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DJ finds groove with less-is-more approach

By Rex HoggardAugust 25, 2017, 8:18 pm

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. – When things aren’t going the way a player would have hoped on the course the default plan is normally more – play more, practice more, press more.

But then Dustin Johnson isn’t most players.

A man of few words, Johnson’s change in competitive fortunes this week at The Northern Trust can be summed up in one word – less.

Less speed going back, as in a slower back swing, and less work on the range following a week spent relaxing and spear fishing in the warm clear waters of the Bahamas following the PGA Championship.

We’re not talking Hideki Matsuyama back swing slow, just enough of a pace adjustment to allow the bomber to find the rhythm in that powerful swing that made him literally unbeatable for a solid stretch this spring and the consensus favorite heading into the Masters.

There’s no exact explanation for how things got out of sync. The injury that forced him to withdraw from the Masters is an easy enough starting point, but that flawless swing just hasn’t been the same since.

“I'd have liked to play better in the majors. Getting hurt before Augusta, which is going right into the major season, didn't really help, especially for the momentum and how good I felt like I was swinging, and everything was going in a really good direction,” he said. “But I feel like I've got it back on the right track. I feel like I'm swinging well again.”

Although he hasn’t been willing to blame his pedestrian play on that lower back injury, he did say on Friday at Glen Oaks that he’s been “fine the last month or so,” which suggests there was a healthy slice of the summer when he wasn’t 100 percent.

The Northern Trust: Articles, video and photos

FedExCup standings entering the playoffs

For two days on Long Island, however, he’s looked more like the March DJ, when he won back-to-back World Golf Championships, than the June DJ, when he missed back-to-back cuts at the Memorial and U.S. Open.

He’s fifth in the field this week in driving distance, fourth in greens in regulation and first in strokes gained-tee to green, a statistical snapshot of a player’s advantage over the field average.

Put another way, he looks like the world’s top-ranked player, an advantage he has maintained despite his relatively average play this summer which includes just a single top-10 finish since the first week of May.

“Besides the bump on [Nos.] 4 and 5 for him, if he hits the two fairways, he's probably at 10 under,” said Jon Rahm, who went head-to-head with Johnson at both of his WGC victories this year. “Yesterday he hit it unbelievably good. He shot 5 under missing putts. Not many people were probably able to say that yesterday.”

That “bump” came on Nos. 4 and 5 on Friday, when Johnson played his second shots from the wrong holes following wayward drives and resulted in back-to-back bogeys on his way to a 1-under 69.

“I just hung back a little bit on both those drives,” Johnson explained. “One I held on to and it sliced, and the other one I released, and it just went straight down the left side.”

Johnson also added a new putter to his bag this week, a TaylorMade prototype similar to the Scotty Cameron he used to win the 2016 U.S. Open, but statistically he’s not exactly killing it on the greens and he conceded that it hasn’t been his putting that’s held him back the last few months.

Johnson’s advantage begins with his driver and ends with a vastly improved wedge game that ultimately laid the foundation for both his first major victory in ’16 at the U.S. Open and his ascent to the top of the World Golf Ranking. But neither area had been living up to the ridiculously high standard that he set earlier in the season.

That was until he arrived in New York. For two rounds, DJ’s play and position on the leaderboard have been more familiar, which is particularly imposing on a course like Glen Oaks, which qualifies as a bona fide bombers ballpark.

“This one is right up DJ's alley, but there's not many courses that don't fit him,” said Fowler, who is tied for the lead with Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Jhonattan Vegas at 6 under. “Long courses, they become somewhat shorter for him, and the shorter courses, can basically take driver and lob-wedge and putter.”

That Johnson took a distinctly less-is-more approach to his return to form is only apropos for a player who has a history of doing things at a slightly different pace.

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

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Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

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Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

Made Cut

Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

Tweet of the week:

Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

“No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”

Missed Cut

Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

In a story first reported by, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.