Former U.S. Open champs Rose, Furyk set for Bridgestone duel

By Will GrayAugust 9, 2015, 12:02 am

AKRON, Ohio – If you feel the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational has been a snooze-fest through 54 holes, you’re probably not alone.

Sure, the tournament bears a World Golf Championships prefix, and the hefty purse to match. But thanks to a variety of factors, this week has more closely resembled a half-filled balloon.

This event has seen Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy hoist the trophy over the last two years, and things got off to a bad start when neither showed up this week in Akron – although one certainly would have preferred to make the trek had he been invited.

Then the ovens got turned up at Firestone Country Club, turning a typically soft venue into the type of firm and fast layout that only Mike Davis could love. While fans last year were treated to a birdie barrage between McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, this week par remains an enviable score.

Instead of roars for tight approaches and birdie runs, galleries have been left to applaud tidy two-putts from 35 feet and scrambling par saves. The cheers that often envelop portions of the South Course have been mostly non-existent.

The PGA Championship always casts a shadow over the proceedings here, but this week it seems especially long as players try to fine-tune their game for Whistling Straits.

It didn’t help matters, then, that Jim Furyk – not exactly the Tour’s flashiest player – took control of things Friday and appeared ready to put this event on ice at the halfway point of the third round.

But lo and behold, despite the lack of buzz and theatrics, a compelling finale has emerged.

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Furyk began the day with a four-shot lead and maintained that cushion until Justin Rose came roaring from the pack, firing a 7-under 63 to draw even with the 36-hole leader. Now the two former U.S. Open champions are set for an intriguing final-round duel, featuring one of the hottest players of the summer and a man who still has a score to settle at Firestone.

Rose sparked his season with a runner-up finish at the Masters and hasn’t looked back since. A win in New Orleans has been followed by three top-six finishes in his last four starts, a run he appears set to extend this week.

“If I look back at Augusta, that was the start of me feeling very confident,” Rose said. “Got beaten by a great Jordan (Spieth) performance, but I felt that I was good enough that week to win another major.”

While his season has had plenty of highlights, Rose admits he let one get away the last time he was in the Buckeye State, surrendering a 54-hole lead at the Memorial before losing a playoff to little-known David Lingmerth.

“I played well there, should have knocked that one off,” he said.

A victory Sunday would give Rose his first multiple-win season since 2010, and it would also offer plenty of momentum heading into the PGA, where he will likely be considered one of the pre-tournament favorites. Furyk, meanwhile, is focused more on finally closing it out on one of his favorite venues.

The 45-year-old has lavished praise all week upon Firestone, which he put alongside Colonial and Harbour Town among his favorite Tour stops. A native of Pennsylvania, Furyk has said that the tree-lined fairways and old-school design of the South Course remind him of the courses he grew up on.

While Furyk’s record here is exemplary, Firestone has also been the site of some of his biggest heartbreak. He lost a hard-fought, seven-hole playoff to Tiger Woods in 2001, then shocked the crowds gathered around the final green in 2012 when his double bogey on the 72nd  hole handed the trophy to Keegan Bradley.

“I would say that I’m disappointed I’ve never won here,” Furyk said. “It’s one of my favorite courses that we play.”

Furyk ended a lengthy victory drought earlier this year with a come-from-behind win at Hilton Head, but another troubling footnote to his resume still lingers. Sunday will mark the 10th time that he has carried at least a share of the lead into the final round since 2011 – the most of any player in that span. Each of the previous nine opportunities ended in disappointment.

It’s a streak Furyk would not be in position to end were it not for an 11-foot par putt that he rolled in from off the fringe on No. 18 to cap a 1-under 69, his eighth straight sub-par round at Firestone.

“Knocking that putt in was nice,” Furyk said. “In the whole scheme of things, it’s nice to have the shot. It’s just a good way to finish off the day.”

While Sunday’s matchup is not exactly Hagler-Hearns, it does represent a contest between two proven winners with similar approaches.

“I get on well with Jim,” Rose said. “He obviously is very business-like out there on the golf course, and that suits me just fine.”

“Our personalities may have some similarities like that,” added Furyk. “I think it will be a good pairing for both of us. We get along well.”

While the winner will likely come from within the final pairing, Shane Lowry lurks at 7 under, two shots back, and a quartet of players – Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson, chief among them – also sit two shots further adrift, poised for a potential final-round rally.

The excitement levels have yet to match those of years past at Firestone, but that could all still change.

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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