Semi Tough

first_imgThe Major Match Play Championship is down to some gut-wrenching semifinal choices. GolfChannel.com’s quest to identify the greatest major championship ever played continues with online voting deciding which majors will advance to the finals. The 1986 Masters, our No. 1 seed, rolled into the semis in the biggest rout of the second round, advancing with a whopping 75 percent of the vote over the 1960 U.S. Open. The 1997 Masters, Tiger Woods’ runaway first major championship triumph, survived a tough quarterfinal match, beating out Francis Ouimet’s 1913 U.S. Open victory with 52 percent of the vote. For Woods’ fans, the semifinals offer another tough choice. A week after the Woods 2008 U.S. Open title defeated his 2000 U.S. Open victory, there’s another Woods vs. Woods battle. The semifinal matchup of Tiger’s ’97 Masters victory vs. his ’08 U.S. Open victory guarantees one of his titles will make it into the final match. • Week 2 results and voting percentages • Week 3 voting: Vote now! • Process for determining our 16 majors • Major championship photo gallery Here are this week’s semifinal matchups: • 1986 Masters vs. 1977 British Open (Watch Rex Hoggard’s video analysis) Nicklaus’ last major championship victory, the most emotional and unexpected of his record 18 major titles, will be looking to advance to meet a Tiger title in the finals. To get there, the ’86 Masters will have to beat the ’77 British Open, where Nicklaus played a major role in Tom Watson’s “Duel in the Sun” victory at Turnberry. Watson defeated Nicklaus in head-to-head pairings on Saturday and Sunday at Turnberry. Watson won the championship by a stroke, shooting 65-65 on the weekend to beat Nicklaus, who shot 65-66. • 1997 Masters vs. 2008 U.S. Open (Watch Rex Hoggard’s video analysis) Tough call here. What made for a greater major? Woods at his most dominant in his four titles at Augusta National? Or Woods at his grittiest, showing his most resolve at Torrey Pines? Woods made his first major championship victory at the ’97 Masters look like a coronation. He amazed peers and fans alike with his 12-shot rout. In his ’08 U.S. Open victory, Woods seemed to amaze even himself at Torrey Pines. He looked at the trophy after limping and grimacing his way to victory on a fractured tibia and torn knee ligament and said he wasn’t sure how he managed to endure over 91 holes, beating Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff that went an extra hole.last_img read more

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Kok, McNabb tied at PGA Professional National Championship

first_imgMYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Johan Kok shot a 5-under 67 on Sunday to match The Dunes Golf & Beach Club competitive record and share the first-round lead in the PGA Professional National Championship. Kok, the 34-year-old former University of South Carolina player from South Africa, is the PGA general manager at Temple Hills Country Club in Brentwood, Tennessee. The top 20 will get spots in the PGA Championship at Valhalla in August in Louisville, Kentucky. ”This is a chance to play in a major,” Kok said. ”It may not happen for me this week after all is said and done, but I’m happy to be here and get that chance.” Dave McNabb, the 48-year-old PGA head professional at Applebrook Golf Club in Malvern, Pennsylvania, opened with a 67 at Grande Dunes Resort Club. ”I feel today that I took advantage of a fantastic golf course that was set up to score,” McNabb said. ”Conditions were ideal. I’m looking forward to heading to The Dunes tomorrow and trying to do the same. You have to be in the right spot on the greens.” Kok one-putted 11 greens at The Dunes, the site of the final two rounds in the 72-hole tournament. He matched the course record set by Billy Joe Patton in the 1960 Southern Amateur and Ben Crenshaw in the 1973 PGA Tour Qualifying School. The Senior Tour Championship, conducted at The Dunes from 1994-1999, used a shorter yardage when Jay Sigel shot a 63 in 1994. Jamie Broce of Ottawa Hills, Ohio, and Ryan Helminen of Menasha, Wisconsin, shot 68. Broce, the men’s golf coach at the University of Toledo, and Helminen, a PGA teaching professional at Ridgeway Country Club in Neenan, Wisconsin, played at The Dunes.last_img read more

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History Lesson

first_imgHOYLAKE, England – The comparisons were always going to be misguided, if not wildly unfair. This was always going to be a different course than the one that hosted the great Dust Open of 2006. It was, observers concluded, a different swing, a different time, a different Tiger than the one who surgically picked the place apart on his way to his third claret jug eight years ago. Despite that reasoning, those comparisons were sure to come. It is always the burden that when you author a masterpiece fans eagerly await a sequel that is every bit as captivating no matter how outrageous those expectations may be. When Tiger Woods bogeyed the first hole early on Thursday at Royal Liverpool the social universe reminded anyone with a wireless connection that he also bogeyed his first hole in ’06, when arguably the best ball-striking week of his career delivered a two-stroke victory. When he bogeyed the second, however, a chorus of concern could be heard across the Dee Estuary; but slowly, methodically, earnestly, Woods plodded his way back to relevance: A birdie at the par-5 fifth hole from 8 feet to turn at 1 over was followed by a barrage of five birdies in six holes starting at No. 11. Maybe this could be like ’06. Open Championship full-field scores Open Championship: Articles, videos and photos Maybe all that talk of getting his “speed” and “explosiveness” back was starting to resonate. Maybe his short week at the Quicken Loans National – where he returned to action following back surgery on March 31 – was little more than a litmus test and not a long-term indication of things to come. “I’m not going to be the only guy in a 72-hole event to make two bogeys. I just got mine out of the way early,” Woods figured following a 3-under 69 that left him three behind leader Rory McIlroy. The 143rd Open Championship was always going to be compared to that clinic he put on in ’06 regardless of the reality that he entered the week with just 36 holes under his belt since returning from the DL and is some 11 months removed from his last major start. But as a glorious morning progressed, his game, and his championship outlook, improved, just like he said it would. “That’s why I’ve been telling you guys it was so important for me to play at Congressional,” Woods said. “The fact that I was able to recover every day, and the fact that I was stronger, more explosive the more days I played. I’m only going to get better from that point.” When Woods closed his round in increasingly windy conditions, the similarities to his performance in ’06 were eerie. For the day, Woods hit just one driver, at the par-5 16th hole, the same number he hit for the entire week eight years ago. He found 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation, compared to 11 of 14 and 12 of 18 in ’06. He needed 28 putts, one more than he took on Day 1 the last time he played Hoylake. That he did all this after playing his first two in 2 over par also echoed of ’06, when he rounded his final 71 holes in 19 under par. “It felt good to be back out there competing again. It wasn’t exactly the greatest of starts,” Woods said. In fact, the only thing that was missing on Day 1 was a yellow golf course cooked by unseasonably hot conditions to bouncy perfection. But it’s still early. Woods’ rally began at the 11th hole, where he missed the green right from the middle of the fairway with a wedge in his hand and rolled in a 30-footer from the fringe that prompted a fist pump. He followed with a 10-footer at the 12th hole, an 8-footer at the 13th hole and a punched 7-iron at No. 15 to 15 feet before nearly making eagle at the 16th hole. He endured the predictable rub of the green that is as much a part of links golf as fescue and aiming poles when his second at the closing hole found the back of a greenside bunker and he could do no better than par. He even sounded like he did in ’06. “I played what the golf course allowed me to play,” he said on Thursday. Eight years ago after his second round he had a similar take, “It all depends what I feel the golf course gives me,” he said. But perhaps the most encouraging comparison to ’06 was what Woods did after his round. The world No. 7 signed his card, spoke his piece with the press and bolted for the practice tee for an extended session, an option that wasn’t available before he underwent microdiscectomy. “I need to get everything a little bit better. That’s the case all of the time,” he reasoned. Much has transpired in the years since the game’s oldest championship was played on the Wirral peninsula, but for Woods Thursday at Hoylake felt like old times.last_img read more

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Joy Ride

first_imgLOUISVILLE, Ky. – This isn’t about driving accuracy or even driving distance, although that simple statistic seems to provide a neat bow when explaining Rory McIlroy’s current run of brilliance. It’s not the Northern Irishman’s drastically improved putting or even that 3 additional kilos of muscle he’s packed on in recent months. Nor does this have anything to do with his relationship status, which publically and dramatically went from committed to carefree with his broken engagement to Caroline Wozniacki in May. McIlroy’s dominant run through the dog days is the direct result of peace of mind. A sport’s psychologist will charge $200 an hour to identify it, but at its core the world No. 1 is playing well because of a rediscovered clarity of thought. “It’s fun. It is fun,” he said on Friday after scorching a soggy Valhalla Golf Club with a second-round 67 for a one-shot lead at the PGA Championship. If Bubba Golf is an “A ticket” thrill ride filled with equal parts peaks and valleys, Rory Golf, at its best, is a joy ride. Towering drives, flawless approach shots, deft lag-putting and lots of smiles. PGA Championship: Articles, videos and photos McIlroy’s Friday wasn’t perfect, he missed five consecutive greens starting at the second hole, and he freely admitted his Day 2 “wasn’t quite as pretty as (Day 1)” but there was no mistaking the fact that it was fun. Analysts, be they armchair or otherwise, will continue to dissect the differences between 2014 McIlroy – who has won three of his last seven starts, including July’s Open Championship and his World Golf Championship tune-up last week in Akron – and the 2013 version, but what is right with Rory can’t be found on a TrackMan or in the PGA Tour’s ShotLink program. “What I really like is he’s got his emotions under control. He doesn’t look like anything is coming too fast to him,” said Dave Stockton Sr., McIlroy’s putting coach. “This time it’s, ‘Keep having fun.’ Everybody talks about swing, I can’t comprehend hitting the ball as far as he does, but I can comprehend the mental strength I saw at the British and last week at Firestone.” A case can be made that McIlroy’s newfound peace is at the least an indirect result of his split with Wozniacki. The 25-year-old seemed to suggest as much on Friday. “What else do I have to do?” he figured. “I get up in the morning I go to the course, I go to the gym. It’s my life at the moment.” And at the moment life is good. There was a foreboding feeling across Valhalla that had nothing to do with a forecast that lingered on the horrible side of bad for much of the day. If Friday was McIlroy’s “bad day” the golf world may be bound for another runaway major victory like the one he pieced together last month at Royal Liverpool. We enjoyed this show the first time we saw it, at the 2011 U.S. Open, and the encores in ’12 at Kiawah Island and this year at Hoylake. The difference this time is the careful way he has embraced greatness. All the talent in the world doesn’t assure results, look only to Dustin Johnson whose physical superiority has been undercut by off-course distractions and dubious decisions. There is no backdoor to a quiet mind, which McIlroy learned throughout a difficult 2013 when he failed to win a PGA Tour title and was questioned for everything from his decision to make a wholesale jump to Nike Golf to a series of curious legal battles with former agents. Slowly, methodically McIlroy has distanced himself from that noise and the result has been increasingly stellar results even when his game was not at its best like on Friday. After a sloppy start in increasingly sloppy conditions, McIlroy rolled in a 31 footer for eagle at the 18th hole (his ninth hole of the day) to move two strokes clear of the field. In what is becoming his signature bounce-back style, he followed another bogey at the second hole when he missed a fairway for the first time since June, or at least it seems that long, by playing his last three holes in 2 under par, including a majestic 5-wood from 242 yards at the par-5 seventh to 8 feet for a two-putt birdie. “It was very impressive and hard to beat,” said Martin Kaymer, one of McIlroy’s playing partners who knows a thing or two about impressive golf following his boat-race triumph at June’s U.S. Open. “He is by far the best player in the world.” A decade ago competitors were uttering the same words about Tiger Woods, and while comparisons to the former world No. 1 remain wildly unrealistic the like-minded singular focus demonstrated both players when they are at their best is uncanny. “Mentally I’m in a really solid place in terms of not getting ahead of myself on the golf course,” McIlroy said. “I’m just on a good run.” Or, put another way he’s just in a good place.last_img read more

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Na takes 1-shot lead into final round at Colonial

first_imgFORT WORTH, Texas – The last time Kevin Na took the lead into the final round of a tournament, he faltered badly. For Ian Poulter, though he laughs about it, there is that anonymous survey of PGA Tour players done by Sports Illustrated where he and Rickie Fowler tied as the most overrated player on tour. Na and Poulter both have a chance to change perceptions at Colonial. With a birdie on the 17th hole Saturday, after the pair played from almost the same spot, Na regained the outright lead for a one-stroke advantage over Poulter going into the final round at a very damp Hogan’s Alley. “When it comes to crunch time, you’ve got to trust your stroke and just stay in the moment,” Na said when asked about a chance for his second PGA Tour victory Sunday. At The Players Championship three years ago, Na led after 54 holes before closing with a 76. He shared the second-round lead there this month before Fowler’s victory that Poulter alluded to this week. “Rickie went out there and obviously made amends,” Poulter said, referring to the SI survey. Na shot a 1-under 69 on Saturday, a round that included a couple of bogeys, to reach 11-under 199. Poulter had a 68. Poulter made a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 7 for a share of the lead at 10 under. He was still part of the lead after a sand save at No. 9, where he blasted to 6 feet from a bunker to save par. Crowne Plaza Invitational: Articles, videos and photos But he dropped out of the lead after starting the back nine with a four-putt double bogey from 16 feet at No. 10. A 3-footer on his third putt doing a U-turn around the cup without going in, though he got one of those strokes back with a 6-foot birdie putt at the 635-yard 11th. Poulter got even again with a 32-foot birdie putt at No. 15, the same hole Na two-putted from 6 feet after his approach missed the green. “Pleased with how I played, just a little mishap there on 10,” Poulter said. “It didn’t break, and then a few more putts it took to get in the hole.” With their golf balls close to each other on the 17th green, Poulter had a 15-foot birdie try that slid by the hole. But Na then made his 14-footer after watching no break in Poulter’s putt. “I trusted my read, a little outside right and it turned nicely into the hole,” Na said. “It was nice because I was under par going into the last hole.” With the leaders teeing off at 9:10 a.m., and playing in threesomes instead of the normal weekend twosomes, play was completed about 2 p.m. Saturday. That was about 3 1/2 hours earlier than usual for a weekend round for Colonial leaders. PGA Tour officials moved up play because of the threat of severe afternoon storms. There were overcast and muggy conditions, with some light rain but no delays. Heavy rain was forecast overnight and into Sunday, with plans again for threesomes and early tee times off both Nos. 1 and 10 for the final round. Charley Hoffman has third at 9 under after a 66. Chris Kirk, a two-time PGA Tour winner last season, had a 65 for the best round of the day and was tied for fourth at 8 under with Brandt Snedeker (66). Defending champion Adam Scott carded his second consecutive 66 since an opening 72. He was tied for 10th at 6 under in a group that included Jordan Spieth, the 21-year-old Masters champion from Dallas playing the first of consecutive weeks at home in North Texas. Spieth, the first-round co-leader after a 64, followed his second-round 73 with a 67. George McNeill got off to a fast start, with four birdies on the first six holes, matching Na at 10 under after the second-round leader had already given back the stroke he earned with his 16-foot birdie putt at No. 3. Na had a bogey at No. 5, the par 4 along the Trinity River that is the hardest hole on the course. Na hit a tee shot into the hazard and had to take a penalty drop. McNeill, playing in the group directly ahead of Na, rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt at No. 5 and an 11-footer at No. 6 to get to 10 under. But McNeill hit his drive at No. 12 into the rough and wound up with the first of three bogeys in five holes. He was 7 under after a 69.last_img read more

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Reed vs. Fowler a win for the U.S.?

first_imgFARMINGDALE, N.Y. – It’s the type of scenario that should catch the attention of any American golf fan. Two weeks removed from representing the U.S. in the Olympics, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed now find themselves in the final group at The Barclays with another chance to don the red, white and blue at stake. To add a little flavor, the setting happens to be Bethpage Black – a former U.S. Open and future Ryder Cup venue. Perhaps the only thing missing is a little patriotic face paint. Sunday’s finale on the Black Course is shaping up like a Ryder Cup primer. Both Reed and Fowler entered the week with their status for Hazeltine somewhat uncertain, but both have more than risen to the occasion in the final week of automatic qualification. For Fowler, the task was steep. Entering at No. 12 in the standings and with only one top-10 finish in his last nine starts, he needed to find something at the buzzer after a last-ditch detour to the Wyndham Championship didn’t pan out as hoped. But just as he responded when his back was against the wall last year at TPC Sawgrass and this year in Abu Dhabi, Fowler has delivered the goods through 54 holes. He holds a one-shot lead over Reed, an advantage largely built by a stellar short game. Fowler leads the field this week in scrambling, and despite three trips around one of the most brutish layouts the PGA Tour has to offer, his lone dropped shot stems from a 4-foot putt that horseshoed back in his face during the opening round. “It’s a little bit of the putter starting to show up a bit. I’ve always been a good putter,” Fowler said after a third-round 68. “To have a few putts go in, to be able to get up and down for par and saving all those shots to keep momentum going, it makes all the difference.” Fowler has now gone 45 straight holes without a bogey – an impressive feat on your local muni, let alone a major-caliber venue. It puts him in great position for a potential captain’s pick from Davis Love III, but Fowler hopes to make that option a moot point with his play during the final round. The Barclays: Articles, photos and videos “I think it’s pretty simple. We’ve just got to go take care of business tomorrow,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in this position, but we have a pretty good track record of in the past year or so since the Players win. Looking forward to it.” For Reed, things weren’t quite as sharp. After starting the day with a two-shot cushion, he struggled to find a groove and bogeyed three of his first six holes. But he managed to keep the round on track, playing his final 12 holes in 2 under to give himself a spot in the tournament’s final pairing alongside Fowler. “It was one of those days that I hit no fairways,” he said. “Every driver I seemed to hit was in the right rough or right bunkers, and I just felt like I had to hack out of the rough all day.” Reed entered the week at No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after this week automatically qualifying for Hazeltine. While Fowler still has work to do to punch his ticket, Reed now appears likely to make the team on merit. Although Reed would relish an opportunity to rekindle some of the Ryder Cup magic of two years ago, his main focus this week is on snapping a victory drought that extends back to the 2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions. “I’m ready. I’ve been ready, felt like all year. I need to put four rounds together,” he said. “To only be one back, I feel like I’m in great position. I’m in the final group tomorrow. Go in and put some pressure on Rickie, and hopefully both of us kind of separate ourselves on the back and play some good golf.” While the tournament is hardly a two-man race on a course as treacherous as Bethpage – especially with former world No. 1 Adam Scott lurking just two shots off the pace – all eyes will be focused on the all-American duo in the anchor pairing. “We’re going to have some fun,” Fowler said. “I saw him on the putting green before I left the tee since he was playing behind me. Told him to have a good one and let’s go get in the final group tomorrow. We’ve done that, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.” Fowler and Reed have been playing against each other for more than a decade, dating back to their earliest meetings in junior golf. But more recently, they’ve become two of the more prominent faces of American golf. They’re bold, they’re confident and they embody the culture change needed to kick-start a U.S. side that’s lost six of the last seven Ryder Cups. While only one can claim the trophy, both men could very well leave New York with updated travel plans to Hazeltine. It should be a memorable battle on an iconic venue, and one whose biggest winner could turn out to be the old red, white and blue.last_img read more

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Gambler connected to Mickelson gets 5 years

first_imgNEW YORK – A Las Vegas gambler linked to Phil Mickelson has been sentenced to five years in prison for his federal conviction on insider trading charges. William ”Billy” Walters was sentenced Thursday in New York by Judge P. Kevin Castel. Walters smiled after the sentencing, hugged his wife and friends but declined comment. The 71-year-old owner of auto dealerships, car rental agencies and golf courses was convicted in April in Manhattan federal court of making more than $40 million illegally trading the stock of Dallas-based Dean Foods Co. Prosecutors relied in part on testimony from former Dean Foods board chairman Thomas Davis to win a conviction. Mickelson did not testify at the trial. The government said Mickelson earned nearly $1 million after Walters told him to buy Dean Foods stock in 2012.last_img read more

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Lowry (62) grabs HSBC lead after losing Tour card

first_imgABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Irish golfer Shane Lowry is looking to reignite his career after losing his card on the PGA Tour last year. Beginning 2019 with a 10-under 62 is pretty much the ideal way to start. Lowry rolled in 10 birdies and did not drop a shot in the first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship on Wednesday, giving him a three-stroke lead in the European Tour’s opening event of the year. Down to 75th in the rankings and now more than 3 years without a win, Lowry is adjusting to life back as a full-time European Tour player after failing to successfully juggle his commitments on both sides of the Atlantic in 2018. He appears to be reaping the rewards of a lengthy spell of practice in Dubai at the start of the new year after not playing competitively since November. ”I feel good about my game,” Lowry said after tying the course record at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. ”It’s probably the best preseason I’ve ever done.” Your browser does not support iframes. Pablo Larrazabal, the 2014 champion in Abu Dhabi, finished eagle-birdie-birdie to complete a four-way tie for second place at 65 with Louis Oosthuizen, Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Richard Sterne. Three-time winner Martin Kaymer was in a five-man group a further shot back, while second-ranked Brooks Koepka shot a bogey-free 67. Tommy Fleetwood, who is seeking a third straight victory at the year-opening tournament, and No. 3 Dustin Johnson had 69s. Lowry only hit four fairways in his 62, which matched the course record set by Henrik Stenson in the inaugural edition of the event in 2006. It was his iron play that set him apart, an approach to within 2 feet of a pin tucked away at the front of the 18th green – on his ninth hole of the day – possibly the biggest highlight. He bent over in dismay after coming up short with a 20-foot putt at his last hole, failing to get the birdie that would have clinched the lowest round of his career. Instead, it tied the 62 he shot in winning the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009. ”I’ve just gone out with not much expectation but knew I was playing OK,” Lowry said, ”and yeah, everything clicked.” Lowry has faded since winning the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in 2015, which helped lift him to No. 17 in the rankings. He didn’t make Europe’s last two Ryder Cup teams and, after six missed cuts and not a single top-10 finish, lost his playing privileges in America. While missing the cut at the British Open at Carnoustie last year, he said he was not enjoying his golf but seems to have embraced a return to the European Tour. Lowry’s initial aim is to get back into the world’s top 50 so he can play in golf’s showpiece events in 2019. The appointment of a fellow Irishman – Padraig Harrington – as European captain ahead of the 2020 Ryder Cup has given him another source of motivation.last_img read more

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Rahm, Rory, Tommy look to close on Sunday

first_imgPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – As omens go, this sounds, well, ominous. “The Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas was very similar to this, both the Friday round and the Sunday round,” Jon Rahm said late Saturday, following a third-round 64 at The Players. “It was two days where I hit it really, really well tee to green, very similar.” Rahm was referring to the event he won in December, when he posted rounds of 71-63-69-65 for a four-stroke victory that was really a runaway. No one else in the field at TPC Sawgrass is going to be happy hearing Rahm talk like that, not after watching what he just did. Rahm was one shot shy of the Stadium Course record Saturday. He possessed an unmistakable swagger.  “I had a good stretch from 1 to 18 pretty much today,” he joked. His round included an eagle and seven birdies, the former coming when he launched a 4-iron from 244 yards at the par-5 11th. It finished 3 feet from the hole. “[That was] one of those shots that you visualize in your mind, and one of the few times in your life that it’s going to come out exactly how you see it,” he said. In full flight, Rahm is a handful. Think of Lebron James in the open floor or of Todd Gurley in the open field. The 24-year-old powerhouse has all the markings of a presumptive favorite.  Except, golf is fickle. And being the best player on Saturday doesn’t always translate to holding the trophy on Sunday. Just ask Rory McIlroy, who will again begin a final round within striking distance of the lead, just a shot behind Rahm. The Ulsterman has done everything this year except the thing — win. From Hawaii to Jacksonville and at all the stops in between, he’s patiently explained that it’s the process, not the result, that matters. When he finished fourth at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he started the final turn alone in second place, he leaned into the optimism. “My attitude was much better today. I didn’t press at all. I was very patient. It’s just something I’m going to have to persist in, just keep putting myself in these positions,” he said in Maui. Your browser does not support iframes. Full-field scores from the The Players Championship The Players Championship: Articles, photos and videos Last month when he won the B-flight at the WGC-Mexico Championship, taking runner-up honors five shots behind Dustin Johnson, he was equally reasoned. “Dustin had a four-shot lead starting out. When you have a four-shot lead and shoot 5 under par, no one’s catching you,” he said. “It was sort of like there was two different golf tournaments going on, and I won the second one. DJ was just a little bit above everyone else this week.” And when he again began a final round in the day’s anchor group only to slip and slide his way to a closing 72 and a sixth-place showing at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, his glass was still half-full. “I’m playing well, I’m getting myself into contention every week, continue to do that, going into next week, that’s the great thing about golf, you don’t have to wait too long to get back on the horse,” he explained, having recorded his fifth top-10 finish in five starts. So when he sets out on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass in the day’s penultimate group following a third-round 70, it won’t be Rahm’s flawless play on Day 3 that occupies McIlroy’s thoughts. It’s the old distinction for Tour types: sometimes you lose a tournament and sometimes you get beat. For McIlroy, Mexico was the latter, when Johnson boatraced the field. He could face a similar force on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass in Rahm, but through 54 holes, McIlroy is once again in the hunt. “In a good position, not the best position I could be in. But I thought after the start today that to play the last 16 holes in 4 under par with no bogeys was a good effort,” he said, referencing his bogey-bogey opening at Nos. 1 and 2. They’ll go off in back-to-back tee times, but you could group Tommy Fleetwood with McIlroy. The Englishman took a lead into last weekend at Bay Hill, only to blow up on Saturday. He’ll head out in Sunday’s final pairing with Rahm, having rebounded from an even worse start than McIlroy’s on Saturday, playing his first two holes in 3 over. “I think at the end of the day, winning is very difficult. Four days of golf is a long time, like I’ve said before,” said Fleetwood, who three-putted from 11 feet for double bogey at the first and followed with a bogey at the second. “But you have to take the positives all the time about how consistent your golf is.” Each of the would-be champions are wrestling with their own Sunday demons, but it may be Mother Nature that has the final say. The forecast is expected to take a bad turn on Sunday, with rain chances around 80 percent and temperatures in the 50s. Welcome back to The Players Championship in March. “I think tomorrow’s one of those you try to make a gameplan, but all the while you know that it could be pissing down rain. It could be really windy. You don’t know what you’re going to get and you just kind of play it by ear and make the best of the conditions,” said Jim Furyk, who remains in the hunt, five back. For Rahm, the gameplan is straightforward. For all the attention given to McIlroy’s start this year, Rahm has a similar record with top-10 finishes in five of his first six starts. He has no shortage of confidence, and he appears to be maturing in real time. “About eight months ago, I wouldn’t have finished at 8 under,” Rahm admitted. “I think I would have lost my patience on [No.] 14.” Rahm owns his inconsistencies, as well as his emotions. He just has to own them for 18 more holes on a layout meant to frustrate. He will begin the final round in the pole position, with a game showing few weaknesses at the moment. But as McIlroy can attest, even the most obvious of favorites don’t always end up holding a trophy.last_img read more

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Lexi on passport issue: ‘Can’t apologize enough’

first_imgWOBURN, England – Lexi Thompson said no player has confronted her about her passport debacle and the grief it caused so many fellow pros Monday at the AIG Women’s British Open, but . . .  “I can kind of feel it,” Thompson said Wednesday when she met with the media at Woburn Golf Club. “I do apologize. I would be upset, too, if I was the other players.” After realizing Sunday night that she left her passport in her golf bag at the Evian Championship in France, which was loaded on to a truck with the golf bags of 37 other players and on its way to England, Thompson was desperate to retrieve it. “I was freaking out, honestly,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to be stranded here.’” News & Opinion Lexi’s mistake delays WBO practice for many BY Randall Mell  — July 29, 2019 at 4:08 PM The clubs of nearly 40 players were delayed getting to Woburn, England, via truck on Monday after a delay that involved Lexi Thompson. Thompson said she was able to contact the transport driver and arrange for him to stop and wait while she sent her caddie, Benji Thompson, in a taxi to meet him. The driver was about 45 minutes outside Geneva, Switzerland, where the caddie was picking up the taxi. Ian Wright, the driver, said he pulled over at a gas station to unpack the truck while waiting. He said he was delayed three hours there, where he had to repack the truck after the caddie retrieved the passport. He said that delay ultimately caused him to miss his booking on a ferry and also to get stuck in multiple rush-hour traffic jams. He didn’t arrive in Woburn until 5 p.m., about five to six hours later than he anticipated. About 40 anxious caddies and players, many of them grumbling, were waiting in the parking lot when the truck finally arrived. The course was closed to practice rounds when he reached Woburn. “I can’t apologize enough,” she said. Thompson said she was unaware of the complications she caused. Full-field tee times from the AIG Women’s British Open Full coverage of the AIG Women’s British Open “He didn’t tell us that he could possibly miss the ferry, or anything like that,” Thompson said. “I didn’t know the possibility of it being that much delayed, or I probably wouldn’t have done it. But I think if any other player was in the situation, and the reaction time that we had, and that he was close to my caddie, I think any player probably would have done it. Like I said, I’m sorry that this had happened, but that’s all I can say.” It’s been a rough week for Thompson, who missed the cut at the Evian Championship, just her second missed cut in a major in the last five years. She complained about the quirky nature of Evian in an Instagram post, and how too many good shots end up in bad places with all the unpredictable bounces on that course. She felt backlash from the LPGA, from European players who defended the championship and from some fans. She ended up deleting the Instagram post and filing a new one explaining she wasn’t being critical of the event as a whole, just certain issues she has with the course. She was asked about her issues with Evian in Wednesday’s news conference, and what changes she would like to see made. “I’ve played in that tournament since I was 14 years old, so it is a great place,” Thompson said. “It’s just the golf course, sometimes, the bounces that you get, you just kind of shake your head at, when it’s going right at the pin, and you’re a few feet away, and it ends up 50, 60 feet away. I mean, maybe just a few slopes in the greens or leveling out some things. But it’s not my choice to make. It’s the tournament director, or whoever is in charge.” News & Opinion Randall’s Rant: Lexi not alone in Evian opinion BY Randall Mell  — July 30, 2019 at 7:00 AM Lexi Thompson received social-media backlash for comments she made about Evian, but she only said what many are thinking. Back-to-back majors in back-to-back weeks have required more intense preparation. Thompson was asked how these distractions might affect her at Woburn. “I’m just really trying to focus on this week and play good golf and just focus on enjoying this experience and being at a major,” she said. At 24, Thompson has been in the public eye since she was 12, when she first qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open. She has faced challenges with that the last couple years, from the controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration back in 2017 to personal issues that included her mother’s second bout with cancer and the death of her grandmother. She skipped last year’s Women’s British Open while taking time away from the game to deal with the emotional toll she said those issues created. She acknowledged last year that she was seeing a therapist to help her build a life that is about more than just golf. “This whole career has put me in a lot of situations that I never would have expected,” she said Wednesday. “But I’ve learned so much about myself and just how strong I am as a person, and realizing who my true friends are, or who’s really there for me, and what makes me get through these situations. I always say just a positive outlook helps get through the tough situations, and just never giving up. “Growing up with a family and circle that I have around me, they’ve taught me just to be a strong person in general. I’m learning every single day. There’s always a learning experience. I’ve learned a lot through what I’ve been through, and I guess continue.”last_img read more

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