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  • Furyk names Tiger, Stricker vice captains
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, February 20, 2018

    United States captain Jim Furyk named Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker as vice captains for the 2018 Ryder Cup team Tuesday.

    • Woods and Stricker will join Davis Love III, who was previously announced as a vice captain by Furyk.

      Woods, who is making his third start in his return to the PGA Tour this week at the Honda Classic, has said he would love to play as a vice captain as well. But he also missed the cut at the Genesis Open last week and has a long way to go before being considered for a captain's pick on the 12-man team.

      "My goal is to make the team," Woods said in a video statement. "But whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do whatever I can to help us keep the Cup."

      Woods, 42, did serve as a vice captain for the winning team at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. in 2016. He has played in seven Ryder Cups as a player, posting a 13-17-3 overall record.

      "He's been a part of this process from starting with the task force and now the Ryder Cup committee," Furyk said when asked about why he chose Woods. "Arguably the best, or one of the best, players of all time.

      "What Tiger has really brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of Xs and Os. I think he's done a real good job with pairing players together in foursomes and four balls. And when you look at our team room, and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals and fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.

      "So to have him in the team room, to really be that humble guy that's ready to serve and help them do whatever he can to play better ... means a lot to the team room. It has been a huge asset to our captains the past couple of years."

      Stricker, 51, is still splitting his time playing part-time schedules on both the PGA and Champions tours. He has played on three Ryder Cup teams, served as the 2017 Presidents Cup captain and twice served as a Ryder Cup vice captain (2016, '16).

      "Steve's a great friend," Furyk said. "One of the best people I know on the PGA Tour. I think the players depend on him, rely on him and he has a great rapport with everyone.

      "He's not the cheerleader in the locker room, not the cheerleader in the team room, but he has a knack to look through the room and view different players, different situations. And when Steve speaks up and when he's given advice to our captains, it's been very useful. I think he's that guy, when he speaks, everyone listens."

      The 42nd Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, only the second time the event will take place in Continental Europe and the first time in France.

      The United States has not won on European soil since 1993 at The Belfry, and is seeking its first consecutive Ryder Cup victories since 1991 and '93.

      Furyk, the 28th U.S. captain since the Ryder Cup began in 1927, recently took a tour of Le Golf National.

      "I love the golf course," he said Tuesday. "All I've heard since I was named captain a year ago from the European Tour players was, 'Man, we love this golf course. It's a top three, a top five on our tour.'

      "It has almost a stadium-like atmosphere. So I think it's going to be a great venue, not just for the Ryder Cup and the players involved, but the fans, television and everyone involved."

      --Field Level Media

  • Watson vaults 50 spots in Ryder Cup standings
    By Field Level Media / Monday, February 19, 2018

    Bubba Watson vaulted 50 spots to No. 10 in the United States Ryder Cup team points standings following his victory at the Genesis Open on Sunday.

    • Watson earned 1,296 points with the victory -- he entered the tournament with just 285.7. He is just two spots outside of one of the eight automatic spots on the team that will be determined following the PGA Championship in August. The four remaining spots will be Captain's Selections by Jim Furyk.

      Watson pointed to missing out on the 2016 Ryder Cup team as part of the reason for his slide over the past two years. He was not a captain's pick despite being ranked No. 7 in the world at the time.

      Watson struggled throughout 2017, including with an undisclosed illness that led to a significant weight loss, and entered the Genesis Open ranked 117th in the world with no top-30 finishes over his previous six tournaments. He rose to 40th in the world golf rankings following his win at Riviera Country Club.

      "The last two years," Watson said about what brought on his emotional reaction after winning. "If you think about it, let's go back even to the Ryder Cup (in 2016). I was seventh in the world, didn't get picked for the Ryder Cup ... which I shouldn't have. It was a thrill of a lifetime to be vice-captain, and I would do it again in a heartbeat if someone let me.

      "So from that downfall of a letdown and not making the team. And then to get sick, lose all this weight ... all those things added in. Not knowing if you're ever going to make it again, you don't know. We can't predict what's going to happen around the corner. So you never know if it's going to be the last time. I don't want it to be, I'm an athlete and I want to keep going. The emotion was just that. Like, 'Wow, I still have a chance in this game.'"

      There were no changes among the top nine spots in the rankings, with Dustin Johnson extending his lead at the top with 111.6 points earned at the Genesis Open. Injured Brooks Koepka remained No. 2, followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Brian Harman, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler and Chez Reavie.

      Watson moved ahead of Phil Mickelson, who did climb one spot to No. 11 with the 241.2 points he earned. Patrick Reed, Patton Kizzire, James Hahn and Kevin Chappell round out the top 15.

      --Field Level Media

  • Woods misses cut at Genesis Open, commits to playing in Honda Classic
    By Field Level Media / Friday, February 16, 2018

    Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Genesis Open after shooting a plus-5 76 on Friday, hours after he committed to playing in next week's Honda Classic.

    • The PGA Tour announced Woods' decision to play in the Honda Classic during Friday evening's play at Riviera near Los Angeles.

      Woods hit just five fairways in Friday's round and bogeyed eight holes, including three of the four par-3s. After opening the back nine with a birdie at the 10th, three straight bogeys helped seal his fate, pushing him to plus-5 with four holes to play and the cut line sitting at plus-2.

      The 42-year-old finished his tournament tied for 116th at plus-6, after hitting just 16 greens in regulation across two rounds. Leaders Patrick Cantlay, Sam Saunders and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland are at 7-under through 36 holes.

      Woods will have the opportunity to rebound when the Honda Classic begins Thursday, which will mark his first time playing in consecutive weeks since August of 2015. The tournament is held in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in close proximity to Woods' home.

      It will be his first time playing in the Honda Classic since 2014.

      There was speculation Woods might wait to see if he made the cut at the Genesis Open before making a decision. He had until Friday night to commit to playing in the Honda Classic.

      Woods returned to the PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open in January after undergoing his fourth back operation last spring.

      The 14-time major winner is trying to regain the form that once made him the top golfer on tour. But the last major title he won was the 2008 U.S. Open, and he has had to deal with personal demons along with intense back pain.

      --Field Level Media

  • Ko up by three strokes at midpoint of Aussie Open
    By Field Level Media / Friday, February 16, 2018

    First-round leader Jin Young Ko expanded her advantage Friday in the second round of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open in Adelaide.

    • The South Korean is on top by three shots after she carded a 3-under-par 69 in the second round at Kooyonga Golf Club, leaving her at 10-under 134.

      Emma Talley, the 2015 NCAA champion while playing for Alabama, sits in second place at 137. Talley matched Ko with a 69 on Friday.

      The second round started slowly for Ko, who made bogey on her second and third holes of the day. She didn't slip up again, though, finishing with five birdies and 10 pars the rest of the war. The surge included a stretch of three consecutive birdies.

      "Yes, I like this course style," Ko said, according to Golf Australia. "Korean courses (are) more long ... and narrow and then (I) have to get longer distance and then straight shots, but here is wider, so stress is less."

      Ko's Australian caddie, Dean Herden, told Golf Australia, "She is amazing. If you get the right yardage, she just flights the ball well. A lot of the girls flight the ball low and it runs out, but she spins it. We've changed to a Titleist ball, and she gets even more spin now."

      Two South Koreans share third place at 138. Sun Young Yoo shot a second-round 70, while Jiyai Shin had a second-round 71.

      In solo fifth is Japan's Nasa Hataoka, who posted a 67 on Friday. American Mo Martin (second-round 72) and South Korean Hyejin Choi (71) are tied for sixth at 140. Six players, including defending champion Ha Na Jang of South Korea, are at 141, tied for eighth.

      --Field Level Media

  • Tiger Woods cards 1-over 72 in return to Riviera
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, February 15, 2018

    Tiger Woods shot a 1-over par 72 on Thursday during the first round of the Genesis Open in his first competitive round at Riviera Country Club in 12 years.

    • He was tied for 63rd place when the first round was suspended due to darkness with a handful of players still on the course.

      Battling through a wayward driver and some inconsistent iron play, Woods carded five birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey. He was six shots off the lead when he walked off the course.

      "Oh man, I fought hard," Woods told the Golf Channel shortly after his round. "I made a few mistakes, simple silly mistakes ... bad shots here and there. I also made my share of birdies, but 1-over is not bad."

      Starting his round on the back nine, Woods birdied the 10th hole - his first of the day. He promptly missed the 11th fairway badly and lost his ball in a tree. That led to a double bogey on the par-5. Woods added a pair of birdies and bogeys before making the turn in 1-over 37.

      He got back to even par with a birdie on the first hole, only to give shots away on the fifth and seventh holes. Woods knocked his gap wedge to within seven feet on the eighth hole to record his fifth birdie of the round.

      Woods' round might have been characterized by his final hole. He pushed his tee shot off the ninth tee box so far right that it landed in a fairway bunker on the 10th hole. He worked a hook shot out of the sand to the back side of the green, then narrowly missed his birdie before tapping in to close the day.

      Woods, 42, continues to tinker with his swing and club set up with his new driver, but said he felt more comfortable off the tee than he did at the Farmers Insurance Open three weeks ago. Woods said it's simply a matter of trusting the new shaft that he called "a little more stout."

      "I felt better today," he said of the driver. "I hit some obviously bad ones, they're all right. The shaft is one that I can go ahead and let it go, and I didn't on a couple of tee shots... I tried to just hit some little smoothies out there. I can go ahead and hit it, and when I did I piped it. It'll be good. The more I get used to it, the more aggressive I can be."

      Massive galleries followed the marquee group of Woods, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy during the morning wave. Thomas carded a 2-under 69, while McIlroy eagled his 10th hole of the day to climb out of a 2-over hole and finished the day at even par.

      "It was great. Anytime I come back to SoCal, it's always a lot of fun," said Woods, who grew up about an hour away. "This is like playing at home for me, a lot of people I know. It's been great to come back and play again."

      This is Woods' second PGA Tour event since undergoing his fourth back surgery last spring.

      --Field Level Media

  • Dustin Johnson faces strong field in Riviera defense
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, February 14, 2018

    The Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles is the traditional end of the "West Coast Swing," with the PGA Tour headed to Florida next week.

    • The picturesque 7,322-yard par 71 layout regularly draws a strong field, and this year's event includes four of the top eight players in the world.

      Tiger Woods is making his second start on the PGA Tour this year, and his first at Riviera in 12 years. Phil Mickelson is also in Pacific Palisades, playing for the fifth consecutive week as he continues his assault on racking up precious Ryder Cup points.

      Justin Thomas will be paired with Woods for the first two rounds as he seeks his first top-10 finish of 2018. The threesome will also feature Rory McIlroy, who came off a strong start to 2018 in Europe only to miss the cut at last week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

      "I wouldn't have minded a nice quiet couple of days," McIlroy joked. "But no, it's totally fine. Like anytime you have a chance to play in a group like that, you sort of relish it and embrace it. I'm obviously looking forward to the next couple of days."

      Some of the top European Tour players are also making their 2018 debuts in the United States, including England's Tommy Fleetwood, Belgium's Thomas Pieters and Germany's Martin Kaymer. Fleetwood, who enters the week ranked No. 13 in the world, has taken up Tour membership this year. After the Genesis Open, he will play two upcoming World Golf Championship events and the Arnold Palmer Invitational leading up to the Masters in April.

      And then there's Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked player in the world and the defending Genesis Open champion.

      Riviera never lacks for marquee players, and its famous 10th hole always brings a variety of opinions about how to attack the drivable 315-yard hole often dubbed as the hardest short par 4 in the world.

      "It's definitely the toughest-looking drivable par 4 I think I've ever seen," said Fleetwood, who is playing the Genesis Open for the first time.

      Woods, who made his PGA Tour at Rivera at 16 years old in 1992, is playing the event for the first time since 2006. He said the 10th hole is essentially a toss-up for him.

      "I've gone for it and laid up -- and I've been very unsuccessful both ways," he said.

      For all the head-scratching, the hole's scoring average last year was still well under par at 3.873, but it makes for endless viewer entertainment.

      Designed by Captain George C. Thomas in the 1920, Riviera became known as "Hogan's Alley" after Ben Hogan won the event three times in the 1940s. The course was updated by Tom Fazio in 2008. The new, longer layout led Woods to quip this week that he had to throw out his old yardage book. The course will also be the site of the U.S. Amateur later this year.

      Riviera is also notorious for its difficult greens. In five of the past seven years, it has ranked as the toughest course on Tour for the most putts missed from inside of 3 feet.

      And fans hoping for Woods to enjoy a breakthrough victory might want to reset their expectations. He has played 10 tournaments at Riviera without coming away with a victory -- his most of any course on Tour.

      "I've got a lot of room for improvement and a long way to go," Woods said about managing his own expectations.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bill Haas among injured in fatal car accident
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, February 14, 2018

    Bill Haas was in serious condition Tuesday after the Ferrari he was a passenger in clipped multiple cars and flipped, killing the driver, in Pacific Palisades, California.

    • Haas, 35, was the passenger in a Ferrari that overturned at approximately 6:30 p.m. local time near the Riviera Country Club, Los Angeles Police Department detective Jeff Fischer said.

      Haas was listed in stable condition on Tuesday night, but Golf Digest reported Wednesday that Haas is "not good."

      He was scheduled to play in the Genesis Open but withdrew Wednesday morning.

      "Bill Haas was involved in a serious car accident in which the driver - a member of the family with whom Haas and his family were staying for the Genesis Open - was killed. While Bill escaped serious injuries and has been released from the hospital, he is understandably shaken up and - more importantly - his deepest condolences go out to the host family during this tragic and difficult time," Haas agent, Allen Hobbs said in a statement. "Bill will withdraw from the Genesis Open and plans to head home to Greenville to recover. He appreciates the support of friends, family and the golf world as a whole, and he has asked for privacy as he processes what has happened."

      The driver of the vehicle was killed, and Haas and the driver of another vehicle were taken to the hospital.

      According to the detective, actor Luke Wilson's SUV was the third car involved but he was not injured.

      The Ferrari was heading south on North Chautauqua Boulevard when it sideswiped a Toyota FJ, which Wilson was driving, and then crashed into a BMW driven by a 50-year-old woman, police said.

      --Field Level Media

  • Tiger: Riviera a 'whole new game'
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, February 13, 2018

    As Tiger Woods made his way around the back nine of the Riviera Country Club during Tuesday's practice round, one thing was abundantly clear to the 14-time major winner.

    • It's a far different golf course than the one he played the last time he entered this event in 2006. Riviera is now a 7,322-yard par 71.

      "Some of the holes have really changed," Woods said. "So the old yardage books are out the window. This is a whole new game.

      "Everything is bigger now. The bunkers are deeper, they seem bigger, the greens have got more pin locations than I remember. So I have to do a little more homework (Wednesday) during the Pro-Am."

      It has been three weeks since Woods made his official return to the PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he made the cut on the number and then enjoyed a solid weekend to finish in a tie for 23rd. He said the only thing sore following the event were his feet - because he wasn't used to walking a long course for four consecutive days.

      Woods will be paired for the first two rounds of the Genesis Open with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, who flew to the event with Woods. Thomas enters this week ranked No. 4 in the world, McIlroy No. 10 after missing the cut last week. Still, they represent two of the four top-10 players in the field this week.

      Woods? He's sitting at No. 550, with only two full events under his belt over the past 13 months.

      Thomas also asked Woods when he competed at Riviera as an amateur. Woods' answer - as a 16-year-old in 1992 - brought a chuckle as it was the year before Thomas was born.

      "I'm sorry, but that put things into perspective for me really fast," Woods said with a laugh.

      Woods said he has spent the time between tournaments trying to "clean up" his swing while keeping his putting sharp. While his short game was surprisingly strong at Torrey Pines, his driver was often well off the mark and left him scrambling to save par.

      "I've got a lot of room for improvement and a long way to go," Woods said about managing expectations.

      At the same time, he's excited to be competing again alongside the wave of strong young players, many of whom had never played with him before the Hero World Challenge in December.

      Before then, "I was just a person they could bounce ideas off of."

      Woods added that he would love to compete for the United States Ryder Cup team as a vice captain in September, but acknowledged he has a long way to go with his game before that can be considered a potential reality.

      --Field Level Media

  • Mickelson, Reavie continue to climb Ryder Cup standings
    By Field Level Media / Monday, February 12, 2018

    Phil Mickelson made in known entering 2018 that one of his primary objectives was to earn an automatic spot on the United States Ryder Cup team.

    • He constructed his tournament schedule with a keen eye on September's event in France, and Mickelson climbed nine spots to No. 12 in U.S. Ryder Cup Team Points with the 488.4 he earned with Sunday's tie for second place at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

      Chez Reavie also finished in that second-place group and his 488.4 points vaulted him two more spots to No. 9 -- one outside of the top eight automatic spots.

      There were no changes within the top eight, with Dustin Johnson also picking up 488.4 points to increase his lead over injured Brooks Koepka atop the points standings. They are followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Brian Harman, Gary Woodland and Rickie Fowler.

      Mickelson will play for a fifth consecutive week at this week's Genesis Open at Riviera. He also rose six spots to No. 35 in the world golf rankings, while Reavie has climbed 52 spots since the beginning of the year and now stands at No. 43.

      The 42nd Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, only the second time the event will take place in Continental Europe.

      --Field Level Media

  • St. Andrews to host 150th Open Championship
    By Field Level Media / Monday, February 12, 2018

    The Old Course at St. Andrews will be the site of the 150th Open Championship to be played in 2021, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club announced Monday.

    • The Open is the world's oldest major golf tournament.

      "The Open holds a very special place in the hearts of golf and sports fans around the world," said R&A head Martin Slumbers. "The Championship enjoys a historic and celebrated relationship with the Old Course in St Andrews and we are excited to be marking the occasion of the 150th Championship at the home of golf in 2021."

      It will also mark the 30th time that the tournament has been held on the Old Course, and the first since Zach Johnson won the Claret Jug after a three-way playoff in 2015 over Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen. It was Johnson's second career major title.

      St. Andrews, nicknamed "The Home of Golf," first played host to the Open in 1873, which was won by Tom Kidd. The course has staged The Open every five years since 1990, a cycle that will be broken with six years between Johnson's victory and the '21 event scheduled for July 15-18.

      Players who have become the "Champion Golfer of the Year" by winning The Open at St. Andrews include JH Taylor, James Braid, Bobby Jones, Peter Thomson, Bobby Locke, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Sir Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods.

      "It is always special when The Open returns to the Old Course and I am sure that excitement, both here in St Andrews and around the world, will build in anticipation of this special occasion," said Chief Executive of St. Andrews Links Trust, Euan Loudon.

      "Almost every great champion in the game has played on our famous Links and we look forward to welcoming the next generation of golfing greats for The 150th Open."

      This year's Open will be held at Carnoustie in Scotland, followed by Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and Royal St. George's in England in 2020.

      "As the world's oldest and most prestigious professional golf championship, The Open is synonymous with both St Andrews and Scotland and I'm delighted St Andrews will welcome its 150th staging in 2021," said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, per Sky Sports.

      "The Open is without doubt one of the biggest events held in Scotland on a regular basis, drawing huge spectator attendance from outwith the country and providing a global media and broadcast platform to promote our outstanding golfing assets to future visitors.

      "Through VisitScotland, we continue to support The Open and we will work with The R&A to deliver a Championship in 2021 befitting of its historical significance."

      --Field Level Media

  • Woods not yet committed to play in Honda Classic
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, February 10, 2018

    Tiger Woods has yet to decide if he will play in the Honda Open later this month with the entry deadline just six days away.

    • Woods will play in his second event next week -- the Genesis Open near Los Angeles -- since returning to the PGA Tour and wants to see how things progress in terms of his back, according to agent Mark Steinberg.

      "He's approaching this the same way he has been and he's kind of taking it a week at a time," Steinberg told reporters. "He's going to get after it this week and then later in the week make a decision. He doesn't know what he's going to do now.

      "He's not just going to commit to commit. He's going to commit when he feels like he's ready to do so. As he's been saying for 20-plus years, his schedule is built to peak four times a year, even at age 42. He's taking it in a very slow and cautious way."

      Woods made his return to the PGA Tour two weeks ago when he tied for 23rd at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines outside San Diego. He was sidelined the previous 10 months after his fourth back surgery.

      With the Honda Classic held near Palm Beach, Fla., and in close proximity to Woods' Orlando home, the expectation has been that Woods would play in the event, slated for Feb. 22-25.

      Woods last played in the tourney in 2014 when he withdrew during the final round with back pain that led to his first surgery.

      The 14-time major winner is trying to regain the form that once made him the top golfer on tour. But the last major title he won was the 2008 U.S. Open and he has had to deal with personal demons along with intense back pain.

      --Field Level Media

  • McIlroy below cut line after 5-putt; high hopes for '18
    By Field Level Media / Friday, February 9, 2018

    Rory McIlroy will need a strong round Saturday to make the final round cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after shooting a 3-over 75 at Monterey Peninsula that dropped him to 1-under following the second round.

    • Making his first start on the PGA Tour this season, McIlroy opened with a 4-under 68 on Thursday at Spyglass Hill, which is widely considered the hardest of the three courses in the event. He will have an opportunity to make up some ground Saturday at Pebble Beach, with the forecast calling for continued good weather through the weekend.

      If he can rally to make the cut, Sunday's final round will also be played at Pebble Beach.

      It is the first time McIlroy has entered the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he is partnered with his father. McIlroy began Friday's round on the back nine and was 1-under for the round and 5-under for the tournament when he reached the par-4 fifth hole.

      He drove it to the front of the green and then lagged his eagle attempt about five feet past the hole. However, he missed his birdie, par and bogey putts - racing each past the hole without touching the cup. McIlroy finally got in on his fifth putt, carding a double bogey. He went on to drop two shots over the final four holes.

      It was a disappointing stretch for McIlroy, who came to California full of confidence after taking time off to completely heal the rib and back injuries that plagued him throughout 2017.

      McIlroy has moved up three spots to No. 8 in the world since the beginning of the year thanks to a tie for third at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and a second-place finish at the Dubai Desert Classic.

      Several players noted McIlroy's strong form during practice rounds this week, and the 28-year-old sounded motivated to put last year's struggles behind him and answer critics who question whether his window among the elite of the sport is closing.

      "Over the hill, getting old," McIlroy quipped to The Dan Patrick Show before Friday's round about his critics. "But I guess it's all in context. And you think of the guys that are coming up and coming through. Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas ... all of these guys are younger than me. And they're the guys that are winning majors, and I haven't won one in a few years.

      "I can see where they're trying to go with it, but I feel like I have time on my side. I feel like the last sort of year has been a struggle with injuries and everything, but I'm definitely over that and past that, and '18 could be a really good year for me."

      McIlroy nearly made another headline in referencing the oft-strained relationship between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson when commenting on how the team chemistry might be an issue if playing in a group with Presidents Clinton, Obama and Trump.

      He was also asked if there was anyone on Tour he would prefer not to be paired with in a tournament. While declining to name names, McIlroy offered that the notoriously slow players are difficult to play with.

      "They're never going to adapt theirs to play quicker, so the faster players have to adapt," he said. "We see each other every week, so it's just wasted energy to have these little niggles with everyone. I try to get along, but yeah, there are some people that I would rather not be paired with."

      --Field Level Media

  • Johnson heads star-studded AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am field
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, February 7, 2018

    Dustin Johnson will tee it up in the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Thursday as the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

    • Whether he finishes the tournament on Sunday still atop the world golf rankings is one of the main storylines this week. Johnson won the year-opening Tournament of Champions in Maui but has since watched No. 2 Jon Rahm steadily pick away at his cushion.

      The Spaniard had a chance to dethrone Johnson two weeks ago before a Sunday slide at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Rahm played in the final group at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday before enduring another rough Sunday.

      Rahm will tee it up for the fourth consecutive week at the Pro-Am, and he can take over No. 1 with a victory if Johnson finishes outside the top 45.

      "It's just how it goes. I haven't played," said Johnson, whose only tournament since the Tournament of Champions was a tie for ninth at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. "He's playing really good right now, so, yeah, I mean if he would have passed me, he would have passed me. Could have probably got it back this week if I won, so ..."

      It was a typically even-keeled response from Johnson. And history indicates he has a strong chance not only to retain his No. 1 ranking this week, but also of emerging with the Pebble Beach title. Johnson has two wins in the event and four other top-five finishes.

      The Pro-Am format features rounds on three courses over the first three days: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. For the pro-am, the format is net best ball of the 156 pro-am teams. After the first three rounds, the top 60 pros and ties and the top 25 pro-am teams qualify for Sunday's final round at Pebble Beach.

      "I just really enjoy coming here," Johnson said. "I enjoy the courses, they're a lot of fun to play. This event is a special event. You get an amateur partner, you play with one other pro and his partner, it's just a lot of fun. Especially if you have a good partner and you have a good group. It's a lot of fun out here, especially when the weather is like this, it doesn't get any better."

      Johnson finished in solo third place last year, five shots behind winner Jordan Spieth.

      Spieth enters the week trying to answer questions about his slow start to the 2018 season. He is still No. 3 in the world, but he began the year at No. 2. He finished ninth in Maui and tied for 18th at the Sony Open in Hawaii, but then missed the cut in Arizona last week as his normally trusty putter let him down following a three-week break.

      His last missed cut came in May 2017, and Spieth proceeded to tie for second in his next event and won two of his next five.

      There are several other interesting plot lines to follow. Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy will make his 2018 PGA Tour debut, paired with Phil Mickelson at Spyglass Hill on Thursday. McIlroy slid to No. 8 following an injury-plagued 2017 and has not played on the Tour since the BMW Championship in September, but he has two top-three finishes in Europe already this year and has earned rave reviews from his peers during practice rounds this week.

      One of the big reasons he chose to make his return to the Tour this week was the opportunity to play with his father in the Pro-Am.

      "It's good to be back in the States and playing again," McIlroy said Wednesday. "I'm feeling healthy and I don't think I could have picked a better week to come back over here. It's obviously beautiful. It's been a nice few days of preparing, seeing a couple of golf courses that I've never seen before. ... I'm excited to be back, I'm excited for this year.

      "The last time I sat in an interview room on the PGA Tour, I wasn't feeling too good about myself, but I'm really happy to be back and looking forward to starting a busy run over the next few weeks leading up to the first major of the year (the Masters in April)."

      Also in the field is Australian Jason Day, who picked up his first victory since 2016 at Torrey Pines two weeks ago. Australian Adam Scott will make his 2018 debut, while No. 17 Paul Casey of England also makes his 2018 Tour debut after tying for ninth in Abu Dhabi.

      There are so many marquee names in the field, it's almost easy to overlook Gary Woodland, who is coming off his third career Tour victory last week. Woodland vaulted to No. 26 in the world and seventh in the United States Ryder Cup standings, but he insisted that it is still far too early to be focused on that and that he still has a lot of fine-tuning to do with his game.

      Even so, he is encouraged by the victory last week, and he finished in the top five of this event last year following two missed cuts.

      "You cannot not love this place," Woodland said. "This place is unbelievable. Probably the most scenic golf course we play all year. Maybe the most scenic golf course in America. So there's obviously a lot of history, a lot of tradition here.

      "It's nice to come back, especially with the momentum I had last week and hopefully have another really good week."

      --Field Level Media

  • Ex-QB Romo will play PGA Dominican event as amateur
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, February 7, 2018

    Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said Wednesday that he has received a sponsor exemption to play in the PGA Tour's Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.

    • Romo, now a broadcaster for CBS, will play as an amateur in the first-time PGA event, slated for March 22-25 in the Dominican Republic.

      "As a professional athlete, the love and thrill of competition never entirely leaves you," Romo said at a press conference from Pebble Beach, where he is playing in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. "Outside of my family and football, golf is one of my greatest passions. So, playing and competing in a PGA TOUR event is a dream come true.

      "I am grateful to the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship for giving me an incredible opportunity to test my skills against some of the best on TOUR."

      Romo, who retired from football following the 2016 season, has attempted to qualify for the U.S. Open three times but failed to make the field on each occasion.

      However, the 37-year-old has played other golf events and carries a plus 0.3 handicap at Dallas National Golf Club.

      "As a first-year PGA TOUR event, we are elated to have Tony Romo accept our offer to play in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship," Grupo Puntacana Founder and Chairman Frank Rainieri said in a statement. "Tony Romo rose to an elite level in professional football, and then quickly became a popular and well-regarded broadcaster for CBS when he retired.

      "He has a history of achieving success in the face of major challenges. And now he's going to face a new one, the rare opportunity to compete as an amateur against the world's best golfers. We are very excited to see how this plays out."

      Jordan Spieth, one of the top PGA golfers, occasionally plays golf with Romo in the Dallas area and likes what he has seen from Romo.

      "He's playing really well," Spieth told reporters. "His short game is fantastic. He's walking in putts from 15 feet at home just, I mean, walking them in almost every hole. It's really impressive. We'll see if he walks them in out here. It's harder to walk them in on Poa annua (surface). But yeah, I mean he's a guy that when he gets kind of a feeling, he sees a couple shots, I mean he believes it like this. And then he can hit a 100 of them in a row. His muscle memory, his hand-eye coordination is really special.

      "So I have no doubt he'll shoot under par every round out here from where they're playing from. ... I mean, he thinks he can win this golf tournament if he played it with us."

      Romo was a four-time Pro Bowl selection during his NFL career and set Cowboys records for career passing yards (34,183) and passing touchdowns (248).

      --Field Level Media

  • Woodland climbs into automatic Ryder Cup spot
    By Field Level Media / Monday, February 5, 2018

    Gary Woodland's victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday vaulted him 16 spots and into an automatic qualifying spot for the 2018 United States Ryder Cup team.

    • Woodland entered the tournament at TPC Scottsdale in the 23rd position, well outside of one of the top eight automatic qualifying spots and consideration for a captain's pick. But his third career victory earned him 1,242 Cup points, and vaulted him into the No. 7 spot.

      That is right ahead of Rickie Fowler, who slid down a spot after his latest back-nine collapse in a final round. Fowler was the 54-hole leader but shot a 2-over 73 in the final round. That was better than only nine of the 64 players who made the cut.

      He did pick up 141.45 Ryder Cup points with the finish, which was enough to hold onto the No. 8 spot.

      The top six spots remained unchanged with Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar and Brian Harman. Kuchar tied for fifth at the Phoenix Open, while Thomas rallied for a tie for 17th with a 66 on Sunday. Spieth missed the cut.

      Chez Reavie, who lost to Woodland on the first playoff hole, climbed 14 spots and is at No. 11 heading into this week's AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Patton Kizzire, the only two-time winner on the Tour this season, dropped two spots to No. 10 with his 31st-place finish in Arizona.

      Jon Rahm's Sunday slide to a tie for 11th while playing in the final group with Fowler prevented him from further closing the gap between him and Matthew Fitzpatrick, who holds the fourth and final automatic spot on the European team.

      Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton and Ross Fisher occupy the top three spots.

      The 2018 Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 25-30 at LeGolf National in France, only the second time it will take place in Continental Europe in event history.

      --Field Level Media

  • Two-time champ Matsuyama withdraws from Phoenix Open
    By Field Level Media / Friday, February 2, 2018

    Two-time defending champion Hideki Matsuyama withdrew from the Phoenix Open on Friday due to a wrist injury.

    • It was unclear when the injury occurred, but Matsuyama said he was also dealing with a shoulder injury earlier in the week.

      Matsuyama, ranked fifth in the World Golf Rankings, shot a 69 in the first round Thursday.

      Matsuyama was seeking his third consecutive Phoenix Open title. He thrived in the event at TPC Scottsdale, finishing in the top four every year since 2013.

      --Field Level Media

  • Matsuyama aims to join elite company with WMPO three-peat
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 31, 2018

    Hideki Matsuyama will attempt to become just the fifth player over the past four decades to win a tournament three consecutive years when he plays in this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.

    • If successful, he would join Tom Watson (Byron Nelson Classic, 1978-1980), Stuart Appleby (Mercedes Championship, 2004-06), Steve Stricker (John Deere Classic, 2009-11) and Tiger Woods, who has accomplished the feat at four different events.

      He would also join Arnold Palmer (1961-63) as the only three-peat winner of this event.

      The soft-spoken Japanese star might seem an unlikely candidate to embrace the often-wild atmosphere at the WMPO, where organizers anticipate more than 800,000 fans over the course of four rounds beginning on Thursday. However, Matsuyama deals with superstar status in Japan and has tamed the 7,266-yard, par-71 TPC Scottsdale, where he also tied for second in 2015 and fourth in 2014.

      "I love it here," Matsuyama said of the WMPO, via a translator. "Being able to win twice the last two years has been really memorable for me and quite an honor. I'm going to do my best this year to three-peat and if I was fortunate enough to do that, I think I would join the King, Arnold Palmer, as the only three-peat winner. That would be something."

      Matsuyama has won the past two WMPO's on the fourth hole of playoffs, and the past three PGA Tour events have been won after lengthy playoffs. There could be another one in store this week with five of the top seven players in the world in the field and 23 of the top 30 in the FedExCup standings.

      Matsuyama is feeling confident after finishing tied for 12th at last week's Farmers Insurance Open, where his streaky putting caught fire as he finished second in strokes gained putting and closed with a 69 on Sunday.

      "I don't know if you saw the stats, but my strokes gained putting was the best it's ever been at Torrey Pines," Matsuyama said. "I was very proud of that, and hopefully I can keep putting well."

      Matsuyama will play the first two rounds with Webb Simpson and Rickie Fowler, with second-ranked Jon Rahm, No. 3 Jordan Spieth and No. 4 Justin Thomas among those in the strong field.

      Thomas, the reigning FedExCup champion, will have coach Matt Killen caddying for him this week as Jimmy Johnson continues to recover from a foot injury. Killen and Thomas are longtime friends, and Killen was on his bag for the 2015 John Deere Classic.

      "He's known me since I was about 8 years old and kind of watched me growing up and playing a lot of golf, so he knows my game pretty well," Thomas said.

      Rahm will be playing for the third consecutive week, and the former Arizona State star is another player with a strong track record at the WMPO. He tied for fifth as an amateur in 2015 and tied for 16th last year. He acknowledged that the pressure of potentially taking over the No. 1 world ranking from Dustin Johnson last week weighed on him after he opened with rounds of 68-66. He shot 75-77 over the weekend to finish in a tie for 29th.

      "I mean, there's nothing to do but learn from it," Rahm said. "Now, every time I go to a tournament, I know that the possibility of becoming No. 1 in the world is there.

      "It's a goal I've been working for over 10 years, and I'm only 23. So close to half my life, I've been working to get to that point."

      Rahm will play the first two rounds with 2017 rookie of the year Xander Schauffele and Phil Mickelson, another former ASU star who is looking to rebound from a tough weekend at Torrey Pines, where he went 76-74 to tie for 45th.

      Being within shouting distance down the stretch on Sunday often leads to dramatic finishes at the WMPO. Matsuyama trailed by three shots entering the final round two years ago and by four strokes last year. Fowler said it is a course that lends itself to those trying to make up ground playing in front of the leaders.

      "You can shoot 5, 6, 7 under on the back nine pretty quickly," said Fowler, who tied for fourth last year. "If you get through the front nine a few under par and catch up with some guys, it's kind of a shootout 'til the finish."

      --Field Level Media

  • Inkster named U.S. Solheim Cup captain for record 3rd time
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, January 30, 2018

    Juli Inkster was named the United States' Solheim Cup captain for a record third consecutive time Tuesday.

    • The 31-time winner on the LPGA Tour led the U.S. to Solheim Cup victories in 2015 and 2017. Inkster, who has also won seven major titles and is a member of the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame, will lead Team USA against Europe on the PGA Centenary Course at The Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland, from Sept. 13-15, 2019.

      "This is an unbelievable honor and one I do not take lightly," Inkster said. "I'm so stoked to be able to take the U.S. Team to Scotland, the home of golf, to compete in the 2019 Solheim Cup. We can't wait to get started."

      Inskter, 57, will become the first three-time captain for Team USA, which holds a 10-5 all-time record against Team Europe in Solheim Cup history.

      "Well, it was to me a no-brainer, I love doing it," Inkster said when asked what motivated her to return for a third stint as captain. "I love being around the girls, I love the camaraderie, it's a lot of work, but it's fun. When you can come together and all of a sudden the week's there and everything comes together the way it should and the ladies are ready to play, it to me was a no-brainer.

      "The last two years have been really the best part of my golfing career and I've been pretty lucky to have some nice memories. So it's been fun."

      Team Europe will be captained by Catriona Matthew. The two captains played in six of the same Solheim Cups, but split their only two head-to-head meetings, both in opening-day foursomes.

      "Congratulations to Juli on this announcement. She's done an amazing job in the last two Solheim Cups, and throughout her Solheim career, and will certainly be a formidable opponent at Gleneagles," Matthew said. "Juli is someone who I have admired very much over the years in all that she has achieved both on and off the golf course, and I am delighted she will be my opposite number for the 2019 match. I've definitely picked up some valuable insights into Juli's captaincy style over the last two matches, so I am excited we are both now in place and are ready to get down to business."

      --Field Level Media

  • Day, Noren to finish Torrey Pines playoff on Monday
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, January 28, 2018

    Jason Day and Alex Noren played 77 holes of golf at Torrey Pines without determining a winner.

    • The two golfers will be heading to a sixth playoff hole at the Farmers Insurance Open when they return to the course outside of San Diego on Monday morning at 8 a.m. local time (11 a.m. ET).

      Day and Noren birdied three of the first five playoff holes at Torrey Pines, the scenic course adjacent to the Pacific Ocean. After both players birdied 18 on playoff hole No. 5, play was suspended due to darkness.

      "Too dark right now, I could barely see the last putt," Noren said in a post-round television interview. "Very enjoyable. This is what I play for."

      Day joked that they could have continued to play, that all that was needed was some car headlights along the fairway.

      "Alex is playing some tremendous golf," Day said in a post-round television interview. "I'll try to get some rest and play all day tomorrow if I need to get a win."

      Ryan Palmer also was part of the playoff but was eliminated on the first extra hole.

      The three golfers completed 72 holes at 10-under 278. Day shot a final-round 70 with four birdies and two bogeys, Noren shot 73 with three birdies and four bogeys, and Palmer shot 72 with three birdies and three bogeys.

      Tiger Woods finished in a tie for 23rd at 3-under 285 in his first PGA Tour appearance since undergoing his fourth back surgery last April. Woods shot a final-round 72.

      But the show belonged to Day and Noren as the final round meandered toward sunset.

      Day and Noren each birdied the first two playoff holes -- they played 18 both times -- before both players shot par on the third playoff hole at 16.

      Day lined up a birdie putt from nine feet away on 16 but narrowly missed to the right. Then he had another opportunity on the fourth playoff hole -- at 17 -- but his birdie putt stopped one inch shy of the hole.

      Back at 18 for the fifth playoff hole, Noren was on the green in two shots and seemingly in good position with Day still back on the fairway. But Day, who won at Torrey Pines in a playoff in 2015, sent his third shot to within 10 feet of the hole.

      Noren's ensuing eagle attempt sailed five feet past the hole. Day knocked down the birdie putt and Noren did likewise before play was suspended.

      With Day in the clubhouse, Noren had a chance to win on 18 in regulation, but he sent his second shot sailing over the green and into a walkway underneath the CBS television tower. He was given a drop in the field of play and sent his next shot onto the green but missed his birdie putt to remain at 10-under.

      Meanwhile, Palmer hit his third shot to within 18 inches of the hole and hit the birdie putt to become part of the playoff.

      Palmer shot par on the first playoff hole while Day sank a 15-foot birdie putt and Noren knocked in a birdie tap-in.

      "I'm ecstatic where my game is at now," Palmer said in a post-round interview, "especially on the greens compared to where it was the last year and a half."

      J.B. Holmes shot 72 and finished fourth at 9-under 279. Keegan Bradley (70) was fifth at 8-under while Charles Howell III (69) and Tony Finau (73) finished in a tie for sixth at 7-under 281.

      Woods' Sunday score matched his highest of his four trips around Torrey Pines. He had four birdies and four bogies on Sunday.

      "I played a lot better today," Woods said in a post-round interview with CBS. "Tough conditions out there. It was tough scoring. I really wanted to shoot something around 65. I thought that might be a playoff number."

      Overall, Woods said he was encouraged with his performance in the tournament.

      "Very pleased," Woods said. "After not playing for a couple years and coming out on the Tour, I played a solid four days. I fought hard for these scores."

      Woods hit only 17 of 54 fairways during his four rounds, matching the lowest of his career (2005 Nissan Open at Riviera). He hit just three fairways in each of the final three rounds after hitting eight during the first round.

      Woods will next play in the Genesis Open at Riviera in the Los Angeles area from Feb. 15-18.

      Asked what he needs to work on, Woods said "everything."

      "I'm excited to get this one under the belt," he said.

      Defending champion Jon Rahm of Spain had his second consecutive dreadful day by shooting 77 to finish in a tie for 29th at 286. Rahm had seven bogeys and just two birdies on Sunday. He shot 75 on Saturday.

      San Diego native Phil Mickelson also struggled with a final-round 74 that consisted of three birdies and five bogeys. He finished in a tie for 45th at even-par 288.

      --Field Level Media

  • Noren holds third-round lead in first visit to Torrey Pines
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, January 27, 2018

    Alexander Noren had never played at Torrey Pines before this week, but he is certainly making himself right at home.

    • The Swedish native who usually plays on the European Tour shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday and holds a one-shot lead in the Farmers Insurance Open on the scenic course just north of San Diego.

      Noren's 11-under 205 total places him one shot ahead of Ryan Palmer (73 on Saturday) and two in front of J.B. Holmes (65) and Michael Kim (70). Tiger Woods is eight shots off the pace after shooting a 2-under 70.

      The 35-year-old Noren posted an eagle on the par-5, 560-yard sixth hole on Saturday. He also had three birdies and overcame a double bogey to put himself in position for his first PGA Tour victory.

      "It's obviously a new thing playing more over here for me," Noren said in a post-round interview with CBS. "But it's still golf and I've been nervous before and I'll probably be a little more nervous coming into tomorrow. I'll get a good night's sleep.

      "Just trying to get used to the firmness of the greens -- a little firmer than Europe and a little more rough too."

      Palmer, the second-round leader, missed his chance to remain on top with two bogeys over the last five holes. He had four bogeys in his round, along with one eagle and one birdie.

      Holmes fired his way into contention with eight birdies against one bogey in a scintillating round. Kim had four birdies and two bogeys.

      Woods, who is making his return to the PGA Tour after undergoing his fourth back surgery last April, made four birdies and two bogeys in a 26-putt round that left him frustrated.

      "That is just fighting and grinding," Woods told CBS. "I tried as hard as I possibly could out there. I didn't have much but I fought and put up some a score and made some putts."

      Woods has improved by one shot each day. He shot even-par 72 on Thursday and 71 on Friday.

      He'd like to see a drastic drop on Sunday.

      "See if I can shoot in the 60s and make it a little easier on myself than today," Woods said.

      A pack of seven golfers are tied for fifth at 8-under: Gary Woodland (66), Taiwan's C.T. Pan (68), Beau Hossler (69), England's Justin Rose (69), Australia's Jason Day (71), Tony Finau (73) and Luke List (73).

      Defending champion Jon Rahm of Spain is four shots off the pace after a 75 that included a disastrous double-bogey on 18. Rahm hit his approach shot into the water in front of the green on the par-5, 570-yard hole.

      The errant shot dropped Rahm from a tie for third into a five-way tie for 12th place.

      Phil Mickelson struggled throughout the round and carded a 76. Mickelson had two birdies, four bogeys and a double-bogey on the 12th hole and is nine shots behind Noren.

      --Field Level Media

  • Woods makes cut at Torrey Pines after birdie on final hole
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 26, 2018

    Tiger Woods made the cut by shooting a birdie on his final hole of the afternoon to finish with a 1-under 71 in Friday's second round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

    • The cut was set at 1-under 143, which matches Woods' two-round total. It is the first time Woods made the cut at a PGA Tour event since the Wyndham Championships in August 2015.

      Ryan Palmer is the leader at 11-under 133 after posting a 67 on the North Course. He holds a one-shot lead over Spain's Jon Rahm, who shot 66.

      The birdie on Woods' final hole -- the par-5, 556-yard No. 9 -- was on a tap-in from about 2 feet.

      "It's been fun to play and compete again and I felt like I fought hard and was able to post a score," Woods told reporters.

      Woods made four birdies, one bogey and one double bogey during his round on the North Course, adjacent to the Pacific Ocean just north of San Diego. The double-bogey occurred on the par-4, 459-yard 13th hole and the bogey occurred on the par-3, 214-yard 8th hole, his 17th of the day.

      "I fought hard, that is something I've done my entire career and this is no different," Woods said. "I've been away for a very long time. I'm still getting used to my feels but that just takes more time under the fire. I still need more rounds under my belt."

      The 42-year-old Woods is back on the PGA Tour after undergoing back surgery for the fourth time in April 2017.

      Palmer recorded eagles on the 9th and 17th hole in a round that also included four birdies and three bogeys.

      "I just stayed calm all day," Palmer said in a post-round interview on the Golf Channel. "Got off to a rough start, obviously, by bogeying the first two holes. I think the hardest holes on the golf course today were on the north side -- some dicey pin placements where they were. ... Got a nice chip-in on 9 for eagle and I hit a great 7-iron on 17 to six feet."

      Rahm fired six birdies in a bogey-free round on the North Course.

      "My short game kept me alive, definitely," Rahm, the defending champion, said in a Golf Channel interview. "It wasn't the best driving day."

      Luke List (66) and Tony Finau (70) are tied for third at 9-under 135 after their rounds on the South Course. List had eight birdies and two bogeys, while Finau, the first-round leader after a 65, had five birdies and three bogeys.

      Sweden's Alexander Noren shot 66 on the North and is in fifth place, three shots behind Palmer.

      Tied for sixth at 7-under 137 are Martin Flores (67 on North), Michael Kim (68, South) and Australia's Jason Day (64, North). San Diego native Phil Mickelson (68, South) is among five golfers who are five shots back.

      Among the golfers who missed the cut were Rickie Fowler and 2017 Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Both shot even-par 144.

      --Field Level Media

  • Woods shoots 72 in return to PGA Tour
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 25, 2018

    Tiger Woods began his latest PGA Tour comeback attempt by shooting even-par 72 on Thursday in the opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

    • Woods, playing the South Course, made three birdies against three bogeys in his first official tour appearance since he missed the cut 12 months ago at Torrey Pines, located just north of San Diego.

      "I have to hit my irons a little better than I did today," Woods said in a post-round television interview on the Golf Channel. "I didn't hit them very close, I didn't give myself a lot of looks. And then it is hard to make any birdies when you don't give yourself a lot of looks."

      Woods is seven shots behind leader Tony Finau, who shot 7-under 65 on the North Course. Ted Potter Jr. and Ryan Palmer are one shot behind after 6-under rounds on the tougher South Course.

      The highlight of Woods' round was his tee shot on the 223-yard, par-3 16th hole. The shot landed near the hole, bounced toward the pin and rolled past, and stopped about six inches shy of being an ace. He tapped in for a birdie.

      "It looked good from the tee," Woods said. "We can't see anything land from back there."

      Woods watched a replay of the shot and as he saw the ball meander past the hole, he said "the wind got it" before laughing.

      "It was a full 6-iron, just trying to throw it up in the air as high as I could," Woods said. "It felt good, it looked good and then we just listened for some noise."

      Woods' other two birdies came on the par-5 6th and par-4 10th holes. His bogeys were on two par-4s (1 and 5) and the par-5 13.

      The 42-year-old Woods is back after undergoing back surgery for the fourth time in April 2017.

      Woods is a 14-time major winner, with his most recent major victory coming at Torrey Pines in 2008 when he outlasted Rocco Mediate in the famous 91-hole U.S. Open showdown.

      Finau posted nine birdies against two bogeys and he took the lead with his final shot of the day, a 40-foot putt on 18 on the North Course.

      He moves to the South Course for Friday's second round and said his long game will have to be much better.

      "I put myself in position off the tee," Finau said. "I was just able to be patient on the golf course and let it come to me. I am going to need to drive it well on the South tomorrow and through the weekend."

      Potter had six birdies while carding his 66. Five came during his blistering 31 on the front nine.

      Palmer also had six birdies -- three on the front and three on the back.

      Defending champion Jon Rahm of Spain was among a pack of 11 golfers who shot 4-under 68. Rahm had six birdies and two bogeys on the South Course.

      San Diego native Phil Mickelson shot 2-under 70 on the North Course.

      --Field Level Media

  • Lincicome set to defend at LPGA's season-opening event
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 24, 2018

    Brittany Lincicome knows the major component in defending her title at this week's Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, which kicks off Thursday as the Tour's 2018 season opener.

    • Go low.

      Nearly every tournament scoring record was demolished during last year's event, which Lincicome won at 26-under-par 266 with a birdie on the first playoff hole against Lexi Thompson. It was the seventh career LPGA Tour victory for the 32-year-old -- and her only one since 2015.

      "I didn't even think I had that many birdies in my game," Lincicome said. "It obviously showed me a lot last year that when I've seen the leaderboards before and these high 20s are winning the tournaments under par, I never thought that was even possible."

      Lincicome's winning score on the Ocean Club Golf Course at Paradise Island was one shot shy of the LPGA record for a 72-hole score in relation to par set by Annika Sorenstam (2001 Standard Register PING) and Sei Young Kim (2016 JTBC Founders Cup).

      Thompson and Lincicome traded the overnight lead each round, with Thompson carding a 12-under 61 in the second round.

      Thompson won the 2017 Race to the CME Globe and has at least one victory in an LPGA-high five consecutive years. However, Thompson begins 2018 returning from a lengthy layoff from golf to rest a hand injury.

      "It was definitely needed, but as you know, I had trouble with my hand," she said. "I had to rest it and got some MRIs done and everything. Just overuse. But it was a lot needed time off."

      Thompson begins the year at No. 4 in the Rolex Rankings, behind China's Shanshan Feng and South Koreans Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu. Ryu reached No. 1 last year before being overtaken by a red-hot Feng at the end of the season.

      Lincicome, Ryu and Michelle Wie will tee off Thursday at 8:05 a.m. ET, followed shortly after by Feng, Thompson and Nelly Korda at 8:16.

      --Field Level Media

  • Rahm aims for No. 1 while Tiger returns to Torrey with 'tempered expectations'
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 24, 2018

    Tiger Woods will have a front row seat of the future of the PGA Tour when he tees off at 1:40 p.m. ET on the South Course at Torrey Pines on Thursday.

    • The seven-time event champion at the Farmers Insurance Open will be playing in his first official Tour event since this tournament last year. That was won by Jon Rahm, who will tee off in the group ahead of Woods on Thursday.

      Rahm is not only the defending champion, he also enters the week at a career-high No. 2 in the Official World Golf Rankings after winning at the CareerBuilder Challenge last week. A defense of his title this week would vault Rahm to No. 1 in the world in just 44 career starts.

      Woods, 42, said the two met for the first time this week. Rahm was just 13 when Woods won the most recent of his 14 majors at Torrey Pines in 2008.

      Rahm is the unquestioned favorite as the defending champion who also sports a second-place finish at the Tournament of Champions on his early 2018 resume. He is the top-ranked player in the field with No. 1 Dustin Johnson, No. 3 Jordan Spieth and No. 4 Justin Thomas not in San Diego.

      Other likely contenders who find themselves flying under the radar this week include Hideki Matsuyama (No. 5), Justin Rose (No. 6), and Rickie Fowler (No. 7).

      Woods enters at No. 647, and many believe simply making the cut and playing four full rounds would be considered a significant achievement.

      He missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open last year, then withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic. Woods eventually underwent a fourth back procedure, this time to have his vertebrae fused. He didn't resurface in a competitive tournament until the Hero World Golf Challenge in December, an unofficial PGA Tour event.

      Woods has spent the time since playing a lot of practice rounds and attempting to strengthen his overall golf game and endurance so he can play a regular schedule leading up to the Masters in April.

      "My expectations have tempered a little bit because I haven't played," Woods acknowledged Wednesday. "I haven't played a full schedule since 2015... it's been a long time. I just want to play on the Tour and get into a rhythm of playing a schedule again. I haven't done that in such a long time, so I don't know what to expect."

      Woods has won nine times at Torrey -- including the 2008 U.S. Open. He is next scheduled to tee it up at the Genesis Open at Riviera in three weeks. Asked on Wednesday how he knows his back is significantly better than it was this time last year, Woods replied simply, "I have no more pain.

      "I have no more pain in my back ... my back is fused. That wasn't the case last year, I was trying to manage the disc and the vertebrae. It's all finished now. Now it's fused, and quality of life is infinitely better than it was at this time last year."

      "I haven't felt this good in years, so I'm excited about it."

      So is Rahm, one of many young stars on Tour who grew up admiring Woods' dominance but have yet to play with him since becoming professionals themselves. Rahm said this week that he would relish the opportunity to walk the back nine on Sunday in contention alongside Woods.

      "To be honest, I think a lot of us dreamt about having the opportunity to maybe walk the back nine with Tiger in contention and have a battle hand in hand," Rahm said.

      "It would be something amazing for any of us. I hope it happens for somebody. I hope I'm the one, and quite truly I hope I come out on top if it happens."

      --Derek Harper, Field Level Media

  • Tiger prepared for Torrey Pines after practice round
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, January 23, 2018

    Tiger Woods is back on the comeback trail and hoping things go better than last year's aborted attempt.

    • The 42-year-old Woods begins his latest comeback on Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and pronounced himself ready to go after playing a nine-hole practice round Tuesday.

      "I've had a little more time to get ready for this event," Woods told reporters after the round on the South Course in La Jolla, just north of San Diego. "I've played a lot more golf and, overall, I feel like I've made some nice changes. I feel good. It's just a matter of coming out here and competing again."

      Woods underwent his fourth back surgery in April just two-plus months after having to halt last year's comeback attempt.

      He was optimistic when he showed up at Torrey Pines for the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open but he ended up missing the cut. Then he withdrew the following week in Dubai due to the back pain and he eventually underwent the latest surgery.

      This time around, there is a feeling that Woods is better positioned to handle the demands and manage his health. He says his back is significantly improved, and practice-round partners Jason Day and Bryson DeChambeau were both impressed with what they saw while golfing with Woods on Tuesday.

      "The other times he came back I don't think he was ready and he probably came back too soon," Day told reporters after the round. "This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he's hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he's got some speed, which is great. And his touch is coming back."

      DeChambeau had never previously played a round with Woods -- "There were a couple of moments I was like, 'I am playing with the greatest,'" he said -- but liked what he witnessed.

      "I expect he will come back to full form, I really think so," DeChambeau said. "His passion is there, his drive is there and if he gets it going, it is going to be scary for everybody again."

      Torrey Pines has long been a course of great moments for Woods, who regularly dominated the greens while winning junior titles as a child growing up in southern California.

      He has won the PGA Tour stop seven times (most recently in 2013), and there is also his memorable 2008 U.S. Open victory on the course when he outlasted Rocco Mediate in the famous 91-hole showdown. That represented Woods' 14th major victory -- and he hasn't won one since.

      Woods did play in a competitive event in the Bahamas less than two months ago -- he finished ninth among 18 golfers in the Hero World Challenge -- but this week's tourney is just his second PGA Tour event since playing in the Wyndham Championships in Aug. 2015.

      Woods also is tackling this event without a coach and he continues to try to deflect expectations of his performance.

      But he doesn't shy away from this: The repeated back woes have turned him into a different golfer.

      "The only big deal about it is that no one really understands what it's like to have a fused back and be able to play," Woods said. "It's not about how the swing actually looks like. You can get into positions and things of that nature and there are a lot of things I can't do anymore because of the nature of the fusion. So I'm relying on feel and my past performances."

      Woods begins the week ranked 647th in the world, a vast difference from being No. 1. But the rankings won't matter when he shows up for his 10:40 a.m. PT tee time (1:40 p.m. ET) on Thursday when he is paired with Charley Hoffman and Patrick Reed.

      "I'm trying to build in golf endurance," Woods said. "So I'm hitting a lot of golf balls and building up my endurance. You have to do it. You have to beat balls for a little bit of time to build up your endurance and muscles.

      "I feel like I've done that and now it's time to play a tournament."

      --Field Level Media