PGA Golf

PGA News Wire
  • Koepka out two-plus months with wrist injury
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 19, 2018

    U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka will miss 8 to 12 weeks with a partially torn tendon in his left wrist.

    • Koepka's management company revealed Friday that doctors are recommending rest and therapy to heal the injury.

      Koepka, who is ranked eighth in the world, is hopeful of returning for the Masters in the first full week of April.

      "I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule," Koepka said in a press release. "But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. ... I look forward to a quick and successful recovery."

      Among the events Koepka will miss are tournaments at Phoenix and Pebble Beach.

      The 27-year-old Koepka said he doesn't know how he suffered the injury. But earlier this month at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, he described the pain as "it's like someone's jabbing a knife in my wrist or hand."

      The two-time PGA Tour winner has played in the Masters three times. He finished in a tie for 11th last year.

      --Field Level Media

  • Rahm fires 10-under 62 to grab CareerBuilder lead
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    Taking advantage of the favorable scoring conditions at the La Quinta Country Club, Jon Rahm poured in eight birdies and an eagle Thursday to post a 10-under 62 for a one-shot lead after the first round of the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, Calif.

    • The top-ranked player in the field at a career-high No. 3 following a second-place finish at the Tournament of Champions, Rahm birdied his first two holes and got it to 4-under with an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole. He followed that with two more birdies to make the turn at 6-under, and picked up four more birdies on the back nine.

      The 62 marked a career low for Rahm on the PGA Tour, and he acknowledged that thoughts of shooting a 59 creeped into his head. La Quinta was the scene of a 59 by Adam Hadwin in last year's event.

      "Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

      The first leg of the "West Coast Swing," the CareerBuilder challenge is a Pro-Am format with players rotating rounds at La Quinta, the Nicklaus Tournament Course, and the Stadium Course. Those who make the cut will play Sunday's final round on the Stadium Course.

      Six of the top eight scores Thursday were turned in at La Quinta. Andrew Landry is a shot behind Rahm after carding a 9-under at La Quinta, while Tour rookie Austin Cook may have arguably turned in the round of the day with his 9-under at Nicklaus.

      "I stayed super, super aggressive, which was kind of the game plan going into the week here," said Landry, who also had his eye on a potential 59 but parred three of the par-5's. "I was trying to get birdies down the stretch to get that 59 mark, but just couldn't get it. I just put the foot on the gas and tried to get as many birdies as I can, because I know this is the golf course where you have to start off and really get it going."

      Aaron Wise is among those another shot off the pace at 8-under after carding nine birdies and a bogey at La Quinta.

      "It's huge, because it sets you up for the rest of the week to be less stressful," Wise said. "It just puts you in a good spot right away. Even though I went low, other people were doing it, too."

      Jhonattan Vegas, who earned his first PGA Tour victory at this event in 2011, opened with a 7-under at Nicklaus and sits in a pack of players three shots behind Rahm. Defending champion Hudson Swafford is another shot back after shooting a 66 at La Quinta.

      Phil Mickelson was not able to take advantage of the scoring conditions at La Quinta. Playing in his first tournament of 2018, Mickelson started with four birdies over his first six holes. However, he bogeyed the eighth hole to make the turn at 3-under, and then followed a birdie at No. 13 with two bogies over his final five holes. Mickelson is tied with Bubba Watson, who also managed a disappointing 2-under at La Quinta.

      Also at 2-under is Patton Kizzire, who is coming off his second victory of the 2017-18 season at the Sony Open. He had four birdies against a pair of bogies on the Stadium Course.

      "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told the Golf Channel. "For some reason, I'm stuck on 70 here at La Quinta. Whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score.

      "I'm looking forward to these next couple of days. I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. I tend to score lower on those other two."

      Patrick Reed had an even rougher start to his 2018 schedule, struggling to a 2-over on the Nicklaus course.

      --Field Level Media

  • McIlroy fires a 69 in season debut
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    It was slow but steady going for Rory McIlroy in his return to competitive golf Thursday, but three late birdies gave him a 3-under-par 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    • McIlroy, who stands three strokes behind co-leaders Tommy Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara, began with 11 straight pars.

      "I gave myself loads of chances," said McIlroy, who last played at the Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8. "Really pleased. I played very solid. I think I only missed one or two greens, drove the ball well and the iron play was pretty good. So just need to keep doing that over the next three days and I should have a chance."

      McIlroy teed off at No. 10. His string of pars included three putts on the par-5 18th.

      His first birdie was an uphill 15-foot putt on the third hole. The others came on the seventh and eighth holes.

      "I could have shot a better score but after reeling off 11 pars in a row, I feel like I'm proud of myself to hang in there and just make those three birdies in the last seven holes and get in bogey-free, as well, no mistakes, played very solid, very smart," he said. "It was a good round of golf. It could have been better but I'll take it."

      -- Field Level Media

  • Mickelson, Reed making '18 debuts at CareerBuilder Challenge
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    For many of those who failed to qualify for the Tournament of Champions or did not make the trip to Hawaii for last week's Sony Open, the CareerBuilder Challenge will mark the start of their 2018 PGA Tour schedules.

    • That includes Ryder Cup regulars Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed. Mickelson has dropped to No. 43 in the world golf rankings, while Patrick Reed has slid down to No. 25 after going winless on Tour in 2017.

      Mickelson's brother, Tim, will be his full-time caddie in 2018 after taking over the bag from Jim "Bones" Mackay last summer.

      The CareerBuilder Challenge begins Thursday in La Quinta, Calif., and the Pro-Am format is the start of the "West Coast Swing." The tournament will be held on three courses through the first three rounds: La Quinta Country Club, the Nicklaus Tournament Course, and the Stadium Course. Those who make the cut will play the final round on the Stadium Course.

      The pre-tournament favorite is Jon Rahm, with the Spaniard entering with a career-best ranking of No. 3. He's coming of a second-place finish at the Tournament of Champions two weeks ago, and will be paired with Bubba Watson for the first three days.

      Rahm will also be defending his title at Torrey Pines next week.

      "Really, really feeling good," Rahm said. "I feel like those five weeks off after Dubai not doing much was really good for my body. Trying to take things real easy, obviously, make sure I'm rested for the year."

      Other notable names in the field include 27th-ranked Kevin Kisner, who was in contention at the Sony Open until faltering on Sunday, and Patton Kizzire, who went on to win the event in a six-hole playoff. Kizzire is the only two-time winner on Tour this season and enters with a career-high ranking of 54.

      Scores are expected to be low, with defending champion Hudson Swafford earning a one-shot victory over Adam Hadwin at 20-under in 2017. It was Swafford's first PGA Tour victory, and he enters this week with six cuts made in six starts for the season after finishing 38th in the FedExCup last season.

      "I feel like my game's more consistent, I feel like my all-around game is better, so the goal is definitely kind of Top-20 in the FedExCup," Swafford said of his 2018 goals. "Definitely making it to (the Tour Championship in) Atlanta, sets up your whole next year, gives you a lot more freedom, you can definitely set your schedule at the beginning of the year. So that's kind of the target and kind of what I'm looking for."

      Jhonattan Vegas did not play the event last year, but is also returning to the site of his first career PGA Tour victory in 2011.

      "I really, really enjoy coming to this place because it brings a lot of those memories back," said Vegas. "So, yeah, a lovely week, it's usually perfect when it comes down to weather, golf courses are usually great, so it's literally lots to love being here."

      Other previous event champions in the field include Reed (2014), Jason Duffner ('16) and two-time winner Bill Haas (2010, '15).

      There are also a host of rookies in the field this week, many of whom are scrambling for quality finishes to earn entry into bigger events as the season progresses. Then there are the amateurs like Charlie Reiter, a local high schooler who is the first amateur in event history to receive a sponsor's exemption.

      "I've been coming here watching this tournament since I can remember, me and my dad, and now getting the chance to play out here is definitely a dream come true for me," he said.

      Reiter grew up attending the event, and estimated his nervous level is pegged at "10" on a 1-10 scale.

      "I know I'm nervous so I kind of just accept it and just kind of deal with it and let it go out and happen," he said. "If you're nervous for something I believe that you just got to accept it and you'll overcome that and it will just become more of a calming idea for you."

      --By Derek Harper, Field Level Media

  • Barber's caddie Gilmer in critical condition after fall in Hawaii
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, January 14, 2018

    Cory Gilmer, the caddie for PGA Tour golfer Blayne Barber, was in critical condition after collapsing at a restaurant and landing on his head.

    • "He's in neurological ICU. A lot of bleeding and swelling in his brain," Barber said. "So I went by this morning. That was the last update I had. He's in pretty critical conditions. His parents are flying in tomorrow."

      Barber said the cause of Gilmer's collapse was not clear.

      Trauma doctors in the emergency room informed him the staff was trying to control the swelling and bleeding without surgery.

      While in the hospital Saturday, Barber received a notification on his phone to shelter in place in preparation of a ballistic missile reaching the island. The message, which turned out to be a false alarm, including the words "This is not a test."

      "Between that happening to Cory and then just the emotions of facing your own mortality in that moment, it's just been a heavy day," Barber said.

  • McIlroy not concerned about heart irregularity
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, January 13, 2018

    A rib injury derailed Rory McIlroy last year. The star golfer is now dealing with a heart irregularity, but he doesn't expect the problem to affect him in 2018.

    • "I suffered a really bad viral infection in China 18 months ago and they told me that's the reason that I have this thickening of my left ventricle and there's a bit of scar tissue," McIlroy told the (London) Telegraph. "For now, I just need to stay on top of it and have to stay fit. Hey, I was planning on doing that anyway. ...

      "I have a flat T-wave and I'll have to get an echo (cardiogram) on my heart every six months and MRI scan every year."

      McIlroy hasn't played since tying for 63rd in early October at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.

      "The rib's fine, no problems whatsoever -- I had an MRI scan on my thoracic spine and all was OK," McIlroy told the Telegraph. "To be honest, I just went through the motions for the last few months last year. That's not me. But it was a product of the circumstances.

      "I knew within myself that I couldn't compete at the end of last season because I hadn't done the work beforehand, and that's because I hadn't been fit enough and if you can't practice, you can't compete.

      "It's the way the year went after suffering the rib injury in the first tournament of the year. I had a few top 10s, seventh at Augusta and then I took a month off and had a honeymoon, and I wouldn't change it for the world. And then I came back and my rib flared up again and I shouldn't have played the U.S. Open."

      He spoke with the Telegraph while in Dubai ahead of appearances the next two weeks in the United Arab Emirates, at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

      The 28-year-old Northern Irishman, formerly the No. 1 player in the world, opens the year at No. 11 in the rankings.

      McIlroy told the Telegraph, "I don't care about the world rankings. I think about number of wins, the ability of the players against me, the number of majors the others have. I don't feel I need to compare myself to anyone else, because I know what I can do. I'm not hung up on it.

      "I still feel that on my day, if I'm on my roll, and especially if I'm playing with them. ... I just crave to be in that position again."

      McIlroy owns four major titles: the 2011 U.S. Open, the 2012 and 2014 PGA Championships and the 2014 Open Championship. He won the PGA Tour's money title in 2012 and 2014 and captured the European Tour's money title in both of those years plus 2015.

      --Field Level Media

  • McIlroy: Infection contracted in China has left me with heart damage
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 12, 2018

    Rory McIlroy has told a British newspaper that a viral infection he contracted in 2016 has left him with heart damage.

    • In an interview with The Telegraph published Friday, the four-time major winner said the infection came a year-and-a-half ago in China, and that it left him with "a bit of scar tissue."

      "I suffered a really bad viral infection in China 18 months ago and they told me that's the reason that I have this thickening of my left ventricle and there's a bit of scar tissue," McIlroy said. "For now, I just need to stay on top of it and have to stay fit. Hey, I was planning on doing that anyway."

      The news comes less than a week before McIlroy takes his first steps toward trying to put a forgetful 2017 season behind him when he tees off at the Abu Dhabi Championship, his first tournament in four months.

      Battling a rib injury for much of 2017, McIlroy finished the season winless, and finally shut it down because of the injury after the BMW Championship in mid-September.

      The 28-year-old told The Telegraph an echocardiogram every six months and annual MRI scan will now be part of his health routine because of the scar tissue.

      For now, though, he is focused on getting back to a more familiar position on leaderboards.

      "It's nice to be world No. 1, sure, and I will get back there, but it's all about winning tournaments," he said. "And I will give myself the best chances this season."

      --Field Level Media

  • Kisner pays off bet by wearing Bama jersey
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 12, 2018

    Former Georgia golfer Kevin Kisner wore an Alabama jersey during the first round of the Sony Open on Thursday to pay off a bet with fellow PGA Tour player Justin Thomas after the Bulldogs lost to the Crimson Tide in the college football title game Monday.

    • Thomas went to Alabama, and the two placed a bet on the title game, with the loser having to don the jersey of their rival team while on the course in Honolulu this week. Thomas had Kisner's last name taped on a Crimson Tide jersey, and Kisner promptly bogeyed the 17th hole after putting it on.

      "He handled it a lot better than I probably would have if I'd have had to put the Georgia jersey on," Thomas said after the round. "I don't know how he feels, but I don't have the hatred toward Georgia like I do a lot of the other schools in the SEC.

      "It was a lot of fun ... I just wish Kiz would have at least made par, then I wouldn't have felt so guilty about making him do it."

      Kisner is a diehard Georgia fan who even chartered a helicopter from the Tour Championship at East Lake last September to watch a football game.

      Kisner had Thomas autograph the jersey and is raffling it off to benefit his charitable foundation.

      "We don't get there as often as Alabama, so it was a little more heartbreaking for us," Kisner said of the title game.

      --Field Level Media

  • Spieth, Thomas aiming very low at Sony Open
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 10, 2018

    The 144 players who will tee it up in the first round of the Sony Open in Oahu, Hawaii on Thursday will get a breather from Dustin Johnson.

    • The world No. 1 is taking the week off after dominating the field at the Tournament of Champions to begin his 2018 schedule. In fact, only three of the top 20 players in the world golf rankings are in the field.

      But the players know they will have to go low beginning with Thursday's opening round to have any shot of being in contention come Sunday. The Waialae Country Club surrendered the third-most eagles on the PGA Tour last year, and Justin Thomas used an opening-round 59 to cruise to a seven-shot victory at 27-under.

      He's ready to defend his title, albeit with a new caddie. Jim "Bones" Mackay, who was on Phil Mickelson's bag for 25 years, will put aside his microphone as an analyst to fill in for Thomas, whose regular caddie is sidelined by a foot injury.

      Thomas' good friend, Jordan Spieth, is also taking part in the second leg of the Hawaii swing. The No. 2-ranked Spieth rallied to finish in ninth place at 12-under in Maui after opening with a 3-over 75. He's focused on picking up a victory -- and some momentum -- before returning stateside for the steady build up to the first major of the season at the Masters.

      "My goal is very similar to the last couple of years, which is to focus on the major championships and try to be in contention to win on the weekend in at least a couple of those," Spieth said. "This time of the season, these next really four or five events that I play, I'm not really thinking about the Masters or anything.

      "Once we get into March, that's where the real preparation starts."

      Spieth has two wins and nine top 10s in his last 11 starts worldwide, including seven consecutive top 10s entering this week.

      "There's goals within each kind of section of the season," he said. "And in this section, it's to try and win a tournament out of these next four or five events. And then, as we go into the Masters, then set a bar for March, April, May."

      Spieth finished third at the Sony Open last year, eight shots behind Thomas despite shooting four sub-68 rounds. That speaks to how low players will need to go in order to just stick around for the weekend, much less win.

      "If you get it going, you can shoot a low score," said Blayne Barber, who did not play in the event last year.

      Twenty-two rookies and 73 winners on the PGA Tour are in the field, most teeing it up for the first time in 2018. That includes J.J. Henry, who will be making his 500th career Tour start.

      "To say that you've played at this elite level for 18 straight years, and get a chance to compete against the best players in the world, to travel the world ... it's very humbling," Henry said.

      Few players enter the Sony Open playing more consistently than Australia's Marc Leishman. He has risen to No. 12 in the world while posting four top 5s and six top 10s over his past seven starts worldwide.

      He held the lead after the first round in Maui, but faltered during windy conditions in the third round and settled for a tie for seventh. Leishman made the hop over to Oahu looking to string together four consecutive solid rounds.

      He has shot in the 60s in each of his past eight rounds at the par-70 course. Three years ago, he carded an 8-under 62, which is still tied for Leishman's career-low on Tour. However, he has yet to finish higher than fifth place (2014).

      "Confidence is pretty high, game's in a good spot," Leishman said after closing with at 67 last Sunday. "There's no reason why I can't go over there and put four good rounds together."

      --Derek Harper, Field Level Media

  • Thomas to have Mickelson's former caddie on bag in Hawaii
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, January 7, 2018

    Justin Thomas will have Phil Mickelson's longtime caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay on his bag for next week's Sony Open with his regular caddie sidelined for at least a month due to a foot injury.

    • Thomas' father, Mike, took over his son's bag for the final two rounds of the Tournament of Champions in Maui after Jimmy Johnson was sidelined with plantar faciitis. The No. 3 player in the world was seeking a temporary professional caddie for the second leg of the Hawaii swing, with Thomas preparing to defend his title at the Sony Open.

      Mackay was already in Hawaii, as he has been working as an analyst for NBC Sports since splitting with Mickelson last summer following 25 years working together.

      "As much as I enjoy and appreciate the caddie offers, I am all set haha," Thomas tweeted over the weekend. "I have things planned for as long as needed until my man JJ gets back and healthy. Thanks for the concerns!"

      Thomas was named the 2017 PGA Tour player of the year with five victories, including the Tournament of Champions, Sony Open and his first major title at the PGA Championship. He also had a victory during the wrap-around schedule in the fall.

      --Field Level Media

  • Harman, Leishman share first at TOC's midpoint
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, January 6, 2018

    Brian Harman and Australia's Marc Leishman each birdied the 18th hole Friday to share first place after the second round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii.

    • Leishman, who was the first-round leader, carded a 4-under-par 69 in the second round on the Plantation Course on the island of Maui. Harman shot a 68 on Friday, and he and Leishman are each at 10-under 137 overall.

      Dustin Johnson, the world's top-ranked player, sits alone in third place at 137 after a 68.

      Johnson recovered after making consecutive bogeys on his third and fourth holes of the day.

      "I knew I was playing good," he said, according to GolfChannel.com. "The biggest thing was just to be patient, because I had plenty of birdie opportunities."

      Leishman completed the only bogey-free round of the day among the 34-player, winners-only field. He had two birdies on the front nine and another two on the back nine. The last time he had a piece of the lead at the midway point of a tournament, he won the BMW Championship in September during the PGA Tour playoffs.

      Harman racked up seven birdies Friday, including three in a row from Nos. 13 to 15, and had two bogeys. Only once previously was he in the lead after the second round of an event, when he wound up tying for second at the U.S. Open last summer at Erin Hills.

      Pat Perez, Chris Stroud and Jhonattan are tied for fourth at 138. Perez and Stroud each shot a second-round 66, while Vegas slipped back with a 70.

      Jason Dufner holds seventh place at 139 following a 68.

      Tied for eighth at 140 are Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (second-round 70), Kevin Kisner (70), Patrick Cantlay (70), Ricky Fowler (71) and South Korea's Si Woo Kim (71).

      Second-ranked Jordan Spieth is tied for 13th at 141 after a 66.

      "I felt like I struck the ball better yesterday than today," Spieth said, according to GolfChannel.com. "I had some fatigue late (on Thursday), I got lazy with my posture and my swing. Today I just tried to say, hey, I'm going to do less brain power, let (caddie Michael Greller) do a lot of it on the numbers and stuff, just pick a club and fire."

      Defending tournament champion Justin Thomas shares 27th place at 146 following a 75

      --Field Level Media

  • Tiger to make '18 debut at Torrey Pines
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 4, 2018

    Tiger Woods officially announced Thursday that he will make his 2018 debut at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines outside of San Diego Jan. 25-28.

    • It will mark Woods' first start in an official PGA Tour event since the same tournament last year. He made his return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge, an unofficial event, last month following a 10-month absence. He finished ninth in the 18-player field, and has said that he will set his 2018 schedule around building up toward the major tournaments.

      Woods, 42, has won the Torrey Pines event seven times, most recently in 2013. He also won the most recent of his 14 majors at the venue back in 2008.

      Woods also announced that he will play the Genesis Open at Riviera, which is run by the Tiger Woods Foundation, beginning Feb. 15. He made his PGA Tour debut at Rivera as a 16-year-old.

      "I haven't played at Riviera in a tournament in a very long time,'' Woods said on his website. "To be able to play in an event that I used to come to as an amateur, as a junior and now as the tournament host, that is on one of the most historic sites in all of golf, it's a dream come true.''

      Woods made his return at the event in the Bahamas last month, the same place he made his ill-fated return in 2016. He played at Torrey Pines as part of an aggressive early-season schedule in 2017, but withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic in February due to back spasms.

      Woods ultimately underwent a fourth back operation in April, this time to fuse the back. He has started only four tournaments since August of 2015.

      The first major of the year is the Masters in April.

      --Field Level Media

  • Talent, youth eager to kick-start 2018 at Tournament of Champions
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 3, 2018

    Thanks to the PGA Tour's somewhat awkward "wrap-around schedule," Patton Kizzire began the new year already atop the FedExCup standings.

    • However, for all intents and purposes, the 2017-18 PGA Tour schedule kicks off in earnest with this week's Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

      Kizzire is one of 14 players making their debuts in the invitational field reserved for winners on the PGA Tour the previous calendar year. Kizzire earned his ticket to Hawaii with his first career PGA Tour victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico in November.

      Kizzire hustled during the fall, earning more than $1.6 million in a five-tournament stretch while most of the marquee players in the world were enjoying extended layoffs after a grueling 2017 season.

      When Kizzire tees off in the second group in the first round on Thursday, he will be doing so in a field stacked with elite players.

      That includes Justin Thomas, who kicked off his career year in 2017 with a season-opening, three-shot victory at Kapalua and ended it with player of the year honors. Thomas picked up his first career major title along the way at the PGA Championship, while Jordan Spieth notched the third leg of the grand slam at the British Open.

      Spieth enters the week at No. 2 in the world golf rankings, just ahead of good buddy Thomas, Spain's Jon Rahm and Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama -- all of whom are 25 or younger. They are looking up at Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked player in the world who is almost an elder statesman by comparison at 33.

      It all speaks to the depth of young talent across the globe in the sport. It has created a sense of excitement among the players, who know they can't afford to take a step back with their games and hope to win with any regularity.

      How fleeting success can be in the sport is evidenced by the fact only nine players in this week's field qualified for the event last year.

      "I think this year, 2018, the unknowns are very exciting right now," said Spieth, who won this event in 2016 and finished third last year. "I think with the amount of depth and talent at a younger age mixed with the guys in their 30s that are playing ... No. 1 in the world, D.J., what is he, 32 or something? Some other phenomenal players that you would call maybe in their prime, right. And then, obviously, the major question, which is, what's it going to be like with Tiger coming back?

      "I think the overall view off the course, at least from my own and a lot of us younger players, is very exciting going into 2018."

      Tiger Woods is not in the field this week -- he is ranked 656th as he plots his schedule for 2018 in his return from a fourth back surgery. However, the top five players in the world rankings are playing in the Tournament of Champions, along with a slew of players who have their eyes on big things in 2018.

      Ryan Armour, another winner in the wrap-around season, is the oldest player in the field at 41. He will hit the opening tee shot on Thursday, and then it is off to the races for all 34 players in the field.

      "I think 2018, these unknowns are extremely exciting starting out and within the next six months... it's a pretty special time to be a part of professional golf," Spieth said. "I feel that way. I'll just set my goals like we do all the time and try and get out there and accomplish them year after year. And that's when I sit here every single year, I've got my goals for the year that by this time that I've certainly set out to tackle."

      --Derek Harper, Field Level Media

  • PGA digging in to support leukemia victim Lyle
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 3, 2018

    The PGA Tour is unveiling "January for Jarrod" to help former Tour member Jarrod Lyle battle myeloid leukemia for the third time.

    • Lyle, 36, underwent a third bone marrow transplant in his native Australia on Dec. 6. The return of the disease was diagnosed in July.

      "It's of the utmost importance for the PGA Tour family and the golf community to come together and help Jarrod and his family both spiritually and financially during 'January for Jarrod' month," said Tour executive vice president Andy Pazder in a news release. "Jarrod would be the first player to support others in their time of need, and now it's our turn to help he and his wife Briony and their two young children, Lusi and Jemma."

      Lyle held a PGA Tour playing card five different times between 2007-16. He currently is a playing member on the Web.com Tour.

      Lyle last played in a PGA event in 2016 -- the Wyndham Championship.

      His second bout with leukemia hit in 2012 and kept him away from competition until the fall of 2014.

      Lyle won the 2015 PGA Tour Courage Award for "courage and perseverance, overcoming extraordinary adversity and making a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf."

      --Field Level Media

  • Spieth confirms engagement to Verret
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, January 2, 2018

    Spieth confirms engagement to Verret


    • Jordan Spieth confirmed on Tuesday that he and longtime girlfriend Annie Verret were engaged over the holidays.

      A picture on social media on Christmas Eve showed Verrett with a ring on, but no one confirmed the engagement until Spieth's press conference Tuesday at the Tournament of Champions. The two have been dating since high school, and Verret has been a regular attendee at many of the team events such as the Ryder Cup and President's Cup.

      "I was pretty confident this past winter," Spieth said when asked if he was more nervous about proposing or trying to win major tournaments. "It was a good offseason. It was a fantastic year, 2017 was very memorable.

      "I forget kind of how I felt the back nine of the British, or I mean of Chambers (Bay). British is still fresh, engagement is still fresh, I'll probably at some point end up forgetting the British, but I won't probably forget the engagement."

      --Field Level Media

  • Piller to play in tourney ahead of maternity sabbatical
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, January 2, 2018

    Piller to play in tourney ahead of maternity sabbatical


    • Gerina Piller plans to play in the Diamond Resorts Invitational Jan. 12-14 before taking a sabbatical from the LPGA Tour to give birth to her first child, a baby boy due May 3.

      Piller, 32, said she played more golf in December than she normally does, and the three-time Solheim Cup member said she will join LPGA players Brittany Lang, Brittany Lincicome, Brooke Henderson and Paula Creamer at next week's event, which is part of the PGA Tour's Champions Tour.

      The five LPGA Tour players will be joined by 27 Champions Tour players in the field, along with 52 sports and celebrity stars. The tournament at the Tranquilo Golf Club in the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando features separate purses totaling $1.2 million. The professionals play for $750,000, while the celebrities compete for $500,000 in a Modified Stableford scoring format.

      It is the final competitive golf Piller, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is planning to play before giving birth to the couple's first child. She said it was a "no-brainer" to play in the event, which raises money for the Florida Hospital for Children.

      "I want to stay active and see what this belly of mine will do to my swing," Piller told USA Today. "I've lost a ton of distance. And there are some really bad shots that kind of sneak up now and then that I have no explanation for. My equilibrium is a little off. I picture a better shot in my mind or my body doing something and then I swing and I'm like, 'Yeah, that's not what I was expecting."

      Piller will not play on the LPGA Tour in 2018, but does not plan to retire.

      "I've played sports for as long as I can remember and this will be the first year I won't be playing a sports," Piller told USA Today. "It's going to be interesting and hard. But at the same time we're welcoming our first child and that is very special to us. I'm definitely going to miss golf. I already do. The work you put in, the preparation, we get to go to pretty great places, seeing my friends, the competition.

      "I definitely plan on coming back."

      --Field Level Media

  • No doubting Thomas after stellar 2017
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, January 1, 2018

    Justin Thomas won in October for the second consecutive year, and he hopes it kicks-starts another big season.

    • After capturing the 2016 CIMB Classic, Thomas went on to win five times and wound up as the 2017 PGA Tour Player of the Year. He took home the FedExCup in addition to rising to No. 3 in the World Golf Ranking.

      "Winning is fun," said Thomas, who will start 2018 this week by defending his title in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, and also will be the defender next week at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

      "Racking up trophies is fun. Beating everybody is fun. I just want to beat everybody."

      Thomas claimed his first major victory in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow last August, then won the Dell Technologies Championship and finished second in the Tour Championship during the playoffs. He also won the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea early in the 2017-18 season.

      Then he admitted he was out of gas and looking forward to his offseason, but now he is ready to go again.

      "It's been a nice offseason, but over the last week or so, I've been starting to get a little hungry and ready to get back out there," Thomas said recently. "I think the hardest part is going to be staying in the moment and recognizing that it's a new year. It's a new opportunity for great things."

      Thomas rolled through the two Hawaii events last season, playing 144 holes in 49 under par. He won the opener at Kapalua by three strokes over Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, then coasted to a seven-stroke victory over Justin Rose of England at Waialae.

      The dominant run was highlighted by an 11-under-par 59 in the first round of the Sony Open.

      "I'm just really excited," Thomas said of starting the year in the winners-only tournament on Maui. "I hope that that is my first tournament of the year for the rest of my career. I think it's well-known by everybody how much we all love it. It's just a great way to kind of, not ease into the year, but get the year going because of how relaxing it is.

      "The course is great. You know, there's obviously some great places to eat. And who doesn't like being in Hawaii?"

      Thomas, 24, is smart enough to know it won't be easy to deal with his new-found fame and success, even if he is able to replicate his breakthrough season.

      So he said late last year that he planned to talk with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and even his pal Jordan Spieth looking for advice. In the end, it is up to him, however, and he will take last season with him.

      "I know I'm constantly going to get reminded of what I did last year versus this year, and whether it's better or whether it's worse," said Thomas, whose only PGA Tour victory before last season came in the 2015 CIMB Classic, where he won again the next year. "I think the hardest part is going to be staying in the moment and recognizing that it's a new year. It's a new opportunity for great things."

      After turning pro late in 2013, Thomas watched his buddy Spieth become one of the best players in the world, especially in 2015, when Spieth won five times including the Masters, the U.S. Open and the Tour Championship to take the FedExCup.

      Thomas admitted that made him a little jealous but also motivated him, leading to something of a friendly rivalry between the two.

      "I feel like we're a very similar caliber of player, and I just got a couple years of experience head start," said Spieth, who has won five more times since his huge year in 2015, including three times last year. He is ranked No. 2 in the world.

      "You want to get yourself in those positions (to win tournaments), and you learn a lot from wins and losses. Obviously, he's become a tremendous closer."

      If Thomas and Spieth could become a reasonable facsimile of Jack and Arnie or Tiger and Phil, it would be a win-win situation for golf.

  • Golf glance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, January 1, 2018

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort in Lahaina, Hawaii, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 6-10 p.m. EST; Saturday, 3-7 p.m. EST; and Sunday, 6-10 p.m. EST; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Justin Thomas started the new year by claiming the second of his five victories in the 2016-17 season, beating Hideki Matsuyama by three strokes. Thomas started with three straight scores of 6-under-par 67 at Kapaula before finishing it off with a 69. A week later, he won the Sony Open in Hawaii by a whopping seven strokes after opening with an 11-under 59, joining South Africa's Ernie Els (2003) as the only players to sweep the first two events of the year in Hawaii. Thomas will try to become the first back-to-back winner in the TOC since Geoff Ogilvy of Australia in 2009-10.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai Golf Course in Ka'upulehu-Kona, Hawaii, Jan. 18-20.

      TV: 7-10 p.m. EST on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Bernhard Langer of Germany claimed the first of his seven titles on the senior circuit in 2017, winning the Mitsubishi Electric title for the third time by one stroke over Fred Couples. Langer posted scores of 64-65 and was declared the winner when the final round was halted while he and Couples were on the first hole because winds of up to 50 mph were blowing golf balls off the greens. Couples, who finished at 65-65, carded a bogey on the final hole of the second round that dropped him out of a tie for the lead. Langer now has 36 victories on the Champions Tour and is chasing Hale Irwin's record of 45.

      LPGA TOUR: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic at Ocean Club Golf Course in Paradise Island, Bahamas, Jan. 25-28.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. EST; Saturday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. EST, and Sunday, 3-5 p.m. EST; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Brittany Lincicome made a two-putt birdie on the first playoff hole to beat Lexi Thompson, claiming her seventh career victory on the LPGA Tour and first since winning her second major title in the 2015 ANA Inspiration in a playoff over Stacy Lewis. Lincicome, who started the final round two shots behind co-leaders Thompson and Lewis, also birdied No. 18, which was the playoff hole, to finish off a 5-under-par 68 that included seven birdies. Thompson closed with a 70 but did not birdie the par-5 finishing hole either time, failing to get up and down from behind the green in the playoff. Lewis shared the lead until making a triple-bogey 7 on the 14th hole en route to a 71 that left her one stroke back in solo third.

  • Golf notebook: Spieth mum on apparent engagement
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, January 1, 2018

    --Jordan Spieth, the second-ranked player in the world, apparently became engaged to his girlfriend, Annie Verret, over the Christmas holidays.

    • A picture of the couple that made the rounds on social media on Christmas Eve showed Verret wearing a ring with a large stone on the ring finger of her left hand.

      "A lot of young girls hearts breaking all over the world tonight. Congrats golden child," fellow golfer Colt Knost said in a Twitter post.

      Added Golf Central, the Golf Channel's news program: "Congrats to the future Mrs. Annie Verret Spieth on her engagement to the Champion Golfer Of The Year. Not a bad way to spend Christmas Eve."

      There was no immediate confirmation from Spieth and Verret, who both are 24 years old, or Jay Danzi, Spieth's agent, who did not respond to a request for comment from Golf.com.

      Verret, an event coordinator for The First Tee of Greater Dallas, is a graduate of Texas Tech University. The couple began dating as high school students in Dallas, where she attended Ursuline Academy and he went to Jesuit College Preparatory School.

      Spieth, who has kept his relationship with Verret private, is scheduled to play this week in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, a tournament he won in 2016, at Kapalua Resort on Maui in Hawaii.

      --Tiger Woods split with swing coach Chris Como and apparently will go it alone in his comeback following a fourth back surgery last year.

      Woods made the announcement on Twitter.

      "Since my fusion surgery, I have been working hard to relearn my own body and golf swing," wrote Woods, who tied for ninth early last month in the Hero World Challenge that he hosts in the Bahamas.

      "I've done this by primarily relying on my feel and previous years of hard work with Chris. For now, I think it's best for me to continue to do this on my own. I'm grateful to Chris Como for his past work, and I have nothing but respect for him."

      The Dallas-based Como started working with Woods in 2014.

      Woods is expected to play next in the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles in mid-February. He will host that event for the first time, and the event will benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation.

      "When our professional relationship began, I was asked to help Tiger utilize his own instincts and feel while playing pain-free. I think we've accomplished that and I'm proud of the results," Como said in a statement.

      "Tiger is ready to have an incredible next run in his career. I'm eager to watch what will be one of the most exciting sports comebacks of all time. I will continue to be a close friend and resource to him and am extremely excited about Tiger's future, the golf industry and for the fans of golf."

      Woods, who turned 42 on Dec. 30, previously worked with Butch Harmon (1996-2003), Hank Haney (2004-10) and Sean Foley (2010-14).

      The last of Woods' 79 PGA Tour titles came in the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational, capping a season in which he won five times. The last of his 14 major titles came in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

      --While Ernie Els will be at Augusta National on the first week of April, he only hopes to be playing in the Masters.

      The 48-year-old South African received a special invitation to attend the first major of the year from the Green Jackets at Augusta and posted this Twitter message on Christmas Eve: "Thank you for a Great Xmas present! @TheMasters Can't wait!"

      Several news outlets read the message and reported that the man they call "The Big Easy" received a special exemption to play in the Masters. Els' management team erroneously confirmed to Golfweek that Els was granted an invitation to play.

      Els had to post another Tweet clarifying that what he received was only an invitation often granted to former major champions to be on hand that week for the dinners and other festivities throughout tournament week.

      "Wanted to clarify my excitement getting an invite from @TheMasters. Work continues to qualify to compete!" Els, a four-time major champion, wrote two days later.

      Els' five-year Masters exemption for winning the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale ended last year. His best Masters results among five top-10 finishes were ties for second in 2000 (behind Vijay Singh) and 2004 (behind Phil Mickelson).

      So Els still must play well enough early this year to qualify for the Masters, unless Augusta officials decide to give him an actual exemption.

      The Masters has not granted a Special Exemption since 2013, when rising star Ryo Ishikawa of Japan received one.

      Based on that, perhaps Masters officials should reconsider, considering Els' contributions to the game, which include 71 victories around the world.

      --Anthony Chung of Alhambra, Calif., made two holes-in-one during the Southern California Golf Association Junior Golf Foundation's Fall League Tournament at Don Knabe Golf Course in Norwalk, Calif.

      The 8-year-old aced the third hole from 75 yards and holed his tee shot from 100 yards at No. 6 in the par-3, nine-hole event.

      "That was my first hole-in-one ever on any course," said Chung, who plays out of Los Amigos Golf Course in Downey, Calif. "My friend Connor told me it'd be awesome if I made another hole-in-one. It must be a record-breaker."

      Chung posted a score of 28 and tied for second in the Grammar School Division behind Dylan Brack, who finished at 24. Jose Luis Chavez and Connor Kozumi tied for second with Chung.

      --Nathaniel Crosby was selected captain of the United States team for the 2019 Walker Cup Match against Great Britain and Ireland at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

      The 56-year-old Crosby, of Jupiter, Fla., is the son of legendary entertainer Bing Crosby.

      "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," said Crosby, the 1981 U.S. Amateur champion who is a native of Hillsborough, Calif. "It will again be a privilege to be a part of the Walker Cup competition that I was so fortunate to be a part of back in 1983.

      "My experiences with the USGA, the Walker Cup Match and the World Amateur Team Championship have proved to be the most memorable weeks of my life, as I am sure it will be for the members of the 2019 Team. Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

      Crosby was a member of victorious U.S. teams in the 1983 Walker Cup and the 1982 World Amateur Team Championship.

      He also is the godson is World Golf Hall of Fame member Jack Burke Jr., who won the 1956 Masters and PGA Championship in addition to serving as captain of two USA Ryder Cup teams.

      "Nathaniel Crosby has proven experience as an amateur player at the highest levels in both individual and team competition, and this will lend itself well to providing leadership for the USA Walker Cup Team in 2019," said Stuart Francis, USGA championship committee chairman.

      "His father earned the USGA's highest honor, the Bob Jones Award, and I know Nathaniel possesses similar traits, including sportsmanship, patriotism and a competitive spirit, that will assist him as captain."

      The 47th edition of the Walker Cup will be played on Sept. 7-8, 2019, at Royal Liverpool, which hosted the 1983 Walker Cup Match won by the United States, 13 1/2-10 1/2.

      The U.S. defeated Great Britain and Ireland, 19-7, in the 2017 Walker Cup Match on the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club and holds a 36-9 margin in the matches, which are held every two years.

      --The Los Angeles Country Club made a historic donation of $250,000 to the Southern California Golf Association's Junior Foundation.

      It one of the largest donations in SCGA history and the largest gift from a member club.

      "This extremely generous donation promises to help dramatically expand access to youth golf programs across Southern California," said Kevin Gigax, SCGA Junior's executive director.

      "These funds will make a tremendous, long-lasting impact on our operations and our ability to bring golf, education and life skills to young people who would otherwise not have those opportunities."

      LACC generated the funds by hosting the 2017 Walker Cup.

      Gigax said funds from the gift will be used as a three-year investment to improve and expand junior golf instruction and decision-making curriculum. The donation will be used to provide instructors, golf equipment, access and uniforms for youth development training programs.

      The SCGA was founded in 1899 by five member clubs, including the Los Angeles Country Club.

      --Stewart Hagestad of Manhasset, N.Y., earned AmateurGolf.com's 2017 Mid-Amateur Player of the Year award, which is based on a point system in major amateur events over the course of the year.

      The 26-year-old Hagestad, from Newport Beach, Calif., and USC, actually began his run in September 2016, when he captured the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in Elverson, Pa.

      Hagestad, who also won the 2016 Metropolitan Championship in New York, was 4 down to 2014 champion Scott Harvey with five holes left in the 2016 U.S. Mid-Am but made birdies on five of the next six holes -- including a 14-foot birdie putt to win on the 37th hole.

      That earned him a spot in the 2017 Masters in April at Augusta National, where he not only became the first Mid-Amateur champion to make the cut, but also finished as low amateur in a tie for 26th.

      Hagestad, who works for a real estate firm in New York City, was awarded the Silver Cup in Butler Cabin, alongside Masters champion Sergio Garcia of Spain, who received the Green Jacket in the live television presentation. Then Hagestad also was honored in the formal awards ceremony on the 18th green.

      After tying for 13th in the Irish Open and playing for the Metropolitan Golf Association in the Carey Cup against the Golfing Union of Ireland, Hagestad returned to the United States and qualified for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, although he missed the cut.

      Hagestad also finished fourth in the Coleman Invitational at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla.; tied for 10th in the Metropolitan Open in Deal, N.J.; tied for 10th in the Trans-Mississippi Amateur at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.; and tied for 21st in the Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I.

      Those results landed him a spot on the U.S. team for the Walker Cup, and he helped the Americans to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club with a 2-and-1 victory over Jack Singh Brar in Sunday singles.

  • Els gets exemption to play in 2018 Masters
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, December 25, 2017

    Ernie Els acknowledged a "Great Xmas" present on Twitter after receiving an exemption to play in the 2018 Masters at Augusta on Christmas Eve.

    • The 48-year-old had thought the 2017 tournament would be his swan song at Augusta as his five-year exemption after winning the 2012 Open Championship was about to expire.

      If Els does accept the invite, it will be his 24th Masters appearance. He has finished second twice and has finished in the top 10 six times.

      The last time a major championship issued a special exemption, Ryo Ishikawa in 2013.

  • Out of the Woods: Tiger returns in style at Albany
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, November 30, 2017

    Tiger Woods' return went about as well as he could have hoped.

    • Playing in his first competitive tournament since the Dubai Desert Classic last February, Woods carded a 3-under-par 69 Thursday in the opening round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course in The Bahamas.

      Woods had five birdies against two bogeys during the round.

      The former longtime world No. 1 and 14-time major champion shot a 1-under 35 on the front nine with a birdies at the par-5, 572-yard No. 3 and par-3, 216-yard No. 8 holes opposite a bogey at No. 9.

      Woods opened the back nine with a birdie at No. 10 and rolled in back-to-back birdies at Nos. 13-14 before bogeying No. 15. He finished with three straight pars, placing him three shots behind leader Tommy Fleetwood of England.

      "I didn't know what I could do," Woods told Golf Channel after his round. "I've been playing golf, I've been playing a lot of holes at home, but it's still different when you've got to tee it up in a tournament.

      "I had a lot of adrenaline going there. I was hitting balls a little bit longer than I normally do and had to dial it back a little bit. Those are the internal struggles that I just haven't been through as a player in a while."

      Woods, now ranked 1,199th in the world, shot an opening-round 77 before withdrawing in Dubai in his most-recent appearance. He underwent his fourth back surgery since 2014 last April.

      On May 29, 2017, Woods was arrested near his Jupiter, Fla. home for driving under the influence. It was later revealed he had a plethora of drugs in his system, including prescription pain killers.

      Woods pled guilty to reckless driving on Oct. 27 and received one year of probation, a $250 fine, 50 hours of community service and regular drug testing. A violation of his probation would result in a 90-day jail sentence and a $500 fine.

  • Woods addresses back, medicine, sleep issues
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, November 28, 2017

    Tiger Woods said on Tuesday that he was attempting to "go away from the pain" when he was charged with driving under the influence six months ago.

    • Speaking before his latest comeback bid ahead of Thursday's first round of the Hero World Challenge, Woods discussed the events that left him asleep at the wheel of his running Mercedes-Benz at 2 a.m. on May 29.

      While breathalyzer tests showed no presence of alcohol, a toxicology report later revealed that Woods had Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in his system. The 41-year-old Woods entered a program a month later to help him manage back pain, his medications and a sleep disorder.

      "I was trying to go away from the pain and I was trying to sleep, which I hadn't done in a very long time because of the things I've been dealing with," Woods said Tuesday at Albany Golf Course in Nassau, Bahamas.

      "I've come out the other side and I feel fantastic. I didn't realize how bad my back was. Now that I'm feeling the way I'm feeling, it's just hard to imagine that I was living the way I was living, with my foot not working, my leg not working, and then the hours of not being able to sleep at all because of the pain.

      "So as my back improved, I've been able to start sleeping again because I don't have the nerve pain going down my leg, I don't have my leg twitching all over the place. So yeah, I'm loving live now."

      The 14-time major champion hasn't competed professionally since withdrawing after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic in February due to a back injury. Woods underwent a fourth back surgery on April 19.

      "This surgery was about quality of life because I didn't really have much," Woods said. "I've been in bed for about two years and hadn't been able to do much. People ask me, why don't you go out to dinner? I can't, I can't sit. So to be able to have the ability to go out and do things like that, and on top of that to be able to participate in my kids' sports again.

      "As you know, I love sports, I like playing sports and I grew up doing it, so to be able to play with them again, man, I've missed it."

  • Love lost: Veteran Love III has hip replacement surgery
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    PGA Tour veteran Davis Love III was undergoing hip replacement surgery on Tuesday and is facing a recovery time of three to four months.

    • Love, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame earlier this year, expects to return to the Tour by March.

      "I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I'm a chicken," Love said after missing the cut in last week's RSM Classic. "But after playing (in some recent tournaments), I realized it was an uphill battle."

      Love, 53, said his doctors told him he would likely be able to start chipping in three to four weeks. He is looking forward to returning to golf as a healthy player.

      "Now I'm excited that I've crossed that bridge," Love said. "Once I get over that, I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion (at the 2015 Wyndham), and now I'd like to win with a new hip.

      "That's the reason I'm doing it, so I can get back to golf and keep up."

      Love has won 21 events on Tour, including the 1997 PGA Championship.

  • Golf notebook: PGA Championship to return to Valhalla GC
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, November 13, 2017

    The PGA Championship will return to Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. in 2024, it was reported by the Louisville Courier Journal.

    • The newspaper said a formal announcement will be made on Thursday.

      Justin Thomas, a native of Louisville who captured his first major title in the PGA in August by two strokes over Patrick Reed, Francesco Molinari of Italy and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa at Quail Hollow, welcomed the news.

      "Can't put into words how much this excited me to hear," Thomas wrote in a Twitter post. "The @PGAChampionship is coming to the 502 (area code) again!! #louisvilleproud."

      This will be the fourth time the PGA will be played at Valhalla, which has been at least partially owned by the PGA of America since 1993. The organization acquired full ownership in 2000.

      The Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Valhalla first hosted the PGA Championship in 1996, when Mark Brooks defeated Kentucky native Kenny Perry in a playoff.

      The PGA returned in 2000, when Tiger Woods beat Bob May in a playoff, and Rory McIlroy claimed the final major of the year by one stroke over Phil Mickelson in 2014.

      McIlroy's victory was memorable because it came in semi-darkness, but that probably will not happen in 2024 because the PGA Championship will be moved from August to May beginning in 2019.

      --Robert "R.J." Harper, who worked at Pebble Beach Golf Links for 32 years and rose from course marshal to vice president and head of golf operations, died after a 14-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 61.

      Harper, whose first job at Pebble paid $5 an hour, eventually became known as "Mr. Pebble Beach."

      "R.J. had a lasting impact on Pebble Beach, and his smile, vibrant personality, and positive attitude and outlook on life will be missed by all, and never forgotten," Pebble Beach Company CEO Bill Perocchi said.

      Harper grew up in Memphis, Tenn., graduated in 1978 from Rhodes College in Memphis, where he played football and baseball, and is a member of the school's Athletic Hall of Fame. He received his Masters degree in Education at from East Stroudsburg University (in Pennsylvania).

      After teaching English and coaching football and girls' basketball at a high school in Miami, Harper showed up at Pebble Beach in 1985 looking for a job.

      Harper was head golf pro at Pebble during the 1992 U.S. Open, championship director of the 2000 U.S. Open and general chairman for the 2010 and 2019 U.S. Opens.

      During his final months, he helped Pebble Beach land the U.S. Women's Open for the first time in 2023.

      Harper is survived by his sons, Tucker and JT; his grandsons, Caden and Hudson; his former wife, Kelly (Yost) Harper; and his sister, Cathy Carr.

      --Sung Hyun Park of South Korea became the first rookie in LPGA Tour history to reach the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, but it lasted for only a week.

      Shanshan Feng of China took the top spot from Park on Saturday by winning for the second straight week in the Blue Bay LPGA on Hainan Island, China, but it doesn't minimize what Park has done in her first season on the LPGA Tour.

      Park tied for third behind Feng, posting her ninth top-10 finish of the season and 18th in the top 25 on the circuit this season. She has made the cut in all 22 tournaments she has played.

      "It is a great honor to me and my family," Park said of moving to No. 1 a week earlier. "There won't be any changes because of the ranking. I believe my future play is more important than the fact that I moved up in the ranking."

      The 24-year-old Park moved past fellow South Korean So Yeon Ryu, who held the position for the previous 19 weeks and she became the fourth golfer from her country to lead the rankings, joining Ryu, Inbee Park (who held the spot for 92 weeks) and Jiyai Shin (25 weeks).

      Park, who clinched the points-based Rookie of the Year award with five events remaining on the schedule, claimed her first LPGA Tour victory in the U.S. Women's Open Championship in July by two strokes over amateur Hye-jin Choi of South Korea at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

      She followed that in August with a two-stroke victory over Mirim Lee, also of South Korea, at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open.

      Park has a chance to join LPGA legend Nancy Lopez (1978) as the only players to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season.

      --Henrik Stenson of Sweden, defending champion in the Race to Dubai who is 13th in the point standings this season, withdrew from the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week in South Africa, next-to-last event of the European Tour season.

      Stenson, who lost two spots in the ranking by not playing, has been resting and receiving treatment for a bone bruise in his rib cage and hopes to play this week in the season-ending DP World Championship-Dubai, which he has won twice.

      "I'm disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, as I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour," said Stenson, who also won the Race to Dubai in 2013.

      "At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point."

      There has been speculation that Stenson sustained the injury while being hoisted in a harness to simulate Superman for a TV commercial to promote the WGC-HSBC Champions a few weeks ago in China.

      Stenson denied the claim, even though when he first announced the injury he said: "I'm not Superman, even though certain people thought I was Superman."

      In announcing his withdrawal from the Nedbank Golf Challenge, he said: "My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them.

      "I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event, and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal.

      "The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100 percent."

      Stenson captured the finale in Dubai in 2013 and 2014.

      --When Tiger Woods returns to competitive golf next month for the Hero World Challenge at Albany Resort on the Bahamas, Joe LaCava will be back on the bag.

      Woods, returning from his fourth back surgery in recent years, tried to line up LaCava for a few other jobs since he hasn't been able to play since February.

      "I told him, 'Hey, if you want, I can go out and get you a bag, get one of these young, upcoming guys, and you can go out and caddie for them," Woods said. "'Hopefully you enjoy it and love it, but when I come back, I hope that I can call you up and maybe pry you away from that bag for a little bit.'

      "And (LaCava) said, 'No, no, I'm committed to you. I'm committed to your return and you playing golf again.' ... I know how much he misses being out there; I miss being out there, too."

      According to the Golf Channel, Woods has continued to pay LaCava his full salary, even though Woods has not played much since 2015.

      --Steve Williams of New Zealand confirmed that 2018 will be his final year as a caddie, ending a career that began in 1979.

      Williams was on the bag for Woods during the heart of his career from 1999 to 2011, and also caddied for golf greats Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and Adam Scott, all from Australia, and Raymond Floyd.

      Woods was No. 1 in the world for much of their time together and he claimed 13 of his 14 majors titles in that span.

      "Next year will probably be, certainly be, absolutely my last year of caddying," the 44-year-old Williams told ISeekGolf. "The only reason I'd like to caddie next year is that it's sort of a personal milestone: It'll be 40 years next year.

      "I'll caddy a few tournaments. I'm not sure who for yet, but I'll just caddie a handful of tournaments next year and that'll be it."

      In the last few years, Williams has caddied part-time for Scott, who claimed his only major title with the Kiwi alongside in the 2013 Masters.

      However, Scott plans to hire a full-time caddie.

      Williams has been playing more golf with his buddies at home in Auckland, and has lowered his handicap to 6.9, and also didn't rule out a new career as an on-course golf commentator.

      "You don't say no to anything," Williams said. "It's a possibility."

      Jim "Bones" Mackay has been a hit on the Golf Channel since he ended his career as Phil Mickelson's caddie last season.

  • Golf glance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, November 13, 2017

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: RSM Classic on the Seaside Course at Sea Island Resort in Sea Island, Ga., Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 1:30-4:30 EST, on the Golf Channel.

      LAST YEAR: Rookie Mackenzie Hughes of Canada claimed his first PGA Tour victory by sinking an 18-foot putt from the fringe on the third playoff hole to defeat Blayne Barber, Henrik Norlander of Sweden and Camilo Villegas of Colombia. After Hughes sank his putt, the other three players all missed from about 10 feet closer to the hole. Billy Horschel dropped out of the playoff with a bogey on the first extra hole. Hughes, playing in only his ninth PGA Tour event, was at the top of the leaderboard all the way after opening with a 9-under-par 61, and closed with a 69. Norlander sank a 5-foot birdie putt on the last hole to shoot 65, while Barber had a 66, and Villegas and Horschel both closed with 68s.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: 2017 season complete.

      NEXT EVENT: Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai Golf Course in Ka'upulehu-Kona, Hawaii, Jan. 18-20.

      LPGA TOUR: CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla.,

      Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 4:30-6:30 p.m. EST on the Golf Channel; Sunday, 1-4 p.m. EST on NBC.

      LAST YEAR: Charley Hull of England won her first title on the LPGA Tour, shooting a bogey-free 6-under-par 66 to beat So Yeon Ryu of South Korea by two strokes. Hull, whose only other pro victory came in the 2014 Lalla Meryem Cup on the European Tour when she was four days short of her 18th birthday, held a one-stroke lead entering the final round. She stayed ahead with three birdies on the first seven holes, and when Ryu caught her on the back nine on her way to a 67, Hull added birdies on the 14th and 17th holes. Hull's total of 19-under 169 broke by two shots the tournament record set by Cristie Kerr in 2015. Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand tied for fourth to capture the season-long Race to the CME Globe.