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Fowler hoping unique fall schedule pays off in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 8, 2017, 9:45 pm

Rickie Fowler has officially put Fall Break on hiatus – at least, for a week.

Fowler is teeing it up this week at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, where he headlines the field and will make his tournament debut. His appearance south of the border is another testament to the strength-of-field requirement instituted last year by the PGA Tour, one that also helped steer Rory McIlroy to the Travelers Championship this summer.

It also continues a trend in recent weeks where Fowler has gone against the grain of other top-ranked stars' picks of where to play during the fall portion of the season. While most big names are sitting at home this week, Fowler will take on El Camaleon along the shores of Playa del Carmen.

Likewise, while his peers were scooping up dollars and OWGR points by the handful during a three-week Asian Swing last month, Fowler was kicking back at home and visiting some of his old stomping grounds.

The beauty of the saturated PGA Tour schedule is that players are afforded an opportunity to forge their own paths. There is no mandate requiring stars to hop a flight to Asia, although the lucrative purses certainly serve as convincing motivation.

In fact, the only other top-10 players who went 0-for-3 on the Asian events last month were Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Spieth still plans to fly across the globe to defend his Australian Open title next month, while McIlroy opted for rest in an effort to get fully healthy.

Which brings us back to Fowler, who had previously been a staple at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China since 2013. Four years ago he spent his fall racking up frequent flier miles, with starts in Malaysia, China, Australia and Thailand all after October 1.


OHL Classic at Mayakoba: Articles, photos and videos


But Fowler is a different player than he was four years ago, and he has different goals. Coming off an exhaustive summer stretch and a raucous week at the Presidents Cup, he opted to put the clubs away. Earlier this week, he told Golf Channel reporter George Savaricas that he had only played five rounds of golf in the six weeks since leaving Liberty National.

“I wanted to look at this fall and winter as a time to create an offseason,” Fowler said Wednesday. “Enjoy the relaxation and get some time in the gym to get ready to go in January.”

Fowler is interrupting that break to make his maiden trip to Mayakoba this week, and he’ll also tee it up later this month at the Hero World Challenge. But afforded essentially three months between the Presidents Cup and Tournament of Champions, he’s making a clear statement that his focus remains on starting fresh for 2018.

His most recent season is difficult to assess. On one hand, he won the Honda Classic to break a lengthy victory drought, authored perhaps the most consistent summer of his career and contended at multiple majors.

On the other hand, he failed to capitalize on those major chances, notably at the Masters and U.S. Open, and his T-26 finish at the Tour Championship served as an ill-timed clunker with $10 million on the line.

Fowler will turn 29 next month, a reminder that he is not quite as young as his annual spring break comrades Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. But barring injury, he remains on the upswing of his prime, and certainly possesses the talent to make runs like Spieth and Thomas have authored in recent years.

The difference will likely boil down to capitalizing on various opportunities. And while Fowler can put in plenty of legwork toward that goal after the ball drops on 2018, his decision to focus on recharging off the course this fall could prove prescient.

Amid a relatively quiet stretch, Fowler has a chance to shake off some rust this week. A trip to sun-splashed Mexico isn’t exactly the most difficult burden to bear, and his appearance is already a win for a tournament looking to bolster its status.

What’s more telling is the litany of events that Fowler has already skipped. It’s never easy to pass up on guaranteed prize money, not to mention FedExCup points that could prove valuable 10 months from now.

But while the wraparound schedule affords few opportunities to truly rest and unwind, Fowler has created one this fall. It comes at a cost, sure, but he has also played long enough on Tour to weigh the benefits of both options and choose accordingly.

On the heels of a good-but-not-quite-great season, Fowler has started this new campaign with some R&R and time in the gym. He’ll get back to the on-course grind this week, but it may be months before the value of his unique fall itinerary choices comes to fruition. 

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Watch: Na punctuates caddie tiff with hole-out

Microphones captured a fascinating and testy exchange between Kevin Na and his caddie, Kenny Harms, on Na's final hole, No. 9.

Na was in the right rough, 185 yards from the green, which was guarded by water. He vacillated between a hybrid and an iron, but with either club he would have to hit "a 40-yard cut," as Harms termed it.

"Over the green's dead," Harms warned.

"It's not gonna go over the green, Kenny," Na replied.

Na finally settled on an iron and said to Harms, "As long as you're OK with this club."

"I'm not," harms replied. "I'm not OK with either one of them."

"I'm going with this," Na ended the discussion.

He missed the green with his approach shot, but avoided the water. After taking a free drop away from some TV cables, he had 92 feet 3 inches to the cup and of course, holed the pitch shot for a birdie-3, a 62 and a one-shot lead at the end of the first round.

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Na (62) leads Hoffman by one at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 24, 2018, 10:38 pm

Kevin Na leads the Fort Worth Invitational by one over Charley Hoffman following a first-round 8-under 62. Here's where things stand through 18 holes at Colonial.

Leaderboard: Na (-8), Hoffman (-7), Emiliano Grillo (-6), Jhonattan Vegas (-6), Andrew Putnam (-6), Beau Hossler (-6)

What it means: The veteran Na is in search of just his second PGA Tour victory in 367 events played. The 34-year-old's lone victory came at the 2011 Shriners to go along with nine runner-ups, the most recent of which was a tie for second at this year's Genesis Open. Na missed three straight cuts in April but has rallied back with a weekend stay at The Players and a T-6 at last week's Byron Nelson. Ranked 75th in the world, he is not currently qualified for the U.S. Open or the Open Championship. 

Round of the day: Na turned in a clean card Thursday with six birdies and an eagle at the par-5 first, his 10th hole of the day. He closed with a chip-in birdie at No. 9 following a friendly disagreement with his caddie (more on that below). 

Best of the rest: Hoffman was likewise bogey-free, drawing seven circles. The four-time Tour winner and typically steady performer has yet to register a top-10 finish this season.

Biggest disappointment: Not that a round of 1 under is tragically disappointing, but Jordan Spieth has a pretty solid history of going low at this event and contending for the title. He's seven back through Round 1.

Shot of the day: Satoshi Kodaira recorded the second albatross in tournament history when he holed a 3-iron from 234 yards at the first.

Honorable mention: Na got into a pretty good back-and-forth with his caddie about whether to lay up or try to clear the water from the right rough at No. 9. Na went for it, avoided hazard, and holed this chip for birdie. 

Quote of the day: "I told you." - Na, after his chip-in

Golf Channel's NCAA Golf Coverage Continues Mon-Wed., May 28-30 With the NCAA Men's Golf Championships

By Golf Channel Public RelationsMay 24, 2018, 10:24 pm

Two National Championships to be Decided Over a Three-Day Span – Individual (Mon., May 28) and Team (Wed., May 30)

 Eight of the Top-10 Ranked Programs in the Country Set to Compete; Reigning NCAA Men’s National Champions Oklahoma and Current Top-Ranked Oklahoma State Paired Together Starting Friday

 Buick and Stifel Co-Presenting Sponsors of Golf Channel’s Coverage of the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships

ORLANDO, Fla., May 24, 2018 – Coming on the heels of Wednesday’s dramatic championship match where Arizona defeated Alabama in a playoff to claim their third women’s golf team national championship, Golf Channel returns to Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla. next week for the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf National Championships. Taking place Monday-Wednesday, May 28-30, Golf Channel’s coverage will feature nearly 30 hours of live tournament and on-site wraparound news coverage, showcasing the top men’s college golf programs in the country.

NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage: Coverage begins on Monday, May 28 to crown the individual national champion and to track the teams attempting to qualify for the eight-team match play championship. Golf Channel’s coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 29-30 will include all three rounds of the team match play, ultimately crowning a team national champion.

In addition, Golf Central will surround live tournament action with pre-and post-event news coverage produced on-site at Karsten Creek Golf Club, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and online via Golf Channel Digital. News and tournament coverage also will be live streamed on Golf Channel Digital. College Central, Golf Channel’s online home for college golf, will provide comprehensive editorial coverage throughout the championships.

Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)

Monday, May   28

Individual   National Championship

4-8 p.m.   (Live)

Tuesday, May   29

Quarterfinals,   Team Match Play

11   a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)

Tuesday,   May 29

Semifinals,   Team Match Play

4-8 p.m.   (Live)

Wednesday, May   30

Team Match   Play National Championship

4-8 p.m.   (Live)

Stifel and Buick Sign on as Co-Presenting Sponsors for Golf Channel’s NCAA Golf Championships Tournament Coverage: New for 2018, Stifel Financial Corp. and Buick have signed on as co-presenting sponsors for Golf Channel’s tournament coverage of the 2018 NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. In addition, Stifel has extended its partnership with the Fred Haskins Commission, Golf Channel and Golfweek as presenting sponsor of the Fred Haskins Award, given annually to nation’s outstanding male collegiate golfer.Golf Channel will announce the Fred Haskins Award presented by Stifel following the conclusion of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships, on a live edition of Golf Central, Wednesday, June 6 at 6 p.m. ET. The show will include profiles on the top candidates for the award and a live interview with the winner, who also will receive an exemption to compete in the 2018 Greenbrier Classic on the PGA TOUR. The Haskins Award honors the nation’s most outstanding male Division I collegiate golfer as selected by his peers, coaches and the golf media.

Semifinal Teams in Match Play to Receive Invitations to Compete in East Lake Cup: The East Lake Cup, taking place in late October at historic East Lake Golf Club, will feature the top-performing teams from the 2018 NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships. Invitations for the field have been extended to Arizona, Alabama, Southern California and Stanford – semifinalists in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships, and also will be extended to the semifinalists in the Men’s Championships. Modeled after the NCAA Golf Championships, the format for the East Lake Cup consists of an opening round of stroke play to crown an individual male and female champion and determine seeding for the following two days of match play competition. Golf Channel will air live coverage of the East Lake Cup Monday-Wednesday, Oct. 29-31.

College Central – Golf Channel Digital Coverage: Golf Channel will provide comprehensive coverage via College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, and Ryan Lavner, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.

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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.


Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open


Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics: