Florida swing a major test without a major

By Randall MellFebruary 23, 2016, 11:09 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The Florida swing sets up like a tough series of undercards before the year’s first major championship.

The Florida events are bruisers so formidable a pro risks getting beat up before he even gets to the Masters in April.

It starts with what may be the gauntlet’s toughest test at this week’s Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion Course.

“This golf course plays like a major tournament, no doubt about it,” said Padraig Harrington, the defending champion. “You’ve got to man up quite a bit out here and hit some tough shots.”

Harrington defeated Daniel Berger in a playoff last year. They were tied at 6 under overall through 72 holes. No regular Tour event was won with a higher score in relation to par last year. In fact, that total was higher than the 18-under Jordan Spieth put up winning the Masters, the 15-under Zach Johnson put up winning The Open Championship at St. Andrews and the 20-under Jason Day put up winning the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

Spieth’s 5-under at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay was the only winning score higher than Honda’s in relation to par last year.

“If you can win here [at PGA National], you can win a major,” Harrington said.

And Harrington ought to know. He has won three of them.

“There are a lot of big shots here, just like a major tournament,” Harrington said.

The Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

The WGC-Cadillac Championship wasn’t much easier in the Florida swing than Honda at the redesigned Trump Doral’s Blue Monster last year with Dustin Johnson winning at 9 under, nor was the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course with Jordan Spieth winning at 10 under.

The only respite in the Florida swing came at the Arnold Palmer Invitational with Matt Every winning at 19 under, and that was lowest score at Bay Hill in a dozen years.

“The Florida test is a lot tougher than the West Coast,” said Billy Horschel. “Torrey Pines is a good test and L.A. is a good test, but other than that, the rest of the courses on the West Coast don’t test you as much. You can get away with misses and still play well.

“You come to Florida, and you know you’re going to have to deal with the wind and controlling your ball flight. You know you’re going to have some tough conditions. You have tough courses and tough shots you have to hit.

“It just mentally prepares you [for a major], and it might get you in the right mind frame.”

Spieth looked well prepared for the Masters with his Florida run last year. He won the Valspar Championship and a month later won at Augusta National.

You could argue, though, that the Florida swing might have become too tough.

Before Spieth’s win in Tampa last year, it had been 10 years since a winner in Florida went on to win the Masters. That came in 2005, when Tiger Woods won the Ford Championship at Doral and then went on to win at Augusta National.

Still, Harrington likes the tone PGA National’s Champion Course sets leading off the Florida swing and leading to the Masters. He likes how it requires a toughness of temperament similar to what majors require.

“This is everything a major would be - capable of holding a major - except it’s not a major in name,” Harrington said. “But it’s a big tournament and the best players are turning up ... This is definitely a warm-up in terms of attitude that you need in a major. If you’ve got the skills to win around here, you know you can win on any major golf course.”

Horschel believes PGA National can separate contenders and pretenders, and that’s what majors do.

“You can’t have a whiner’s mentality and play this golf course,” Horschel said. “You can play some really good golf and walk off this course shooting 76. I did it last year. I played in the afternoon on Thursday in some really, really windy conditions and played well, and I shot 5 or 6 over. People might have been thinking, `You didn’t play well,’ but I hit a lot of good shots.”

Anything less than good shots can end up wet through the notorious trio of holes known as the Bear Trap. The 15th, 16th and 17th holes all require forced carries over water, often in high winds.

“This course is really good,” Horschel said. “It tests all aspects of your game. For the most part, you have to be mentally strong since you have to understand there’s going to be stuff you do really well that’s not going to turn out well, due to the wind and everything here.”

The Florida swing can make players believe they need to do more than put up their best games. It can make them feel as if they have to put up their dukes.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”