NEWPORT, Wales – Joost Luiten birdied three of his closing four holes in a 6-under 65 at the Wales Open on Saturday to take a two-shot lead. The three-time European Tour winner came from a stroke back at the start of the third round to overhaul Ireland’s Shane Lowry (68) and move to a total of 14-under 199 in ideal scoring conditions on the Twenty-Ten course at Celtic Manor. The 28-year-old Luiten arrived in Wales having finished fifth in his defense of last week’s KLM Open title and is now primed to become the first Dutch-born winner of the Wales Open. ”I played solid, consistent, hit a lot of greens, and got my round going with some nice putts at the beginning,” Luiten said. ”I didn’t really make a lot of putts in the middle part, but came back strong at the end with three birdies on the last four so I have to be happy.” He could have finished three clear of his rivals when his long eagle putt from the back of the green at the 18th hit the edge of the hole before Luiten managed the sixth birdie of his round from four feet. Luiten finished 15th overall on the European Ryder Cup points table but was overlooked for a wild card pick by the 16th-placed and eight-time Ryder Cup star Lee Westwood. ”Since the qualifying process ended I have been fourth and then fifth last week, so if you have these last couple events counting for the qualification of the Ryder Cup, maybe I may have had a chance,” Luiten said. ”Bu then we know the date when qualification ends and you have to play well before that and I didn’t do that.” Lowry got the start he wanted to his third round with birdies at Nos. 2, 3 and 6 but the Dubliner stalled to then par his closing 12 holes. ”I’m still there and that’s the main thing,” he said. ”If you had given me this Thursday morning before I stood on the first tee, I would have taken your hand off.” Former Welsh Open winner Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand shot a 67 to share third on 11 under with Frenchman Gregory Havret who signed for a 66. Havret, who last won in 2008, is looking to follow compatriot Gregory Bourdy who captured last year’s Wales Open. European Ryder rookie Jamie Donaldson continues to impress, shooting a 68 to move to 8-under overall while Westwood jumped 23 spots with a round of 68 to be in a share of 32nd on 3 under. However, Dane Thomas Bjorn slipped two dozen spots with a round of 71 and is tied in 46th position at 2 under.
SHANGHAI – The HSBC Champions has a familiar look to Graeme McDowell, with a few exceptions. He goes into the weekend at Sheshan International in contention for a World Golf Championship, with Ian Poulter and a big-hitting American alongside. Only, now, the American is Masters champion Bubba Watson – not Dustin Johnson, who overpowered the course on his way to victory last year. And at least this time, McDowell has the lead. McDowell leaned on a hot putter to carry him to another 5-under 67 on Friday. That gave him a three-shot lead over Poulter, with Watson and Hiroshi Iwata of Japan right behind. Tournament organizers might be missing the presence of Johnson, the defending champion who is on a ”voluntary leave” for what he described as personal challenges. Just don’t count McDowell among them, especially not the way Johnson set the tournament record at 24-under 264. ”He looked unbeatable last year the way he played this golf course,” McDowell said. ”But we’ve got a fairly decent replacement in Bubba, who in his own way has got the same kind of talents as Dustin, the way he drives it and the short game. In many ways, it’s a very similar scenario – myself and Poults against the long-hitting American.” McDowell saved par when he had to and strung together back-to-back birdies early and late in his round to reach 10-under 134. Poulter and Watson showed that a deficit can be made up quickly, particularly on the dynamic finishing holes at Sheshan International. WGC-HSBC Champions: Articles, videos and photos Watson was seven shots behind when he made birdie on the par-5 14th, and he was just getting warmed up. He blasted a drive just through the end of the fairway on the 487-yard 15th hole and hit gap wedge to 8 feet for birdie on the 15th. He chipped in twice for birdie on the next two holes, and had a simple up-and-down on the par-5 18th to end his round of 67 with five straight birdies. ”Hit some good shots but couldn’t make some putts. Hit some bad shots and made some putts,” Watson said. ”It was a great last five holes.” Poulter was five shots out of the lead when he birdied four of the last five holes – he made par on the par-3 17th – for a 67 that put him three shots back. ”Probably the best I’ve played all year, which is very exciting,” Poulter said. ”It was a little frustrating the first 13 holes that I was missing chances, but four birdies in the last five holes … chances started to go in at the end and I’m very happy.” Rickie Fowler opened with 14 straight pars, added a few birdies and shot 70 to reach 5-under 139, along with Tim Clark (70), Jonas Blixt (68) and Kevin Na (68). McDowell is not one to complain about a pair of 67s on any golf course, though they were different. He only missed one fairway in the opening round, which set up plenty of birdie chances. He had to scramble more on Friday, though at least he could rely on his putter. ”I have to improve tee-to-green to have a chance on Sunday,” McDowell said. ”I’m putting great – I love these greens. I’ve just got to keep doing it. I have to go out there tomorrow and not think about making mistakes. Just have to keep the pedal down, execute my game plan, and give myself a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday.” Adam Scott might have cost himself a chance with a wild round. The Australian opened with four birdies through seven holes to get within a shot of McDowell. A poor tee shot changed everything. He pulled his drive into a water hazard on the 603-yard eighth hole and had to drop at one of the forward tees. Trying to reach the green in two, he came up just short of the creek in front of the green, and then his pitch from gnarly rough didn’t quite reach the green and rolled into the hazard next to a large rock. Scott decided to take a penalty drop from the other side of the creek and made a quadruple-bogey 9, wiping out those four birdies. He followed with an approach into the water on the ninth for a double bogey, and made eagle on the back nine to salvage a 72. He still was eight shots behind. Poulter liked his position much better. ”We’ve got 36 holes to go. You’ve got 36 potential birdies,” he said. ”So three shots is pretty close.”
PRATTVILLE, Ala. – Yani Tseng closed with an eagle and a birdie for an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead Friday in the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic. Tseng hit a 6-iron to 4 feet to set up the eagle on the par-5 eighth hole just before play was delayed for about 90 minutes because of lightning and rain, then took the outright lead on the par-4 ninth with her sixth birdie of the day. ”I can’t wait to come out tomorrow,” Tseng said. ”It will be a brand new day, but we’ll keep the same strategy and make as many birdies as I can.” Ranked No. 1 in the world for 109 weeks, the 26-year-old Taiwanese player has slipped to 75th and is winless in 85 events since the 2012 Kia Classic. The 15-time tour winner tied for second in March in the LPGA Thailand for her only top-10 finish of the year. ”I’ve been working on my game forever, like every day,” Tseng said. ”It’s just exciting. I really want to win a tournament for sure. We only have probably seven, eight tournaments left, but it’s never too late. Just very happy my game’s really coming back. … It doesn’t matter if it’s this week or next week or next year, just try to be patient as much as I can and stay positive.” Third-ranked Stacy Lewis, the 2012 winner, played alongside Tseng. ”You can see she’s confident,” Lewis said, ”She’s firing at pins that are tucked and hidden. She hits it so far and hits the irons so high that they have a lot of spin, so she’s able to kind of attack pins that nobody else is. … It’s fun to see her playing the way she should be.” Tseng reached 10-under 134 on the links-style Senator Course with her lowest round since a 63 in the 2013 LPGA Thailand. ”It just feels like this course suits my game,” Tseng said. ”I feel very comfortable and confident out there. I’m just kind of getting back to enjoy playing golf again and it was so much fun to play with Stacy. She made a bunch of birdies and we kind of kept that momentum keep going. … Stacy’s amazing. I don’t know how to describe the feeling because we are good friends, but at the same time we’re competitors, too.” Austin Ernst was second after a 65, and playing partner Lexi Thompson, the 2011 winner at age 16, was third at 8 under after a 67. Sydnee Michaels and Julieta Granada were still on the course at 7 under when play was suspended for the day because of more rain and darkness. Michaels had four holes left, and Granada two. Lewis topped the group at 6 under after a 68. Second last year in Prattville, the Texan is coming off a playoff loss to Lydia Ko on Sunday in British Columbia in the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. ”I still haven’t put it all together,” Lewis said. ”A bit of a frustrating round. I had a good front nine, had it going, played 10 really good holes and then just kind of stalled the last eight.” Ernst also eagled the eighth hole and had eight birdies and three bogeys. The 23-year-old former LSU player won the Portland Classic last year for her lone LPGA title. ”I’ve been playing well. It’s really just a matter of getting some putts to fall,” Ernst said. ”I hit it really well today. I had a few holes that where I kind of hit some loose shots, but kind of just took my bogey and kind of went on with it. And then I had probably three wedge shots that I hit up within a foot and I just went up and tapped them in. I think I hit two more where I had about 3 feet.” Canadian teen Brooke Henderson was 3 under after a 70. The 17-year-old Henderson won her first LPGA title two weeks ago in Portland, Oregon. ”I would have liked a little more today, but overall it was a pretty solid round and I gave myself quite a few opportunities,” Henderson said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tama Caldabaugh advanced to the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur semifinals, beating Jane Fitzgerald, 3 and 1, on Wednesday at Hillwood Country Club. The 51-year-old Caldabaugh, from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is a retired sales and marketing professional who fought ovarian cancer in 2013. Caldabaugh took the lead with a par on the par-3 14th, won the par-5 15th with a birdie and finished off Fitzgerald, from Kensington, Maryland, with a birdie win on the par-5 17th. ”I just stay patient and know there is a good shot in there somewhere and wait for it to come,” Caldabaugh said. Caldabaugh will face 54-year-old Pamela Kuong of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, on Thursday morning. Kuong beat Julie Carmichael of Plainfield, Indiana, 2 and 1. ”Fortunately, at the end, my putting did come through,” said Kuong, a senior vice president of commercial lending for Bank of America. ”I think at the end of the day that was the key.” In the other semifinal, 53-year-old Karen Garcia of Cool, California, will face 52-year-old Sue Cohn, the 2013 runner-up from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Cool beat Maggie Leef of Merton, Wisconsin, 2 and 1, and Cohn edged Brenda Pictor of Marietta, Georgia, also 2 and 1. Garcia is a high school counselor, and Cohn works in a course pro shop. The final also is set for Thursday in the rain-delayed event. The tournament is for players 50 and older.
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Joe Durant birdied the par-4 18th hole Friday for a 3-under 68 and a share of the Senior Open lead with Kohki Idoki. The 52-year-old Durant birdied three of the first five holes on the back nine, the second two on the par-5 12th and 14th at Carnoustie Golf Links in 10-15 mph wind with some light rain. ”It is difficult, especially if you keep hitting your tee shots wayward,” Durant said. ”But if you keep it in play and give yourself some opportunities, the greens are big, so you can hit some greens, but you have to have good pace on your long putts, too. It can be very difficult. We’ve been fortunate it has not blown real hard, but if the wind kicks up, this course is all you want.” Durant teamed with Billy Andrade to win the 2015 Legends of Golf for his lone PGA Tour Champions title. The four-time PGA Tour winner has five top-10 finishes this season, including a runner-up finish to Bernhard Langer in the major Constellation Senior Players in June. Idoki, the 54-year-old Japanese player who won the 2013 Senior PGA Championship, had a 67 to match Durant at 7-under 137. He rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 17th with a chip-in birdie on 18. Olin Browne (66), Jesper Parnevik (68), Carlos Franco (69), Tom Byrum (69) and Peter Fowler (69) were a stroke back, Mark O’Meara (70) topped the group at 5 under, and Tom Lehman (67) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (70) were another stroke behind. ”Patience is important and you can’t force the issue,” Browne said. ”You just have to be smart. I don’t know that it’s patience as much as recognizing the situation and executing the appropriate shot. I’m going to try and hit the shot that I try and execute. I’m going to try and think clearly. That’s the key to playing good golf, keeping the demons outside of the six inches between your ears.” Parnevik won the Insperity Invitational in May in Texas for his first senior title. ”I’m overjoyed,” Parnevik said after his bogey-free round. ”I haven’t played much this summer. I’ve been in Sweden. Had a lot of fun with my family and friends. I hurt my back about a month ago. I felt so good in the gym, that I ended up working out with a couple of MMA fighters. That was a bad idea. My back was out for about three weeks. I didn’t know what to expect.” Defending champion Marco Dawson was 3 over after a 75. He won last year at Sunningdale. First-round leader Woody Austin had a 74 to drop into a tie for 18th at 2 under. Langer (71) also was 2 under. The German star won the 2010 tournament at Carnoustie. Mark McNulty had a hole-in-one on the 12th hole, using a 7-iron from 179 yards. He finished with a 74 to miss the cut by a stroke. Colin Montgomerie also missed the cut, shooting 76-73.
WILMINGTON, N.C. – The LPGA continues to be slow to the dance with its uninspired playoff policy, while slow play takes center stage this week for all the wrong reasons. Made Cut Dustin off the rust. Everyone except Dustin Johnson began this week unsure how the world No. 1 would rebound from five weeks of competitive inactivity. After Johnson withdrew from the Masters with a lower back injury last month there was an understandable level of anxiety given recent history (see Woods, Tiger), but Johnson’s play on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship seemed to answer most of those questions. The bomber hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and didn’t miss a beat off the tee, averaging 307 yards on Day 1. DJ may not make it four straight victories at Eagle Point, but he certainly doesn’t seem interested in a rehab start. On Point. It was never going to be easy leaving the plush confines of Quail Hollow Club, and the Wells Fargo Championship’s relocation to Eagle Point Golf Club has had its share of logistical snafus, but considering the inevitable comparisons the layout has exceeded expectations. Quail Hollow, which will host this year’s PGA Championship, is regularly one of the Tour’s most popular stops, and this week’s event was always going to be considered a step back, but instead the assembled field has offered nothing but praise. “Flawless,” Adam Scott said of the Tom Fazio design. “Spectacular,” Phil Mickelson offered. “Compare it to Augusta,” Ben Martin added. Eagle Point will likely be a one-and-done stop on the Tour schedule, but it’s a good one. Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF) Reading material. The USGA and R&A have been busy of late. Earlier this year the rule makers unveiled a sweeping set of potential changes to the Rules of Golf that has been dubbed a modernization, and last week they announced changes to how video replay is used to determine potential rule violations. On Monday, the powers that be revealed they would be taking a closer look at green-reading material, pointing out in a joint statement, “We are reviewing the use of these materials to assess whether any actions need to be taken to protect this important part of the game. We expect to address this matter further in the coming months.” While the move was widely applauded by a large portion of the play-for-pay set, the idea that doing away with these books will somehow speed up play seems misguided. “There’s so much information out there, it’s one of the small contributing factors to slow play,” Scott said. “If you want to address slow play, then you can take away one little part of it there, but it’s not going to solve slow play.” Speaking of slow play. It’s taken 20 years but Glen Day has finally been removed from the list of bizarre trivia answers. Day had been the last player to receive a stroke penalty in a non-major Tour event for slow play at the 1995 Honda Classic, but last week at the Zurich Classic, Brian Campbell and Miguel Angel Carballo took over that dubious distinction. Campbell and Carballo were given a stroke penalty in the team event after receiving the duo’s second bad time on the 14th hole at TPC Louisiana on Thursday. Although slow play has been an issue without answer for decades on the Tour and a penalty, any penalty, is a step in the right direction, this had the feel of the wrong execution of the right idea. Campbell and Carballo were paired with two club pros, who were struggling, and the windy conditions and unique format of foursomes factored into what could only be considered a unique situation. Getting tough on slow play should be applauded but let’s not make common sense a victim along the way. Alternate arguments. While the Tour’s push to rework the schedule appears to be in full swing, with the biggest pieces of the new puzzle a schedule that ends on Labor Day and a move back to March for The Players and May for the PGA Championship, there is reason to pause and consider exactly what all that could mean. The high next Thursday in St. Louis, where the PGA will be played in 2018, is 63 degrees; and 56 degrees in Pittsford, N.Y., site of the 2022 PGA. To be fair, forecasts change, but is the Tour’s desire to avoid going head-to-head with football season worth removing some of the nation’s best courses from the major championship rotation? Missed Cut Groundhog Day. It was like a bad song on a constant loop, with Haru Nomura and Cristie Kerr marching back to the 18th tee at Las Colinas six times before the deadlock was mercifully broken. Nomura went on to win the Volunteers of America Shootout playoff and Kerr was left to suffer the slings and arrows of fans unimpressed with her languid pace (which later prompted an apology from the runner-up). The real mea culpa, however, should have come from the LPGA, which has been down this road before with other monotonous playoffs on the same hole. Count this under unsolicited advice, but the tour should consider there’s a reason that some don’t like vanilla. Tweet (actually, Instagram) of the week: @ianjamespoulter (Ian Poulter) “How do you mark your Titleist practice balls . . .” Although Cut Line can sympathize with the Englishman’s aversion to the darker side of social media and the item seemed innocent enough, this is the same player who drew the ire of the Twitter-verse in 2014 when he complained that his wife had to look after their four children because his nanny had been downgraded on a long flight. Poulter fired back at his detractors, later tweeting: “I’m extremely happy to block any negative comments. I actually enjoy blocking the sad individuals.” We appreciate Poulter’s position, and his honesty, but this seems like a case of knowing your audience.
PHOENIX – Jessica Korda had 240 yards to the front of the 15th green Thursday morning in the chilly first round of the Founders Cup. She reached for driver – and caddie Colin Cann didn’t stop her. While she often hits driver off the deck at home in Florida, she hadn’t attempted it in competition. ”It’s just if my caddie has a heart attack or not,” Korda joked. The lanky American spared her looper’s ticker with a shot to 15 feet. ”I think the crowd enjoyed it more than I did, but I did think it was really cool,” said Korda, making her third start following offseason jaw surgery. She settled for birdie on the par 5 – her fifth in the first six holes – after the eagle try lipped out. ”I was really upset, because I was like, ‘That would’ve been so cool,”’ Korda said. ”What did I do after that? Nothing. I didn’t do anything after that.” She did make one more birdie at Desert Ridge, but closed with two of her three bogeys in a 3-under 69 that left her two strokes behind leaders Karine Icher and Chella Choi. Ariya Jutanugarn, playing alongside Korda and defending champion Anna Nordqvist, was a shot back with Inbee Park, Lizette Salas, Cydney Clanton, Mariajo Uribe and Hee Young Park. Korda won three weeks ago in Thailand in her return from the surgery, which corrected a severe overbite. ”It’s been difficult,” said Korda, the daughter of former tennis champion Petr Korda and sister of fellow tour player Nelly Korda. ”I didn’t know when I was going to be able to come back.” Though she no longer has constant headaches, she’s still sore and fighting a head cold – all more difficult in the cold and wind. ”If you guys are going numb, just think about how my lips are turning blue,” she joked. Korda has four straight top-10 finishes, tying for third and second in her final two events last year before the surgery and following the victory in Thailand with a tie for 10th in Singapore. She has worked hard to improve her short game, focusing on her chipping. Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup ”I’m not afraid to miss a green,” Korda said. ”I used to get so frustrated missing greens because I was like that’s an automatic bogey. I knew how hard I would have to work just to make par. … It was really bad. It was like really, really, really bad. If I was 40 yards out, I would probably want to putt it.” Nelly Korda helped mother Regina Rajchrtova – also a former professional tennis player – care for Jessica. ”She was drooling, obviously, because she couldn’t feel the bottom half of her face,” Nelly said. ”Taking off her clothes was a bit difficult because she didn’t have any center of gravity, so she would fall over. It was definitely hard to see her at that stage.” The 19-year-old Nelly had a 72 in the group behind her sister. She tied for second in Singapore, a stroke behind Michelle Wie. The Kordas’ brother, 17-year-old Sebastian, won the Australian Open junior tennis title in January and is the top-ranked junior in the world. Icher bogeyed Nos. 15 and 18 after playing the first 14 holes in 7 under. ”With the wind picking up, it’s a little bit hard,” Icher said. The 39-year-old Frenchwoman birdied five of her first eight holes. ”The fairway doesn’t roll at all and big rough,” Icher said. ”Last year, we had much more roll off the fairway and no rough. And the wind. The wind and the temperature. Usually in Phoenix we play in the 90s, so it’s a different course. We have to adapt.” Choi also finished with a bogey. ”It was windy and tough out there, but every player in same condition,” Choi said. Nordqvist, a Swede who played at Arizona State, closed with a bogey for a 69. Fourth-ranked Sung Hyun Park also had a 69. Wie opened with a 70 in the afternoon. ”It was a grind,” Wie said. ”This course, generally, you feel like you have to shoot 10-under par every day.” Lydia Ko had five bogeys in a 74.
ST. LOUIS – Golfweek is reporting the PGA of America is trying to regain control of computer servers that have kept officials from accessing files for the PGA Championship. The magazine says on its website that PGA staff members discovered their systems had been compromised when attempts to access files generated a message that the network had been penetrated and that any attempt to break the encryption could cause files to be lost. The PGA of America declined comment, saying it was an ongoing investigation. Golfweek reports the files included promotional banners and logos that are used in digital and print communications, and on digital signage around Bellerive Country Club. The magazine says the message included a Bitcoin wallet number, without stating what was required to regain control of the files.
Nick Taylor hangs tough at the Crosby, Phil Mickelson makes a run at Pebble title No. 6, golf’s governing bodies prepare for battle, Rory McIlroy assumes the No. 1 ranking and more in this week’s edition of Monday Scramble: Battle-tested Taylor gains ‘great confidence’ from Pebble triumph 1. Nick Taylor won on the PGA Tour for the second time, holding off Phil Mickelson to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. TAKEAWAY: It’s difficult to say which of Taylor’s feats was most impressive: That he led wire to wire across three courses; that he out-Mickelson’d the living legend by holing out twice in the final round; or that he shot 70 in 40-mph gusts on a firm, fast Pebble Beach. Macho, all of it, and it added up to Taylor’s first Tour victory since his 2014 Sanderson Farms title. The 31-year-old Canadian has spent the majority of his career living on the edge, never finishing higher than 93rd in the FedExCup. That stress, at least for now, is gone. Though he won’t ever be mistaken for a world-beater, Taylor now can play with the freedom of being exempt on Tour through 2023. Mickelson: ‘I got outplayed … but I’m going to continue to get better’ 2. Playing in the final group, Mickelson shot 74 Sunday and finished alone in third – his fourth top-3 in the past five years there. TAKEAWAY: Mickelson’s title bid ended on the eighth hole. Trailing by two, his 2-iron tee shot on one of the hardest par 4s in the world was mis-flighted and traveled only 180 yards, leaving him 248 to the hole – so far back that he had to walk up to the edge of the cliff to get his bearings. He rifled a long iron into the middle of the green, but there was no chance he’d be able to stop it on the baked-out putting surface. It bounced over the back and led to a double bogey. After a two-shot swing on the ninth hole, Taylor had a five-shot cushion with nine to play. Even with a few final-round miscues, it was another momentum-building week for Mickelson. Mired in the worst slump of his career, he’s shown improved play off the tee and posted back-to-back top-3s, moving to No. 55 in the world. It’s reasonable to wonder how much he’ll have left in the tank this week at Riviera: This is his fifth tournament start in a row, and that stretch includes hosting duties (AmEx), a pair of 8,000-mile flights (Saudi Arabia) and title contention (Pebble). Golf Central Phil ‘won’t accept’ U.S. Open special exemption BY Randall Mell — February 5, 2020 at 1:16 PM The six-time runner-up says he is either going to qualify for the U.S. Open on his own, or he’s going to stay at home. 3. Mickelson says that, if the USGA extends to him a special exemption to this year’s U.S. Open, he “won’t accept it.” TAKEAWAY: Conventional wisdom suggests that Mickelson, a six-time runner-up, would receive at least a few exemptions, given his stature and impact on the game. But he’s also an immensely prideful player, and he didn’t want to accept what he said would be a “sympathy spot.” Fair enough, and it might be a moot point anyway, if he continues to play like this – all he needs to be is top 60 on May 18 to automatically qualify. It’s the third time recently that the soon-to-be 50-year-old has (prematurely) scoffed at the thought of a handout: Last fall, when he said he wasn’t playing well enough to be considered for a Presidents Cup captain’s pick; last month, when he said his only chance of a Ryder Cup spot was qualifying on his own; and now this, in response to the conundrum at Winged Foot, site of one of his most heartbreaking defeats. Chamblee: ‘The game is out of whack,’ but the solution is simple 4. After two years, the USGA and R&A released the findings of their comprehensive Distance Insights Report. TAKEAWAY: Now begins the waiting game, as the governing bodies will gather more intel over the next nine to 12 months on possible remedies to one of the game’s thorniest issues. Implementation, of course, would take several years, if not decades, longer. Most interestingly in their initial report, the USGA and R&A said they’d explore a “local rule” that would allow tours and other organizations to use specified equipment in their tournaments without going fully down the bifurcation route. The governing bodies maintain, steadfastly, that they do not want two sets of rules. Why? Because golf’s kingmakers still cling to the antiquated idea that amateurs want to play the same equipment as the pros. How many recreational golfers actually use 70-gram, extra-stiff driver shafts, butter-knife irons or other assorted custom gear? Bifurcate, people, because we basically already have. Getty Images 5. It’s official: Rory McIlroy is the No. 1-ranked player in the world, supplanting Brooks Koepka. TAKEAWAY: This is McIlroy’s first time in the top spot since the week of Sept. 14, 2015. That’s a lifetime ago in golf: The top 11 in the world consisted of guys like Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson. McIlroy’s ascension could be the start of a musical-chairs type theme the rest of the year, with Koepka, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas all likely to challenge for the top ranking in 2020. That includes this week at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, where nine of the top 10 players in the world (no Webb Simpson) will tee it up – by far the best field of the early season. This Week’s Award Winners … Getty Images Progress!: Jordan Spieth. Final-round performance has been a trouble spot, but Spieth’s 67 at Pebble was the lowest score on a brutal day as he vaulted all the way to joint ninth (and was his lowest score to par on a Sunday since the 2018 Masters). Though only two rounds were measured, Spieth ranked first in strokes gained: tee to green and approach. Viva la Mexico: Spieth. With a clutch chip-in on his 72nd hole, Spieth moved inside the top 50 in the world and qualified for next week’s WGC-Mexico Championship. He’d hinted that he might skip the event, since it’d be five in a row, but how do you turn down free world-ranking points at this stage? Back, Back Again: Jason Day. Speaking of rebounding players, Day’s solo fourth was his best finish since his victory in May 2018 at Quail Hollow. Getty Images One and Done: Ernie Els. The losing Presidents Cup captain doesn’t want another turn in 2021, which makes sense. He gave it his best at Royal Melbourne, came up just short, and doesn’t want to lead the squad when it gets blown out next year at Quail Hollow. Video of the Week: Hard Work Pays Off: Bryson. Presumably the voting took place over the past few months, because the beefed-up DeChambeau was one of 25 men to be named to Sports Illustrated’s most fit athletes list. Only a matter of time before he holds this over Brooks’ head. The WTH?! Moment of the Week: Jason Enloe. The head coach at SMU resigned last week amid a nasty legal battle with his in-laws – the Mahan family – and the ongoing grief of losing his wife in summer 2018. Read the details of the lawsuit; it’s all-around ugly. Getty Images Go Get It, Young Man: Min Woo Lee. On the same track where sister Minjee won in 2014 and ’18, the 21-year-old became the youngest winner on the European Tour since 2001 (Aaron Baddeley) when he prevailed in windy conditions at the Vic Open. Staying the Course: Hee Young Park. A few months ago, Park thought about giving up the game – that’s how badly the one-time LPGA champion didn’t want to go to Q-Series to regain her status. Instead, she fought through it, finished second, and then came out in the fourth event of the year and won the Vic Open in a playoff – her first title since 2013. Blown Fantasy Pick of the Week: Graeme McDowell. OK, so it’s always a risk to roll with a recent winner, especially one who triumphed 8,000 miles away, in Saudi Arabia, so perhaps it wasn’t a surprise to see G-Mac shoot 3 over across the three courses and miss the 54-hole cut. The 2010 U.S. Open champ also had a pair of top-10s in this event, so this was slightly disappointing. Sigh.