Stat attack!: WGC-Cadillac Championship preview

By John AntoniniMarch 4, 2014, 9:15 pm

The old adage that the golf season doesn’t really begin until the PGA Tour comes to Doral was disproven years ago. With the European Tour building a strong Middle East swing, and the PGA Tour concluding its West Coast swing with the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, the world’s top stars have many places to shake out the winter rust before the Tour comes to Florida. This year, with the wraparound season beginning in October, 15 PGA Tour events were in the books before Doral appeared on the schedule. But for some players the venerable adage does hold some truth. Eight qualifiers for the Tour Championship a year ago are currently outside the top 100 on the 2013-14 FedEx Cup standings and the top three players on last year’s list – Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker (pictured) – would not qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today. The Tour still has 26 events to go, so time isn’t quite running short, but this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral would be a good place for the players listed below to “start” their seasons.

2013 Tour Championship qualifiers outside the top 125 in FedEx Cup points in 2014

 Player 2013 rank 2014 rank
 Henrik Stenson 1 151
 Tiger Woods 2 T-226
 Steve Stricker 3 195
 Brandt Snedeker 12 116
 Brendon de Jonge 26 108
 Charl Schwartzel 27 109
 Luke Donald 28 117
 D.A. Points 30 158

The good news for Woods and Stricker is that they finished first and second at the WGC-Cadillac Championship a year ago. The bad news is that they are not returning to a course they are familiar with. As part of an overall $250 million renovation of the newly named Trump National Doral, the Blue Monster course underwent a redesign after last year’s championship led by Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner. This was more than a tweak. Hanse and Wagner rebuilt every green, moved every bunker and made extensive alterations to just about every hole. Water now comes into play on 14 holes, up from six a year ago. Speaking on Morning Drive in December, Hanse said the Blue Monster was “basically a brand new golf course.”

Woods set a personal best (after an alignment tip from Stricker) when he needed just 100 putts a year ago. But any notes he has about the putting surfaces are obsolete, as it has been reported that the green complexes are larger and trickier than before with more undulations. There are more opportunities to tuck pin positions, and avoiding three-putts will be a tournament key for the seven players in the field are in to top 20 on Tour in three-putt avoidance.

Tour leaders in three-putt avoidance in the WGC-Cadillac field

 Player  Rank Three-putt percentage
 Matt Kuchar 2 1.19%
 Jonas Blixt 10 1.56
 Zach Johnson T-12 1.62
 Webb Simpson T-12 1.62
 Brendon de Jonge T-16 1.67
 Dustin Johnson T-19 1.74
 Hunter Mahan T-19 1.74

Of just as much importance to Simpson and the two Johnson’s is the fact it has been critical at this tournament to get off to a strong start – regardless of where the event is held. The eventual winner has been under par in the first round 13 times and only two champions were in the 70s after the first day. In addition, 12 of the 14 champions were in the top 10 after day one. Ernie Els, 16th after one round in 2004, was the only player outside the top 15 on Thursday to go on to win. Simpson, Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson are all in the top 10 on the PGA Tour in first-round scoring average in 2013-14.

Tour leaders in first-round scoring average in the WGC-Cadillac field

 Player Rank First-round scoring average
 Chris Kirk T-1 67.00
 Webb Simpson T-1 67.00
 Ryan Moore 3 67.29
 Zach Johnson 4 67.67
 Kiradech Aphibarnrat 5 67.75
 Keegan Bradley T-6 68.10
 Harris English 8 68.22
 Kevin Stadler T-9 68.25
 Dustin Johnson T-9 68.25

Unlike the Match Play, the WGC-Cadillac Championship has a history of identifying a world-class winner. The Cadillac champ was also a major champion in all but three years – and two of those three players, Mike Weir and Justin Rose, would eventually win major titles. (The Match Play champion had not won a major 11 times, and only two of those – Darren Clarke in 2000 and Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 – would eventually win one.) In the seven years the Cadillac has been held at Doral, five champions were in the top 20 on the World Ranking and only one runner-up was ranked outside the top 50.

World rank of WGC-Cadillac winner and runner-up: 2007-2013

 Year Winner (rank) Runner-up (rank)
 2013 Tiger Woods (2) Steve Stricker (13)
 2012 Justin Rose (22) Bubba Watson (23)
 2011 Nick Watney (31 Dustin Johnson (14)
 2010 Ernie Els (20) Charl Schwartzel (35)
 2009 Phil Mickelson (3) Nick Watney (78)
 2008 Geoff Ogilvy (17) Jim Furyk (8), Vijay Singh (11), Retief Goosen (36)
 2007 Tiger Woods (1) Brett Wetterich (44)

One final note: Hanse gave PGA Tour players the opportunity to comment on the course before the redesign and to visit the course once much of the work was complete. Phil Mickelson was one of the few to take him up on the offer. Mickelson had success at the old Blue Monster, winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship in 2009 and finishing second to Woods in the 2005 Ford Championship.

If you haven’t already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”