Honda Classic Leaders Face Daunting Final Day

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You’re not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I’ll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It’s a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it’s difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It’s great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

Tiger Woods to bring the ‘fire’ after being named Ryder Cup vice captain

Woods, now 42, underwent fusion surgery on his spine in April but returned to play in December’s elite Hero World Challenge, appearing pain free and able to swing freely.

A month on from his long-awaited return to the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods is officially back on the US Ryder Cup team.

Whether the 14-time major winner will be required to bring his clubs to Le Golf National come September is less clear.

Woods was announced as one of Team USA’s vice captains for the biennial event Tuesday, joining Steve Stricker and Davis Love III.

“The Ryder Cup is incredibly special to me,” Woods said, having been picked by Team USA captain Jim Furyk. “I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup Vice Captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support.

It’s a role he also held two years ago at Hazeltine, offering insight and experience off the course.

Woods, though, wants to play.

“My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do whatever I can to help us keep the Cup,” he said. “I’m excited about the challenge.”

‘An invaluable resource’

Furyk, captaining the American team for the first time, backed Woods to bring “fire” to the 42nd Ryder Cup, staged this year September 28 and 30 on the outskirts of the French capital.

“To win in Paris will be a great challenge, and to have Steve and Tiger share in the journey is important for me and for American golf,” said Furyk, himself a two-time Ryder Cup winner as a player.

“The deep appreciation they both have for competition, the concept of team, and the Ryder Cup is infectious. Their knowledge and experience will be an invaluable resource in our effort to retain the Ryder Cup.”

Last time out, in 2016, Team USA reclaimed the Ryder Cup with a resounding victory on home soil.

It was particularly sweet for that year’s US Captain Davis Love III. He had been at the helm in 2012 ,when Europe fought back from a seemingly impossible position to clinch a final day victory in what has since been dubbed the “Miracle of Medinah.”

It’s a competition steeped in history and the American’s will be favorites to retain the cup, particularly with Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas all occupying spots in the top five of the official world golf rankings.

But doing so will be tough. History weighs heavy on Furyk and his vice captains, with Team USA winless on European soil since 1993, the year Spieth was born.

Woods, for his part, has not competed in the Ryder Cup as a player since 2012, and only the memory of past glories would warrant changing that at present.

The 44-year-old is ranked 544th in the world and tied with J.J. Henry for 104th in the US standings.

Perhaps with that in mind, Furyk played down expectations but didn’t close the door. The Team USA captain acknowledged he’d “like to do what’s best for Tiger,” but stressed he needs to do “what’s best for the team.”

“That would be a bridge that we would cross when we got there,” Furyk stressed. “If he could be valuable as a player I’m sure we would want him playing on this team.”

One thing’s for sure, Woods’s standing within the game remains unquestioned.

“It’s great to have him,” said Furyk. “When you look at our team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf, because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

West Coast Swing Recap – THE DRIVE ONLINE

Writer: Lucas Garza

Although the PGA TOUR has implemented the wrap around season within the last few years, the real golf season to many doesn’t begin until the first tournament in January. The first tournaments are always in Hawaii, then the TOUR heads to the West coast of the United States.

In a small field with the game’s biggest names, Dustin Johnson returned to his winning ways by crushing the field to an 8 shot victory at the Tournament of Champions. This tournament in Maui only includes the winners from the tournaments since last year’s invitational. In the next week in Hawaii, the leaderboard was much less star studded, but there was plenty of drama. On Sunday, the cameramen that work for the GOLF Channel went on strike, so there were only limited views from the course that the at-home viewers to see. Patton Kizzire and James Hahn ended up going into a six hole playoff, that was eventually won by Kizzire. This was Kizzire’s second win of the season, with his first coming at Mayakoba in November of last year.

The TOUR headed to California the next week to the Careerbuilder Challenge. This tournament took place over three different courses, with the fourth/final round played at PGA West’s Stadium Course. Adam Hadwin, who shot a 59 in last year’s Careerbuilder Challenge and Texas A&M alum Martin Pillar, made strides to try to win, but both finished T3, two shots back of Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm. Landry was the best player on the Tour last season, and Jon Rahm has made his mark over the past two years. In the playoff, Landry’s putting let him down twice, and Rahm won after four holes.

Tiger Woods made his official return to the PGA TOUR the next week at the Farmers Insurance Open, which took place at Torrey Pines, where Tiger has won eight times. Woods barely made the cut on friday, but played a couple shots better on the weekend to sneak into a top 25 finish. Jason Day, Alex Noren, and Ryan Palmer found themselves tied for the lead after the end of 72 holes. After Palmer was eliminated after the first playoff hole, Day and Noren played four more holes in the dark, and were still tied. They came back on Monday morning, with no gallery to watch them. Noren decided to not lay up on his second shot early in the morning, and it cost him as he saw his ball fall into the water at the South Course’s 18th hole. Day made an easy birdie to win the tournament.

Phoenix hosted the TOUR’s next stop at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Hideki Matsuyama, who had won the previous two years, had to withdraw due to injury, leaving the field wide open. Gary Woodland and Chez Reavie would find themselves in another playoff on TOUR, but this one was finished after one hole. Woodland would win after Reavie made bogey on the 18th hole of TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course. The attendance record continued to top itself year after year due to the tournament’s wild atmosphere.

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was the next stop. The tournament was played over four days on three courses on the Monterey Peninsula. Although the views are gorgeous and the course is historic, the AT&T Pro-Am has been unable to produce exciting golf to watch over the past several years. This year, Ted Potter Jr. took a multiple shot lead over Dustin Johnson early on Sunday, and nobody ever came close to catching him. Jason Day, Chez Reavie, Dustin Johnson, and Phil Mickelson all finished three strokes back in a T2.

The final tournament of the West Coast Swing was at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, one of the most historic and beautiful courses on TOUR. Tiger Woods had his PGA TOUR debut at Riviera in 1992 when he was just 16 and made his first appearance at the tournament since 2006. Woods birdied the 10th in the second round and found himself right on the cut line, but he ended up going +4 on the last 8 holes to miss the cut. Bubba Watson found himself near the top of the leaderboard after two rounds, and then played in NBA Celebrity All-Star Game later that night. Watson returned Saturday to take the lead and found himself on top of the leaderboard for the majority of the day on Sunday. On the 14th hole, Watson holed his bunker shot for a birdie, taking a 2 shot lead in the process. The course’s dramatic 18th hole would not have any drama as Watson would win by 2 shots over Kevin Na and Tony Finau.

2017-Genesis-Open-Riviera-Country-Club-Pacific-Palisades.jpgGolf Digest

Phil Mickelson finished the West Coast Swing in very good form and will play next at the WGC-Mexico Championship, where he contended last year. It would not be surprising to see Phil get his first win since the 2013 Open Championship in two weeks. Tiger will play this week at the Honda Classic, which is good news for his health, proving that he can play back-to-back weeks while traveling across the country. It is now time for the Florida Swing, where players look to improve the FedEx Cup Ranking heading into the middle of the season.

Who is in the field for the Masters? – TheBack9

The Masters is just over a month away and the field is not far away from being complete.

Sergio Garcia will be at Augusta looking to defend his title and pick up a second green jacket.

There are just three categories that are yet to be decided. Any player in the world’s top 50 as of March 26 will qualify. Right now there are just three players in the top 50 that are not already in – Saitoshi Kodaira, Chez Reavie and Jhonattan Vegas.

Any winner of a PGA tournament between now and the start of the Masters will also qualify.

The organisers can also players that they deem worthy of a special invite, although they do not use this power too often.

There are 82 players already in for this year’s tournament.

All former champions are eligible to play but many are not expected to play. Tommy Aaron, Jack Burke, Jr., Charles Coody, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Raymond Floyd, Doug Ford, Bob Goalby, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Craig Stadler, Tom Watson, Fuzzy Zoeller are all unlikely to make play in the main tournament, although many will probably play in the par three competition on the Wednesday before the event.

The following players have already qualified and will line up at Augusta on April 5.

Dustin Johnson

Jon Rahm

Jordan Spieth

Justin Thomas

Justin Rose

Hideki Matsuyama

Rickie Fowler

Jason Day

Brooks Koepka

Rory Mcilroy

Sergio Garcia

Henrik Stenson

Tommy Fleetwood

Marc Leishman

Tyrrell Hatton

Alex Noren

Paul Casey

Matt Kuchar

Pat Perez

Rafael Cabrera Bello

Brian Harman

Francesco Molinari

Charley Hoffman

Patrick Reed

Xander Schauffele

Gary Woodland

Ross Fisher

Branden Grace

Louis Oosthuizen

Matthew Fitzpatrick

Kevin Kisner

Daniel Berger

Li Haotong

Kevin Chappell

Phil Mickelson

Brendan Steele

Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Thomas Pieters

Patrick Cantlay

Tony Finau

Webb Simpson

Charl Schwartzel

Jhonattan Vegas

Yuta Ikeda

Jason Dufner

Si-Woo Kim

Bernd Wiesberger

Adam Scott

Yusaku Miyazato

Kyle Stanley

Russell Henley

Zach Johnson

Patton Kizzire

Adam Hadwin

Ryan Moore

Ted Potter Jr

Billy Horschel

Wesley Bryan

Martin Kaymer

Jimmy Walker

Bryson DeChambeau

Austin Cook

Bubba Watson

Danny Willett

Fred Couples

Angel Cabrera

Bernhard Langer

Doc Redman

Doug Ghim

Harry Ellis

Ian Woosnam

Joaquin Niemann

Jose Maria Olazabal

Larry Mize

Lin Yuxin

Mark O’Meara

Matt Parziale

Mike Weir

Sandy Lyle

Tiger Woods

Trevor Immelman

Vijay Singh

11 insights from Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington’s wide-ranging chat – GolfWRX

Paul Kimmage of the Irish Independent got Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington to sit down for an extensive and wide-ranging interview. That alone is an achievement.

McIlroy and Harrington, the greatest golfers in recent memory from Northern Ireland and Ireland respectively, have never been the best of friends. That isn’t to say they’ve been adversaries, they’ve just never been particularly chummy.

Both men, accomplished and insightful, are great interviews individually. Together, however, the transcript is even better. Harrington, for example, can probe McIlroy in a way a reporter can’t. And McIlroy is compelled to answer the elder statesman when he calls him on the carpet for trying to act like Tiger Woods in press conferences, for example.

Here are a few of the more insightful portions of Kimmage’s Q&A.

Harrington and McIlroy prepare for tournaments in very different ways

PH: And we have a very different way of preparing for tournaments. He likes to play early, I like to play late. I’m not prepared to do his thing, he’s not prepared to do mine…
RM: Yeah, what’s the best way to prepare?
PH: I like a good sleep and to play later.
RM: I’m up at five every morning.
PH: I can think of nothing worse than playing practice rounds when you do.

McIlroy’s tournament week is structured with little socializing outside his inner circle

RM: Yeah, for example, I’ve rented a house this week and I have a chef and everything revolves around that house. I get back (after playing) and there’s six people in the house and that’s my week: I don’t see anyone else; I don’t want to see anyone else.

See above

PK: What about you, Rory? Any player you’re close to?
(Long pause)
PK: I’ll take that as a no.
RM: Not particularly, but I think that’s more to do with the stage I’m at in my life. If Erica wasn’t with me, I’d reach out to some people or play a practice round or whatever. But I wouldn’t be particularly . . .

They keep their trophies in very different places

Where do you keep your Claret Jug?
RM: (Nods to Pádraig) Ssss . . . plural.
PH: Sitting on the breakfast bar in the kitchen at home.
RM: I don’t have it on display. I have a trophy room, but if you were in the house you would never find it.

Three majors would be a failure for Rory, both agree

PH: I’m at a stage where I’ve done what I need to do. You’re at a stage, Rory, where you’re still trying to get more . . . actually, I’m going to say this, and it’s probably not what you want to hear, but four Majors for you is a failure.
RM: I 100 per cent agree.
PH: Three Majors for me was an over-achievement. I love what I’m doing and I’d like to win another one, but I’m well aware that I’m not going to change my legacy at this stage. Whereas you’re still on that path.

McIlroy admits he doesn’t have Harrington’s “mental stamina”

RM: (smiles) Yeah, he’s the ultimate . . . at 46, I’ll probably be at the point where I accept what I have – he does not accept it. There’s always something to work on; there’s always something to get better at. That’s where we differ as well; I don’t know if I have the mental capacity or the mental stamina to get up every morning and do that.
PK: You don’t?
RM: Yeah, to practise like that. The way he goes about it is too mentally draining for me.

Self belief or the lack thereof determines the quality of Rory’s play

PH: There are two things that stand out with Rory; the first thing kills him but it also makes him and that’s his belief: when it’s there it’s phenomenal, and when it’s not there it hurts him. When he has it he sends people running scared, and when he doesn’t have it he fades – you can see that from the sideline.

Harrington thinks McIlroy often comes off as cold in interviews

PH: I don’t think I’ve ever been in your company where I haven’t walked away thinking you’re a nicer guy than I thought beforehand. And yet, media-wise, you can sound quite cold and clinical at times and I think: ‘He’s trying to be Tiger Woods.’ Because you present this . . . wall.

When Rory and Tiger played in November, Tiger insisted Rory bring his dad

RM: On the night before we played (in November) Tiger sent me a text: ‘Why don’t you bring your dad along?’. Dad wasn’t sure. “I’ll leave you two to it,” he said. “I don’t want to get in the way.’ So I sent him a text: ‘No, I don’t think he is going to make it.’ He texted me back: ‘Oh, come on! When he is ever going to get a chance to play with two former number ones?’

McIlroy thinks Spieth is golf’s most underrated player

RM: I had a chat with Brandt Snedeker last night and we both said it: “Jordan Spieth is the most underrated player in the game.” When you look at what he’s done, and what he’s achieved, but all you hear are negatives.

Neither seem to be fans of Brandel Chamblee

PH: They can’t see the X factor. Dustin Johnson hit a drive a few weeks ago (in Hawaii) and one of the main TV commentators said it was the greatest shot ever hit.
PK: Brandel Chamblee.
PH: Talk about hyperbole.
RM: It was nonsense.

All this is but the tip of the iceberg of a frank, insightful, and often funny exchange. Check out the full transcript of the sit down here.


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