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The Social: X-treme Tour makeover

By Jason CrookJanuary 30, 2018, 7:00 pm

Slow play on the PGA Tour once again rears its ugly head, Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky sweat out the possibility of losing the world No. 1 ranking, LPGAers enjoy their time on and off the course at their season-opener, and a golf version of the XFL? Hey, never say never.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

We begin where we always do, by congratulating the weekly PGA Tour winner and wishing only good things for him going forward this year discussing whatever controversy engulfed the golf world this week on the game’s biggest stage. For something new and exciting, the hot topic at the Farmers Insurance Open became slow play, when a near six-hour final round came to a screeching halt in the middle of the 18th fairway as J.B. Holmes took more than four minutes to decide on a club with the co-leader of the tournament waiting on him.

Holmes stood by his decision after the round, saying he "was still trying to win," but there weren't many standing out there on that ledge with him.

On a Tour where players generally try to give each other the benefit of the doubt, several prominent names took to Twitter to voice their frustration with Holmes and the entire process in general:

No matter what you think about the slow-play issue, it's probably a good general rule of thumb to not alienate everyone you work with, no matter your profession.

Just a thought.

Up until the final round at Torrey Pines, Jon Rahm was threatening to win the Farmers Insurance Open and take over the No. 1 ranking from Dustin Johnson in the process, not that DJ would’ve minded … or even noticed.

Johnson and fiancée Paulina spent the week in Aspen, Colorado, with friends and family enjoying the slopes and taking really, really, really, ridiculously good looking photos of themselves – a standard we’ve come to expect from any Johnson-Gretzky vacation.

Another successful aspen trip with the best crew

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Say what you will about DJ’s ability to overpower courses or other players, but this is the part of his game that doesn’t get enough credit.

It’s easy to make jokes, but not everyone is wired to just shut their brain off and go on vacation when meaningful golf is being played. Johnson is far and away the Tour’s best at this and go figure, the world rankings still reflect that.

The LPGA saw the PGA Tour’s season-opener in Hawaii and raised them a trip to the Bahamas.

While you could debate which vacation spot is better, the LPGA ladies didn’t seem to have any complaints about their time spent in the tropical paradise last week at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

Brittany Lincicome had the best week, we're assuming, because you know, she won the tournament.

But from a quick look around social media, it appears all the losers had a decent time, too.

Back in paradise @puresilkbahamaslpga

A post shared by Cheyenne Woods (@cheyenne_woods) on

Not a bad place for a selfie #puresilkbahamas #lpga

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In conclusion, the beginning of the season on the PGA and LPGA tours looks pretty amazing. Rest of the season appears to be OK, too.

If you're not working a solid 9-5 job, you should definitely look into it.

This guy is the real MVP.

Sneaks onto the court during an NBA game during warmups, does some light stretching and even gets a shot up before anyone notices he's not actually a player on the team.

As for that security guard. Boo this man!

Phil Mickelson has a penchant for dad jokes, which makes sense, considering he’s 47 years old and has been a dad for 18 years.

But he took it to another level last week at Torrey Pines after hitting a fan with a wayward drive.

Obviously the fan knew a signed glove was coming hisr way (that’s kind of Phil’s thing), but this one came with a little something extra.

Yes, you're reading that right. He signed it - "Next time, duck!"

If we're being totally honest ... not terrible advice.

And if this is any indication of how the twilight of Mickelson's career is going to go down, let's all hope he plays until he's got grandpa jokes.

With Torrey Pines in the books, it's suddenly Waste Management Phoenix Open week ... AKA the biggest party of the year on the PGA Tour.

That visual of the par-3 16th hole on the Stadium Course filled with crazy fans is enough to scare some Tour pros, but not Bubba Watson, who was there over the weekend getting some early practice in.

With the help of his adorably loud son Caleb, of course.

If Bubba wins this week, here's to hoping he gets a giant, "you're welcome!" from his son.

He deserves the credit.

Despite flaming out on the first go-around, an XFL reboot was announced by WWE owner Vince McMahon last week in an attempt to give football fans an alternative option to the NFL by 2020.

Whether it will work or not remains to be seen, but it did get one Tour pro asking the question on Twitter ... "When will there be an XFL for golf?"

John Peterson laid out a few initial rules (which would certainly solve a few problems we saw just last week) - mid-round fights, no practice swings, have to play in under 2 hours, no tees, carry bags and swimsuits.

But that just got the ball rolling.

Plenty of others on social media chimed in with their ideas for the new XTour, which Peterson was all for:

Sure it'll never happen, because players - and fans - still get bent out of shape over when exactly a fan can yell, "Get in the hole!"

It sure is fun to think about though. And it goes without saying, but you know you'd watch.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.