CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Even with his best round of the year, Phil Mickelson knew it wouldn’t be enough for him to stay in the lead Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship. That was OK with Lefty. All he wanted was a chance at Quail Hollow, and Mickelson hasn’t had a better chance to win all year. Mickelson roared into contention by playing a six-hole stretch in 7 under par on the front nine, and keeping bogeys off his card with a wedge that danced around the cup on the 18th for a 9-under 63. He was leading when he finished and wound up two shots behind J.B. Holmes, who overtook Martin Flores for the lead on the last hole. ”I don’t think I’ll be leading at the end of the day because I think there are some birdies out there,” Mickelson said. ”But just to be in contention, and to have a chance at a golf course that I’ve become so close to over the years, I’m excited about tomorrow’s round.” Holmes, pounding tee shots and gaining confidence along the way, had a 9-iron left on the 490-yard closing hole and made a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe. That gave him a 6-under 66, and it made him the outright leader when Flores made his only big mistake of the round. Flores pulled his tee shot into the stream that winds along the left side of the 18th fairway. He at least gave himself a chance to save par, but missed a 20-foot putt and had to settle for a 69. Wells Fargo Championship: Articles, photos and videos Holmes goes into the final round with a shot at coming back from injuries, one of them far more noteworthy than the others. He had brain surgery in 2011 to remove a piece of his skull. Then, he broke his ankle in 2013, and time off allowed him to have surgery on his left elbow. And now he takes a one-shot lead into the final round at 13-under 203. ”I’ve worked really hard to get there and it would be a great accomplishment to come back and get a win in the bag,” Holmes said. Flores feels the same way. His best finish in four seasons on the PGA Tour was a tie for fourth in the John Deere Classic last year, when he closed with a 63 and finished one shot out of a three-way playoff won by fellow Dallas resident Jordan Spieth. Flores describes himself as a flat-liner, and he played the part Saturday, the first time he ever played in the final group on the weekend. He never looked at a leaderboard because he figured it didn’t matter on a Saturday. He didn’t let adrenaline get the best of him when he rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt from just off the 12th green for his third straight birdie and a two-shot lead. He never came seriously close to a bogey until the 18th hole. And not even that bothered him. So when asked if he could be the winner Sunday, Flores shrugged and said, ”Why not me?” ”I’ve been working really hard, feeling great about my game,” he said. ”I’m going to go out there and attack. If I win, I win. If I don’t, I don’t. I’m going to keep working until I do.” Kevin Kisner had a 68 and was three shots behind. Justin Rose bogeyed his last hole for a 71 and was four shots back, along with Jason Bohn, who made three birdies over his last four holes for a 67. Former PGA champion Martin Kaymer bogeyed his last two holes for a 70 and was five behind. The last 54-hole leader to win at Quail Hollow was Anthony Kim in 2008. That could bode well for Mickelson, off to his worst start to a season in 11 years. Not since 2003 – the last year he went winless on the PGA Tour – has Mickelson gone this deep into a year without winning. Worse yet, he doesn’t even have a top 10. He had to deal with a back injury in San Diego and an oblique muscle strain in Texas. He missed the cut at the Masters last month for the first time in 17 years. ”I had a good round today, and it feels good because it’s been a rough year for me this year,” Mickelson said. ”I haven’t been healthy early on and I haven’t put it together. And to have a good round today, good round the first round, this is a good start.” Mickelson said he didn’t feel far off after his 75 on Friday, and he was right. He was helped by a couple of long birdie putts on the fourth and sixth holes, and by a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 seventh hole that revved up the crowd on a gorgeous day of sunshine. Rory McIlroy set the pace early for a day of low scoring with a 65 that brought back memories of 2010, when he made the cut on the number and went 66-62 to win for the first time on the PGA Tour. He was four shots behind that year going into Sunday. But with Holmes and Flores finishing strong, McIlroy goes into the last round seven shots behind.
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – The PGA Championship is returning to the Ocean Course in 2021, three decades after the seaside layout made its debut at the 1991 Ryder Cup. The official announcement came Friday, but the news had been previously reported. It’s the second time Pete Dye’s course has hosted golf’s final major, the previous event coming in 2012 when world No. 1 Rory McIlroy went on to an eight-shot victory here. The course was commissioned specifically for the Ryder Cup, nicknamed the ”War at the Shore” where Bernhard Langer’s missed par putt lifted the United States team to victory. But the course’s difficulty and harsh seaside winds kept major events away from the barrier island for the next few years. After some alterations by Dye through the years, the PGA of America brought its signature event to the Ocean Course three years ago.
GAINESVILLE, Va. – When Troy Merritt completed his record-setting round of 61 he figured his 14-under-par total would leave him squarely back in the pack by the time dusk settled over Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. “Decent chance,” he figured when he completed his round just as the day’s last group was heading out at the Quicken Loans National. Little did he know a light breeze and intense humidity would combine with Saturday pressure to create a leaderboard as crowed as the Capital Beltway at rush hour. All told, the final five groups and the top 10 players heading into Round 3 posted an average of 70, nine strokes worse than Merritt’s masterpiece that left the 29-year-old tied with Kevin Chappell and a stroke clear of Rickie Fowler. It was not exactly the afternoon scoring many expected at a spongy layout that had yielded plenty of birdies, not to mention holes-in-one, for the first two and a half days. The result will be a busy landscape for Sunday’s final turn with a dozen players within four strokes of the lead. “Somebody will do it early and post a number,” said Charles Howell III, who loomed just two back at 12 under after a 67. “You have to stay at it on this golf course and especially if it’s fairly calm tomorrow like it was today. You got to make birdies.” Quicken Loans National: Articles, photos and videos Welcome to the East Coast version of the Bob Hope Classic where one-way traffic (up the leaderboard) is the only requirement. One of those early risers on Sunday who will need to claw his way back up the leaderboard is tournament host Tiger Woods, who failed to hit a fairway until the eighth hole on Saturday and scrambled his way to a 74 that didn’t look nearly that good. After turning in 1 over par Woods made a mess of the par-3 12th for double bogey and added another bogey at the 14th before finally making his first birdie of the day at No. 16. For a player who appeared inspired by two sub-70 rounds to begin his week it was another setback in his journey back to competitiveness. “I saw a lot of [Round 4 hole location] dots out there for tomorrow. They’re in pretty easy spots. Shoot one of those 61s out there,” said Woods, who needs a victory this week to qualify for next week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, otherwise the PGA Championship may be his last start of the 2014-15 season. Fowler won’t need to be nearly as perfect as he continues to establish himself as a regular contender. Despite three bogeys, The Players champion signed for a 68 and continues to make good on his promise to start winning more events. Following last season, when he became the first player to finish inside the top 5 in all four major championships, Fowler committed to taking the next step this year with more trophies. His near-flawless finish at TPC Sawgrass in May was an impressive start and he added another “W” last month by winning the European Tour’s Scottish Open. “It would have been nice to get a win in the majors last year. With making history and that top 5 in all four majors it’s going to be special to look back on, but winning is a lot better than finishing top 5,” Fowler said earlier this week. While Fowler will be the clear fan favorite on Sunday it will likely be Justin Rose who may have the competitive edge. Although this year’s Quicken Loans National is being held at a new venue, the Englishman has proven himself adept wherever this event is played. In 2010, he won Tiger’s tournament at Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia; last year he collected his second Quicken Loans title at Congressional. It’s worth pointing out he won last year after starting the final round three shots out of the lead, the same place where he will begin Sunday. “I’ve won tournaments from four back before and it’s going to take something very low for me. It’s out there, probably 63 tomorrow,” said Rose, who moved into contention with a 65 after a late-afternoon putting session with his short-game coach on Friday. It was a common theme at an uncommonly low-scoring event. In the eight-year history of the Quicken Loans, just twice (2009 and 2011) has the winning score made it to 13 under. Thanks to Merritt’s early move on Saturday and Chappell’s workmanlike 67 that benchmark has already been eclipsed. It all sets the stage for a very different final round from what players and fans have come to expect at the Washington, D.C. area stop. “You’ve got to keep the pedal down tomorrow,” Howell said. And you also have to remember this is not your normal Quicken Loans National.
NATADOLA BAY, Fiji – Scott Hend shot a 6-under 66 Friday to move into a four-way share of the lead after the second round of the Fiji International. The 44-year-old Australian was level with first-round leader Daniel Pearce of New Zealand, who shot 71, and Australia’s Jason Norris and Malaysia’s Gavin Green (69 each), all with 7-under par totals of 137 on the ocean-side Natadola Bay course. The leading group had a two-stroke advantage over Australians Adam Bland, David McKenzie and Peter Wilson, who shot 71s. Full-field scores from the Fiji International Three former U.S. Masters champions easily made the cut. Angel Cabrera had 69 and was at 3 under, four strokes behind. Mike Weir (71) and hometown favorite Vijay Singh (72) were at 1 under in the tournament sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia, European and Asian tours.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – For Steve Stricker the 12th Presidents Cup is what we thought it was going to be, an embarrassment of riches. The U.S. starters were always expected to deliver for the home side – Jordan, Patrick, Dustin and Rickie, these are the players who have emerged as the new core for future American teams. But after two days of give and take, it’s been the back half of Stricker’s lineup that has turned this year’s matches into what is shaping up to be another blowout. In the fourth match of the day, rookies Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell – a captain’s pick and the last automatic qualifier, respectively – put the first American flag on the scoreboard when they boat-raced Charl Schwartzel and Anirban Lahiri, 6 and 5. Both players sat out Thursday’s opening foursomes session and both played like they had something to prove. “It sucks sitting, there’s no question,” Hoffman said. “We are all capable out here but we definitely understood what [Stricker] wanted to do. He has a game plan and he has a mission, and our mission is to win this cup.” But if the play of Hoffman and Chappell was a pleasant surprise, Justin Thomas’ performance has likely exceeded even his own lofty expectations. Although most agree Thomas is a rookie in name only, there are always unknowns when country and team become a part of the competitive equation. On Day 1, Thomas – a five-time winner on the PGA Tour this season and the FedExCup champion – admitted to being nervous, but by the time he and partner Rickie Fowler wrapped up their match he’d emerged as the team’s emotional spark. Presidents Cup: Articles, video and photos Presidents Cup: Match-by-match scoring On the 14th hole, Thomas chipped in from a greenside bunker for birdie to maintain his team’s 2-up lead. Two holes later he rattled a similar shot from a bunker off the flag before closing out the Internationals’ best hope of Branden Grace and Louis Ooshtuizen, 3 and 2. “I’m pumped that we took that team down,” Thomas said of Grace and Oosthuizen, who were undefeated in five team matches dating to the ’15 Presidents Cup. “We took it seriously today like we do every match, but it was a little bit more fun than yesterday’s victory.” And, finally, fellow rookie Kevin Kisner teamed with Phil Mickelson to claw out the day’s final point for Stricker, a flag that just an hour earlier seemed improbable and likely put the finishing touches on an overmatched and seemingly out-of-answers International team. With the International duo of Jason Day and Marc Leishman, the side’s strongest team on paper, cruising to a 2-up lead through 10 holes, Kisner squared the match with a 30-footer for birdie at the 15th hole and Lefty, a captain’s pick, rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on the final hole to complete a dominant day. The Internationals failed to a win a full point, the first time that’s happened since 1994, and the United States extended its lead to 8-2 for the largest advantage after two sessions. To put the U.S. rout in context, the Americans need just 7 ½ points to win the cup with eight points available on Saturday at Liberty National. For the math-challenged, that means the event could be over before Sunday’s singles session. “I’ve been on some pretty special teams. This reminds me a lot of the 2008 Ryder Cup team when we finally were able to win at Valhalla,” Stricker said. “A lot of close-knit guys there on that team, but this team is even better than that. They are young, they are explosive, they have a lot of fun with one another.” As the International stars remained largely irrelevant, the U.S. enjoyed a boost on what is normally moving day at the biennial match. Two years ago in South Korea after tumbling into a similar Day 1 hole, the International side rallied by winning four of the fourball matches. There was no such rally on Friday. Even on a day when Spieth and Reed weren’t Spieth and Reed – with the U.S. pair halving their match with Hideki Matsuyama and Adam Hadwin – the American team’s commanding performance had some observers whispering about a potential 10-point rule. Or better yet, International captain Nick Price may want to suggest a revamped selection process that includes the U.S. vs. the Rest of the World and Jupiter, Fla., which is home for a large portion of the American team. No one in the American team room is willing to get ahead of themselves at this point, but Jim Furyk, the captain of next year’s Ryder Cup squad that will travel to Paris looking to win back-to-back matches for the first time since 1993, would be forgiven if he allowed himself a moment to imagine the possibilities. Fowler and Thomas have emerged as another pairings pillar alongside Spieth and Reed, filling out half of Furyk’s team lineups for next year, and that scenario doesn’t include the potential Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka showed in their 3-and-2 victory over Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas on Day 2. “This team is a unique team from any in the past in that the talent level is high or higher than we’ve ever had, and the camaraderie amongst each other on and off the course is a whole different environment; that there’s this great support system,” Mickelson said. Where the U.S. team appears to be forging a foundation for future competitions, Price’s International side continues to be mired in a jigsaw puzzle of divergent personalities and cultures that just doesn’t fit together. Even on this side of the Hudson River, the ’27 Yankees are considered the greatest team ever assembled. Stricker’s dozen may not live up to that billing just yet, but they are closing in on something truly special.
HONOLULU – Although the PGA Tour is already nine events into the 2017-18 season, this week’s Sony Open has the feel of Opening Day for this year’s rookie class, a group that rolls 23 players deep and was described by one longtime observer as “sneaky good.” Compared to last year’s rookie class – which included 12 of 25 players keeping their Tour cards and amassed five victories (including two by Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele) – the group has a tough act to follow, but an unscientific poll this week at the Sony Open suggests they could live up to those expectations. Veteran Jonathan Byrd, who at 39 regained his Tour card last season on the Web.com Tour, had a firsthand look at many of this year’s rookies in 2017 and was particularly impressed with the group’s collective power, which has become a prerequisite for success in the Big Leagues, and the attitude the next generation brings. “With the social media, it’s a lot more outward confidence, like guys saying I’m going to whoop your butt today. I never came out talking like that. I wanted to, quietly,” Byrd said. “I remember playing with Davis [Love III] at Doral my rookie year and I just wanted to whoop him, he was my favorite player. Sony Open in Hawaii: Articles, photos and videos “These guys are just more outwardly making fun of you, ‘I’m going to whoop your butt this week, old man.’ They’re still respectful, it’s just a different mindset.” In no particularly order, here are nine rookies to keep an eye on this season: Talor Gooch. The former Oklahoma State standout went on a roll late in the summer to secure his first trip to the Tour, finishing T-11, T-10, second and first in four consecutive events and he’s already 4-for-5 in cuts made this season. Austin Cook. He already has the class’ first victory at the RSM Classic and will get a chance to leverage his improved status into more solid play, including his first start at the Masters in April. Sam Ryder. Perhaps the class’ best athlete and exceedingly mature according to various sources, his play in July at the Web.com Tour’s Pinnacle Bank Championship was a clinic in domination on his way to an eight-stroke victory following weekend rounds of 62-67. Stephan Jaeger. He won twice last year on the secondary tour, but his consistency was an issue. Although Jaeger is not as long off the tee as some in the class (he ranked 95th last year in driving distance) he has a sublime short game and was 14th in putting in 2017. “Jaeger has a nice game, he hits it a little further than I do, but he just has a clean game,” Byrd said. Aaron Wise. His pedigree is impeccable, having captured the NCAA men’s individual title and then helping Oregon win the school’s first championship by going 3-0 in match play. Aggressiveness won’t be an issue for Wise, who led the Web.com Tour last season in eagles. Tom Lovelady. Former teammate and current roommate of Justin Thomas in South Florida, Lovelady is another member of that high school class of 2011 that has rewritten the record books. He has a tendency to run a little hot on the golf course, but he will learn to control that. “Lovelady has everything you need to be successful out here and a lot of those guys just need to hear that,” Byrd said. Denny McCarthy. He was a picture of consistency in 2017, finishing in the top 25 in nearly half (11) of his 23 starts. Another solid putter but he also hits it far enough to be a contender any week on Tour. Keith Mitchell. Another University of Georgia product, Mitchell averaged 321 yards off the tee last season (Tony Finau led the PGA Tour in 2017 with a 336-yard average) and, perhaps more impressive, he hit 63 percent of his fairways. He also has a confidence that will serve him well on Tour. “I just love his game, his energy, his attitude, how far he hits it,” Byrd said. “He just doesn’t hit it far, he hits it straight.” Peter Uihlein. The well-traveled Uihlein will be the outlier of the 2018 class. Although technically a rookie, he’d played 30 events on Tour before this season and has already proven himself a winner on the European Tour, where he’s perfected his craft since turning pro in 2011. Beau Hossler is also a player to watch in 2018, although he’s considered a first-year player, not a rookie, according to Tour regulations, much like Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau last season. European stars Thomas Pieters, Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren would also be considered first-year players.
SAN DIEGO – There was only one way to describe it, only one reasonable commentary for another round that included just three fairways hit and even more what-on-Earth-was-that? shots. “It was gross,” Tiger Woods said Saturday. The tone for his third round of the Farmers Insurance Open was set early, with his first tee shot tracking toward the out-of-bounds fence left before expiring in heavy rough. He spent most of his day with his head down, trudging toward delirious gallery members, most of whom got closer to Woods than they ever could have imagined. Caddie Joe LaCava might as well have had “Fore!” playing on a loop. Woods was left. And then he was right. Way right. On it went for five hours, Woods having little idea where his ball was going, fans ducking for cover, and playing partner Brandt Snedeker shaking his head. Because Woods didn’t sign for a score in the 80s Saturday. Didn’t even sign for something over par. No, on a sun-splashed afternoon on Torrey Pines’ difficult South Course, Woods somehow made only two bogeys (both on par 3s) and shot a 2-under 70 – four shots better than Snedeker, enough to climb 26 spots on the leaderboard. When a radio announcer asked afterward whether it seemed like it had all come together in the third round, Woods stared at him as if he’d spoken Greek. “I don’t know about coming together,” he said bemusedly. “It was a struggle out there. I didn’t hit it worth a darn all day. I was really struggling out there to find anything resembling a golf swing. But I was scoring. I was chipping, putting. I was grinding.” Full-field scores from the Farmers Insurance Open Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, photos and videos Across three rounds, he has hit only 14 of 42 fairways. That has led to him finding just 30 of 54 greens. Woods called it “gross,” and he wasn’t wrong. But there’s more to this game than statistics, than center-cut drives and pin-seeking approaches, and in that gray area is where Woods has excelled this week. He has scored. He’s at 3-under 213, in a tie for 39th, which is ahead of world No. 5 Hideki Matsuyama and recent Tour winner Patrick Cantlay and even his old rival, Phil Mickelson. Those three players rank ahead of him in every meaningful ball-striking statistic, and yet Woods, even with more than two years of competitive rust, is ahead where it matters most. How? Why? “The only thing I have,” he said, “is my short game and my heart. That got me through today.” And few could have predicted that, considering his recent shortcomings. Since 2014, even straightforward pitch shots have been an adventure, a collection of flubbed and thinned shots. He chalked up those recent horrors to being stuck between “release patterns,” but the evidence overwhelmingly suggested that he was suffering through the chipping yips. They ebb and flow, like a recurring virus, and they popped up again last month in the Bahamas, where he struggled around the tight, grainy Bermuda greens. One of the common misconceptions about the past few years, Woods said, was that his back pain would force him to work more on his short game than his driving. But that wasn’t true. Burning pain shot down his leg. His foot didn’t work. It hurt more to bend over and address the ball while chipping and putting – “Bunker shots were off-the-charts painful” – than it did wailing away on driver, so he played away from discomfort. This fourth surgery, the last-ditch back fusion, changed that, and over the past few months Woods finally devoted the necessary time to shore up what was once one of his greatest strengths. To prepare for Torrey Pines’ rye grass, he overseeded one of the areas of his backyard practice facility, to work on the tricky pitch shots. Without that short game this week? “It would have been snowing on me,” he said. That means he would have shot in the 80s. But he didn’t, and that was the most remarkable part to Snedeker, who watched Woods get up and down seven of nine times, even after occasionally driving it off the planet. “His short game,” Snedeker said, “is probably as good or better than I ever remember it being.” Even after jettisoning swing coach Chris Como, it’s reasonable to believe Woods is too smart and too talented to not get his long game under control after a few weeks of range work. Eventually he’ll rediscover his “feels.” Eventually he’ll find his “go-to shot.” “The things I look for are: Is he fighting? Is he grinding? Is he doing the short-game stuff?” Snedeker said. “It’s all there. It’s not as far away as I thought it would be not being able to play professional golf for really two years. I was very encouraged by it.” Nothing gross about that.
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Leaning on his club, Matt Parziale crossed one leg over the other and placed the free hand on his hip. His caddie mirrored his position and used Parziale’s bag as his source of support. The two looked almost identical, just one older than the other. Being related will do that. Parziale’s dad, Vic Parziale, has been with his son throughout his entire U.S. Open journey, starting Monday and ending Father’s Day. Matt finished 5 over par Sunday to tie for low amateur at 16 over for the tournament. ”We do stand alike out there,” Vic said. ”It’s funny.” Said Matt: ”I don’t like it, but that’s how life goes.” He’s kidding. The idea of turning into his dad doesn’t scare him. ”He’s the best guy I know,” Matt said. ”If I can be half that good, I’ll be doing all right.” U.S. Open: Scores | Live blog | Full coverage It’s a classic like father, like son relationship. Matt, 31, is a full-time firefighter back home in Brockton, Massachusetts. Vic retired from the same station last year after 32 years. The two, obviously, also share a love for golf. ”He stinks now,” Matt said. ”I’d have to play pretty bad to let him win. He used to be much better than he is now.” Matt says he was 14 the first time he beat his dad. Vic says his son was 15. Either way, once Matt beat Vic’s 73 by a stroke as a teenager, it was game over. Vic never beat his son again. ”Golf skipped a generation for sure,” Vic said. ”Because I don’t play like him.” As the first mid-amateur to make a cut at the U.S. Open in 15 years, Matt’s second round was his best, carding a 73 with a birdie on No. 18 that guaranteed him a spot in the final rounds. On the last day, Matt shot a 75 to end up at 296, the same mark fellow amateur Luis Gagne scored. Will Grimmer was the only other amateur to make the cut, and he finished 23 over at 303. The tournament started with 20 amateurs. This was Matt’s first U.S. Open. He played at the Masters earlier this year, but did not advance after two rounds. Vic was his caddie there, too. ”Mostly, I just carry the bag and keep my mouth shut,” Vic said. His specialty is wind: Matt does go to his dad for advice there. It helped this week. ”I don’t get paid,” Vic said. ”I don’t want to be, of course. I just love doing it.” The two have worked alongside each other for as long as either can remember. After college at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, Matt turned pro but called it quits after a couple years when it didn’t pay off financially. That’s when he became a firefighter. But Matt never fully gave up golf, regaining his amateur status and going on to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship back in October. Vic caddied, of course. ”It’s not something that happened over night,” Vic said. ”He just wasn’t lucky getting here. He really worked hard on his game.” Being a firefighter actually allows him to practice and compete often. Matt works two 24-hour shifts a week. He’s not returning straight to his full-time job immediately, though. His upcoming golf schedule is packed. Starting Wednesday, Matt will compete in the Northeast Amateur tournament. Then he’ll have the U.S. Amateur – after he gets married on Aug. 3 – and more. Wherever and whatever, Vic will be standing nearby. ”He’s always given me the opportunity to succeed,” Matt said. ”None of this is possible without his support and his help.”
In this week’s edition, we celebrate the game’s largest and loudest cocktail party; consider the new World Golf Hall of Fame standards; and question the rule – as well as the rule makers – following an untimely, and ultimately unfair, penalty last week in Dubai. Made Cut The Greatest Show on Grass. The mayhem that defines this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open is not for everyone and a weekly dose of the madness is probably not in the cards, but it’s certainly entertaining. Few, if any, events could replicate TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole and the atmosphere officials have created, but the scene does stand as an example of how officials can turn a golf tournament into an event. Although at different scales and for vastly different reasons, other events, most notably the Ryder Cup and last year’s PGA Championship, have produced similar scenes that should stand as a benchmark for other tournaments. Maybe the bedlam of the 16th hole isn’t a perfect fit for other events, but in a business that’s all about competition, both on and off the course, it’s a standard that should be the goal for every event. Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF) Your browser does not support iframes. Keeping pace. Byrson DeChambeau’s sluggish pace of play last week on his way to victory at the Dubai Desert Classic ignited an old debate on pace of play at the game’s highest level. “Guys are already so slow it’s kind of embarrassing. I just don’t get why you enforce some things and don’t enforce others,” Brooks Koepka told Golf Monthly. While the mad scientist’s endless calculations before hitting each shot can be, well, maddening, this isn’t a Bryson problem. This is a policy problem. Under the European Tour’s pace-of-play policy DeChambeau didn’t violate any rules. The PGA Tour’s pace-of-play policy is riddled with similar loopholes that make any real progress on this front unattainable. DeChambeau, and many others, might be the face of slow play in professional golf, but don’t blame the player, blame the policy. Hall Worthy. The 2019 World Golf Hall of Fame class will include Retief Goosen, Billy Payne, Jan Stephenson, Dennis Walters and the late Peggy Kirk Bell. Debating who is worthy of induction is always good fun, but this year’s class is more compelling because of the standard it sets. Goosen won seven times on the PGA Tour and collected two majors (the 2001 and ’04 U.S. Opens). By comparison Al Geiberger won 11 times on Tour, lapped the field at the 1966 PGA Championship and also won the ’75 Players Championship. He was also the first player to shoot 59 in a Tour event and yet he is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame. It’s not worth debating whether Goosen should be in the Hall because he soon will be. What is worth revisiting is the standard the South African’s induction has created. Tweet of the week: Although the World Golf Hall of Fame doesn’t seem to have any interest in including caddies in the mix it’s always a great argument. There are journalists, advocates and soon a former chairman of Augusta National in the Hall. Why not a caddie? Missed Cut Your browser does not support iframes. A line in the sand. The European Tour’s maiden voyage to Saudi Arabia has tripped a political wire that golf and golfers normally avoid. The death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October and a CIA assessment that claims that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the journalist’s killing has turned this week’s Saudi International into much more than just another tournament. At issue is whether golf, in this case the European Tour, and the game’s best players, a list that includes the world’s top three (Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson), should align themselves with a regime that finds itself under growing pressure from the international community. “I’m not a politician, I’m a pro golfer,” Rose said on Sunday before departing for Saudi Arabia. “There’s other reasons to go play it. It’s a good field, there’s going to be a lot of world ranking points to play for, by all accounts it’s a good golf course and it will be an experience to experience Saudi Arabia.” Rose’s point is valid and the European Tour is in the business of hosting events, not making political statements, but on this front golf seems to have come up short. Faced with a similar decision to play a lucrative tennis exhibition in December in Saudi Arabia, Roger Federer turned down the invite and the event was eventually cancelled. For tennis, the easiest thing to do was nothing. Penalty box. Golf’s efforts to streamline and simplify its rules took an unexpected and unfortunate detour last week when European Tour officials penalized Haotong Li two strokes during the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic. The penalty, which dropped him from third into a tie for 12th place and costs him $98,000, occurred when Li was lining up a birdie putt on the 72nd green and his caddie appeared to help with his read before stepping out of the line as Li built his stance. “I have spoken personally to R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers to voice my opposition to the fact there is no discretion available to our referees in relation to this ruling, and I will be making additional representation to the R&A in the near future to discuss the matter further,” European Tour CEO Pelley said. While the ruling was grossly outrageous and patently unfair, for Pelley to chide the R&A is misguided. The European Tour, as well as the PGA Tour, had representatives at the rulemaking table throughout this entire process. If Pelley felt so aggrieved by the language of the new rule he should have gone to the mat before it became the new law of the land.
AUSTIN, Texas – Over the next few months, experts will yammer on about how this player or that player is built for match play, and sometimes this is true. Ian Poulter seems as if he was created in a lab to play match play – well, that, and to torture American galleries at the Ryder Cup – and in another lifetime Paul Azinger carried the flag for the United States. Match-play players are gritty and stubborn and unrelenting. But those in the halls of power for the American teams don’t really believe that. If they did, Kevin Kisner wouldn’t have watched the last two American team events from his couch. Kisner is arguably the red, white and blue’s best match-play player and yet Jim Furyk, the ’18 American Ryder Cup skipper, took a pass. Ditto for Tiger Woods in ’19 for the Presidents Cup. Kisner wouldn’t tell you he should have been on those teams. That’s not his style. Where he’s from, telling people how good you are isn’t what you do. But his record in the format speaks loudly enough. WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings In ’19 when he won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, he beat Francesco Molinari in the semifinals when he was still Francesco Molinari. The Italian was just months removed from his perfect week at the Ryder Cup and had recently won the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Before his ’19 triumph, Kisner finished runner-up at the ’18 edition and after two scrappy matches this week at Austin Country Club he remains unbeaten and on a collision course with Matt Kuchar to decide who from their stacked group advances to the weekend. Kisner doesn’t like match play; he lives for it. “I love it. That’s the whole reason I play. If it’s not worth grinding then I don’t want to be out here,” he said following his 2-and-1 victory over world No. 2 Justin Thomas on Day 2. Kisner is now 16-5-1 at the WGC-Match Play and he was undefeated at the ’17 Presidents Cup (2-0-2) in his only start for an American team as a professional. “That’s the most fun I’ve probably ever had playing golf was playing team golf,” Kisner said of his Presidents Cup experience. As for being passed over by the last two U.S. captains, Kisner will tell you that if he really wanted to be on those teams he should have qualified and that’s not up for debate. But it’s also not up for debate that he deserved to be picked. Both things can be true. Steve Sticker is the U.S. Ryder Cup captain this year. Six players will automatically qualify and Stricker will have six picks. Kisner is currently 16th in the standings. On a captain’s check list Kisner hits a lot of boxes, including playing well with others. At the Zurich Classic, a two-man team event he plays with good buddy Scott Brown, he’s finished runner-up (2017) and tied for fifth (2019). He’s also very much no-nonsense and would easily fit into any team room. But most of all, he’s a dogged competitor with a demeanor that was made for match play. “I really enjoy the one-on-one competitive nature of the event,” he said. “I really like knowing what I have to do on every shot compared to a four-day event. I kind of get lost in the motions sometimes when it’s a Friday morning or Friday afternoon and everything’s not going perfect. I think you got to grind all 18 holes and that keeps my head in the game.” Yet instead of picking Kisner, Woods went chalk with his picks for the Presidents Cup, selecting Nos. 9 Tony Finau, 10 Gary Woodland, 11 Rickie Fowler, 12 Patrick Reed and 13 Tiger Woods. Kisner ranked 14th on the final list. A year earlier, Furyk selected Finau, 15th on the final Ryder Cup points list, over Kisner, who was again 14th. Kisner beat Finau on Day 2 of that year’s WGC-Match Play along with European Poulter (8 and 6, no less), Alex Noren and Bernd Wiesberger on his way to the championship match. But none of that seemed to matter. Thursday was quintessential Kisner. He relentlessly took a 4-up lead through 10 holes against Thomas, who is just two weeks removed from his dominant performance at The Players Championship, and withstood a late rally to extend his winning streak in the event to eight matches. “He’s a tough competitor. He’s not going to ever give anything away,” said Kuchar, who will play Kisner in Friday’s decisive final pool-play match. “He’s a grinder, a bulldog, he’s a guy that’s going to always be in every hole. “Shoot, certainly when you’re on a team you love having a guy like that on your team, knowing that that guy’s giving you everything he’s got on every hole.” It’s a lesson Kuchar learned in ’19 when he lost to Kisner, 3 and 2, in the championship bout. Let’s hope it’s a lesson American captains have finally figured out.