Punch Shots: Best PGA Tour venue to play this year

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 9, 2013, 2:23 am

With the PGA Tour kicking off this week at CordeValle, we asked our travel experts which public-access course on the 2013-14 schedule is the best.

Jason Deegan: CordeValle Golf Club

It’s too bad that the CordeValle drops off the PGA TOUR calendar next year. The 7,360-yard course has hosted the Frys.com Open since 2010, but the event will move to the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa in 2014. Be sure to check out this year’s telecast because it might be the last time CordeValle gets primetime coverage before the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open comes to northern California.

CordeValle, which kicks off the new 2013-14 season on the PGA TOUR this week, continues to fly under the radar as a golf getaway. Too many golfers drive by on their way to the Monterey Peninsula not realizing just what their missing in the secluded hills of San Martin 30 miles south of San Jose. The Robert Trent Jones Jr. design and the villas of the Rosewood Resort seem to melt into the scenic pastoral surroundings without intruding upon them. They’re both understated, yet luxurious at the same time. Jones’ yawning bunkers and tricky greens are superb. A meandering stream and several ponds don’t typically bother the pros, although they’re plenty in play for everybody else. Caddies (or a forecaddie) are required, an extra expense that is worth it.

With world-class dining and a sumptuous spa to boot, there’s no resort that embodies ‘California cool’ better than CordeValle.

More: Golf shines in NoCal and CordeValle

Brandon Tucker: Pinehurst No. 2

In 2014, Pinehurst No. 2 is delivering a rare mix of history mixed with anticipation for the new. It's already the year's most talked about venue as Phil Mickelson will pursue his agonizing quest to win a U.S. Open. Also, Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw's restoration of sandy waste areas and the fact the U.S. Women's Open will be staged just a week later gives this century-old course plenty of new buzz. 

For us amateurs, No. 2 is a little bit more playable for the regular golfer than some other PGA TOUR staples like TPC Sawgrass, which can eat your lunch if your game is off. Pinehurst, on the other hand, is manageable with a good iron game and deft wedges. Fairways are quite wide, so even if you're not in the mayor's office off the tee, you still have a chance to reach the green.

How you recover from the new native areas and how good is your short game around the table-top greens will determine whether you have a score to remember or if some parts of game become exposed.

Also, no place on this year's schedule is a golfer's mecca quite like the Village of Pinehurst. The village has little pubs, B&Bs, great restaurants and memorabilia shops, all walkable and shaded by tall Carolina pines. Frankly, Pinehurst is worth a visit even if you don't pony up the cash for No. 2.

In Photos: View the golf courses open to the public on the 2013-14 PGA TOUR Schedule

Mike Bailey: Torrey Pines Golf Course

The best golf course you can play on the PGA Tour schedule is Pebble Beach Golf Links, hands down (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Feb. 6-9). It's one of three courses - including Augusta National and The Old Course at St. Andrews - that should be on every golfer's bucket list.

But just behind Pebble for many of the same reasons – history, setting and design – are the two golf courses at Torrey Pines, both of which are used for the Farmers Insurance Open, Jan. 23-26 near San Diego (we can add best golf weather in America, too). This is the same venue where Tiger Woods won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open playoff win over Rocco Mediate. It came on the Rees Jones-renovated Torrey Pines South Course, where Woods defeated Mediate by one shot in a Monday 18-hole playoff. Both the South Course and North Course were designed by William P. Bell and his son William F. Bell, but what really attracts golfers are the views of the Pacific Ocean.

The North probably has better vistas, but there are plenty on both layouts. One of my favorites is the downhill par-3 sixth hole on the North Course, which plays right into the ocean and often two or three clubs shorter because of the drop in elevation.

Because Torrey is a municipal, locals can play the courses for next to nothing, but out-of-towners will have to pay green fees north of $200. In either case, with a little perseverance, you can get a tee time and experience these two gems. They are well worth the money.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.