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James comes through in clutch, wins Volvik WLD Champ.

By Will GraySeptember 7, 2017, 4:26 am

THACKERVILLE, Okla. – In a sport filled with bold personalities, Justin James can often stand out by simply not standing out.

James is quiet and soft-spoken, and this week at the Volvik World Long Drive Championship he has been all business. The small talk was kept to a minimum, and the steely focus never left his face.

That is, until he uncorked a 435-yard bomb that made him the best long driver in the world.

James, 27, needed only to find the grid with one of his final four balls against Mitch Grassing, but he won in style by serving up one of the longest shots of the evening at the Winstar World Casino and Resort. With his ball still mid-flight, James watched its trajectory carefully on the big screens that lined the stage.

Once it landed in bounds, the “Snapping Turtle” threw his club high in the air and went straight for the championship belt that is now deservedly in his possession.

“There’s a time to celebrate,” James said. “You can’t do it too early, or you might look dumb. So you’ve got to wait.”

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James’ wait paid off, as he quickly scaled the wall behind the tee box to begin celebrating the biggest win of his career with his wife. It’s also his third victory of the 2017 season on the World Long Drive Tour and lifts him from No. 3 to No. 1 in the world.

James’ confidence never wavered, and when he left the stage after winning his Round of 16 match he stated simply, “I’m the best, so come get me.” The competition couldn’t keep pace in Wednesday’s finale under the lights, as James breezed past Paul Howell and Nick Kiefer to earn a spot in the finals.

“Regardless of the result, I felt like I was the best,” James said. “I try not to be too results-oriented, but honestly, there’s just so much anxiety and nerves this week because it’s such a huge event.”

James was able to breathe a little easier when Grassing was unable to find the grid with any of his eight balls in the final. He went 0-for-7 in his quarterfinal match with Wes Patterson before launching a 435-yard shot to escape with a win, but he couldn’t find similar magic with his back to the wall against James.

“The finals of the World Long Drive Championship, it’s a whole different level of pressure,” Grassing said. “The first few balls, I kind of missed them. I think I started rushing a little bit, maybe the pressure got to me. I made an equipment change, but I just couldn’t find it.”

But Grassing had plenty of company this week among players who couldn’t stack up to James’ towering totals. He may not have the flashiest personality or the loudest voice, but after three days of 400-plus yard shots seemingly fired at will, James has the belt that all of his other peers covet.

“It’s crazy. I can’t really describe it,” he said. “You know they say when I watch games, ‘There are no words,’ and I think they’re stupid. But now I’m the stupid one, because there’s no words to describe this. It’s the best thing ever.” 

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.