Fearsome Foursome: Rory, Rickie, Jordan - Patrick

By Rex HoggardMay 14, 2015, 11:35 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – This has all the makings of a high-stakes game of one-upmanship with no end in sight.

You know the deal, whatever you can do, another guy wants to do better. But in this case, those other guys are an assortment of infinitely talented twenty-somethings trading challenges and championships with regularity.

Prodigy see, prodigy do.

Jordan Spieth, 21, got on the board in the biggest way in 2015, winning the Masters by four strokes; he was followed in order by 26-year-old Rory McIlroy’s 121-hole marathon triumph at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and 26-year-old Rickie Fowler's extra-inning victory at The Players.

It only stands to reason that it would be 24-year-old Patrick Reed’s turn to get back into the game, and he did so with authority on Thursday with an opening 66 at the Wells Fargo Championship that left him one stroke off the lead held by Robert Streb.

That he reinserted himself into the mix playing alongside McIlroy only serves to thicken a plot that will become more intriguing as we inch closer to the next major episode – June’s U.S. Open.

It a dramatic landscape shift from where the game was just five years ago, when Tiger Woods vs. the field was always an easy bet and few were able to mount any type of challenge to his dominance.

“It seems like from top to bottom now in fields that more and more guys are having the ability, if they're on that week ... to win the golf tournament," said Reed, who has a win of his own this year at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. "It's great for the game of golf because it's not the same guy every week that, ‘Oh, well, he's going to win the event, so might as well hand him the trophy. Who is playing for second?’”

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Instead, it’s becoming a favorite-by-committee world, where one man’s victory is another man’s bulletin-board material.

Even McIlroy, the world No. 1 by a healthy margin, is both inspired and intrigued by the play of his rivals, so much so that each Monday morning he checks his lead in the rankings.

“It was very inspiring to see what Jordan did at Augusta, seeing how Rickie won last week, Patrick already won this year,” said McIlroy, who was tied for 30th after a first-round 70 at Quail Hollow.

“There’s a lot of good young guys coming through and playing well and it’s nice. I mean when you see those guys winning you feel like you need to step it up a little, too. Nice healthy rivalry.”

Despite recent developments from Augusta, Ga., to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., it’s a rivalry that expands well beyond the current twenty-something circle.

Jason Day, fully healthy for perhaps the first time in his career, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka all have victories this year on Tour.

“There's a handful of guys to a couple dozen that have a chance of winning the golf tournament if they're on,” Reed said. “If all of them are on, it's going to be a battle.”

Perhaps, but to put it in NASCAR terms – which seems fitting with the Tour in the heart of racing country this week – it’s the four twenty-somethings that appear to be drafting off one another, as evidenced by Reed and McIlroy’s play on Day 1 at Quail Hollow.

The two were on the verge of making the Wells Fargo a two-man match until they both got run over by the layout’s infamous Green Mile.

McIlroy bounced his 8-iron tee shot off the rocks and into the lake for a double bogey-5 (dropping him from 4 under to five back) at the 17th hole, while Reed – who stormed into the lead with the help of four consecutive birdies beginning at the fifth hole – failed to convert his par putt after a sloppy blast from a greenside bunker (costing him a share of the lead).

Still, the two are poised to continue the trend and a cycle that’s equal parts self-fulfilling and entertaining.

“When you watch a guy like Rickie or Jordan have success and you’ve competed against them, you’ve beaten them and they’ve beaten you, but when they have success [on the Tour] you think, ‘I can do that, too,’” Reed said.

It’s a notion that is quickly becoming the norm on Tour, as the fearless foursome continues to trade accomplishments and raise the stakes one title at a time.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.