Knox, McDowell ready for Monday in Mexico

By Will GrayNovember 16, 2015, 1:28 am

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – A sprint to the finish between a pair of Europeans looms at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

With heavy rains washing out much of Sunday's action, 27 players will return to El Camaleon on Monday to put a cap on the penultimate event of the wraparound season’s fall slate.

In one corner stands Graeme McDowell, an established champion eager to close a disappointing year on a high note. Across from him is Russell Knox, a winner just last week whose whirlwind travel has left him running on fumes, but running hot nonetheless.

The pair share the top spot at 19 under, two shots clear of Jason Bohn with less than six holes to go. Both began the day three shots behind leader Derek Fathauer, but they opened their final rounds with six birdies apiece and no bogeys.

By virtue of his position on the course, Knox may have a slight edge. McDowell has already played the par-5 13th, one of the easiest holes on the course, and faces a stern test on the par-4 14th. Knox will return to a short pitch shot on No. 13, with a great chance to get up-and-down for birdie and become the first player this week to reach 20 under.

Playing for the fifth straight week in his fourth different country, Knox is proof that momentum can travel.

“I know maybe when I get home I’ll have a physical breakdown and sleep for days, but I feel fine,” Knox said. “I can certainly play five more holes.”

Knox was a relatively unheralded player for the last two years on the PGA Tour, but he broke through last week in China for his first career win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. The confidence he gained from outlasting a strong field has been on display this week, where he is 18 under for his last 48 holes following an opening-round 70.

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“At least I know I can do it. I’m in a great position, obviously,” he said. “I’m the only person up there that won last week, so I can really freewheel it tomorrow. I can’t wait to give it another try.”

To capture his second trophy in as many weeks, though, Knox will have to pull clear of McDowell, who is looking for his first piece of hardware in nearly three years.

Having finally figured out the opening hole at El Camaleon, where he made par Sunday after playing it in 5 over across the first three days, McDowell now has an opportunity to punch his ticket to the Masters – an invite Knox clinched a week ago.

“It’s a bit of a shootout so you’ve just got to keep sort of the pedal down tomorrow morning and try and shoot a score,” McDowell said. “We’ll regroup and get out there tomorrow morning and see how we can finish the day.”

With soft conditions yielding low scores, McDowell didn’t make his first birdie of the day until No. 5, but that started a run of three straight that brought him back in the mix. After a delay of more than three hours, he returned to the course and played his final five holes 3 under.

“Really just trying to keep it simple on the greens,” he said. “Like I say, been seeing it well and I’ve been knocking some in, and that was a nice way to kind of finish the day with a couple birdies.”

Like McDowell, Knox maintained his strong play after the delay. Following a birdie on No. 11 that gave him the lead, Knox rolled in a 5-foot par save on No. 12 to avoid what would have been just his fourth bogey of the week.

“I hate making bogeys more than I love making birdies, I think,” he said. “The par putt on 12 was huge for me. Then to hit a nice second shot there on 13, to be in great position, was big. I’m really thrilled how I finished the day.”

With Bohn the only player within four shots of the co-leaders, this overtime finale appears ready to be decided between a pair of players moving in opposite directions.

For Knox, it’s a chance to quickly validate his breakthrough victory, much like Billy Horschel did during the 2014 FedEx Cup Playoffs, and move further up the world rankings to bolster a potential Ryder Cup bid that was non-existent two weeks ago.

For McDowell, it’s an opportunity to earn the redemption he sought by coming to this event, mired in a year-long slump and in search of inspiration.

His ball-striking has turned around this week at El Camaleon, and his trademark grin has returned. Whether that’s enough to hold off the hottest player on Tour, though, remains to be seen.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry