The many reasons to be jealous of DJ

By Jason SobelJanuary 9, 2013, 12:50 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – It's perfectly acceptable to be crazy jealous of Dustin Johnson. Green with envy, as they say. Hell, you can even hate him if you want.

Just pick a reason, any reason. There are plenty to go around.

Maybe it’s his golf game.

Since graduating from Coastal Carolina, he's won in each of his first six years on the PGA Tour – the first player to accomplish that out of college since Tiger Woods. His victory Tuesday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions was the seventh of his career and emblematic of the way he plays. He started the final round atop the leaderboard, opened up a bigger lead, nearly coughed it away, and then separated himself once again.

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Johnson is golf’s version of Brett Favre in his prime. He’ll often do something stupid to make you shake your head, but he’ll always follow it with a display of brilliance that few others could pull off.

On this occasion, the back-and-forth occurred on the 13th and 14th holes. At 13, he pulled driver into the thick grass left of the fairway, failed to advance his ball with his second shot and made double-bogey. The next hole, he fearlessly hit driver again and came up just short of the 14th green, then chipped in for eagle – the ultimate in “bouncebackability.”

“I've done it enough times that it doesn't really bother me anymore,” he laughed. “I've been in this situation enough now and I've made enough double bogeys in my life, that, you know, it's just another hole, and you've got a lot more holes to go where you can make it up.”

Yes, with a little more luck and a little better decision-making, his seven-win record could be 10 wins with three majors, but it’s not exactly like the guy is wasting talent. In what is simultaneously the best and most irrelevant stat of the week, three of those titles have come in 54-hole tournaments, meaning he's getting paid full-time even when he gets a day off.

If that’s not enough to make you jealous, though, there’s more.

Maybe it’s his athleticism.

At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, he was fourth on the PGA Tour in driving distance last year at just over 310 yards per clip. Kapalua’s Plantation Course annually offers some of the longest measured drives of the season, but that shouldn’t belittle Johnson’s numbers this week. In just three rounds, he had 13 tee shots of more than 350 yards, including two that passed the 400 mark.

“He's got that athletic build, that athletic body,” playing partner Steve Stricker said. “He's got a tremendous amount of flexibility. He gets the club in positions that people can't get it into, and he can use that height to his advantage and big arc to get that big, powerful hit on the ball.”

Not impressed yet? Well, his athleticism extends beyond golf. The dude can dunk – barefoot. He loves all water sports. Last year at AT&T Park, he threw out the first pitch before a San Francisco Giants game. Sure, he bounced it, but with an effortless motion and lanky delivery it wouldn’t be hard to imagine him taking the mound if that’s the direction he’d chosen long ago.

Still not envious? I’ll keep going.

Maybe it’s his demeanor.

At one point during Tuesday’s final round, one commentator opined that Johnson is the only golfer who could make the notoriously cool Fred Couples seem nervous. Some may mistake Johnson’s nonchalance for a lack of devotion, but it’s just his nature.

Bubba Watson is fidgety on the golf course. Keegan Bradley looks perpetually determined. Johnson looks like he’s strolling along the beach in golf clothes.

As far as personality traits for professional golfers, the ability to remain constantly casual isn’t the worst one to own.

Anyone who’s ever thrown a club in disgust or muttered a naughty word would be jealous. And if you’re not, there’s this.

Maybe it’s … other things.

Throughout the week at Kapalua – OK, week-and-a-half, by the time it was over – Johnson was seen canoodling with Paulina Gretzky.

Yes, that Paulina Gretzky. Daughter of the hockey legend, actress and lover of the camera lens.

If you haven't seen her, do a Google search right now. If you have, do another one.

(Take your time…)

(Still waiting...)

(Um, OK, you can come back now...)


When asked about his relationship with her after the tournament, Johnson responded, “Does it matter?” When informed that inquiring minds wanted to know, he followed, “I don’t know who you’re talking about,” while a huge smile splashed across his face.

So like I said, there’s plenty of reasons to be jealous of Johnson. Envious even. And yeah, you can even hate the guy.

Or you can take all of these reasons – the golf game, the athleticism, the demeanor, the … other things – and use them as the very reasons to root for him, to understand what makes him so talented and how he’s been able to win so frequently.

He proved it all once again this week.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.