Jordan Spieth has a lot to live up to in 2016. He won two majors, came up four shots shy of winning the other two and took the FedEx Cup. In total, he earned $22 million in on-course cash.
So what's another bit of added pressure for the 22-year-old?
Spieth said Tuesday at the Australian Open in Sydney that he will treat the Olympic golf tournament in Rio de Janeiro like he would any of golf's four biggest tournaments.
“Winning a gold medal has got to be up there in my mind with a major championship,” he said. “I’ve been asked the question: green jacket or gold medal? But that’s not fair. I think next year I’m going to approach it as a fifth major and I’m going to prepare like it is. I’m going to go down there and take care of business.”
The Texan is right. The four majors have been around way longer and have more importance to the long-term history of the sport than Olympic golf, which returns next year after a 112-year absence. Perhaps a more apropos line of questioning would be comparing an Olympic gold medal in golf to winning The Players Championship, the sport's proverbial fifth major.
No matter the semantics of his weighting, Spieth's response is in stark contrast to Aussie Adam Scott, who has railed against golf's place in the Olympic program at every opportunity, saying he intends to skip the 60-player event.
Rory McIlroy is done messing around with his career. It's all business from here.
After winning the DP World Tour Championship and the European Tour's Race to Dubai for the third time in four years on Sunday, McIlroy, who has four worldwide wins in 2015, is looking to carry that winning momentum not only into next year but through the rest of the prime of his career.
That renewed focus means eschewing things like playing soccer, an activity which, in July, cost McIlroy a title defense at the British Open and a realistic chance at contending at the PGA Championship. In the wake of McIlroy's injury and recovery, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day stepped up, both overtaking McIlroy in the Official World Golf Ranking.
"I had a big lead in the world rankings and you see Jordan and Jason play the way they did. Fields are so deep, you can't let up at all," McIlroy told the BBC after his victory.
"Tagging along with that, you know, this is my time to capitalize on my career. The next 10, 15 years is my time. I really can't be doing silly things like playing football in the middle of the season to jeopardize even six months of my career. It's a big chunk where I could make some hay and win a major or two."
McIlroy should know. In 2014, he pulled the second-half double, winning a Claret Jug and a second Wanamaker Trophy. Heading into 2016, he is a green jacket away from the career Grand Slam.
And Spieth and Day are only two, albeit very talented, players in a time when golf's list of champions is expanding and getting younger. Needless to say, McIlroy has no room for lollygagging.
McIlroy said, "I won't be making those mistakes again next year."
In the last PGA Tour event of the year, the final putt belonged to a guy who finally got his breakthrough win.
Kevin Kisner is a champion on the PGA Tour, winning The RSM Classic by six shots in the final official event of the calendar year. A second consecutive 6-under 64 on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Resort on St. Simons Island, Ga., was more than enough to get off the schneid.
Kisner, who calls Sea Island his temporary home, knocked on the door of his first win four times in 2015. He lost three sudden-death playoffs during the 2014-15 season, then, in his last start, was runner-up to breakthrough winner Russell Knox at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
The South Carolina native, who opened with a three-shot edge, got off to a hot start, making five birdies against no bogeys on the front nine, establishing a large lead that let him play comfortable golf for his first PGA Tour win.
Kevin Chappell finished alone in second at 16-under 266, while last week's winner, Graeme McDowell, was solo third another shot back.
There were three big winners on Sunday on the LPGA Tour.
Cristie Kerr won the actual golf tournament at hand, taking the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., winning by a shot over Gerina Piller and Ha Na Jang at 17-under 271. Kerr's eagle 3 on the 17th hole gave her the winning edge and was the highlight of a Sunday 4-under 68.
In a year where an 18-year-old and a 27-year-old dominated, Kerr, 38, defied the trend.
"I think good golf is just good golf," she said. "It doesn't really matter what age it is. I think I proved that."
Lydia Ko didn't win the tournament, but her final round of 72 left her at 11 under par and in a tie for seventh place. While she finished a shot behind Inbee Park, who finished in solo sixth, the result was good enough for Ko to win the LPGA's points-based Player of the Year award, the money title and, for the second year in a row, the Race to the CME Globe, the tour's season-long points race. With the CME Globe, Ko took home a $1 million bonus.
However, when Ko holed out for a closing bogey, she had no idea that the points worked in her favor.
"I didn't know how these points worked out. I didn't know if sixth place was good enough or whatever," she said afterward. "My mind kind of went completely blank, but at the same time trying to calculate things that I don't know how to calculate."
While Park didn't wind up with the trophy or the big bucks on Sunday, she did manage to hang on to the Vare Trophy, awarded to the LPGA player with the lowest season-long scoring average. And winning that trophy earned her the 27th and final points required to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Park will have to complete a 10th LPGA season to earn enshrinement, but that honor is a formality at this point.
"The trophy, that sounds really good," Park said. "Being the last point to achieve all the points for the Hall of Fame, it's even more special."
Rory McIlroy is again the king of the European Tour.
McIlroy, who trailed three-time 2015 winner Andy Sullivan by a shot heading into Sunday's final round in Dubai, closed with a final round of 6-under 66 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates to win the DP World Tour Championship and the tour's season-long Race to Dubai for the third time in four years.
The final pairing of the 60-player field put on a show, both going out in 3-under 33. Both players made birdie on the 11th hole, with Sullivan maintaining his one-stroke edge. However, that was the last hole Sullivan would birdie, making pars into the house. McIlroy pulled level with a 30-foot birdie on the 12th and stretched the lead to two shots with birdies on the 14th and 15th.
However, what seemed to be a potential runaway halted quickly when McIlroy found the water with his tee shot at the par-3 17th. McIlroy found the green with his third shot, then drained an incredible bogey putt to hang on to a one-shot lead going to the par-5 finisher.
The Ulsterman called the bogey the best he'd ever made.
"I don't think there's been one that's ever came at a better time, so, yeah, definitely the best bogey of my career," he said.
A par was enough to give McIlroy his second win in this event (2012) with a 21-under 267 total, ending what had become a short-term trend of maddening Sundays.
"I feel like the last few events, I've come off the course a lot of times frustrated because I really feel like I could have done better and I put myself in the position to do better," he said. "But I guess I saved the best for last."
Branden Grace finished a distance third at 15 under par.
Danny Willett, who came into the European Tour season finale ranked second in the Race to Dubai, finished tie for fourth with five other players at 13 under par.
McIlroy, who picked up his fourth worldwide win and third European Tour victory of the year on Sunday, also earned a $1.875 million bonus as the winner of the Race to Dubai. However, McIlroy said that big check wasn't what motivated him.
"So whether that's off-putting to some people, the money doesn't motivate me the way trophies do," he said. "And I'm not saying that money's not important. It obviously is. But there's more things important to me and that's collecting trophies and putting tournaments on my resumé and I was able to do that this week."
Peter Senior won his third Australian Masters title on Sunday in Melbourne, 20 years after taking his second gold jacket.
With an 8-foot par putt on the final hole at Huntingdale Golf Club, the 56-year-old Aussie finished off a 3-under 68 that gave him a two-shot win over U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau, John Senden and Andrew Evans.
''I'm getting a bit long in the tooth, but it's still amazing," said Senior. "It still hasn't sunk in yet. You don't expect to win these events anymore."
Senior's 8-under 276 total was four better than 18- and 36-hole leader Adam Scott, whose Saturday 77 cost him the title.
"I think I played okay. It's kind of hard to know after yesterday's 77 left my head spinning a little bit because I just played so poorly," said Scott, the 2012 and '13 champion of this event, on Sunday. "(That was) some of the worst golf I've played this year and really disappointing. So, it was a big ask to be able to go low today."
It was heartbreak for the second year in a row for Scott, who came up a shot shy against Nick Cullen last year.
After Senior got up-and-down from a bunker at the 18th, he had to wait for Evans to reach the finish, which he stumbled across with a pair of bogeys.
Senior is the oldest winner of the Aussie Masters -- one of the country's Triple Crown events, including the Aussie PGA Championship and Aussie Open -- by six years, passing Gene Littler's 1980 win.
The champion said the home crowd helped carry him to a record-setting win.
''Nearly every hole on the back nine, everyone was cheering me, even my poor shots," he said. "It was just great. I have not had that sort of following for a very, very long time. It sort of encouraged me.''
It wasn't like father, like son on Friday at The RSM Classic.
Tournament host Davis Love III shot his second-consecutive 70 at Sea Island Resort, which, on the Plantation Course he played was a 2-under score that got him to the weekend on the cut number when combined with his opening even-par 70 on the Seaside Course.
Unfortunately, the 51-year-old Ryder Cup captain's son, Davis Love IV, nicknamed Dru, wasn't so fortunate. The father-son duo both opened with 70, but DL4 fell apart during the final seven holes on Friday to miss the cut.
It all started on the par-4 third, the group's 12th hole of the day.
“Today I wish I was caddying,” said papa Love. “I was tempted to do something to disrupt him, because he pulled 2-iron on 3 and it was too much club. He tried to hit a little dinky 2-iron in there and he pulled it over the green in a bad place.”
Another bogey followed. Then Love IV played the final three holes in 5 over to go from 1 under on the day to signing for 4-over 76 and missing the cut.
Meanwhile, a Kevin still has the lead in the tournament. After Day 1, it was Kisner. On Friday, it was Chappell, whose 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course has him ahead of Kisner by a shot on 11-under 131. Kisner is tied for second with Freddie Jacobson.
Kyle Stanley is alone in fourth at 9-under par.
Despite a late 3-over stretch on Friday, Lydia Ko is in position to win both the CME Group Tour Championship and the Race to the CME Globe for the second year in a row.
Ko shot 5-under 67 at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., to trail Ha Na Jang by two shots heading into the third round of the LPGA Tour's season finale. Jang, who finished tied for second with Ko in the season-opening Coates Golf Championship in Ocala, Fla., leads on 10-under 134 after a second-round 65.
The Kiwi came out tense on Thursday, perhaps aware all of the LPGA's season-long titles hung in the balance. However, she didn't play timidly early on Friday, going out in 4-under 32. Ko made the turn with two more birdies to reach 6 under on the round. The round turned sour with a double bogey on the par-4 15th and another dropped shot on the 16th. Ko rallied with birdies on the final two holes.
Looking back, Ko said she tried not to dwell on the bad stretch.
"It wasn't ideal, but I just try and not think about it anymore and kind of go to the next hole, thinking it's a whole new hole," she said.
If Ko wins for the sixth time this season, everything pretty much takes care of itself. She already leads Inbee Park for the points-based Player of the Year award and by almost $190,000 on the money list. Ko has to beat Park by two strokes to win the Vare Trophy, which goes to the lowest scoring average. Ko also came into the season finale in the lead in the Race to the CME Globe points race, so a win on Sunday would come with a $500,000 check for the tournament and a $1 million bonus for winning the points race.
That all gets more complicated if Ko doesn't win. However, Ko leads Park by four strokes through 36 holes and is projected to sweep everything on the line at this point.
Park, who shot 69 on Friday, isn't a big fan of the course and its grainy Bermudagrass greens. The South Korean 27-year-old realizes she'll need an attitude adjustment for the weekend.
"[Ko] seems like she really likes this golf course," Park said. "I've got to start liking it a little bit more for tomorrow."
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Martin Kaymer found a new kind of hazard on the final hole of his Friday second round at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the European Tour's season-ending event.
The German went long with his second shot to the par-5 18th on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates, with the ball caroming off the grandstand before coming to a halt, albeit inside the ropes. A couple of kids saw the ball land and, for some reason, thought it was fair game to pick up off the turf, so they both dived for it.
The difference between the European and PGA Tours is that there was really no one to intervene or stop the kids in the first place.
Regardless, Kaymer was allowed to replace his ball without penalty under the Rules of Golf. He went on to make par on the hole, shooting 1-under 71 to sit at 7 under par through 36 holes and trail leader Andy Sullivan by five shots.
Rory McIlroy doesn't lead the European Tour's season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, but he's two ahead of Danny Willett, his nearest challenger for the tour's season-long Race to Dubai points title.
McIlroy shot a second consecutive 4-under 68 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates to trail three-time 2015 winner Andy Sullivan by four shots heading into the weekend.
The Englishman Sullivan duplicated his opening 66 on Friday to lead Frys.com Open winner Emiliano Grillo by a shot at 12 under par. Patrick Reed, carrying dual membership with the PGA Tour, is in third at 9-under 135.
"It's absolutely awesome, to be leading after halfway in such a massive event, it's incredible," Sullivan said. "I'm just happy I'm doing it in front of my fans, so keep them happy for the weekend anyway."
McIlroy is joined on 8 under with Thongchai Jaidee, who was in contention to win last week's BMW Masters in China, and Charl Schwartzel. The world No. 3 came into the season finale with a small 1,613-point lead over Willett for the Race to Dubai, which will come with a near $2 million bonus at the tournament's conclusion on Sunday.
Were McIlroy to rally and win, he'd certainly lock up his third Race to Dubai title in four years. So, while he has the edge over Willett and others who could potentially capture the season-long title, the Ulsterman is still aiming for a Sunday double.
"I'm treating it like a normal event because I'm just here to win and I know if I win, then everything else will take care of itself," McIlroy said. "Considering where I am on the leaderboard, I'll take it now."
Two-time defending champion Henrik Stenson, who opened with a shocking 77, shot 3-under 69 on Friday to drop out of a tie for last in the 60-player field and into a tie for 55th place.
Kevin Kisner is again sitting atop a PGA Tour leaderboard, out in front of The RSM Classic by a shot at 7 under par at Sea Island Resort on St. Simons Island, Ga.
Kisner, who finished second in his last start two weeks ago at the WGC-HSBC Champions and lost three sudden-death playoffs in the 2014-15 season, leads over eight players who shot 6 under par, either on the par-70 Seaside Course or, like him, on the par-72 Plantation Course.
This year, the tournament expanded to two courses for the first two rounds before the weekend trim with the field all moving to the Seaside Course.
The capstone for Kisner was an eagle 3 on the par-5 eighth, the next-to-last hole of his round.
Kisner, who now calls the area home, had played his Thursday course in the past, but his memory of it was hazy.
"I haven't played the Plantation Course in 10 years," said the 31-year-old South Carolina-born Kisner. "I think I'm probably better at golf now. I remember those holes being tougher."
When 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III announced Tiger Woods, along with Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, would be an assistant captain for his team next October, the news raised a number of questions.
Why would Woods, who is starting the long rehab process from two back surgeries in the last two months, agree to be an assistant?
Does Woods simply not expect to return to golf in time to earn enough points to make the team outright?
Is his back that bad?
Rory McIlroy voiced similar concerns on Thursday when he was apprised of Woods' appointment after the first round of the European Tour's season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
"It's great that he wants to help the U.S. team in any way that he can, and if that's not in a playing capacity, then as a vice-captain. Just sort of makes me think what really his health￼ is like and how he feels like he's going to come back from that," McIlroy said.
"I'd rather see him on the course at Hazeltine but if not, at least he'll be there and it will be a good addition for them."
McIlroy called Love's move "one of the smarter ones" he could or has made.
Patrick Reed, who is playing in the Dubai finale as well, lauded the move to bring Woods on board regardless of where his back is next year.
"It’s good to see that Tiger is getting involved," Reed said, "and it can only help given that the American team is already looking to be a very young side, so to have someone of Tiger’s ability could be a huge boost for the Americans.”
Rory McIlroy didn't play his best golf in Thursday's first round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, but the European Tour's Race to Dubai leader is in position to lock up his third season-long points title in four years.
The Ulsterman shot 4-under 68 at the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates to trail four players, including Ryder Cup stalwart Ian Poulter and two-time major winner Martin Kaymer, by two shots.
McIlroy, who holed out from a bunker for birdie on the 18th hole, did not have his best stuff in search of a fourth worldwide win this year.
"I bogeyed the tenth hole and then got it back with a couple of good birdies straightaway," he said. "In between those birdies and the birdie at the last, there was a bit of ugly golf in there. But it's nice to get around in 68. I felt like it was a little struggle at times out there but to produce something like that and obviously the way I finished makes it feel a lot better."
Kaymer, like McIlroy, has an outstanding record in the United Arab Emirates. Despite a mediocre season, in which Kaymer admitted he was less focused on golf, the German was expected to fare well.
"Abu Dhabi, Dubai, seems like I do well here usually and I've had great success in the past, whether it's in Abu Dhabi winning a tournament, winning the Race to Dubai here in 2010," Kaymer said. "So for me coming to this part of the world is always a great pleasure.”
Poulter's good form was somewhat surprising, somewhat not. On one hand, Poulter has been on the road for five consecutive weeks, starting with an emergency trip from his Florida home to Hong Kong to save his membership, then playing through the first three events of the Final Series. On the other hand, however exhausted Poulter may be, it is a Ryder Cup year, when the Englishman tends to play his most inspired.
Francesco Molinari is alone in fifth at 5 under par.
McIlroy is a part of an eight-player group tied for sixth place, including Danny Willett, who is a close second to McIlroy in the Race to Dubai standings, and Branden Grace, who has an outside chance at winning the points race and its nearly $2 million bounty.
Willett was pleased with his opening round, but has three rounds to battle on two fronts: beating McIlroy and staying near the top of the leaderboard.
"You can treat it a little bit like match play in that situation," Willett said.
The most shocking score of the day among the 60-player field came from two-time defending tournament champion Henrik Stenson, whose 5-over 77 has him tied for last place with two players. However, this is Stenson's final event of the year before a planned surgery to clean up mensicus problems in his right knee.
Davis Love III named Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker as 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup assistant captains, but what does that announcement do for the team and what impact do assistant captains really have on the biennial matches? We discuss.
We also implore Adam Scott to stop complaining about the Olympic format.
Finally, we talk about the season-ending tournaments on the LPGA and European tours, explaining why they're a late-season success.
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U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III isn't waiting to prepare for next October's matches in Minnesota.
On Wednesday at The RSM Classic, site of this week's PGA Tour event, Love, the tournament host, announced Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker will be three of his five assistant captains at Hazeltine National.
The three players join Minnesota native Tom Lehman as assistant captains, with Love also sharing that both the American and European sides will be allowed five assistants for the biennial matches.
Love made it clear that Woods, Furyk and Stricker, as well himself, are all eligible to and hope to make the team on points. In fact, Woods, who is recovering from a second microdiscectomy surgery on his back in September and a follow-up procedure in October, told Love that's his goal.
"Tiger wants to be a playing assistant. That's his goal," Love said.
If Love or any of his named assistant captains make the team, Love will eye someone else to take over an open spot.
"If we make the team, someone else will have to take our role," he said.
Love confirmed Phil Mickelson was considered for an assistant captain slot. However, at the Presidents Cup, Mickelson told Love, who was an assistant to U.S. captain Jay Haas, that his first goal is to find a way to play on the team.
"He walked off 18 [in South Korea]," Love said, "going, 'I'm ready for the Ryder Cup.'"
Lydia Ko and Inbee Park have each won five times on the LPGA Tour this season.
Stacy Lewis has six...second-place finishes.
It's been a disappointing and frustrating follow-up season to a three-win 2014 for Lewis, who, just a year ago, became the first American in 21 years to lock up the LPGA's biggest season-long awards -- the scoring average title, tops on the money list and Player of the Year. A stroke here and there different, and Lewis' year is very different.
Now, Lewis has one final chance to win in 2015 at the CME Group Tour Championship. Paired with Ko and Park in the opening round, Lewis will get another good look at where she wants to be again.
“I want to be in the conversation with those (two),” Lewis said Tuesday. “I want to be up there fighting back and forth with them at this time of the year. So, it's definitely frustrating."
Lewis cannot catch Ko or Park for any of the season-long awards she won last year. However, coming into the season finale ranked third in the tour's Race to the CME Globe points system, Lewis, with a lone win on the year, could earn a $1.5 million payday. The 30-year-old would earn $500,000 for winning the tournament at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., and, with that win, would take the Race to the CME Globe's $1 million first-place prize -- regardless of where Ko or Park finish.
Regardless of how the week turns out, Lewis doesn't find this season a total wash. While she wants to break through again, she has become more comfortable with not winning -- a lesson learned that might make her more dangerous when she hoists her next trophy.
“I haven't been the best loser in the past,” Lewis said. “I hate losing. It would tend to stay with me for a long time, and over this last year, I don't know what it is. I've just been able to move on quicker, and I think that's what I've learned. "
When the European Tour's Final Series began a little less than three weeks ago, Rory McIlroy said his goal for the four-event series was to score a win.
He flailed to a disappointing finish on Sunday at the Turkish Airlines Open.
He wound up in a tie for 11th at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
After skipping the exiting BMW Masters, McIlroy has one last crack at finding a fourth worldwide win in 2015 this week at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. There are few better places for the Ulsterman to notch a victory. He won here in 2012, and since the tournament started in 2009, he's finished outside the top five just once, a T-11 finish in 2011.
A win here would also give the Race to Dubai, the tour's season-long points race, to McIlroy for the third time in four years. McIlroy comes into the season finale with a slim lead over Danny Willett, who has played 10 more events than McIlroy this season. If he wins the tournament, McIlroy will get a $1.875 million bonus as Race to Dubai champion.
McIlroy was surprised to maintain his lead in the standings after last week's event in China, and he's happy to have control over his fate.
"I didn't quite think I'd be in this position, and coming into this event, especially after taking the week off last week, but a few of the guys didn't capitalize on that in China thankfully and I find myself in a position where it's totally in my hands," he said Tuesday. "If I go out and win the tournament, I win the overall thing no matter what anybody else does, and that's a nice position to be in."
McIlroy not only has to concern himself with Willett but also with Henrik Stenson, the two-time defending champion whose record in this event is even better than that of the four-time major winner. McIlroy maintained that it doesn't matter who's chasing him down, so long as he comes out on top.
"I just want to win the tournament," he said. "I don't care who finishes second, who finishes third. If I am the champion at the end of the week, it means that I win The Race to Dubai and that's all I'm really thinking about."
This week's RSM Classic on St. Simons Island, Ga., marks the end of the 2015 portion of the PGA Tour's wraparound season, meaning it's the last time before January that players can cash in and earn critical early-season FedEx Cup points.
Robert Streb won here a year ago in a three-man playoff, but he's coming in with poor form, while a number of PGA Tour pros who call the island home get to compete in a home game.
Here are our top five players for this week:
1. Justin Thomas – It would seem luck favors the young Thomas of late on the PGA Tour, so it's not unreasonable to make the CIMB Classic winner our top pick this week. Thomas had to hang on to make the cut here last year and was DFL on the weekend, but he's changed a lot as a player.
2. Graeme McDowell – McDowell may be a little spent from winning on Monday in Mexico, but we have to love what he showed in the win, especially in windy and nasty conditions. Sea Island will get some wind, and McDowell will handle it.
3. Patton Kizzire – After a pair of top-five finishes to start his PGA Tour career, Kizzire was T-58 at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. That's OK. This is a home game for Kizzire, so he should fare well.
4. Zach Johnson – Johnson will be a little rusty since this is his first start since the Presidents Cup. However, he's a home-gamer, too, and has a couple of top-20 finishes here. He missed the cut here last year, but what's more important is his incredible 2014-15 season in whole.
5. Brendon de Jonge – We typically don't rank de Jonge. Despite the high birdies-per-round average, he can drop off quickly. However, he has a great record here. He was a playoff loser last year and was T-4 in 2012.
In an effort to maintain the loyalty of his top players who straddle two or more continents, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley announced Tuesday a big shake up in the requirements to remain a member of the tour.
Starting with next season, which begins in two weeks in South Africa, players will only be required to play in five non-major, non-World Golf Championships events to maintain membership. That's a change from the current membership rules, which require a player to compete in 13 European Tour-sanctioned events, including the four majors and four WGCs.
In other words, Pelley has stripped out co-sanctioned tournaments from membership requirements, simplifying things for European stars who play the bulk of their golf on the PGA Tour. Not only is this important for top-tier players who have relocated to the United States, but it is also critical for players on the fringes of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, who cannot necessarily count on getting into all eight events between the majors and WGCs.
The membership requirement change is not only critical in maintaining the support of U.S.-based European Tour members. It's also crucial for European-born players to have an easier time in maintaining European Tour membership, which is a prerequisite for representing the continent in the Ryder Cup.
"This, I believe, will allow our players to schedule more efficiently, schedule at the beginning of the year, so they know exactly how they are going to maintain their membership," Pelley said Tuesday in Dubai, specifically citing Ian Poulter's mad dash from Orlando to Hong Kong to save his membership as a reason to simplify the requirements.
Meanwhile, Pelley has also shortened the Tour's Final Series as part of its season-long Race to Dubai points list. The WGC-HSBC Champions will no longer be part of the formerly four-event final series, and the Nedbank Golf Challenge -- which will expand to 72 players from 30 -- will replaced the defunct BMW Masters in the now three-event series, sandwiched by the Turkish Airlines Open and season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Pelley, who stepped into the role this summer previously held by George O'Grady, believes these changes are the first in a set geared toward making his circuit more competitive with the PGA Tour for the next generation of professionals.
"We need to provide a viable alternative to the PGA Tour for our elite, medium and low-ranked players," he said. "End of story. We need to be more too important to be dismissed, too important to be dismissed from our sponsors, from our stakeholders from our players."
Graeme McDowell is a winner again on the PGA Tour, taking the OHL Classic at Mayakoba on Monday on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff against Jason Bohn and last week's WGC-HSBC Champions winner Russell Knox.
All three players finished at 18-under 270 at El Camaleon Golf Club, with Knox bogeying the final hole of regulation to drop in the extra session.
On the lone playoff hole, McDowell played first with a 5-iron and struck a nearly perfect shot, rolling past the hole to within 3 feet for birdie. With the pressure on, Bohn and Knox could not answer with equally impressive second shots. Neither were able to make birdie, clearing the stage for McDowell to make his putt to win.
For McDowell, it's his first win since the 2013 RBC Heritage and it follows a 2014-15 PGA Tour season in which the 2010 U.S. Open champion notched just one top-10 finish in 25 worldwide starts, a T-9 at the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic in February.
The Ulsterman admitted afterward to wondering if he'd get back in this position.
"Am I finished? Am I good enough? You ask yourself those questions," McDowell said.
Derek Fathauer, the 54-hole leader, closed with even-par 71 to finish alone in fourth, two shots out of the playoff. Scott Brown and rookie Harold Varner III finished tied for fifth at 14 under par.
The win also ends a never-before-seen streak of first-time winners to open the season. The first five events were won by breakthrough PGA Tour champions, including Knox's win in China last week.
Just as it should be, Lydia Ko and Inbee Park will decide this week who will take home all of the LPGA's biggest awards and honors.
Thanks to Park's win on Sunday in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, both players now have five wins on the 2015 campaign and are very close in the race for the scoring title, money title and Player of the Year honors.
Park, who closed with 64 to win over Carlota Ciganda, shot 18-under 270 in Mexico to win, and that total propelled her ahead of Ko in the race for the Vare Trophy, which goes to the player with the lowest scoring average, by 0.0161 shots. Stacy Lewis, winless this season, trails Park by 0.346 shots.
Ko maintains a $188,361 edge over Park for the money title.
In the points-based Player of the Year race, Ko holds a meager three-point edge over Park -- 276 to 273.
It all comes down to the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, which also decides the tour's season-long points race, the Race to the CME Globe. Ko is the defending champion for both the tournament, which boasts a $500,000 first-place prize, and the points race, which comes with a $1 million prize to the winner.
However, Ko's 469-point edge over Park heading into the season finale is made moot by a points reset. Ko will lead over Park by 500 points heading into the final tournament of the year, but both players, as well No. 3 Stacy Lewis, can win the Race to the CME Globe outright with a Tour Championship win, leading to the same $1.5 million payday Ko enjoyed last season. The top nine players in the standings heading into this week in Naples, Fla., have a mathematical chance of winning the Race to the CME Globe.
After her win on Sunday, Park said she is looking forward to playing with so much on the line.
“It’s great. It brings a lot of excitement to have something in your hand finishing off the season," she said. "I’ll definitely try to play my best next week, I’ll give it all I got, and just try to play good golf like I did this week.”
For the second-consecutive week, the European Tour's Final Series was site of a breakthrough victory.
Swede Kristoffer Broberg won the BMW Masters on Sunday over American Patrick Reed with a birdie on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff, locking up his first European Tour win.
Broberg shot 4-under 68 in the final round of regulation at Lake Malaren Golf Club in China, posting 17-under 271. Reed matched on the heels of a hole-out for eagle from a fairway bunker on the par-5 15th.
However, in the extra session, Broberg shined, blasting a driver off the 471-yard finisher, hitting a second shot that rolled back to within 12 feet of the hole. Broberg drained the putt, raising his arms in jubilation before the ball had entirely disappeared.
Byeong-Hun An, Lucas Bjerregaard, Thongchai Jaidee and Henrik Stenson finished tied for third at 16 under par.
The win is not only Broberg's first, but it also marks the 100th European Tour win by a Swedish player.
The 29-year-old continues a trend toward first-time winners which clearly isn't limited to the PGA Tour. In the last six European Tour events, three were won by first-timers: Broberg, Russell Knox and Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Danny Willett, who could have taken over the Race to Dubai lead from Rory McIlroy, came up short with a T-28 finish. He will trail McIlroy by just 1,613 points heading into next week's season finale at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, with a $1.25 million prize on the line to the winner of the season-long points race. If the Race to Dubai winner played in three of four Final Series event, that champion's haul increase to $1.875 million.
Under the Rules of Golf, a player is disqualified if they don't show up for their tee time. But the LPGA made an exception for four players in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational field -- and for good reason.
Carlota Ciganda, Suzann Pettersen, Angela Stanford and Minjee Lee left their Mexico City hotel around 9:30 a.m., headed to Club de Golf Mexico for the third round of the 36-player event in a tournament-provided shuttle. However, Mexico City traffic and road work got the best of the shuttle driver, forcing the driver to find a detour. Unfortunately, that detour apparently turned what should have been a 20-minute ride into a two-hour ordeal.
Stanford tweeted about the experience while on the shuttle, fretting as the minutes ticked down to her tee time, the second to last on the day.
Yeeaaahhhh about that tee time.... Not going to make it. pic.twitter.com/TnTdLnqbhG— Angela Stanford (@Angela_Stanford) November 14, 2015
Ultimately, the LPGA decided that the situation was wholly out of the control of the players, letting all four play, citing Decision 6-3a/1.5 under the Rules of Golf in choosing to push back the final three times after deciding there were “exceptional circumstances beyond the players’ control.”
2 hours and 15 min later we arrive. Thank u @LPGA for letting us play!— Angela Stanford (@Angela_Stanford) November 14, 2015
The ordeal seemed to affect Stanford worst of all, as she shot 4-over 76 that took her from a tie for second to a tie for 14th, nine shots off of the lead of Inbee Park. Pettersen shot 75, while Lee shot 73.
Ciganda was the only player on the ill-fated shuttle to break par on Saturday, shooting 69 that moved her four shots behind Park and into a tie for third place at 6-under 210.
Derek Fathauer doesn't seem like a greedy guy, and it may cost him his first PGA Tour win on Sunday.
Fathauer carries a one-shot lead into the final round of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico over Jason Bohn, marking not only Fathauer's first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour but also the first time the 29-year-old has been in the top 10 after three rounds on Tour.
WGC-HSBC Champions winner Russell Knox, rookie Harold Varner III, 1997 British Open winner Justin Leonard and 2010 U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell are all tied for third, three back of the pace.
After shooting a second-consecutive 5-under 66 at El Camaleon Golf Club, Fathauer, who is on 16-under 197, isn't worried about a win so much as experiencing the thrill of playing in the final group on Sunday.
“I’ll just go do my best tomorrow and see where that puts me," he said. He added, ''I've just got to have fun, play golf, play my game, and whatever happens will happen."
Fathauer knows that, with low scores possible on Sunday, that his edge is practically nonexistent.
“If I had a 10-shot lead, that would be one thing, but one shot, that’s an even playing field tomorrow," he said. "I think if I just go out and do what I came here to do, I’d like to see where it puts me at the end of the day because if I just stick to my plan, I’ll be happy no matter what happens.”
Meanwhile, Bohn has plenty of experience challenging for a PGA Tour win. Not only has he been knocking on the door of late, including getting within a shot of the win at the Frys.com Open and in Las Vegas, but he was the 54-hole leader in this event last year. He turned in a Sunday 74 while Charley Hoffman walked away the winner.
''I don't want to do what I did last year on Sunday,'' Bohn said. ''The only thing I can draw on is how I've been playing. I've got to embrace it, have fun and realize where I am. If I give myself enough chances, I'm going to win one.''
On the back of a stretch of seven birdies in eight holes on Friday, Graeme McDowell surged into the lead after the second round of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
The mid-round stretch, which also included McDowell's only bogey of the day after he turned from the back on the first hole, was part of an 8-under 63 at El Camaleon Golf Club that has him on 12-under 130 and a shot clear of Derek Fathauer (66).
McDowell, who would typically be playing in the European Tour's season-ending Final Series this time of year, had a deflating year. He has just one worldwide top-10 finish in 25 starts, at the Dubai Desert Classic in February. Rather than playing for a lost cause in chase of the Race to Dubai, the 2010 U.S. Open champion committed to the OHL Classic, one of the weakest full-field events on the PGA Tour schedule, this week and The RSM Classic next week.
After an opening double bogey on Thursday, McDowell has been practically untouchable. The Ulsterman said he has approached this week differently than he has most tournaments this season, trying to take the pressure to win off himself.
“Came into these two weeks with a pretty relaxed attitude,” he said. “The last couple days, so far, the attitude’s been good. I’ve just been out there trying to play golf and enjoy myself.”
Si Woo Kim and Harold Varner III share third at 10-under total, with Varner tying the tournament course record with 9-under 62 on Friday. Varner closed with four birdies in the final five holes. Varner, who played his way onto the PGA Tour this season by finishing 25th on the Web.com Tour's regular season money list, said the putter finally caught up to his ballstriking.
"I’ve been hitting it pretty well the last two weeks, in Missisippi and here, so just want to give myself opportunities and obviously I did and capitalized on it," Varner said.
Varner has a few reasons to feel good about his chances this weekend. For one, Harris English also shot 62 here in 2013 en route to winning the PGA Tour's lone event in Mexico. The other is that the latest Web.com Tour graduating class has already won three times in five events this season: Emiliano Grillo at the Frys.com Open, Smylie Kaufman in Las Vegas and Peter Malnati on Monday at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
At the season-opening Frys.com Open in California, Varner had a chance heading into Sunday to win before a final-round 79 derailed his chances. He assured reporters that won't happen this time.
“Oh, I’m going to play better, that’s pretty simple,” he said. “I’m going to play really good.”
Lucas Bjerregaard is finishing the European Tour season with a flurry, taking a three-shot lead into the weekend at the BMW Masters in China.
The 24-year-old shot a second-consecutive 6-under 66 at Lake Malaren Golf Club to lead over Sergio Garcia and Thongchai Jaidee, tied for second on 9-under 135.
Garcia was pleased to remain in contention despite conditions turning cold and windy.
"Still felt like I left at least three or four shots out there," he said. "But it was obviously difficult; if you didn't hit the right shot at the right time, you could pay and I did a couple of times."
Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and 2015 BMW PGA Championship winner Byeong-Hun An are tied for third place at 8-under total.
Danny Willett, who is second to idle Race to Dubai leader Rory McIlroy in the standings, trails Bjerregaard by nine shots heading into the weekend. Four other players, including Justin Rose and Branden Grace, could overtake McIlroy for the top spot, depending on their finishes, heading into next week's season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
However, the story remains Bjerregaard, who finished runner-up to Justin Rose at the Hong Kong Open three weeks ago. In his last seven European Tour starts, Bjerregaard has seven top-10 finishes, a coming out party heading into a Ryder Cup year.
The Dane is hoping that experience in Hong Kong will give him the confidence to finish the job this time.
"It was nice in Hong Kong to prove to myself and to everyone else that I can still compete up there," he said. "So hopefully I can do that again this week and just come up one place better than last time."
Patton Kizzire's PGA Tour career is off to a great start.
After skipping the season-opening Frys.com Open to get married, Kizzire kicked off the fully exempt campaign with a T-2 finish in Las Vegas. After having to sit out for the CIMB Classic, he finished T-4 in the Monday finish to the Sanderson Farms Championship, played opposite the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Two starts, two top-five finishes. The Web.com Tour's leading money winner from last year is well on his way to securing PGA Tour status for next season.
In Thursday's opening round of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico, Kizzire continued the fine form. His 5-under 67 at El Camaleon Golf Course has him a shot off the pace of four players, including Justin Leonard and Aaron Baddeley.
Kizzire hasn't let stepping up to the PGA Tour spook him. He's sticking with the same game plan that led to a pair of wins and 12 top-10 finishes on the 2015 Web.com Tour.
“I just have been kind of treating this as an extension of the Web.com Tour, and it just has the PGA Tour name on it,” Kizzire said. “Obviously it’s a bigger stage, but it’s just more tournaments and more opportunities to make some birdies and have some fun.”
There's no doubt Kizzire is also motivated to join the early crop of first-time winners, including some of his Web.com Tour peers, including Emiliano Grillo, Peter Malnati and good friend Smylie Kaufman.
“It’s encouraging,” Kizzire said. “It gives you even more belief that you can do it. So I’m excited for them, and glad that they set the bar high and I can chase them.”
Steve Williams had no clue using the word "slave" to describe some aspects of his time caddying for Tiger Woods would set off such a backlash.
In a new book called "Out of the Rough," Williams used the word to describe how Woods made the Kiwi caddie sometimes feel with his on-course temper tantrums and how the 14-time major winner treated him during tournaments. Williams' description was published in a pre-release excerpt, prompting a strong negative reaction from many in the golf world -- something Williams did not anticipate.
“In this part of the world where slavery has never existed people use slave as a description of their service or work every day,” Williams wrote in an email to USA Today. “We use the word loosely down under. After reviewing the book several times before it was published, it never crossed my mind to change the word. It merely was a description of how I felt about something, and in no way in the context it was used does it suggest I was treated like a slave.”
Williams has come under fire before for his use of racial language relating to Woods. At a November 2011 event in China, four months after Woods fired Williams following a 12-year relationship, the caddie was on stage to receive a reward for the Celebration of the Year, back when his new boss Adam Scott won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Williams celebrated like he had personally won the event, even getting a post-win interview. Williams explained his jubilation, saying, he wanted to "shove it up that black a***hole."
Adam Scott, who still works with the semi-retired Williams, said he doesn't expect the book to be a distraction in their relationship.
Martin Kaymer hasn't played in 2015 like the guy, the prior year, who won The Players Championship and took his second major with a blowout win at the U.S. Open.
He offered candor in his explanation as to why ahead of this week's BMW Masters in China.
“I practiced less,”Kaymer said Wednesday. “It’s pretty simple.”
That's not to say the two-time major winner got lazy, but rather than he shifted focus from the practice range to the gym. However, Kaymer did admit that he spent plenty of time savoring what he accomplished in 2014, even if that came at the expense of his world ranking, which has slipped outside the top 20.
“There’s a time for me to practice hard and wait for the success, and there’s a time for me to enjoy the success that I had,” said the former world No. 1. “Some say it’s right; some say it’s wrong. For me, it’s the best way to enjoy the wins and to motivate myself for new goals for the future.”
Perhaps that motivation starts now, with Kaymer on the outside looking in of the Race to Dubai bonus pool with two events to play this season. Then there's always the Ryder Cup to motivate the German. And the Olympics, too, for which Kaymer showed tepid support.
"I don't even know how it feels to be part of it, because we have no experience in it," he said. "So I'm sure it can be very overwhelming emotionally. So I try to, because there's no experience, I try to see it and try to prepare for the Olympics the same way that I've prepared for a major."
The PGA Tour is making its only stop in Mexico this week for the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. The Cancun-area tournament is on a sub-7,000-yard course, making it a breeding ground for a new vs. old showdown.
However, a number of young players who have started well out of the gates, including three of the first five winners, are in the field. The young bucks could dominate again.
Here are our top five players for this week.
1. Russell Knox -- Maybe exhausted from the big breakthrough win in China, but Knox has improved in all four starts made in this short new season. He's warm and ready to go on a shorter course than Sheshan International.
2. Matt Kuchar -- Kuchar has been beating up on smaller fish of late, winning the Fiji International by 10 and the Americas Golf Club in a two-man competition on PGA Tour Latinoamerica. Was T-3 here back in 2008, his only start.
3. Patton Kizzire -- The Web.com Tour's best player from last year is running hot on the PGA Tour. Runner-up in Vegas and a T-4 on Monday in Mississippi. Could be the next first-timer to win.
4. Patrick Rodgers -- Rodgers is getting close, but dealing with the Justin Thomas Problem of having trouble finishing. He should be able to thrive on this course.
5. Jason Bohn -- Bohn has been in the top 10 in his last two Mayakoba starts and in the top five in two of his last three PGA Tour starts. Both good omens.
In the wake of first-timers winning the first five events of the new PGA Tour season, it's time to ask the question if the style of golf required to win has changed. We talk about that in the context of Phil Mickelson firing Butch Harmon, and wonder if this style has evolved from the success of Vijay Singh in the 2000s.
Finally, we talk about the soon-culminating points races on the LPGA Tour and the European Tour.
The PGA Tour's fifth event of this young season was forced to a Monday finish, but produced the same result from the first four: a first-timer hoisting the trophy.
Peter Malnati became the latest breakthrough champion, taking the weather-delayed Sanderson Farms Championship by a shot over 48-year-old David Toms and veteran William McGirt. Malnati shot a final round of 5-under 67 at the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to post an 18-under 270 total.
Malnati entered the final round trailing Toms and rookie Patton Kizzire by a shot. The third round was completed on Monday morning after weather delays on Saturday and Sunday forced a marathon finish. The weekend field didn't repair for the last round.
The Missouri product got out to a good start with two straight birdies on hole Nos. 3 and 4, but then fell back to even with two consecutive bogeys after that. Another pair of circles on the card had him turning in 2-under 34. On the back nine, Malnati hit flush approach shots on four holes, converting three putts of 10 feet or less for birdies against no bogeys. A tough two-putt par from 50 feet on the last hole had him in the clubhouse, waiting out a potential win.
As Malnati burned the nervous energy with pull-ups, the final 17 players, including a handful of challengers, wrapped up their tournaments. However, none of them could catch the eventual winner.
Roberto Castro, who led through 36 holes, finished tied for fourth with Kizzire, Jhonattan Vegas, Aaron Baddeley and Bryce Molder.
With the win in his 23rd PGA Tour start, Malnati extends an unprecedented streak of first-time winners to start a season. Since 1960, no season had started with more than two first-timer winners.
The PGA Tour season-long record for first-time winners is 18, set in 2002.
The Champions Tour is moving to a playoff system in 2016 that will settle the Charles Schwab Cup.
The 50-plus circuit will have a three-event series in the fall, starting with a 72-player field in the new Powershares QQQ Championship near Los Angeles, announced Monday by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. After that event, the top 54 players in the points standings will remain standing for the Dominion Charity Classic, to be played in Richmond, Va.
The season will continue to end with the 36-player Charles Schwab Cup Championship. The tour is yet to announce the points system for the playoff events, including a potential reset and if the new playoff finale will end with only one winner, not a tournament champion and a season-long winner like we saw on Sunday with Billy Andrade winning the Schwab Cup Championship in a playoff over Bernhard Langer, who, regardless, won his third Schwab Cup, complete with a $1 million annuity.
In January, Charles Schwab signed a 20-year extension to keep its name on the season-long points race trophy.
Phil Mickelson will find himself later on Monday in a position he hasn't been since 1995.
When the new Official World Golf Ranking is released after the Monday finish to the Sanderson Farms Championship, Mickelson will drop out of the top 25. It ends a remarkable run for Mickelson, who began this run in the top 25 after a T-4 finish in the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in the Hamptons. Mickelson fell out of the top 25 the week prior thanks to a missed cut at the Kemper Open.
Mickelson ended 2014 at No. 14 in the world and was most recently in the top 10 in the ranking after a runner-up finish at the 2014 PGA Champonship.
The five-time major winner, who fired Butch Harmon as his swing coach last week after an eight-year relationship, has never been the top-ranked player in the world, although he has been in position to take the top spot dozens of times through his career. However, Mickelson does hold the record for the most weeks at No. 2 in the OWGR, which began in 1986. Mickelson has been the second-best golfer in the world for 270 weeks.
The start to this new PGA Tour season is unprecedented.
For the first time in Tour history, four first-time winners have won the first four events of the season: Emiliano Grillo at the Frys.com Open, Smylie Kaufman in Las Vegas, Justin Thomas at the CIMB Classic and Russell Knox on Sunday at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Going back to 1960, there had never been more than two first-timers to win in the first four events of a PGA Tour season, back in 1980 and 1990. The '80 season was the only prior season in that span where the first two events were won by breakthrough champions.
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Even with this never-before-seen start to a season, there's still a long way to go before this year could topple the record 18 first-time winners in 2002. However, the beginning quartet of the 2015-16 season is reminiscent of a trend toward more and more first-time winners. Since 2010, there have been double-digit first-time winners during the PGA Tour season, except in 2012, with 11 maiden champions last season.
While the Scot Knox continues the streak of newbie winners, he also breaks another sign-of-the-times streak. At 30 years old, Knox is the first PGA Tour winner outside of his 20s in the last eight tournaments, dating back to when Jason Day kicked off the FedEx Cup playoffs with a win at The Barclays.
Russell Knox picked up his first PGA Tour win on Sunday, taking the WGC-HSBC Champions by two shots over Kevin Kisner.
Knox, who first finished his third round early on Sunday with a closing birdie to tie Kisner, shot 4-under 68 in the final round to outmatch Kisner's 70 to finish on 20-under 268.
"China is now my favorite place in the world," Knox said. "I can't wait to come back here. For me, this now my favorite golf course and I'm over the moon."
The win marks the first for a Scot in a World Golf Championships event and only the second time in WGC history that a winner earned their first PGA Tour title in a series event. Knox said afterward that he saw it coming, just didn't know when.
"It sounds unbelievable," he said. "I always kind of thought I was going to win a big one, for some reason, as my first one."
Englishmen Danny Willett, who closed with a tournament-best 10-under 62, and Ross Fisher ended up tied for third at 17-under par.
Dustin Johnson and Branden Grace tied for fifth at 16 under, while Jordan Spieth, who shot 63 on Saturday to jump into contention, could only manage 70 on Sunday to get into a four-way tie for seventh with Patrick Reed, Matthew Fitzpatrick and 20-year-old Li Haotong, who recorded the best PGA Tour finish by a Chinese-born player. Spieth's finish is good enough to leapfrog Jason Day and again become the top-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking.
"With the amount of preparation I put into it, I'm extremely pleased," Spieth said. "I feel like I got the most out of the week."
Rory McIlroy closed with 66 to finish on 14 under par, in a tie for 11th. Combined with Willett's T-3 finish, the European Tour's Race to Dubai is tighter. McIlroy's lead is now just 74,213 points (McIlroy has played in 11 events to Willett's 21), with Willett playing in next week's BMW Masters while McIlroy rests. The Ulsterman is resigned to potentially losing his edge heading into the season finale in Dubai, where he has locked up the season-long points race two of the last three years.
"He's playing next week and I'm not, so no matter what happened today, he has a good chance to maybe overtake me next week," McIlroy said. "I'm just with the mind-set that I need to go to Dubai and win and whatever happens from there, that's all I can do."
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Kevin Kisner is 18 holes away from his first PGA Tour win, carrying a one-shot lead into Sunday at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Kisner, who shot 2-under 70 at Sheshan International in his third round on Saturday, leads by one over 2013 champion Dustin Johnson, Li Haotong and Russell Knox, who has one hole to go after play was suspended in Shanghai due to darkness.
A PGA Tour record three-time playoff loser in 2015, Kisner made two birdies in the final four holes to maintain his small edge at 16-under 200.
Johnson, who didn't defend his title in 2014 while on a personal leave of absence from competitive golf, shot a bogey-free 65.
Li, who shot his second 66 of the week on Saturday, hopes to become the first Chinese-born player to win a PGA Tour event. At a minimum, he's in great position to post the greatest-ever finish by a Chinese player, toppling Wen-Chong Liang's T-8 finish in the 2010 PGA Championship.
Li said he hopes to notch a top-10 finish, but asked if he could win, he candidly said, "I don't think so."
Jordan Spieth also surged into contention on Saturday. After a pedestrian second-round 72 in which he admitted he had trouble focusing, Spieth cruised in Round 3 to a bogey-free, 9-under 63 that has him just three back of Kisner. The world No. 2 said a good start helped him trust a change he's making in his game.
"When I feel like I have a shot that I can trust, you're a lot more confident over the ball," he said. "You see the shots coming together and then all of a sudden you're able to make more putts. That's just how it works with golf. It's just a momentum game, a confidence game and we'd certainly built a lot today."
The round could have been even better, with Spieth missing four putts inside 10 feet, but Spieth won't lament a great score.
"I'm not going to complain about the round," he said, "but I felt like the way I played could have been 10 or 11 (under) for sure."
Kisner said his theory is that a guy like Spieth -- maybe even Spieth -- will make a lot of birdies in trying to chase him down on Sunday, so Kisner's plan is to continue to be aggressive and see where that takes him.
"Just keep making birdies is it what I'm going to try to do," he said. "I'll look up on about 15 and 16 and see if I need to change my game plan."
Beatriz Recari and Azahara Munoz had to pull out of this week's LPGA Toto Japan Classic for a unique reason: a volcanic eruption.
The Spaniards, along with Jessica Korda and So Yeon Ryu, flew to the Indonesian island of Bali for the Lexus Cup, an exhibition event. They all planned to leave on Tuesday night, with Recari and Munoz off to Japan for a Friday first-round tee time. However, when Mount Barujari began to erupt, the area airport was closed, stranding the players.
In an effort to give the players the maximum amount of time to get to the event, the LPGA and Japan LPGA, joint hosts of the event, paired Recari and Munoz in the final tee time on Friday. However, when the airport was again closed on Thursday, the players were forced to withdraw from the event.
Though the players have been stuck at a paradise resort, missing the event has potential ramifications for Recari, who enters this week 71st in the LPGA's Race to the CME Globe points race. The top 72 players get into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, with only this week's event and the limited-field Lorena Ochoa Invitational leading into the final event of the year.
Kevin Kisner has found his way into the lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, two rounds away from his first PGA Tour win.
After opening with 8-under 64 at Sheshan International in Shanghai, Kisner followed up with a 66 Friday to take a two-shot lead over Russell Knox through 36 holes. And Kisner has managed his way to the lead without any kind of practice round, seeing this course for the first time.
"Sometimes it's good. Don't know where all the bad stuff is," Kisner said after his round.
Kisner also doesn't seem to have a case of stage fright, shrugging off that he's playing in an elite field.
"It's just golf, man, same old," he said. "Doesn't matter if it was here or wherever. Still get the ball in the hole as fast as you can."
First-round leader Branden Grace, who shot 63 to open, shot 71 on Friday to trail by four shots heading into the weekend.
Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth couldn't make hay on Friday, struggling to even-par 72. He's 10 behind Kisner. Spieth said he had difficulty in staying focused through the round, and it showed. He made three consecutive bogeys on Nos. 11-13, but rallied to find two birdies into the house to get back to even par on the day.
"I lost a lot of focus there, too," he said. "I felt like I wasn't zeroing in. I felt like I was very lazy in my routine, very lazy in picking targets. And it bit me with three unforced errors in a row on the back nine there, but I am pleased with the way that we did rebound there and get two more coming in."
Rory McIlroy also went 68-72 for the first 36 holes, suggesting he's still trying to get over a case of food poisoning.
"I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent," he said. "I struggled to hit balls today on the range, get a few cramps in the stomach."
As a result, he's missing some pep in his step.
"I didn't play very well today," he said. "I was just a bit flat out there."
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Boo Weekley is playing golf in this week's Sanderson Farms Championship, but he'd much rather be doing something else. So, why isn't he? If he doesn't play in the fall portion of the PGA Tour's wraparound schedule, he'll fall behind and find himself at a big disadvantage in the FedEx Cup points standings heading into calendar 2016.
For Weekley, that sounds like a raw deal.
"Honestly, this wraparound season sucks," Weekley said Wednesday at Jackson Country Club in Mississippi. "It does, seriously."
The golf kind of gets in the way.
"It's just golf after golf after golf," Weekley said. "Ain't no time for hunting and fishing, man. You know, you've got to come in here and bring my rods over here to go fishing, but you can't go fishing because you get out there and next thing you know somebody's aggravating you, and you can't actually enjoy going fishing."
Fair, you say, but Weekley has a weekly opportunity to play golf for a seven-figure first-place check. What's wrong with that?
Well, nothing, but the FedEx Cup concept essentially dictates that players cannot take extended breaks during the season which never seems to end. There is no offseason, not only complicating vacation plans, but also making it difficult to integrate equipment and swing changes.
However, Weekley doesn't see it as all bad, helping out the players who have just earned their cards through the Web.com Tour.
"It's good for the rookies, I think," he said. "It gives them something they can up can out and get their feet wet before they actually get into the bigger tournament. I think that's a good thing."
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Branden Grace continued his breakout 2015 on Thursday, shooting a first round of 9-under 63 to take the Day 1 lead at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
The South African, who finished T-4 at the U.S. Open and third at the PGA Championship, leads by a shot at Sheshan International in Shanghai, China, over American Kevin Kisner, who lost three sudden-death playoffs on the PGA Tour last season, Steven Bowditch and Thorbjorn Olesen.
Grace lauded the ideal scoring conditions.
"There was barely a breath of wind out there and the golf course is playing probably as easy as it could be playing," he said. "There's some low scores out there. The guys are playing some great golf, and when you play on greens like this, as well, it helps. You just have to get the ball on the right line and it goes in."
Patrick Reed, 2013 champion Dustin Johnson and Danny Willett are tied for fifth at 7 under par.
Rory McIlroy is a handful of shots off the lead, fortunate to play after having to deal with food poisoning thanks to a bad club sandwich he had earlier in the week. McIlroy admits he's still weak, but expects to improve on course with his health and appetite.
“I've lost ten pounds since being here," McIlroy said. "I can't remember the last time I was this light. But hopefully I’ll have a couple of good meals over the next couple days and rehydrate and I'll be feeling a lot better. I felt like I played okay. Tee-to-green was pretty good. I was disappointed I missed three good chances coming in there on the front nine and didn't quite capitalize on those. So it was a score that I thought could have been a lot better, but considering the position I was in this time yesterday, it's not a bad start.”
Jordan Spieth and defending champion Bubba Watson are tied with McIlroy in 16th place with 68.
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Phil Mickelson hasn't won since the 2013 British Open, and he believes that to change that skid he has to change instructors.
Mickelson has parted ways with Butch Harmon after eight years, as first reported by Golf.com.
“I’ve learned a great deal from him in our eight years together,” Mickelson said in a statement to the publication. “It’s just that at the moment I need to hear new ideas from a different perspective.”
The pair began working together in 2007, with Mickelson quickly notching an important win at The Players Championship that year. Mickelson went on to win a dozen total times with Harmon as his set of eyes, including the 2010 Masters and the Open at Muirfield two years ago.
Since that Open win, Mickelson has posted just five top-10 finishes, including a pair of runner-up finishes in the 2014 PGA Championship and 2015 Masters. In 2014, Mickelson missed the cut at the Masters for the first time since 1997.
According to Golf Digest, Mickelson flew to Vegas, Harmon's home base, to end their relationship in person.
“We talked for about two hours," Harmon said to Golf Digest. "I completely agreed that sometimes you need to hear things a different way, get a different perspective on things. He’s been frustrated the last two years. I thought it was a good idea that he would do this. He needs to hear things differently that maybe get him rejuvenated and get him back to what we all know he can be.”
It's not as though the 72-year-old Harmon won't be busy. He continues to work with Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker.
Meanwhile, Mickelson has apparently already identified a new coach, with Golf Digest separately reporting the five-time major winner has hired Andrew Getson. Mickelson knows Getson through his association with Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Getson has been at the club, where Mickelson formed a relationship after moving on from Arizona State in 1992, for six years. He played pro golf for a decade and has worked with other touring pros, including Kevin Streelman.
After a disappointing 2014, Mickelson recommitted to his fitness in an attempt to gain back some of the swing speed he had lost in his 40s. Now at 45, Mickelson is looking to make adjustments in his mechanics for one final run to the top.
Jordan Spieth isn't the kind of guy who likes to show off his trophies, not even in his own house.
Since last year's WGC-HSBC Champions, where Spieth is playing this week, the Texan has won eight trophies for seven tournament wins, including two majors, and the FedEx Cup. None of those trophies are out in the open at his house.
"Right now I have everything from this past year, every one of the trophies, (the green) jacket, whatever, just sitting in my room," Spieth said Wednesday. He added, "It's just I feel uncomfortable if it's all out in the open. I don't know why; I just do. I've just always been that way."
Spieth said he simply prefers not to dwell on what's happened already but rather think about that next trophy, next goal.
Besides, it's not like people coming to his house don't know what he's accomplished.
"So what does good it do for me to have my friends over and just flaunt it in their face?" Spieth asked rhetorically. "Just keep it in my room and go for the next one."
Rory McIlroy is in doubt now for the WGC-HSBC Champions, now suffering through a case of food poisoning in China.
McIlroy posted to Twitter on Tuesday that he wasn't feeling well after enjoying a club sandwich in Shanghai, joking that he was surprised that what he considers a safe choice would have made him ill instead of the Japanese baked eel, located underneath the bar classic on the menu from which he ordered.
Who would have thought the eel would be the safer bet!? Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow 💩😷 pic.twitter.com/K5vuGHbq5C— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) November 3, 2015
The world No. 3 still felt ill on Wednesday, forced to withdraw from the tournament pro-am after trying to warm up on the range.
The food poisoning also kept McIlroy out of the annual hilarity that comes from the pre-tournament ceremonies presented by title sponsor HSBC. McIlroy got out of wearing traditional Chinese garb and performing some drumming alongside Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and defending champion Bubba Watson. A pity, really.
If McIlroy can give it a go on Thursday, he'll play with Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson starting at 10:45 a.m. local time.
You never know who reads what you write. That's something I was taught a long time ago, and it's a lesson one of Rory McIlroy's fans learned earlier this week on Facebook.
One of McIlroy's Facebook fans, Barry Edwards, offered a comment to one of the world No. 3's posts, suggesting he needed a new driver and joking that would be more than happy to take one of McIlroy's old Nike Golf drivers off his hands.
Well, McIlroy dropped into the comments to respond to Edwards, offering him an older Nike Covert driver. All Edwards had to do was shoot him a Facebook message with his mailing information.
Needless to say, Edwards was very surprised -- and very happy.
Via Imgur and Reddit/golf
The final World Golf Championships event of the year convenes on Thursday in Shanghai, China, with the HSBC Champions. Bubba Watson is the defending champion at Sheshan International, a course where long hitters have dominated.
The world Nos. 2 and 3 are in the field, along with 2013 champion Dustin Johnson.
Here are our top five players for this week:
1. Jordan Spieth -- We haven't seen Spieth flying solo since winning the FedEx Cup, so there's some ring rust to shake off here. However, he's the best golfer in the world (even if the Official World Golf Ranking doesn't say it).
2. Rory McIlroy -- Have to like McIlroy on this course, where he's a top-six machine, and for his form after a T-6 finish last week at the Turkish Airlines Open. Final round was a dud in Antalya, but he did have a fairly conservative gameplan.
3. Justin Thomas -- The CIMB Classic winner gets into his first WGC this week. Should be riding high off the win and a T-3 effort at the Frys.com Open. Has the length to torch Sheshan International.
4. Kevin Na -- How can you not like keep riding the Na Train? P2, T-2, T-3 to start the year. Was T-20 in this event last year.
5. Bubba Watson -- The defending champion isn't ranked so highly because there are hotter players in front of him in the short term and a guy who owns the joint (McIlroy). However, Watson is playing some of the best golf of his life. No real reason to dislike him here.
John Peterson was comfortably in last place heading into the final round of the CIMB Classic. At 16 over for the week through 54 holes, the LSU product was just paying for a paycheck in the no-cut event.
So, with nothing to lose, Peterson decided to try out the Happy Gilmore swing off the first tee, the 10th hole in his final round at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club. Sure enough, Peterson pulled off the shot, which is impressive enough since there are plenty of folks who have lost driver heads trying the fictional golfer's power move.
Ultimately, Peterson carded 6-under 66 on Sunday, his best round of the week by eight shots. However, he still finished in 77th place, last among by three shots.
Sei Young Kim is a winner for the third time in her rookie LPGA season, taking the Blue Bay LPGA on China's Hainan Island on Sunday by a shot.
Kim, who started the day tied with Candie Kung for the lead, shot a final round of 2-under 70 to secure a victory over Kung, Kim Kaufman and Stacy Lewis, who was looking for her first win in 2015. The South Korean-born rookie overcame a bogey on the par-3 17th with a 7-foot birdie on the par-5 closing hole to lock up the win.
"I was like really nervous on the last putt," said Kim. "I can hear my heart pound."
Lewis, playing alongside Kim and Kung, had a two-shot edge heading into the 13th hole. However, a bogey-birdie swing between the two players erased her advantage. Kim took the outright lead with a birdie on the 14th hole.
It would seem Kim has a knack for the dramatic. She won her first two events this season in playoffs, now this one by a single shot.
World No. 1 Lydia Ko shot 2-under 70 in the final round to improve from a tie for 20th to a tie for eighth place. With the win, Kim only trails Ko (five) and Inbee Park (four) for most wins on the LPGA this season.
Once again, a player under the age of 25 has won on the PGA Tour.
Justin Thomas, 23, won the CIMB Classic on Sunday for his breakthrough Tour win in just his 39th start. His tournament-record, 26-under-262 total was good enough for a one-shot win over Adam Scott.
Thomas, who shot 6-under 66 to finish at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, didn't make it easy on himself down the stretch. After a birdie at the par-4 13th, Thomas established a one-shot lead. However, on the next hole, Thomas found a water hazard with his approach to the par 4, ultimately leading to what could be considered a good double bogey that left him a shot back of the pace. The Alabama product responded with three consecutive birdies that gave him a one-shot edge heading into the par-5 finishing hole.
"I just kept telling myself I controlled the tournament before that shot, so I just need to get back in it," Thomas said. "I had four more holes to try to make some more birdies and was fortunate enough to do it."
After running his winning birdie putt some 6 feet beyond the hole, Thomas left himself a nervous par putt for the victory. Thomas sank it to avoid a playoff with Scott and pick up his first PGA Tour victory.
Brendan Steele and Kevin Na finished in a tie for third place at 24-under par.
So far on this new PGA Tour season, players under the age of 25 have won all three events: Emiliano Grillo at the Frys.com Open, Smylie Kaufman at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas and now Thomas.
For his part, Na has finished in the top three in all three of those events, including a pair of runner-up finishes.
In his rookie campaign last season, Thomas showed signs a victory was coming, but he often flailed on Sunday's, owning the 79th best final-round scoring average on Tour. However, Thomas said on Sunday that he told himself that it would eventually be his time.
"I understand that we're in a sport where your winning percentage isn't in your favor," he said, "and I put myself there a bunch, and I just need to keep doing so and when moments like this can happen."
In a new book due out Monday, Tiger Woods' former caddie, Steve Williams, details the waning years of his relationship with the 14-time major champion, including how his ex-boss made him feel on the course.
In an excerpt of the new book, "Out of the Rough," posted on the New Zealand-based site, stuff.co.nz, Williams, along with co-author Michael Donaldson, said that he felt disrespected by Woods' on-course outbursts and behavior. Williams said he brought his concerns to light in a one-on-one conversation with Woods in 2010, months after Woods was involved in the now-infamous low-speed car crash outside his Orlando home during Thanksgiving 2009.
I was adamant that some of his behaviour on the course had to change. He was well known for his bad temper and, while that wasn't pleasant to witness, you could live with it because it ended as quickly as it started. But he had other bad habits that upset me. I wanted him to prove to me he could change his behaviour and show me – and the game of golf – more respect.
One thing that really pissed me off was how he would flippantly toss a club in the general direction of the bag, expecting me to go over and pick it up. I felt uneasy about bending down to pick up his discarded club – it was like I was his slave. The other thing that disgusted me was his habit of spitting at the hole if he missed a putt. Tiger listened to what I had to say, the air was cleared and we got on with it – his goal was to be the best player in history and my goal was to keep working as best I could to help make that happen.
Though many readers will agree with Williams' assessment of Woods' on-course club throwing, spitting and cursing, the caddie's use of the word "slave" is going to draw criticism.
At a November 2011 function held during the week of the WGC-HSBC Champions, Williams, who had been fired by Woods four months prior, received a light-hearted award for best celebration of the year after his new boss, Aussie Adam Scott, won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August. Williams celebrated like he had won the Masters himself, even holding court for some post-tournament comments to the media. It was over the top. Asked at the ceremony in China why he was so emotional in his celebration, Williams said of Woods, "I wanted to shove it up that black arsehole."
Williams quickly apologized after the event, though he suggested others had said more insensitive things during what he perceived to be an "off the record" event. For his part, Woods offered a measured response, saying his former looper was "definitely not a racist."
"It was a wrong thing to say," Woods said at the time. "We're moving forward. It was hurtful certainly, but life goes forward. It is a comment that shouldn't have been made and he certainly wishes he didn't make it."
Willliams' open-and-honest conversation with Woods was precipitated by the National Enquirer's November 2009 report that Woods had flown New York night club host Rachel Uchitel to Australia during the week of the Australian Masters. Williams said it was that week that he learned of Woods' marital infidelity.
Before the final round at Kingston Heath, Williams showed up to Woods' room, in the same hotel as the Kiwi, to get Woods' clubs and prepare to leave for the course. Williams said Woods took a worrying amount of time to come to the door, some 15 minutes, and, when he did answer, Woods seemed out of sorts. Woods called an audible and said he would take a helicopter from host Kingston Heath to an airport to take his private jet home instead of the original plan of returning to the hotel to gather his things.
Woods won the tournament, but the enjoyment didn't last long.
But the joy of winning dissipated in the strangest fashion. No sooner had Tiger fulfilled his media obligations than he fled to the airport in a chopper, leaving me to head back to the hotel on my own. As I was driving, I got a text from Mark Steinberg which read, 'There is a story coming out tomorrow. Absolutely no truth to it. Don't speak to anybody.'
Williams insists he never knew of Woods' affairs, suggesting in the excerpt that he didn't know because only a few of Woods' closest friends and advisors were aware. Williams, subjected to unwanted criticism by fans because of his association with Woods, wanted to be cleared by Woods' people of any knowledge of his cheating but never received it.
After Woods' crash, Williams didn't hear from his boss for another four months. Their relationship ended contentiously in June 2011, shortly after Williams worked for Scott on a temporary basis at the U.S. Open.
Tiger Woods went under the knife on Wednesday for the third time in less than two years to fix issues related to discs in his back.
Woods' friend, Rory McIlroy, is concerned that yet another surgery is going to make the 14-time major winner's return even more difficult and recovery lengthier.
"That's his third back surgery in just over a year, and like someone once said, the best way to avoid your fifth back surgery is not to do the first one," McIlroy said, according to Irish Golf Desk. "But it's a procedure he needed, he needed it. I just hope he gets better."
At this point, McIlroy is less concerned with Woods getting back to playing competitive golf than the former No. 1 having an improved quality of daily life.
"I think any time you touch your back, it is tough," McIlroy said. "It looks like it is a long road to recovery for him, and I just hope he gets better, not just to play golf but just for everyday life and being able to do everyday things more than anything else."
On Wednesday, Woods underwent a follow-up procedure to relieve discomfort stemming from a second microdiscectomy surgery on Sept. 16. That second microdiscectomy followed a similar procedure from March 2014.
Woods returned from the first microdiscectomy procedure just three months later, an accelerated recovery for a surgery that usually keeps athletes out of action for as long as a year. Woods admitted his return was to support the PGA Tour's Quicken Loans National, which benefits his foundation. He also discussed that, before the surgery, he was concerned that the back pain was so severe that it might end his playing career.
However, Woods played an 11-event schedule in 2015. It wasn't until his final start, a last-ditch effort at the Wyndham Championship to make the PGA Tour playoffs, that Woods scored his only top-10 finish of the yea. Woods complained in Greensboro of pain that he believed was caused by his hip, not his back. Weeks after the season ended, Woods announced additional disc trouble caused the pain and necessitated a second microdiscectomy.
Last week, Woods said at the America's Golf Cup in Mexico, an event he had intended to play before undergoing the second microdiscectomy, Woods said he didn't have a timetable for his return, but was targeting sometime in early 2016 after a "long and tedious" rehab process. It's unclear if this latest procedure will push that target return date out further.
Consistency has paid off for Rory McIlroy this week in Turkey.
For the third consecutive day at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal, the world No. 3 shot 5-under 67 in the Turkish Airlines Open. That 15-under total is good enough for a share of second place through three rounds, a shot back of Jaco Van Zyl, who has led wire-to-wire, and 2013 tournament winner Victor Dubuisson
After getting through the first two rounds without a bogey, McIlroy faced a more tumultuous path to 67. The Ulsterman had a bogey on the par-4 third hole, coming back with birdies in two of the next three holes. He dropped back to even par on the day with a bogey on the 10th. Once again, McIlroy answered on the next hole with a birdie.
However, McIlroy sparked the finale of his round with an aggressive approach to handful of feet for eagle at the par-5 13th. He then made two birdies in the final five holes, including at the par-5 finishers to share second place with Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who shot 66.
McIlroy was happy to rally to the finish after a sluggish start.
"I got off to a bit of a slow start, I don't know why, I just felt very lethargic out there today, I couldn't really get any energy," he said. "To finish the way I did was very pleasing and I'd say this was the best of them just because I didn't get off to a great start and I needed to dig in deep and finish the round off well, which I did."
Dubuisson closed well, too, making four birdies in his final six holes to take a share of the lead from Van Zyl, who opened with 61 on Thursday and has held on since.
While three 67s have McIlroy in position for a fourth worldwide win in 2015, he believes there's a better score in store for him on Sunday.
"I feel if I play the same way and execute a little bit better," he said, "there's definitely a lower score out there for me."
With a birdie on the final hole on Saturday, Justin Thomas retained a share of the lead at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
Thomas, who shot a second-round, tournament-record 61 to take the lead at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, turned in a third round of 5-under 67 to join Brendan Steele (66) on 20-under 196.
"This is where you want to put yourself at every event," said Thomas, who came up just short of reaching the Tour Championship in his rookie year last season. "I'm just going to use my past learning experiences in the other events I've played in and just try to go out there and hit a bunch of fairways."
Thomas came to the finishing hole coming off what he considered a good bogey on the 16th and a bounceback birdie on the 17th. On the par-5 18th, Thomas went long with his approach shot and felt fortunate to have a good lie to get up-and-down for the tying birdie.
"I had 242 (yards to the) hole, and I just kind of just barely caught it a groove low and it knuckled and went over the green," he said. "Being in the rough you never know what kind of lie you're going to get."
Steele, who was the 54-hole leader at the season-opening Frys.com Open before slumping to a final-round 76 to fall into a tie for 17th place, said he hopes that experience taught him to focus on the round at hand and not winning.
"Trying to be a little bit more patient and a little bit more positive, not kind of put so much pressure on myself and just enjoy it a little bit more," Steele said of his plans for this final-pairing opportunity. "Because it's not like it's going to be, hopefully, not the last time that I have a chance to win. So, you can't really look at it like it is your only chance. So that's kind of the problem."
Kevin Na, who has been runner-up in each of the first two events of the PGA Tour season, is a shot behind the co-leaders.
Four players are tied for fourth at 17 under par, including Spencer Levin, Hideki Matsuyama, James Hahn and Brian Harman.
For the second time in the last two months, Tiger Woods has gone under the knife.
Woods announced Friday that he had an undisclosed follow-up procedure on his twice-operated back to relieve pain caused by a second microdiscectomy in two years. The follow-up to Woods' Sept. 16 surgery was performed Wednesday in Utah by Dr. Charles Rich, who has been the neurosurgeon for both of Woods' microdiscectomies, including the first in March 2014.
"It's one of those things that had to be done," Woods said, according to his website. "I have an outstanding team of doctors, and I'll be back as soon as I can."
Woods is now on bed rest. He'll miss the final design visit to Bluejack National, the Houston-area club which is his first U.S. golf course design. He'll also skip a planned news conference to discuss the work at the property.
After his first microdiscectomy procedure in 2014, Woods returned three months later to compete in the Quicken Loans National, which benefits his foundation. He admitted that week his return was premature, placating a new title sponsor and biennial host club Congressional Country Club, which had recently voted to continue hosting the event every other year.
It's unclear how much this follow-up procedure might delay Woods' timetable for returning to competitive action. In a news conference last week in Mexico ahead of the America's Golf Cup, Woods said the recovery and rehab would be "long and tedious" but did not indicate a timeframe for playing golf again.
Woods' 2014-15 PGA Tour season ended in a last-minute effort to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs at the Wyndham Championship. Needing a win to get into the PGA Tour's postseason, the 14-time major winner was in contention on Sunday, Woods stumbled and finished T-10. That week, he showed signs of physical discomfort, suggesting it was a hip issue. Several weeks later, an exam revealed a disc in his back was pinching a nerve.
As of this week, Woods is ranked 351st in the Official World Golf Ranking.
In the end, Ian Poulter will wind up making one more European Tour start than he planned this year.
Poulter is now in the field for next week's WGC-HSBC Champions, getting into the field as the sixth alternate. The Englishman, who was the sixth alternate into the China event, got in when Brandt Snedeker declined to play.
In other words, Poulter didn't have to make a last-minute dash last week to travel halfway around the world.
After the week of the Frys.com Open and Portugal Masters, Poulter fell out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since September 2006, meaning he would be left out of the final World Golf Championships event of the year. Since the 2012 winner had planned on competing in the event to satisfy the European Tour's 13-event participation minimum, Poulter was suddenly one event short.
The European Tour schedule had four other remaining events on the schedule, and Poulter had committed to play in three of the four. Only one tournament, the UBS Hong Kong Open, remained on the schedule that Poulter hadn't planned on playing. However, the open tournament deadline had already closed, and Poulter could only get into the event with a sponsor's exemption. Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA champion, had one of those exemptions and effectively gifted it to Poulter so he could play, retain his European Tour membership and remain eligible for the 2016 European Ryder Cup team.
Poulter played well for the first two days in Hong Kong, getting into contention on the course he won at in 2010. However, he ran out of gas on the weekend and finished T-29. Through two rounds of this week's Turkish Airlines Open, Poulter is T-25, nine shots behind leader Jaco Van Zyl.
Smylie Kaufman becomes the second 20-something in this new PGA Tour season to win, and it makes us wonder what skills these young guys possess that prior generations didn't that lets them win so young and so often.
Then, on the heels of Ian Poulter's catharsis about the nature of pro golf, we wonder if the grind of the game won't lead to shorter careers in the future.
Rory McIlroy opened up at the Turkish Airlines Open with a comfortable 5-under 67. Unfortunately for the world No. 3, that leaves him six shots behind Day 1 leader Jaco Van Zyl.
After a chip-in birdie at his second hole at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal, No. 11 on the course, McIlroy stagnated with seven consecutive pars. Once he made the turn, McIlroy made three birdies in a four-stretch to open the front side with a final birdie on his 16th hole to cement a solid opener.
McIlroy said he is starting to see progress in areas he's focusing on in practice.
"I felt like a lot of the things I've been seeing in practice, I started to see on the course today," McIlroy said. "I hit some quality shots. I still hit some shots that were a little loose, but I saw some putts go in the hole. No bogeys on the card is always good."
However, McIlroy ultimately didn't take advantage of lift, clean and place conditions on Thursday, primarily because he had never seen the course until a Wednesday practice round.
"I think we played the golf course a little more conservatively than the other guys did, but I was just trying to place it in the right parts of the fairway," he said. "It's all about hitting fairways here, because you can get the ball in your hand."
The good news for McIlroy is that there are only three players in front of him on the leaderboard, including Van Zyl, who shot a European Tour career low to earn a three-stroke lead over Lee Westwood. Chris Wood shot 6-under 66.
"I played really nicely and honestly I thought four under par around here was a good score," Van Zyl said. "I got it going early in the round and just kept it going. It was really good fun."
Scott Piercy got off to a blistering start at the CIMB Classic on Thursday in Malaysia, shooting a 10-under 62 at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club to take a three-shot edge over Hideki Matsuyama.
Piercy made 10 birdies, without a bogey, to take charge and match the single-round tournament record against par. Nick Watney shot 10-under 71 at Mines Resort and Golf Club in 2012.
Five players are tied for third with 66, including Jason Gore, Keegan Bradley, Alex Cejka, Charles Howell III and Cameron Smith. Two-time defending champion Ryan Moore is another shot back, opening with 5-under 67.
Meanwhile, Scott Brown opened with 4-under 68, helped in part by his fourth hole-in-one in the last two years on the PGA Tour. Brown made an ace at the 189-yard 15th hole, earning a BMW i8 sports car as a prize.
In August, Brown made an ace playing alongside Tiger Woods in the final round of the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club.
Piercy is making his second start of this new PGA Tour season, opening with a T-25 effort last week in his native Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. As with any low round, Piercy saw more putts go in the hole and have things go his way.
''I made the putts I didn't last week," Piercy said, "and got a little lucky as well."
Something seems to have changed in Ian Poulter.
A week ago, Poulter hastily packed his bags and his clubs and boarded a flight from his home in Orlando to Hong Kong. He did that so he could maintain his European Tour membership and remain eligible to play in next year's Ryder Cup in Minnesota. The decision to play golf came at the expense of spending time with 192 children flown into Orlando by Dreamflight, a United Kingdom-based charity which Poulter regularly helps, whose mission is to provide seriously ill or disabled children with an unaccompanied vacation to Disney World and the surrounding area.
Poulter saved his card, and now he's in Turkey for the Turkish Airlines Open, the kickoff to the European Tour's Final Series. However, flying halfway around the world to chase that status has shaken up the Englishman, perhaps inspiring an analysis of what he prioritizes -- and maybe making a change.
"It's not all about golf, really," Poulter said in an interview with Golf Channel. "It's about having fun. That was obviously very stressful. It was a very difficult week, an emotional week. Not just the stress of knowing you're outside the top 50 and then having to get to yourself to an event, which was a surprise, but leaving kids behind. You've got obligations, and you really want to see 192 children have a wonderful time in Orlando, and that's taken from you because of poor play on my part, and obviously poor planning. I just sit back and think, 'There's more to life than golf.'"
It's hard to imagine Poulter without the kind of bug-eyed intensity that makes him scary in the Ryder Cup and, yes, somewhat off-putting to select fans. It's that seemingly unending chase which pro golf offers that has afforded him an incredible lifestyle. However, at some point, every pro golfer runs out of figurative gas, eventually having that catharsis when they realize the job won't last forever and that it might be time to step back from golf and toward their families.
If that's the case for Poulter -- permanently, not temporarily dazed by thousands of miles of air time -- then perhaps it's actually best for his golf game and the longer-term prospects for his career.
"If I just go out to play golf to enjoy myself from now on it, I will be back in the top 50 and playing some big tournaments -- and obviously winning them," he said.
Instead of putting all his eggs into the Ryder Cup basket every two years, Poulter could become more consistent knowing that he's playing for himself and not for continent.
Rory McIlroy is back to his normal self. He's hitting the golf ball as long and straight as ever. He's working out with the kind of intensity he showed before injuring his ankle in July.
And he's struggling to putt.
The world No. 3, playing in this week's Turkish Airlines Open on the European Tour, has been working on his approach on the greens, admitting that his problem isn't technique so much as mindset.
“I think it’s more mental than anything else,” he said. “Whenever you don’t see anything go in, it makes it harder and harder each and every hole that goes by.”
McIlroy is hoping to free up his mind, not putting so much pressure on himself. However, the Ulsterman also admitted that putting isn't going to be is his strength.
“I feel I’m a good putter. I feel like I hole out well," he said. "I definitely hole out much better than I used to do. And when I get my eye in, I’m really good. But I don’t get my eye in as much as I’d like to. I’ll always be somewhat of a streaky putter.”
Starting with this week, the four-time major winner will play in three of four European Tour Final Series events, including the WGC-HSBC Champions and DP World Tour Championship. He'll be playing while world No. 1 Jason Day and No. 2 Jordan Spieth sit on the sidelines, resting after a long year. However, McIlroy isn't concerned about making up lost ground these next few weeks.
"I'm not thinking about those guys," McIlroy said. "I'm just concentrating on myself and trying to get my game back to where I know that it can be, and if I can do that, then all the rest of that stuff will sort of take care of itself."
At a minimum, however, McIlroy wants to snag a trophy in this three-event stretch to close the European Tour season. Ideally, McIlroy would win the season-long Race to Dubai for a third time in four years.
"I'm just trying to finish the season off well. I'd like to win the Race to Dubai for a third time, that would be a great achievement," he said.
"I'd like to win at least one of these last three events that I'm playing. That would make me feel better about the end of the year."