Local boys Spieth, Palmer to square off at Colonial

By Will GrayMay 29, 2016, 12:04 am

FORT WORTH, Texas – It’s a scenario that tournament director Michael Tothe probably couldn’t have drawn up any better.

On one side of Sunday’s final pairing at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational will be Jordan Spieth: major champion and Texas legend in the making, eyeing his first professional win in his home state.

On the other side of the tee will be the only man in this week’s field who might be able to rival his crowd support.

After the 18th hole extracted its pound of flesh from the leaders, Ryan Palmer was left with a spot alongside Spieth in the final-round spotlight. It’s an opportunity that has Palmer, a Colonial Country Club member traveling around the course this week with his own personal cheering section, champing at the bit.

“That was what I wanted,” Palmer said. “I wanted to be with him in the final group on my home course in front of my family and friends and in front of the members of Colonial. That’s what I wanted, and it worked out, so I’m very excited.”

Palmer has finished T-5 here two times in the last four years, but he has never won a tournament on the course he holds dear and where his caddie, James Edmonson, is both a member and former club champion.

To finally win be no small feat, as Palmer and Webb Simpson both trail Spieth by one shot entering the final round.

After lurking through the first 36 holes, Spieth put together arguably his most complete round since the Masters, a 5-under 65 where he alternately dazzled with accurate approaches and timely short-game saves. Spieth’s bogey on No. 18 was his lone dropped shot of the day, ending a streak of 28 straight bogey-free holes, and it trimmed his overnight lead in half.

Spieth enters with a chance to win in front of partisan crowds for the second straight week. While he trailed Brooks Koepka and seemed to be fighting his swing at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Spieth appears in control this week at Colonial and his comments reflect that confidence.

Dean & Deluca Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I’ll be disappointed if I don’t win tomorrow,” Spieth said. “Being in this position two weeks in a row, last Sunday was a tough day for me given the importance of the Byron Nelson to me personally.”

While Spieth’s iron play wasn’t quite as crisp as it was the previous two rounds, he managed saves when required that were reminiscent of the shots he holed with regularity last year: a 23-foot par save on No. 5, a delicate up-and-down from behind the green on No. 10 and a chip-in birdie on No. 11.

“My scrambling was kind of the key to the day today,” Spieth said.

Gone are the frustrated laments of TPC Sawgrass and TPC Four Seasons. In their stead stands a man eager to win an event in his backyard, eager to keep pace with recent wins from Jason Day and Rory McIlroy – and eager to put to bed any notion that the scars from Augusta National still linger.

“I feel really good about my game. All parts of it,” he said. “I’m going to need to stick to the basics, keep my posture, very disciplined in my setup alignment and posture and make confident swings, knowing that we have hit great shots all week. And hopefully the putter stays hot as well. But yeah, I’m confident about where everything’s at.”

Spieth and Palmer both spoke after the round about their comfort with one another, and the fun element that it will bring to Sunday’s final pairing. The two often play foursome games together with their respective caddies, and their presence together could draw a line in the sand among the crowd, forced to choose between the Dallas native and Fort Worth’s favorite son.

For Palmer, it’s a chance to face one of the game’s best on a course he knows like no other, as he looks to win on Tour for the first time since 2010. But it’s also an opportunity to honor the memory of his father, Butch, who was a regular at this event before passing away in a car accident last August.

“He’s been there every step – in the mornings, on the way here. This is his favorite golf tournament,” Palmer said. “He’ll be with me tomorrow for sure, and of course he’ll creep into my mind.”

While Spieth insists that anyone as far as six shots back could win on a course as unpredictable as Colonial, that statement won’t make it any easier for fans to snag a spot along the rope line to watch the marquee pairing in the final round, where two of the tournament’s biggest draws will battle.

“You ask anybody, when you get the crowd going and the ball gets rolling, that’s what you live to do,” Palmer said. “That’s why we work hard to get in those moments and get the crowd ramped up like that. So it’s going to be a fun one tomorrow.”

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x