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Blown lead in China won't be on DJ's mind

By Rex HoggardJanuary 7, 2018, 1:35 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – There are definite benefits to the uncluttered mind, particularly for a professional golfer.

Dustin Johnson, the game’s preeminent heavyweight, was asked what, if anything, he remembers from his runner-up finish in October at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

“I didn't until [Golf Channel] just asked me about it a minute ago,” he shrugged. “I mean, look, it was a long time ago. It's a completely different golf course. It was, what, two months ago or something. So, yeah, I'm going to try not to think about it tomorrow. Hopefully I won't.”

To fill in the blanks from that bygone event (it was just two starts ago for DJ in October), Johnson began the final round in China six strokes clear of the field and rolling following rounds of 68-63-68. On Sunday, the world No. 1 bogeyed the first, bogeyed the second and failed to make a birdie on his way to a closing 77. He finished two strokes behind champion Justin Rose.

But those are details that Johnson has little interest in.

“I try to forget whether I win or lose,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s famous short-term memory is considered one of his best attributes, right up there with that power game off the tee and sublime wedge play (see Open, U.S., 2015).

That blinders mentality is worth noting because Johnson will again take a lead - two strokes this time - into the final round on Sunday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions with some of the game’s best and brightest closing in from all sides.

Those around Johnson confirm his ability to so easily forget ghosts of past tournaments.

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“D.J.'s a guy that forgets pretty quickly,” said Rickie Fowler, who is among the group of would-be party crashers at Kapalua. “I don't think he remembers China. So that's one of the reasons why he is the best player in the world right now. He quickly forgets, moves on.”

Of course, short-term memory won’t help Johnson negotiate winds that have whipped to 30 mph this week. Credit for that goes to a game that appears dangerously close to the level he was at when he won three consecutive starts last spring and turned down Magnolia Lane the runaway favorite to win the Masters.

Earlier this week Johnson said his game is almost back to that level after enduring a back injury on the eve of the 2017 Masters. So far this week his statistics back that up. He’s first in the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green, third in strokes gained: around-the-green and first in driving distance (324-yard average).

He also seems to have dialed his wedge play back in, as evidenced by his pitch at the 12th hole from 60 yards that bounced just short of the green and ran into the hole for eagle and solo possession of the lead.

“I was kind of looking just left of the flag, but short of the green and it hit and rolled on the green,” Johnson said. “I knew once it got on the green that it was going to be pretty good. And, obviously, it went in, so that was definitely a nice bonus.”

If there is to be a sequel to Johnson’s meltdown in China, there are plenty of potential dark-horse options.

Fowler is five strokes back after a third-round 68 and has some recent history in come-from-behind victories, having rallied from seven strokes back heading into the final round on his way to victory last month at the Hero World Challenge.

Jon Rahm is also positioned to make a move after a third-round 66 moved him to within four strokes. The Spaniard had a similar clash with Johnson at last year’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when the duo went head-to-head in the final match, which was won by Johnson; and again at the World Golf Championship in Mexico City when Rahm finished two strokes behind Johnson.

“I do enjoy it, but the outcome hasn't been great for me,” Rahm said when asked about his duels with Johnson. “Hopefully I can play good down the stretch like I've been doing and just start a little better on the front nine.”

The most likely candidate to unseat Johnson, however, may be the most unconventional.

Brian Harman has played the role of giant slayer before, just last year, in fact, at the Wells Fargo Championship when the 5-foot-7 southpaw went toe-to-toe with the 6-foot-4 leviathan.

He closed with back-to-back birdies at Eagle Point Golf Club to beat Johnson, who was, at the time, on a dominant run having won three consecutive events.

It’s a role Harman cherishes, an us-against-the-world mentality born from a 360cc chip on his shoulder.

“I'm going to try to put as much pressure on the golf course as I can. I'm going to try to do the best I can on every shot,” said Harman, who is alone in second place two strokes back and will be paired with Johnson in the final round. “I can't control what Dustin does. He's a fabulous player, he's going to be really hard to beat tomorrow, but trying to do something I'm not capable of is not the way to do it.”

It will be a classic clash of styles – Johnson’s power against Harman’s precision (he’s second this week in greens in regulation and seventh in putting) and grit – and potentially something to remember. Well, something to remember for everyone except Johnson.

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 22, 2018, 5:25 pm

Tiger Woods is in the final group on Saturday at the Tour Championship. He's out at 2:30 p.m. ET with Justin Rose and we're tracking him.

Iowa State Cyclones cheerleaders pause at a memorial in the Jacobson Building honoring Celia Barquin Arozamena, at Jack Trice Stadium on September 22, 2018 in Ames, Iowa. Getty Images

Iowa State honors Arozamena before football game

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 4:57 pm

AMES, Iowa - Iowa State honored slain golf star Celia Barquin Arozamena with an elaborate ceremony ahead of the Cyclones' game against Akron on Saturday.

Iowa State's band used a formation that spelled out Barquin's initials, and both teams wore a decal on their helmets in her memory.

A tribute to Barquin played on a video screen before a moment of silence, and fans were also asked to wear yellow, one of Iowa State's main colors and a nod to Barquin's Spanish roots. Most of the roughly 60,000 fans in attendance complied with yellow and with golf shirts on a chilly morning in central Iowa.

"I think it's fantastic. The tribute is amazing. But ultimately, it would have been perfect if she could have been here for her tribute, which was going to happen anyway." said Ed Hamilton, a retired police officer from nearby Ankeny, Iowa.

Barquin, the Cyclones' first conference champion in 25 years, was finishing up her degree at Iowa State and working toward her ultimate goal of becoming a professional golfer.

A memorial honoring Celia Barquin Arozamena at Jack Trice Stadium. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

Barquin competed in the U.S Women's Open earlier this summer, and coach Christie Martens said she was approaching "the pinnacle of her career."

"Iowa State fans are very loyal. We haven't had too many winning football teams over the years. Yet the fans turn out. There's a great loyalty here -- but it spills into other sports as well," said Iowa State fan Kent Hollrah of Denison, Iowa.

Collin Richards, also 22, has been charged with first-degree murder in Barquin's death. Police said Richards stabbed Barquin and left her body in a pond on the course, where it was found after other golfers noticed her abandoned bag.

Cyclones coach Matt Campbell also wore an Iowa State golf hat on the sideline to show solidarity with his colleagues.

"Be with all of us today Celia, your legacy will forever live on & we are forever grateful for your impact. Much love from your Cyclonitas," Iowa State linebacker Willie Harvey tweeted earlier Saturday, using the nickname that Barquin had for her teammates.

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Tiger, Bryson testing each other's golf balls ahead of Paris

By Rex HoggardSeptember 22, 2018, 4:21 pm

ATLANTA – The U.S. Ryder Cup team won’t arrive in Paris for next week’s matches until Monday, but one pairing already seems to be penciled into captain Jim Furyk’s lineup.

Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau have become regular practice-round partners, and when Furyk made both captain’s picks, it added to the notion that they would be paired during the team sessions in France. On Tuesday at East Lake, Woods and DeChambeau teed it up yet again.

Both Woods and DeChambeau play Bridgestone golf balls, although they use different models.

“The two are very similar, they are very numbers-oriented and that translates to their feel on the course, but they get fitted to two different golf balls,” said Adam Rehberg, Bridgestone Golf’s ball-fitting manager.

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Woods plays the company’s Tour B XS, which is softer and spins more, while DeChambeau plays the Tour B X, which is designed to take spin off shots.

Although DeChambeau played a version of the company’s golf ball that was close to what Woods now plays earlier in his career, he appeared to be preparing for a pairing next week during Tuesday’s practice round.

“I’ve seen some chipping of the other’s ball during practice rounds, getting used to it,” Rehberg said. “There’s been some sharing of golf balls internally between those guys. It’s almost like the worst kept secret in golf. It seems they are going to be paired up one way or another.”

The rules for the Ryder Cup were changed in 2006. They allow for foursomes teams to change golf balls between holes but not during a hole, which explains the duo’s interest in becoming comfortable with the other’s golf ball, particularly around the green and for chip shots.

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Casey: RC teams planning Lyle, Celia tributes

By Rex HoggardSeptember 22, 2018, 3:58 pm

ATLANTA – Throughout this season Paul Casey has been in regular contact with European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, with most communication being via text messages that the Englishman said always included an eclectic range of emojis.

But when the Dane decided to make Casey one of his four captain’s picks, it had to be a phone call.

“He called on Monday (Sept. 3). I was in the parking garage at the Philadelphia Marriott,” Casey said this week at the Tour Championship. “It was rewarding, emotional, so many things.”

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Since being named to the team, Casey said his communication with Bjorn and the other members of the European team has been via WhatsApp, which allows the team to share ideas and finalize plans for next week’s matches. Casey said the exchanges have mainly featured good-natured teasing and a some silly pictures, with a few serious moments.

The European team, in coordination with the U.S. team, is planning to honor Jarrod Lyle, a former PGA Tour player who died last month following his third bout with leukemia, next Thursday in France. There is a public memorial service planned for Lyle on Thursday in Australia.

Casey also said the team is coordinating a plan to also honor Celia Barquín Arozamena, a top college player from Spain who was murdered this week in Iowa.