Young. It’s the one word that’s so difficult to get past. You start by saying: “This should never happen to someone so young …” and then you just start to shake your head and maybe wipe your eyes. The thought may be completed in your mind, but it never translates audibly. Young inspires so many other words: energy; hope; smiles. There are several others that come to mind; however, fair is not among them. Fair is a word that has little belonging when discussing most any aspect of life. ARDS has presented yet another long-term problem for Mallory and her family. According to her latest update, it may take upwards of three months to make it through the initial stage, and afterwards “she will need additional care and rehab, to regain her strength, for (we are guessing) 6-10 weeks.” Right now Mallory and her family – and the hundreds upon hundreds of friends and strangers on a prayer list – just want the 20-year-old college sophomore to be able to breathe without mechanical aid, before her body comes to rely on it. CF, like so many other diseases, not only affects its personal victim; it does so to everyone with an emotional bond to the stricken. Cystic fibrosis has always been an uninvited and unwelcome resident in Mallory’s body. She was diagnosed with the disease just six weeks into her life. Can’t Live Your Life in a Crisis “Then three weeks later I was in the hospital and I couldn’t play golf at all. And I started to realize how wonderful it was just to be out there playing at all,” she said. Yes, Mallory has diabetes as well, and asthma, both byproducts of CF. Then there was the ABI machine, which she referred to as the “shaker.” She would strap on the padded vest which was filled with air. It would massage her chest to help clear the mucous. This would take about an hour a day. This most certainly is not fair to Mallory or to anyone in a similar situation. And one can’t begin to imagine the thoughts that must race and crash inside her head. On a good day, this being a few years ago, she would take more than 40 pills. When sick, her intake was upped to over 60. She also had to inject herself six to 12 times a day with insulin because of the diabetes, before getting an insulin pump. “I’m not trying to find the silver lining in the clouds. I really have been blessed.” Doctors originally estimated her chance of surviving this episode – which varies day-to-day – at 70 percent. Right now, at 20 years young, Mallory Code is fighting for her life. Against a genetic disorder over which she has no control. Against a disease that has made her body it’s home and has left the front door wide open to all other intruders. Mallory started to really struggle with her health in the fall of last year. She was diagnosed with pneumonia in September and had several admissions to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, over the following four months. When you have CF, you’re susceptible to so many other illnesses. Even a cold can’t be considered common. Mallory became quite ill on more than one occasion when she was attending a daycare center as a child. Precautions and sacrifices had to be made. But Mallory hasn’t lived a sheltered life. She has many friends. She’s traveled extensively. She loves to dance – ballet and tap. And she loves to play golf. And shes very, very good at it. This was a couple of years ago, when she and her family opened their doors to allow a glimpse of life with CF. Mallory has two siblings – older brother Jordan (24) and older sister Whitney (22). All three were home-schooled by their mother, Karen, a registered nurse. “Scientifically speaking, it knocks the junk out of my chest,” she said. But Mallory has never stopped to examine her life in terms of fairness. She’s always viewed life through that youthful outlook – with energy, hope and smiles. If you met Mallory in passing you might never imagine that something was wrong. Certainly plain sight never gave anything away. And if she didn’t talk about her illness, it wasn’t because of shame; it was because she just wanted some sense of normalcy. Why talk about such things when you can discuss golf and boys and everything else? Things only got worse from there, as she was found to have a yeast bacteremia and was soon diagnosed with ARDS. She was placed on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit on Wednesday and will likely remain there for “at least several weeks and possibly longer,” according to the latest update. “It gets very competitive,” he said at the time with a proud smile. “Who won? Well, that depends on who you ask.” “She’s like that 24/7, all the time,” Whitney said. “She has a really strong character.” Her parents did this manually for 15 years, beating on her back and chest like bongos to help break up the congestion. Finally, in February, she was transferred by helicopter to Colorado, where she was diagnosed with malnutrition, because of persistent nausea, and a lung infection. “I would say that we’re very proud of the person that (Mallory) is,” her dad said. “The fact that she plays golf well is really the gravy. We’d be just as proud of her if she couldn’t break 100.” Mallory is heavily sedated most of the time in her current state, and when she is conscious, she is unable to speak because of the ventilator down her throat. She nods and squeezes hands to communicate. She eats through a feeding tube. Mallory smiles an honest smile. It’s not there to deflect pain. There is no facade. Her sporting talent, however, is exceeded by her personality, which is equal parts engaging and infectious. When Mallory recalled one of her favorite golf moments, she lit up. “Playing in the Canon Cup with my sister,” she said. “We always talk about how neat it is that we not only enjoy the same sport, but that we both play competitively.” Mallory’s golf bag looks like a drug store with a shoulder strap. “I could probably start my own pharmacy,” she said with a laugh, punctuated with a giggle. “Last night, after scaring us to death with possible problems that can arise, they have given her an 80-percent chance of getting through this long ARDS situation,” Mallory’s father said in Thursday’s e-mail. Karen, who has spent only one night in their home since early January, plans on staying in Denver full time with Mallory, while Brian must now commute in order to continue his work. Mallory’s junior accomplishments are immense. She won several prestigious American Junior Golf Association titles, including the 2000 AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions. She’s been honored with numerous personal awards, many of which have “courage” etched on the trophy or plaque. And she has spoken around the country on behalf of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Jordan graduated from the University of Florida, where he was a member of the golf team. Whitney is senior for the Lady Gators. Mallory followed in their footsteps. Doctors say that the life-threatening problems she now faces are unrelated to CF; though, the disease certainly has complicated matters, as has her diabetes. Mallory said she takes very little in life for granted. She talked about playing an important junior event in Orlando, where she missed the cut. It was quite disappointing. “Her doctors have agreed that I should go home in the near future,” he said. “It looks like we will be accumulating a lot of frequent flying miles.” “I look at my life; I’ve been blessed in so many ways,” she said a few years back. “I have incredible parents. I have a wonderful brother and sister. I get to play golf and dance. I have so many wonderful things in my life, and this is the one thing that isn’t right. There’s no reason to complain about this. Mallory has cystic fibrosis. Her father, Brian, talked about taking the kids out to play on Sundays after attending church. Life certainly hasn’t been fair to University of Florida golfer Mallory Code. Not that she has ever complained, or harbored contempt, or ever shook her fist towards the heavens. Mallory opens a closet door. It stands about two times her 5’3” frame, with shelves stacked to the gills with two-months-worth of medical supplies. A mass e-mail is sent out when updates are available on Mallory’s condition. The ‘To’ list on that electronic message looks like a small town, numbering in the hundreds. And that doesn’t include all to whom the update is forwarded. It’s the family mantra. Mallory is one of about 30,000 people in the U.S., according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, who suffers from CF. It’s a genetic disorder which causes the body to produce abnormally thick, sticky mucus that leads to chronic and life-threatening lung infections and impairs digestion. Mallory was 3 years old when she first remembers playing. She was 6 when she competed in her first tournament. “It just got in my blood right away,” she said. Mallory’s mother has a saying: You can be in a crisis, but you cant live your life in a crisis. Mallory Code lies in a bed in The Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado, where she has been since Feb. 7. She is fighting pneumonia, Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and a massive yeast infection in her blood stream. A ventilator pumps oxygen into her lungs.
Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on Monday, Ted Bishop gathered with a group of PGA of America executives to talk about the 2016 Ryder Cup. Less than 24 hours after the U.S. team’s eighth defeat in its last 10 tries at the biennial matches, Bishop knows there will be more discussions in the coming weeks, but following the 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 rout at Gleneagles the captivity of the transatlantic chartered flight seemed as good a time as any to start looking for answers. “We had philosophical conversations on the plane home yesterday, ‘Where do we go next?’” said Bishop, the PGA of America’s president who was back at work at his Legends Golf Club in Indiana on Tuesday morning. “We understand what we have to do and we are not on a serious timeline. We are going to take some time and figure out the best way going forward.” The good news for Bishop and the PGA is they have time on their side, unlike in 2012 when the association was in the process of selecting Tom Watson as this year’s captain during the build up to the matches at Medinah. The decision to delay any moves on future captains was intentional. “We have all collectively said we are going to see where 2014 goes and I think that was prudent,” Bishop told GolfChannel.com. In the aftermath of another U.S. loss, it makes even more sense for the PGA to move slowly. The criticism reached a crescendo on Monday when many, including your scribe, questioned why the association doesn’t copy the European model when selecting captains. European captain Paul McGinley, for example, was selected by the European Tour’s tournament committee which is a group that consists of former captains and players, some of whom (like Thomas Bjorn) participated on this year’s team. Bishop explains, however, that while he and the other officers on the PGA’s executive committee make the final decision on potential captains, there was no shortage of input during that process. After initially meeting with Watson in Kansas City two weeks after the U.S. loss at Medinah in 2012, the entire PGA delegation returned to Watson’s home in November to make the final decision. Before that, Bishop said he spoke with many former captains, including Davis Love III, Corey Pavin and Lanny Wadkins. He even reached out to Paul Azinger, the last winning American captain in 2008, but “never heard back from him.” There was even an interesting conversation with Curtis Strange, who actively lobbied for Larry Nelson to have his turn as captain. “In that plea he said what this American team needs is someone they look up to and respect. ‘I’m talking about guys like (Arnold) Palmer, (Jack) Nicklaus and Watson,’” Bishop recalled. While the process, he explained, is not as structured as the European system, Bishop contends it was more inclusive than some may think. “It’s not like we don’t ask former Ryder Cup captains their opinions. We definitely value their opinions,” he said. Bishop also explained that he valued current player input throughout the process leading up to last week’s matches. On Sunday night at Gleneagles, Phil Mickelson seemed to suggest that the current Ryder Cup system is broken and that the U.S. needs to return to the format Azinger used in 2008 at Valhalla. “There were two things that allowed us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger did,” Mickelson said. “One was he got everybody invested in the process . . . The other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game plan for us. “We use that same process in the Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula.” It was the same take Mickelson had in July when he was paired with Bishop during the pro-am at the Scottish Open. When Bishop suggested Lefty share his thoughts with Watson, Mickelson declined. “He said it wasn’t his place and I said, ‘Phil, that would be a mistake,’” Bishop said. “(Watson) wasn’t as stubborn or bullheaded as people thought he could be. There is a patient side. Unfortunately, Phil didn’t do that. If Phil is going to be a leader on that team or future teams he should take it upon himself to have that conversation with the captain.” The silver lining for the PGA of America is that the move to make Watson – who didn’t fall into the traditional mold of U.S. captains – this year’s skipper, has opened the door for a new philosophy when it comes to picking captains. “We are going to be talking going forward about the selection process for captains and the selection of players,” Bishop said. In 2016, for example, Bishop points out that the PGA Championship, the traditional cutoff date to name the team’s automatic qualifiers, will probably have to be changed. The ’16 PGA is being played July 28-31 instead of early August due to scheduling constraints caused by the Olympics. “There is no way, in my opinion, you can announce the automatic qualifiers two months before the Ryder Cup,” said Bishop, who suggested a scenario where the automatic qualifiers are named after the Deutsche Bank Championship and the captain’s picks after the Tour Championship. Finally, Bishop addressed the current elephant in the American team room. In the days since the U.S. loss there has been a chorus of support to bring back Azinger to captain the ’16 team. On Sunday night Azinger told GolfChannel.com’s John Hawkins that he “can’t rule it out.” Nor does it seem the PGA would be averse to the idea. “That decision will be made by someone other than me, but at this point the slate is totally clear. Why wouldn’t you consider him?” Bishop said. “A Ryder Cup captain doesn’t have to be a major champion. We have to get over that. We have to look for guys who are not afraid to roll their sleeves up and take a blue collar approach like McGinley did and Azinger did.” Before Bishop went back to work on Tuesday afternoon, he offered one final thought that seemed apropos considering the criticism Watson and the PGA has received in the aftermath of last week’s blowout. “I think the PGA of America is willing to change from a certain stand point,” he said. “We are willing to try to put all the appropriate pieces into place to collectively make a good decision going forward.” Criticism was sure to come, it’s part of the process and Bishop knew that. But never doubt that the PGA wants a winning U.S. team every bit as badly as anyone else.
KAPALUA, Hawaii – Predictions are a dangerous business, especially in golf. How many could have guessed that Tiger Woods, No. 1 in the world and coming off a five-win season, would play in only nine tournaments, finish only four of them and plunge to No. 32 in the world because of injuries? Or that Bubba Watson, who had gone 38 events without winning, would finish 2014 as highest-ranked American? Instead, the start of a new year at Kapalua allows a look into the future – not what will happen, but the five events that hold the most anticipation. THE MASTERS: Already the highlight of any year, this will be the first time since 1991 that a player showed up at Augusta National with a chance to complete the career Grand Slam. That was Lee Trevino. And it wasn’t much of a chance. Trevino was 51, and he never seriously contended at the Masters. Rory McIlroy is 25. Not only has Boy Wonder captured the last two majors, he probably should have had a green jacket by now. He had a four-shot lead going into the final round in 2011 before he imploded into a series of blunders on his way to an 80. The only potential distraction is his day in court over a lawsuit involving his former management company. The trial is scheduled for February. If history is any indication, don’t read too much into his form during the road to the Masters. The last time one player faced so much scrutiny at the Masters was Woods in 2001 when he was going for an unprecedented sweep. Woods heard whispers that he was in a slump because he went six straight tournaments without winning at the start of the year. Woods then ran off three straight victories, culminating with another green jacket and his place in history. THE U.S. OPEN: There are more compelling elements at the U.S. Open than the Masters. But the U.S. Open doesn’t whet the public’s appetite in the cold of winter with the Masters commercial that made you wish April could get here tomorrow. This year delivers back-to-back majors where someone can join the most elite group in golf with a career Grand Slam – McIlroy at the Masters, Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open. Mickelson already had one crack at it last year at Pinehurst No. 2 and he never broke par. Lefty is in great shape physically – the public will get its first look at him in two weeks – and even at 44, he believes he will have multiple chances. His next one will be a course no one knows. The U.S. Open goes to Chambers Bay outside Seattle, an expansive, links-looking course that hosted the 2010 U.S. Amateur but nothing of significance at the professional level. And something else brand new for the U.S. Open – Joe Buck and Greg Norman will be calling the shots. This marks the debut of Fox Sports in major championship golf. RETURN OF TIGER: Woods hasn’t revealed where he will start his 2015 campaign, but if there is one tournament to gauge his progress, mark down the Cadillac Championship at Doral. Torrey Pines is always a good measure – Woods, an eight-time champion at Torrey, missed the 54-hole cut last year in a sign of what was to come. But the international stars – McIlroy, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose – are not likely to be anywhere on the West Coast. For the first time, a true test for Woods is more than the golf course. It’s the field. The first big gathering will be the Honda Classic, and while Woods was runner-up three years ago, he has never won at PGA National. That’s what makes Doral such an interesting tournament as it relates to Woods. All the stars will be in Miami, and while Doral has undergone significant changes ever since Donald Trump bought it, Woods is a five-time winner on the Blue Monster. RYDER CUP CAPTAIN: America usually has a new Ryder Cup captain by now. Now it has a task force. The next meeting of this illustrious group is not until the first week in February, and it’s anyone’s guess when it will select the 2016 captain for Hazeltine. Tom Watson didn’t work out in a loss last September in Scotland that was ugly on many levels. Fred Couples is popular with the players and 3-0 as captain in the Presidents Cup. Then again, it’s a little easier to beat an International team playing under a manufactured flag than a European team playing for its tour. The pendulum was swinging toward the Americans before the fiasco at Gleneagles. The best thing the task force can do is not overthink this. ST. ANDREWS: It’s always a special year when golf’s oldest championship returns to St. Andrews, especially when it’s time to say goodbye. This year that honor belongs to Tom Watson, playing in his final British Open, the only man to claim the claret jug on five courses (but never St. Andrews). And it’s a chance for Watson to be remembered for what he can do with a club in his hand on a links course, instead of driving a cart at Gleneagles.
PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Laetitia Beck took the first-round lead in the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic, dodging some of the wind Thursday morning in a bogey-free 7-under 65. The 24-year-old, the first Israeli player to qualify for the LPGA, was in the first group of the day off the 10th tee. She birdied four of the final five holes on her opening nine in calmer conditions, and had three more birdies – two on par 5s – on the windier second nine. Annie Park and Minjee Lee were tied for second at 67. They played in the afternoon. Beck hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens and had only 26 putts on the links-style Senator Course at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Capitol Hill complex. The former Duke player is winless on the tour.
NAPLES, Fla. – Harris English and Matt Kuchar won the Franklin Templeton Shootout on Saturday, holding off Wisconsin friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly by a stroke at Tiburon. English and Kuchar also won in 2013 in their first start together and finished second the last two years. “It’s a thrilling event to come out with a win, amazing feeling,” Kuchar said. “I think it’s just such a fun partnership we’ve had. We’ve had such a good run. To have our last four events together, to have our track record be first, second, second, first is quite amazing.” English eagled the par-5 17th and they closed with a 7-under 65 in better-ball play to finish at 28 under. “We had some good action there and it kind of came down to the last couple holes and kind of set up perfect on 17 for me,” English said. “Really reachable par 5 and hit a really good drive off the tee and knew Kuch was in really good position so I could play really aggressive. Hit a really good 8-iron right where I wanted to and made about a 12-footer.” “That’s the difference in these events,” Kuchar said. “Pulling out some shots like that, getting an eagle, getting that two-shot swing, that’s a big deal. This event comes down to you need to make birdies, you need to make some scores under par, and to do it on the 17th hole today and the position and the situation we were in, it was a battle. We weren’t making a huge number of birdies. It’s not like we were just battling with birdies, it was a fairly challenging day. But for Harris to come through and eagle 17 and give us that one-shot lead.” Stricker and Kelly also shot 65. “We just couldn’t get that momentum,” Stricker said. “A shot here or there. Jerry played great. Wish I could have helped him out a couple more times. I had some putts at it I didn’t make, but it was fun. Harris made an eagle. I knew somebody was going to do something there. It was just playing too short. He hit two great shots there at 17 and that was the difference really.” English and Kuchar each earned $385,000. They opened with a 57 on Thursday in the scramble round and had a 66 on Friday in modified alternate shot. Charley Hoffman and Billy Horschel were third at 26 under after a 61. Lexi Thompson and Bryson DeChambeau tied for last at 16 under after a 67. Thompson became the second woman to compete in the event, following Annika Sorenstam with Fred Couples in 2006.
CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Sophia Schubert birdied the first hole and cruised to a 6-and-5 victory over Albane Valenzuela in the final of the 117th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship on Sunday. The 21-year-old Schubert, of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who will be a senior at Texas, is the first Longhorn to win the title since Kelli Kuehne won two straight in 1995 and 1996. She also ended a streak of nine straight teenage champions. Valenzuela, 19, the reigning Pac-12 champion as a freshman at Stanford, was bidding to become the first winner from Switzerland and the first Cardinal to win in 34 years. She also birdied No. 1, but it was in the second round of the 36-hole final, the 19th hole, and was the only hole she won. It came after Schubert ended the first round at San Diego Country Club plus-4. Schubert had a birdie on the 22nd hole and closed it out with a birdie on the 29th hole and a par on the 31st. She finished with six birdies and had bogies on the 21st and 27th holes.
NORTON, Mass. – Jon Rahm accomplished so much so quickly that he began to wonder what else was left for him to achieve in his first full year on the PGA Tour. He now has 10 million reasons to play his best golf. Already very much in the hunt for the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus, Rahm took another step Saturday when he made an eagle and five birdies over his last 10 holes for a 5-under 66 and a two-shot lead at the halfway point of the Dell Technologies Championship. Rahm already has a short history of strong finishes in his first trip to the TPC Boston. One day after he birdied four of his last five holes, he made a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th and then shot 31 on the front nine to reach 9-under 133. No one could catch him in the afternoon, least of all Dustin Johnson. Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player who had a one-shot lead going into the second round, had a pair of double bogeys after a quick start and needed a birdie on the 18th hole to keep from falling further behind. Johnson shot a 72 and was five shots behind. It’s already been an amazing year for Rahm. The 22-year-old Spaniard was No. 137 at the start of the year. Now he’s at No. 5. His two main goals were to get to East Lake for the Tour Championship and win a tournament. Check. Check. Dell Technologies Championship: Articles, video and photos Current FedExCup Playoff points standings But after a runner-up at Colonial, he has missed the cut twice and finished out of the top 25 in three other PGA Tour starts. ”It’s probably because I got to the point where I had accomplished so much more than I had set myself to in the beginning of the year that I felt like there was nothing else to do,” he said. ”It made me complacent of what I had accomplished all year. I didn’t play with the same intensity. I really didn’t have a goal. ”It’s taken me two months to realize what I’ve done, and hopefully I can keep surprising myself.” Paul Casey, who played in the final group last year until Rory McIlroy ran him down, had a 65 and was two shots off the lead along with Adam Hadwin (65), Kevin Streelman (65) and Kyle Stanley (68). Streelman is at No. 90 in the FedEx Cup, and only the top 70 after the Labor Day finish advance to the third playoff event in two weeks outside Chicago. Rahm was only part of a cool, calm day that left a large crowd entertained, and at times surprised. Lucas Glover (No. 16) and Grayson Murray (No. 8) each made a hole-in-one that the PGA Tour estimated were 65 seconds apart. Phil Mickelson dropped only one shot on his way to a 67. He was just three shots off the lead at 6-under 136, his best 36-hole score since the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. Jordan Spieth also turned around his fortunes. Despite missing a pair of birdies inside 7 feet, Spieth still shot a 65 and was in the group four shots behind. Spieth attributed his slow start in the opening round Friday to waking up on the wrong side of the bed. ”For me, it was just a matter of just stop being cranky,” Spieth said. ”I don’t know what to tell you. I was getting more made at bad breaks than you should. It was a bad day at the office yesterday and a really good one today. I’m going to need two really good ones again. But to be within four shots after yesterday’s round is a tremendous accomplishment.” McIlroy, meanwhile, was headed home after missing the cut as the defending champion for only the second time in his career. McIlroy also missed the cut as defending champion in the 2012 U.S. Open. McIlroy will still advance to the BMW Championship, though he will need a top finish to get to East Lake for the Tour Championship. That’s no longer a concern for Rahm. He is No. 5 in the FedEx Cup, already assured of going the distance. He won at Torrey Pines in January. He even won his first European Tour title at the Irish Open. And he now has a very clear goal over the next few weeks. ”I think we all have the same goal in the next few weeks, which is the FedEx Cup,” he said with a smile. He still has a long way ahead of him at the TPC Boston. Twenty players were within five shots of the lead with two rounds to go, and players were bracing for a Sunday of wet weather. The tee times were moved back and will be played in threesomes because of the forecast. The cut was at 3-over 145, which spared the likes of Bubba Watson, who is at No. 72 in the standings. Watson missed a 3-foot par putt on the par-5 18th hole and figured he would miss the cut until Patrick Rodgers hit into the junk on the 18th hole, had to take a penalty drop and made bogey. Adam Scott wasn’t so fortunate. He came up short of the 18th with a sand wedge and missed a 6-foot par putt, giving him a 75. He wound up missing the cut by one shot after flying in from Australia to try to extend his season.
SHANGHAI – The final World Golf Championship of the year is a case study in how quickly the landscape can change. Jon Rahm had never played in one of these elite events and it wasn’t his highest priority a year ago because he had played only one PGA Tour event as a full member. Now he’s at the HSBC Champions as No. 5 in the world, making him the highest ranked European. Hideki Matsuyama was coming off a victory in the Japan Open and a runner-up finish in Malaysia, worthy of celebration because the Japanese star had moved into the top 10 in the world for the first time in his career. He won by seven shots at the HSBC Champions, part of an amazing stretch in which he won five times in nine starts. Patrick Cantlay had gone two years without even playing because of a back surgery he feared might end his career. He made it back to golf in February, to the Tour Championship in September and to his first World Golf Championship this week at Sheshan International. Pat Perez? WGC-HSBC Champions: Articles, photos and videos Full-field tee times from the WGC-HSBC Champions Not even he can believe he’s No. 18 in the world. Perez was No. 333 at this time a year ago after returning to golf following surgery on his shoulder. The last time he even qualified for a World Golf Championship was at the HSBC Champions in 2009, the week he said he realized he was ”globally unknown.” ”I pulled up the [current] schedule and saw my name on it twice as the defending champion,” said Perez, who went from one to three career victories by winning the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and the OHL Classic in Mexico. ”That was so cool,” he said. ”I can’t even believe it’s going on. I’m living it, but it hasn’t sunk in. I don’t see myself with Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson. Those are super athletes. I’m not even in consideration with them. But it’s nice to be where they are. It’s nice to be on the big schedule. No. 18 in the world. Who in the hell would have thought that?” Getting into the top class of golf is hard enough. Staying there isn’t that easy. Just ask Jason Day, Adam Scott and Patrick Reed, all of whom were in the top 10 in January and failed to win this year. Bubba Watson isn’t at the HSBC Champions because at No. 60, he isn’t eligible. Johnson, Matsuyama and Rahm lead the field when the HSBC Champions begins Thursday in some of the best weather this tournament has ever seen. It’s the end of a three-week Asian swing for Perez and about a dozen other PGA Tour players. It’s the stretch drive for a group of Europeans that include Tommy Fleetwood, who is leading the Race to Dubai, and Rahm, who still harbors hopes of catching him. It won’t be long before a new year begins, and based on the way this year has gone, the possibilities are endless. ”I think I’ve said many times what I think of my year. You know, unbelievable,” Rahm said. ”Not many players get to say this, but I accomplished a lot more than I set my mind to at the beginning of the year. It’s very special. I accomplished a lot of goals that weren’t in my mind at the beginning of the year, such as top 10 in the world, winning on the European Tour. There are many things that I set my mind to that I ended up doing.” Johnson had an idea where he was going at this time a year ago, just not the detour in his path to the top. He won his first major at the U.S. Open. He won twice more over the next few months and was one round away from winning the FedExCup. He was No. 3 in the world, though his game was pointed in a strong direction and he fulfilled that through the spring with three straight victories against the strongest fields to reach No. 1. And then he slipped down the stairs on the eve of the Masters, wrenched his back and didn’t win again until August. Matsuyama cooled off in the spring when he went three months without a top 10, but then he was runner-up in the U.S. Open, won another World Golf Championship and contended at the PGA Championship. His game has looked tired since then. Getting his game in top form was one thing. Keeping it there was even tougher. ”I’m still learning how to do that,” Matsuyama said. ”That’s one of my goals, one of things I’m working on now, is to be able to stay on top of my game.”
RIDGEDALE, Mo. – Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf. Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. ”It was a tough day,” Singh said. ”The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.” Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course. ”We just paired well together,” Toms said. ”I don’t think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.” Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball. ”Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,” Singh said. ”That’s all we can do.” Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title. Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory. Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top. ”It’s great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,” Olazabal said. ”We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it’s always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.” Langer took the final-round forecast in stride. ”We’ve done it hundreds of times before and we’ll probably do it again,” Langer said. ”We’ll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We’re known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.” Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock. John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – After carefully extracting his final approach from the pine straw, a high, arcing pitching wedge that his caddie tried to veto and which avoided overhanging tree branches with a purpose, Rory McIlroy turned to the gallery lining the 18th fairway and offered a wry grin. It wasn’t quite Michael Jordan torching the Portland Trail Blazers back in the day, but it was close. It was the look of a man who got away with an aggressive line of attack, having laid the face of his wedge wide open and having found the green from peril, 122 yards away. It shed light on the confidence that continues to fuel the Ulsterman as he climbs yet another leaderboard, this time on the strength of a 7-under 65 that didn’t appear difficult. At 12 under, he heads into the weekend at The Players Championship tied for the lead with Tommy Fleetwood, three shots clear of everyone else. McIlroy is in full control of his game, and he’s fully aware of the power and potential that status affords him. “Just another good day on the course,” McIlroy said. “I did everything pretty much the way I wanted to. Look, I’m really happy with the way everything is.” The statistics are eye-popping. Playing against the strongest field of the year, McIlroy leads in strokes gained: tee-to-green and ranks second in total strokes gained. He has missed just 6 of 36 greens in regulation and failed to find only two during his second round. There’s a different sound to McIlroy’s iron shots these days, even compared to those offered by marquee playing partners Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar. It’s as if his approach shots are afforded a 20-yard head start simply by leaving the ground. Never was that more evident than at the par-5 16th, when he lofted an effortless 4-iron from 224 yards, setting up an eagle that brought the afternoon crowd to its feet. “The wind was helping it a little bit from right to left, so I didn’t really have to worry about the trouble on the right,” said McIlroy, evading a treacherous hazard with ease. “It was just a perfect yardage to go ahead and be aggressive with it.” During those brief, fleeting instances when the game is all clicking, each of the top players in the world assumes a different temperament. Dustin Johnson saunters, unbothered by anything in view. Jordan Spieth picks up his pace and dialogue in equal measure. Jason Day tries to channel his inner Tiger Woods. Your browser does not support iframes. Full-field scores from the The Players Championship The Players Championship: Articles, photos and videos But McIlroy? He struts. There’s an extra spring in his step, and it can seem like he’s basking in the moment at every turn. A cyclical nature begins to develop: good play begets a more confident stride, and like a peacock flashing his feathers, he picks up a little more swagger with every step. Such was the case Friday at TPC Sawgrass, as the light began to fade and as McIlroy started to heat up. That eagle on No. 16 was followed by a birdie on the infamous 17th, and after escaping with par on the finishing hole, he closed out 36 holes that included a single blemish. Of course, when it comes to McIlroy, a good week’s work can be undone in a single Sunday. We’ve been down this road with regularity this year, as he has routinely positioned himself near the lead through the first three rounds only to come up short of a victory, either by his own hand or because of the outstanding play of another. Proceedings held exactly to script last week at Bay Hill, where he appeared on the verge of a successful title defense only to get stuck in neutral during the final round. And while there’s still half the tournament to play, he’s sticking to a similar mantra in a different Florida neighborhood: good play will take care of everything else. “I just need to keep seeing red numbers. That’s all I need to keep seeing,” McIlroy said. “I don’t need a win. I’m not putting myself under pressure. Again, winning is a byproduct of doing all the things that I’m doing well.” The story of McIlroy has been written in two parts this year: everything that happens on Sunday, and everything that happened before it. He has yet to get both acts on the same page. Whether this is the place and week that those two converge, whether he ends a year-long victory drought in emphatic fashion and turns his run of T-3s and T-6s into a trophy, remains to be seen. But he’s given himself a chance. And if he hits every shot with the innate precision and swashbuckling abandon he showcased during his close Friday evening, there’s every reason to think the dam is about to break. “If you look at my driving stats, how I’m hitting my irons, all that adds up to hopefully shooting the best score or the lowest score of the week,” he said. “So that’s how I need to approach it.”