Everything finally falling into place for Johnson

By Will GrayJuly 4, 2016, 12:00 am

AKRON, Ohio – Little things have finally begun to add up in a big way for Dustin Johnson.

He’s been lurking all season long it seems, just off a bit in the distance. While Jason Day and Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth received a bulk of the attention with early wins, Johnson logged his T-8s and T-12s and went about his business, waiting for everything to fall into place.

Consider that wait over.

Johnson rallied from a three-shot deficit in the final round to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, toppling the world No. 1 in the process. After waiting 15 months in between wins, he now has left with the trophy each of the last two times he has teed it up.

The source of his recent run, according to Johnson, is rooted in the small stuff.

A draw off the tee stopped cooperating late last season, so Johnson decided to switch things up. He adopted a power cut shot – emphasis on power – and has never hit the ball better, or straighter, off the tee.

The putter, which so often has been his nemesis in recent years, has officially come around. Never was that more evident Sunday than on the 17th green, when he poured in a 16-foot birdie that gave him the lead.

Oh, and those wedges have begun to cooperate, too – an important factor for a guy who hits plenty of them and now leads the PGA Tour in proximity from 50-125 yards.

“He won for a reason,” said Scott Piercy, who finished second to Johnson for the second straight event. “That’s pretty awesome. We all know how good DJ is, and he’s shown it in the last two weeks.”

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

If there was any sort of secrecy surrounding Johnson’s sudden return to form, the secret is out. His U.S. Open victory moved him past Rory McIlroy in the world rankings, and this latest trophy edged him ahead of Spieth to a career-best No. 2 in the world.

Day’s name may still be ahead of his, but there’s no question as to who the hottest player in the world is after the finish in Akron.

“I feel like if I’m hitting it in the fairway, I’m going to be very tough to beat,” Johnson said. “The last couple weeks my putter, I’m making the putts I’m supposed to make. That’s the big difference in me finishing a lot of top-5s that I’ve had this year to winning a few.”

Johnson appeared notably more relaxed throughout this week. Winning a major, and bringing to a screeching halt the incessant line of questions about when you’ll win one, tends to help loosen things up.

But he’s also a different man off the course than he was even a couple years ago thanks to his son, Tatum, who he had with him throughout the weekend with fiancée Paulina Gretzky out of town since Friday.

It’s a transition many elite players have undergone before him, but fatherhood appears to have centered Johnson both inside and outside the ropes.

“I mean, golf isn’t the most important thing anymore,” he said. “I don’t know if that helps or hurts, or what. But he’s most important, and whether I shoot a good score or a bad score, when I see him, it doesn’t matter.”

Thankfully for both father and son, there haven’t been many bad scores to work through in recent weeks.

In the span of a less than a month, Johnson has done more than just shed the label of an underachiever on the major stage. He has stamped his name as one of this generation’s most prolific winners, now with a major and three WGC titles among his 11 Tour victories.

 He has also now demonstrated a consistent ability to come from behind, even against the world’s best. Johnson’s 2015 win at Doral saw him erase a five-shot deficit during the final round, while his two wins this summer have been from four and three shots back, respectively.

With so much focus on who can close the best, and whose record with the 54-hole lead is the most impressive, Johnson’s no-nonsense approach has proved effective at chasing down leaders with increasing regularity.

“One thing I do know is, I can’t control what they’re doing. But hopefully I can control what I’m doing,” he said. “We’re all playing the same golf course. The way I look at it is, I go out there and handle my business, do what I need to do no matter what they’re doing.”

Johnson has been viewed as one of the Tour’s most physically gifted players for years, and he has turned those gifts into a fair number of wins.

But suddenly, with the convergence of a number of little factors both on and off the course, he’s peaking at just the right time. He has reached heights unprecedented in his nine-year career, and it appears to have only fueled his appetite for more.

“The goal is to get to that No. 1 spot. I’ve still got a lot of work to do to get there,” he said. “It’s not just getting there, you want to stay there. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

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Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

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Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."