Punch Shot: Most anticipating for remainder of 2014?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 7, 2014, 5:40 pm

The LPGA and European tours are entering their stretch runs, while the PGA Tour is beginning its new season. With three months left on the calendar, GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with what they are most anticipating over the remainder of the year.


It’s the Hero World Challenge – an 18-man event with plenty of intrigue.   

Headlining the star-studded field, of course, is tournament host Tiger Woods, who hasn’t hit a competitive shot since the PGA Championship. When he appeared at media day last month, the former world No. 1 said he was mostly focused on getting stronger in the gym and that, barring any setbacks, he planned to start making full swings in early October. That leaves him two full months to prepare for his tournament.

Sure, too much will be made of one 72-hole event, but it should shed some light on a few burning questions:

How is his health? How does his swing (sans coach) look? If he plays well, is it all systems go for 2015?

During this largely uninspiring fall slate, the World Challenge is must-see TV.


Although there is still plenty of meaningful golf remaining on the 2014 calendar thanks to the PGA Tour’s wrap-around schedule and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, the one event that stands out among the remaining fields will be one of the year’s deepest.

Last year’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China was the strongest field among the four Race to Dubai events with 66 Official World Golf Ranking points going to the winner and it was a who’s who list of top players.

Dustin Johnson won the event, by three strokes over Ian Poulter followed by Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Rory McIlory.

The limited-field, no-cut HSBC affords players a multitude of opportunities, including a chance to secure a late/early start on the PGA and European tours for players who split time between the two circuits.

The World Golf Championship became a full-point event on the PGA Tour last season thanks to the new split-calendar schedule, and is the second of four Final Series events on the European circuit.

The result is one of the year’s deepest fields and one last chance to see golf’s stars compete in a meaningful event. So enjoy the HSBC; golf won’t see a field this deep until the Florida swing.


You can accuse me of not caring enough about the beginning of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season and the conclusion of the 2014 European Tour season – the former starts 55 days before the latter ends, by the way – but I’m more intrigued about a certain 14-time major champion returning from injury without a swing coach for the first time.

Tiger Woods has vowed to make his return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge in early December. His performance at Isleworth isn’t very meaningful as far as how he winds up on the leaderboard that week, but should be considered of the utmost importance when projecting his long-term potential over the next year and beyond.

If Woods can return pain-free and his swing once again finds the right angles and planes, it may be a prelude to big things in 2015. If he returns with signs of that back injury still lingering and his swing looks balkier than it did toward the end of his Foley Era, it may be a precursor to further struggles.

Neither of those is certain based on one late-season hit-and-giggle at his former home course, but during the months when golf’s never-ending schedule is less important, the prospect of seeing how Tiger returns has me more excited than anything else.


Unless Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson are booked together on an upcoming episode of Dr. Phil, the Hero World Challenge intrigues more than anything left to see in golf in 2014. The return of Tiger Woods is about the only event remaining this year capable of mustering more obsessive analysis and dissection than the dysfunctional American Ryder Cup team.

The Hero World Challenge might be an unofficial event, but what may unfold Dec. 4-7 looms as more compelling than anything threatening to unfold at the Race to Dubai or in the PGA Tour’s wraparound opening. This glimpse of how Woods is healing, how his swing is progressing without a coach and how hopeful his outlook is toward the new year rank as more capable of luring eyes away from NFL games than anything else golf is going to muster these last few months of the year. There will be more electricity in the air for his start than for the start of anything else this fall.

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Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

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Pavin's season nearly ends after slow play penalty

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 1:50 pm

Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow play penalty.

Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.

The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.

Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.

Slow play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.

"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"

The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin:

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Azinger 'lobbied' to captain Ryder Cup team a second time

By Rex HoggardOctober 22, 2018, 1:47 pm

In 2008, Paul Azinger became the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain in nearly a decade to lead a team to victory, doing so at Valhalla with his innovative “pod” system and a player-driven approach to leadership.

In the wake of that victory there were many, including the vast majority of his players, who said Azinger deserved a second chance to captain, but at the time the 12-time PGA Tour winner appeared to be undecided and the PGA of America named Corey Pavin the 2010 captain.

On Monday, Azinger was named NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst starting next year and among many revelations during an extended interview on “Morning Drive” he explained how much he wanted a second chance to captain.

“I wanted to do it again, I lobbied to do it again after we won in ’08, but I think I waited a little too long and they had already made a decision,” Azinger said. “The excuse I got was that there are more captains than there are Ryder Cups and I thought that was fair, but then they asked [Tom] Watson to do it again shortly afterward and I was like, ‘What, huh?’”

Watson was named captain of the 2014 U.S. team, which lost by five points and led to the creation of the Ryder Cup task force, which adopted many of Azinger’s ideas including his use of four-player pods.

It’s even more curious that Azinger was never given a second chance considering that Davis Love III was also named a captain twice, first in 2012 and again in ’16.

“I didn’t do it again, I didn’t carry the flag to Europe in 2010, which is fine, and now I’m never going to get to do it again,” he said.

As for who may be named the next U.S. captain after another loss to the Europeans last month in France Azinger could only speculate. “Looks like Wisconsin [site of the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits] and Steve Stricker are going to be a perfect match,” he said.

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Garcia wins rain-shortened Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 22, 2018, 12:48 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain -- Sergio Garcia won his third Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Monday, finishing the rain-shortened European Tour event four shots ahead of Shane Lowry.

Garcia shot a 2-under 69 for a 12-under 201 total in the 54-hole tournament at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain. Lowry shot a 66 in the final round.

Garcia, the tournament host, had a three-shot lead before the turn when stormy conditions suspended play on Sunday. He had three birdies and a bogey when play resumed on Monday, enough to add to his Valderrama titles in 2011 and 2017.

''It's amazing to be able to win here at Valderrama three times. It's a dream come true,'' the Spaniard said. ''This golf course is so challenging and for me to be able to go out there in the conditions we played in all week and shoot three rounds under par means a lot. I'm very proud of that and really excited about the week.''

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Lowry was as close as one shot off the lead after a round that included seven birdies. His title chances ended with a double bogey at the par-3 15th hole.

''Obviously Shane was playing well, he got close to me, then unfortunately he doubled 15 and that gave me a little bit of an extra gap, with his double and my birdie on 14 opening it to four, and we kept it there until the end so that was nice,'' Garcia said.

Lee Westwood (70) finished tied for fifth.

Tournament officials reduced the event to 54 holes on Saturday after bad weather had forced several delays.

It was the 15th European Tour win for Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion.