Paradise lost: Shaky start for big names at TOC

By Rex HoggardJanuary 6, 2017, 4:26 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Like most all-star tilts in professional sports, there’s rarely any defense at the SBS Tournament of Champions.

The winds that normally whistle up the mountainside off the Pacific Ocean at the year's lid-lifter, which is the closest thing golf has to a “midsummer classic,” were little more than a cooling breeze on Thursday on a Plantation Course that has been made even more vulnerable by heavy rains earlier in the week.

Idyllic views and fairways wide enough to hold even the most wayward shots, the Tournament of Champions is where pars go to die, and Day 1 at Kapalua didn’t disappoint.

Twenty-seven of the 32 players who made the trip to Maui were under par, led by Jimmy Walker, whose 8-under 65 included an eagle at the par-5 fifth hole and not even the hint of a bogey (he missed just one green).

It’s what the field has come to expect at the winners-only event, where the field average on a picturesque Thursday was 70.34 (par is 73).

Put an umbrella in an adult beverage and Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Over the Rainbow” on a loop and score becomes relative, not to par but to how the rest of the pack is picking apart the sprawling layout.

Like the leaderboard on Sunday at the Masters, things can change quickly on the Plantation Course. Consider that Ryan Moore got off to a less-than-stellar start with back-to-back pars, which at Kapalua is movement in the wrong direction. Three holes later Moore was 4 under par with eagles at Nos. 3 and 5 and on his way to an opening 67 that left him tied for second place with Jim Herman and Justin Thomas.

SBS Tournament of Champions: Articles, photos and videos

Rookie Cody Gribble was in an even worse position following bogeys at the first and third holes, but finished his day at 4 under.

“You're reeling, no doubt,” Gribble said. “But I played much better after that, hit more fairways, had plenty of opportunities to make birdie. A little disappointed that I couldn't get to 5 or 6 [under], because that was right there to really push to 7.”

Only at Kapalua, which is Hawaiian for “go low,” or something like that, is a 4-under card after early miscues a score worth lamenting.

But low scores are part of the charm of the TOC, where Jordan Spieth scorched the field and the history books with a 30-under total and an eight-stroke romp last year.

There will be plenty of time for “good pars” and damage control as the season inches toward the major championships; for one week let them eat cake and enjoy the walk.

But then it wasn’t the scoring onslaught that was curious on Day 1, it was those who weren’t joining in the mayhem that stood out. With a few notable exceptions, the top of the game’s marquee got off to a more measured start than most of the rank and file.

It started with Spieth, who managed just two birdies on his outward loop and played his closing nine in 1 over par for a 72 to tie for 22nd.

“Looking at the board right now, somewhere in the low 20s is probably the winning score,” said Spieth, who in two previous starts at the TOC had just a single round in the 70s and was a combined 48 under par. “I need to try and shoot 7 [under] each day. It's certainly easier said than done, but we've also done it here before.”

But Spieth wasn’t the only star who didn’t exactly appear ready for primetime. Dustin Johnson, a former winner at Kapalua and the kind of bomber one would expect to feast on the defenseless course, rallied with a birdie at the last for a 4-under 69, but that was well off the pace set by Walker.

After more than three months of rest and rehabilitation, world No. 1 Jason Day bogeyed his second hole and carded a wild 70 that left him mired in the middle of the pack.

Although the Australian has plenty of room for improvement after being sidelined late last season with a back injury, he seemed pleased with his ball-striking if not his ability to score.

“The average winning score at this tournament is 22 under, so you’ve got to build on it each day and not make silly errors,” Day said. “If I can take out the errors tomorrow I can play some decent golf.”

But then “decent” golf really isn’t a recipe for success at the Tournament of Champions, particularly without the kona winds that normally gust across the former pineapple plantation.

A successful start to the new year requires a singular mindset and plenty of offense, just like every other all-star game.

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M. Jutanugarn finally joins sister in LPGA winner's circle

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 1:42 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn won the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open by two shots for her first victory in six years on the LPGA Tour, joining sister Ariya as the second siblings to win on the tour.

The 23-year-old from Thailand shot a 3-under 68 for a 12-under 272 total Sunday at Wilshire Country Club in the tour's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

Jutanugarn won in her 156th start after three career runner-up finishes, including at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. She had 21 top-10 finishes before winning.

Seven-time winner Ariya tied for 24th after a 70. She joined the predominantly Asian crowd to follow her older sister's final holes, crying as Moriya two-putted to close out the win.

Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first sisters to win on the LPGA Tour.

Hall of Famer Inbee Park shot a 68 to tie for second with Jin Young Ko (70).

Park had opportunities, but she wasn't able to put pressure on Jutanugarn playing in the final threesome. However, Park will return to No. 1 in the world when the rankings come out Monday, knocking off top-ranked Shenshen Fang, who tied for 12th.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

Jutanugarn began the final round with a two-shot lead and never wavered in fulfilling the potential she first displayed as the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 2013. After a birdie at the second hole, she reeled off nine consecutive pars before sinking birdie putts at 12 and 13.

She overcame a tee shot that narrowly missed going out of bounds for another birdie at 15 to lead by three.

Jutanugarn ran into trouble on the par-4 16th. Her approach landed on the green and rolled off it, stopping inches from dropping into a bunker. Her chip shot ran well past the hole and her par putt just missed catching the edge of the cup. That left her with a short putt for bogey, her first in her previous 28 holes, trimming her lead to two shots.

Ko's tee shot on 18 landed about 4 feet from the hole, giving her a chance to cut Jutanugarn's lead to one shot with the Thai facing a long birdie attempt.

But Ko missed, leaving Jutanugarn room to maneuver. Her birdie putt came up a couple feet short, but she calmly parred the hole to win. Ariya rushed onto the green and joined others in emptying water bottles on her sister before they embraced.

So Yeon Ryu (68) finished fourth at 7 under. American Emma Talley (67) and Eun-Hee Ji (71) tied for fifth at 6 under, making Ji one of four South Koreans to place in the top five.

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After Further Review: Tour players embracing new ideas

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 1:26 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On players embracing new ideas on the PGA Tour ...

PGA Tour players are trying to tell commissioner Jay Monahan something: They like new.

In the second year of the two-man team format at the Zurich Classic, 10 of the top 14 players in the world have signed up, including all four reigning major champions. It’s the first time all four have been in the same field since the Tour Championship. If the laid-back event offered world-ranking points – it doesn’t, and that’s part of the appeal – the winner would have received 62 points. That’s the same as the Genesis Open.

Sure, some sponsor obligations are involved in boosting the field here, but there’s no other way to look at this: Today’s PGA Tour players are not only willing to play events that are a departure from the 72-hole, stroke-play norm. They’re encouraging it. - Ryan Lavner

On Moriya Jutanugarn's breakthrough win ...

As much love as there is between the Jutanugarn sisters, it couldn’t have been easy for Moriya, watching her baby sister, Ariya, soar past her as one of the LPGA’s dominant stars the last few years. Mo, though, never betrayed an inkling of frustration or envy.

That’s what made Mo’s breakthrough LPGA victory Sunday at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open especially meaningful for everyone who has admired Mo’s devotion to her sister. Mo was always a fixture, waiting in the wings to celebrate whenever Ariya hoisted a trophy.

So emotions were high late Sunday, with Ariya waiting in the wings this time, with Ariya sobbing in Mo’s arms after the victory was secured. It was heartwarming for more than Apple, the mother who raised these talented, loving sisters. As always, Apple was there, too, soaking both her daughters in tears of joy. – Randall Mell

On the tough scheduling decisions facing the PGA Tour ...

According to multiple sources, officials at Colonial are poised to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Charles Schwab Corporation on Monday.

While this is good news for the folks in Fort Worth, Texas, who were in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of timing, there remain some tough decisions to be made in the next few weeks.

If the PGA Tour’s plan is to end its season before Labor Day beginning in 2019, something must give. Currently, the Houston Open, a staple on Tour since 1946, and The National are without sponsors. When the music stops in a few weeks and the circuit announces the ’19 schedule, there’s a good chance one, or both, of those events will be the victims of bad timing. – Rex Hoggard

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Triplett hole-out wins Legends of Golf playoff

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 12:12 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Kirk Triplett holed out from a bunker for birdie on the first playoff hole Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf to lift himself and partner Paul Broadhurst past Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman.

''Well, you're trying to make it, but you know realistically it doesn't go in very often,'' Triplett said. ''You're trying to give your partner a free run at it. You don't want to hit it up there 20 feet past or do something silly. I'm just trying to hit it the right distance and get it on the right line.''

Langer and Lehman took it in stride.

''You kind of learn to expect it,'' Lehman said. ''These guys out here are so good and Kirk Triplett is a magician around the greens. The odds of making that shot are probably not good, but you certainly expect him to hit a great shot and he did and it went in.''

Lehman and Langer missed birdie putts after Triplett holed out.

''I kind of felt like we both hit pretty good putts, misread them, both of them,'' Lehman said. ''I hit mine probably too hard and Bernhard's was too soft, but you have to hand it to the guys who hit the shot when they have to hit it.''

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

Broadhurst and Triplett closed with a 6-under 48 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to match Langer and Lehman at 24 under. Langer and Lehman had a 47, playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

The 56-year-old Triplett won his sixth PGA Tour Champions title.

''That's a big roller-coaster - three good shots and mine, right?'' Triplett said. ''I'm feeling a little dejected walking down that fairway there, a little sheepish. To knock it in it just reminds you, this game, you know, crazy stuff.''

Broadhurst claimed his third senior victory.

''I don't get too emotional, but that was something special,'' the 52-year-old Englishman said.

Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal had a 48 to tie for third with 2017 winners Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco. Singh and Franco, the third-round leaders, shot 50.

Mark Calcavecchia-Woody Austin (48), John Daly-Michael Allen (49), Steve Stricker-Jerry Kelly (50) and David Toms-Steve Flesch (52) tied for fifth at 20 under.

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Mullinax (T-2) comes up short of maiden win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:06 am

The Valero Texas Open saw an unheralded player break through to earn a maiden victory, but unfortunately for Trey Mullinax his day will have to wait.

Mullinax started the final round within a shot of the lead, having fired a course-record 62 during the final round. He trailed Andrew Landry by one shot for much of the final round while racking up six birdies over his first 11 holes, but a pair of late miscues meant the former Alabama standout had to settle for a share of second place, two shots behind Landry.

A final-round 69 marked a career-best finish for Mullinax, who is playing this season on conditional status and whose lone prior top-10 this season came after he Monday qualified for the Valspar Championship.

"I know my game's there, I'm playing really well," Mullinax told reporters. "Give all credit to Andrew, he played really well today, rocksteady. He was putting great, hitting great shots."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Given time to reflect, the 26-year-old will likely look back on the final two holes where nerves appeared to get the best of him. Looking to put some pressure on Landry, Mullinax chunked his pitch on the short 17th hole into a greenside bunker, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.

Then Mullinax was unable to convert a 9-foot birdie putt on the final green, which would have forced Landry to make his 8-foot par putt to avoid a playoff. Afforded the luxury of two putts for the win, Landry rolled in his par save to cement a two-shot win.

"Made a bad bogey on 17, but just you've got to hit some bad shots," Mullinax said. "Would have liked to have got the putt on 18 to fall to put a little bit of heat on him, but this experience that I'm gaining right now is just going to help me down the road."