DJ looking to join Masters favorites with big SHO week

By Will GrayMarch 31, 2016, 11:15 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – With a week to go, you’re probably feeling good about your picks for the Masters.

The heavy hitters are peaking at the right time. Jordan Spieth has a trophy this year, as do Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler. Australia collectively owns pretty much every other piece of hardware.

Even Phil Mickelson, winless since 2013, has begun to bounce back, bringing dreams of a fourth green jacket much closer to reality.

But the top flight appears to have clearly distanced itself: a group of six, maybe seven players who are heads and shoulders above the rest of the hopefuls. Right?

Well, the thing is, you might need to make room for Dustin Johnson.

Johnson doesn’t have a recent win, one that would catapult him into the water-cooler discussion of, “You have to consider that guy at Augusta National.” In fact, Johnson has gone more than a year since his last victory – a rarity in his career, given that he has won at least once in each of the past eight seasons.

But that drought may end this week at the Shell Houston Open, where Johnson bombed his way to an opening 65. It left him one back of leader Charley Hoffman, and it also sent a clear message to the masses: Hey, don’t forget about me.

“You always want to get off to a good start. Today, I got off to a great start,” Johnson said. “I still feel like I’m playing really solid. I’m rolling the putter good. I’m excited for the rest of the week.”

Shell Houston Open: Articles, photos and videos

Of course, Johnson didn’t exactly arrive at the Golf Club of Houston in the midst of a drought. He cracked the top 15 in each of his last two stroke-play starts, and made the quarterfinals last week at the WGC-Dell Match Play before bowing out to eventual runner-up Louis Oosthuizen.

Still, his name usually isn’t mentioned as one of the favorites for the season’s first major. Perhaps that’s because of his high-profile collapses at places like Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits and Chambers Bay. Perhaps it’s because he didn’t notch a top-10 finish at Augusta National until last year.

While his three-putt to lose the U.S. Open was an enduring image from last year’s quartet of majors, here’s the thing: Johnson played really well at the four biggest events. He finished T-7 or better in three of them, including the Masters (T-6), and his mediocre finish at St. Andrews was a byproduct of a mind-boggling weekend collapse after he appeared to have the tournament well in hand at the halfway point.

Johnson may not have a major title yet, but he certainly possesses major-caliber game.

Thursday’s opener proved again that he can overpower a golf course, and is especially dangerous when the putter heats up. He needed only 21 putts, closing with a 10-footer for eagle on No. 8 and a 24-footer off the fringe for birdie on No. 9.

“I felt like I played really solid today, and holed some nice putts,” he said. “Anytime you can finish off the day like that, it’s always a good day.”

As it turns out, Johnson’s appearance this week was hardly a given. While many players stick to a strict routine, either playing the week before the Masters or opting for prep behind closed doors, Johnson said that he has no strong scheduling preference.

But after losing his opening match last week to Robert Streb, Johnson feared he’d be making an early exit in Austin. So he informed tournament officials last Thursday that he’d be teeing it up for just the third time since 2010.

“I felt like I needed to get some more rounds in. Especially after I lost the first round, I thought I was going to be out of there pretty quickly,” he said. “That’s why I decided to play here. I just felt like I needed to play a few more competitive rounds and get the game in really good shape going into Augusta.”

In doing so, Johnson took a page out of the patented Mickelson notebook, which makes this event an annual staple of his Masters prep.

“It gives you an opportunity to really prepare for next week,” Mickelson said. “I’m trying to get my game sharp, and this tournament allows me the opportunity to sharpen it.”

Johnson seemed quite comfortable on a course that is purposely styled after Augusta National, and his game certainly appears plenty sharp. Should his strong play extend into the weekend, he could very well end up in the same conversation next week with the likes of Spieth, Watson, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy.

Then again, he’s also fine to simply drive down Magnolia Lane and let his game do the talking.

“I just feel like myself going into next week,” Johnson said. “Ready to play.”

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.