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Hoffman moves into Canadian lead

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Published in Golf
Sunday, 30 July 2017 16:21

Charley Hoffman birdied the final hole for a seven-under 65 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Canadian Open.

The 40-year-old Hoffman had six birdies in a seven-hole stretch at Glen Abbey that ended on the 15th before he bogeyed the par-4 17th only to rebound with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th.

Hoffman was one ahead of fellow American Kevin Chappell, who bogeyed the last hole after finding water to card a six-under 66, with Gary Woodland and Robert Garrigus a further stroke behind.

"When you're playing good, I always say golf is fairly easy," Hoffman said. "It's been a fun run the last month or two months, actually all year, and it's not very stressful, which is good. When you're trying to make cuts, that's when golf is hard. ... Have my family out for the next five weeks. They are off for summer break. It's been fun to hang out and go over to Europe with them and Canada. It's been a good, fun summer vacation."

Hoffman's last tournament success came at the Texas Open last year where he secured his fourth PGA Tour title.

"Anything can happen in the last four or five holes," Hoffman added. "Guys can make eagles, birdies, bogeys. Anything can happen. Obviously, want to get off to a good start on the front nine and play the back nine the way I need to and see how it goes."

Chappell had nine birdies and three bogeys in his six-under 66 but a bogey at the 18th, after hitting his third shot into the water, saw the American finish his round on a disappointing note.

Woodland shot a third round 68 while Garrigus, who matched the course record with a 62, sit a further stroke behind. Garrigus had two eagles and six birdies to tie the Glen Abbey mark set by Leonard Thompson in 1981 and matched by Andy Bean in 1983, Greg Norman in 1986 and John Merrick in 2013.

"Kind of started off with that eagle on 2," Garrigus said. "Missed the green short, like a 30-footer up the hill, through the rough through the first cut and rolled on to the green and went in.

"Next hole, I stuffed it in there. I chipped in on the par 3 and stuffed it on the other par 3 and made it and I chipped in on 8, and I'm just thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, what is going on right now. I'm not going to think about anything. I'm just going to keep going.'"

Defending champion Jhonattan Vegas had a 67 to join Sam Saunders, Andres Gonzales, Tony Finau, Ryan Ruffels and Brandon Hagy at 14-under. Saunders is Arnold Palmer's grandson.

Second-round leader Martin Flores had a 72 to drop into a tie for 16th at 12-under while world No 1 Dustin Johnson also lies at 12-under-par after a 68.

"I feel like the game's starting to come back in good form," Johnson said. "Other than a drive here and there, it was a really good day."

Former world number one and 2004 winner Vijay Singh failed to continue his impressive play from Friday, carding a 71 that had him tied with seven other players at 11-under.

The 54-year-old is seeking to become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history

Singh two shots off Canadian lead

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Published in Golf
Saturday, 29 July 2017 11:35

Former world No 1 Vijay Singh rolled back the years to sit two shots off the Canadian Open second-round lead while The Open's runner-up Matt Kuchar battled to make the cut.

Singh, who won the tournament in 2004, will become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history with victory at Glen Abbey in Oakville and mixed six birdies with two bogeys in a four-under 68 to trail Martin Flores.

The Fijian 54-year-old, a 34-time winner on the PGA Tour who has not triumphed since 2008, is off to his best tournament start all season after opening with a 66 while Flores carded an impressive second successive 6-under 66 to reach 12-under-par.

"If I turn up at a golf tournament and know that I can't win, I might as well go home," said Singh, who could have competed in this week's Senior British Open. "I just have to work hard and bring it to the golf course. Otherwise, might as well not show up. So that's what I'm doing."

"I've come here a lot of times. I've played this golf course many a time and I'm pretty familiar with what the golf course gives you."

If Singh, the oldest player in the field, can clinch victory on Sunday, he would eclipse the record held by Sam Snead, who won the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open at the age of 52 years, 10 months and eight days.

Flores made a second successive eagle on the par-five second and three consecutive birdies from the 16th to the 18th to maintain his consistent start to the tournament.

"The course is perfect," said Flores, winless on the PGA Tour. "But it is a little soft right now, especially coming into the greens as compared to previous years. So the birdies are going to be out there for sure. Unless the wind picks up, but I think it's very gettable."

American Gary Woodland soared up the leaderboard with a 9-under round of 63, the day's lowest, and lies a stroke behind the lead and came close to beating the course record of 62 set by Leonard Thompson in 1981.

Matt Kuchar, coming off a second-place finish at The Open, rallied to make the cut with a 4-under 68 to reach 5-under leaving him seven strokes behind Flores, a day after fighting dizzy spells. Bubba Watson matched playing partner Kuchar at 5 under, following an opening 66 with a 73.

Kuchar made five birdies over the final three holes to make the cut-line by one shot. World No 1 Dustin Johnson, who is still feeling the effects of his back injury sustained prior to the Masters, shot 69 to reach 8 under.

Defending champion Jhonattan Vegas was 9 under after a 69. Graham DeLaet and Mackenzie Hughes, both at eight-under and in a share of 14th place, remain in the hunt to become Canada's first homegrown champion since Pat Fletcher in 1954.

Langer in five-way Senior tie

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Published in Golf
Saturday, 29 July 2017 11:32

Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman are part of a five-way tie for the lead at the halfway stage of a weather-affected Senior Open Championship.


Overnight leader Langer struggled to a three-over 74 in strong winds and driving rain at Royal Porthcawl, with Lehman posting a second-round 72 to join the leaders on one over.

Mauricio Molina, Billy Mayfair and Steve Flesch complete the quintet in the lead, with America's Clark Dennis one stroke off the pace.

Three-time senior major champion Colin Montgomerie heads into the weekend four strokes off the pace, while former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley missed the cut after carding a bogey-filled 85.

Langer three-putted his opening hole and dropped another shot at the next, before cancelling out a birdie at the seventh with back-to-back blemishes over his next two holes.

Reaching the turn in 38, Langer bogeyed the 14th but made a two-putt gain at the last, as Lehman mixed three blemishes with two birdies during his round.

"I was hitting it solid, that's the big thing," said Lehman. "I was hitting it in the middle of the club face most of the time and able to control the ball.

"I think the first eight holes were horrific, playing in the worst conditions ever, I think."

Flesch held a two-shot lead until bogeys over his final two holes, with fellow joint-leader Mayfair dropping a shot on his penultimate hole and Molina posting two blemishes on the back nine.

Australia's David Mckenzie briefly led after following successive gains from the third with further birdies around the turn, only to slip back with a string of bogeys along the back nine.

Miguel Angel Jimenez posted a front-nine 33 but bogeyed four of his final five holes to slip five shots back, with Ian Woosnam and Tom Watson part of the group on seven over.

Back injury still affecting DJ

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Published in Golf
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 22:21

Dustin Johnson has admitted he is still not fully recovered from the back injury he sustained in a freak accident on the eve of the Masters in April.

Johnson landed heavily on the left side of his back after a fall down stairs at his rented home in Augusta shortly after the Wednesday par-three contest was abandoned due to adverse weather, and the world No 1 decided to withdraw moments before his first-round tee time after struggling on the range.

The world No 1 went into the tournament on the back of three wins in four starts, and after finishing tied for second in the Wells Fargo Championship on his return to action, he has since missed the cut at The Memorial and the US Open while failing to get into the top 50 at The Open last week.

Johnson hopes to get back to winning ways in a strong field at this week's RBC Canadian Open, but he revealed he was still affected by the damage caused by the untimely fall in Augusta.

He said: "Obviously I injured my back. It wasn't no bone or anything like that, it was just muscle. So I'm still feeling the effects of it. There's no pain or anything like that, but it's still a little tight and I'm having to get worked on a good bit just to try to loosen up those muscles and those tendons where it got injured.

"Obviously mentally, just a little lack of confidence maybe because I was playing so well leading into that, and for about a year leading up to The Masters, I've been playing really good golf. Maybe even more than a year.

"So it's been a little bit of a struggle just to get back, and I've had to put in a lot of work just to get back to where I was. I'm starting to see signs of it and it's all good, it's all positive and it's all definitely moving forward."

Johnson gave himself an outside chance of winning at Royal Birkdale when he posted a superb six-under 64 in the third round, but he plummeted down the leaderboard on the final day as a 77 left him 16 shots behind champion Jordan Spieth.

"Obviously I did play a good round on Saturday, and then just struggled on Sunday a little bit with everything," he added. "Coming over here, I've played here the last couple years at Glen Abbey and I like this golf course. I've played well here the last couple years I'm looking forward to it this year.

"I feel like the game is starting to turn around, and it's a good time for it to do that. It's close, but I've got three more events before the Playoffs start. I have the Canadian Open, the WGC in Akron and the PGA. So I've got three big tournaments in a row, and I'm working hard on the game.

"Starting to see signs of it getting back to how it was before Augusta and hopefully we'll start to see some good things here in the next few weeks."

Langer: I'm no cheat

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Published in Golf
Wednesday, 26 July 2017 22:18

Bernhard Langer has again hit back at critics of his putting technique and suggested there is a vendetta against players still using a long putter.

Anchored putting was outlawed in January 2016, but Langer has found a way to continue using his famous broomhandled putter without anchoring his top hand to his chest.

Critics believe the German is pushing the boundaries of legality on the greens, but Langer insisted he is acting within the rules and admitted the negative comments questioning his integrity had been "really hurtful"

Ahead of this week's Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl, where he romped to a record-shattering 13-shot win three years ago, Langer said: "I personally don't understand it because I'm a man of integrity and the last thing I want to do is break rules and be known as cheating.

"I know when I'm anchoring and when I'm not anchoring because I control my hand. It goes sideways, you can see it. So when my knuckle is away from the body, I'm not anchoring or touching any part of my body and I know I'm within the rules.

"What's even stranger is that I have conferred with USGA rules officials and with Champions Tour officials on a regular basis. I told them what I'm doing, and I practised that way and they have wholeheartedly told me, 'you're within the rules, you're not breaking any rule and you can continue doing this'.

"And then you have a few people that come up on whatever it is, Twitter or somewhere else, and questioning my integrity, which is really hurtful. But I can't stop people talking, whatever they are talking or reporting or whatever. I can only control what I'm doing. I'm going to play golf within the rules and do the best I can."

Asked if the description of the ruling was too vague, he replied: "I don't think so. The rule is actually very simple, you can't anchor and I'm not anchoring. I haven't anchored since January 2016, that's all I can say to that.

"I'm just disappointed in some of the people, and I don't need to mention names, because we're all in the game of golf, we all make a living in the game of golf and we should be talking about good stuff and positive things, and not, you know, be negative.

"And as I've already explained, I know I'm within the rules. Otherwise, you know, it would be a different story. But I can feel when I touch my body and when I don't touch my body. All of you can, and it's that simple to me.

"But it's not just me, there are other players that are using the long putter and that are having a similar method. But you know, it's human to be jealous; let's put it that way. If I was No 180 on the Money List, I don't think anybody would be talking about it.

"But I've been No 1 the last few years on a regular basis, and now Scott McCarron has a lot of success, as well. We're actually No 1 and 2 on the Champions Tour. So you're going to have people being jealous or whatever you want to call it, I don't know."


Bjorn positive about Rory

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Monday, 24 July 2017 20:39

Thomas Bjorn believes that Rory McIlroy can take confidence from his performance at The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.

European Ryder Cup captain Bjorn, who was a runner-up at The Open in 2002 and 2003, believes McIlroy and European players in general are showing signs of improving in the lead-up to the match-play event which will take place at Le Golf National next year.

McIlroy finished in a tie for fourth place after compiling three successive rounds of 68, 69, 67 to finish the tournament at five-under and seven shots adrift of eventual champion Jordan Spieth.

"I am not concerned," Bjorn told Sky Sports News HQ, about the strength in depth within the American side, which includes Spieth. "We have got a lot of talent coming through. They are going to find their way in the majors as well and there's a lot of time to go until the end of next September.

"There's five majors to be played - I look ahead and I am in a very good place about all our talent and when I look at our senior players they are still some of the best players in the world.

"It was encouraging to see Rory [McIlroy] this weekend [play well]. America is in a good place with their players but so are we and those two teams are always going to be evenly balanced."

Padraig Harrington, who won The Open in 2007 and 2008, is also positive about McIlroy's form and believes his form showed signs of a return to its best.

"I'd say he could see it as a missed opportunity," Harrington told Sky Sports News HQ. "He certainly played enough good golf to have competed and won the tournament.

"I did see one stat which said that Rory played the last 63 holes in 10-under and Jordan Spieth played them in nine-under. So Rory did play physically good enough.

"I don't know whether it wasn't just his week, couple of mental errors maybe, but he should take a lot of confidence from the week. He has shown on what was not a great week for him, that he was nearly there."

Player: Spieth will win Grand Slam

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Monday, 24 July 2017 20:36

Gary Player has "never been more confident of anybody winning the grand slam" after Jordan Spieth secured the third leg of the four major titles by winning The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.

Spieth, who becomes a three-time major winner by securing his first Claret Jug, held off stern resistance by compatriot Matt Kuchar to become the Champion Golfer of the Year.

Player, who won The Open in 1959, 1968, 1974, is one of only five players to have secured the modern era career Grand Slam and is in no doubt about Spieth's chances.

"It's extremely difficult to win as we know people like Tom Watson, who is a superstar, Arnold Palmer, a superstar, Trevino, superstar and I don't use the word superstar very lightly," Player told Sky Sports News HQ.

"I think you have got to win six majors to be a superstar. They [Watson, Palmer and Trevino] never won the Grand Slam. There are a host of them - Sam Snead, maybe the best player who ever lived, I don't know.

"But I have never been more confident of anybody winning the Grand Slam as I am about Jordan Spieth."

Player, who won nine major titles during his career, emphasised the importance of Spieth's mental resolve as the American recovered from four bogeys over his front nine and an incident packed 13th hole to roar back with a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie four-hole stretch which saw him regain control of the championship.

"Yesterday, I never saw anybody play so poorly as the first 12 holes. I thought he was gone - he hit three fairways all day. The bogey he made at 13 was a miracle and suddenly his mind changed and he poured it on and finished like a miracle man. A wonderful story for The Open."

Spieth appeared to be suffering a repeat of his Masters unravelling last year and struggled on the greens and off the tee for large spells of his round but recovered to shot a one-under 69 to become the first player in Open history to compile four sub-70 rounds at Royal Birkdale.

"I don't say he was mentally gone, he was swing-wise gone," said the three-time Open champion. "He couldn't hit the ball on the fairway and was very fortunate - in fact every time he went in the rough, he had a perfect lie. In fact, there was really no rough at The Open which is a pity because this is the ultimate test of golf.

"This is phenomenal the mind he does have. What wins majors is not hitting the ball a long way. We saw with Tiger Woods - he wasn't a long hitter of the ball and yet he was the best in the world and at one stage was the best ever.

"We have had two great examples of the importance of the mind. I can't tell you how [much] I admired his finish yesterday. Maybe the most remarkable I have seen at The Open."

Player believes Spieth is a great ambassador for young golfers and also thinks Rory McIlroy can win the elusive Masters title which is preventing him from joining Player as a winner of each of the major championships.

Player added: "I can't tell you how [much] I admire this man. "He is well mannered, he is a family man.

"I also think that Rory McIlroy, once he improves on his short game, [he] will win the Grand Slam. They are both wonderful representatives of the game and they behave so well, compared to a lot of sportsmen and sportswomen. I am really impressed."\

Meanwhile fellow South African Branden Grace, who carded a record breaking 62 at a major on Saturday, insists he had no idea at the time he was on the verge of creating history.

"When you get so in the zone and not knowing it kind of helps," Grace said. "It was phenomenal. Being part of history is great but [I am] still lacking that major.

"I was so in the moment and the last thing I wanted to do was finish with a bogey on 18 especially so well after playing so well the whole day and grinding it out. On 18 I just wanted to make birdie or par and get out of there."

Grace was not surprised by the manner of Spieth's victory and has no doubts about the 23-year-old's chances of completing the career grand slam with the PGA Championship the only major title he is yet to win.

Grace added: "He is a class act. It's his third major. I have no doubt that he is going to get the grand slam. I heard it wasn't the best performance up until the 13th or 14th hole and then he kicked himself into a different gear which is what great players do."

'Rory has turned a corner'

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Friday, 21 July 2017 22:28

Paul McGinley reflects on a much-improved second round for Rory McIlroy at Royal Birkdale and assesses his chances heading into the weekend at The Open.

This is a golf course that sets up well for Rory, he can take it on and if his mindset remains positive, along with that good putting, this golf course is there to be got at.

The fairways are soft with very heavy rain on Wednesday and today. The forecast is for the winds to die down a bit tomorrow and, with the course playing soft, that's going to play more into his hands than if it stays windy.

Rory has notoriously played well on golf courses that are softer rather than firmer and with less wind rather than a lot of wind, so there's a couple of things adding up for him.

He certainly looks like he has turned a corner. His body language has all changed, there's a bounce in his step, he's standing over the ball and he's hitting.

Things are certainly looking good for Rory at this moment in time. He is within a handful of shots of the lead after two rounds and that's what he wants.

You can read Rory so clearly and so easily just by his body language on the golf course. The foundation for his game today was 24 putts, which you've got to do in conditions this tough.

What I liked about today was he was so aggressive and he took the golf course on. We are all looking for him now to contend and potentially even with this tournament.

Poulter shares Scottish lead

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Saturday, 15 July 2017 16:26

English duo Ian Poulter and Callum Shinkwin and Australian Andrew Dodt finished a testing day in a three-way tie for the lead after the third round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

The trio all played some solid golf in wet and windy conditions at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire to top the leaderboard on nine-under 207 following 54 holes.

Poulter and Dodt carded one-under 71s, while Shinkwin, who had shared the overnight lead, signed for a level-par 72.

World No 85 Poulter, who claimed the last of his 12 European Tour victories in November 2012, held a two-shot lead with five holes to play following three birdies and one bogey on the front nine.

However, world No 405 Shinkwin's superb eagle at the 14th gave him a share of the lead and a dropped shot from both players over the closing holes left them alongside Dodt going into the final round.

Dodt, 31, played some patient golf and hovered just off the pace all day as he mixed two birdies with two bogeys until a fine birdie at the 18th took him to nine under.

The trio are two shots clear of England's Andy Sullivan who fired the round of the day - a five-under 67 - to move to seven under.

Sullivan teed off at 8.34 after play was brought forward due to the threat of bad weather late in the afternoon and he made the most of the slightly calmer morning conditions.

The Englishman posted six birdies in 14 holes but he looked to have hit the buffers as conditions worsened around lunchtime when he bogeyed the 16th and double-bogeyed the 17th.

Sullivan had saved the best for last, though, as he holed out from a greenside bunker at the 18th to sign off with an eagle.

Padraig Harrington, who had shared the overnight lead with 24-year-old Shinkwin and Germany's Alexander Knappe, tumbled down the field after a disappointing round of 79.

Harrington set the tone by missing a two-foot par putt on the opening hole and he dropped a further three shots on the front nine as he struggled with his putter in the crosswinds.

The Irishman did manage a birdie on the ninth but further problems on the back nine saw him bogey the 10th and 17th and double bogey the 15th to drop into joint-23rd on two under.

Knappe triple-bogeyed the fourth after getting into trouble off the tee and he also had three bogeys in four holes from the 10th, but three birdies kept him in contention before another bogey at the last left him in a nine-way tie for eighth place on five under.

He is in good company four shots off the lead alongside the likes of American duo Matt Kuchar (73) and Rickie Fowler (74), Englishman Andrew Johnston (70) and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, who boosted his chances of snatching one of the three Open places on offer with a four-under 68.

The tough conditions resulted in a congested leaderboard with three players - Sweden's Johan Carlsson (68), Paul Dunne of Ireland (69) and Ryan Fox of New Zealand (69) - sharing fifth place on six under, and a fascinating final round looks in prospect with better weather forecast for Sunday.

Trump course in Scottish snub

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Friday, 14 July 2017 20:11

The Donald Trump-owned course on the outskirts of Aberdeen is set to be overlooked as a venue for the 2019 Scottish Open.

Trump International Golf Links was in the running to host £5.4m event in two years' time and was reportedly in "pole position", but the tournament is now likely to be held elsewhere.

The event has not been held in Aberdeenshire since Justin Rose won at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in 2014, with the tournament sponsors keen to return to the area in the near future.

Cruden Bay is now the favourite to host the event, with Martin Gilbert - the chief executive of tournament sponsors Aberdeen Asset Management - citing "clear issues" around President Trump.

"We'd love to go back to the Aberdeen area at some stage and, if we went back, we'd look at various courses," Gilbert said. "The (European) Tour have been to see Cruden Bay. The thing is there we'd have to do a composite-type course.

"Trump, I don't need to tell you, is a great golf course, but there are issues if we went there. The worst thing would be if he came! No decision has been made but look, there are clear issues, shall we say.

"Politics aside, Trump would be an ideal venue, but you can't put politics aside. That is the issue so we will wait and see."

The Trump-owned Trump National in New Jersey is hosting this week's US Women's Open, with the United States Golf Association (USGA) executive director Mike Davis saying in May that the organisation would not "cross the line into politics."

Next year's Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open will be held at Gullane Golf Club in East Lothian, the same course which will host the 2018 Ladies Scottish Open.

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