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Hot Seat: Glare on ever-changing Ko

By Randall MellFebruary 14, 2018, 3:03 pm

Even Cupid’s under pressure to hit his marks this week.

Lydia Ko, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott are the focus of this special Valentine’s edition of the Hot Seat.

Will the golf gods show these popular icons some love with Ko making her first start of the 2018 season so near her beloved New Zealand home, with Woods making his return to his L.A. area roots and with Scott looking to make a return to the top 50 in the world rankings?

Our special heat index measuring the temperatures the game’s top players face this week:

Tasmanian Mountain Pepper – Lydia Ko

The new year starts with yet another shakeup to Ko’s team.

While the changes aren’t quite as sweeping as a year ago, when Ko made her start with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG), she is making significant changes.

Ted Oh is the new coach, and Jonny Scott will be the new caddie at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

Oh told GolfChannel.com he didn’t overhaul Ko’s swing in their recent boot-camp-style work together over five weeks in Phoenix, but trained eyes will see some change in her swing. They spent nine-hour days together in that intense preparation.

“The days would have been longer, but the sun went down,” Oh said.

A lot of the focus was on Ko’s “scoring clubs,” her short irons, wedges and short game. She didn’t give herself as many birdie chances as she would have liked last year, when she ranked third on tour in putts per greens in regulation but dropped to 10th in scoring. She was second in scoring in 2016 and second in 2015.

Ko, the greatest teen phenom the women’s game has ever known, is coming off her first winless year since she began playing LPGA events as a 15-year-old. She’s looking for her first victory since turning 20.

Ko fans may have to be patient, because these off-season changes could require more time to adjust. The former No. 1 has slid to No.  10 in the world rankings.



Riviera Roast – Tiger Woods

Woods is making his first start in 12 years at Riviera, which stands as the only venue he couldn’t conquer that really meant something to him.

He’s 0-for-10 at Hogan’s Alley, a course just an hour’s drive north of where he grew up. He has never played a course more on the PGA Tour without winning.

Woods has come close in this event. He lost in a playoff to Billy Mayfair in 1998, when the event was contested at Valencia CC. He tied for second behind Ernie Els the very next year, back at Riviera. He has four top-10s in this event, but Hogan’s Alley never yielded to his will, even when Woods was at the height of his powers early in his career.

Still, it remains a special place to Woods. He was 16 when he made his first appearance in a PGA Tour event there. He has Genesis Open host duties now, with his foundation running the event.

While the odds are against Woods breaking through and winning this week, it’s still a win for golf that he’s there, making his L.A.-area home a stop in his return to the game.



Rope-Burn Rash – Adam Scott

Scott slid outside the top 50 in the world rankings with his missed cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last weekend, marking the first time the former world No. 1 hasn’t been among the top 50 in almost eight years.

Scott is back in action at the Genesis Open, an event where he has thrived. He won at Riviera in ’05 and finished second there in ’06. He was runner-up there just two years ago. All of that bodes well as a place for him to start climbing back up in the world rankings to assure he will be eligible for the U.S. Open this summer and the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent, even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


Full-field scores from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said.

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Sources: Woods returning to Wells Fargo

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods is expected to return to competition at next week's Wells Fargo Championship, according to multiple Golf Channel sources. The news of Woods' participation was first reported Thursday on "Golf Central."

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods has until 5 p.m. ET Friday to officially commit to next week's field. When reached for comment by GolfChannel.com, Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, explained that Woods' plans were not yet finalized.

"We don't know right now (if Woods will play)," Steinberg said. "We'll know later this afternoon. We're working on a couple things."

A trip to Charlotte would be another sign that the 42-year-old is ready to return to a customary schedule, as next week's event would be followed by Woods' expected return to The Players for the first time since 2015. Woods has already committed to the U.S. Open, which will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major victory.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by GolfChannel.com. "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.