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Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2017, 1:24 pm

Minutes after holing the winning putt and still standing on the 18th green at Nine Bridges, Justin Thomas took stock of his latest achievement and offered a candid reflection.

"I just know I'm so excited to not do anything," Thomas said. "I officially have nothing left in the tank at the moment."

The mental exhale was certainly warranted after Thomas edged Marc Leishman in a playoff to win the inaugural CJ Cup in South Korea. It also seems only fitting that one of the most lucrative top prizes outside the majors would go to the player who has scooped up nearly every other accolade over the last 12 months.

On Oct. 22, 2016, Thomas was four shots off the lead with one round to go at the CIMB Classic. He was ranked 35th in the world, and had exactly one PGA Tour win under his belt.

Fast forward exactly one year and Thomas is nearly without peer. His victory Sunday was his sixth on Tour in the last 365 days, and it came at an event where he entered as the highest-ranked player in the field. When the new rankings are published, only Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth will be ahead of him.

Thomas need only look at the FedExCup and Player of the Year trophies that just arrived on his shelf for visual confirmation of the leap he has taken as a player, but the transformation was once again on full display coming down the stretch on Jeju Island. Unfazed by swirling winds and a world-class opponent, Thomas stared down a gutsy approach - first in regulation and again on the second playoff hole - with the same intensity he showed at Quail Hollow.

"It felt really good to his two really good shots there on 18 in regulation, and I had a putt with a chance to win it," Thomas told reporters. "I hit two great 3-woods there at that second playoff hole. It's a great way to cap off the year."


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Thomas' break after the close of last season was measured only in days, as he jetted from the Tour Championship to the Presidents Cup and then to last week's CIMB Classic to defend his title. It's only now, looking at a few weeks off following his final official start of 2017, that he's able to take stock of the progress he has made.

Those strides were nearly too large to count even before this latest victory. But Sunday was another example of Thomas' ability both win against a strong field and do so without his best stuff. This was not the clinical performance from the Sony Open in January, or even the flawless close with which he won the PGA.

But Thomas never wavered, and he barely flinched after a trip to the easy par-5 third hole ended in double bogey.

"It wasn't a mental error or a wrong judgment that we made, it was just a bad golf swing at a pretty bad time," he said. "But I mean, I knew you're going to make bogeys out here today."

It's a testament to the growth he has experienced over the last year that Thomas is now able to effectively shoulder the burden of being the guy with a target on his back. And while he reiterated that he plans to keep his 2018 goals a private matter, it's likely that Thomas will have plenty more opportunities with the tournament resting on his club face in the coming months.

"You give one of the best players in the world a chance like that, he's probably going to take advantage of it," Leishman said shortly after rinsing his final approach.

Thomas will now take a well-deserved respite, the highlight of which might be the honoring of his 2017 accolades during the upcoming football game between LSU and his alma mater, Alabama. And this won't be the last time we see him on a course this year, as he is among the 16 confirmed entrants for the Hero World Challenge in December.

But afforded an opportunity to reflect, both on the week and the steady ascent that has brought him to these heights, Thomas opted to exhale.

"I'm really excited to do nothing for a while," he said.

Thomas was already the most decorated player on Tour this year even before he landed in South Korea. But it seems only fitting that he found a way to close a torrid, 365-day stretch - one that has transformed both his perception and position among the game's elite - with one more win.

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

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Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

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Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

Made Cut

Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

Tweet of the week:

Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

“No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”


Missed Cut

Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.