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.

Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.