Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ariya Jutanugarn wins third consecutive LPGA event at Volvik Champ.

Golf has a new superstar, and her name is Ariya Jutanugarn.

Actually, Jutanugarn has been a superstar since the start of May, but she capped off an incredible month on Sunday at the inaugural LPGA Volvik Championship by winning her third consecutive event, by five shots over Christina Kim at 15-under 273.

No player in LPGA history -- which dates back to 1950 -- has done what the 20-year-old Thai has accomplished in winning her first three titles in consecutive fashion.

Each of her first two wins, coming at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic in Alabama and the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia, were by one-stroke margins. Jutanugarn didn't have to sweat the final several holes this time around, making birdie on four of the last five holes to wrap up the win with a closing 67 at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Jutanugarn's streak began after letting the LPGA's first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, slip through her grasp in April. She had the tournament in hand with three holes to play, ultimately fading before Lydia Ko took her second consecutive major title. Jutanugarn finished inside the top 20 in the three starts immediately after that loss before her current run. Now, she has an opportunity to avenge that major meltdown in her next start, which will be the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, starting in 10 days at Sahalee C.C. in Washington.

If Jutanugarn can win her first major, then she'll have an opportunity to tie the LPGA record for the most wins in a row. Both Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sorenstam (2004-05) have won five straight LPGA starts.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Talking tracking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

Jordan Spieth rallies on back nine to win by 3 at Colonial

Jordan Spieth is Jordan Spieth again.

Spieth won the Dean & DeLuca Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Ft. Worth, Texas, on Sunday, pulling away for a three-shot win on the back of a nine-putt final nine.

The 22-year-old shot 5-under 30 at Hogan's Alley to post a second consecutive 5-under 65 and post a 17-under 263 tally.

In picking up his eighth career PGA Tour win and first in his home state of Texas, Spieth needed a little good luck and relied heavily on his short game. For the week, Spieth hit just half of the fairways on the tree-lined course, requiring him to play frequently out of unfavorable rough lies. He often had to get up-and-down for key pars out of bunkers and tall grass -- something he did for 54 holes last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson but was unable to do in the final round, when he shot 74 to drop from second place into a share of 18th position.

The putter came alive for Spieth starting at the par-3 eighth, where he made a 32-foot par putt to continue a string of pars to start the round. He went out in even-par 35 with only pars on the card.

Spieth got into gear on the second nine, making three consecutive birdies to start the side, starting with a 20-footer on No. 10. He made short work of the par-5 11th with an easy up-and-down for birdie, then he stuck his approach shot to the 12th to just 4 feet for a simple birdie. 

He was fortunate in two particular instances on the back nine, including on the 13th, when, after a poor tee shot, he bladed his bunker shot toward the water. However, the ball didn't fly far enough to catch the hazard and Spieth saved bogey. On the par-4 17th, Spieth's tee shot hit the foot of a volunteer, bouncing from the tree line to the first cut of rough. Then, when Spieth went long with a flier lie for his second shot, he pitched in from behind the green for an unlikely, tournament-clinching birdie.

After playing a safe shot into the par-4 18th, Spieth made the 35-foot birdie putt to finish with a birdie and pick up the victory.

Harris English finished alone in second at 14 under par, while Colonial member Ryan Palmer and Webb Simpson, Spieth's playing companions in the Sunday final group, each finished tied for third at 13 under par.

Heading into next week's Memorial Tournament, Spieth, world No. 1 Jason Day and world No. 3 Rory McIlroy have won in their last worldwide start, setting up not only a showdown at Muirfield Village in Ohio but also at the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in early June.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Talking tracking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

Another Texas Sunday, another chance for Spieth to win

For the second consecutive Sunday, Jordan Spieth finds himself with the final tee time in the concluding round of a PGA Tour event in Texas.

Once again, the 22-year-old is hoping to be the lone star atop the leaderboard. ... Sorry.

Spieth carries a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, sitting at 12-under 198 and one clear of Ryan Palmer and Webb Simpson. He's looking for his first pro win in the state of Texas, and he's looking to do it at Hogan's Alley in Ft. Worth at Colonial Country Club, where he finished runner-up last year to Chris Kirk. 

A week ago, Spieth had to stare down the monstrous drives of Brooks Koepka in Irving at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Holding his game together with the glue of his short game, Spieth faded on Sunday, shooting a 74 that dropped him into a tie for 18th place on a course that doesn't truly suit his game.

This week, Spieth will have to compete for the gallery's affection with Ryan Palmer, his Sunday competitive partner and a member at the host club. Overnight rains also forced the PGA Tour's hand, shifting to threesomes. That means Webb Simpson, also at 11 under par with Palmer, will make it a threesome.

"It will be a fun dynamic," said Spieth, who shot a 5-under 65 on Saturday. "It'll be cool because as a member, he'll have tons of support and we have had tons of support this week."

There will also be a little collegiate rivalry in the final pairing. Spieth went to the University of Texas and led their men's golf team to a national championship. Palmer, 39, went to rival Texas A&M.

“A Longhorn and an Aggie, that’s going to be the fun part of the thing,” Palmer said. “I’ll tell Jordan to wear burnt orange and I’ll wear my maroon. But both colors won’t look good with that (plaid) jacket, either.”

Spieth is looking for his eighth PGA Tour win and first since surrendering a five-shot lead with nine holes to play at the Masters in April.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Talking tracking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

BMW PGA leader Scott Hend almost punched 2 drunk fans on Sat.

Scott Hend is one round away from the biggest win of his professional career. He was also one more smart remark away on Saturday from potentially knocking out a few rowdy hecklers.

The Aussie carries a one-stroke lead into the final round of the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship, shooting a third-round, 1-over 73 that ended with an eagle 3 on Wentworth Club's finishing par 5. It was his second eagle there in as many days. He's at 9-under 207.

It was a great way to finish considering the turmoil inside the ropes for Hend, which included ricocheting his ball off a tree with his second shot and nearly hitting himself in the latter third of the round.

It was also soothing considering the heckling he was getting from several fans, presumably fans of the British hero and Masters champion Danny Willett. Willett and Hend were paired together in Saturday's final group.

"Danny was getting all the crowd support and I had no problem with that but there were a couple of guys out there who were really over the top and it wasn't very nice what they were saying," Hend said.

"It was quite rude and personal and if it was up to me I would have had them thrown out."

Before talking to the hecklers as he left the 14th hole, Hend gave Willett a heads up that something was about to potentially go down -- namely, perhaps one of the spectators.

"I didn't see any marshals around but when I mentioned to Danny I was going over to speak to them (the hecklers) he was just waiting for it all to kickoff," Hend said.

"Danny was just waiting for me to punch one of the guys in the mouth. He had been hurling abuse at me before I hit my first putt at 14 and just wouldn't shut up from there on."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Talking tracking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tiger Woods not playing in Memorial Tournament; U.S. Open in doubt

Tiger Woods isn't coming back to competitive golf -- at least not next week.

Woods did not enter the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament ahead of the Friday deadline, meaning he won't play in a tournament he has won five times. However, that doesn't mean the tournament wasn't on Woods' radar. Reuters had previously reported Woods had booked accommodations in the Dublin, Ohio, area for the tournament. ESPN analyst Andy North said Friday Woods gave strong consideration to competing in the event, ultimately deciding against entering later in the day.

The 14-time winner actually had an extended window on Friday night to enter the event at Muirfield Village. PGA Tour regulations allow a player 30 minutes after second-round play concludes -- or is called -- on Friday to commit to the next week's event. With weather delays plaguing pace in Texas at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, Woods had until well past 9 p.m. Eastern to make that call.

Now, the question is if Woods feels well enough to make the U.S. Open his first start since last August, following a pair of back surgeries in fall 2015. Woods entered the tournament, well ahead of the deadline, on Monday of Masters Week in what can only be called an act of clerical preparation. The U.S. Open will be played at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh, one of the country's most difficult courses. However, Woods finished a shot out of a playoff with eventual winner Angel Cabrera when the Open was last contested there in 2007.

Woods and his agent Mark Steinberg have indicated, as recently as May 16, that there is no definitive timetable for his return. In his last public exhibition on that date at Quicken Loans National media day, Woods put three balls in a guarding water hazard on a 103-yard shot on the par-3 10th at host Congressional Country Club.

Although Woods won't be in the 120-player field at Memorial, world No. 1 Jason Day and world No. 3 Rory McIlroy will participate.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Talking tracking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

Friday, May 27, 2016

Darren Clarke names trio of Ryder Cup vice-captains

The European Ryder Cup leadership team is taking shape.

On Friday at the BMW PGA Championship in England, 2016 European captain Darren Clarke named three vice-captains: three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, 1999 British Open winner Paul Lawrie and Ryder Cup stalwart Thomas Bjorn.

Having all played in the era of European dominance of the biennial series, the trio of vice-captains have experience to offer a 12-player squad that may well have a number of fresh faces.

Bjorn was on the winning side in all three of his Ryder Cup appearances in 1997, 2002 and 2014, all of which were played on European soil. He was also a vice captain in 2004, 2010 and 2012.

Lawrie was a part of the European side in 2012 when the Jose Maria Olazabal-led team came back from 4 points down on the final day in Chicago, in what's dubbed the Miracle at Medinah.

Harrington has the most experience of the vice-captains, making six appearances and notching a 7-11-3 record. He was a vice-captain for Paul McGinley in 2014 at Gleneagles.

"The three bring a wealth of experience and knowledge and their input will be invaluable to Europe's cause," Clarke said. "I could not have asked for anybody better to be standing shoulder to shoulder with me in the bid to bring The Ryder Cup home."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Talking tracking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cink turns to Mickelson family for counsel on wife's cancer fight

Stewart Cink made a last-minute decision to play at Colonial in this week's Dean & DeLuca Invitational. 

Last month, Cink announced he was stepping away from the PGA Tour as he and his wife, Lisa, learned she had breast cancer and would be starting treatment. Now weeks into what will be a difficult fight for Lisa, Stewart came back inside the ropes with a slightly better idea of how the treatment will unfold.

“Circumstances are improved because we can predict a little bit more about how she’s feeling. So that’s going to be why I come out and play a little bit here and there,” Cink said Thursday, according to Golf Channel. “But as far as her circumstances of fighting cancer, they’re not all that great. She’s got advanced cancer, and it’s going to be a difficult fight.”

The 2009 British Open winner shot 2-over 72 in his first round in Ft. Worth, Texas.

“I don’t think I went one hole today without thinking about her 10 times,” he said. 

Cink credited Amy and Phil Mickelson in getting Lisa near immediate access to some of the best oncologists in the country through the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Amy Mickelson successfully overcame breast cancer after being diagnosed in 2009.

“Amy really was the one who got us in touch with the doctors at M.D. Anderson. You can imagine, they have quite a bit of pull,” he said. “When you throw around the name Amy and Phil Mickelson, you know, things happen. It was Thursday when we found out, and Monday we were meeting with the top people in the field.”


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Talking tracking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

John Daly took a Daly-esque 9 at the Senior PGA Championship

John Daly didn't have a great day on Thursday in his first Senior PGA Championship.

A week after Daly finished tied for 15th in the Regions Tradition, his senior major debut, the two-time major champion struggled on Day 1 at Harbor Shores in Michigan. 

Starting on the 10th hole, Daly arrived at the par-4 16th at even on the round. He pulled his tee shot left into the hazard, leading Daly to re-tee. That shot, his third, found tall grass next to the water hazard. He hit his fourth shot from the tall lettuce just far enough to get into the rough for his fifth shot. From there, Daly's club got caught in the rough with his fifth shot, pulling the ball into the hazard again. Daly dropped, hitting 7 and finally found the green. After a two-putt that wasn't that easy, Daly had made quintuple-bogey 9.

Daly shot 4-over 75 on the round, is tied for 126th place in the 156-player field after the first round and is 13 shots behind leader Rocco Mediate, who shot a tournament record-tying 62.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Talking tracking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

David Feherty not sure if Tiger Woods will play again

Tiger Woods has not played competitively since last August. (AP)NBC Sports and Golf Channel commentator David Feherty spent some time with Tiger Woods at his April opening of Bluejack National, Woods' first U.S. course design near Houston. After seeing Woods take some swings as part of a five-hole exhibition, the Irishman-turned-American isn't sure Woods is ever going to compete on the PGA Tour again.

“I am not sure that Tiger will come back because it is a nerve in his back," Feherty told Irish Golf Desk. "It’s not muscular or skeletal. It’’s not something you can deal with in a physical way.

“He is in phenomenal shape - just ripped as usual. But he is not able to make a full pass at it. I saw him a few weeks ago in Houston and he hadn’t played in five months and he hit some good shots and some awful skanky looking things."

Woods had a pair of back surgeries, including a second microdiscectomy, in September and October 2015. At Quicken Loans National media day two weeks ago, Woods said he has been struggling with completing a full day of practice and recovering well enough to do it again the next day. While there has been wild speculation about Woods' potential return, Woods himself has no concrete date to offer.

The 14-time major winner has maintained he's working hard toward a return. Feherty suspects it's a make-or-break prospect.

“I think he has a feeling that if he doesn’t make it back this time, he might be done from a physical standpoint," Feherty said. “But he is too stubborn and too good and too physically gifted to be able to just give it up. He loves it too much."

The former Ryder Cup player believes Woods isn't putting himself through the rehab process because he feels some sense of duty.

“I don’t think he needs to do this," Feherty said. "He wants to do this. He really really does. But I am not sure that he can. I am not sure he is in any way clear on whether the can either.”


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Talking tracking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

Muirfield votes to not admit female members; out of British Open rota

The all-male membership of Muirfield in Scotland has voted against admitting female members, a decision that now excludes it from the British Open rotation.

The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which owns the club, voted this week on ending the club's 244-year history of excluding female members, with a two-thirds majority required to make the change. Despite vocal support of the change from the club board, only 64 percent of the 648 voting members voted in favor of admitting female members.

A group of some 30 members wrote an open letter to the membership, imploring them to reject female members. 

This vote was the result of a two-year process Muirfield undertook after coming under heavy criticism for its membership practices while hosting the 2013 Open Championship, won by Phil Mickelson. That was the 16th time Muirfield has hosted the Open.

The R&A had made it clear that it intends to keep the Open away from clubs that exclude women. 

“The R&A has considered today’s decision with respect to the Open Championship. The Open is one of the world’s great sporting events and going forward we will not stage the Championship at a venue that does not admit women as members," said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers in a Thursday statement.

“Given the schedule for staging The Open, it would be some years before Muirfield would have been considered to host the Championship again. If the policy at the club should change we would reconsider Muirfield as a venue for The Open in future.”

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews, of which the governing body known as the R&A is an off-shoot, admitted women as members for the first time in 2014 in 260 years of existence. Another Open host, Royal St. George's, admitted female members for the first time in 2015.

The 2016 Open host Royal Troon remains the only club in the active rotation that does not have single membership. Rather, there are separate memberships for men and women. The club is consulting members on possibly ending that practice, which would include ending having separate clubhouses.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Watch Dean & DeLuca Invitational featured hole on Yahoo Sports

The PGA Tour moves from Dallas to Ft. Worth for the Dean & DeLuca Invitational at Hogan's Alley, Colonial Country Club. Chris Kirk is the defending champion, while Jordan Spieth headlines the field in an event where he finished as a runner-up last year.

Yahoo Sports will stream PGA Tour Live's featured holes coverage from Colonial Country Club on our Golf page from 4-7 p.m. Eastern on Thursday and Friday.

Here are some of the featured groupings that will come through the the par-4 fifth and par-3 16th holes in that coverage window on Thursday and Friday.

Thursday, First Round

All times Eastern

Off No. 1

12:29 p.m. -- Charley Hoffman, Geoff Ogilvy, Steve Stricker
12:40 p.m. -- Brandt Snedeker, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas
12:51 p.m. -- Charl Schwartzel, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar

Off No. 10

12:18 p.m. -- Tony Finau, Steven Bowditch, Ben Crane
12:29 p.m. -- Scott Piercy, Kevin Streelman, Keegan Bradley
12:40 p.m. -- Brendon Todd, Webb Simpson, Louis Oosthuizen

Friday, Second Round

Off No. 1

12:40 p.m. -- Jason Dufner, Smylie Kaufman, Emiliano Grillo
12:51 p.m. -- Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Chris Kirk
1:02 p.m. -- Jim Herman, Patrick Reed, Hunter Mahan

Off No. 10

12:40 p.m. -- Danny Lee, Nick Taylor, Seung-Yul Noh
12:51 p.m. -- Kevin Kisner, J.J. Henry, Camilo Villegas
1:02 p.m. -- Marc Leishman, Ryan Palmer, Chad Collins


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Talking tracking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

Podcast: Talking golf performance with Game Golf CEO John McGuire

On this week's podcast, we're joined by Game Golf CEO John McGuire for a fascinating conversation about his company and its involvement with PGA Tour players like Graeme McDowell, the evolution of golf performance-tracking technology, how Game Golf might integrate with other tracking technologies -- like FitBit, FocusBand and more -- in the future and how the company is giving away up to $1 million this summer.

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle Play MusicTuneInPlayerFM or Stitcher.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Power rankings: Dean & DeLuca Invitational

It's Colonial Week on the PGA Tour, although the tournament at Hogan's Alley in Ft. Worth, Texas, now goes by a different name. It's now called the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, named after the gourmet and specialty food seller.

We should have a tasty tournament in store, with Chris Kirk defending his title, Jordan Spieth headlining and the likes of Matt Kuchar and Adam Scott in the field.

Here are our top five players for this week:

1. Kevin Chappell -- We are overvaluing Chappell this week, but he's been playing fantastic golf. He's this year's Kevin Kisner, already with three runner-up showings this season, including at The Players.

2. Jordan Spieth -- Last week, we downplayed Spieth at the Nelson, suggesting that he might not be reliable for all 72 holes. Well, that happened. But Spieth says he found something in the final round that could help him at a place where he was runner-up last year and in the top 15 the last three years.

3. Matt Kuchar -- Kooch is back, baby! He's finished in the top three in his last two starts, and he seems to be beaming with confidence. He was a runner-up here in 2013 and has a good overall record of cashing.

4. Charley Hoffman -- Hoffman is playing well just about anywhere these days, finishing T-12 last week at the Byron Nelson. He was T-10 here last year, and this is the kind of course that suits him.

5. Adam Scott -- Scotty won here two years ago to regain the world No. 1 ranking, and that seems like a long time ago. He's playing pretty well, coming off the high of back-to-back wins in Florida.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Phil Mickelson avoided jail and Muirfield is in Open purgatory

Danny Willett, like Rory McIlroy, is worried about Zika & the Olympics

Danny Willett has joined the ranks of golfers who have publicly shared their worries about the spread of Zika virus in Brazil and the potential impact it might have on their participation in the Olympic golf tournament.

Days after Rory McIlroy said he is "monitoring" the situation in Rio and that developments could force him to pull out of the Games, the Masters champion echoed the sentiment.

"We are monitoring it. We've had an e-mail from the WHO (World Health Organization) and we are keeping on top of it," Willett said Tuesday at the BMW PGA Championship in England. "It's not great, is it? There's going to be 500,000 people watching the Olympics, and you have 11,000 athletes right in the heart of where it's at."

Zika virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, can cause developmental problems for children in the womb. Willett and his wife, Nicole, recently became first-time parents, just ahead of the Masters. However, the couple may plan on a second child sooner than later, and it's unclear how long Zika remains in the body. That doubt worries Willett, but he right now plans on representing Great Britain.

"If it turns out that it would be a massive threat to myself or to Nic or to the little man, then I probably wouldn't go," said the world No. 9. "Family comes first. But as it stands at the minute, I think everything should be okay."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Phil Mickelson avoided jail and Muirfield is in Open purgatory

Jack Nicklaus has endorsed Donald Trump for president

Jack Nicklaus supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential election, so this might not come as a complete shocker, but the Golden Bear is backing Donald Trump in this election.

Nicklaus, who has a personal and business relationship with the presumptive Republican nominee, told "CBS Sunday Morning" that he thinks Trump is shaking up the world of presidential politics.

"I like what Donald has done," Nicklaus said. "He's turning America upside-down. [He's] awakening the country."

The 18-time major winner doesn't have qualms with Trump's inciting and divisive rhetoric, chalking it up to his lack of experience as a politician.

"Is he as smooth and as politically correct as he should be? Probably not. But he'll learn," Nicklaus said. "He's not stupid. He didn't get where he was being dumb. I like the guy. He's a good man. If he's the one that's on the ticket, then I'll be voting for him."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Phil Mickelson avoided jail and Muirfield is in Open purgatory

Monday, May 23, 2016

Koepka not intimidated by pro-Spieth crowd at the Byron Nelson

Brooks Kopeka isn't expecting a lot of people to be rooting for him on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Despite playing impressive golf, including setting a new 54-hole tournament record to earn a two-stroke lead, Koepka is trying to pick up second PGA Tour win at the expense of hometown hero Jordan Spieth. The crowd will be partisan for Spieth, and that's putting it mildly.

However, Kopeka seems nonplussed by it.

"I really don't care. Doesn't really bother me," Koepka said after Saturday play. "I mean, he's got a lot of support which is cool to see. He has grown up here, home town. He should. There's so many people out there cheering him."

Koepka, who won last year in Phoenix for his first Tour title, got to experience a Spieth crowd in Dallas firsthand on Saturday. They played alongside each other in the final group along with 36-hole leader Ben Crane. On the par-3 17th, Spieth drained a 20-footer for birdie that sent the crowd into a tizzy. 

“Probably the loudest roar I think I’ve ever heard on a golf course," Koepka said.

It's that kind of energy that Spieth could feed off of to win his first professional title in the Lone Star State.

“A moment that I’ll never forget,” Spieth said. “Even though it’s Saturday (and) may or may not have any impact on this tournament, that was the coolest roar I’ve ever heard.”

While the crowd might not be pulling hard for Koepka on Sunday, but the Florida State product feels locked in -- in part, because he said he's not playing his best all-around golf.

"I think sometimes when you're not playing your best you're more mentally there, you're trying to grind it out a little bit harder," he said. "You've really got to come in with a good game plan, I guess you could say, manage yourself around the golf course. That's kind of what we're doing right now even though today wasn't that good."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Rory McIlroy 'monitoring' Zika spread, may skip Olympics

Rory McIlroy is engaged (for the second time) and thinking about starting a family in the next couple of years.

It's through that lens that McIlroy appears to have developed concerns about the spread of Zika virus and his potential involvement in the 2016 Olympic golf tournament in Brazil. The Irish Open winner hasn't ruled out taking a pass on Rio.

"There's going to be a point in the next couple of years where we're going to have to think about starting a family," McIlroy said, according to the BBC. "Right now I'm ready to go but I don't want anything to affect that."

The world No. 3 McIlroy, who would to represent the Republic of Ireland in the Olympics, has been reading reports about the spread of Zika, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, including its spread in Brazil, estimates of how long it remains in the body and the effects the virus could have on babies developing in the womb. 

"As it gets closer I am relishing the thought of going down there and competing for gold," McIlroy said. "But I have been reading a lot of reports about Zika and there have been some articles coming out saying that it might be worse than they're saying and I have to monitor that situation."

McIlroy said he is planning to get immunized on Wednesday for as many diseases as possible that he could encounter in Rio. However, there is no vaccine for Zika.

Were McIlroy to turn down an opportunity to play in the Olympics, he would join the likes of Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Marc Leishman, Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez who have all withdrawn their names from consideration. However, that choice might make McIlroy eat his own words.

Two weeks ago at the Wells Fargo Championship, McIlroy said the litany of players withdrawing could negatively impact how the International Olympic Committee perceives the sport and affect the sport's future in the Olympic program beyond the two Games the sport is guaranteed in the program. The IOC will vote in 2017 to determine if golf remains in the Olympics beyond 2020.

"It's obviously being played in Rio this year and it's being played in Tokyo in 2020. I'm not sure if we're going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after that depending on what happens,” McIlroy said.

He added, "If we don’t somehow change the narrative of getting people more excited about it...I’m worried."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Phil Mickelson avoided jail and Muirfield is in Open purgatory

Jordan Spieth frustrated by his Sunday Nelson struggles

Jordan Spieth still hasn't topped the finish he posted in the AT&T Byron Nelson when he was a 16-year-old amateur.

Spieth, now 22, made his PGA Tour debut in the event in 2010, was featured on the weekend and contended before winding up in a tie for 16th place. The two-time major winner looked in great shape to finally improve on that finish on Sunday at TPC Four Seasons. He came into the final round in Irving, Texas, in second places, two shots behind 54-hole leader Brooks Koepka.

However, Spieth had gotten to that point with smoke and mirrors, flexing his short-game muscle to repeatedly salvage pars and make birdies with his penchant for mid-range putting. That magic didn't work on Sunday, and Spieth tumbled down the leaderboard as a result. He shot 4-over 74 to fall five shots out of a playoff eventually won by Sergio Garcia and into a tie for 18th place, just worse than that 2010 finish. 

Ultimately, it was his overreliance on his putter that cost him.

"For the week it was ball-striking but, you know, you can't necessarily rely on your putter the way I relied on it for three rounds," said Spieth, who had 11 one-putt greens on both Friday and Saturday. "You normally can rely on it normally for one. I got three out of them."

Spieth said Saturday that he didn't feel confident over the ball, the product, in part, of working on some swing changes with teacher Cameron McCormick. It has led to a two-way miss for Spieth, leaving him sometimes with an unexpected pull miss to the left. However, the two-time major winner said he felt good hitting shots on Sunday.

"I actually felt very comfortable over the ball today," he said. "Funny how it works. Yesterday it was about as uncomfortable as I've ever felt and shot 3 under. Today I felt like I kind of fixed it a little on the range. I felt really good about it on the golf course today. I just didn't score well."

At least Spieth finished strongly, making a birdie on the closing hole to send the hometown crowd away with a good memory.

"I mean, you don't go from the final group in second place alone and finish in 18th," he said, "and there's not many positives you'll be able to take out of that other than the last hole I played I made birdie. That's nice."

Spieth admits to struggling on this golf course, which will host the championship for two more years before moving to a new venue. However, in his Sunday struggles, Spieth said he found something that should help him this week at Colonial, which favors his eye more.

"I felt like I found something today that I can fine-tune with my ball-striking and my putting is there," he said. "I feel very confident about next week."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Phil Mickelson avoided jail and Muirfield is in Open purgatory

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Koepka falters in playoff as Garcia wins Byron Nelson for 2nd time

In case you've forgotten, this is a Ryder Cup year. So, it's through that lens that a partisan American golf fan has to be disappointed by what transpired on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Sergio Garcia won the tournament in what can only be seen as a collapse by a pair of leading Americans who don't have their full games on form.

First, world No. 2 Jordan Spieth, with a game held together for the first three days by the glue of his remarkable ability to chip and putt, fell apart. He shot 4-over 74 to drop from solo second into a tie for 18th place.

Then, 54-hole leader Brooks Koepka, who also said Saturday he was struggling with his ballstriking, surrendered control of the tournament with shaky chipping and putting. He made consecutive bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15 at TPC Four Seasons in Dallas, missing a 17-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole that could have salvaged the win. He missed, shooting 1-over 71, drawing into a playoff with Garcia, who shot 2-under 68 despite putting two balls in water hazards in a windy final round.

On the first and only playoff hole, Kopeka went first and pulled his tee shot into the water hazard guarding the left side of the 18th hole. Undaunted, Garcia also hit driver on an aggressive line that found dry land. After a drop, Koepka made an uninspired gouge at his third shot that came up 20 yards short of the target. Garcia found the green, made par and won the Nelson for the second time in his career, 14 years after he made this tournament his first PGA Tour win. 

Garcia now has as many PGA Tour wins -- nine -- as the late Seve Ballesteros, who until Sunday had the most among Spaniards. (Ballesteros did it in 151 starts, while Garcia did it in 301.)

For as disconcerting as the final round was for Spieth and Koepka, Americans dominated the top nine, with Matt Kuchar finishing alone in third at 14-under 266, one shot out of the playoff. Six players -- including five Americans -- finished tied for fourth: Colt Knost, Bud Cauley, Robert Garrigus, Spencer Levin, Charles Howell III and Aussie Tim Wilkinson.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Podcast: How Phil Mickelson avoided insider trading charges

When word came down of the Securities and Exchange Commission filing suit against Phil Mickelson as a "relief defendant" for earning nearly $1 million on a stock trade with insider info, a lot of folks wondered why Mickelson wasn't criminally charged with securities fraud. Mickelson can thank a pair of 2014 cases, and we explain them in this week's podcast.

Kevin Power joins the show to talk about Muirfield's decision to remain an all-male club, talking about the implications for them, the Open Championship, the R&A, the Scottish economy and more. We also delve into Rory McIlroy's issue activism and the potential influence he could have on the game and his peers.

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle Play MusicTuneInPlayerFM or Stitcher.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Despite poor tee-to-green game, Spieth could win the Nelson

The mark of a great player is displaying the ability to win without their best stuff.

Last weekend at The Players, Jason Day flexed his muscle to grab a four-shot, wire-to-wire win in one of golf's biggest events. Jordan Spieth, playing with Day for the first two days at TPC Sawgrass, had a front-row seat for half of the Aussie's commanding performance. 

Now Spieth is on the verge of doing the same thing in his hometown.

Spieth heads into the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson trailing Brooks Koepka by two shots, but he has a final-pairing date with the Florida State product and the whole city of Dallas in his gallery, on his side.

Both Spieth, who is at 14-under 196 through 54 holes, and Koepka experienced the electricity of the crowd on Saturday in one moment, when Spieth drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th. Koepka called it "probably the loudest roar I think I’ve ever heard on a golf course."

Spieth agreed.

“A moment that I’ll never forget,” he said. “Even though it’s Saturday (and) may or may not have any impact on this tournament, that was the coolest roar I’ve ever heard.”

However, the crowd alone cannot will Spieth to a second PGA Tour win in 2016. The 22-year-old has been struggling from tee-to-green all week, trying to implement swing changes he's been working on since the Masters with teacher Cam McCormick. The changes have led to the development of a two-way -- or unreliable -- miss. It cost him a penalty stroke on the 14th hole on Saturday after a pulled drive landed in a water hazard. A flared drive to the right on the finishing hole forced him to land short of the green in 2, leading to a closing bogey.

What has saved Spieth so far this week has been his short game, which he flexed again on Saturday at TPC Four Seasons. The two-time major winner had 11 one-putt greens, fashioned by par save after par save.

"I was in some really, really tough spots and was a very stressful round of golf to play because I just don't have confidence over the ball right now," he said. "It's very frustrating and actually putting incredible to still be in this tournament."

You'll have to pardon Spieth for sounding almost despondent about his golf game right now yet still sitting in the final pairing with a decent chance to win in Texas for the first time in his pro career.

"It's very difficult for me to stand up here and not be positive given I'm at 14 under and contending in this tournament," he said, "but if you guys knew the kind of stress I felt over the golf ball right now trying to put my swing in the right position, it is a challenge, especially with the amount of difficult tee shots out here and trouble that guard at least one side of most of the fairways."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Koepka not intimidated by pro-Spieth crowd at the Byron Nelson

Brooks Kopeka isn't expecting a lot of people to be rooting for him on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Despite playing impressive golf, including setting a new 54-hole tournament record to earn a two-stroke lead, Koepka is trying to pick up second PGA Tour win at the expense of hometown hero Jordan Spieth. The crowd will be partisan for Spieth, and that's putting it mildly.

However, Kopeka seems nonplussed by it.

"I really don't care. Doesn't really bother me," Koepka said after Saturday play. "I mean, he's got a lot of support which is cool to see. He has grown up here, home town. He should. There's so many people out there cheering him."

Koepka, who won last year in Phoenix for his first Tour title, got to experience a Spieth crowd in Dallas firsthand on Saturday. They played alongside each other in the final group along with 36-hole leader Ben Crane. On the par-3 17th, Spieth drained a 20-footer for birdie that sent the crowd into a tizzy. 

“Probably the loudest roar I think I’ve ever heard on a golf course," Koepka said.

It's that kind of energy that Spieth could feed off of to win his first professional title in the Lone Star State.

“A moment that I’ll never forget,” Spieth said. “Even though it’s Saturday (and) may or may not have any impact on this tournament, that was the coolest roar I’ve ever heard.”

While the crowd might not be pulling hard for Koepka on Sunday, but the Florida State product feels locked in -- in part, because he said he's not playing his best all-around golf.

"I think sometimes when you're not playing your best you're more mentally there, you're trying to grind it out a little bit harder," he said. "You've really got to come in with a good game plan, I guess you could say, manage yourself around the golf course. That's kind of what we're doing right now even though today wasn't that good."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rory McIlroy 3 clear in suspended Irish Open

Rory McIlroy is in great shape to win his first event of 2016, and he's trying to do it as tournament host.

McIlroy is three ahead of the field 15 holes into his third round at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, pulling ahead of Danny Willett at 9 under par. The Masters champion, playing a group behind McIlroy in the final pairing with Scot Marc Warren, is 2 over on the round and has also played 15 holes.

Wet and windy conditions at The K Club led to multiple suspensions of play before ultimately canceling out play for the day. There are 15 players who still need to finish their third rounds before the final round can begin.

McIlroy was happy to get through the conditions without dropping a shot, but, given his aggressive nature, he figured he still missed some opportunities.

"Today was a day to just hang in there and try not to make too many mistakes and that's what I said I wanted to do today," he said. "No bogeys in 15 holes, that was good. I feel like I left a few out there, but at the same time, I can't complain with a three-shot lead going into tomorrow."

The four-time major champion is hosting the tournament for the second time this year, missing the cut last year in more trying conditions at Royal County Down. Until this week, McIlroy hadn't even seen the weekend at the Irish Open since 2012. Winless this year, McIlroy has finished in the top four in three of his last six PGA Tour starts and only worse than tied for 12th once. 

Earlier in the week, McIlroy lampooned those who have said he's been playing poorly this year, saying his "bad weeks" have been top-10 finishes. If he's going to notch his first win of the year, McIlroy is going to have to avoid frustration.

"I just have to approach it like I did today, just take whatever comes and just make sure I'm ready to go whenever they tell us to go play," he said. "I feel like my game is good enough that I'll keep giving myself chances, hit fairways, hit greens, and if I can knock a few in, hopefully that will be good enough to get the job done tomorrow."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Friday, May 20, 2016

Jordan Spieth ties career-best PGA Tour opener with Nelson 64

Jordan Spieth tied his best-ever first round in his PGA Tour career on Thursday, finishing up a 6-under 64 as the sun set on Day 1 of the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons in Dallas.

Spieth attributed the performance not really to playing better, but rather having a better outlook on the course and making sure he avoided amplifying mistakes.

“I hit it better last week than I did today, but I think it was an off day with my irons,” said Spieth. “I got it in decent spots and was able to convert a couple of 8- and 10-footers.”

The 22-year-old kicked off the round on the right foot, chipping in for birdie on the first hole of the tournament. He was also efficient on the two par 5s, making birdie on both. Throw in another four birdies against just one bogey, and Spieth is in contention.  

The Thursday 64 ties his career-low opening round with last year at Colonial, where he finished tied for second, and at the 2015 Masters, which he won. It's a good sign for this week.

This is Spieth's hometown event, and it's title-sponsored by one his largest endorsements. There's a lot of pressure on him to perform. In fact, Spieth hasn't finished in the top 20 in this event since he finished tied for 16th as a 16-year-old amateur in 2010.

Spieth said he felt a little different inside the ropes in this event on Thursday. Rain drove away the crowds a little bit, but if he's in contention on the weekend, he'll be surrounded by galleries that, in the last year, have become commonplace.

"At this point if you're in contention on the weekend it doesn't matter where we're playing, there are huge crowds," he said.

"Everything has been a bit more calm this week and it's been a lot easier to just stay in a normal rhythm."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

McIlroy in contention to win as host of Irish Open

Rory McIlroy had missed the cut in each of his last three starts in the Irish Open. Now, the world No. 3 is in good position to win it as the tournament host.

McIlroy finished off a 2-under 70 on Friday at The K Club, getting to 7-under 137 through two rounds. 

"It’s very nice to make the weekend. I usually don’t stand up here after a second day and say that I’m relieved to make the cut," McIlroy said. "Obviously more excited that I’m in with a chane to win the golf tournament."

This is the first time McIlroy has made the Irish Open cut since 2012. In his first year as tournament host in 2015, McIlroy shot 80-71 in difficult conditions at Royal County Down to miss the cut.

McIlroy played alongside Masters champion Danny Willett for the opening two rounds. Willett beat McIlroy by a shot for 36 holes, co-leading the tournament through the morning wave on Friday with Scot Marc Warren.

The Ulsterman had been getting frustrated in the round, which began on the 10th hole, as he was unable to capitalize on his excellent tee-to-green game. However, a 20-foot birdie putt on the ninth, his finishing hole, improved his outlook going into the weekend.

“It changed my mood a little bit," McIlroy said. "I was getting frustrated a little bit, especially at the end of my round. I felt like I was giving myself chances and I wasn’t converting, and anytime I did make a mistake I wasn’t saving par. To hole that birdie putt at the last was nice. It gives me a little bit of momentum going into the weekend.

"I’m making enough birdies. The birdies are there. I just need to limit the mistakes."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Thursday, May 19, 2016

SEC sues Phil Mickelson, alleging he profited $931K on insider tip

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil suit naming Phil Mickelson as a "relief defendant," accusing the five-time major winner of insider trading.

The suit claims Mickelson made approximately $931,000 on Dean Foods stock because of an insider tip from famous sports bettor Billy Walters.

Walters and former Dean Foods board chair Thomas Davis are were arrested Wednesday on charges of securities fraud stemming from a multi-year investigation. As part of that investigation, the SEC alleges Walters and Mickelson, who plays golf with Walters, profited in August 2012 from an insider tip that Dean Foods would be announcing a profitable subsidiary, The WhiteWaves Food Company.

Mickelson was not named in the criminal charges. The SEC is suing him to pay back the money he made on his trade of the stock.

The SEC complaint alleges a multi-year exchange of insider information between Walters and Davis, claiming Davis tipped Walters on several occasions from 2008-12 about highly confidential information about Dean Foods, including "sneak previews of at least six of the company’s quarterly earnings announcements."

Davis resigned his position in August 2015 after he was suspected of being the source of the insider tip to Walters.

The SEC also claims Walters helped Davis with personal financial trouble by providing him with $1 million. The money was issued in two installments, used at least in part to pay off a casino debt.

Walters allegedly contacted Mickelson by phone on July 27, 2012 with the spin-off information. The pair also texted the next day. Walters urged Mickelson to trade Dean Foods, which he did by establishing a $2.4 million position in the stock through three separate brokerage accounts. Mickelson's other holdings totaled approximately $250,000. A week later, Dean Foods announced the subsidiary, with the stock jumping 40 percent.

The SEC was also investigating if Walters had learned insider information from billionaire investor Carl Icahn about household product maker Clorox. Icahn had been looking to make a takeover bid for the company. That investigation did not yield charges.

The investigation had been public knowledge since May 2014, with Mickelson reportedly approached twice by the FBI looking to speak with the 45-year-old.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Day's world ranking edge 'bothers' and 'motivates' Spieth

Jordan Spieth had a front-row seat last week to Jason Day's dominance. The two played together for the opening rounds of The Players Championship, which Day opened with a course record-tying 9-under 63. Day went on to a wire-to-wire, four-shot win, while Spieth missed the cut in his first start since his Masters meltdown.

Now, Day has clearly staked out a position atop the Official World Golf Ranking, ending a back-and-forth between the two that began last July. 

That fact concerns Spieth, but he's hoping to also draw energy from it.

"Certainly didn't have it last week. And I'm looking to get that back and it is definitely there's some motivation there," Spieth said Tuesday ahead of the AT&T Byron Nelson in his hometown of Dallas. "He's playing his game. He believes his game is better than anybody else's and he's on his game and so it is better than everyone else's."

Spieth, who is in the second event of stretch of four tournaments in as many weeks, knows the gap is so large that he can't catch Day even if he can win this week in Dallas and next week's Colonial in Ft. Worth.

The good news is that dangles a clear carrot in front of Spieth, who is trying to fine-tune aspects of his game.

Spieth said, "He's separated himself and that bothers me and it motivates me."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Muirfield votes to not admit female members; out of British Open rota

The all-male membership of Muirfield in Scotland has voted against admitting female members, a decision that now excludes it from the British Open rotation.

The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which owns the club, voted this week on ending the club's 244-year history of excluding female members, with a two-thirds majority required to make the change. Despite vocal support of the change from the club board, only 64 percent of the 648 voting members voted in favor of admitting female members.

A group of some 30 members wrote an open letter to the membership, imploring them to reject female members. 

This vote was the result of a two-year process Muirfield undertook after coming under heavy criticism for its membership practices while hosting the 2013 Open Championship, won by Phil Mickelson. That was the 16th time Muirfield has hosted the Open.

The R&A had made it clear that it intends to keep the Open away from clubs that exclude women. 

“The R&A has considered today’s decision with respect to the Open Championship. The Open is one of the world’s great sporting events and going forward we will not stage the Championship at a venue that does not admit women as members," said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers in a Thursday statement.

“Given the schedule for staging The Open, it would be some years before Muirfield would have been considered to host the Championship again. If the policy at the club should change we would reconsider Muirfield as a venue for The Open in future.”

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews, of which the governing body known as the R&A is an off-shoot, admitted women as members for the first time in 2014 in 260 years of existence. Another Open host, Royal St. George's, admitted female members for the first time in 2015.

The 2016 Open host Royal Troon remains the only club in the active rotation that does not have single membership. Rather, there are separate memberships for men and women. The club is consulting members on possibly ending that practice, which would include ending having separate clubhouses.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mickelson replaces Bill Clinton as CareerBuilder Challenge ambassador

The tournament formerly known as The Hope might now go by The Thrill.

Phil Mickelson was announced Wednesday as the new ambassador for the CareerBuilder Challenge, the PGA Tour stop in the California desert. Mickelson is taking over for former President Bill Clinton, whose formal relationship with the tournament through his Clinton Foundation has come to an end.

“I’m very excited to undertake the role of tournament ambassador and look forward to doing what I can to help with the continued growth of the CareerBuilder Challenge,” Mickelson said in a release. “Our family loves the area and we have a home in Coachella Valley, so this is a natural fit for me.”

Mickelson will promote the tournament, compete in it and participate in a number of tournament functions during championship week.

The CareerBuilder Challenge, the modern name of the Bob Hope Classic, is typically slotted as the third PGA Tour event in a calendar year, serving as the first event on the U.S. mainland after the Tour spends two weeks in Hawaii.

During the Clinton Foundation's involvement with the tournament, the foundation convened a pre-tournament health conference. That will be replaced starting in 2018 with a labor market and job skills conference, fitting in with title sponsor CareerBuilder's business.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Long-drive champion Jamie Sadlowski wins U.S. Open qualifier

Two-time World Long Drive champion Jamie Sadlowski can do a whole lot more than hit a golf ball really, really far. The Canadian is also an accomplished golfer...who just happens to be able to drive a lot of par 4s.

So, when his agent and former long-drive champion Art Sellinger challenged Sadlowski to try to qualify for the U.S. Open, Sadlowski was game.

Not only did Sadlowski get through to U.S. Open sectional qualifying on Tuesday, he won the 18-hole event at D.C. Ranch in Scottsdale, Ariz. Sadlowski made seven birdies en route to 5-under 65 finish as medalist.

“People figure you hit it a long way you ought to be able to shoot low, but you still have to get it in the hole, and I did that pretty well," Sadlowski told Golf Digest. “It’s nice to be able to prove that I can do more than hit the ball far.”

His caddie got to see him mix distance and touch, too. CBS Sports' Gary McCord, who plays golf regularly with Sadlowski in Arizona, was on the bag for the win. Then again, McCord didn't need to offer a lot of advice. Digest reports Sadlowski used driver just three times, relying more on his 300-yard 2-iron off the tee to set up short and mid-irons into the greens.

Sadlowski has competed in four Web.com Tour events before, making the cut three times. However, he had never given thought to trying to get in the Open until Sellinger laid down the gauntlet.

The next step for Sadlowski is getting through one of the USGA's 36-hole sectional qualifying tournaments -- on Golf's Longest Day -- to earn a spot at Oakmont C.C. in June. McCord will be on the bag again, and Sadlowski hopes to compete in the qualifier held in Columbus, Ohio, where many PGA Tour players and other pros compete after the annual Memorial Tournament in nearby Dublin. It offers the most spots in the Open of any sectional qualifier because of the depth of its field. Sadlowski will already be in town to give a demo at the behest of Columbus-based Nationwide insurance. He could also put on a show en route to his first major berth. 


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Will Wilcox aces par-3 17th at Players, first on the hole since '02

This isn't something that happens very often: Will Wilcox made a hole-in-one on the infamous par-3 17th on Friday at The Players Championship.

There had not been an ace on one of the most famous short holes in golf since Miguel Angel Jimenez accomplished the feat back for the sixth time in tournament history in 2002, when he had much shorter hair.

Wilcox is the first player to also make an ace at The Players using a non-white ball, using a yellow Srixon ball to make the 1, which moved Wilcox to 5 under par for the tournament. 

The hole-in-one is the 27th in Players history and the first on any hole in the championship since 2013.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

USGA gives Retief Goosen special exemption into U.S. Open

The USGA has offered two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen a special exemption into this year's Open, to be played in June at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh.

The 47-year-old South African won his first Open in 2001 in an 18-hole playoff at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., defeating Mark Brooks by two shots. Three years later, Goosen survived borderline unplayable conditions and a challenge from Phil Mickelson to win his second Open at Shinnecock Hills in the Hamptons of New York.

“I am incredibly grateful to receive a special exemption into the 2016 U.S. Open,” said Goosen. “It is, of course, a very special championship for me, having managed to win it twice and I am delighted to know that I will be in the field again this year.”

Goosen was in position to win the Open for a third time in 2005, getting into the final pairing at Pinehurst No. 2 with Jason Gore. However, both players fell off the pace quickly, with Goosen winning the intra-group match with Gore, shooting a final-round 81.

The 10-year exemption for his second Open win expired after the 2014 Open. Goosen played his way into the 2015 Open at Chambers Bay through sectional qualifying in Memphis, Tenn.

Goosen is the first player to receive a special exemption into the U.S. Open since Tom Watson and Vijay Singh in 2010 at Pebble Beach Golf Links.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Power rankings: AT&T Byron Nelson

The PGA Tour rolls into Dallas for the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons. Jordan Spieth is the hometown hero and the headliner in this week's event. However, the likes of Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner and a slew of former major champions are looking to prove spoiler for Spieth's possible first win in this event.

Here are our top five players for this week:

1. Dustin Johnson -- He hasn't won here, but he has four top-10 finishes in six career starts at TPC Four Seasons. He's found a groove of consistent golf, even in places he hasn't historically liked, including a T-28 at The Players.

2. Matt Kuchar -- Kooch put up a T-3 at The Players, which is his best PGA Tour finish in over a year. Three top-15s in the last five years is a more than solid record here.

3. Ryan Palmer -- Palmer loves this tournament, with a trio of top-15s. He's also missed just one cut all season, in his first start. Was tied for fourth at the Texas Open.

4. Charley Hoffman -- Hoffman has four career top-10s in this event, and he's playing great golf, including a Lone Star win last month. That's not shabby. Runner-up here last year.

5. Jordan Spieth -- As Spieth goes through game changes, it's clear he's going to have moments of frustration. Spieth has the talent to do well here, but he said at The Players that he hasn't felt he's contended here since he was a 16-year-old amateur.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Ex-Ryder Cup captain McGinley: McIlroy's problems 'between his ears'

Relatively speaking, there's nothing wrong with Rory McIlroy. In his last six PGA Tour starts, he's finished in the top 10 four times, including in the top four in three tournaments. 

However, McIlroy isn't doing what Jason Day is doing. Day has won three times since March, including in wire-to-wire fashion at The Players. McIlroy has become the clear No. 3 in the Big Three, if such a thing still exists, and he's searching for his first worldwide win in nearly six months as he hosts this week's Irish Open on the European Tour.

Former European Ryder Cup captain and Irishman Paul McGinley doesn't see much wrong with McIlroy's game. Rather, he thinks the four-time major winner is facing a mental block.

"For some reason his concentration levels are down and I don’t know why," McGinley said, according to the Irish Examiner.

“You wouldn’t question his bottle, that’s for sure. He has proved that at the very highest level. I think he is just lacking a little bit of confidence because he hasn’t won for a while. And he is lacking a little bit of focus."

Though McIlroy has switched putting grips, using the left-hand low style that's worked so well for Jordan Spieth, McGinley insists that move isn't a signal of trouble. Rather, he thinks McIlroy isn't focused for all 72 holes of a tournament, and it's in those lapses where McIlroy loses ground and then harps on those mistakes.

The Irishman thinks McIlroy could take a page from Arnold Palmer.

“He used to say, ‘The greatest gift you need mentally in this game is the ability to forget,’" McGinley said. "Now I understand exactly what he meant.”

If McIlroy is to win for the first time since the DP World Tour Championship in November 2015, he'll have to forget his recent past at the Irish Open. He's missed the cut in his last three starts there.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Monday, May 16, 2016

Rory McIlroy looking forward to Oakmont Open, throws shade on Chambers

After enduring the difficulty of Saturday at The Players Championship and a slightly less demanding version of TPC Sawgrass on Sunday, Rory McIlroy seemed downright giddy to get out of northeast Florida.

...and is excited to play on the hardest golf course on the planet?

The U.S. Open is a month away, and Oakmont C.C. near Pittsburgh will host the national championship for the ninth time. It's probably the only golf course in the country that could host the year's second major on three days' notice. Oakmont plays like a U.S. Open setup pretty much every day of the year.

Nonetheless, McIlroy, himself a streaky putter, can't wait to take on an Open challenge that's more like the archetype for this championship instead of the deviation that was Chambers Bay near Tacoma, Wash., last year.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said, according to Golf Digest. “Back to a nice traditional U.S. Open, not like we’re playing on the moon this year.”

Chambers Bay was a first-time U.S. Open host, and the USGA practically lost the fescue greens to the point that some, including McIlroy, used vegetables to describe their texture. It was an experiment gone wrong. That won't be the case with Oakmont. USGA president Mike Davis has made it clear that he and his team know, from experience, the blueprint for a perfect Oakmont Open.

However, McIlroy still has two more tournaments between him and a chance at a fifth career major. This week he hosts the European Tour's Irish Open at The K Club. Two weeks later, he'll compete in the Memorial Tournament at Jack Nicklaus' Muirfield Village in Ohio. Then, the Open.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Tiger Woods puts 3 in the water at Quicken Loans media day

BETHESDA, Md. -- Tiger Woods said he was getting closer, getting better, that his golf game was coming along. 

"I'm still trying to get stronger. I'm trying to get more pliable," he said Monday at Congressional Country Club for Quicken Loans National media day. "I'm hitting the ball better. Everything about my game is coming around. Now it's just a matter of being consistent with it."

After fielding questions on everything from his health, to his relationship with world No. 1 Jason Day, to his return to competitive golf, Woods then took to the tee box to hit three shots from 102 yards as part of a promotional stunt for a charitable effort from his tournament's title sponsor.

It didn't go well.

Woods hit three shots from the up tee on the 10th hole at the host of the 2011 U.S. Open. All of them went in the guarding water hazard -- the first two on the fly, with the last hitting the bank before rolling back down into the drink.

It seemed like Woods was intent on hitting just one ball. However, after that went in the hazard, Woods seemed to hit a second out of pride. When that disappeared in the water, Woods said, "That's enough for me." But then he hit a third.

Woods' words minutes before simply didn't match what he showed, and the display certainly didn't jibe with his message of "progressing nicely" in a video he shared of him hitting a single 9-iron into a simulator in late February.

Perhaps, then, it shouldn't be surprising that Woods said he is uncertain of when he'll return to golf.

"That's the overriding question I keep hearing. 'When are you coming back?' 'When are you playing?' I hear it all the time," Woods said. "And, if I knew, I'd tell you. It'd be fun to know."

That doesn't sound like Woods has illusions of returning anytime soon -- not for the Memorial Tournament, the U.S. Open or for his tournament the next week. In fact, Woods' future is so in the air, he suggested he could come back in weeks or "a year from now," meaning that a comeback could start in 2017.

"People have written me off; I'm not fertilizer," Woods added.

Perhaps, but three swings on a quiet Monday showed that he's got a lot of growing to do before he can play on the PGA Tour again.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Jason Day wins The Players by 4 and is clearly the best in the world

Jason Day won The Players Championship by four shots on Sunday, and, really it makes sense. The best player in the world won one of the best tournaments in the world.

Actually, Day really won three tournaments rolled into one.

Day set the pace on Thursday in soft, receptive conditions by tying the competitive course record with 9-under 63 at TPC Sawgrass. In a round that straddled Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, Day followed up with a 66 in similar conditions to set a new 36-hole scoring record at the tournament -- one previously held by his idol, Greg Norman, when he marched to a tournament-record 24-under 264 in 1994.

Then, the PGA Tour created a second tournament on Saturday afternoon. Expecting little wind and plenty of humidity, the course setup team set up the course to play a firmer and a tad faster than the birdiefest that had been the first two rounds. Unfortunately, they got the weather forecast wrong and got the exact opposite.

The significant winds and relatively dry Florida heat baked out the Stadium Course, leaving the greens running on the edge of playability. Combined with tricky Saturday hole locations, the table-top greens drove up the scoring average by four-and-a-half shots over the first two days. Only six players broke par. Jason Day wasn't one, but his 1-over 73 beat the scoring average of 75.6 and gave him a four-shot edge heading into the final round.

The final round was the third tournament. It was the Goldilocks day, the one between the first two days and Saturday. The Stadium played more difficult, but just a smidge over par. After coming out flat, Day made a pair of bogeys to go out in 2-over 38. However, the bogey 6 on the par-5 ninth may have been the most critical stroke of Day's round. He settled from here, making birdies on Nos. 10 and 12 to re-establish his sizable lead. A ho-hum birdie on the par-5 16th put the nail in the coffin.

However, it was Day's final hole that offering a parting glimpse into what could be a scary future for the PGA Tour.

Day hit his trusty 2-iron off the 18th tee some 308 yards, setting up a wedge into the green at the 462-yard finisher. Knowing he had the tournament in hand, he made a routine two-putt to lock up the fifth wire-to-wire win in Players history (fourth at Sawgrass).

“It’s such a big accomplishment for me in my career,” Day said. “To be able to finally win as No. 1 in the world and then to go wire to wire was very special. I’m glad I don’t have to play the course again.”

For the Aussie, this is his seventh PGA Tour win in his last 17 starts. It's his third wire-to-wire win in the last nine months. It's his third win this season. He cemented his status as world No. 1. He's the favorite to win the U.S. Open.

Tiger Woods has taken Day under his wing, and Day has repeatedly said he's absorbing -- and is clearly putting into practice -- what the 14-time major winner has revealed. If Day can continue to learn from Woods and draw from his own mountin experience to sail the uncharted waters of being the undisputed No. 1 player in the world, he can only stand to get better.

That's frightening.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Duke shoots improbable 65 on almost impossible Saturday at TPC

Ken Duke shot one of the best rounds -- if not the best round -- in the history of The Players Championship on Saturday.

On a TPC Sawgrass course Rory McIlroy said bordered on unfair, Duke shot 7-under 65 to jump into a share of second place, four shots behind leader and world No. 1 Jason Day.

How did Duke manage that score, one that was more than 10 shots better than the 75.6 average score in the third round? Perhaps it started with embracing the challenge.

“I think this is our championship, The Players, and it should be set up as difficult as possible,” Duke said. “The conditions today, it shows it. You have to play your best golf around here, and obviously the best players in the world are here.”

The 47-year-old, one-time PGA Tour winner isn't long. He can't overpower golf courses. So, while it sounds counter intuitive, he needed the setup to force a more exacting style of golf, one that doesn't penalize how he plays nearly as much as the soft, receptive conditions of the first two rounds. Duke thrived, posting the lowest score of the day on an afternoon when just six of 76 players broke par.

Now, at 10-under 206, Duke is in the penultimate Sunday pairing alongside Alex Cejka, who last year became the oldest first-time winner in PGA Tour history when he won the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open.

It's like Duke took the Hyperloop up the leaderboard after opening with 2-over 74 on Thursday, finding himself 11 shots behind Day, who kicked off the week by tying the competitive course record at TPC Sawgrass. However, after his Saturday round, Day was among those marveling at what Duke accomplished on Saturday.

“What course was Ken Duke playing today? Can anyone tell me? Was he playing across the road?” Day said. “I mean it was just, to be able to shoot that score is better – I think that should be the course record. It was just an absolute joke.”

Russell Knox took it a step much further.

“That’s the best round of golf ever, probably," he said. "It was incredible how hard it was out there.”

It's safe to say this was unexpected -- not only because of the conditions but also because of Duke's form. He's playing on a major medical exemption after breaking his wrist in September. His only top-50 finish of the season was a T-37 at The Honda Classic in March. He missed his last four cuts at The Players. And yet none of that mattered on Saturday.

“That’s golf for you. We all know that,” Duke said. “You see it every week out here on the Tour. The big guys play good every week, but there’s those guys that put it all together.”


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

LISTEN TO OUR WEEKLY GOLF PODCAST! This week: Why Jason Day is the best in the world right now

!!!!!!!!!!

Categories

Blog Archive