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Monday Scramble: Rahm, Henderson earn popular wins

By Ryan LavnerApril 16, 2018, 3:00 pm

Jon Rahm wins at home, Satoshi Kodaira rallies, Brooke Henderson impresses, Kelly Kraft stews and more in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:

Each of the top players has a weakness – iron play, accuracy, short putting, temperament – but Jon Rahm might be best positioned for success.

He has proven, with five wins in just 15 short months, that he can triumph anywhere and everywhere.

Winning on one of the most difficult courses on Tour (Torrey Pines) and one of the easiest (PGA West), taking the title when it’s blustery (Ireland) and dome-like (Dubai), Rahm can now add another line to his increasingly impressive résumé, outlasting the field and steeling himself to capture his home open in Spain.

There will be rough patches, of course, since these stars are not machines. But it’s worth noting that the 23-year-old Rahm has missed only one cut since the U.S. Open.

He brings it every time he tees it up, often giving himself a chance to win, wherever that may be.


1. Rahm didn’t rise in the rankings after taking the Spanish Open title, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a significant victory.

Playing his home open for the first time, he closed with 67 to hunt down Paul Dunne and Nacho Elvira and win for the second time this year. A week after finishing fourth at the Masters, Rahm flew 14 hours and still shot 20 under par.

For now Rahm remained at No. 4 in the world, even with the victory, but he's expected to leapfrog Spieth in two weeks. Math!

2. To many players, a home open is as important as any event outside of the majors. At age 23, Rahm became just the fifth Spaniard to win the Spanish Open over the past 40 years, joining Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia, Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

“It’s truly been the hardest Sunday I’ve ever had in any tournament that I’ve won, because the crowd wanted it so much and I wanted it so much,” he said afterward. “You can tell how excited everybody is. I felt that tension; I felt that stress. I felt everything magnified.”

3. So Rahm was able to handle the pressure of trying to win at home. Elvira, it seems, could not.

Tied for the lead with two holes to play, Elvira missed on the 71st hole the only place he could not – left, in the water. He still would have had a chance on the home hole, but he yipped a 3-footer for a deflating double bogey.

He finished third, three shots back. Dunne, the 54-hole leader, wound up in second.



4. Satoshi Kodaira erased a six-shot deficit on the final day at the RBC Heritage. In difficult conditions he shot a 5-under 66, then waited around to see if his 12-under 272 would be enough.

Locked in a playoff with Players champion Si Woo Kim, Kodaira made two pars before rolling in a 25-footer for the win on the third extra hole.

The Heritage was just his 15th career PGA Tour start.

“To win this quickly is a big surprise to me,” he said.

5. Never heard of Kodaira?

He’s a six-time Japan Tour winner who has never had a top-25 in a major. (Though he tied for 28th at the Masters.) Last year, he won twice and ripped off 13 other top-10s on the Japanese circuit to soar up the world rankings. He entered the week at No. 46 and now is all the way up to 27th – ahead of guys like Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay and Daniel Berger.  

Clearly, he has a ton of game. He finished the week ranked sixth in strokes gained: off the tee and seventh in the tee-to-green statistics.

“This course is very similar to the courses in Japan – a little bit shorter and a shape course,” he said. “I felt very comfortable.”



6. Kodaira benefited from Kim’s horrible day on the greens.

Entering the week ranked 209th out of 210 players on Tour in strokes gained: putting, Kim predictably looked lost at times. Holding a slim lead down the stretch, he missed putts of 4, 7, 5 and 6 feet over the last four holes to drop into the playoff. In overtime, he also missed a pair of 20-footers.

It was all part of a round in which Kim lost nearly three strokes to the field on the greens and holed a combined 33 feet of putts. With stats like that, it was a miracle he was even in contention and able to shoot even par on Sunday.

“Rather than it being nerves,” Kim said through a translator, “I think with the weather, it kind of slowed the greens down and affected them, how I made the putts. But I tried my best and the putts didn’t drop.”

As sweet as Kim’s swing appears, there’s a reason why the two-time Tour winner has also missed 22 cuts over the past three seasons.

7. Six Sunday birdies helped Dustin Johnson salvage a respectable showing in his Palmetto State homecoming.

A new RBC ambassador, Johnson was playing the Heritage for the first time since 2009. He had missed the cut in his two prior appearances at one of the most claustrophobic courses on Tour, failing to even break par in a round, but he’s a different, more well-rounded player now. He shot rounds of 69-69-72-67 to tie for 16th.

He’s had significantly more success at the other RBC event on the schedule – the Canadian Open, the week after The Open, where he has a pair of runners-up and another top-10 in five starts.



8. With Lydia Ko’s game on the fritz, it looks like Brooke Henderson could be the young star to rule the game in 2018. The 20-year-old Canadian won for the sixth time on the LPGA, battling strong winds and winning by four shots at the Lotte Championship. She already has three other top-10s this season.

Henderson is a joy to watch, the rare female talent who is unafraid to grip-and-rip the driver and to attack flags even when she’s clinging to a narrow lead. It’s a stark contrast to Ko, who captured 14 tour titles with steady, methodical, consistent, almost boring play.

Henderson is just two wins shy of tying Sandra Post for the most wins by a Canadian player in LPGA history.

9. It took the PGA Tour a while to finally get on Keith Pelley’s level, and the selections will probably be more Darius Rucker than Drake, but tournament officials should be applauded for trying something different next week at the Zurich Classic: walk-up music on the first tee.

With one week left to commit, here are some of the notable groups: Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley, Jon Rahm-Wesley Bryan, Jordan Spieth-Ryan Palmer, Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay, Sergio Garcia-Rafa Cabrera Bello, Tommy Fleetwood-Chris Paisley, Jason Day-Ryan Ruffels, Graeme McDowell-Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson-Matt Kuchar.



10. Those who think the PGA Tour Champions is just a carefree hit-and-giggle must not have watched Saturday’s 36-hole finish.

Forced to complete two rounds in one day because of severe storms expected to hit the area on Sunday, the over-50 set played a marathon Saturday that went even longer, with Steve Flesch, Bernhard Langer and Scott Parel battling it out in a playoff.

Perhaps it was no surprise, then, that it was a 50-year-old, Steve Flesch, who emerged from the pack, taking the Mitsubishi Electric Championship after a 38-hole day. At least they got to use carts at hilly TPC Sugarloaf.

“I know I’ll sleep great,” Flesch said, “but mentally I’m more exhausted than physically.”

He won in only his sixth career senior start, after previously failing to record a top-15 this season.

“You never know if you’re ever going to win again,” said Flesch, who hadn’t won anywhere since 2007. “Honestly, it’s been harder than I anticipated winning on this tour. The guys are so good. That Langer guy is hard to beat.”


Not all missed cuts are the same. Just ask Kelly Kraft.

Fighting to play the weekend at the Heritage, Kraft’s tee shot on the par-3 14th had just begun its descent when it drilled a bird. His ball dropped short of the green, in the water, and led to a double bogey. He missed the cut by one.

“It wouldn’t been in the middle of the green,” he said. “It might have been close. I got screwed.”

At this point, you just hope that the bad break doesn’t cost Kraft down the road, or at least evens out over time. He entered the week at No. 85 in the FedEx Cup standings.

This week's award winners ... 


Stay Hot: Luke List. In 16 starts this season, he now has nine top-25s and a trio of top-5s – a tie for fifth at the CJ Cup, a playoff loss at Honda and now a tie for third at the Heritage, where he finished one shot out of the Kim-Kodaira playoff.  

Running On Fumes: Ian Poulter. Playing his sixth consecutive week, the Englishman crashed back to Earth with a final-round 75 while staked to the overnight lead. After winning just two Tour events in 240 career starts, he was seeking his second title in the past three weeks.

Back to the Drawing Board: Live Under Par. Saying goodbye to “These Guys are Good” after two decades, the PGA Tour rolled out its new advertising campaign, which was supposed to highlight the Tour’s younger, fan-friendly approach. A sampling on Twitter shows just how much it missed the mark, but even more of a forehead-slapper was the fact that, in the UK, to “live under par” means that you feel like total crap. Oops!

Psycho Scorecard of the Week: James Hahn. Not good in golf, but, man, Giancarlo Stanton would love to hit for the cycle right about now:


Not Quite Tiger-Esque: Paul Casey. His Tour-leading streak of 29 consecutive cuts made came to an end at the Heritage. Too bad, because he was only 113 short of catching Tiger’s amazing run.

Leading Amateurs: Hogan Award finalists. The final vote isn’t for another month, but right now Ole Miss’ Braden Thornberry, Oregon’s Norman Xiong and Texas’ Doug Ghim should be considered the frontrunners for amateur golf’s most prestigious award.

Place Your Bets: PGA Tour. The Tour said last week that it would support legalizing sports betting, falling in line with other major sports leagues. One thing to watch: Fan behavior is already an issue, and that could be exacerbated if, say, a spectator has 50 benjis on a JT head-to-head victory.

Lunch of (Masters) Champions: Patrick Reed hits Chick-fil-A. 


Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Luke Donald. His form stunk heading into Harbour Town, but rarely has that mattered – since 2009, he was 9-for-9 with five runners-up and a pair of third-place finishes, reason enough for many one-and-doners to pick him. Then he opened with 76, and even though he rebounded with a Friday 67, it still wasn’t enough to make the cut. Sigh.

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Golf Channel Ramps Up Six Weeks of Comprehensive College Golf Coverage Culminating With The NCAA Women's and Men's Golf Championships, May 18-30

By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 24, 2018, 9:00 pm

Golf Channel to Announce NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections on Wednesday, April 25 and Wednesday, May 2

 Golf Channel to Expand Coverage of NCAA Women’s and Men’s Regional Championships  

Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys, a Four-Part Docu-Series Executive Produced by Rickie Fowler, Premieres on Golf Channel Monday, May 7

 More than 100 News and Tournament Hours Planned for Women’s and Men’s Championships, Back-to-Back Weeks at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

 

ORLANDO, Fla., April 24, 2018 – With conference championships underway, golf fans will be able to follow their favorite college golf programs and alma maters as they attempt to qualify and compete in the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships in May at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., as Golf Channel expands its comprehensive on-air and digital collegiate golf coverage the next six weeks.

“Through our new long-term partnership, the NCAA and Golf Channel are successfully raising the profile of college golf by shining a spotlight on the game’s future stars and the passion these programs have in competing for national championships,” said Molly Solomon, Golf Channel executive vice president of content and executive producer. “With our expanded coverage of the regional championships and partnering with OSU alum Rickie Fowler for Driven, our viewers will be treated to the most college golf coverage in network history leading into the NCAA Golf National Championships.”

REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS SELECTION ANNOUNCEMENTS: On Wednesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET (women) and continuing Wednesday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET (men), Golf Channel will announce the teams and individuals selected by the NCAA to participate in the women’s and men’s regional championships, the first step on the road to the NCAA Golf Championships. Live streaming coverage of selection shows will be available through the Golf Channel Mobile App or GolfChannel.com, and Golf Channel will aggregate social content for the shows using the hashtag #NCAAGolf. 

  • Women’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, April 25, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce (live) the 72 teams and24 individuals selected to compete in the four NCAA Women’s Regional Championships, May 7-9 (18 teams and six individuals per regional). 24 teams and 12 individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.
  • Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, May 2, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce the 81 teams and 45 individuals selected to compete in the six NCAA Men’s Regional Championships, May 14-16 (13 teams and 10 individuals at three regionals and 14 teams and five individuals at three regionals). 30 teams and six individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.

GOLF CHANNEL TO EXPAND REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: New for 2018, Golf Channel will feature expanded coverage of the final day of the NCAA women’s and men’s regional championships, Wednesday May 9 and Wednesday, May 16, respectively. Beginning within Morning Drive, Golf Channel’s daily lifestyle news show, and continuing hourly throughout the day via live Golf Central news updates from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. ET that will be published to Golf Channel Digital and Golf Channel’s social media handles. Coverage will conclude with live news segments, featuring highlights and interviews, announcing the teams and individuals who qualified for the women’s and men’s national championships.

RICKIE FOWLER AND NBC SPORTS COLLABORATE ON FOUR-PART DOCU-SERIES DRIVEN: OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS: NBC Sports Group is teaming up with PGA TOUR superstar Rickie Fowler to give viewers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look into Fowler’s alma mater in a four-part documentary series – Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys. Driven, executive produced by Fowler, will premiere Monday, May 7 at 10 p.m. ET and continue Monday, May 14 (10 p.m. ET) and Monday, May 21 (8 p.m. ET). The finale will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16, recapping their season that culminates with a run at a potential 11th national championship, taking place on their home turf.

NCAA GOLF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: Contested in back-to-back weeks, May 18-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Golf Channel will dedicate its full suite of production resources to the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships, featuring nearly 30 combined hours of live tournament coverage. In addition, Golf Central will feature nearly 30 hours of combined pre-and post-event live news coverage produced on location, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and Golf Channel Digital.                                             

Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   21       

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   22          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   22                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   23            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

 

Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage

Monday, May   28      

Individual National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Tuesday, May   29          

Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

Tuesday, May   29                 

Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

Wednesday, May   30            

Team National   Championship  

4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

 

COLLEGE CENTRAL – GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL COVERAGE: Golf Channel is providing comprehensive coverage leading up to and during the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships as part of College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, Ryan Lavner and Steve Burkowski, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel will cover the conference championships with scores and analysis across its on-air news platforms - Morning Drive and Golf Central – and online within College Central.

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With help from partner, Burns could secure Tour status

By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2018, 8:33 pm

AVONDALE, La. – This week Sam Burns has yet another chance to secure special temporary membership for the rest of the PGA Tour season, but his partner may determine whether he’s ultimately successful.

In an interesting twist, Burns is burning one of his seven available sponsor exemptions this week at the Zurich Classic. He is 80 non-member points shy of securing special temporary membership, which would allow him to receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the season.

Burns needs at least a two-way tie for fourth to earn the necessary points, but it won’t all depend on how he plays this week. The Zurich is a two-man game, with two rounds apiece of fourballs and alternate shot.

Burns' partner this week is William McGirt. Their games couldn’t be more different – Burns ranks eighth on Tour in driving distance, at 309 yards per pop, while McGirt is 143rd (290) – but they hope to compliment each other over four days at TPC Louisiana.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


“I got a good pair of spurs sharpened up last week while I was in San Antonio,” joked McGirt, who is looking for his first top-10 since the fall. “I told him I was going to ride him hard this week. It’ll be fun.”

Burns will have at least two (and maybe three) more opportunities to earn status, with starts lined up next week at the Wells Fargo Championship and also at the Memorial. He doesn’t face quite as much pressure because he won earlier this month on the Web.com Tour and currently sits fourth on the money list, essentially locking up his PGA Tour card for next season.

“It’s obviously nice to have that win,” he said, “but at the same time you have to be careful and make sure you play enough out there to where you’re secure for sure. You don’t want to get at the end of the year and then have two or three events left and you have to make a certain amount of money to get your card.

“So I’m just going step by step, tournament by tournament, and trying to figure out what’s the best route.”   

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Spieth-Palmer draw Rahm-Bryan early at Zurich

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:49 pm

AVONDALE, La. – The PGA Tour’s only team event gets underway Thursday at the Zurich Classic. Here are some featured groups to watch at TPC Louisiana.

Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley/Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland: 8:39 a.m. ET Thursday off 10 tee, 2:08 p.m. Friday off 1: 

The Bama boys, Thomas and Cauley, team up for the second consecutive year, after tying for fifth a year ago on the strength of a final-round 61. Berger teamed with Thomas Pieters a year ago but missed the cut, so he’ll try his luck with Woodland, who also shares a management team at Excel Sports.

Jordan Spieth-Ryan Palmer/Jon Rahm-Wesley Bryan: 8:52 a.m. Thursday off 10, 2:19 p.m. Friday off 1: 

Spieth and Palmer finished fourth a year ago, five shots back of the leaders. Spieth is making his first start since his epic Sunday run at the Masters. Rahm and Bryan have opposite strengths – Rahm is one of the game’s preeminent drivers, while Bryan, statistically, is one of the worst – but the Spaniard is coming off a European Tour victory at home. Another wrinkle here: Even though no world-ranking points are on offer this week, Rahm is set to supplant Spieth as the third-ranked player in the world.

Jason Day-Ryan Ruffels/Brooks Koepka-Marc Turnesa: 1:31 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:42 a.m. Friday off 10: 

Two stars with questionable sidekicks. Ruffels is an up-and-coming Australian who has been playing primarily in Latin America. (He also shares a manager with Day.) Turnesa, meanwhile, got the call late last week from Koepka, who is finally ready to return from a 15-week layoff because of a wrist injury. They both play out of Medalist in South Florida, but Turnesa, 40, has turned his attention to real estate instead of professional golf.

Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay/Jonas Blixt-Cameron Smith: 1:44 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:53 a.m. Friday off 10: 

Reed makes his first start as Masters champion after taking off the past two weeks. This duo tied for 14th last year, undone by a Saturday 75 in foursomes play. Blixt and Smith are the defending champions, after shooting 27 under par last year and holding off Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown in a playoff. Blixt doesn’t have a top-10 on Tour since then, while Smith tied for fifth at the Match Play and the Masters.

Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson/Bubba Watson-Matt Kuchar: 1:57 p.m. Thursday off 1, 10:04 a.m. Friday off 10:

Rose and Stenson, who have proved to be a formidable pairing in the Ryder Cup, were a stunning missed cut last year, after shooting 6 under par for two rounds. Watson teamed up with J.B. Holmes to finish fifth last year, while Kuchar is making his first start in this event since 2009.

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Zurich Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:09 pm

The PGA Tour tries team competition for the second year in a row at the Zurich Classic. Here are the key stats and information for play at TPC LouisianaClick here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $7,200,000 ($1,036,800 to each winner)

Course: TPC Louisiana (par 72; 7,425 yards)

Defending champions: Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt (-27) in a playoff over Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner


News and notes

• All four reigning major champions - Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed - are in the field this week. This is the first time all four reigning major winners have played this event since 1984 (Ben Crenshaw, Larry Nelson, Tom Watson, Hall Sutton).

 Both members of winning team this week will earn an official PGA Tour victory, two-year Tour exemptions, and exemptions into the Players and PGA Championships.

• That said, no Official World Golf Ranking points are awarded from this event and winners will not earn exemptions into the 2019 Masters.


Notable teams in the field 

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson

 Rose won this event in 2014, when it was individual stroke play. From 2012-16, he was a combined 60 under at TPC Louisiana in stroke play, seven shots better than any other player.

 Rose has dramatically improved his performance on the greens from last season, moving from 123rd in strokes gained-putting to 10th.

 Stenson's last three starts look like this: solo 4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T-6 at the Houston Open, and T-5 at the Masters.

Jon Rahm and Wesley Bryan

 Rahm is coming off a victory at the Spanish Open, his second worldwide win in 2018 and fifth since Jan. 2017.

 Rahm outdrives Bryan by an average of 30 yards off the tee, 305.1 to 276.3.

 Rahm is second on Tour in the strokes gained-off the tee, while Bryan is 210th, last among qualifying players.

Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay

 Reed is just the fifth reigning Masters champ to play the Zurich since 2000, joining Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson (twice), and Bubba Watson.

 Reed has gone T-2, T-7, T-9, WIN in his last four starts.

 Cantlay broke through for his maiden PGA Tour win earlier this season at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.