Every club in the bag: Shots that shaped 2016

By Doug FergusonDecember 20, 2016, 11:57 pm

The year began with PGA Tour rookie Smylie Kaufman hitting the opening tee shot into the blue horizon at Kapalua. It ended 319 days later when PGA Tour rookie Mackenzie Hughes rolled in an 18-foot par putt from the fringe to win at Sea Island.

One way to look back on 2016 is through every club in the bag - not necessarily the best shots, but those that shaped the year.

DRIVER: Justin Thomas hit the longest drive at 414 yards on the 16th hole at Firestone.Dustin Johnson hit the most impressive drive on the 18th hole at Oakmont in the U.S. Open. But this club goes to Jim Herman, who arguably faced the most pressure.

Herman was among 12 players who won for the first time on the PGA Tour, and this wasn't exactly handed to him. He had a one-shot lead over Henrik Stenson on the 18th hole of the Shell Houston Open, with water down the left side and a large bunker ready to catch any shot played away from the water. Herman smoked it right down the middle, made his par and headed to the Masters.

FAIRWAY METAL: Needing an eagle on the par-5 18th at the Sony Open to get into a playoff, Zac Blair hit a 3-wood so pure that moments after contact, he smiled and said, ''Oh my gosh, that is SO good .'' And it was, settling 10 feet away. Alas, he missed the putt. But that's not the only reason Blair gets the nod for this club.

On the previous hole, he was just off the green when he chose to putt with a fairway metal. Because of the length of the club, it looked as though it might have been anchored against his chest. The ban on anchored strokes had been in effect for only one week. Blair had to review it with PGA Tour officials and was cleared.

2-IRON: Jason Day is among the few who carry a 2-iron, and there's a reason. He can rip it. The world's No. 1 player had no choice. He was in the 18th fairway at Baltusrol in the PGA Championship, two shots behind Jimmy Walker, when he hit 2-iron to 15 feet. The cheer was so loud that Walker backed off his birdie putt on the 17th twice. Day made the eagle, but only after Walker had made his birdie. Walker went on to win by one.

3-IRON: Stenson was one shot behind Phil Mickelson in the third round of the British Open when he came to the par-3 17th and hit what he described a ''flat-out 3-iron'' into the wind to 20 feet for birdie. Mickelson made bogey for a two-shot swing that gave Stenson the lead going into the final round at Royal Troon, and set the tone for one of the great duels in major championship history.

4-IRON: Rory McIlroy took a bow to mock the boisterous fans at Hazeltine after sinking an eagle putt to end his first day of the Ryder Cup. The shot that set up the eagle was a 4-iron on the par-5 16th that never left its target and landed pin-high, allowing him and Thomas Pieters to close out Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

5-IRON: Day was one shot behind Kevin Chappell with no realistic birdie chances over the final two holes at Bay Hill, except that Day can hit some unreal shots. The best was a towering 5-iron that settled 10 feet behind the hole for a birdie. Chappell bogeyed the 18th, and Day had his first victory of the year.

6-IRON: Johnson thought he was leading the U.S. Open, but having not looked at a leaderboard because of a potential penalty at the end of his round, he didn't know by how much. All he saw was the flag 190 yards away. He wanted to hit a cut 6-iron with the wind and pulled it off to near perfection. The ball plopped down next to the pin and settled 5 feet away for birdie. He got the penalty, and it didn't matter. He won by three.

7-IRON: Canadian teen Brooke Henderson rallied on the back nine of Sahalee to get into a playoff at the KPMG Women's PGA Championship against Lydia Ko, the No. 1 player in the world, who was going for her third straight major. Henderson stole the show with a 7-iron to 3 feet on the first playoff hole to win.

8-IRON: This wasn't about the club as much as it was the decision. Ko was trailing at the ANA Inspiration, unaware that Ariya Jutanugarn was in trouble on the 17th. She wanted to take on the water at the par-5 18th at Rancho Mirage until her caddie persuaded her that a miss would end it, and Ko could still make birdie by laying up. She laid up with an 8-iron, made birdie and won the first major of the year.

9-IRON: Jordan Spieth had a five-shot lead going to the back nine at the Masters until bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes. But the shot that gets replayed the most was his 9-iron at the flag on the par-3 12th that hit the bank and tumbled back into the water . That was the start of his triple bogey, and he never caught up.

PITCHING WEDGE: McIlroy was three shots behind with three holes to play when he holed out with a pitching wedge on the 16th hole at East Lake. That was the start of a rally that got him into a three-man playoff, and he won with a birdie on the third playoff hole to win the Tour Championship and capture the FedEx Cup.

SAND WEDGE: Jason Dufner had not won since the 2013 PGA Championship, and it looked as though he had squandered a chance at the CareerBuilder Challenge when his tee shot to the island-green 17th at PGA West called ''Alcatraz'' went over the back. But it hung up on the rocks, and Dufner took out a sand wedge and gave it a whack. It came out so perfectly that it rolled into the pin and led to a tap-in par. He wound up winning in a playoff.

PUTTER: Stenson said his 50-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole at Royal Troon felt like a slap shot. He scored. Every week, someone makes a big putt. Stenson's stands out because it was biggest putt in the final round of the British Open, the best major of the year.

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Haas nearly shoots age in taking Champions playoff opener lead

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 10:05 pm

RICHMOND, Va.  -- Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 - missing his age by a stroke - to take a two-shot lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Trying to become the oldest winner in tour history, the 64-year-old Haas birdied the par-5 16th and 18th holes to get to 11-under 133 on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''I've been out here too long to know that I can learn to expect anything,'' Haas said. ''While I'm hopeful every day and I've been playing OK, the last couple weeks have not been very good, but this week has been much better. I love this golf course and it looks good to my eye. Most of the holes look like I'm going to hit a good shot, so I enjoy playing here.''

Mike Fetchick set the age record of 63 years to the day in the 1985 Hilton Head event. Haas is second on the list, taking the 2016 Toshiba Classic at 62 years, 10 months, 7 days for his 18th senior title.

''That's a good way to say I'm old, 'experience,''' Haas said. ''I think I'm very nervous most of the time when I play and today was no exception, but I continued to hit good shots and, hopefully, I can put one foot in front of the other, one shot at a time, do what I tell my son to do every time, you know? See if I can put some of those adages to work tomorrow.''


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


Stephen Ames and Scott Dunlap were tied for second after the round that started in light rain. Ames had a 67, and Dunlap shot 68.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer had a 66 to join Billy Mayfair (67) and Woody Austin (68) at 9 under. Langer won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the season points lead. The 61-year-old German star has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, was tied for 23rd at 4 under after a 71.

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Sergio leads by 4 entering final round at Valderrama

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 9:26 pm

Sergio Garcia closed with three straight birdies to shoot a 7-under 64 on Saturday, taking a four-shot lead into the third and final round of the Andalusia Valderrama Masters.

The tournament, which Garcia has won  twice (2017, 2011), was reduced to 54 holes because of numerous weather-related delays.

With his bogey-free round, Garcia moved to 10 under, four shots clear of Englishman Ashley Chesters, who shot a 1-under 70.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


"Hopefully we'll be able to play well tomorrow and get another win at Valderrama," Garcia said. "Hopefully I can finish it in style."

Chesters, however, is conceding nothing. "There's always a chance," he said. "There's not a lot of pressure on me."

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Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''


Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.


Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."