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Golf  

McIlroy and Reed both 6-under after 1st round in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed produced big first-round finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic on Friday in what could lead to an intriguing showdown as the competition heads to a Monday conclusion.

LIV Golf series players Richard Bland and Ian Poulter were tied atop the leaderboard at 8-under overall when second-round play was suspended Friday because of fading light. It was the second straight day of disrupted play at Emirates Golf Club.

McIlroy and Reed, another LIV golfer, were in the news after some pre-tournament friction between two of golf’s most high-profile players, and both completed their rounds at 6-under 66 in brief appearances on opposite ends of the course Friday.

Angel Hidalgo was one shot behind the leaders and Louis de Jager was at 6 under with McIlroy and Reed, who will start their second rounds Saturday.

Bland started his second round with three straight birdies and Poulter covered his first three holes in 1 under before play was suspended.

The competition will conclude on Monday, organizers said. Play had been suspended Thursday because of fading light following earlier delays from overnight rain that left the course unplayable.

Poulter and Ludvig Aberg, a Swede who is the world’s No. 1 amateur, shot 65s to share the lead after one round.

The top-ranked McIlroy, who had started on the 10th on Thursday, went birdie-eagle-birdie to complete his 66 after only seven shots on Friday. Reed eagled the par-5 18th.

McIlroy holed out from a fairway bunker on the par-4 8th for an unlikely eagle. The Northern Irishman described his play Thursday — when he was 2 under after playing 15 holes — as “very sloppy.”

“I would have been happy with anything around 70 the way I played, and then to come in and shoot 66 is quite the bonus," the two-time winner said after the first round.

Reed, a former Masters champion, had completed 16 holes Thursday at 4 under and resumed with a par before a closing eagle, holing from 15 feet.

“To come out this week and feel like I was able to put everything together and to have my mind right on game planning and course management was definitely a plus," the American said.

The pre-tournament buildup focused on discord between McIlroy and Reed, who is one of the high-profile players to have joined the exodus to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf breakaway league. McIlroy, a vocal critic of LIV, ignored Reed on Tuesday at the practice range.

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Ryder extends Farmers lead to 3, Rahm gets hot on windy day

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Sam Ryder extended his lead to three shots in the Farmers Insurance Open with a 4-under 68 in challenging wind in the second round Thursday on Torrey Pines' South Course while Jon Rahm had an eagle and three straight birdies late in his 5-under 67 on the easier North Course to get under the cut line. 

Ryder survived both the Santa Ana wind and the tougher South Course with just one bogey to reach 12-under 132 and take a three-stroke lead over Brendan Steele, who shot a 70 on the South Course. Tano Goya was two more shots back after a 67 on the North Course.

The Santa Ana wind blowing out of the desert and down the mountains raked the course most of the day, with gusts up to 30 mph. It sent leaves, branches and even a tumbleweed onto greens, and cardboard trash cans tumbling down hillsides. 

“Yesterday was very easy, today was very hard,” said Rahm, who took his first tour win here in 2017 and then won the 2021 U.S. Open on the blufftop municipal course overlooking the Pacific Ocean. “It’s never easy out here on either one of the courses, especially the South, and when you get poa annua bumpy greens with this wind, it can be a bit of a nightmare, so glad I made a few.”

Canadians Adam Hadwin and Taylor Pendrith made the cut at even-par 144. Hadwin, from Abbotsford, B.C., shot a 74 while Pendrith, from Richmond Hill, Ont., had a 75. 

Adam Svensson (72) of Surrey, B.C., missed the cut at 2-over 146. Michael Gligic (74) of Burlington, Ont., also missed out at 7-over 151.  

Rahm, ranked No. 3 in the world and looking to win for the third time three starts this year, rebounded from an opening 73 on the South Course by getting hot on his back nine. He eagled the par-5 fifth and then had three straight birdies. He had another eagle chance on the par-4 seventh but his long putt caught the left edge and skidded about a foot away. 

After his frustrating opening round, “anything in the 60s would have been amazing,” Rahm said. “What I shot today, man, I’m going to be skipping out of the golf course today because it’s a great round of golf.”

Rahm, who won The American Express last weekend, started on the back nine and opened with consecutive birdies but bogeyed his third and ninth holes. He was even going into the par-5 fifth, when he started his run with an eagle.

“Holes five through nine, with or without wind is where you can take advantage of the course,” the Spanish star said. “Luckily, I’ve been hitting it really good. There’s no difference between those holes or any other five, four holes you can pick throughout the round, it's just kind of guessed with the wind right in all of them. I think maybe I was a little more aggressive after that second shot on 6 and got in the mentality of making birdies instead of being a little tentative, which is easy to do when it’s blowing as hard as it was blowing today.”

Rahm, who went from tied for 116th on Wednesday to tied for 14th, said the cut line never came to mind.

“I was playing with the mindset of catching up to the leaders as much as possible, that’s it.”

Ryder, a 33-year-old who has never won on the PGA Tour, opened some distance after sharing the first-round lead with Aaron Rai and Brent Grant. Grant was in a group of six at 6 under.

“Yeah, it feels great. The thing I’ve been kind of telling myself is to just try and embrace it,” Ryder said. "It’s not a position that I’ve been in a lot, you know, so just trying to enjoy it. It’s kind of why we play, so just trying to look around and enjoy the moment.

“And I’m just doing everything pretty solid. It starts off the tee for me, I’m driving it well. My iron play is really good, so I feel like if I put it in the fairway, I can attack. And I don’t think I really missed many shots today. I missed a couple fairways, but the irons have been really good."

Will Zalatoris, ranked No. 7 in the world, missed the cut after shooting 5-over 77 on the South Course. 

The final two rounds will be on the South Course.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



Reed fares better than McIlroy after delayed start in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Patrick Reed fared better than Rory McIlroy after some pre-tournament friction as the Dubai Desert Classic got off to a wet start Thursday with only 11 players managing to finish their weather-affected first rounds.

Play only began at the European tour event after a delay of six hours caused by heavy overnight rain that left the course unplayable at Emirates Golf Club.

By the time the siren sounded to suspend play because of fading light, Reed was 4 under par after 16 holes and top-ranked McIlroy was 2 under having played 15 holes.

Thomas Pieters was leading on 5 under, though he also had three holes to play. Three English players — Matthew Jordan, Daniel Gavins and Oliver Wilson — held the clubhouse lead after shooting rounds of 4-under 68.

“It’s certainly strange around here,” Jordan said of the wet conditions, “to see water hazards and stuff in places that you don’t expect it to be.”

Reed and McIlroy traded verbal blows Wednesday after an interaction — of sorts — at the practice range on Tuesday that saw McIlroy snub Reed, who had gone over to wish the Northern Irishman a happy new year. Reed walked away before tossing a tee — featuring a logo of his 4 Aces team in the LIV Golf league — in the direction of McIlroy, one of the most vocal critics of the Saudi-run breakaway series.

Reed said it was “unfortunate” that McIlroy didn't shake his hand and was quoted as describing McIlroy as “an immature little child.”

It has set the scene for a potential on-course head-to-head in Dubai between two of golf's most high-profile players. It didn't come Thursday, with McIlroy starting at No. 10 in his first event of 2023 and Reed opening at the first hole.

McIlroy bogeyed two of his first six holes after leaving chips from the fringe short. He got up and down from a greenside bunker for birdie at No. 18, picked up more shots at No. 2 and 3, and was lining up a birdie putt from inside 4 feet on No. 7 when the siren went off.

Reed birdied three of his first five holes and rebounded from a bogey at No. 10 by holing short birdie putts at Nos. 12 and 14.

Tommy Fleetwood (15 holes) and Victor Perez (16 holes), who won the Abu Dhabi Championship last week, were also on 4 under when they had to leave the course.

Half the field had yet to get on the course and will start their first rounds on Friday. Players were informed in the early hours of Thursday morning that Emirates Golf Club was “inaccessible” and told not to travel to the course due to several roads being flooded following heavy rain.

Play finally got underway following a few hours of dry weather and a massive clean-up operation by ground staff.

“It’s tough,” Jordan said. “I mean, it was nice to see that at 5.20 a.m. I could roll back over in bed and have a lie-in. So that was nice.”

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Rahm struggles to opening 1-over 73 at Torrey Pines

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jon Rahm struggled to a 1-over 73 at Torrey Pines South, which has become one of his favourite courses, while Sam Ryder, Aaron Rai and Brent Grant all shot 8-under 64 on the more forgiving North Course on Wednesday to tie for the first-round lead at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rahm, ranked No. 3 in the world and trying for his third win in as many starts, made a double bogey on the par-4 seventh hole and was continually left frustrated on the South Course. He earned his first PGA Tour victory in 2017 at the municipal courses on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean and then won the U.S. Open on the South Course in 2021.

Rahm, who is trying for his 10th career tour win, was tied for 116th with 11 others, including playing partner Tony Finau and Justin Rose.

“Not good,” the Spanish star said as he signed autographs in the fading sunshine. Rahm won The American Express at PGA West in the Coachella Valley last weekend and the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua two weeks earlier.

Ryder, Rai and Grant have never won on tour. Ryder is coming off three straight missed cuts. Grant’s last four rounds have been 74 or worse. They took a one-shot lead over Brendan Steele, who was at 7-under 65, with seven players bunched another shot back at 6-under 66. Defending champion Luke List and Collin Morikawa, ranked No. 8 in the world, were in a group of seven at 5-under 67.

Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., carded a 3-under and is tied for 33rd. Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., is tied for 50th at 2-under, and Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., fired a 2-over and is tied for 128th. Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., is at 5-over and tied for 149th.

The top six finishers and 13 of the top 18 played the North Course. Players will switch courses on Thursday, with stronger wind in the forecast, and play the final two rounds on the South Course.

PGA Tour rookie Sam Stevens and Andrew Novak had the best rounds on the South Course. Both were in the group at 66.

Rahm was 2 under through six holes before he sent his second shot on No. 7 over the green into a brushy native area. After taking a penalty and a drop in the right rough, he chipped onto the green and two-putted.

Rahm then bogeyed Nos. 12 and 15 before birdieing the par-3 16th.

“No. 7 was arguably the best swing of the day that cost me two shots,” Rahm said. "I've hit that shot over 25 times in the past with the same wind and I've never seen a ball get pin high and today we don't know what happened. Somehow it ended up flying the pin by 10 yards and in the hazard. If it just flies the green and stays in the rough it's OK. But that was costly.

“The main thing on the round today, with the tee shots I hit on 6, 7, 12 and 13, I was 3-over par," Rahm added. "In any other given round I've played here in the past I'm actually playing that at least even par to under par, so it's easily a three- to five-shot swing and that's the difference.”

Ryder, a 33-year-old still looking for his first tour victory, opened his round with an eagle on the par-5 10th.

“No. 10 is one of the easier holes on the course, short par 5, beautiful hole going down toward the ocean,” he said. “You’re really thinking kind of it’s nice to hit it in the fairway, hit it on the green. You’re thinking OK, maybe I can make a 4. I wasn’t really thinking attack, attack, but there wasn’t much to the putt. It was actually fairly straight and it was one of those when it was halfway there, it looked pretty good and it just kind of fell in perfect. It’s almost like a little bit of a bonus, but it’s really nice to start the round with a birdie or eagle."

DIVOTS: With the Wednesday start, no one had a quicker turnaround than Scott Brown. He was competing on the Korn Ferry Tour in the Bahamas, a tournament that started Sunday and concluded Wednesday. After making the cut on Monday, Brown realized he was first alternate for Torrey Pines when John Huh withdrew. Brown withdrew from the Bahamas, flew to San Diego on Tuesday and was in the first group out Wednesday morning. He shot a 3-under 69 on the North Course. 

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports 



Recreational golf continues to grow in Canada and United States in 2022

Recreational golf continued to reach new heights of popularity in 2022.

Lightspeed Commerce, which does data management for golf courses, released its industry-wide annual report on Wednesday. 

It showed ongoing growth of the game in North America, continuing a trend started in 2020 when golf was one of the few social activities where people could remain physically distant to avoid spreading COVID-19.

"To see everything being in the black was really encouraging, where the state of golf is right now, not only in Canada, but in North America," said Lightspeed Golf general manager David Hope, who is based in Montreal.

"We saw rounds going up year-over-year, where I think the majority of governing bodies and associations were expecting rounds to be down but rounds were actually up."

Lightspeed works with more than 800 golf courses in the U.S. and over 500 in Canada. 

It found that there were 9.6 per cent more rounds of golf played in North America in 2022 versus the previous year. That includes a 7.5 per cent increase in Canada, with British Columbia (15.9%), Ontario (10.2%), and Quebec (8%) leading the upswing.

"I think when you look at some of the golfer retention numbers in terms of what they favour, the reason for coming back to golf, overall experience is leading there," said Hope.

He added clubs have been improving other parts of their business beyond the course, with more attention paid to the retail and dining experiences.

Not every province saw growth, however. 

Canada's Maritime provinces saw a 7.4 per cent decrease in rounds played between 2021 and 2022. Hope said that drop may have been due to extreme weather in the region, as New York, Connecticut and other markets on the East Coast also saw a dip in play.

"Weather is one of those variables that we really can't control," said Hope. "Now obviously, (Hurricane Fiona) hit the Maritimes towards the latter part of the golf season, which actually impacted the data even more but what we're referencing here is pre-hurricane data in the Maritimes. 

"Even without the hurricane data, we still noticed that rounds were down roughly about seven per cent."

Conversely, B.C.'s numbers may have sharply risen in 2022 because widespread wildfires in the Pacific Northwest the previous year could have kept golfers off the course.

Lightspeed's report also found that July 25-31 was the busiest week of the year, followed closely by June 27-July 4.

Courses also saw the average golfer spend 4.2 per cent more overall, with notable increases in the pro shop (4.99%) and on food and beverages (10.3%). However, the average increase was still lower than the average consumer price index increase in both Canada and the United States, as worldwide economies grapple with inflation.

Although the number of recreational golf rounds played increased, most duffers still aren't signing up for a club membership. Lightspeed found that 94 per cent of North American golfers preferred playing at public or semi-private courses and 76 per cent liked paying daily green fees, compared to 18 per cent using passes or subscriptions and 14 per cent having full-time memberships at courses.

PGA TOUR — The Farmers Insurance Open teed off on Wednesday at Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif., with four Canadians in the field. Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., currently 11th on the FedEx Cup standings leads the Canuck contingent, followed by No. 51 Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., No. 135 Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., and No. 192 Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont.

KORN FERRY TOUR — Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont., won for the second time on the Korn Ferry Tour on Wednesday. He beat Cody Blick of the United States in a playoff at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic.

DP WORLD TOUR — Aaron Cockerill of Stony Mountain, Man., is in the field at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. The only Canadian on the DP World Tour will be up against stiffer competition than usual with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy also in the competition.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2023.



Ex-NBA guard J.R. Smith aims to make golf more accessible

J.R. Smith followed his own path to golf, from high school basketball star to 16-year NBA veteran and now older-than-usual college athlete at North Carolina A&T.

He wants his story to help others feel comfortable taking up the sport.

“There’s definitely a place in the game for everybody,” Smith said. “No matter what color, age you are, gender — there’s a place in this game for any and everybody.”

That's Smith's message with Wednesday’s launch of a video podcast aiming to make the sport more accessible to young and diverse audiences. The weekly Par 3 Podcast features Smith, famed high-end jeweler Ben Baller, and Malbon Golf lifestyle and apparel company co-founder Stephen Malbon.

Smith started playing while in the NBA. Malbon played as a teenager, then returned as an adult. Baller is the late bloomer who has gone all-in on golf over the past year.

Shows will cover topics from gear, fashion, brands and trends to the hosts’ personal ups and downs on the scorecard. It's designed to be three golfers chatting candidly about the game they love, and doing so in a manner to make the sport feel broadly welcoming rather than limited to a select group based on race, wealth or social status.

That's important in a sport with a problematic past on racial issues, such as the PGA of America banning Black professional players until rescinding its Caucasian-only clause in 1961.

“When you think about the older version of the game compared to this newer, modern version where so many different kids from different backgrounds and communities are actually playing the game, it’s not just that stuffy old white sport anymore,” Smith told The Associated Press. “We're breaking down those barriers and we want to continuously break down those barriers, because that's an old way to live, think. And it wasn't right.

“For us to be able to have platforms like this with Stephen, Ben and myself, I feel like it continuously breaks down those barriers. And shows people that you can be — whether it be a skateboarder or jeweler or designer or basketball player — you can be any type of walk of life … and you can still have the same love and joy and passion for a sport like golf.”

Malbon talked about playing golf with his 10-year-old son in referencing his interest in appealing to young players and keeping them involved long-term.

As he put it: “You can like Wu Tang (Clan) and be really good at golf, and that’s totally OK.”

It helped when Smith, a two-time NBA world champion, chose to attend and play golf at a Historically Black College or University, which followed a 2021 push by the league and its players to support HBCU traditions and culture.

“He made it cool,” said Baller, who is pivoting from his jewelry businesses to play full-time. “Because J.R.’s a cool dude. You see J.R. and he had this (NBA) bad-boy persona. But then you meet J.R. in person … and I’m like, ‘OK, he really respects the game in its pure form.’”

Smith’s transition to 37-year-old college golfer raised attention on the sport much like work by current NBA star Stephen Curry, who helped Howard launch its golf program and has worked to improve youth access through his UNDERRATED Golf project.

“It broadcasts the message of: you can be who you are, you don’t have to apologize for who you are,” Malbon said. “You just can go at it and get better every day. And I think (Smith's) showing that, which is great.”

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



1st round of Dubai Desert Classic to be closed to public

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Spectators will not be allowed to attend the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday because of what organizers have described as “severe weather conditions” forecast at Emirates Golf Club.

The European tour said Wednesday the decision had been made “with the safety of all in mind.”

“Emirates Golf Club will be open only to the players, the caddies, officials and the media,” the tour said, adding that it looks forward to inviting the public back to the course on Friday.

The Dubai Desert Classic is one of the biggest events on the European tour's schedule. Top-ranked Rory McIlroy headlines the field this year.

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McIlroy snubs Reed, in no mood for reconciliation in Dubai

Another battle between Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed began to take shape Wednesday.

As one of the most vocal critics of the LIV Golf breakaway league, McIlroy felt mentally drained at the end of last year and decided to put his clubs away for a few weeks.

“It’s been nice,” the top-ranked McIlroy said, “to try to take a little bit of time away, and try to sort of distance myself from the game of golf.”

Now he’s back and appears to be as fiery as ever.

McIlroy was on the driving range Tuesday at the Dubai Desert Classic when he was approached by Reed, one of the high-profile players to have joined the exodus to the Saudi-backed series that changed the face of golf in 2022.

McIlroy said he was busy practicing and didn’t feel the need to acknowledge Reed.

“Patrick came up to say hello and I didn’t really want him to,” McIlroy said Wednesday.

McIlroy was asked about reports the American threw a tee toward him. The four-time major winner said he didn’t see or feel anything.

”But apparently that’s what happened,” McIlroy said. “And if roles were reversed and I’d have thrown that tee at him, I’d be expecting him (to file) a lawsuit.”

McIlroy said he was served a subpoena on Christmas Eve from Larry Klayman, an attorney who has filed a lawsuit against the PGA Tour and European tour for suspending players who have signed with LIV Golf. Reed is not involved in that lawsuit.

Klayman also represents Reed in lawsuits filed against a number of media outlets.

“Of course, trying to have a nice time with my family and someone shows up on your doorstep and delivers that, you’re not going to take that well,” McIlroy said.

It’s clear McIlroy is in no mood for reconciliation in Dubai.

“So again, I’m living in reality, I don’t know where he’s living. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t expect a hello or a handshake.”

Reed, in a statement provided by Klayman, wanted to make clear he had nothing to do with the subpoena McIlroy received.

“So, McIlroy being upset about being served on Christmas Eve has absolutely nothing to do with Patrick Reed,” the statement said. “So we don’t know what world McIlroy is living in, but we live in the real world, and to try to lay blame on Patrick Reed or being upset with Patrick for being subpoenaed for a lawsuit that Patrick Reed is not a part of is simply ignorant.”

Reed said in Dubai it was “unfortunate” that McIlroy didn't shake his hand.

“But it is one of those things — if you’re going to act like an immature little child then you might as well be treated like one,” Reed was quoted as saying by British newspaper The Daily Mail.

Reed said he “flicked” a tee toward McIlroy because it had a logo of the 4 Aces, his team in LIV Golf, on it.

“It was kind of a funny shot back,” Reed said.

Reed and McIlroy had a memorable singles match in the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, which Reed won. They also were in the final round at the 2018 Masters, where Reed had a three-shot lead and went on to win. The Masters is the one major McIlroy has not won.

McIlroy was later asked if it would be beneficial to “fix your relationship” with another LIV rebel, Sergio Garcia, if it would help Europe’s cause ahead of this year’s Ryder Cup.

“No,” was the Northern Irishman’s blunt response.

The toll taken on McIlroy for effectively being an anti-LIV spokesman didn’t stop him returning to the top of the world ranking at the end of last year.

His last competitive tournament was the World Tour Championship, which was also in Dubai, in November.

McIlroy said the break gave him the opportunity to “recharge and reset and try to start 2023 with renewed optimism,” and he is back in the Middle East with some unfinished business.

In last year’s Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy was in a share of the lead after 71 holes but bogeyed the par-5 No. 18 on Sunday after hitting his second shot into the water in front of the green. He finished a shot behind Viktor Hovland and Richard Bland, and Hovland wound up winning a playoff.

“Wasn’t quite the way I wanted to finish it off,” McIlroy said. “But you know, I went on from that week and played really well and had a great year.”

McIlroy is a two-time winner of the event — in 2009, which was his first title as a pro at the age of 19, and in 2015 — and enjoys coming to this part of the world.

“I’ve been coming here for a long time, 17 years,” he said. “I’ve got a level of comfort here. I like starting my year here. I have a lot of friends. I called this place home for four years.”

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CBS embarks on 66th straight season with 23 PGA Tour events

CBS Sports begins its 66th consecutive season covering the PGA Tour with only its fifth lead analyst in Trevor Immelman and one of its busiest years, with 11 of the 17 “elevated” events with the biggest names.

It starts in prime time on Saturday night from Torrey Pines, an early finish to avoid the NFL conference championship games. Jim Nantz will call the action from Kansas City, Missouri, where CBS is televising the AFC title game.

And for the first time, CBS will have the entire FedEx Cup playoffs as part of an alternating schedule with NBC. CBS, which for years has carried the most tournaments, this year will have 23.

“It feels a little different, like having more light shining on it,” Nantz said. “Twenty-three in ’23. We’ve never had the full playoffs. You take our two majors (Masters and PGA Championship) and 11 of our 23 events are going to have magnificent fields. I think it’s going to be a blast.”

That means 12 of the 23 will have the best of the rest, though Torrey Pines has Jon Rahm in his pursuit of a third straight win, plus Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa in his first start since losing a six-shot lead at Kapalua.

Sellers Shy, the lead golf producer for CBS Sports, points to the Wyndham Championship.

“We’re bullish on this opportunity,” Shy said. “One of the big storylines that came out of last year was Tom Kim, who surfaced at the Wyndham Championship. We’re also fortunate enough that designated events are spread through the year. We’re seeing some players at standard events have a chance to showcase themselves.”

Immelman takes over for Nick Faldo, who retired. The 2008 Masters champion got started last year. This will be his first full season and it makes him the youngest lead analyst in CBS history at age 43.

“I think he and Jim are going to be contemporary, animated and have opinions,” said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports.

APGA RETURNS

Coming off its first season of offering $1 million in total prize money, the Advocates Professional Golf Association Tour gets going this week with the Farmers Insurance Invitational.

The opening round will be Saturday on the North Course at Torrey Pines as the final round of the PGA Tour event is held on the South Course. The final round of the APGA event will Sunday on the South, using the same final-round pin positions as the Farmers Insurance Open.

The final round will be televised on Golf Channel.

The 18-man field includes Kamaiu Johnson, who won three times on the APGA last year, including the Tour Championship. That earned him 12 events on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica series.

Johnson is one of three APGA players who earned status for 2023 on various tours. Tim O’Neal made it through PGA Tour Champions qualifying, while Willie Mack had status on the Korn Ferry Tour.

The APGA began in 2010 and is geared toward developing Black golfers and other minorities in golf careers.

JT THE BOOK WORM

Justin Thomas makes a list of golf goals for the year that he won’t reveal until the end of the season. But he did share a New Year’s resolution.

“I want to read a book a month,” Thomas said.

Don’t get the idea Thomas is a voracious reader. He doesn’t like fiction -- “I have a hard time reading something if it’s just not true,” he said -- and no, the books don’t have to contain pictures.

“I like to read, but I’m not consistent at reading,” he said.

Thomas said he’ll get into a book, but then find himself sharing a house with friends on tour for a few weeks so he doesn’t touch it. And he said he’s not very disciplined when he’s at home.

“So I really would like to do that,” he said of his book-a-month goal.

The January book: “Why Buddhism is True,” by Robert Wright, recommended to him by a friend.

“I can’t read too many self-help books in a row,” he said. “But whether it’s about athletes or ... I read a really good one a couple years ago about the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ lead singer. That was wild, fascinating.

“Again, I do not read very often,” he said. “When I do it, I have enjoyed it.”

ASIA TOUR CARD

The 29-year-old son of Davis Love III now has a tour card.

Dru Love posted a 62 in the third of five rounds in the final stage of Asian Tour qualifying. He hung on with weekend rounds of 72-72 in Thailand and tied for 26th, avoiding by one shot a nine-man playoff for the final two cards.

The Asian Tour anticipated its biggest year ever now that Saudi-funded LIV Golf Investments has poured $300 million into the circuit. Love has made 10 cuts in 33 starts on various tours since turning pro in 2017.

A few former PGA Tour players were not so fortunate. Two-time Bay Hill winner Matt Every missed the 36-hole cut, while Steve Marino and Sangmoon Bae failed to advance to the fifth and final round.

GWAA AWARDS

Steve Stricker has won a “comeback” award for the third time in his career — back-to-back years on the PGA Tour, and now the Ben Hogan Award from the Golf Writers Association of America for staying active in the wake of a physical handicap or serious injury.

Stricker, just weeks after leading the U.S. to a Ryder Cup victory, developed a mysterious illness that caused his white blood cell count to spike, his liver count to plunge and inflammation around his heart.

He was hospitalized around the holidays, didn’t start last season until May and went on to win four times on the PGA Tour Champions, including a senior major.

The GWAA also chose distinguished club professional Bob Ford (Oakmont and Seminole) for the William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to golf; and Peter Jacobsen for its Jim Murray Award for his access, words and cooperation with the media.

They will be honored April 5 at the annual GWAA awards dinner in Augusta, Georgia.

DIVOTS

Marcus Byrd, who led the APGA Tour's fall series, was awarded the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption to play in the Genesis Invitational at Riviera. The exemption began in 2009 and represents advancement of diversity in golf. ... Davis Thompson became the seventh player in the last 40 years on the PGA Tour to make five eagles in one tournament. Dustin Johnson was the only player from that list who won the tournament (2020 FedEx St. Jude Championship). ... Here's an anomaly in the world of professional golf: Chandler Phillips won the Korn Ferry Tour opener in the Bahamas last week using only four golf balls — one for each round. ... Ron Green Jr., who has spent 34 years covering golf for The Charlotte Observer and Global Golf Post, has won the PGA of America's Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. Stephen Szurlej, a senior staff photographer at Golf Digest for nearly 30 years, is this year's recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Photojournalism. ... The R&A has expanded its partnership with IMG to create commercial opportunities. Endeavor-owned IMG previously helped with the Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific and the AIG Women's British Open. Now its support will extend to all R&A championships.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Steve Stricker's victory rate on the PGA Tour Champions is 25% (12 wins in 48 starts). That's the highest of anyone on the 50-and-older circuit with at least 10 wins.

FINAL WORD

“If I had to choose, I would rather lead. You learn a lot about yourself in 18 holes. Because it’s four to five hours of a lot of stress.” — Jon Rahm.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



Column: Rahm's big run is putting everyone in golf on notice

Davis Thompson, a 23-year-old PGA Tour rookie and former No. 1 amateur, needed only five words to indicate the odds he faced in the final round of The American Express.

“I'm playing against Jon Rahm.”

This isn't the first time Rahm has been regarded as among golf's best. He spent the second half of 2021 at No. 1 in the world, the same year he captured the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines for his first major.

Rahm also is not the only player to go on the kind of heater he is on now.

The 28-year-old Spaniard has won four his last six starts worldwide over the last three months, including his two PGA Tour events this month on courses — Maui mountain, California desert — that couldn't be more different.

He won in Spain by six shots and the DP World Tour Championship by two in the fall. He started the new year on the PGA Tour by closing with a 63 to overcome a seven-shot deficit against Collin Morikawa at Kapalua, and then holding off a spirited challenge from Thompson in The American Express.

Next up is the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, one of his favorite places even before he won the U.S. Open. Rahm won his first PGA Tour event at Torrey in 2017, and twice in the last three years he has missed a playoff by one shot.

Thompson's words might ring true for the other 155 players in the field this week: “I'm playing against Jon Rahm.”

“In my mind, I feel like I can get a lot better,” Rahm said Sunday. His average score in both PGA Tour starts this year is 65.75. “It’s my job to try to do the best I can, and so far, I’m doing a pretty good job.”

It's one thing to go on a big run. What really makes other players take notice is when it happens again and again.

David Duval first made people take notice at the end of 1997 when he won his final three tournaments. And while he didn't exactly fall off the map — Duval won a tournament in the winter, spring, summer and fall the next year — his start to 1999 was eye-popping.

He won at Kapalua by eight. Then, he shot 59 to win the Bob Hope Classic. He was looked upon as the best player in golf, except the No. 1 ranking belonged to Tiger Woods. That eventually went to Duval two months later when he won The Players Championship.

Vijay Singh already had two majors and a PGA Tour money title. And then he looked unbeatable in 2004. There was a feeling if his name wasn't on the leaderboard, it would be the next time anyone looked. He won nine times — three in a row in September, the first of which made him No. 1 in the world and ended the five-year reign of Woods.

Rory McIlroy, who currently occupies No. 1, also was an established star when he had a monster year in 2012, winning five times, including his second major. He twice had streaks of five straight top 10s.

So no one was surprised when he won three straight times in 2014, two of them majors.

Woods, of course, resides in his own section of golf history.

His run from 1997 through 2009 never really ended except when he was going through swing changes with Butch Harmon (1998) and Hank Haney (2004). He had three winning streaks of five tournaments or more. Woods began one year with six straight finishes in the top 15 and was said to be in a slump. He won his next three, including the Masters.

He's a separate conversation.

Rahm is sure to be a heavy favorite at Torrey Pines, which starts Wednesday. He will try to become the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win three straight (Rahm was runner-up in Johnson's third win that year at Match Play).

Rahm is No. 3 in the world ranking, which only makes sense when remembering that the ranking is based on two years, not six months, of play.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is No. 2 and came within an inch — he narrowly missed a birdie putt on his final hole at The American Express — of returning to No. 1. That's a product of his four wins and three runner-up finishes last year.

No one has said, “I'm playing against Scottie Scheffler.” Another big run like last spring and that might change.

Rahm could go to No. 1 with another win or even a high finish at Torrey, though it depends on how McIlroy fares in his 2023 debut in Dubai.

While there's no doubting who's playing the best golf right now, the world ranking is more like a two-hour documentary than a 45-minute podcast.

Rahm had two wins in three starts when McIlroy packed it in for the year. McIlroy's final six starts of 2022 were victories in the Tour Championship and CJ Cup, runner-up by one shot at Wentworth and three fourth-place finishes.

How quickly we forget.

Also, the world ranking is in the midst of a transition in an attempt to measure the strength of the entire field, not just players in the top 200, and points have been reduced in this new math. It should start to sort itself out in the next few months.

Rahm no longer seems as flabbergasted about the ranking as he was a few months ago. He said at Kapalua he felt he was the best player in golf, and winning The American Express didn't change his opinion. He won't find many detractors at the moment.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



LIV to stage 3 events on Trump sites; ranking decision looms

The second year of Saudi-funded LIV Golf will be going to three courses owned by former President Donald Trump as part of a 14-event schedule in 2023, according to a report from SI.com.

The report said LIV Golf announced its schedule, although the LIV website only said that a full schedule was coming soon. The rival league previously said it would open its season Feb. 24-26 at the Mexican golf resort of Mayakoba, which formerly hosted a PGA Tour stop.

LIV Golf did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph in the U.K. quoted European tour CEO Keith Pelley as saying he and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan have recused themselves as Official World Golf Ranking board members from any discussion on whether LIV Golf should be receiving world ranking points.

The PGA Tour confirmed Monahan was not part of the December board meeting that addressed LIV's status. It typically takes a year before a new circuit joins the OWGR system, and LIV Golf's league of 54-hole events with no cuts falls short of some of the OWGR guidelines.

LIV Golf previously had announced seven sites, including four that previously were used on the PGA Tour or European tour — Mayakoba, The Gallery at Dove Mountain north of Tucson, Arizona; The Greenbrier in West Virginia; and Valderrama in Spain.

The full schedule, according to SI.com, includes Trump National in northern Virginia (May 26-28), Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey (Aug. 11-13), and Trump National Doral near Miami (Oct. 20-22).

Trump's courses in Bedminster and Doral were part of last year's schedule, as were Centurion outside London and Rich Harvest Farms in the Chicago suburbs. Missing from last year's schedule is a stop outside Boston.

Trump National Doral held the final team championship in the inaugural season. Now the LIV Golf team championship will be in Saudi Arabia. A year ago, a regular LIV event was held in Saudi Arabia before going to Doral.

SI.com also reported Majed Al-Sorour, the managing director of LIV Golf and CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation, is leaving his post but will still be on the LIV board. Al-Sorour was seen as one of the key negotiators in signing players.

Greg Norman, the CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, had strongly urged last year that Pelley and Monahan recuse themselves from the OWGR decision on whether the rival circuit should get ranking points.

Pelley said he, Monahan and Keith Waters — a longtime European tour executive who represents the International Federation of PGA Tours on the OWGR board — recused themselves.

That leaves only the leaders of the four majors — Augusta National Golf Club, the U.S. Golf Association, Royal & Ancient and PGA of America — along with OWGR Chairman Peter Dawson to decide on LIV.

“I have not looked at the LIV application and I’ve not given my opinions on an application I’ve not seen,” Pelley told the Telegraph. “So, as far as LIV goes, we are not involved in it and have no influence or say in what transpires.”

The developments come a week after LIV Golf announced a television partnership with The CW, in which the weekend rounds will be televised in the U.S. and the Friday round will be available on the network's app.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



Canada's Brooke Henderson moves up to No. 1 on LPGA Tour standings

Canada's Brooke Henderson is No. 1 on the LPGA Tour standings.

She was elevated to the top spot on the Race to CME Globe rankings on Monday after winning the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions.

Henderson won the season-opening elite 29-player tournament by four strokes.

The native of Smiths Falls, Ont., now has 13 professional wins, the most in Canadian golf history.

Henderson finished 2022 third in the Race to CME Globe rankings and seventh in the Rolex Rankings.

The 25-year-old remains in seventh in the Rolex Rankings, which evaluate a player’s performance over a rolling two-year period weighted in favour of the current year.

The Rolex Rankings are sanctioned by 10 women's professional golf tours across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2023.



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