Getty Images

Reed vs. McIlroy: Will it be Ryder Cup revisited?

By Rex HoggardApril 8, 2018, 12:27 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rory McIlroy famously tormented the Hazeltine National masses during the 2016 Ryder Cup, challenging the partisan crowd with roars of “I can’t hear you!” Patrick Reed responded with the game’s most memorable finger wag.

Prepare for more of that type of histrionics on Sunday at the Masters thanks to one of the most frenzied days in tournament history.

The stage will be Reed’s when the final pairing sets out for the last lap around Augusta National thanks to the type of charge that turns solid rounds into stories that get retold every April. But McIlroy will be the most compelling supporting character the game has seen for decades.

If Saturday’s give and take between the two was any indication, it will be every bit as entertaining as the epic singles duel between the two at the ’16 Ryder Cup.

The Augusta fireworks began when McIlroy hit an aggressive chip from 28 yards right of the eighth green that had more pace than he would have liked, but the ball crashed into the flagstick and dropped into the hole for an eagle to move him into a share of the lead.

Playing a hole behind the plucky Northern Irishman, Reed heard the reaction.

“I mean, of course, I heard the roar on 8,” Reed conceded.

Not to be outdone, the player who is often described as America’s bulldog chipped in for eagle at the 15th hole from 27 yards to extend his advantage to five strokes.

McIlroy also heard.

Masters Tournament: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage

“Yeah, I heard it. I think I was on 17 tee at that point and I saw that he went to 15 [under],” McIlroy said.

It won’t exactly be a singles match on Sunday, but it’ll be close.

Despite a bogey at the 16th hole to slow his momentum, Reed closed with a 67 and is on the verge of becoming the first player to post four rounds in the 60s at the Masters.

For those who reveled in the festivities on Day 3, it will be Reed’s eagles at Nos. 13 and 15 or his three consecutive birdies that started at No. 8 that fill up the highlight reel. But for those looking for something deeper to suggest the 27-year-old is finally ready for his major breakthrough, it could have come on the 14th hole when he calmly two-putted from 95 feet like he’d been shot full of Ritalin, no nerves, no signs of the slightest crack, no stress.

But it was a Saturday, and tensions have a tendency to climb in relation to how close a player gets to the finish line, particularly at a major championship that’s defined by late-inning pressure.

As well as Reed has performed in the Ryder and Presidents Cups for the U.S. side, his record on the Grand Slam stage has not reached the same heights.

In 16 major starts he has just a single top-10 finish, albeit at last year’s PGA Championship (T-2), and he’s never finished inside the top 20 at the Masters. Nor has he been particularly prolific since that epic duel at Hazeltine National, going winless on Tour the last year and a half.

“It's probably one of the best matches we ever played. It was probably also one of the most exhausting matches we ever played,” Reed explained.

Perhaps Reed has emerged from that post-Ryder Cup haze, but there’s more recent history to suggest that his three-stroke advantage – and he’s five clear of any player not named McIlroy – isn’t as safe as it might appear.

Just last month at the Valspar Championship he stepped to the 72nd tee needing a birdie to win. His approach shot came up short and he failed to clear a hill with his third on his way to a bogey.

This week he’s embraced a more basic approach. Instead of allowing the pressure that’s inherent to major championships to consume him he opted for a more workman-like approach.

“You don't need to put four perfect rounds together to win out here, especially at majors,” Reed said. “You can put four decent rounds, and if you are playing well, you have a good chance come Sunday.”

It was a lesson McIlroy learned in 2011 at this course when he turned a four-stroke, 54-hole lead into a woeful tie for 15th place after a closing 80.

“I always have said that 2011 was a huge turning point in my career,” said McIlroy, who shot a 65 to move to within three strokes of Reed. “It was the day that I realized I wasn't ready to win major championships, and I needed to reflect on that and realize what I needed to do differently.”

Although both will relish the chance to rekindle that Ryder Cup bout, Sunday will not be the same. Missing will be the partisan, and often over-served, crowds that made Hazeltine such a raucous environment. Gone will be the team colors that both savor.

There will also be a few other interested players who may have a say in the final outcome.

Rickie Fowler matched McIlroy for round of the day with a 65 that included an eagle at the second and birdies on two of his final four holes to move to 9 under, and Jon Rahm, who in his second start at the Masters looks like he has the savvy of a Spanish veteran, added his own 65 and was at 8 under.

“It's definitely not a two-horse race at this point,” McIlroy said. “There's a lot more guys.”

No, this won’t be the same as Hazeltine. This has the potential to be better, given the setting, Augusta National’s storied closing nine that has produced so many memorable moments, and two players with the type of history that’s only born from a relationship that has been forged on the competitive edge.

It was here back in 2014 when McIlroy slung the first arrow after Reed had confidently dubbed himself after his victory at Doral a “top-5 player.” The two were to be paired together, along with Jordan Spieth, for Rounds 1 and 2 when McIlroy was asked about the threesome.

“Yeah, there’s going to be no top-5 players in that group,” McIlroy smiled wily.

A victory won’t move Reed into that coveted top-5 neighborhood, but it promises to be the type of duel the world will hear.

Getty Images

Report: Tour close to finalizing Detroit tournament

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 7:07 pm

With the final pieces of the 2019 schedule falling into place, the PGA Tour appears on the verge of returning to Michigan for the first time in nearly a decade.

According to a Detroit News report, the Tour is "believed to be close" to an agreement to bring a tournament to the Motor City beginning in 2019, reportedly likely to take place at Detroit Golf Club near downtown.

While the specifics remain undisclosed, the prime candidate for such a move appears to be The National. The Washington, D.C.-area event, which benefits Tiger Woods' TGR Foundation, was sponsored by Detroit-based Quicken Loans from 2014-2017. This year the tournament will be conducted at TPC Potomac without a title sponsor.

According to a Detroit News report in September, Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert was open to continuing his company's sponsorship of the event if it shifted to Detroit.

In addition to The National, the only other current PGA Tour event without a title sponsor is the Houston Open. On Monday Charles Schwab was introduced as the new title sponsor of the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019.

The PGA Tour has not held an event in the state of Michigan since 2009, the final year of the now-defunct Buick Open at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club. While the final details of a revamped schedule have yet to be announced, the Tour is expected to unveil its itinerary for the 2018-19 season at The Players next month.

Getty Images

Inbee Park quietly reclaims world No. 1

By Randall MellApril 23, 2018, 6:44 pm

Inbee Park moved back to No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings in about as ho-hum fashion as you’ll ever see a player take the top spot.

It isn’t that she doesn’t care about the top ranking. It just wasn’t a priority in her return to golf this year, after missing big portions of the last two years with injuries.

With an Olympic gold medal and seven major championship titles, the LPGA Hall of Famer isn’t done trying to top the scoreboards that matter most to her.

“To be honest, I never really think about being No. 1 again,” Park said early last week, before tying for second at the Hugel-JTBC LA Open. “If it comes to me, great. If not, it doesn't matter.”

It came to her for the fourth time in her career.

Park, 29, reigned at No. 1 for 59 weeks in her longest run on top, back in the 2013 and ’14 seasons.

Oddly, this run to No. 1 almost comes as a surprise to Park, who didn’t need long to get back to the top spot after returning to the tour. She won the Bank of Hope Founders Cup last month in her second after missing seven months with a back injury.

Park last lost the No. 1 ranking in October of 2015, doing so to Lydia Ko.

In six starts this year, Park has finished T-3 or better four times. She leads the tour in scoring average (69.13) and is second in greens in regulation (77.5 percent).

Just wait until her putter heats up.

Yeah, Park’s not very satisfied with her putting. She’s one of the greatest putters who ever played the women’s game, but she has been frustrated with the inconsistency of her stroke much of this season. Of course, her standards are high. She ranks second in putts per greens in regulation so far this year.

On Sunday, this is how Park summed up her putting in 2018: “Some days, I’ve been really good. Some days, I’ve been really bad.”

Park has led the LPGA in putts per GIR in five of the last 10 years. She switched from her preferred mallet-style putter to a blade earlier this season and won with a Toulon Madison blade at the Founders Cup last month. She was back with an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball mallet this past week. That’s the putter she used to win the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro two years ago. She used an Odyssey Sabertooth winged mallet in her 2013 run of three consecutive major championship victories.

Getty Images

Goose takes down junior golfer - it's awesome

By Nick MentaApril 23, 2018, 6:33 pm

A goose evidently went into business for itself somewhere in Michigan and took down this high school golfer in dramatic, hilarious, photographed fashion. To the evidence we go ...

Per the Blissfield Athletics Twitter account, "The golfers just finished teeing off and were walking down the fairway. To the left there was a goose nest and the golfers did a good job of avoiding it but the guard goose hanging out on the far right thought differently."

Just so we can all continue laughing, the Blissfield account confirmed the kid was OK.

If you're looking for related content, check out Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" and this video:

Getty Images

It's official: Charles Schwab to sponsor Colonial event

By Associated PressApril 23, 2018, 6:30 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – The longest-running PGA Tour event still played at its original site has a new title sponsor, one already deeply involved in golf.

The PGA Tour and Colonial Country Club announced Monday that financial services provider Charles Schwab & Co. will take over as title sponsor starting in 2019. The four-year agreement goes through 2022.

Local companies are backing the event after upscale grocer Dean and Deluca withdrew as title sponsor after only two tournaments of a six-year deal. The companies include American Airlines, AT&T, XTO Energy and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway.

Charles Schwab is already a major sponsor on the PGA Tour. On the PGA Tour Champions, the Charles Schwab Cup is awarded to the season's top player.

Next month's tournament at Colonial, which has hosted since 1946, will be played as the Fort Worth Invitational.