Punch Shot: McIlroy's Irish group or Spieth's Nelson group?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 27, 2015, 2:00 pm

Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas are playing together at this week's AT&T Byron Nelson. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Martin Kaymer are grouped at Royal County Down in Ireland. So, if you could only watch one of these marquee groups, which one would it be? Our writers debate. And, fortunately for you, viewers can see both on Golf Channel so you don't have to choose.

By WILL GRAY

I’m as bullish on the next crop of PGA Tour young guns as anyone, but let’s be clear: I would rather watch grass grow at Royal County Down than any group playing this week at TPC Four Seasons.

That’s not a slight on this week’s domestic venue – OK, it’s a small slight. But it’s more about the fact that Royal County Down is on the bucket list of bucket lists, a gem of a layout whose standing is likely enhanced by the scant few times it has been made available for televised consumption.

This week’s Irish Open, then, is a welcome opportunity to take in all that the Northern Irish links layout has to offer. The fact that it features the world No. 1, playing in an enticing Walker Cup revival with Rickie Fowler, is icing on the cake.

Spieth, Thomas and Koepka will battle it out for a variety of prizes in the years to come. Royal County Down hosting top-shelf tournament golf? That’s the must-watch option. 


By RANDALL MELL

If Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Martin Kaymer can muster their best at the same time at the Irish Open this week, tournament officials might have to move the gallery ropes back at Royal County Down.

There’s a lot of explosive firepower packed into this dynamic grouping based on what they’ve done over the last year and even the last month. McIlroy is just two weeks removed from his seven-shot runaway victory at the Wells Fargo Championship, where his 21-under winning total shattered the tournament record by five shots. Fowler is three weeks removed from his unforgettable late Sunday charge at The Players Championship. Kaymer proved he can run away and hide on the biggest stages winning the U.S. Open in a tour de force performance last summer.

At their very best, these three could push each other into making this a three-man event.


By REX HOGGARD

As compelling as a potential Rory McIlroy-Rickie Fowler showdown at this week’s Irish Open is, it will be another bout 4,450 miles to the west that seems more likely to live up to the hype.

Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas will tee off at 1 p.m. on Thursday at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas with an impressively familiar theme. Youth has officially established itself on the PGA Tour and there are few players in the game born after 1990 with as much potential as the marquee threesome this week in Big D.

Since his breakthrough victory at the Masters, Spieth has shown few signs of a post-major hangover, finishing tied for second last week at Colonial. It was also at the Nelson, Spieth’s hometown event, where the golf world was first introduced to the future champion when he tied for 16th place as a 16-year-old.

Koepka has also been impressive, winning his first Tour title in February at the Waste Management Phoenix Open; while Thomas seems to be closing in on his maiden victory with five top-10 finishes in his rookie season.

McIlroy and Fowler have dominated the headlines the last few weeks in professional golf, but this week it will be another group of 20-somethings who steal the spotlight.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


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.