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Hot Seat: Fans now under fire

By Randall MellFebruary 28, 2018, 2:00 pm

Justin Thomas rearranged the furniture in golf last week.

He moved the Hot Seat outside the ropes.

Thomas put the heat under the britches of that obnoxious fan riding him in the final round of the Honda Classic. While Thomas later apologized for having the guy ejected, he intensified focus on the line of decorum being crossed more regularly in elite golf events.

That may be good for the sport, but not so good for Thomas. With that in mind, here’s our special heat index measuring the toastiest seats in golf this week:

Burning britches: Mr. Baba Booey

Golf’s unique culture is being invaded by the more rough-and-tumble norms of football, baseball and basketball.

The barbarians are at the gate.

There’s an unresolvable dilemma in that.

You get more ticket sales, TV ratings and other profitable returns moving outside your niche, but you also get a threat to the integrity of the game’s competition.

You get the possibility that some unruly fan decides the outcome.

You get the possibility a fan ignorant of the game’s customs screams something that wouldn’t affect an NFL kicker, Major League Baseball pitcher or NBA point guard, but totally derails a PGA Tour pro.

Not because the Tour pro’s more sensitive, but because the game is inherently more sensitive, because a golf fan screaming in a player’s backswing is roughly the same thing as an NFL fan sneaking on the field and tripping a receiver racing up a sideline.

Real golf fans want to see great players decide the outcome, not some whiskey-breath yahoo.

Thomas sees that bigger picture, and it’s easy to interpret his reaction as an attempt to defend the integrity of the competition as much as it was an attempt to defend himself. We know that because of what Thomas said at Riviera last week and at Honda before the event even began.

If golf doesn’t push back somehow, this all keeps getting worse.

But Thomas may have put himself in the hot seat along with that obnoxious fan, only because the fan’s sin didn’t seem that egregious heard out of its entire context, because he didn’t actually yell anything in Thomas’ backswing. The fan apparently yelled “hit it in the water” before Thomas hit his tee shot at the 16th and then yelled “get in the bunker” after the ball was struck.

By making it an issue, Thomas risked making himself an easy target for over-served and overzealous fans. That’s a shame, because he is such a bright young star. He puts on a show that is something to behold, not to jeer. He stepped up to protect the integrity of the competition, and now he needs folks to step up and protect him.

Shanshan Feng during Round 2 at the 2017 Japan Classic.

Singapore sunburn: Shanshan Feng

The world No. 1 has reigned atop the Rolex rankings for 16 weeks, but Lexi Thompson now looms just 98-thousandths of a point behind her in their ranking averages.

Feng won’t have to look far to see what kind of pressure Thompson is applying this week in a bid to take the top spot for the first time. She is playing with Thompson and world No. 3 Sung Hyun Park in Thursday’s start of the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore.

Thompson is an interesting study.

How did she move to a whole new level of consistency last year?

You never hear this as the secret to a player’s success, but it might be her lag putting.

Yeah, she improved her wedge play, her chipping and bunker play, but her lag putting took her confidence to a whole new level by taking pressure off the rest of her game. It made the game feel a little bit easier.

Thompson improved her pace, her feel on the greens, and it took so much stress off her putter, leaving herself less work cleaning up pars. That’s no small thing in a player’s psyche. She found that half shot per round that a player is looking for to improve scoring.

Feng may be No. 1 in the world, but she is underrated.

She is one of the most colorful players on tour, but she’s so underappreciated. Her cow-print pants and amusing wit help make her one of the most entertaining players in the game. She’s also one of the most consistent ball strikers out there. She’ll need that to keep fending off Thompson and Park and all the other challengers.

Scalper heat rash: Wannabe Masters patron

If you’re looking to scalp tickets for the Masters this year, you got bad news this week.

With Tiger Woods showing so much promise at the Honda Classic, the average asking price of tickets on secondary markets soared, according to

The average price of a single-day ticket is now $2,948, up from $2,592 last year, when he didn’t play. It was $2,176 when he didn’t play two years ago.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”