Did Johnson get assist from above?

By Rex HoggardMay 27, 2012, 11:39 pm

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.Psalm 27:14

FORT WORTH, Texas – Those were the words Zach Johnson tweeted early Sunday before setting out for the final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. It turned out to be a prophetic twist to a frenzied day.

Regardless of which side of the Tim Tebow divide you find yourself on, Sunday’s final round at Colonial was riddled with the unexplainable that transcended the simple rub of the green, an eventful 18 holes that featured three lead changes, four two-stroke, or more, turns and one of the most bizarre PGA Tour finishes in recent memory.

And at the center of that storm was Johnson – patient and, if one believes in such things, protected.

Johnson and Jason Dufner, the hottest player on the PGA Tour vying for his third title in his last four starts, traded blows, as many predicted, until the haymaker arrived in the form of a pitching wedge that sailed, inexplicably, 148 yards and into the water hazard behind the 15th green.

This is where things get mysterious. No, not Dufner’s triple-bogey-7 on the par 4, that was simply shocking considering his near-flawless play of late. It was Johnson’s wedge shot on the same hole that somehow didn’t meet the same watery fate as Dufner’s that makes for an interesting conversation about fate.

“We hit the approach shot on (No.) 15 and he said, ‘I think Daddy blew into that one so I didn’t go in the water,’” said Johnson’s caddie Damon Green, whose father, Rev. Douglas Brooks Green, died last Thursday.

“We should have gone in the water with Dufner. We were going 30 feet right of the pin and we pulled it and when you do that it goes a lot further and somehow it stopped short of the water.”

Johnson and Green wore green ribbons on their hats this week to honor Rev. Brooks Green, who had been battling stomach cancer. Considering how things played out it’s hard to imagine that Green’s father wasn’t paying attention.

Dufner’s miscue resulted in a four-stroke swing, and Johnson needed almost all of it to claim his second plaid jacket in three years and his eighth Tour title.

Cruising along at 14 under, three strokes clear of Dufner, Johnson made a mess of the closing hole, hitting out of turn from the tee and forgetting to replace his mark on the green after he’d moved it from Dufner’s line.

Thinking he secured a three-stroke victory, it wasn’t until Green hugged him and quietly asked, “Did you move your mark back?” that Johnson realized what he’d done. The two-stroke penalty dropped him to 12 under, a shot ahead of Dufner after a closing 72.

“How lucky I am,” Johnson shrugged, sounding a little like Roberto De Vicenzo, who famously said, “What a stupid I am,” after losing the 1968 Masters because of an incorrect scorecard.

Lucky? Sure, but one of the PGA Tour’s most devout Christians did not dismiss the unexplainable. Nor did he dismiss the pitched match that he Dufner put on Sunday at Hogan’s Alley.

Beginning the day a stroke adrift, Johnson pulled ahead in a birdie-bogey volley at the second hole. Two holes later Dufner squared the match with a 10-footer, and on it went.

The lead changed again at the fifth when Dufner rolled in a lengthy birdie putt and last week’s Byron Nelson Championship winner pulled two clear when Johnson hooked his tee shot at the eighth and made bogey.

The golf world will remember Dufner’s sloppy triple at the 15th, to say nothing of Johnson’s faux pas at the 18th, but it was a rinsed wedge shot at the ninth that likely cost Dufner his third Tour tilt and a chance to become the first player to score the DFW Slam in the same season since Ben Hogan did it in 1946.

“To be honest Zach played better than I did today,” said Dufner, who closed with a 74 to finish alone in second place. “He deserves the jacket but that is definitely one of the weirdest finishes on the PGA Tour anyone has ever seen.”

They call Nos. 3-5 at Colonial the Horrible Horseshoe, but it was Dufner’s play on Nos. 9, 11 and 15 that seemed more nightmare-ish.

He played that trifecta in 6 over with a swing that was slightly off and a putter that went cold at the worst possible moments, which seems apropos for a man whose idol is Hogan.

Dufner has two weeks to think about what could have been before his next start, the U.S. Open where he will be one of the more surprising favorites.

Chances are Johnson will do a good amount of reflecting in the next few days as well, but not about what’s to come. Johnson’s thoughts will fixate on what could have happened.

When asked about his 4-footer at the 18th hole, a putt he thought was for par and a breezy victory but turned out to be for a clinching double bogey, Johnson dropped his head: “I guess it went in. If I would have missed it . . . I don’t know . . .”

Green, however, was a little more sure of what guided the two through a turbulent and testing final loop.

“We’ve been thinking about my dad all day,” Green said. “I told Zach on (No.) 11, ‘Daddy will take care of us the rest of the way in.''

Word is the Rev. Brooks Green had a sneaky good sense of humor; Johnson just had to be patient.

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Aggressiveness pays off for Spieth vs. Schwartzel

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 9:32 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth said he hoped this week’s format would free him up and allow him to play more aggressively.

Although that wasn’t the case early in his Day 1 match against Charl Schwartzel, Spieth was able to get his week off to a solid start with a 2-and-1 victory.

After playing his first nine holes in even par, Spieth moved ahead in the match when Schwartzel made bogey at the par-5 12th hole and the American hit his approach at the par-4 13th hole to 3 feet, a shot he said was “pivotal,” and he added another birdie at the 14th hole to pull away.

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“I had a couple of iffy numbers and some swirly winds. I did not play aggressively,” Spieth said of his opening nine. “Once I got a couple numbers where I could put really nice, solid swings on, zeroed in at the target with no worry about anything else around, I did just that and it led to three or four birdies from the eighth hole on. You have to go at flagsticks to make birdies here.”

The early victory puts Spieth on a collision course with Patrick Reed, who also won his first-day match against HaoTong Li, 3 and 2. Spieth and Reed, who are a combined 7-2-2 when teamed together in the Ryder and Presidents Cup, will play each other in the final day of round-robin play on Friday.

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List takes Thomas to 18 putting with a wedge

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 7:57 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – As he walked off the sixth tee on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Luke List “swiped” his putter into what he thought was a bush. It was a wall.

List’s putter bent slightly, which meant he wasn’t allowed to employ it the rest of the round. Using a wedge to putt, he lost his opening-day match to Justin Thomas, 2 down.

“Stupid on my part,” List said. “I'll get the club fixed and go on to my next two matches.”

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Despite his putting disadvantage, List pushed Thomas to the 18th hole thanks to birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 16, which included a chip-in from 18 feet at 15. Thomas was 3 up with four holes to play and managed to birdie the last, but it was far from stress-free.

“I was thinking about it, how bad that would hurt if I couldn't get it done,” Thomas said. “He hit some great putts and he made some good ones when he needed to.”

The situation also prompted Thomas to change his strategy on the greens, with not nearly as many conceded putts as normal.

“He putted probably two or three putts I wouldn't have made him putt with a putter,” Thomas said. “[No. 13] was a short putt he's probably going to make. It had a lot of break. But 12, that putt was 2 feet straight uphill. But I was like he's got a wedge, so I'm going to make him putt it.”

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Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:45 pm

Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
(1) D. Johnson: 0-1-0 (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm:  (4) J. Spieth: 1-0-0
(32) K. Kisner: 0-0-1 (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed: 1-0-0
(38) A. Hadwin: 0-0-1
(48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li: 0-1-0
(52) B. Wiesberger: 1-0-0
(60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel: 0-1-0
Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
(5) H. Matsuyama: 1-0-0 (6) R. McIlroy: 0-1-0 (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day: 1-0-0
(30) P. Cantlay: 0-1-0
(18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen: 1-0-0
(46) C. Smith: 1-0-0 (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner: 0-1-0
(53) Y. Miyazato: 0-1-0 (51) P. Uihlein: 1-0-0 (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn: 0-1-0
Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
(9) T. Fleetwood: 0-1-0 (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman: 0-1-0 (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
(26) D. Berger: 0-1-0 (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace: 0-1-0 (22) C. Hoffman: 0-1-0
(33) K. Chappell: 1-0-0 (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson: 1-0-0 (36) B. Steele: 1-0-0
(58) I. Poulter: 1-0-0 (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri: 1-0-0 (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
(13) A. Noren: 1-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson: 0-1-0 (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar: 0-0-1
(29) T. Finau: 1-0-0 (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher: 0-1-0
(39) T. Pieters: 0-1-0 (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda: 1-0-0
(61) K. Na: 0-1-0 (59) C. Howell III: 1-0-0 (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson: 0-0-1
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Hot Seat: The driver is burning Tiger

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 6:51 pm

The men’s first major championship of the year is two weeks away, the women’s just a week away.

Here’s our Hot Seat lineup with the approach of the Masters and the ANA Inspiration in mind:

Smoking carbon composites – Tiger Woods

Woods is the betting favorite to win the Masters in most sportsbooks, and while his game is coming together quickly, he won’t be the experts’ pick without getting his driver under control.

The driver looks like the last piece Woods needs to once more become the favorite wherever he goes.

Right now, though, there’s an open wound that needs to be cauterized before he heads to Augusta National.

That double-cross Woods blew into someone’s backyard along the 16th hole Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational came from a reservoir of uncertainty that his driver continues to create. 

Woods has come a long way with his driver. When he pulls it out of the bag, it isn’t like he’s ripping a bandage off anymore, not the way it was three and four years ago. Still, he doesn’t pull that club with the same relish Rory McIlroy does, or Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, for that matter. Physically and psychologically, they’ve got an advantage on him until he does. 

Woods did not qualify for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, so he’s got extra time to address his biggest shortcoming.

“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver,” Golf Channel’s Notah Begay said earlier this week. “Tiger has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

Dustin Johnson at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship.

Smoldering Tex Mex Tango – Dustin Johnson

The world No. 1 is playing just fine enough since his victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at year’s start. He’s just been overshadowed by the brilliance of a lot of fellow stars.

With McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas all winning in the last month, with Woods stepping up his game, Johnson has been quietly toiling toward the Masters.

Johnson has won 10 times since Woods' last victory, and yet Woods is the 8-to-1 favorite to win the Masters.

Johnson, McIlroy and Thomas are listed at 10-to-1 by the Westgate Las Vegas SportsBook.

It doesn’t rankle Johnson.

“It’s fine with me,” he said Tuesday. “He’s playing pretty well.”

Even as the defending champ this week at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, Johnson isn’t center stage, not with McIlroy marching into town off his dominant finish at the API.

Flying relatively under the radar might seem like a comfortable position for a world No. 1, but he won’t stay atop the world rankings for long flying under the radar.

Shanshan Feng during Round 2 at the 2017 Japan Classic.

Rolex Ranking Roast – Shanshan Feng

The women’s Rolex world No. 1 enters the week at the Kia Classic trying to hold off a strong field with the ANA Inspiration looming next week.

The top seven players in the world rankings, and 11 of the top 12, are at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California.

Feng has quietly reigned atop the world rankings for 19 consecutive weeks, holding off bids to overtake her by No. 2 Lexi Thompson, No. 3 So Yeon Ryu and No. 4 Sung Hyun Park.

They’ve all been close enough in world ranking average this year to take the top spot, but Feng isn’t backing down. She’s winless so far this this year, but she has finished fifth or better in two of her three starts.