Randall's Rant: Tour needs Sixes appeal

By Randall MellMay 8, 2017, 6:39 pm

Going GolfSixes with the rants this week, with six short bursts:

Speaking of GolfSixes ...

The ball is in the PGA Tour’s tee box now.

The European Tour’s GolfSixes, like its cousin, the World Super 6 Perth, wasn’t perfect last week, but as an innovative experiment designed to reach outside golf’s niche to a younger generation, it was another promising turn.

The flashy pyrotechnics and jarring sounds and scenes so unnatural to golf, with the rock music and mascots, probably made traditionalists cringe, but tradition may be in trouble if the game doesn’t keep figuring out ways to appeal to today’s “Fast and Furious” culture.

The six-hole team matches, knockout rounds and shot clocks were bold experiments surprisingly well received.

So now it’s the PGA Tour’s turn to give the European Tour’s experiments credibility. This works better if the PGA Tour buys into expanding upon and tweaking the European Tour’s ideas. It works best if the PGA Tour’s biggest stars buy into it and participate.

The LPGA Cover Girl Twitter Poll ...

Yes, it’s troublesome when hard-working LPGA pros watch beauty queens who aren’t proven players take spots they don’t get on golf magazine covers, but sponsor exemptions are different.

If a title sponsor helps put up a $1.5 million purse, then the sponsor ought to get to do what it wants with at least one sponsor exemption. It is, after all, a “sponsor” exemption, and it’s always rubbed this observer wrong to hear players complain about who gets a sponsor exemption.

The ShopRite Classic will get some criticism with India’s Sharmila Nicollet winning one of its sponsor exemptions off a Twitter poll Monday, though she isn’t just another pretty face. She’s a Ladies European Tour pro. With the criticism, the tournament also will receive a lot of extra attention, which is exactly what it wanted.

Is it a cheat sheet? ...

Green reading ought to be one of the skills of playing the game. That’s what Adam Scott, Ian Poulter, Justin Leonard and a lot of other players think. There’s an art and feel to green reading that’s fundamental to playing. The USGA and R&A are right to look at banning green reading charts and materials, but they ought not to do so because they believe they are fundamentally pace-of-play issues.

Saint Lorena’s still locked out ...

Lorena Ochoa will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in September, but she’s still floating in limbo outside the doors to the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Ochoa, who hosted the Citibanamex Lorena Ochoa Match Play last week, more than met the LPGA’s points requirement for Hall of Fame entry, amassing 37 points, 10 more than she needed. But she retired early in her eighth season on tour. She needed 10 full years of service to meet the Hall of Fame’s membership requirement.

The LPGA once had a Hall of Fame veterans committee as part of its induction process, with the committee having the ability to consider exceptions to its requirements. The committee inexplicably lapsed into dormancy and hasn’t met in 10 years. The LPGA’s reviewing its Hall of Fame criteria again. At the very least, it needs to rebuild its veterans committee if only so it can vote to admit Ochoa.

Get out of DJ’s way ...

Wow, Dustin Johnson takes a tumble down a staircase before the Masters, is out for a month recovering from injury, and then nearly wins the Wells Fargo Championship in his return last week, falling just short in his bid to join Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan as the last players to win four PGA Tour starts in a row . ..

If he’s careful on the staircases, DJ could own the summer with three majors to be played over the next 14 weeks.

The John Daly puzzle ...

Should we marvel over the fact that John Daly won again, overcoming so many of the personal demons that have set him back over the years?

Or should we wonder what might have been, what talents may have been wasted as he succeeds on the PGA Tour Champions?

The appeal of Daly is that his flaws somehow ultimately made him more lovable, that his demons made his adoring fan base relate to him all the more. There’s an odd kind of magic in that, in a social media world so quick to condemn.

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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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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

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

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.”