Awards season: Handing out the 2016 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2016, 3:30 pm

Think of the year-ending Rexys as more Globetrotters than Golden Globes, but the aftermath is similar with honorees often left confused and cranky, and the committee on the hook for the bar tab.

Participation Prize. Not since middle school has an athlete accomplished so much outside the winner's circle and in 2016 the Participation nod goes to a pair of impressive also-rans in Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar.

Kuchar wasn't even qualified for the Olympics until the 11th hour when a collection of high-profile no-shows combined with his tie for third at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational bumped him to 15th in the Official World Golf Ranking and into the Games, where he rallied with a final-round 63 to claim the bronze medal.

 Lefty had a similarly understated year, finishing second to Henrik Stenson at The Open after narrowly missing a putt for 62 in the opening round at Royal Troon. But it was at September’s Ryder Cup where Mickelson made his year by helping lead the U.S. team to victory and validate the changes to the U.S. system that he helped championed.

Phoenix Award. He was a ghost for much of the year, an urban legend with sightings at regular intervals but nothing definitive until Tiger Woods committed to, and played, the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

He tied for 15th in a 17-player field with an equal mix of birdies and bogeys. Rust was the primary culprit for Woods’ play at the Challenge and his return sparked an avalanche of optimism heading into 2017, but after a year of relative obscurity just making it to the first tee at Albany was an accomplishment of mythical proportions.

Wrong Address Acknowledgment. In November, USGA executive director Mike Davis referred to Rule 18-2 as a “God-forsaken” rule, and few, particularly Dustin Johnson, would argue with him.

The rule, which deals with a ball moving after a player has addressed it, cost Johnson a stroke but not the title at the U.S. Open when a surreal chain of events led to the bomber finishing his round unsure if he had a four- or five-stroke lead.

Earlier this month, Davis followed through on a promise to adjust the rule, eliminating the penalty when a ball is accidentally moved on the putting green.

Bronze Medal. Kuchar and China’s Shanshan Feng may have taken home the proper “show” medals at this year’s Games, but from 30,000 feet golf’s return to the Olympics deserves an acknowledgment of qualified success.

Many of the top players in the men’s game declined to make the trip to Rio, citing everything from concerns over the Zika virus to scheduling problems, and the legacy left behind (the Olympic Golf Course) is in danger of succumbing to the indifferent forces of nature and South American politics.

But the competition was inspiring and, for those who did make the trip to Brazil, the spectacle of the Games went well beyond what many envisioned.

There’s room for improvement before golf arrives in Japan for the 2020 Olympics, but a bronze medal isn’t a bad consolation prize – just ask Kuchar.

Mulligan Mug. He’d been down this rabbit hole before, endured the rigors of a two-year process that is consuming and cruel. But still, Davis Love III took the gig as U.S. Ryder Cup captain because his friends, the players, contended he was the right man for the job.

The result was a dramatic U.S. victory at Hazeltine National and a .500 record for Love, who lost his first turn as captain in 2012.

Love probably hasn’t taken a mulligan on the golf course since his late father, the legendary swing instructor Davis Love Jr., put a club in his hands, but if anyone needed a do-over it was Captain America.

Gold Watch. By many accounts, Tim Finchem didn’t receive an expensive timepiece when he officially stepped down as commissioner of the PGA Tour in November.

There were various gifts from friends and colleagues, there was even a five-minute standing ovation from tournament directors earlier this month, but no gold watch.

 What else would you give the man who spent more than two decades forging golf’s future? Not all of Finchem’s decisions were popular, not all of them made sense, but there is no debating that he led, and that has to be worth a valuable keepsake.

Make-Good Mug. FedEx Cup math be damned. After being pencil whipped at East Lake in the past, Rory McIlroy finally cleared the $10 million hurdle this season.

In 2012, the Northern Irishman began the week of the Tour Championship with a commanding lead in the points race only to drop the title to Brandt Snedeker; and in ’14 he finished third in the playoff race despite top-10 finishes at three of the four post-season stops.

But in September, McIlroy made the math easy, outdueling Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore in extra holes to claim the FedEx Cup and a well-deserved make-good.

Courage Award. Actually, the Courage Award is an honor occasionally given out by the Tour, but we’re borrowing it to give to Sam Saunders, who spoke so eloquently in September at his grandfather Arnold Palmer’s funeral.

“He would always take my phone call, always,” Saunders said, before recalling the time Palmer answered his phone while he was in the Oval Office.

“He said, ‘I’m with the president,’” Saunders said. “I said, ‘The president of what?’ And he said to me as if it was so obvious, ‘Of the United States.’”

The golf world lost a piece of itself with the passing of Palmer, and Saunders’ grace and humility was an apropos homage to everything The King stood for.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.