Donald short game shines in second round at Riviera

By Randall MellFebruary 16, 2013, 12:33 am

LOS ANGELES – There’s nothing sexy about the short game.

If it’s true “chicks dig the long ball,” then the short game is for folks who love manual labor, who relish rolling up their sleeves to do some dirty work.

The short game, really, is janitorial work. It’s about cleaning up messes.

Luke Donald plays like a wizard with a mop.

His long game may not be very sexy, but Donald doesn’t care. He rolled up his sleeves to become the No. 1 player in the world. He got dirty honing a short game few players can match. You can have the 300-yard drives; Donald will take holing out from off the green every time. The short game took him from being a very good player to being one of the world’s best today.

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Donald’s short game helped him again Friday at the Northern Trust Open in his first appearance of the 2013 season.

With a 5-under-par 66, Donald moved into contention at Riviera Country Club, just two shots off the lead going into the weekend. At No. 3 in the world, the Englishman is the highest-ranked player in the field.

“It’s a great compliment when you say somebody makes something look easy,” Donald’s caddie, John McLaren said. “That’s the way it is with Luke’s short game. He makes some of the most difficult shots look simple.”

McLaren saw it in Friday’s round, with Donald using his pitching, chipping and putting to erase mistakes and move him up the leaderboard. With all the gentle twists and turns in the little green valley that is home to Riviera, it’s tough to hit these small greens. A reliable short game is a must to win here.

“Luke’s short game has been special,” McLaren said. “He was much tidier today than yesterday.”

After 11 weeks off from competition, Donald is rested, re-fueled and ready to go. His short game already looks to be in midseason form. He holed out a chip from 60 feet for eagle at the treacherous 10th in Thursday’s first round. He nearly holed out a bunker shot from there for another eagle on Friday. He holed out from 50 feet in a bunker in front of the 14th green on Thursday.

Donald, 35, says coming back from his wrist surgery five years ago came with an epiphany. He was limited to short-game work when he first came back to play.

“A lot of the breakdown in my wrist came from trying to hit the ball too hard, getting in positions that was putting stress on that wrist,” Donald said. “When I had to start practicing again, after that wrist surgery, all I could do was putt for a while, then I could chip and work my way up through the golf clubs. That's a good way to practice. I firmly believe that scoring happens from the hole back to the tee.  I'm kind of a proven example of that.

“Ever since that period, it was kind of a wakeup call for me, that I just needed to really concentrate on what I could control.  I don't think I have that body, the athletic demeanor, where I'm going to be able to hit it 300 yards. There's no magic thing, or driver, that's just going to give me that extra yardage. I just have to keep improving the things that I can control.”

In rebuilding his game, Donald became a blueprint for success for players who aren’t long-ball hitters on the PGA Tour.

Brandt Snedeker credits his improved play to watching how Donald crafted his game on the way to No. 1.

“Luke showed that it can be done, that you don’t have to bomb it to be the No. 1 player in the world,” Snedeker said after winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday. “You have to do everything really well, and he gave us the blueprint of how you do it.”

Donald is hoping to follow that blueprint to another title this weekend.

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Koepka primed for CJ Cup win and world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 6:00 am

Brooks Koepka wants a 2-for-1 at the CJ Cup. If he can collect his second non-major PGA Tour victory he can become world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

He’s in great position to accomplish his goal.

Koepka eagled the par-5 18th en route to a 7-under 65 in the second round at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea. At 8 under par, he is one back of 36-hole leader Scott Piercy (65).

Koepka, currently ranked third in the world, began the day three shots off the lead, but rapidly ascended the leaderboard. He birdied four of his first eight holes before finding trouble at the ninth. Koepka hooked his tee shot out of bounds, but the ninth is a par 5 and he was able to salvage bogey.

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That was his only dropped shot of the day.

The reigning Tour Player of the Year birdied the 12th and 14th holes in his bid to keep pace with Piercy. Koepka was two back as he played his final hole, where he knocked his second shot to 10 feet. He deftly converted the eagle effort to tie Piercy and earn a spot in Saturday’s final twosome. Piercy later pulled a shot ahead with a birdie at the ninth, his final hole of the day.

Koepka has officially won four PGA Tour events, but three of those are majors (2017, ’18 U.S. Open; 2018 PGA). His lone non-major win was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

He can still reach world No. 1 with a solo second place, assuming Justin Thomas, currently world No. 4, doesn’t win this week.

That will take a mighty weekend effort by the defending champ.

Thomas also eagled the 18th hole to go from 1 over to 1 under. He shot 2-under 70 in the second round and is seven shots off the lead.

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'Go in'? Yes, JT wants an ace at the par-4 14th

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 5:11 am

Justin Thomas didn’t hesitate after hitting his tee shot on the 353-yard, par-4 14th in Round 2 of the CJ Cup.

“Go in,” he immediately said.

“Please go in,” he added.

Thomas’ tee shot was on a great line, but it landed just short of the green. Surprisingly, it took three more shots for his ball to "go in." After birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, Thomas parred the 14th.

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Watch: Dufner makes six (!) fist pumps after birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 4:53 am

Jason Dufner makes Ben Stein seem like Jonathan Winters. Dufner often looks mighty miserable for someone who plays golf for a living.

But not on Friday at the CJ Cup!

Dufner made a 20-footer for birdie at the 16th hole and “celebrated” with one-two-three-(pause)-four-five-six fist pumps. There could have been more, but the camera cut away.

That was Dufner’s third birdie on the back nine, which offset a triple bogey at the par-3 seventh, en route to an even-par 72. Good times.

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Watch: Paul C-ace-y makes hole-in-one at CJ Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 2:35 am

Par-par-par-par-par-par. It was a boring second round over the first six holes for Paul Casey at the CJ Cup.

And then he aced the par-3 seventh.

Casey's tee shot from 176 tracked straight towards the hole and rolled in near the final revolution. That got him to 2 under par for the tournament. He was five off the lead, held by Chez Reavie, but bogeyed the ninth and 10th holes to give back those two strokes.

Hey, it's a no-cut event and a guaranteed paycheck. Drinks on Casey!