PGA Golf

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  • Poulter heads field in Puerto Rico
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    With 64 of the world's top 69 players teeing up this week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, some might consider the Puerto Rico Open, the PGA Tour's opposite event, an afterthought.

    • But don't try to tell that to the 132 players that will battle at the Tom Kite-Bob Cupp designed course at the Coco Beach Golf and Country Club and the ever-present winds beginning Thursday in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, on the island's northeast corner.

      Since the tournament's inception in 2008, the Puerto Rico Open has helped elevate the careers of a bevy of PGA stars, including Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Argentina's Emiliano Grillo. All were able to tame the tough and long (7,569 yards) layout and used their wins as a springboard to successful stints on the PGA Tour.

      This year's tournament carries a total purse of $3 million, with $540,000 going to the winner.

      The field is highlighted by England's Ian Poulter, who won the Dell Match Play in 2010, and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, the 2010 U.S. Open champion.

      Poulter, who has won 13 times around the world, is poised to make his second consecutive start in this tournament. In last year's first start in Puerto Rico, he led by a stroke at 11-under 205 through 54 holes before finishing tied for third.

      "It's always nice to play a course you played well in the past," Poulter said. "Obviously last year's tournament was a good week for me. It's a good course. It sets up well for me in the wind. If we get decent wind over the four days, I'll be pretty happy with that.

      "The course is playing nicely and it's a little softer than it was last year so the ball's not quite got as much run on it," Poulter added. "That makes it a little easier on a couple of holes and it will make it difficult on a couple of the longer holes. So I think it kind of balances that out. But I'm looking forward to the week."

      McDowell will make his first start in the Puerto Rico Open this week. Four major championship winners are poised to take part in this week's tournament: Retief Goosen of South Africa (2001, 2004 U.S. Open), Trevor Immelman of South Africa (2008 Masters), Ben Curtis (2003 Open Championship) and McDowell.

      One player who won't be in the field is defending champion Tony Finau, who was the first alternate for the WGC-Dell Match Play and decided to take the chance that someone would pull out of that 64-player field at the last minute.

      "That was the only scenario that would pull me from Puerto Rico," Finau said. "It was a tough decision because I loved being in Puerto Rico and I told the fans last year in my winning speech I'd be back if I wasn't playing the Match Play, so it all kind of rang to me.

      "I'd like to think I'm going to play in (the Dell Match Play) in the years to come, so whether I get in this year or not I've seen the golf course and look forward to the years to come."

      Each of the last four winners of the Puerto Rico Open made the title their first on the PGA Tour: Scott Brown (2013), Chesson Hadley (2014) Alex Cejka (2015) and Finau (2016). Since its 2008 inception, there have been a total of six first-time winners in the event -- Greg Kraft (2008) and Derek Lamely (2010) complete that list.

      "I think these events are important," Poulter said. "Obviously it's very difficult to schedule so many tournaments in a calendar year, and when you've got an event opposite WGCs or other events, it gives a playing opportunity to other players and enables the tour to continue to expand and grow.

      "Even with this being opposite a big tournament, it's still got a good field and that's because people enjoy coming here to play."

  • Day withdraws from WGC-Match Play to be with ailing mom
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    AUSTIN, Texas -- Defending champion Jason Day of Australia withdrew from the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play after six holes on Wednesday to be with his ailing mother, who has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and will have surgery on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.

    • "My mom has lung cancer," Day said as he choked back tears while in the media center at Austin Country Club. "She's going in for surgery Friday. It's really hard to even comprehend being on the golf course right now because of what she's gone through."

      Day, ranked No. 3 in the world, conceded his first-round match in pool play on Wednesday on the sixth green. He was 3-down to Pat Perez after a double bogey on the par-5 fifth. Perez had birdied both the par -4 second hole and the par-3 fifth.

      According to Day, his mother, Dening Day, 60, was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year and was given just 12 months to live by her doctors in Australia. Day brought her to the James Cancer Center at the Ohio State University earlier this week and was encouraged by a more optimistic diagnosis.

      The first step to any recovery, Day said, was to remove the lump in his mother's lung.

      "I just need some time away with her to make sure that everything goes well because this has been very, very tough for me," Day said. "So I'm going to do my best and try and be there the best I can for her because she is the reason that I'm playing golf today. And family is first and it's just -- it's just a hard time.

      "Emotionally, it's been wearing on me for a while. And I know my mom says not to let it get to me, but it really has."

      Day's agent, Bud Martin, told the assembled media that Day tried to play out of a responsibility to his fans and the tournament and because his mother asked him.

      "It goes without saying that it's a real stress on him," Martin said. "Jason could have withdrawn from this tournament (before it started) but didn't do it. He got out here and -- who knows what goes through someone's mind when they are trying to compete at this level.

      "He feels very bad about withdrawing as any champion would. He just couldn't go on competing. The most important thing in his world right now is being with his mom Friday during that surgery. Being by her side in Ohio is something that I think just overwhelmed him."

  • Tiger hopes to play Masters in two weeks
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 20, 2017

    Tiger Woods continues to struggle with back issues but the 14-time major champion has not ruled out playing the Masters in two weeks.

    • "God, I hope so," Woods said when asked by "Good Morning America" host Michael Strahan if he would be able to play in the upcoming Masters. "I'm trying. I'm trying every day to get back and play.

      "I love that event. It's meant so much to me in my life. It's the first major I ever played back in '95. It has so much history and meaning to me that I'd love to get back.''

      Woods appeared on the ABC show in New York to promote his new book, "The 1997 Masters: My Story.'' He won the first of his majors 20 years ago at Augusta National by a record 12 shots at age 21.

      Woods has not played a golf tournament since back pain caused him to pull out of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Feb. 3.

      The 41-year-old Woods is attempting to recover from two back surgeries in 2015 that led to a 17-month layoff.

      "I need to get back physically," Woods said Monday. "I know the mind is sharp. I just need to get the body willing to do it. I haven't been able to train like I used to or practice like I used to. It's been harder. My priorities have changed a lot. My kids now dominate my life, and I think that's a good thing."

      Earlier this month, Woods said there was no timetable to his return.

      Woods, a winner of 79 PGA Tour events, has until the first day of the Masters on Thursday, April 6 to decide whether he is playing. Past champions of the Masters are invited to participate for life and there is no commitment deadline.

  • Match play suits Reed's game
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 20, 2017

    Perhaps match play will revive Patrick Reed's game.

    • Reed has been one of the best players on the PGA Tour in recent years, recording five victories since 2013, and last year he was a driving force for the United States with a 3-1-1 record as the Americans regained the Ryder Cup from Europe at Hazeltine in October.

      He will look for that same form this week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. A year ago, he went 3-0 through group play before Dustin Johnson, now No. 1 in the world, beat him in the round of 16, 3 and 2.

      Reed is looking forward to being back in his native Texas, despite a slow start to 2017.

      "You can kind of trick it up and it's just a one-on-one thing where if you make a triple bogey on a tricked-up hole, it's not that big of a deal," Reed said of the format and the venue, which hosted the WGC event for the first time last year.

      "But Austin Country Club had a lot of fun holes, a lot of fair holes, and really didn't suit any particular style of play, so it was a good course for everybody."

      The 26-year-old Reed teamed with fellow Texan Jordan Spieth for a 2-1-1 record on the first two days at the Ryder Cup before he defeated Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, 1 up, in singles as the Americans regained the trophy for the first time since 2008.

      Everyone expected Reed would take his game to new heights after earning the nickname "Captain America" while improving his record to 6-1-2 in two appearances the biennial event, but strangely he hasn't been the same since.

      Following a season in which he finished in the top 10 on 11 occasions, he closed out the year by tying for 51st in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, tying for 60th in the WGC HSBC Champions in China and tying for 43rd in the UBS Hong Kong Open before finishing 10th among 17 players at the Hero World Challenge in Bermuda in December.

      Reed simply was out of gas after playing 14 times in 16 weeks through the Ryder Cup, including the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where he tied for 11th.

      "It felt like China and even whenever I got to Hero and Hong Kong, it felt like those events, my body and my mind were not ready," said Reed, who played in 32 events in 2016 and a total of 66 around the world in the last two years. "I was not ready to pick up a club and play.

      "Physically and mentally, I could not pull the club back and couldn't swing. Lost all my speed, all my distance, and my mental game and thought process on the golf course was kind of shot."

      Reed started 2017 with a tie for sixth in the SBS Tournament of Champions despite a virus he picked up from his daughter. That result is his only top-10 finish in nine starts this year.

      In his past five starts, he finished in the top 25 only when he tied for 23rd in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

      Reed was asked if he might limit his schedule in the future.

      "It's hard to say," replied Reed, who has slipped from a career high of No. 7 in the Official World Golf Ranking last year to No. 12 last week. "Do I need to? Yes. Am I going to? I don't know. We'll have to see how the year is going.

      "It's just hard. I love to play. I know that number needs to get lower, but at the same time, I miss it too much being out on the road, grinding, especially at this time of my life with my daughter being young enough, the whole family travels. ... I know when she gets older, that's going to be harder. That's probably the time I'll start to cut back a little bit. But right now, I just want to go and play. ...

      "The problem with me is I love to compete. I don't want to sit home."

      Reed tied for 61st in the WGC-Mexico Championship and tied for 38th in the Valspar Championship in his last two events.

      Last month, Reed was forced to withdraw a few days before the inaugural ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth, a unique match-play event in Australia, because of a respiratory infection.

      The tournament is sanctioned by the European Tour, of which he is a member, the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour.

      "It was a tournament I was very excited to be playing in; the format had captured my imagination and I was looking forward to the match-play component," he said. "Withdrawing from the event is not a decision I made lightly. I have done everything I can to make the trip possible, but my health and the advice of doctors is not something I can overlook."

      It seems Reed's game is not the only thing that needs to get well.

  • Golf glance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 20, 2017

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas, Wednesday through Sunday.

      TV: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 1-7 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel; Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel and 1-5 p.m. EDT on NBC; and Sunday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel and 2-6 p.m. EDT on NBC.

      LAST YEAR: Jason Day of Australia, who captured the Arnold Palmer Invitational a week earlier, rose to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking by dominating Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa in the match-play final, 5 and 4. It was the largest margin in the championship match since Tiger Woods beat Stewart Cink, 8 and 7, in 2008 at Dove Mountain in Arizona. The Aussie, who won for the sixth time in his past 13 PGA Tour events, joined Woods and Geoff Ogilvy as the only multiple winners of the WGC-Match Play, also having won in 2014. Day, who almost withdrew early in the tournament when his back tightened up, beat Graeme McDowell, Thongchai Jaidee, Paul Casey (conceded), Brandt Snedeker, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy en route to the final.

      PGA Tour: Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 2-5:30 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Tony Finau claimed his first victory on the PGA Tour, making a 3-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole after blasting out of a greenside bunker. After Finau and Steve Marino matched birdies on the first two extra holes, Marino missed a 5-foot birdie putt to the right of the hole before Finau sank the winner. Finau and Marino, who was seeking his first PGA Tour victory, both closed with 2-under-par 70s, with Marino forcing the playoff by making a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak Golf Resort in Gulfport, Miss., March 31-April 2.

      TV: Friday, 9:30-11:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 3-5 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain won for the third straight year on the PGA Tour Champions, shooting a bogey-free, 8-under-par 64 in the final round to beat Scott Dunlap by two strokes. The 52-year-old Spaniard, who has won 27 times in his pro career, started the final round three shots behind Dunlap but took control with four consecutive birdies -- starting with a 55-footer from the fringe on the 10th hole. Jimenez, who won for the third time in 10 starts on the senior circuit, played the last 30 holes of the tournament without a bogey. Dunlap, whose only victory on the PGA Tour Champions came in the 2014 Boeing Classic, closed with a 69.

      LPGA TOUR: Kia Classic at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif., Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 8:30-11:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 6-9 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Top-ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand birdied the final three holes to shoot her third straight 5-under-par 67 and beat No. 2 Inbee Park of South Korea by four strokes for her 11th LPGA Tour victory at the age of 18. Ko captured her first major title a week later at the ANA Inspiration, and she has since run her victory total to 14. She was one stroke ahead of Park at Aviara before holing a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole, followed by an 8-footer at 17 and a 15-footer on the final hole. Park, regaining her form after recovering from a back injury, also finished with a 67.

  • Golf notebook: Mississippi club lands '19 U.S. Women's Amateur
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 20, 2017

    --Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss., will host the 2019 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship, the United States Golf Association announced.

    • The event is scheduled for Aug. 5-11, 2019, and will be the third USGA championship contested at Old Waverly, which hosted the 1999 U.S. Women's Open and 2006 U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur championships.

      "The USGA is proud to bring one of our three oldest championships to Old Waverly in 2019," said Stuart Francis, USGA championship committee chairman. "The U.S. Women's Amateur attracts the world's best female amateur players, and we are confident Old Waverly will provide a fair and comprehensive test that identifies a champion worthy of hoisting the historic Robert Cox Trophy."

      The course at Old Waverly, designed by Bob Cupp and Jerry Pate, a U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur champion, opened for play in September 1988.

      Juli Inkster, a three-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion, won the 1999 U.S. Women's Open by three strokes at Old Waverly with a 72-hole score of 272, tied for the best in tournament history.

      In 2006, Meghan Stasi won the first of her four U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur titles at Old Waverly with a 5-and-4 victory over Thuhashini Selvaratnam of Sri Lanka.

      "It is an honor to host the 119th U.S. Women's Amateur Championship at Old Waverly," said George Bryan, Old Waverly's club founder. "We have a strong history of supporting competitive amateur golf, and we look forward to welcoming the best female amateurs in the game to our course and to the state of Mississippi in 2019."

      The 2019 Women's Amateur will be the fourth USGA championship played in Mississippi. Annandale Golf Club in Madison hosted the 1986 U.S. Mid-Amateur, won by Bill Loeffler.

      The 2017 Women's Amateur will be conducted Aug. 7-13 at San Diego Country Club, in Chula Vista, Calif.

      --Muirfield Golf Club ended a 273-year policy by voting to allow women members, which put the club in Gullane, Scotland, back in the rotation for the Open Championship.

      The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, with 92.7 percent of its members voting, struck down the ban with a little more than 80 percent casting ballots in favor of the move. A two-thirds majority was required.

      "In light of (the) decision by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers we can confirm that Muirfield will become a venue for The Open once again," the R&A said in a statement. "Muirfield has a long and important history of hosting The Open and with today's announcement that will continue. It is extremely important for us in staging one of the world's greatest sporting events that women can become members at all of our host clubs.

      "Muirfield is a truly outstanding Open venue and we are very much looking forward to taking the Championship back there in the future."

      When a similar vote was held last May after pressure from many quarters to allow women, only 64 percent voted to allow women.

      As a result, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers removed Muirfield from the Open rotation at the time.

      "This is a significant decision for a club which was founded in 1744 and retains many of the values and aspirations of its founding members," Muirfield's club captain Henry Fairweather said. "We look forward to welcoming women as members who will enjoy, and benefit from, the great traditions and friendly spirit of this remarkable club."

      Muirfield hosted the Open Championship for the 16th time in 2013, when Phil Mickelson claimed the Claret Jug and earned a third leg of the career Grand Slam.

      Open venues have been selected through 2021, so the earliest Muirfield could host the tournament again is 2022.

      --Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who has 31 victories, in his pro career including three major titles, withdrew before the start of the Arnold Palmer Invitational because he will undergo neck surgery.

      The 45-year-old Harrington said in a post on Twitter that he is opting for the surgery now because he wants to be healthy for the Open Championship in July at Royal Birkdale, where he claimed the title in 2008.

      His message on Twitter read: "Sorry I'm missing out on honouring Arnold Palmer's legacy at the @APinv this week. But I'm going to have neck surgery on a trapped nerve. Having surgery on a trapped nerve between C6and C7. Looks like I'll be out for 8 to 10 weeks. Targeting a comeback at the Memorial in May."

      Harrington, who said a few weeks ago that he hoped to avoid an operation, has missed the cut in four of five events on the PGA Tour this season, also tying for 39th in the Genesis Open at Riviera.

      In 2007, Harrington beat Sergio Garcia in a playoff to win the Open Championship at Carnoustie for his first major title, then repeated a year later at Royal Birkdale.

      Three weeks later, he captured the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, giving him three major titles in a span of six starts.

      --The LPGA Tour launched a "Changing the Face of the Game" campaign before the Bank of Hope Founders Cup last week at JW Marriott Phoenix Resort in Phoenix.

      To mark the campaign's beginning, Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and LPGA Foundation president Nancy Henderson held a press conference along with LPGA player Sandra Gal of Germany and Kyla Wilde, a product of LPGA-USGA Girls Golf of Phoenix.

      "We learned early on with Girls Golf that if you let young women come together in an all-girls environment, they begin to really enjoy the game and the retention rate is unbelievable," Whan said of the LPGA Tour initiative that began in 2011. "We introduced the Founders Cup, back in 2011, when we all decided to play for no purse and just pass it all forward to support Girls Golf, acting with a Founder mentality.

      "When I talk to an LPGA Founder today, she is proud of what has happened to television and excited about our growth in purses, but what she really likes is what we are doing in terms of leaving the game better for the next generation of young women, and building a pipeline that can truly change the face of golf longer term."

      Statistics indicate that girls under the age of 18 represent the fastest growing sector in the U.S. golf population since 2010. More than 60,000 girls were engaged last year by the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf initiative, a staggering increase of 1,000 percent since in 2011.

      The LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program, which began in Phoenix in 1989, specializes in providing a "girl-friendly" environment for juniors to learn and play the game of golf. The program has expanded to nearly 400 sites across the United States, with close to 40 being added in the last year.

      More than 40 members of the LPGA and Symetra Tours began their golf careers at a Girls Golf program, including Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel, Cheyenne Woods, Mariah Stackhouse, Vicky Hurst and Kathleen Ekey.

      Junior golf increased in participation by 600,000 from 2011 to 2015, according to a study by the Sports Industry Association.

      --The European Tour announced that its Players' Player of the Year Award has been renamed the Seve Ballesteros Award.

      Henrik Stenson received the first award under that name for his play in 2016, when he captured the Open Championship at Royal Troon and the Euro Tour's Race to Dubai for the second time in four years.

      "I am truly honored to be the first player to receive it after it has been renamed the Seve Ballesteros Award," said Stenson, who also claimed the award in 2013. "Seve was one of my idols and an icon of the game, which makes it that much more special to receive this from my peers."

      Ballesteros, the Spanish great who captured 91 titles in his career, including five majors, died of brain cancer in 2011 at the age of 54.

  • Birdie binge lifts Hoffman into Bay Hill lead
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, March 17, 2017

    Charley Hoffman's second round didn't get off to a good start Friday, but he finished with the lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla.

    • Hoffman recovered from a bogey on his opening hole with seven birdies to shoot a 6-under-par 66 for a 10-under 135 total and a one-shot advantage over first-round leader Emiliano Grillo of Argentina.

      Grillo followed an opening 67 with a 68 and was at 135 through 36 holes in the PGA event named for the legendary Palmer, who died last year.

      Alone in third at 136 after a 69 was Matthew Fitzpatrick of England. Next at 137 were Lucas Glover, Kevin Kisler and Marc Leishman.

      Leishman had the best second round of the three with a 66. Kisner posted a 67 and Glover a 69.

      Hoffman's seven birdies included the closing hole on each nine.

      Ranked No. 85 in the FedExCup standings, Hoffman missed the cut last week at the Valspar Championship. He is searching for his first win since the 2016 Valero Texas Open.

      Grillo fell out of the lead in spite of chip-in eagles at Nos. 12 and 16. Justin Rose also had two eagles at No. 4 and No. 16.

      "It was a very up-and-down round out there," said Grillo, the 2016 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. "I somehow managed to post a good round. I didn't hit it good off the tee."

      Adam Hadwin, the winner last week at the Valspar Championship, was tied for 10th at 140 after a second consecutive 70.

      Defending champion Jason Day, ranked No. 2 in the world rankings, was tied for 13th at 141 after a 71. He has made just four starts this year because of injuries and illness with his best finish a tie for fifth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

      Rory McElroy, ranked No. 3, made the cut after carding a 71 that included an eagle at No. 16.

      Palmer's grandson, Sam Saunders, missed the cut by one shot after two 74s.

  • McIlroy: 'Obscene' Muirfield did not allow women members
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, March 15, 2017

    Rory McIlroy didn't hold back when addressing why Muirfield took as long as it did to allow women members for the first time at its famed links course in East Lothian, Scotland.

    • "In this day and age, where you've got women that are the leaders of certain industries and women that are heads of state, and not to be able to join a golf course?" McIlroy said Wednesday, one day after a rule change to admit women passed on a second vote (498 to 123) at Muirfield.

      "I mean, it's obscene. Like it's ridiculous. So they sort of saw sense. And yeah, we'll go back and we'll play The Open Championship, because they will let women members in, but every time I go to Muirfield now I won't have a great taste in my mouth."

      The four-time major winner from Northern Ireland didn't enjoy his last trip to Muirfield when the Open was contested there in 2013. He missed the cut.

      As for his next visit, McIlroy doesn't plan to be too cordial with those who voted against allowing women as members.

      "I won't be having many cups of tea with the members afterwards," the 27-year-old McIlroy said.

  • British course Muirfield will admit women
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, March 14, 2017

    Muirfield is back in the British Open rotation after voting to admit women.

    • The famed links course in East Lothian, Scotland was removed from approved Open Championship venues last May after failing to approve a two-thirds member vote to include women in the club.

      On Tuesday, the rule change to admit women passed on a second vote (498 to 123), allowing Muirfield to be re-instated.

      "This is a significant decision for a club which was founded in 1744 and retains many of the values and aspirations of its founding members," said Henry Fairweather, captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which runs Muirfield.

      "We look forward to welcoming women as members who will enjoy, and benefit from, the great traditions and friendly spirit of this remarkable club".

      Muirfield has hosted The Open Championship 16 times, most recently in 2013 when Phil Mickelson bested Sweeden's Henrik Stenson by three strokes for the last of his five major championship victories.

  • Palmer Invitational goes on without Arnie
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 13, 2017

    The tournament that evolved into the Arnold Palmer Invitational will be played for the 51st time this week, but "The King" will not be there to hold court -- other than in spirit.

    • Palmer, universally recognized as the most popular and revered figure in the history of the game, died in September at age 87, and the show will go on without him.

      It will never be the same.

      Not only did Palmer serve as tournament host, but he also was highly visible throughout tournament week, greeting players and pro-am participants, signing autographs and taking pictures with fans, and watching play near the 16th green at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla.

      Then he would present the trophy to the winner on Sunday afternoon.

      Arnie could not be replaced by only one person, so tournament officials have selected golf greats Peter Jacobsen, Graeme McDowell, Annika Sorenstam and Curtis Strange, plus Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security and a family friend, to share his duties.

      "Arnold was a force of nature, on and off the course," said McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion who also will be in the tournament field. "We can't fill his shoes, but we can carry on his passion for helping others. I live with my family in Orlando, and my children were born at Winnie Palmer Hospital, so I've been a direct beneficiary of Arnold's charitable legacy. I'm honored to be part of such a remarkable event."

      There was never a fan Arnie didn't have time for, an autograph he couldn't sign, a picture he couldn't pose for or a good cause he couldn't support.

      Oh, and he was a pretty good player, too, posting 95 professional victories around the world, including seven major titles.

      Some of his peers are among his biggest fans.

      "It's a great honor," Jacobsen said of being asked to be part of the tournament. "There are a lot of great things planned."

      On Saturday, a 13-foot bronze statue of Palmer was unveiled at Bay Hill, just in time for tournament week. It is a replica of the one that stands at Wake Forest University, Palmer's alma mater.

      The statue, weighing 1,392 pounds, depicts Palmer as he finishes his somewhat unorthodox but powerful swing, said to be taken from an image of Arnie about the time of his victory in the 1964 Masters.

      "There will be no ropes or fences around this statue," said Marci Doyle, chief operating officer of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. "It will be infinitely approachable, just like Mr. Palmer."

      The tournament was first played as the Florida Citrus Open in 1966 at Rio Pinar Country in Orlando, where Lionel Hebert won the inaugural event by one stroke over Jack Nicklaus, Charles Coody and Dick Lytle.

      Palmer finished second the following year and in 1970 before claiming the title the next year by one shot over Julius Boros.

      Arnie was born and raised in Latrobe, Pa., and that always was his primarily residence, but he enjoyed Central Florida so much that in 1970 he took a five-year lease with an option to buy Bay Hill, taking ownership in 1975.

      Then he negotiated to have Bay Hill become host site of the Florida Citrus Invitational and the tournament was called the Bay Hill Invitational until taking Palmer's name in 2007.

      Tiger Woods, who can't play this week because of ongoing back problems, has won the tournament a record eight times, the last in 2013, while Gary Koch, Tom Kite, Loren Roberts, Ernie Els and Matt Every each won it twice.

      Bay Hill has long been one of the more popular stops on the PGA Tour, and this week defending champion Jason Day of Australia will lead a field that includes major champions Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Justin Rose of England, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer of Germany, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Zach Johnson, Danny Willett of England, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Webb Simpson, Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Vijay Singh of Fiji, Trevor Immelman of South Africa, John Daly, Retief Goosen of South Africa, McDowell and Els.

      Other top players entered are Every, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Ryan Moore, Ian Poulter of England, Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, Paul Casey of England, Harris English,

      Tommy Fleetwood of England and Aaron Baddeley of Australia.

      Many are coming to pay their respects to Palmer and have special memories of Bay Hill and Arnie, most notably Day.

      "It's obviously a memory that is very special, that I'll always carry with me, to think I was the last player to sit down and have that celebratory drink with him after winning," said Day, whose one-stroke victory over Kevin Chappell last year helped him rise to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking when he won the WGC-Dell Match Play a week later.

      "I look forward to going back simply because it holds so many good memories for me."

      Like everyone else this week, Day is a member of "Arnie's Army."

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

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 2-6 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel; Saturday and Sunday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel and 2:30-6 p.m. EDT on NBC.

      LAST YEAR: Jason Day of Australia got up and down from a greenside bunker on the final hole, sinking a 4-foot par putt to close out a 2-under-par 70 and beat Kevin Chappell by one stroke for the first of his three victories on the PGA Tour last season. Day, who rose to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking by winning the WGC-Match Play a week later, lost a two-stroke lead to Chappell with three bogeys on the front nine, but he recovered by hitting the ball close for birdies on the ninth and 12th holes. Then he tied for lead with a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 17. Chappell, seeking his first PGA Tour victory, needed three shots to reach the final green, then missed a 25-foot par putt to force a playoff and closed with a 69.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Tucson Conquistadores Championship Classic at Omni Tucson National in Tucson, Ariz., Friday through Sunday.

      TV: Friday, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 5-7 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Woody Austin won for the first time on the Champions Tour in his 28th start, salvaging a bogey after hitting his tee shot into the water on the final hole to beat Jim Carter by one stroke. Austin, who added two victories later in the season on the senior circuit after winning four times in his PGA Tour career, took the lead in his closing 7-under-par 65 when he holed his third shot for an eagle on the 15th hole. He also opened with a 65 and had a 70 in round two. Carter, still looking for his first Champions Tour victory after winning once on the PGA Tour, shot 63 in round two, but his closing birdie in a final-round 68 left him one shot short.

      LPGA TOUR: Bank of Hope Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. EDT; Sunday, 7-9 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Sei Young Kim of South Korea, 2015 Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year on the LPGA Tour, closed with a bogey-free, 10-under-par 62 -- including an eagle on the 11th hole -- to win by five strokes over top-ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand. Kim, who won three times on the circuit as a rookie, claimed the first of her two victories in 2016 and tied the tournament record of 27-under 261 set by Annika Sorenstam in 2001, when the Swede became the first and still only player to shoot 59 on the circuit in the second round of what was then the Standard Register Ping. Kim, who has five victories on the LPGA of Korea Tour, opened with a 63 and led almost from wire to wire.

  • Golf notebook: Stenson to sit out WGC Match Play
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 13, 2017

    --Henrik Stenson of Sweden announced that he will skip the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play next week, the second consecutive year he is passing on the event.

    • Stenson, ranked sixth in the world, does not like the change in the tournament's format that took place in 2015.

      Instead of a 64-player, knockout-style bracket, there is now round-robin pool play before deciding who will advance to the Round of 16.

      "I was not that keen on the round robin," said Stenson, who won the tournament in 2007 with a 2-and-1 victory over Geoff Ogilvy in the final. "To me, match play is do-or-die. Either I win or I lose. I kind of like that format.

      "(In addition), the scheduling is a big part of it. Given that I want to play the week before Augusta (next month), I've played in the Middle East, I've had a couple weeks off and then I need to pick up some pace and play a few tournaments.

      "Then I have this stretch of three weeks, I need a breather at some point, and that's the week I need to take off. Like I said, you're not going to have everyone playing every week."

      Stenson has a 25-18-5 career record in match play.

      --Steve Stricker of the United States and Nick Price of Zimbabwe, the captains for this year's Presidents Cup, are allowed a fourth assistant captain for the first time in the event's history.

      Stricker selected Jim Furyk to join Fred Couples, Davis Love III and Tiger Woods as his assistants for the United States, while Price chose Mike Weir of Canada to Ernie Els of Australia, Tony Johnstone of Zimbabwe and Geoff Ogilvy of Australia as assistants for the International Team.

      "I'm really looking forward to the Presidents Cup at Liberty National later this year, and I'm glad to be a part of Steve's team as a captain's assistant," said Furyk, who is the U.S. captain for the 2018 Ryder Cup.

      "I love the Presidents Cup and the strategy, camaraderie and competition that make it so special, so to be able to work with Steve in the lead-up to the event will be a lot of fun."

      Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, will serve a second stint as a captain's assistant for the Presidents Cup after working under Jay Haas on the victorious 2015 U.S. team following his withdrawal from the competition because of a wrist injury.

      A seven-time Presidents Cup participant (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011), Furyk has an overall record of 20-10-3, including a 5-0-0 performance in 2011.

      Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, will make his first appearance as a captain's assistant after competing in five Presidents Cups (2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009).

      The Canadian has a 13-9-2 record in the Presidents Cup, including 3-1-1 when the event was played in Canada in 2007, capped by a 1-up victory over Woods in singles.

      "The Presidents Cup has been such a big part of my professional career, and some of my fondest memories are from the competition and, perhaps even more so, the team cabins," Weir said.

      "I'm excited to be a part of the International Team again, especially alongside Ernie, Geoff and Tony, with an aim to help Captain Price and the International Team win back the Cup."

      The 2017 Presidents Cup will be played at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J., from Sept. 26-Oct. 1.

      --Lorena Ochoa, the retired Mexican legend, said at the PGA Tour's WGC-Mexico Championship she would play competitively for the first time since 2012 in the Lorena Ochoa Match Play from May 4-7.

      That would be her first time playing her tournament or any LPGA Tour event since 2012.

      The media ran with it, but it turns out that the 35-year-old Ochoa will be playing only in Hall of Fame exhibitions along with Annika Sorenstam of Sweden, Juli Inkster and Se Re Pak of South Korea during the weekend of the tournament.

      "I know I'm going to play, so I've been practicing a couple of days a week," Ochoa told reporters during the WGC event at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, where the women's event also will be played. "But I promise after tomorrow, I'm going to practice every day. I play OK. I enjoy it.

      "I cannot hit after my 6-iron. The 5-iron and 4-iron, it's impossible. The driver is OK. For sure, I don't have the strength, so it is difficult to play the long irons. If I get in the rough, I don't know what I'll do. ... It's been a long time. We'll see what happens."

      Alejandro Ochoa, her brother, said a few days later that she did not want to be specific about her participation ahead of the announcement of the Hall of Fame exhibition matches.

      Ochoa's tournament will be played under the match-play format for the first

      time. It will be the first match play event on the LPGA Tour in four years.

      Ochoa claimed 30 titles in her career, including two majors, before retiring in 2010 when she was No. 1 in the Rolex World Rankings, as she wanted to start a family. She and her husband have three children.

      --The LPGA Tour announced the introduction of LPGA Travel in partnership with HotelPlanner.com.

      LPGA Travel will provide booking of discounted hotel rooms for LPGA fans, partners, players, teachers, tournaments, media, volunteers and those associated with the tour.

      It also will be a resource for planning details of corporate meetings and provide 24/7 service via phone as well as online.

      LPGA Travel can be accessed at www.lpga.hotelplanner.com or through links on LPGA.com and is open to utilize when booking travel to LPGA events, organizing private golfing adventures or setting up business meetings.

      --Only a few weeks after insisting that golf does not have a problem with the ball traveling too far, United States Golf Association chief executive officer Mike Davis might have had a change of heart.

      Davis, speaking at the North American Golf Innovation Symposium, suggested golf could go to a ball that does not travel so far.

      "If you think about it, we already bifurcate distance," Davis said at the symposium. "We bifurcate distance because we play from different teeing grounds. But what happens if all of a sudden I want to play with (top-ranked) Dustin Johnson and say, 'Dustin, here's an 80 percent golf ball, I'm going to use a 100 percent golf ball and we're going to play the same tees.' It sounds radical, but it might not (be).

      "Throw Dustin an 80 percent golf ball and say: 'Let's go play the back tees,' and guess what? It would be a great experience for him. He'd be able to play this wonderful, historic golf course that, by and large, he can't play anymore."

      With an 80 percent golf ball, Johnson would average about 252 yards, well below his 2016-17 average of 316.2 yards.

      Among those who have said the modern golf ball goes too far is Jack Nicklaus, considered the greatest golfer of all time with a record 18 major titles.

      "I think with the length the guys hit today ... I tell you, the simplest solution is change the frigging golf ball," Nicklaus said at the Masters last year. "The golf ball goes so far.

      "Augusta National is about the only place, the only golf course in the world that financially can afford to make the changes that they have to make to keep up with the golf ball. I don't think anybody else could ever do it."

      Expect push-back from the golf ball manufacturers if the discussion heats up.

  • Woods to miss Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, March 10, 2017

    Tiger Woods continues to struggle with back issues and has pulled out of next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, Fla.

    • Woods was hoping he'd be healthy to play in the event, the first at the Orlando-area course since the legendary Palmer died in September at age 87.

      "Unfortunately, due to ongoing rest and rehabilitation on my back, I won't be able to play in this year's Arnold Palmer Invitational," Woods said on his website. "I'm especially disappointed because I wanted to be at Bay Hill to help honor Arnold. This is one event I didn't want to skip."

      Woods, 41, is attempting to recover from two back surgeries in 2015 that led to a 17-month layoff.

      He hasn't played since he withdrew from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Feb. 3.

      The only other tournament Woods has been able to play in during 2017 was the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in late January. He missed the cut.

      Woods has previously expressed that he would like to play in the Masters next month. But right now, he's not sure when he can get back on the course.

      "Presently, I have no timetable for my return to golf, but my treatments are continuing and going well."

  • Schwartzel set to defend title at 'Snake Pit'
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, March 8, 2017

    The PGA Tour returns to Florida after a week south of the border and is back to a full field as 144 players, including defending champion Charl Schwartzel and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Henrik Stenson, compete at the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club's Copperhead Course, in Palm Harbor, Fla.

    • The field also includes 19 of the top 30 players in the current FedExCup standings, including FedExCup leader Justin Thomas and No. 8 Gary Woodland, the 2011 Valspar Championship winner. Thirteen major championship winners who have combined for 19 major championship titles, including four-time major winner Ernie Els, are among the competitors here this week.

      The golfers will be challenged by the Copperhead Course, which plays to a par of 71 and at 7,340 yards as they vie for a total purse of $6.3 million, of which $1.134 million goes to the winner. Its famed three-hole finish is nicknamed the "Snake Pit," for its difficulty and impact.

      All three holes -- a 475-yard par-4, followed by a par-3 and finishing with another par-4 -- played at over par in last year's event and the stretch is considered one of the toughest closing groups on the PGA Tour

      Schwartzel, of South Africa, won here in 2016 in just his second start at this event. He fashioned a final-round, 4-under 67 and tied 54-hole leader Bill Haas (72) to force a sudden-death playoff between the two players.

      With a par at the first extra hole, No. 18, Schwartzel claimed his second career PGA Tour win in his 129th start on the circuit. Schwartzel also became the eighth player to come from behind in the final round to win the Valspar Championship.

      Schwartzel's chance to repeat as champion took a hit -- literally -- during Wednesday's pro-am when he was struck on his left wrist by a golf ball that bounced off a tree.

      "I've played golf for 28 years and I've never been hit by a golf ball -- until this morning," Schwartzel said, trying to laugh off the incident. "It was a fluke. I stopped playing after 10 holes -- I couldn't hold the club anymore. It's just the muscle and it's swollen, so I've started taking pain-killers. Hopefully, it's good tomorrow morning. I'll keep icing it."

      He was feeling really good about things heading into the tournament, too.

      "I took a lot of time off -- I was supposed to play in Hawaii, but I had a problem with my knee," Schwartzel said. "That's healed now. Everything feels great as far as my game. I just need to start playing some rounds."

      Last year's playoff was just the third in Valspar Championship history, and second consecutive. The first occurred in 2012, when Luke Donald defeated Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus and Sangmoon Bae. In 2015, Jordan Spieth defeated Sean O'Hair and Patrick Reed.

      Stenson, last year's British Open champion, likes the course at Innisbrook and this tournament's spot on the golf calendar as he prepares to take a run at the Masters in April. He is the fifth-ranked player in the world and winner of the 2013 FedExCup,

      The Swede will be making just his third start of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season this week. Stenson finished in a tie for second at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions and will be making his third start in the Valspar Championship. In 2015, he finished fourth here, just one shot out of the playoff. He finished tied for 11th last season.

      "It's a golf course I think suits my game pretty well as the two previous visits here have shown, and I hope I can be there on Sunday afternoon with a chance to win," Stenson said. "It's a good golf course -- a second-shot golf course. A lot of times, you have to position yourself off the tee.

      "It's the beginning of a good stretch of tournaments leading into Augusta, so we want to try to get to the Masters in the right direction with where the game is at and what we need to keep on working on leading into the first major of the year."

      The Valspar is the 17th official event of the PGA Tour's wraparound 2016-17 season schedule, which consists of 47 tournaments, including the four FedExCup Playoff events, and culminates with the Tour Championship.

      Through last week's World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, seven of the nine winners in the 2017 calendar year have been inside the top 25 in the Official World Golf Ranking, including Thomas (SBS Tournament of Champions, No. 22); Thomas (Sony Open in Hawaii/ then No. 12); Hideki Matsuyama (Waste Management Phoenix Open/ No. 5); Spieth (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am/ No. 6); Dustin Johnson (Genesis Open/No. 3); Rickie Fowler (The Honda Classic/No. 14); and Johnson (WGC-Mexico Championship/No. 1).

  • Park cracks top 10 in Rolex rankings
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 6, 2017

    South Korean Inbee Park, who won the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore over the weekend, moved up three spots to No. 9 in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings released Monday.

    • Park won by one stroke after closing with a round of 8-under 64 on Sunday to finish one shot ahead of No. 2-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand.

      Lydia Ko of New Zealand remains atop the Rolex Rankings for the 72nd consecutive week while Jutanugarn holds the second ranking for the 32nd straight week.

      No. 3 China's Shanshan Feng and South Korea's In Gee Chun swapped places, while Ha-Na Jang of South Korea rounded out the top five.

      Lexi Thompson dropped two spots as the top American at No. 7, with Stacy Lewis falling one slot to 14th.

  • Notebook: Petition calls for '17 Open to move from Trump course
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 6, 2017

    --UltraViolet, a national women's advocacy organization, announced that more than 100,000 people signed a petition calling on the United States Golf Association and the LPGA Tour to move the 2017 U.S. Women's Open from Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

    • The petition, which is addressed to U.S. Golf Association CEO Mike Davis and LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan, states that holding the tournament at Trump National will give millions of dollars in revenue, free advertising and branding to President Donald Trump.

      "Golf is a sport that carries a long history of sexism, racism and mistreatment of those with disabilities," said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet. "Up until 1961, people of color were banned from participating in the PGA Tour, and the sport once banned Casey Martin, born with a leg birth defect, from using a golf cart.

      "That's why it is so upsetting to see the USGA and LPGA continue to associate the sport with a racist, serial sexual abuser, who mocks people with disabilities. The USGA and LPGA need to send a clear signal to young golfers, including women, people of color and people with disabilities that it stands for inclusiveness, and move the upcoming U.S. Women's Open from Trump National Golf Course."

      U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Dick Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Davis late last year asking that the tournament be moved because of comments Trump made during the presidential campaign, but the USGA and LPGA Tour have not budged.

      The PGA Tour, under pressure, canceled the 2015 Grand Slam of Golf, which was scheduled for Trump National Golf Club-Los Angeles.

      The Tour also moved the WGC-Cadillac Championship from the Blue Monster Course at Trump National Doral in Miami to Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, where it was played last week.

      The 2017 U.S. Women's Open Tournament is scheduled for July 13-16.

      --The Jake, a fundraising tournament for the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, set a record when it raised $2.9 million for charity to help children not only in South Florida, but around the country.

      The event, played annually at The Bear's Club in Jupiter, Fla., surpassed the $2 million mark for the fourth consecutive year to help the Nicklaus Foundation support the Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami and its network of outpatient centers.

      Andy North, who captured the U.S. Open in 1978 and 1985, led his team to victory in the pro-am event, combining with Marc Bibeau, Robert Bibeau, Dr. Ronald Denis and Maurice Pinsonneault for a tournament-record net score of 13-under-par 49.

      Among the PGA Tour pros who competed in the event were Rickie Fowler, Daniel Berger, Keegan Bradley, Scott Brown, Jon Curran, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Ken Duke, Ernie Els, Lucas Glover, Branden Grace, David Hearn, Morgan Hoffmann, Smylie Kaufman, Brooks Koepka, Anirban Lahiri, Jamie Lovemark, Patrick Rodgers, Brendan Steele, Justin Thomas, Cameron Tringale and Camilo Villegas.

      The Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation is the primary beneficiary of the Honda Classic, which was played later in the week on the Champion Course at nearby PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

      Last year, the Honda Classic presented the Nicklaus Foundation a $1 million grant, the highest in the history of their partnership.

      --Simon Hobday of South Africa, considered one of the most colorful characters in golf history but also a fine player, died Thursday at the age of 76, it was announced by the Sunshine Tour in Pretoria, South Africa.

      Hobday captured 17 professional titles in his career between 1969 and 1995.

      "His passing is a massive loss to the game of golf in general, and in South Africa in particular," Sunshine Tour executive director Selwyn Nathan said. "He was a wonderful player and a larger-than-life character who gave everyone who played with him or watched him play a great deal of pleasure."

      Hobday had a reputation as a carouser, practical joker and raconteur, which sometimes overshadowed the fact that he was considered one of the best ball-strikers of his era.

      His notable victories came in the 1971 South African Open, the 1976 German Open and the 1979 Madrid Open on the European Tour. He also won six times on the Sunshine Tour.

      After playing mostly in Europe and South Africa earlier, Hobday came to the United States after turning 50 and joined what was then the Senior PGA Tour, winning five times, including the 1994 U.S. Senior Open.

      Gary Player, South Africa's greatest champion, wrote on Twitter: "My condolences to the charismatic & sweet swinging Simon Hobday. He was so good for golf. RIP amigo."

      --Henrik Stenson's first event of the year on the PGA Tour ended suddenly when he withdrew because of stomach problems after 11 holes of the first round in the WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City.

      The big Swede, who was No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking last week, started with birdies on his first two holes. However, things went sideways in a hurry, as he made three straight bogeys through No. 6, followed by a double bogey on the next hole.

      Even though he followed with four straight pars, he was done, having played 11 holes in 3 over par.

      There was a mini epidemic of stomach problems in the tournament, as Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland battled through them all week, and Bones Mackay, Phil Mickelson's caddie, had to leave the course after three holes in the second round because he was too weak to continue in the high altitude.

      Mackay, who returned for the weekend rounds, was replaced by Tim Mickelson, Phil's brother and the former golf coach at Arizona State, who is the agent for rookie Jon Rahm of Spain.

      Several other caddies reportedly had what was described as stomach flu.

      --The United States Golf Association and the R&A unveiled proposed new Rules of Golf as part of a joint initiative to modernize the sometimes-complicated regulations of the game and make them easier to understand and apply.

      There will be a six-month period for golfers worldwide to learn about the proposed changes and provide input before they are finalized next year, and if approved, they would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

      The announcement follows a review process that began in 2012.

      "We are excited and encouraged by the potential this work brings, both through the proposed new Rules and the opportunities to use technology to deliver them," said Thomas Pagel, senior director of Rules & Amateur Status for the USGA.

      "We look forward to an ongoing conversation with golfers during the feedback period in the months ahead."

      Said David Rickman, executive director of governance at the R&A: "Our aim is to make the Rules easier to understand and to apply for all golfers. We have looked at every Rule to try to find ways to make them more intuitive and straightforward, and we believe we have identified many significant improvements.

      "It is important that the Rules continue to evolve and remain in tune with the way the modern game is played, but we have been careful not to change the game's longstanding principles and character."

      Among the changes:

      There will be no penalty for accidentally moving a ball on the putting green or in searching for a ball; and a player is not responsible for causing a ball to move unless it is "virtually certain" that he or she did so.

      There will be no penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits an unattended flagstick in the hole; players may putt without having the flagstick attended or removed. Players may repair spike marks and other damage made by shoes, animal damage and other damage on the putting green, and there is no penalty for merely touching the line of putt.

      Red- and yellow-marked penalty areas may cover areas of desert, jungle, lava rock, etc., in addition to areas of water; red penalty areas where lateral relief is allowed will be expanded; and there will be no penalty for moving loose impediments or touching the ground or water in a penalty area.

      There will be no penalty for moving loose impediments in a bunker or for generally touching the sand with a hand or club. A limited set of restrictions (such as not grounding the club right next to the ball) is kept to preserve the challenge of playing from the sand; however, an extra relief option is added for an unplayable ball in a bunker, allowing the ball to be played from outside the bunker with a two-stroke penalty.

      A player's "reasonable judgment" when estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance will be upheld, even if video evidence later shows it to be wrong; and the new regulations would eliminate the announcement procedures when lifting a ball to identify it or to see if it is damaged.

      Reduced time for searching for a lost ball (from five minutes to three); affirmative encouragement of "ready golf" in stroke play; recommending that players take no more than 40 seconds to play a stroke and other changes are intended to help with pace of play.

      There is a new procedure for taking relief by dropping a ball in and playing it from a specific relief area; and procedures are relaxed for dropping a ball, allowing the ball to be dropped from just above the ground or any growing thing or other object on the ground.

  • Refreshed Schwartzel defends Valspar title
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 6, 2017

    Charl Schwartzel proved he was a winner back when he was a kid playing out of Ernie Els' junior golf program in South Africa.

    • Following a brilliant amateur career, he has won 15 times around the world as a pro, and when he captured the 2011 Masters for his first victory on the PGA Tour, he and everyone else figured there were more to come.

      However, even though he continued to win, his second victory in the United States did not come until the Valspar Championship last year. Schwartzel will defend his title this week on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla.

      "Winning (at Augusta National) back in 2011, the biggest tournament in our sport, you know, your expectations go up (and) I figured that I would win a few (more) times the way I played," said Schwartzel, who beat Bill Haas with a par on the first playoff hole at Innisbrook a year ago. "It just never came, and then I went through a bad thing where my swing was a bit off, and I lost a lot of confidence and, you know, you start thinking, 'Am I actually going to win out here again.' ...

      "I had a few wins outside of America on the European Tour, so I knew it was good enough. I feed a lot off my wins. Doesn't matter where I win in the world. I always say it takes the same amount of effort anywhere you win in the world. It always comes down to those last few holes and the special putts and special shots, and if you can deal with it, you can deal with anything. It's what you make of it."

      Schwartzel's victory last March capped a run of three wins in a span of a little more than three months, as he also captured the Alfred Dunhill Championship for the third time in November 2015 and the Tshwane Open in February, both on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.

      Although he didn't win again on 2016, Schwartzel finished the season strong by tying for fourth in the BMW Championship and tying for 10th in the Tour Championship in the PGA Tour playoffs to wind up 25th in the FedExCup standings.

      Then he tied for third in the World Tour Championship-Dubai to wind up 21st in the Race to Dubai on the European Tour. Schwartzel finished the year with a tie for fourth in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews in December, fading with a 74 in the final round when he had a chance to win again.

      Turns out he was playing at less than 100 percent.

      "I struggled with my knee a little at the end of the year, and it never really got better, so by the time it came to January for my MRI scan, it turned out I needed a longer break," said Schwartzel, who as a result hasn't played as much as he usually does early in the year.

      "That has actually allowed me to be a lot fresher than I think I would have been, to sort out some of my clubs and get some practice done to get my game in shape. I think overall it's been a good thing. It was nine weeks ... and it's the freshest I've ever been.

      "I'd like to climb the world rankings more this year. I'm focused on majors; 2011 is a long time ago."

      Schwartzel, who was No. 6 in the world in 2012 but was down to No. 27 last week, returned early in February but missed the cut in the Maybank Championship

      in Malaysia and in the Genesis Open at Riviera.

      However, his game began to return last week when he was in contention for a top-10 finish before closing with a 75 to tie for 38th in the WGC-Mexico Championship in Mexico City, and he knows it's time to get going.

      When Schwartzel won by two strokes over Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day six years ago at Augusta National, it came on the 50th anniversary of Gary Player becoming the first player from outside the United States to claim the Green Jacket.

      Schwartzel doesn't need a calendar to know the Masters rolls around again next month, and he wants to be ready.

  • Golf glance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, March 6, 2017

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla., Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 2-6 p.m. EST on the Golf Channel; Saturday, 1-3 p.m. EST on the Golf Channel and 3-6 p.m. EST on NBC; and Sunday, 1-3 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel and 3-6 p.m. EDT on NBC.

      LAST YEAR: Charl Schwartzel of South Africa claimed his second PGA Tour victory, and first since the 2011 Masters, by making a par on the first playoff hole to turn back Bill Haas, who made a bogey after hitting his approach shot into a greenside bunker and could not get up and down for par. Schwartzel, who has 15 victories as a pro, came from five strokes behind in the final round with a 4-under-par 67, sinking birdie putts of 65 feet on the 13th hole and 25 feet on the 17th to tie for the lead. Haas, who took the lead into the final day after playing the middle rounds in 67-67, could manage only a closing 72 but still held a two-stroke lead before making a bogey on the 16th hole.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Tucson Conquistadores Championship Classic at Omni Tucson National in Tucson, Ariz., March 17-19.

      TV: Friday, 9:30-1:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 5-7 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Woody Austin won for the first time on the Champions Tour in his 28th start, salvaging a bogey after hitting his tee shot into the water on the final hole to beat Jim Carter by one stroke. Austin, who added two victories later in the season on the senior circuit after winning four times in his PGA Tour career, took the lead in his closing 7-under-par 65 when he holed his third shot for an eagle on the 15th hole. He also opened with a 65 and had a 70 in round two. Carter, still looking for his first Champions Tour victory after winning once on the PGA Tour, shot 63 in round two, but his closing birdie in a final-round 68 left him one shot short.

      LPGA TOUR: Bank of Hope Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, March 16-19.

      TV: Thursday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. EDT; Sunday, 7-9 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Sei Young Kim of South Korea, 2015 Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year on the LPGA Tour, closed with a bogey-free, 10-under-par 62 -- including an eagle on the 11th hole -- to win by five strokes over top-ranked Lydia Ko of New Zealand. Kim, who won three times on the circuit as a rookie, claimed the first of her two victories in 2016 and tied the tournament record of 27-under 261 set by Annika Sorenstam in 2001, when the Swede became the first and still only player to shoot 59 on the circuit in the second round of what was then the Standard Register Ping. Kim, who has five victories on the LPGA of Korea Tour, opened with a 63 and led almost from wire to wire.

  • McIlroy takes two-shot lead in WGC
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, March 3, 2017

    Rory McIlroy matched the low round of the day, carding a 6-under 65 on Friday to surge to a two-shot lead after two rounds of the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship in Mexico City.

    • Playing in his first tournament since mid-January after being sidelined with a rib injury, McIlroy recorded an eagle for the second straight day to go with six birdies in moving to 9-under 133 through 36 holes.

      Phil Mickelson, among six players to share the lead after the first round, followed up his opening 67 with a 3-under 68 and was in a three-way tie for second place with Ross Fisher (68) and Justin Thomas (66) at 135.

      American Dustin Johnson was among three players at 6-under 136 after firing a 66. He was joined by Daniel Berger (66) and Great Britain's Andy Sullivan, who also shot a 65.

      A cluster of seven players, including J.B. Holmes (68) and Martin Kaymer (67) were four shots off the pace at 5-under 137.

      McIlroy offset a pair of bogeys on the back nine by sandwiching a pair of birdies around his eagle at the par-4 No. 14, where he holed out from 151 yards.

      "Look, I'm in a great position," said McIlroy, "but I felt like I could have been a few more ahead."

      McIlroy is bidding to join Tiger Woods (18), Johnson (3) and Geoff Ogilvy (3) as the only players with three or more wins in World Golf Championships events.

      Mickelson, 46, the oldest player in the field, birdied two of his final four holes as he attempts to halt a victory drought dating to the Open Championship in 2013.

      Thomas is seeking his fourth victory of the 2016-17 season while world No. 1 Johnson is making his first start since winning the Genesis Open at Riviera two weeks ago.

  • Mickelson, five others share lead WGC lead
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, March 2, 2017

    Phil Mickelson and five others shared the first-round lead and Rory McElroy was in a group one shot behind at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship on Thursday after the first round in Mexico City.

    • Mickelson opened with a 4-under-par 67 along with Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Ross Fisher, Jon Rahm and Ryan Moore at Chapultepec Golf Club.

      At 68 along with McElroy were Matt Kuchar, Pat Perez, Sergio Garcia, Chris Wood, Fabrizio Zanotti and Thomas Pieters.

      Rickie Fowler, coming off a win last week at the Honda Classic in Florida, was next at 70 in a group with Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Thomas, Jhonattan Vegas, J.B. Holmes and Roberto Castro.

      Dustin Johnson, who entered the week as the world's No. 1-ranked player for the first time, began the tournament with a 70 and Jordan Spieth shot an opening 71.

      British Open champion Henrik Stenson withdrew after 11 holes with a stomach virus.

      With the course at 7,800 feet, the ball was flying. Mickelson blasted a tee shot 379 yards and Roberto Castro smoked one 407 yards, but no one could shoot lower than 4 under.

      Only 27 finishers in the 77-player field managed to break par.

      Mickelson totaled six birdies but had back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5.

      "Even though the golf course doesn't play long because of the altitude, it is challenging in many other respects with the precision of the irons, the small targets that the greens present and the speed and undulation of the greens," Mickelson said.

      Westwood made eight birdies, but he finished with two bogeys to bring him back to the field. Westwood and Walker each reached 6 under before faltering a bit.

      "It's a great golf course," Westwood said. "You've got to be really patient. It's a pleasure to play a golf course where your caddie doesn't hand you the driver walking off the previous green. You've got to put in a bit of thought on this golf course."

      McIlroy was back in action for the first time in seven weeks after suffering a rib injury. Other than fighting off the effects of a stomach ailment, he handled his return just fine.

      McIlroy's round included an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole.

      "I've waited long enough to play," McIlroy said. "I wanted to get out here and be competitive and try to shoot a good score."

      Walker was pleased despite his late bogeys.

      "Good to post a 4 under, especially on a course ... no one has seen it," Walker said.

      Johnson, a winner two weeks ago at Riviera, missed a number of short birdie putts but still managed a 70. Spieth, meanwhile, overcame two early bogeys to finish the day at par.

  • WGC-Mexico Championship offers plenty of risk, reward
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, March 1, 2017

    There are a ton of changes to the 2017 season's second World Golf Championship event, most notably a change in location from Miami and the famed Blue Monster course at Trump Doral to south of the border in Mexico City.

    • The tournament begins Thursday at the Club de Golf Chapultepec and a new name -- the WGC-Mexico Championship.

      The select field consists of 77 players from the top of the Official Golf Ranking and the money lists/Orders of Merit from the six main professional golf tours. The golfers will test a 7,370-yard, par-71 course that most have never seen for a total purse of $9.75 million, with $1.66 million going to the winner of the 72-hole event.

      The course is set at 2,400 meters, making it the highest in elevation on the PGA Tour. All but one of the top 50 players in the world will compete, with only world No. 2 Jason Day out of the field after withdrawing last week because of the flu and a double ear infection.

      There's will also be a pressing decision on each of these golfers' minds to throw caution to the wind and make bold swings in conditions and on a course with which none are familiar.

      Jordan Spieth, the world's sixth-ranked player, said the design of the golf course at Club de Golf Chapultepec is full of risk-reward opportunities.

      "There are very few courses we see that have this much risk-reward around it -- the design really makes you think," Spieth said. "You will see some guys hitting drivers and others hitting four-irons off the same tee and it could be a bit tricky out there. Obviously you will have a huge advantage if you can pull off drives because you can be right in front of the green -- I have yet to decide what my strategy is."

      World No. 3 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland makes his return to competitive golf after missing the past six weeks with a left rib injury. This is McIlroy's first PGA Tour start since he tied for fourth at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China last Oct. 30, and his first time in tournament golf anywhere since he lost a sudden-death playoff to Graeme Storm at the South Africa Open on Jan. 15.

      Although McIlroy has not played a lot during his recovery, he said Tuesday that he is ready to go.

      "I've been working through the bag the last seven to 10 days and (the rib) feels really good," McIlroy said. "I'm still strapping it up and still being a little bit, not protective but careful. I'm making sure I'm really warmed up before going out to play, a little bit of kinesio tape there just to help support it."

      Australian Adam Scott is the tournament's defending champion, although he's hardly the favorite this week because the setting at sea level in South Florida and at the big-shouldered course at Trump Doral is the completely different from the challenges he faces in this year's event.

      Sergio Garcia, with nine PGA Tour wins and 12 European Tour victories -- most recently last month at the Dubai Desert Classic, will make his 50th official start in a World Golf Championships event at the Mexico Championship. He remains in search of a title at one of the four annual WGC competitions.

      Garcia's best result was runner-up at the Bridgestone Invitational in 2014. He has the second-most top-10 finishes in the Mexico Championship (seven), trailing only Tiger Woods (12).

      Phil Mickelson, 46, is the oldest player in the field this week while Ernie Els, aged 40 years, 4 months, 25 days in 2010, is the oldest winner of the Mexico Championship. Last year's runner-up, Bubba Watson has three second-place finishes in the last five years at the Mexico Championship (second in 2016, tied for second in 2014 and second in 2012).

      Twenty-two countries will be represented at the WGC-Mexico Championship this week with the United States leading the way with 27 players in the field. England will be represented by 10 players with Australia and South Africa each having five players each in the field.

      The WGC-Mexico Championship marks the 16th official event of the PGA Tour's wraparound 2016-17 season schedule, which consists of 47 tournament including the four FedExCup Playoff events and culminates with the Tour Championship.

  • McIlroy ready to return to action in Mexico
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, February 27, 2017

    Rory McIlroy planned to be very busy before making his third bid to complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters in April at Augusta National.

    • Instead, the Northern Irishman hasn't been able to play competitive golf because of a stress fracture on the left side of his ribcage since losing to England's Graeme Storm in the South African Open in January.

      "Rory told me (at the start of the year) that he might play nine times before Augusta," commentator Sir Nick Faldo on the telecast of the Genesis Open at Riviera two weeks ago.

      McIlroy's return is slated for this week in the WGC-Mexico Championship at

      Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City.

      The No. 3 player in the Official World Golf Ranking didn't play a full 18 holes of golf before teeing it up last week with President Donald Trump at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla.

      "I'd like to ease my way back in gently," McIlroy said recently. "Mexico is the perfect time to return because it's four rounds, there's no cut. I can see how everything feels.

      "I'll have a week off after that (skipping the Valspar Championship before the Arnold Palmer Invitational). All signs point toward Mexico being the one I could come back to and be 100 percent comfortable at."

      McIlroy has never won this World Golf Championships event, although he finished in the top 10 five times in the past six years at Trump National Doral in Miami, where the tournament was played before moving to Mexico this year.

      McIlroy said he probably sustained the injury in December while testing equipment and making a slight swing change. He switched to Callaway clubs after Nike announced in August it would no longer make golf equipment.

      "My takeaway was getting a little behind me at the start of the swing, so I was trying to make sure the club stayed in front of me on the way back," McIlroy said. "One of the drills I was doing, I was sort of reaching a little bit with my left arm and really extending.

      "I think the combination of trying to make that small tweak in my swing and obviously hitting a lot of balls, hitting a lot of drivers, making a lot of swings ... testing everything, the muscles basically said: 'All right, we're tired. We don't want to work anymore.' That put stress on the joint, and the joint was like, 'I don't like this either,' and the rib took the brunt of it."

      McIlroy thought about withdrawing in South Africa but played through the pain because he was in the hunt with Storm. He saw a specialist the next week and was advised to shut it down for a while.

      That forced him to withdraw from at least four tournaments -- the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, and the Genesis Open and last week's Honda Classic on the PGA Tour.

      Before last season, McIlroy said his goal was to win a tournament and possibly regain the world No. 1 ranking from Jason Day of Australia before the Masters, in which he finished fourth in 2015 and tied for 10th last year.

      However, McIlroy didn't get back to the top all year, and now he has fallen behind the new No. 1, Dustin Johnson, too.

      Still, it was anything but a down year as he won three tournaments around the world and took the FedExCup from Johnson by winning the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

      "I won a couple of things that I hadn't won before," said McIlroy, who finished fifth in the Race to Dubai on the Euro Tour after tying for ninth in the DP World Tour Championship-Dubai, part of a string of five straight top-10 finishes he takes to Mexico.

      "I won the Irish Open, which a huge thing personally for me. It mightn't be the biggest tournament in the world, but personally to me in my mind, it is one of the biggest I play all year. That was nice to be able to knock that off, and to win the FedExCup, as well, was big. That was something that I hadn't won before, and to win that, and the fashion that I did, winning two of the last three playoff events (also taking the Deutsche Bank Championship), that was very satisfying.

      "My play in majors (in 2016) was disappointing, missing the cut at the U.S. Open and the PGA. ... I'd like to think that my performances in the majors are going to be better."

      Hopefully starting in five weeks at Augusta.

  • Golf glance
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, February 27, 2017

    COMING UP

    • PGA TOUR: WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Thursday and Friday, 2-7 p.m. EST on the Golf Channel; Saturday, noon-3 p.m. EST on the Golf Channel and 3-6 p.m. EST on NBC; and Sunday, 1-3 p.m. EST on the Golf Channel and 3-6 p.m. EST on NBC.

      LAST YEAR: Adam Scott of Australia won for the second straight week, coming from six strokes behind with 13 holes remaining to beat Bubba Watson by one shot on the Blue Monster Course at Trump National Doral. Scott, who won the Honda Classic a week earlier, bounced back from double bogeys on the third and fifth holes with birdies on six of the next nine holes. He closed with four straight pars, sinking a 6-foot putt on the final hole to shoot 3-under-par 69. Watson got close with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole but missed a birdie chip from 23 feet on the final hole and wound up at 68. Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, the 54-hole leader, struggled to a 74 and wound up two shots back in a tie for third.

      PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Tucson Conquistadores Championship Classic at Omni Tucson National in Tucson, Ariz., March 17-19.

      TV: Friday, 9:30-11:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 5-7 p.m. EDT; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Woody Austin won for the first time on the Champions Tour in his 28th start, salvaging a bogey after hitting his tee shot into the water on the final hole to beat Jim Carter by one stroke. Austin, who added two victories later in the season on the senior circuit after winning four times in his PGA Tour career, took the lead in his closing 7-under-par 65 when he holed his third shot for an eagle on the 15th hole. He also opened with a 65 and had a 70 in round two. Carter, still looking for his first Champions Tour victory after winning once on the PGA Tour, shot 63 in round two, but his closing birdie in a final-round 68 left him one shot short.

      LPGA TOUR: HSBC Women's Champions on the Tanjong Course at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore, Thursday through Sunday.

      TV: Wednesday (in the United States), 10:30 p.m.-2 a.m. EST; Thursday and Friday, midnight-2:30 a.m. EST; and Saturday, 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. EST; on the Golf Channel each day.

      LAST YEAR: Ha Na Jang of South Korea shot 7-under-par 65 in the final round to beat Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand by four strokes for the second of her three LPGA Tour victories in 2016. The then-23-year-old Jang, who has won 12 times as a pro, including eight titles in Korea, made the first of her six birdies from 12 feet on the first hole and added birdie bombs of 30 and 50 feet on the back nine, then tapped in a 3-foot eagle putt on the final hole. Phatlum finished with a bogey-free 68 to take second ahead of Amy Yang, who made a birdie on the final hole to post a 71 and break out of a tie for fourth.

  • Golf notebook: 2020 Open awarded to Royal St. George's
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, February 27, 2017

    --Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England will host the 149th British Open in 2020, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews announced.

    • This will be the 15th time the 130-year-old club in southeastern England will host the oldest golf championship in the world, with Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland winning the most recent in 2011.

      "It was an unbelievable feeling to lift the Claret Jug and know that my name was displayed on the trophy alongside so many of the greatest players ever to play the game," Clarke said.

      "The Open is what it is all about for me as a golfer, and it is the championship I always dreamt of winning from when I first took up the game as a kid. I have so many wonderful memories from that week at Sandwich, and I will be thrilled to go back there for The Open in three years' time."

      Royal St. George's first hosted The Open in 1894, the first time the tournament was played outside of Scotland, and J.H. Taylor became the first English professional to win the title.

      Among the winners of the Claret Jug at Royal St. George's have been Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen, Henry Cotton, Bobby Locke, Sandy Lyle and Greg Norman, who claimed a two-stroke victory over Nick Faldo in 1993.

      "We are very much looking forward to the return of The Open to Royal St. George's in 2020," R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said. "The Open is a true celebration of sport, and the global spotlight will fall once again on Sandwich.

      "Royal St. George's has produced a series of outstanding champion golfers over the last 120 years, and it is a thrilling prospect for golf fans to see the greatest players competing on one of the world's finest links courses."

      It is believed that the 150th Open Championship will be played in 2021 on the Old Course at St. Andrews, but that has yet to be announced.

      --Jason Day will have to wait a while longer to try to regain the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking that he lost to Dustin Johnson recently.

      Day, who missed the last three months of 2016 because of a back injury, withdrew from the WGC-Mexico Championship this week at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City because of an illness.

      "I'm truly disappointed to announce that I won't be able to play in (the) World Golf Championship-Mexico Championship," the Aussie, now ranked No. 2, said in a statement. "I have a double ear infection and the flu, which precludes me from preparing for and playing in the tournament.

      "I have heard great things about the Mexico Championship and the golf course. ... I look forward to teeing it up there next year."

      Day hopes to be able to defend his title in two weeks in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Resort and Club in Orlando, Fla.

      Until Day withdrew, the top 50 players in the world rankings were set to play in the Mexico City tournament.

      --Johnson Wagner was elected chairman of the Player Advisory Council for 2017 by members of the PGA Tour.

      Wagner will succeed Jason Bohn (2015-17) on the PGA Tour Policy Board next year and will a serve a three-year term (2018-2020) as player director along with Charley Hoffman (2017-2019), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Davis Love III (2016-18).

      The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the PGA Tour Policy Board and commissioner Jay Monahan.

      Wagner, 36, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is in his 11th season on the PGA Tour. He has three victories on the circuit, the 2008 Shell Houston Open, the 2011 OHL Classic at Mayakoba and the 2012 Sony Open in Hawaii.

      The 2017 Players Advisory Council includes Wagner, Paul Casey, Roberto Castro, Ben Crane, Andres Gonzales, James Hahn, J.J. Henry, Billy Hurley III, Matt Kuchar, Geoff Ogilvy, Rod Pampling, Jordan Spieth, Steve Stricker, Justin Thomas, Harold Varner III and Tim Wilkinson.

      --Roberto Diaz earned a spot in the field for this week's World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship as the highest-ranked Mexican player in the Official World Golf Ranking.

      The 30-year-old Diaz, a graduate of South Carolina-Aiken from Vera Cruz, Mexico, wrapped up his spot in the field despite losing in a playoff to Ethan Tracy in the Web.com Tour's Club Colombia Championship three weeks ago.

      After Diaz seemed to wrap up the victory with a 7-under-par 64, Tracy holed his 101-yard approach shot from the fairway for an eagle to force the playoff.

      Diaz's career-best runner-up finish helped him jump 257 spots in the world rankings, and he locked up his spot in the WGC-Mexico Championship with a tie for 19th in the Web.com Tour's Panama Claro Championship, climbing to No. 472 in the rankings.

      Diaz beat out countryman Rodolfo Cazaubon (No. 510) for a spot in the field at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, and he will be playing his fourth PGA Tour event.

      A new eligibility qualification category allowed the top-ranked Mexican player in the world rankings to qualify for the tournament, which moved this season from Trump National Doral Golf Club in Miami.

      Other players who had not yet qualified for the WGC event made it into the field by being inside the top 50 in the rankings on the same date, including Thomas Pieters of Belgium, Jon Rahm of Spain, Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain.

      --Peter Jacobsen, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour and a golf analyst for Golf Channel and NBC, was selected by the Golf Writers Association of America as recipient of the 2017 Charlie Bartlett Award for unselfish contributions to the betterment of society.

      The 62-year-old Jacobsen, who played on the U.S. Ryder Cup team twice and also has won two majors among on the PGA Tour Champions, owns a company that manages golf tournaments.

      "It's fun to be part of this game, and it's a great honor to receive this," said Jacobsen, a native of Portland who played college golf at Oregon. "My dad taught me the game, and when I started out I didn't know how good I was, but I knew I had passion and that the game brought me a lot of joy.

      "I love the game, I love the challenge of the game, I love the people in the game and the people you meet through the game. It's like we're all in this together."

      Tournaments managed by Jacobsen have contributed more than $40 million to charitable organizations, and his allegiances include Folds of Honor, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, Summit Golf Foundation and The First Tee and others.

      Jacobsen will receive his award at the 45th GWAA Annual Awards Dinner on April 5, the night before the start of the Masters in Augusta, Ga.

  • Day (flu) withdraws from this week's Mexico Championship
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, February 26, 2017

    World No. 2 Jason Day withdrew from this week's Mexico Championship due to the flu and infections in both ears.

    • Day said the illness has prevented him from properly preparing for the first World Golf Championship event of the season.

      "I'm truly disappointed to announce that I won't be able to play in next week's World Golf Championship-Mexico Championship," Day said in Sunday's statement. "I have a double ear infection and the flu, which precludes me from preparing for and playing in the tournament.

      "I have heard great things about the Mexico Championship and the golf course. I want to thank the Salinas family for their support of the event. I look forward to teeing it up there next year."

      Day was recently dethroned as world No. 1 by Dustin Johnson after an 11-month reign. He also missed the final three months of 2016 due to a back injury.

      The top 50 golfers in the world are slated to play at the tournament in Mexico City. The event begins Thursday with a purse of $9.75 million and there is no cut.