Punch Shot: Most intriguing storylines at Doral

By Jason SobelMarch 3, 2014, 4:00 pm

The PGA Tour continues its trek up Florida, on its road to Augusta, Ga. This week's stop is at Doral, site of the WGC-Cadillac Championship. There are no shortage of storylines this week outside Miami, and GolfChannel.com writers offer up their best.

By REX HOGGARD

At just 24 years young, Rory McIlory has shown a penchant for resilience, which should make this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship that much more compelling.

Call it a bounce-back start following his collapse on Sunday at the Honda Classic, where he double bogeyed the 16th hole, bogeyed the 17th hole and eventually lost a playoff to Russell Henley.

Following what had been an unforgettable 2013, McIlroy looked to be on the mend in ’14 with top-20 finishes in his first five events, including last week’s runner-up showing at PGA National. How he responds to Sunday’s swoon will be a telling moment in the Ulsterman’s return to the top.

We spotted McIlroy on Monday, less than 24 hours after his Honda Classic letdown, at the Seminole Member-Pro in Juno Beach, Fla., and he didn’t look like a man who had endured a difficult night.

Throughout McIlroy’s young career his ability to rebound has been his strongest asset. In 2011, two months after closing with an 80 at the Masters, he rolled to an eight-stroke victory at the U.S. Open, ditto for his victory at the 2012 PGA Championship, also by eight strokes, which came on the heels of a particularly poor performance at the Open Championship.

It’s the comeback not the collapse that has come to define McIlroy.


By RANDALL MELL

Outside of what’s up with Tiger Woods, the big question early at Trump Doral is whether players will embrace the redesign of the Blue Monster.

The early reviews of Gil Hanse’s work are strong, but the real measure of what he and Donald Trump did making over Dick Wilson’s classic - but aging - design will be determined by the pros teeing it up at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

And don’t take too much stock in the first impressions, what players are saying through practice rounds, and even through Friday. Wait until week’s end, after they’ve experienced a full week of the new Blue Monster.

When Raymond Floyd redesigned the course in ’97, players panned it. Wilson’s design really needed a makeover, but players have comfort zones, and they don’t necessarily like change. The biggest adjustments they’ll have to make this week is to the greens, where dramatic change awaits them.

The reviews offered by Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods will carry great weight, and so will the leaderboard come late Sunday afternoon, always a good measure of the kind of test a course offers.


By JASON SOBEL

I’m looking forward to seeing whether Adam Scott can claim the world’s No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career this week.

Our OWGR guru estimates that the Masters champion needs to win the WGC-Cadillac Championship with current No. 1 Tiger Woods finishing at least outside the top five. Each of those is a very real possibility, with Scott cruising to a T-12 result at the Honda Classic this past weekend while Woods withdrew with a back injury.

When I recently asked Scott if he’d be thinking about this prospect throughout the year, he joked that he wasn’t smart enough to even figure out the math behind it, but yes, it was something he thought about and aspired to. Coincidentally, I was speaking with Greg Norman – a mentor of sorts over the years for Scott – about a different subject just prior to writing this, but he surreptitiously had a great take on it without ever addressing it directly.

“I never wanted to be the best in the world,” said the man ranked No. 1 for 331 weeks of his career. “I just wanted to be the best I could be.”

Scott might be wise to keep that perspective in mind while trying to ascend to that position this week. He might not know the math behind it, but he’ll know that becoming the best in the world is a very real possibility.


By RYAN LAVNER

Easy – the health of Tiger Woods.

His status may be “up in the air” for the WGC event, per a media report, but the moving of his pre-tournament news conference from Tuesday to Wednesday suggests that he at least intends to play. It depends on how his back responds to treatment. It depends on whether he believes he can get through all 72 holes without incident. It depends on whether he’s willing to risk another injury and being sidelined indefinitely with the Masters only five weeks away.  

Teeing it up blind at Doral, without a practice round, would be a curious move after the drastic changes ordered by Donald Trump, even if Woods has the best history there of any player in the field (four wins and nine top-10s in 10 starts). But with only two scheduled starts until the Masters, simply completing all 72 holes would count as a small victory.

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.


Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.