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Mid-season grades: Tiger, Reed, Spieth and more

By Rex HoggardApril 11, 2018, 7:25 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – For the casual golf fan, last week’s Masters marks the unofficial start to the golf season, with marquee events defining the next five months; but according to the actual math of the circuit’s wraparound schedule, this week’s RBC Heritage is the mid-point of the calendar (the 25th of 49 events), which means it’s time for GolfChannel.com’s annual mid-terms.

A complicated Reed. Late Monday afternoon, one sports network ran a headline that read: “Why is [Patrick] Reed an unpopular champion?” It was all part of a larger narrative that has now defined the Masters champion as anti-social at best and difficult at worst.

Reed is a complicated player with, let’s say, an eventful past, but that doesn’t change what he accomplished on Sunday. He might not be the most popular champion in Masters history, but he’s still a champion. GRADE: A.


On schedule. At last month’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said the circuit would likely be ready to unveil the 2019 schedule at The Players in May.

Monahan conceded that the overhauled line-up has been challenging with more moving parts than a 15-handicap’s swing, but he remained confident the Tour would get to where it needed to be.

More pieces of that puzzle fell into place this week, with reports surfacing that the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a staple on Tour since 1976, would be replaced on the schedule by a new World Golf Championship that will be played in Memphis and sponsored by FedEx.

There was also talk this week from various sources that the annual stop in Fort Worth, Texas, is poised to announce a new, long-term sponsor in the next few weeks, which shores up at least a part of the title sponsor concerns.

It’s best to withhold judgment until the Tour announces the entire schedule, but so far Monahan and Co. appear to have all the pieces falling into place. GRADE. Incomplete.


This is a warning. The normally relaxed Sony Open endured a jolt this year when players, caddies and officials were awoken before Saturday’s third round by a text message that was sent across Oahu.

“Emergency Alert: BALLISTIC MISSLE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

It wasn’t a drill, but it was a mistake. That didn’t make the tense moments until the all clear was given any less stressful. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of life on Tour until an accidental text message snaps you back to reality. GRADE. F.


The Process. It’s worked for the Philadelphia 76rers, and for Tiger Woods.

First the hard news: Tiger hasn’t won this season and, whether it’s fair or not, that’s always the ultimate litmus test for a 14-time major champion. Now for the perspective: six months ago Woods didn’t know if he’d ever play golf again, even recreationally, following fusion surgery on his lower back last year.

Competitively he’s found himself in the hunt at the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational, and even though he struggled with his game (irons) last week at Augusta National, there’s now a resilience to his play that can’t be ignored.

“I had missed it for the last couple of years, I hadn't been able to play in it,” he said last week at the Masters. “I missed it, I really did. I missed playing out here. I missed competing against these guys.” GRADE. B+.


Leading by example. During their primes, neither Woods nor Phil Mickelson served on the Player Advisory Committee or the policy board. It’s hard to criticize either player considering their resumes, but it is worth noting that Jordan Spieth was elected PAC chair this year and will ascend to the policy board next year.

There’s no doubt Woods and Mickelson were influential when it came to Tour policy, but Spieth’s decision to embrace a leadership role is both encouraging and telling.

He might not have had the season he would have liked to this point - before Houston and last week’s spirited Sunday charge at Augusta National Spieth had largely struggled on the course - but he deserves credit for stepping up to help guide the Tour through what promises to be an eventful few years. GRADE: A-.


Still pacing. Last Friday, the day’s final threesome made it around Augusta National in a little under six hours. The next day Paul Casey played with a marker, club member Jeff Knox, in about 3 1/2 hours.

Although some of that improved pace of play can be attributed to playing twosomes and with a marker, the dramatic difference between rounds was glaring.

“Obviously I prefer how we played it today in pace of play. On pace of play, honestly, it frustrates me,” Casey said. “I would love to do that every single weekend if I could.”

The majority of Tour players agree with Casey and prefer a better pace of play, and yet the circuit continues to ignore what most involved see as a glaring problem. GRADE: F.


Mixed bag. Dustin Johnson began his season with a runner-up finish in China last October, rolled the field at the Sentry Tournament of Champions by eight strokes and seemed to be on pace for another dominant year.

Although he’s remained atop the Official World Golf Ranking, his only real chance for a second title this season was a runner-up finish at Pebble Beach and he tied for 10th last week at the Masters, eight strokes behind Reed.

“I definitely expect better,” Johnson said on Wednesday at Harbour Town where he’s making his first start in nearly decade. “I felt like I played well enough to win last week, I just didn’t putt well.”

It’s easy to let expectations turn what has otherwise been a solid season into a reason to be concerned, but remember that DJ still has four of the year’s most important events to play and reason to think something special still awaits. GRADE: A-.

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Levy wins Trophee Hassan for fifth European Tour title

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 6:32 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alexander Levy finished with a 2-under 70 Sunday to win the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco by a shot from overnight leader Alvaro Quiros.

One off the lead overnight, Levy made two of his four birdies in his first five holes to hit the front and stayed ahead for the rest of the final day at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course.

It was the 27-year-old Frenchman's fifth European Tour victory and he will take winning form to Beijing next week when he defends his China Open title.

Levy ended 8-under 280 overall, one ahead of Spain's Quiros, who closed with a second straight 72.


Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II


With his chasers pushing hard, Levy kept his cool after dropping a shot on No. 16. He birdied the short, par-3 No. 17 and made par at the last.

Quiros birdied his last two holes to make sure of second place outright. He needed an eagle on No. 18 to force a playoff.

A group of four players finished in a tie for third, including Italy's Andrea Pavan, who finished with a brilliant 6-under 66. Swedish pair Joakim Lagergren (70) and Alexander Bjork (70) and Finland's Mikko Ilonen (72) also shared third.

Levy had three other top 10 finishes in his five previous events this season and moved up to ninth on the European Tour's Race to Dubai points list.

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."