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Exploring the PGA Tour's top basketball talent

By Rex HoggardFebruary 16, 2018, 10:30 pm

LOS ANGELES – Bubba Watson completed his second-round 70 at the Genesis Open and bolted Riviera Country Club in search of a rare daily double – a spot near the top of a PGA Tour leaderboard and MVP honors at the annual NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.

“I wasn't very good at dribbling [in high school] so I definitely didn't dribble it up,” Watson smiled as he rushed off property just three strokes off the lead to participate in the annual celebrity game, which was played at the Verizon Up Arena at the Los Angeles Convention Center as part of NBA All-Star weekend. “I just played outside, played on the wing, tried to shoot 3-pointers. I can shoot, I have a little bit of touch. So it worked out when I was in high school. When I say ‘worked out,’ I made one out of 20.”

Although Watson certainly qualifies as a celebrity and is married to a former WNBA player, with apologies to the 6-foot-3 southpaw, there was a real sense that golf wasn’t exactly sending its best to the celebrity game - at least according to the results of a wildly unofficial Twitter poll.

Early Friday, your scribe offered his version of the PGA Tour’s all-hoops team – a squad that included Watson, Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland, Jordan Spieth and Chris Wood – but the reaction from many of the circuit’s best and brightest painted a much different picture.

Smylie Kaufman, who was the point guard on his state high school championship basketball team during his junior year in 2009, was one of the first to offer his services at point guard before allowing, “[Jordan Spieth] and I have epic games of H.O.R.S.E. Usually he makes a ridiculous shot to win. Weird.”

Chesson Hadley, a 6-foot-4 player with some reach, also got into the act: “I certainly have the height to play but would probably be dominated in the paint. I’d like to be considered for the guy that runs the bench celebrations.”

It turns out the depth of basketball talent runs much deeper than one might expect on Tour.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

Although Johnson, who declined an offer to play in Friday’s celebrity game, can still dunk, and at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, would be a natural swingman; and Woodland, who set a 3-point shooting record as a freshman at Washburn (Kan.) University before transferring to Kansas to play golf, were easy early picks, Tony Finau might be golf’s best.

“We’d have a pretty mean team, not a lot of height but we’d have a solid top 5,” said Finau, who added that he plays pickup basketball three to four times a week in the offseason and can still throw down two-handed dunks.

Finau, who is also in contention at Riviera following a second-round 71, played center in high school and helped his team reach the state tournament his junior and senior seasons, averaging 11 rebounds per game as a senior.

“Have to throw Finau and [Andrew] Loupe in there. [Kaufman] can get buckets, too,” Thomas tweeted.

Harris English echoed that endorsement, “[Russell] Henley and Loupe need to be in that lineup.” While Ricky Barnes made his own pitch, “I must be a reserve but I will play my way into the lineup soon.”

It turns out that Loupe is something of a sneaky good option in any all-hoops Tour draft as evidenced by Harold Varner III’s offer to coach the team.

“I would love to coach, it would be awesome,” Varner smiled before his second round at Riviera. “Already have my first pick, Tony [Finau]. Second pick would be tough, probably DJ, but Loupe is good, man.”

Loupe earned all-state basketball honors in Louisiana twice and was invited to the Louisiana All-Star game, averaging 21.6 points per game during his senior season and setting his high school’s all-time record for 3-pointers in a season.

Spieth, who reportedly has some legitimate shooting range and whose brother, Steven, plays professional basketball in Argentina, would be a popular pick, but the social media scouting report suggests he may be better suited coming off the bench.

According to various sources, Henley is a pure shooter and would likely be the sixth man; while 6-foot-4 Jamie Lovemark – who is also in the top 10 through 36 holes at the Genesis Open – was a popular choice to replace Wood, who at 6-foot-5 is the Tour’s tallest player but doesn’t appear to have much experience on the hardwood having grown up in England.

While there seems to be no shortage of talent to represent golf on the NBA’s most star-studded stage, it will be Watson who received the nod for Friday’s celebrity bout. Although he may not top the list of Tour ballers, he did get one piece of solid advice from his wife, Angie.

“She said, ‘Don't get hurt,’” Watson smiled. “She said, ‘If you go in the paint, you're in trouble.’ I was a Ryder Cup vice captain [in 2016], that's what I enjoyed, so I'm not afraid to give an assist. I'm scared of shooting. I'll just pass it real fast.”

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McIlroy 'committed to everything ... ran out of holes'

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 7:08 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy summed it up: “I don’t really feel like it’s a defeat. I feel like it’s a good week.”

McIlroy, in search of his fifth major, tied for the lead at The Open late on Sunday at Carnoustie when he made eagle on the par-5 14th hole. An hour later, he had made five consecutive pars to close out a 1-under 70 and tie for second place with Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

That group ended two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. McIlroy thought it was realistic to squeeze one more shot out of his round, but he never though it was possible to squeeze out two.

“I committed to everything,” he said. “I hit the shots when I needed to. I made good swings on 17 and on 18. I just ran out of holes.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy hasn’t played poorly this year, but this hasn't been a year that would rank as a total success. He took the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and collected a second-place finish at the BMW PGA Championship. He had a legitimate chance to win the Masters before a terrible Sunday round, and then missed the cut at the U.S. Open last month at Shinnecock Hills.

Sunday at Carnoustie, McIlroy bogeyed two of his first five holes and quickly became an afterthought. When others faltered, McIlroy birdies Nos. 9 and 11, then eagled 14 to vault back into the picture.

“I’m happy with how I played,” he said. “I didn’t get off to a great start, but I hung in there, and I battled back.

“So I’ll look back at this week and be very encouraged about what I’ve done and the golf that I played. I feel like that will stand me in good stead for what’s coming up.”

McIlroy is scheduled to play the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks, followed by the PGA Championship and the FedExCup Playoffs.

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Edoardo, other pros congratulate Francesco on Twitter

By Grill Room TeamJuly 22, 2018, 6:54 pm

Francesco Molinari played a bogey-free weekend at Carnoustie to claim Italy's first claret jug.

His rock-solid performance in the final round earned him his share of social media plaudits.

Here's a collection of Twitter hat-tips, and we start off with Frankie's brother, Dodo.

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Woods: Fan who yelled had 'tipped back a few'

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 6:37 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods stood on the 18th tee and thought he needed birdie to have a chance to win The Open. He pulled driver out of his bag, a sign he wanted to boot the ball as far down the fairway as possible.

Woods took a mighty swat and - right in the middle of his downswing - someone yelled. Woods flinched.

Luckily his ball still found a decent spot just off the right of the fairway.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I’ve had things like that happen a lot in my career with people who just tried to time it,” Woods said Sunday at Carnoustie after shooting 71 to tie for sixth place. “They tipped back a few, and it’s late in the day.

“Unfortunately, that’s part of what we have to deal with in today’s game. People are trying to yell out things to try to be on TV or be in social media or whatever it may be. That was too close to the game of play.”

Woods hit his approach to 6 feet and missed the birdie putt. He tapped in for par to shoot even par and finish 5 under for the week, in a tie for sixth.

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Pros melt down on Twitter as they watch Tiger

By Grill Room TeamJuly 22, 2018, 6:30 pm

Tiger Woods mounted a final-round charge and, for a little while, took the outright lead at Carnoustie on Sunday.

His fellow pros were watching and tweeting like your average fans.

We compiled some of their missives below:

Woods would go on to finish in a tie for sixth at 5 under par for the week.