Power Rankings: 2017 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2017, 12:39 pm

The 2017 fantasy golf season remains in California this week, as the PGA Tour travels to San Diego for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the South Course at Torrey Pines in addition to the newly-renovated North Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Brandt Snedeker won this event last year by one shot over K.J. Choi. Here are 10 players to watch in La Jolla:

1. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama cooled somewhat at the Sony, but his recent run of form can't be ignored. The Japanese sensation has won four of his last seven worldwide starts, and his elite ball-striking should separate him from the field on a demanding layout like the South Course at Torrey Pines.

2. Brandt Snedeker: Last year's champ tends to feast on these two courses, as he leads the Tour in birdies and scoring average at this event since 2010. Snedeker missed the cut at Waialae but thrives on poa annua greens like those offered at Torrey Pines.

3. Dustin Johnson: The globetrotting major champ comes in hot after a runner-up in Abu Dhabi, so jet lag is a bit of a concern. But Johnson's form is not, as he has gone T-3, T-6, T-2 in his last three worldwide starts. Length off the tee will be an advantage with three rounds on the South Course, a former U.S. Open venue that should favor, well, a U.S. Open champion.

4. Jason Day: The world No. 1 sparked a flurry of worldwide victories with his win at this event back in 2015, so he clearly knows his way around. But Day is still making just his second start since the Tour Championship in September and still may be shaking off some rust heading into a more robust part of his schedule.

5. Jimmy Walker: Walker hasn't made much noise since his major breakthrough at Baltusrol, but that could change this week on a course where he has some history. Walker has finished T-8 or better in four of his last five trips to San Diego, including a T-4 finish last year despite a closing 77 in blustery conditions.

6. Rickie Fowler: Fowler thrived at this event early in his career, with top-20 finishes in each of his four appearances, but he has missed the cut in two of three trips since. Like Johnson, Fowler made the trip from Abu Dhabi to San Diego, but his game should still be relatively sharp after a shorter offseason than many of his peers.

7. Charles Howell III: Few players are hotter right now than Howell, who has finished T-15 or better in each of his last five PGA Tour starts. That includes a T-8 at Sony and a T-12 in Palm Springs in each of the last two weeks, and he has four top-20 finishes at Torrey Pines since 2011.

8. Justin Rose: The gold medalist deserves a spot on this list, especially coming off a runner-up finish at Waialae, but course history is a concern. Rose has never cracked the top 20 at this event, and he has missed the cut in each of his last two appearances. Still, Rose's tee-to-green game should give him a strong chance to contend on a tough layout.

9. Shane Lowry: For the Irishman, the tougher the course, the better. Lowry earned his lone PGA Tour win at Firestone, nearly won last summer at Oakmont and has also contended at Torrey Pines, where he chased a T-7 finish in 2015 with a T-13 finish last year. Lowry hasn't played an individual event since November, but don't be surprised if he's on the leaderboard.

10. Martin Laird: Laird finished T-9 in Palm Springs and over the years he has learned how to tame Torrey Pines. The Scot has two straight top-10 finishes at this event, and he has broken par in his opening round on the South Course each of the last three years - a big key to contending over the weekend.

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Dredge, Quiros share early lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 19, 2018, 8:41 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Bradley Dredge reeled off three birdies in his last five holes to share the lead with Alvaro Quiros after the opening round of the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II event Thursday.

Quiros finished with two straight birdies as the big-hitting Spaniard joined Welshman Dredge on 5-under-par 67.

Dredge, who made seven birdies in all, has won twice before but his last triumph came in 2006.


Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II


Quiros, who has claimed seven victories, last won at the Rocco Forte Open in Sicily last year.

The joint leaders have a one-shot advantage over Oliver Fisher, Joakim Lagergren, Erik Van Rooyen and Lorenzo Gagli at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course.

Former U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett, without a win since his victory at Augusta two years ago, opened with a 1-over 73.

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Murray battles wind, takes early Valero lead

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 7:59 pm

Amid a feast-or-famine season, Grayson Murray appears poised for another meal at the Valero Texas Open.

Murray battled windy conditions during the opening round at TPC San Antonio, carding seven birdies against a double bogey to start with a 67. At 5 under, he held a one-shot lead over Chesson Hadley at the end of the morning wave.

There has been no middle ground for Murray this year, as each of his nine starts in full-field events have yielded either a top-15 finish or a result outside the top 70. That includes his two most recent starts, where he finished T-14 at the Houston Open despite putting "terribly" and then missed the cut last week at the RBC Heritage.

But Murray spent time on the range early this week to iron out a swing flaw, and the results were quickly evident during his opening round.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


"When I get off, it's never far off but it seems like I'm always searching for something, and then I start compensating and then I create a new bad habit," Murray told reporters. "Ball-striking for me gives me confidence with every other club in my bag when it comes to putting or chipping or anything. I know if I hit it well, those parts of the game are going to be good, too."

Murray made more headlines for his words than his game for much of his rookie season, but a breakthrough win at the opposite-field Barbasol Championship in July solidified his playing status for the next two years. With swirling winds reaching 25 mph during his round, Murray was pleased to have found 13 of 18 greens in regulation and capitalize on several of his birdie chances.

"The wind bothers me when I'm hitting it like I did last week, when I'm not compressing the ball. That's just the bottom line," Murray said. "But once you start swinging it well, like hitting it into the wind really shows you how you are hitting the golf ball because it's only going to maximize your dispersion. So if you hit a 5-yard cut, it's going to be probably a 10-yard cut into the wind. That tells you when you're hitting it good."

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One year later: Surgery to success for Tiger

By Will GrayApril 19, 2018, 6:30 pm

So much can happen in a year.

Exactly 365 days ago, Tiger Woods went under the knife. When it comes to Woods, surgery has become a somewhat regular occurrence over the years; his timeline of injuries and procedures stretches nearly as long as the one detailing his on-course accomplishments.

But this one was surprising, both for the timing and the operation in question.

It was only one day prior, after all, that Woods sat in front of a sparse gallery of fans and media to announce his plans to design a new course at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri. He smiled while sitting carefully in a wooden folding chair, then stood up and gingerly hit a short wedge shot to cap the publicity stunt. He needed to re-load and swing again in order to find the makeshift green.

While it was clear that Woods was not firing on all cylinders, at no point in the proceedings did he mention the surgical appointment looming on his calendar.

“The back is progressing,” Woods said on April 18, 2017. “I have good days and bad days. I’ve had three back operations, and that’s just kind of the nature of the business unfortunately. That’s all I can say.”

He added back operation No. 4 the very next day, this time opting for a lumbar fusion that was more serious and invasive than any of its predecessors. The surgery brought with it a six-month recovery window and the very real notion that, at age 41, Woods may have already played his final hole of competitive golf.



“He is looking forward to life without pain, looking forward to day-to-day without pain,” Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, said the day after the surgery. “He’s looking forward to playing with his kids without pain, playing golf without pain. He knows he’s got a long road, but there’s a huge sense of relief right now.”

Fast-forward one year, and Woods returned to Missouri this week to survey the progress of his Payne’s Valley layout that is scheduled to open in 2019. And near the same spot where he swung through pain with wedge in hand, this time around he ripped a driver at full speed to the delight of the estimated 7,000 fans gathered for a junior clinic he hosted.

Given the relative normalcy of his most recent appearance, what Woods endured last April 19 seems like a lifetime ago.

In recapping the subsequent 12 months, keep in mind that the surgery wasn’t even Woods’ lowest point. That would come six weeks later, when he was arrested and cited for driving under the influence in Florida. There was the mugshot photo, and the arrest reports, and of course the police video where one of the greatest athletes of the last 30 years struggled to tie his shoes.

At that point, professional golf was an afterthought.

But Woods entered private treatment over the summer for his use of prescription drugs, and when he re-emerged as an assistant at the Presidents Cup in October the focus was again on his potential return to life inside the ropes – even as Woods himself acknowledged the possibility that he may never return to competition.

“I don’t know what my future holds for me,” he said. “As I’ve told you guys, I’m hitting 60-yard shots.”

It wasn’t long before those pitch shots gave way to irons and full swings with drivers, one social media video at a time. Woods’ whirlwind renaissance after receiving clearance from his surgeon raised expectations for his return at the Hero World Challenge in December to stratospheric levels.

Now four months into his latest comeback attempt, Woods has exceeded nearly every expectation while re-establishing himself as a regular contender on the PGA Tour. Three straight top-12 finishes in Florida highlighted his spring, and his health is such that questions about the status of his back from the media are now few and far between.

“I think as an athlete, you’re always pushing yourself, right? And the best ones are pushing themselves beyond their limits,” Woods said at the Valspar Championship. “I happened to be one of those guys who pushed my body and my mind to accomplish the things I knew I could. I was able to do it.”

How the next 365 days unfold remains to be seen. Woods is now 42, fighting an undefeated opponent in Father Time, and it wasn’t that long ago that the one-year retrospectives about him had a decidedly different tone.

But heading into the heart of the summer season, Woods’ prospects seem more promising than they have been at any point since his five-win season in 2013. And the winding path from bleak to rosy can be traced back to a fateful decision exactly one year ago to try once more to heal his ailing back where multiple prior attempts had failed.

From limping with a wedge to veering off the road to hinting at a possible return to smashing expectations while staring down players half his age.

So much can happen in a year.

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World Long Drive Association Staging First Live Televised Event of 2018: "Clash in the Canyon," Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 19, 2018, 6:15 pm

Open & Women’s Divisions Airing Live in Primetime in Partnership with Golf Mesquite Nevada from Long Drive’s Most Storied Venue

Each of the Top-20 in Open Division World Long Drive Rankings & Five-Time (and Defending) World Champion Sandra Carlborg Headline the Field

Veteran Sports Broadcaster Jonathan Coachman Making Golf Channel Debut; Will Conduct Play-by-Play at Each of the Five Televised WLDA Events in 2018

Coming off record viewership in 2017 and a season fueled by emergent dynamic personalities, the World Long Drive Association (WLDA) will stage its first of five televised events in 2018 with the Clash in the Canyon, airing live and in primetime on Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. Taking place April 21-24 at Mesquite Regional Sports and Event Complex in partnership with Golf Mesquite Nevada, the Clash in the Canyon will culminate with the televised portion Tuesday evening featuring the four women and eight men having advanced from preliminary rounds.

A familiar setting in the Long Drive community, Mesquite previously hosted the Volvik World Long Drive Championship and a number of qualifying events dating back to 1997, including the World Championship having been staged at the same venue as the Clash in the Canyon from 2008-2012. The 480-yard venue is carved out of the adjacent canyon which acts as a scenic backdrop when gazing down the grid from an elevated tee box.

The eventwill feature a 36-man field competing in the Open Division based on World Long Drive rankings, which will include each of the top-20 in the current rankings, along with a Women’s Division field of 18 competitors, led by five-time – and defending – World champion Sandra Carlborg. The Open Division will compete for a $50,000 purse, with a first place prize of $20,000, while the Women’s Division will be vying for a $7,000 first place prize with a $15,000 overall purse. World No. 3 Ryan Reisbeck will be defending his 2017 Clash in the Canyon title, while Chloe Garner won’t have an opportunity to defend on the Women’s side due to her being sidelined for the 2018 season with a shoulder injury. The Clash in the Canyon is the second official event of the 2018 World Long Drive season, as Justin Moose claimed the East Coast Classic in Columbia, South Carolina last month.

COVERAGE: Live coverage of the Clash in the Canyon will air in primetime on Golf Channel from 7-9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, April 24, with Golf Centralpreviewing the event from 6-7 p.m. ET. An encore telecast is scheduled to air on Golf Channel from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. ET.

The production centering around live coverage of the competition will utilize six dedicated cameras, capturing all angles from the hitting platform and the landing grid, including a SuperMo camera as well as two craned-positioned cameras that will track the ball in flight once it leaves the competitor’s clubface. New to 2018 will be an overlaid graphic line on the grid, the “DXL Big Drive to Beat,” (similar to the “1st & 10 line” made popular in football) displaying the longest drive during a given match to signify the driving distance an opposing competitor will need to surpass to take the lead. The telecast also will feature a custom graphics package suited to the anomalous swing data typically generated by Long Drive competitors, tracking club speed, ball speed and apex in real-time via Trackman. Trackman technology also will provide viewers with a sense of ball flight, tracing the arc of each drive from the moment of impact.

Morning Drive and Golf Central will prepare viewers for the Clash in the Canyon through interviews and dedicated segments featuring competitors on-site in Mesquite.

OPEN DIVISION FIELD (in order of World Long Drive ranking): Justin James, Maurice Allen, Ryan Reisbeck, Tim Burke, Trent Scruggs, Will Hogue, Mitch Grassing, Ryan Steenberg, Paul Howell, Glenn Wilson Jr., Landon Gentry, Joe Miller, Tommy Hug, Justin Moose, Kyle Berkshire, Kevin Shook, Jason Eslinger, Nick Kiefer, Steve Monroe, Troy Teal, Jeff Gavin, Brady Torbitt, Dan McIntosh, Eddie Fernandes, Spencer McDaniel, Scott Kalamar, Stephen Kois, Jim Waldron, Jeff Crittenden, Jeff Flagg, Mark Costello, Mitch Dobbyn, Josh Cassaday, Press LaBrie, Dan Lambert, Wes Patterson.

WOMEN’S DIVISION FIELD: Hollie Bartsch, Alexis Belton, Monica Borowicz, Sandra Carlborg, Shelby Crider, Irene Crowchild, Erin Hess, Jana Jones, Heather Manfredda, Phillis Meti, Troy Mullins, Debbie Peever, Alex Phillips, Ashley Pinion, Jessika Shelton, Erin Shireman, Haley Vandenberg, Katherine Wills.

FORMAT: The Open Division field will consist of 36 men broken into four “pods” of nine competitors across four three-minute sets of eight balls each, with a points system being used to identify four from each pod advancing to the Round of 16. From there, five sets of eight balls will determine the eight competitors advancing to take part in the single elimination match play bracket during the live telecast on Golf Channel. The Women’s Division will feature 18 competitors broken into two groups of nine taking part in four sets of eight balls. The top four point-earners from each pod will advance to the single-elimination match play competition beginning with the quarterfinals, with the winners moving on to the semifinals which will play out on Tuesday night’s telecast.

BROADCAST TEAM: A new voice to World Long Drive, veteran sports broadcaster Jonathan Coachman will conduct play-by-play at each of the five WLDA televised events on Golf Channel in 2018, beginning with the Clash in the Canyon.Art Sellinger – World Long Drive pioneer and two-time World champion – will provide analysis, and Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz will offer reports from the teeing platform and conduct interviews with competitors in the field.

2018 VOLVIK WLD CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING & MASTERS DIVISION: As part of the event, the WLDA will stage preliminary and final qualifying for the Open Division on Saturday-Sunday, April 21-22, which will award six exemptions into the 2018 Volvik World Long Drive Championship field later this year. Also taking place on Sunday, April 22 will be a Masters Division (ages 45+) competition, with a field of 16 that includes several individuals who have greatly contributed to the success and sustainability of the sport over the past few decades. The Masters Division format will feature a points system, with each competitor completing five sets of eight balls each. The top eight will advance to the single-elimination, match play head-to-head quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

MASTERS DIVISION FIELD:  Mike Bauman, Don Beck, Kyle Blenkhorn, Vince Ciurluini, Jeff Crittenden, Pat Dempsey, Eddie Fernandes, Jeff Gavin, Chris Hall, Dan Lambert, Brian Lawler, Tom Peppard, Lance Reader, Richard Smith, Scott Smith and Roy Studley.

DIGITAL & SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: Fans can stay up-to-date on all of the action surrounding the Clash in the Canyon by following @GolfChannel and @WorldLongDrive on social media. Golf Channel social media host Alexandra O’Laughlin will be on-site contributing to the social conversation as the event unfolds, and, the telecast will integrate social media-generated content during live coverage on Tuesday, April 24 using the hashtag, #WorldLongDrive.

In addition to the latest video and highlights from on-site in Mesquite, WorldLongDrive.com will feature real-time scoring for the duration of the event, April 21-24. Golf Channel Digital also will feature content from the Clash in the Canyon leading up to and immediately following the live telecast.

2018 WORLD LONG DRIVE ASSOCIATION SCHEDULE:

DATE

EVENT

LOCATION

March 15-17

East Coast Classic

West Columbia, S.C.

April 21-24

Clash in the Canyon (*Golf Channel*)

Mesquite, Nev.

May 11-15

Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun (*Golf Channel*)

Maricopa, Ariz.

June 4-5

Atlantic City Boardwalk Bash (*Golf Channel*)

Atlantic City, N.J.

June 21-23

Bluff City Shootout

Memphis, Tenn.

July 6-8

Bash For Cash

Port Robinson, Ont., Canada

August 2-4

WinStar Midwest Slam

Thackerville, Okla.

August 12-13

Tennessee Big Shots benefitting Niswonger Children’s Hospital (*Golf Channel*)

Kingsport, Tenn.

September 1-5

Volvik World Long Drive Championship (*Golf Channel*)

Thackerville, Okla.

One additional event is scheduled to be staged in the fall, being contested as part of the 2018-2019 season:

  • Catawba Classic – Hickory, N.C. (November 3-4)

Showcasing the truly global nature of World Long Drive, several events will be staged in 2018 through officially sanctioned WLDA international partners, including stops in Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Additionally, an all-encompassing international qualifier will be staged (late summer) featuring a minimum of four exemptions into the Open Division of the Volvik World Long Drive Championship in September.