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ZJ, Kirk lead Sony on Day 1; Spieth, Thomas in hunt

By Doug FergusonJanuary 12, 2018, 4:02 am

HONOLULU - Zach Johnson and Chris Kirk each made seven birdies and shared the lead in the Sony Open.

Jordan Spieth made eight birdies and for the second straight year walked away from Waialae Country Club amazed that he could be six shots behind.

A year ago, it was because Justin Thomas shot 59 playing in the same group.

On Thursday, it was one hole.

Spieth hit four trees with four shots on the par-4 eighth hole - his 17th of the opening round - starting with a tough break when his tee shot caromed off the trunk of a tree and down an 8-foot deep ditch that left him no good options. He wound up with a quadruple-bogey 8 and had to settle for a 69.

He signed his card, signed autographs and declined requests to speak to the media.

Johnson and Kirk kept clean cards playing on opposite sides of the draw and closed with different brands of birdies on the par-5 18th hole - Kirk two-putted from about 10 feet, while Johnson found a bunker, laid up and hit a wedge to 5 feet.

They were a shot ahead of Brian Harman, Vaughn Taylor, Kyle Stanley and PGA Tour rookie Talor Gooch.

Thomas, who set the PGA Tour scoring record for 72 holes in his wire-to-wire victory, opened with a 67 and was all smiles at the end. Thomas, an Alabama alum, won a bet on the college football championship that required Georgia graduate Kevin Kisner to wear a Crimson Tide jersey on the par-3 17th.

''It's definitely the best Kis has ever looked in a jersey,'' Thomas said.

Kisner kept the jersey and plans to auction it off for charity. He shot 68.

More than half of the field - 77 players - broke par in the mild trade wind and relentless sunshine down the road from Waikiki Beach.

Kirk had only one top 10 last year - his final event of the year in the RSM Classic at Sea Island - and nearly two months off didn't appear to half any momentum. He might have been rusty, but not when it comes to island life.


Full-field scores from the Sony Open in Hawaii

Sony Open in Hawaii: Articles, photos and videos


Because of the chilly weather in the South, Kirk brought his family out to Oahu a week ago Monday. He practiced a little in the morning at Ko Olina and hung out with his wife and children in the afternoon. He realized how little golf he had played during the short offseason when he reached into his bag and found golf balls that he had marked for the final round at Sea Island.

''I've probably been off long enough now that you never know what's going to happen,'' he said. ''I really had no expectations whether I was going to play good or bad after having some time off. But this is a golf course that I've traditionally done pretty well on, and a place that I really love. So you always feel like it's possible.''

He hit wedge to about 3 feet on the 15th and 16th, and that final birdie on the par-5 18th was a two-putt from 10 feet.

Dry weather, a fast course and the trades allowed a rarity for Johnson, who hit wedge into the green on the 480-yard opening hole. That was first of three straight birdies, and he had ample more opportunities, including a shot that hit the pin on No. 10 and settled 3 feet away. He missed that, though the two-time major champion wasn't too discouraged. He picked up an unlikely birdie on the 13th from the fairway bunker by making a 25-foot putt, and he made a 20-foot birdie on the next hole.

''Just kept the course in front of me and played solid golf,'' Johnson said, winless since the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews. ''Made a few putts, missed a few putts. But I'm very encouraged with the direction.''

Spieth played well enough to be right there with them except for a pair of long three-putt bogeys - and that one tee shot.

His drive on No. 8 was not terribly offline, and the trees to the left are a common spot. This one hit the trunk of a tree and tumbled down a wide (and dry) ditch about 8 feet below the fairway. He studied his options. He found none.

He could have dropped it with a penalty stroke, but there was nowhere to go. His plan was to hit out of the sandy base of the ditch toward the trees closer to the fairway. If it hit the trees and dropped out, he would have been closer than the drop and at least had an opening to the putting surface.

It hit one of the smaller branches and came back toward him, about a yard short of go back down into the ditch. For his third shot, he had a gap toward the front of the green (the pin was back left), but out of a fluffy lie, the ball came out high and hit more trees, bouncing left and settle near another tree.

Next, he had to go under the tree in front of him and over a tree guarding the green. He only got the first part right.

At this point, he was lying 4 and was only a few yards away from the second tee, waiting for another group to tee off. His only choice there was to dump it into the bunker, where the sand was thin. He hit that out to 30 feet and two putts later had a snowman (8).

In Hawaii, of all places.

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.



Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath. 

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Woods would 'love' to see Tour allow shorts

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:59 pm

Players on the European Tour are allowed to wear shorts during practices and pro-ams.

The PGA of America permitted players to show some leg while prepping for last year’s PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods would like to see the PGA Tour follow suit.

"I would love it," he said Thursday in a Facebook Live with Bridgestone Golf. "We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet. We usually travel with the sun, and a lot of our events are played in the summer, and then on top of that when we have the winter months here a lot of the guys go down to South Africa and Australia where it's summer down there.

"It would be nice to wear shorts. Even with my little chicken legs, I still would like to wear shorts."

Caddies are currently allowed to wear shorts on Tour, during events.

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Feasting again: McIlroy shoots 65 to lead BMW PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:04 pm

Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET

Rory McIlroy made seven birdies and no bogeys on Friday for a 7-under 65 and the second-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship.

After opening in 67, McIlroy was among the early groups out on Day 2 at Wentworth Club. He made three birdies and no bogeys on the par-35 front nine on Friday, and then went on a run after the turn.

McIlroy made four consecutive birdies, beginning at the par-5 12th. That got him to 12 under, overall, and gave him a clear advantage over the field. With two closing par-5s, a very low number was in sight. But, as he did on Day 1, McIlroy finished par-par.

"I've made four pars there [on 17 and 18] when I really should be making at least two birdies, but I played the other par-5s well," McIlroy said. "It all balances itself out."


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


McIlroy has made 14 birdies and two bogeys through two rounds. At 12 under, he has a three-stroke lead over Sam Horsfield.

"The work has paid off, to some degree," McIlroy said of his practice with swing coach Michael Bannon. "I still feel like I'm hitting some loose shots out there. But, for the most part, it's been really good. If I can keep these swing thoughts and keep going in the right direction, hopefully this is the type of golf I'll be able to produce."

This event has been feast or famine for McIlroy. He won here in 2014, but has three missed cuts in his other three starts. This week, however, he’ll be around for the weekend and is in position for his first European Tour victory since the 2016 Irish Open and his second worldwide victory of the year (Arnold Palmer Invitational).

"I have the confidence that I'm playing well and I can go out and try to just replicate what I did the day before," McIlroy said about his weekend approach with the lead. "On the first tee box tomorrow I'll be thinking about what I did today. Trying to just keep the same thoughts, make the same swings. I went a couple better today than I did yesterday. I'm not sure I'll keep that progression going but something similiar tomorrow would be nice."

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."