Ten stories I hope come true in 2013

By Randall MellJanuary 1, 2013, 1:00 pm

Nostradamus offered no meaningful help in trying to see what may unfold in the 2013 golf season.

He didn’t even foresee the upheaval the proposed banning of anchored putters would cause this year.

Jeane Dixon didn’t offer any help, either. She failed to predict the monumental change at Augusta National this year with the club inviting its first two women as members.

The Mayans were also no help forecasting the season ahead, but, of course, they didn’t think there would even be a season.

So here’s one attempt to look ahead, not so much as prophecy, but as hopeful wishing for some over-the-top storylines to mesmerize us yet again this year. Here are 10 dreamy stories that would intrigue if they were actually to unfold in the new year:

Monty aims to be the real Great Scot

In a surprising but strategically bold maneuver aimed to counter the Americans naming Tom Watson as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, the European Tour announced that Colin Montgomerie will return as the Euro captain when the competition is played at Gleneagles in Scotland in 2014. Watson won four of his five British Opens in Scotland. Montgomerie, born in Glasgow, is one of Europe’s most decorated Ryder Cup stars and captained the Euros to a victory in Wales in 2010.

Mickelson wins California Slam

Phil Mickelson won the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, completing the California Slam. Mickelson’s victory was his fourth in four starts with Lefty winning every California PGA Tour stop on this year’s West Coast swing. He won the Humana Challenge, the Farmers Insurance Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am before claiming the title at Riviera.

One from the heart: Compton wins at Doral

Erik Compton, golf’s only real miracle man, won his hometown event, claiming the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. The two-time heart transplant recipient, who qualified for the WGC event piling up FedEx Cup points with a hot run on the West Coast, was the No. 1 junior growing up in Miami. His triumph was celebrated as the most emotional in tournament history since Ray Floyd won at Doral after his Miami home burned down.

Wie finds her oasis in the desert

Michelle Wie, coming off the most difficult season of her highly scrutinized career, delivered a message heard 'round the world in women’s golf by winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Wie, the former child prodigy whose future seemed uncertain with her slump in 2012, broke through to win her first major in the most watched telecast in the history of women’s golf.

Kingdom comes: McIlroy defeats Woods in final-round Masters duel

Rory McIlroy birdied the 72nd hole to defeat Tiger Woods by one shot at The Masters. McIlroy and Woods traded a flurry of titanic golf blows on Augusta National’s back nine that will go down as a duel for the ages. Winning a spirited game of one-upsmanship shot making, McIlroy claimed his second consecutive major by outlasting Woods in the final pairing together. The victory gives McIlroy three legs of the career grand slam before his 24th birthday.

Red, white and Lexi: Young American wins first major

Lexi Thompson won the Wegmans LPGA Championship to become the youngest winner of a major championship in the history of women’s golf. Thompson was 18 years, 3 months and 29 days old when she claimed the title at Locust Hill.

The master schools the boy king: Woods takes down McIlroy at Merion

Tiger Woods defeated Rory McIlroy to win the U.S. Open by a single shot after their 18-hole Monday playoff at Merion was extended an extra hole. Two months after losing a heart-wrenching duel with McIlroy at Augusta National, Woods answered back, claiming his 15th major championship, his first in five years. Woods moved to within three of equaling Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championship titles.

Tseng hits a grand slam, sort of

Yani Tseng, rebounding from a second-half slump in the 2012 season, won the U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack to complete the career grand slam in women’s golf, sort of. With the Evian Masters becoming a major in September, there will soon be a fifth leg to the career grand slam in the women’s game. Nevertheless, Tseng’s triumph is notable because the U.S. Women’s Open had been her most elusive prize.

Cool Hand Luke breaks through at Muirfield

Luke Donald’s no longer the best player without a major championship title. Dogged by questions as to whether he was worthy of a No. 1 ranking without having won a major championship, Donald unburdened himself, winning the British Open at Muirfield. He becomes the first Englishman to win the British Open since Nick Faldo won at Muirfield 21 years ago.

A hot English summer

A month after Donald broke through to win his first major, fellow Englishman Lee Westwood did the same, winning the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. Like Donald, Westwood was plagued with questions as to whether he was the best player without a major championship. At 40, he will endure the speculation no more.

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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 Web.com 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.