Hoffmann makes 9 birdies in 65

By Doug FergusonMarch 20, 2015, 11:20 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Equipped with his first PGA Tour lead in 67 starts, Morgan Hoffmann played Friday like he wanted to keep it in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Hoffman made birdies on half of his holes for a 7-under 65, giving him a three-shot lead over Henrik Stenson, Harris English and defending champion Matt Every going into the weekend on soft and defenseless Bay Hill.

Stenson, English and Every each had a 66.

Rory McIlroy also got into the mix - finally - by making five straight birdies on his back nine for a 66, his first sub-70 score in three PGA Tour events this year. He was five shots behind and headed in the right direction in his final start before the Masters.

Bay Hill has greens that are so stressed that they will be replaced this summer. They are slow and receptive, a recipe for low scoring, and it shows.


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Hoffmann was at 13-under 131, one short of the 36-hole record at Bay Hill. The cut was at 142, matching the lowest score to make the cut in 27 years at Bay Hill. It was the first time the cut was under par, but only because the tournament changed par to 70 (instead of 72) in 2008.

''I'm trying to birdie every hole out there, so it was good,'' Hoffmann said. ''Just hitting great putts and good shots into the greens really helps. It's nice to hit some greens for a change. This year hasn't been that great, and it's a good change.''

The 25-year-old from Oklahoma State made six birdies on the front nine, including four in a row, and he finished with a 6-iron out of the rough and over the water - the ball landed just four paces onto the green - for a par that kept him in control.

Hoffmann came into the week at No. 158 in the ''strokes gained'' statistic from tee-to-green. He leads the field at Bay Hill.

Next up is how well he holds up on the weekend.

Stenson, who has finished fourth in his two Florida events already, birdied his last four holes for a 30 on the back nine. He will be playing in the penultimate group with English, who is No. 52 in the world just outside qualifying for the Masters.

''Got to keep the pedal down and keep aggressive,'' English said.

He is coming off a top 10 at Innisbrook in which he closed with a 65, which moved him up eight spots in the ranking.

McIlroy had dinner with Palmer on Thursday night and was treading water Friday morning until an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-3 second hold got him going. He birdied the next four holes, though he lost some momentum at the end with a bogey on No. 8 and a scrambling par on his final hole.

''It would be nice to finish the round off a little better, but still a good score and sets me up well for the weekend,'' McIlroy said. ''I think each and every day I'm feeling a little more comfortable, especially on the greens. Obviously, we played in the morning so we got the best of the greens, and it's easier to trust the lines you pick for yourself. But happy with how I putted today, and putt like that over the weekend, I'll have a chance.''

A lot of that depends on Hoffmann, who is coming off a pair of 12-hour range sessions this weekend to try to rely on a slight fade.

Every has only one top-10 since he won at Bay Hill a year ago, and he has not finished in the top 25 in his last 17 tournaments. But he is confident he is headed in the right direction with his swing, and it showed for two days. He ran off four straight birdies at the end of his round for a 66 and was at 134.

''I'm really excited to play golf because I know I have good stuff coming really, really soon,'' Every said. ''And I said before, you can lie to yourself. I've done it before all the time where I think I can win at the start of weeks. It's like probably how Rory feels every week.''

McIlroy, playing in Palmer's tournament for the first time, had dinner with the King on Thursday night after his opening round (and a drug test). They chatted more about commercial possibilities and old-time golf stories than McIlroy's bid to win the Masters and complete the career Grand Slam.

Palmer also insisted the 25-year-old McIlroy have a banana split. 

''I'll be going to the gym this afternoon,'' McIlroy said. ''It was fantastic, it really was. He's telling stories of the old days and talking about a few of the things he's done more from a commercial standpoint, the drink and golf courses and all this sort of stuff - stuff that I could potentially be getting into in the future.''

He said Palmer also told him how close he was to his father. 

''It was just great to be in his presence, and great to be in his company, and I had a good time,'' McIlroy said. 

DIVOTS: Sam Saunders, the 27-year-old grandson of Palmer, made four birdies on the back nine to make the cut by two shots. ... With a breeze at his back, Gary Woodland hit a 358-yard drive on the par-4 fifth hole to short of the green, 50 feet from the hole. He still made par. ... Adam Scott had a 73 and was nine shots behind.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.