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.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

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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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “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. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)