#AskLav: Tiger, Rory ... and the Red Solo Cup

By Ryan LavnerDecember 18, 2014, 10:00 pm

Have a question that you want answered? Tweet me at @RyanLavnerGC.


So we’ve finally made it to the last week of the golf calendar.

Surprisingly, not many of you are clamoring for up-to-the-second results from the Asian Tour’s Dubai Open, so in the absence of any notable tournament, here’s a recap from the most significant event in our little Golf Channel digital world: the third annual Red Solo Cup, which was held last week in beautif  … well, let’s just say it was held last week in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.

The RSC is a spirited one-day competition that pits 16 GolfChannel.com writers, editors and video wizards in a battle for a makeshift, alcohol-stained trophy. The format for our little shindig at Mission Inn Resort was nine holes best ball, nine holes singles, and each of the past two years the matches have gone down to either the last pairing or a sudden-death playoff. Indeed, the winner is usually decided by which team wants it less or chokes the least, and our 18th-hole chop-fest serves as an annual reminder that we should always think twice before criticizing a professional athlete for crumbling under the pressure of playing for a $1 million payday.

Anyway, the Red Solo Cup once again proved to be golf’s fifth (or fiftieth) major. Several players pumped their opening tee balls into the wilderness. Others gagged over 3-footers. A nagging hangover crippled at least two team members. And when it was mercifully over, Team Coffin held on for a 6 ½ to 5 ½ victory. Managing editor Mercer Baggs, who went 2-0, was named Most Valuable Player – or the one who stunk the least when it mattered most.

Saddled with a slumping partner, I lost the team portion of the matches, then rallied to take down the previously undefeated Bailey Mosier – or, as she was briefly known on Twitter, “Bogey Bailey” – in afternoon singles, 3 and 2.

Alas, it still wasn’t enough to lead my side to victory, and Team Coffin celebrated in the clubhouse by snapping 46 blurry photos and drinking Guinness out of the trophy. Except the joke was on them – two days later, their captain revealed he had pneumonia.

The Red Solo Cup was the final leg of our two-day off-site retreat during which we discussed our successes/failures, talked smack about each other’s golf games and, eventually, developed a plan of attack for next year. So thank you, loyal reader, for pushing us to new heights in 2014. We’re excited about what lies ahead.

Without further ado, here are your questions for the year-ending edition of the #AskLav mailbag:

To my semi-trained eye, his swing looked markedly improved. He had a weaker grip, a wider base at setup, and more speed and power through the ball. That’s something that had been lacking over the past few years, when his clubhead speed dipped to 115 mph while dealing with his back injury. (By comparison, in 2008, the last year he won a major, he topped out at 124.6 mph.) I have no idea whether this new-look swing will lead to lower scores, or if his brittle body will even be able to withstand the wear and tear of a full season, but the early returns at the World Challenge were promising. His full swing looked great. His short game, not so much.


 

Well, let’s break this down into two questions. Though the PGA Tour has never been deeper or more competitive, Tiger still has more than enough firepower to win at least one event next year. And yes, while swing changes take time, Woods should still be full steam ahead by summertime, given that he’s reverting to old motor patterns and not starting from scratch. As for the major question: It would be a surprise if he won No. 15 in '15. The first three majors of the season set up particularly well for Rory and his power draw, and Whistling Straits isn’t a venue on which Tiger has traditionally fared well (no top 20s in two tries). A successful 2015 season would include a win and a few chances in the majors.


 

Well, you must not have been listening very closely. Actually, what I said was that I was fading the idea of Tiger Era Expectations – or the assumption that Woods can still four or five times a year, including a major. Those days are over. He’s entering his age-39 season, he’s coming off major back surgery, he’s on his third swing coach since 2010 and now he’s dealing with the chipping yips. He couldn’t afford that lost year in 2014, not at his age and not with that ideal slate of major venues. Embrace the new reality that there are better, younger players on Tour, and that Tiger’s best might not always be good enough. I’d argue that his race against Father Time and history – not to mention the Rorys, Rickies and Jordans of the PGA Tour – is the most compelling battle in all of sports.


 

Easy: Rory McIlroy. The kid has shown what he can do there, throwing down an opening 63 in 2010 en route to a T-3 finish. Plus, he didn’t look too shabby while shooting rounds of 64-68 on the Old Course during the Dunhill Links in October. If the weather is decent next July, McIlroy will be a monster favorite at St. Andrews. His driving ability gives him a massive advantage, and the huge, flat greens place an emphasis on lag putting, one of his strengths. After spending the past few years unable to solve the riddle that is links golf, Rory is now positioned to go back-to-back.   


 

Wait, we aren’t there already? That’s not to suggest that Rory is as popular among the mainstream sports audience as Tiger, but in our little golf media world there’s both a want and a need to document each and every one of his rounds across the globe – whether that’s a 64 or a 74. Adding to the intrigue for McIlroy next year is his impending court case against his former management company, slated for February, in which unflattering details are likely to emerge. As the new No. 1 in the men’s game, Rory is being thrust under the same microscope that Tiger has spent his past 20 years. That won't change anytime soon.


 

Bradley, but only because, quite frankly, he is the better player. Keegan switched to the 40-inch putter two weeks ago at Isleworth and said it was one of the most important tournaments of his career, because he was trying to convince not only fans but also himself that he could handle the move away from the belly putter. (It certainly helped that he finished in a tie for third.) Granted, Bradley made a similar switch at the Memorial, and he spoke just as confidently, but his comments at the World Challenge seemed to indicate that he’s converted for good.


Who wins a major first: Spieth or Fowler? – @mattieb1976, via Instagram

Right now, I think Rickie is better equipped to win a major. Spieth is arguably the hottest player in the game, and he’ll continue to roll in 2015 if his driver and putter cooperate. But with top 5s in all four majors this season, Rickie has experienced what it’s like to be a factor on major Sundays, and the sharpness of his tee-to-green game gives him an opportunity to factor more often. Obviously, both players are more than talented enough to win one in 2015, but Rickie’s big-game experience gives him an edge, however slight.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''


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


Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.