Cleat Geeks

Phil Mickelson and Caddy Jim “Bones” MacKay Split After 25 Years

One of the longest-running player-caddie relationships in golf history is no more. Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay, joined at the hip for a quarter-century, have gotten to the 18th green of their professional relationship and have decided to go their separate ways.

“After 25 very rewarding and memorable years, Bones and I have mutually decided to end our player-caddie relationship,” Mickelson said in a statement. “Our decision is not based on a single incident. We just feel it’s the right time for a change.”

“When Phil hired me in 1992, I had one dream: to caddie in a Ryder Cup,” Mackay said in his own statement. “Last year, at Hazeltine, Phil played in his 11th straight Ryder Cup. It was so cool to have a front row seat.”

Mickelson’s brother Tim will serve as Phil’s caddie for the remainder of the season, including the next two majors.

Mackay wrote the following in his statement, “Player-caddie relationships don’t often last that long. I will always be grateful that I was around to witness so much of Phil’s career.”

In their storied career together, Phil and Bones have captured five major championships (three Masters titles, one PGA Championship and one British Open) among 41 total PGA Tour titles. Most recently, Bones scouted the intricacies of Erin Hills even though Phil was half a country away at his daughter’s graduation.

Do you want more golf? You can check out out weekly golf story that gives our fans the details on this past weekends U.S. Open and a look ahead as well as predictions on who will win the Travelers Championship this weekend. All that and more right here.

One of the many quirks of the Mickelson-Bones relationship was the “veto,” the once-a-year opportunity Bones had to overrule Phil. Both referenced the veto in their parting statements, both with good humor.

“Bones has not used his veto this year, and I heard a rumor that he is trying to pass his veto to Tim,” Mickelson said. “For the record, vetoes are non-transferable.”

The 19th Hole: Koepka takes U.S. Open

The major champion club keeps growing. For a seventh straight time, golf has a new major winner, this time in the big-hitting Brooks Koepka, who overpowered Erin Hills and the field for victory in the U.S. Open.

Koepka tied a U.S. Open round for strokes under par by finishing at 16-under, equaling Rory McIlroy’s mark set in 2011. He did it with big, accurate drives and a putter that was hot at the right times.

And, Koepka got some sage advice from his friend Dustin Johnson, who also happened to be the defending champion of this tournament, breaking through for his first major win last June.

“Dustin actually called me (Saturday) night and told me, just stay patient. Just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to win the thing, and just don’t get ahead of yourself. A bunch of people told me that.”

On a week scores were much lower than a normal U.S. Open at the top of the leaderboard, there still was plenty of danger in the high rough and fescue off the fairways and around the greens,

“This golf course, you had to put the ball in the fairway and if you didn’t you really got penalized, just plain and simple,” Koepka said. “I was in the fescue a couple of times, I think maybe three times, and it all jumped out straight left on me, I didn’t even have a good lie. I can’t imagine if I hit it in there a couple more times how bad it would be.”

That fact was evidenced by the struggles of many players. While Koepka was going low Sunday, five other players failed even to break 80. The world’s top three players – Johnson, Jason Day and McIlroy, all missed the cut, the latter two barely breaking 80 in their first round.

Look Phil-BREAKING GOLF NEWS- Phil Mickelson and his caddy of 25 years are calling it a career together. Get all the details and quotes from each person here.

So while many were complaining about the low scores, it wasn’t as if everyone on the grounds was torching the course.

Brian Harman had his best major effort as well, keeping the heat on Koepka until a late run of birdies by the champion Sunday. At 12-under, Harman still had far and away his best major finish, coming home tied for second with Hideki Matsuyama, who closed with a 66.

Young Englishman Tommy Fleetwood was alone in fourth, with Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas and PGA Tour rookie Xander Schauffele another stroke back tied for fifth.

Koepka’s win means this is seven consecutive major championships won by first-time major winners, dating back to Day’s win in the 2015 PGA Championship.

As is customary, the U.S. Open finished on Father’s Day, and Koepka was thinking of his own dad … sort of.

“I didn’t get him a card, so I really hope this works,” he said of the U.S. Open trophy.

 

This Week

Photo By: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The PGA Tour heads to the northeast for the Travelers Championship outside Hartford, Conn., where the birdies figure again to be flying.

Last year, this event saw Scotland’s Russell Knox take down the victory, one stroke better than veteran Jerry Kelly. Jim Furyk had the highlight of the week, tearing the course to shreds in a final-round 58, a score that tied the all-time PGA Tour record for any competitive round.

This week also sports a more solid field than might be expected the week after a major, as McIlroy, Day and Jordan Spieth are all among the competitors.

 

U.S. Open Picks

Sure was good that we picked Brooks Koepka – THE WEEK BEFORE!

Matt Kuchar – A solid weekend got Kuchar his customary nice check for his efforts. 5-under, tied for 16th

Sergio Garcia – It’s been a very good major season for Sergio as he follows up his Masters win. 4-under, tied for 21st

Jason Dufner – It got started in the wrong direction for the former PGA champ and never did get on track. 7-over, missed the cut

Brian Stuard – There will be better weeks for Stuard, but this wound up being one of the worst picks we’ve made all season. 12-over, missed the cut

Travelers Picks

Marc Leishman – The big Aussie got his first career win at this event and finished tied for 9th a year ago. He also was solid at Erin Hills, finishing tied for 27th.

Rory McIlroy – Rory is liable to have a little more motivation after an embarrassing missed cut at the U.S. Open.

Paul Casey – The 36-hole co-leader at Erin Hills faded a bit on the weekend, but his game still is in good form.

Longshot – Beau Hossler – The University of Texas product was 2nd in the Web.com Tour event last week in Wichita.

 

Off the Tee: U.S. Open

For the second time in three years, the U.S. Open makes its way to unfamiliar territory, a new hosting site. The hopes of the United States Golf Association are that Erin Hills Golf Club is received a lot better than was Chambers Bay, the much-maligned site of the 2015 event.

Located northwest of Milwaukee, Erin Hills already gets high marks for its beauty. It’s wide-open, giving more of a look of a British Open venue than an American course, and in its 11 years of existence it’s already gotten plenty of acclaim.

Sounds a bit like Chambers Bay, which opened near Tacoma, Wash., in 2007. The course’s greens were criticized, as were some of the crazy mounds and slopes, as well as the way the course was set up. In the end, though, the stars came out, as Jordan Spieth outdueled Dustin Johnson when the latter three-putted the final green to finish one shot behind in 2015.

What should fans expect to see this year?

Which DJ will we see? – Johnson bounced back nicely from that 2015 defeat to win last year at Oakmont. He comes in having an interesting season that turned with one literal slip during Masters week.

Before the Masters, he had won three straight starts and taken a dominating grip on the No. 1 world ranking. Then the day before that event, he slipped and fell in the home he was renting that week, injured his back and was unable to play in the season’s first major. Since it’s been a mixed bag, including a tie for 2nd at the Wells Fargo but also a missed cut his last time out at Memorial.

New King of Memphis – Elvis has nothing on Daniel Berger these days. The young pro won the Memphis stop on the PGA Tour for the second year in a row last week, holding off the likes of Phil Mickelson, Charl Schwartzel and others.

Now he heads to the U.S. Open with momentum and in the same boat he was last year, having won the week before. Last season, he finished in a tie for 37th at Oakmont.

 

A good week for scoring, maybe – While the high rough and concern about how the USGA may set the course up are getting plenty of talk, Erin Hills also has generous fairways, by the admission of many players.

That means a guy who can keep the ball in play may have a chance to score a little better and chase a few more birdies than a usual U.S. Open, and a 7-under or 8-under winning score could be a possibility.

 

The next breakthrough? – Recent U.S. Opens have seen the likes of Johnson (2016), Justin Rose (2013), Webb Simpson (2012) and Graeme McDowell (2010) collect their first major championships.

Can that history continue for a guy like a Rickie Fowler, a Lee Westwood or a Matt Kuchar who are still chasing that elusive first major win?

 

Home game for Stricker – Veteran Steve Stricker qualified through the sectional round last week and will play the U.S. Open in his home state of Wisconsin.

Months after his 50th birthday, what Stricker might give up in distance he can make up for in savvy, a putter that can get very hot, and motivation. A good show this week from Stricker would be extremely popular for spectators and fellow players alike.

 

U.S. Open Picks

Matt Kuchar – It’s like Groundhog Day in these picks, huh? It’s time for Matty Kuch to go get one of these majors.

Jason Dufner – After winning just a couple of weeks ago at Memorial, his form is really good. And this is a course where you have to be in play or else. Dufner usually is.

Sergio Garcia – It might have seemed crazy a few months ago, the idea that Sergio could win the year’s first two majors. But his ball striking will be a big aid here.

Longshot – Brian Stuard – Stuard is third on the tour in driving accuracy and made the cut at the Masters in April.

 

FedEx St. Jude Picks

We almost got one. Finally. Maybe that’s a good sign going into this week.

Charl Schwartzel – A rough third round ultimately was the difference keeping the former Masters champ one shot short. 9-under, tied for 2nd

Billy Horschel – Birdies at the final four holes Sunday were almost enough for a second victory in a month. 8-under, tied for 4th

Brooks Koepka – Another steady week for the big hitter, who a lot of people like to play well at Erin Hills. 1-under, tied for 37th

Jim Furyk – The 2003 U.S. Open champion narrowly missed the weekend. 2-over, missed the cut

The 19th Hole: The Duf Did It

Jason Dufner had The Memorial Tournament firmly in his grasp through two days. Then after a terrible Saturday round, he seemed down and out again.

But when all was on the line in Sunday’s final round, Dufner put on a performance that even impressed the greatest of all time, tournament host Jack Nicklaus, securing a three-shot victory.

It’s the fifth career win for Dufner, the 2013 PGA champion. But it’s the first time he’s won an event since early 2016, ending a drought of 36 tournaments.

“Everybody on the PGA Tour is really excited to be part of this event,” Dufner said. “Just being part of the event, knowing what Mr. Nicklaus does, knowing what Nationwide does for the global area, and having such a fantastic venue, we’re excited to be here. We love playing this event.”

“And then to always have my name attached with this event, Mr. Nicklaus, that’s the thing that makes me proud the most, I think. And I think just being part of history in golf is amazing to me.”

Dufner looked unstoppable through two rounds, posting back-to-back 65s and looking like he would run away with things. But Saturday he was a different man, and not for the better, as a 77 dropped him all the way from a six-shot lead to all the way out of the lead, in fact four strokes behind Daniel Summerhays.

“It kind of happened to me at the PGA,” Dufner remembered, “I shot 63 Friday the year I won. Saturday was a real struggle. And came back on Sunday. I was able to rebound.”

Rickie Fowler and Anirban Lahiri tied for second at -10, three shots back of Dufner, with Matt Kuchar and Justin Thomas another shot back in fourth. Summerhays struggled to a 78 and finished in a tie for 10th.

 

Golf’s Longest Day

The Monday before U.S. Open week features 36-hole sectional qualifying for the event, where roughly a third of the field is set. It’s a day that sees professionals from multiple tours tee it up alongside weekend warriors trying to test their craft against the best in the world.

Every year produces a few fun stories. Like Steve Stricker, who turned 50 years old earlier this year and beat the entire field of 108 players in Memphis to earn a spot in the event in his home state of Wisconsin. The U.S. Open runs June 15-18 at Erin Hills, the first time for the course to host a U.S. Open.

This Week

The FedEx St. Jude Classic brings the tour to Memphis for its annual stop. A year ago, Daniel Berger held off Stricker, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson for the victory.

That quartet all returns this year, although Berger’s form has not been as strong in recent months. Perhaps a return to a place with good memories can help some of that.

 

Memorial Pick Results

Yes, we should just pick Matt Kuchar every single darn week. But we didn’t.

Jonas Blixt – Players got some reasonable value out of our longshot pick. 1-under, tied for 31st

Patrick Reed – It’s a paycheck, but not the kind of week Reed was looking for. 5-over, tied for 57th

Jon Rahm – Naturally, the Potts curse caught up to one of golf’s hottest players, as Rahm was awful. 6-over, missed the cut

Dustin Johnson – Usually, picking the No. 1-ranked player is a good strategy. Not this time. He was even worse than Rahm. 8-over, missed the cut.

 

FedEx St. Jude Picks

Brooks Koepka – Tied for 2nd a year ago and having a solid season, the big hitter is looking for big momentum heading into next week’s U.S. Open.

Billy Horschel – A winner last month at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Horschel’s game is rounding into top form at the right time.

Charl Schwartzel – The former Masters champion was third at Augusta this year in what’s been otherwise an up-and-down campaign. This feels like an up week.

Longshot – Jim Furyk – OK, so maybe we’re a little ridiculous taking a major champion as a longshot. But Furyk has missed five straight cuts and hasn’t had a top 10 since November.

The 19th Hole: Tiger’s Troubles and More

From aces to arrests, birdies to more Bernhard, it was a busy week in golf as the season really starts to ramp up.

Five Stories From The Week:

Tiger Fails The Test – The fall of Tiger Woods took another ugly bump, as the former No. 1 golfer was arrested early Sunday morning for DUI. Woods apologized for the incident, claiming it was not due to alcohol but a mixture of prescription medications that caused him problems.

In any event, it’s a bad look and a further fall from grace from the man once on top of the world.

Bernhard Passes The Bear – Bernhard Langer held off Vijay Singh in a competitive weekend at the Senior PGA Championship, in the process claiming his 9th career senior major victory.

Langer has now eclipsed the great Jack Nicklaus for the most senior major wins, and even though he turns 60 this summer shows no signs of slowing down.

Kisner Wins Colonial – Those who closely follow golf are not surprised to see the name Kevin Kisner regularly in contention. But he hasn’t closed the deal as many times as he’d like. (In fact, four times he has lost in playoffs.)

But Sunday in Fort Worth, Kisner shined above all, as a hot putter led to six final-round birdies and a one-shot victory over Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Sean O’Hair.

It’s Kisner’s 2nd career PGA Tour win and boosts him to 7th in the FedEx Cup points standings.
Noren goes low – Alex Noren continued his dominant run on the European Tour, scoring a victory in the BMW PGA Championship, thanks to a blistering 10-under par 62 on the final day.

It’s the 5th win for Noren in the last 11 months on the European circuit, a run that’s propelled the Swede and Oklahoma State product to No. 8 in the world rankings.

Visiting Jack’s Tournament – Nicklaus hosts the tour for its annual stop in Ohio this week, the Memorial Tournament. A year ago, William McGirt beat a stacked field to collect his first PGA Tour victory.

The likes of Spieth, Rahm, Kuchar, Adam Scott and many others make up a strong field as players gear up for the U.S. Open in two weeks.

Memorial Picks

Time To Stop Fooling Around:

Dustin Johnson – The world No. 1 is primed for a big summer run again.

Patrick Reed – With several solid finishes this year and a T6 here last year, this is a course Reed can do work on.

Jon Rahm – See below. We may start picking the young Spaniard as much as we do Matt Kuchar.

Longshot – Jonas Blixt – The young Swede tied for 18th last week at Colonial and is a good value play this week.

Colonial Pick Results

Again another pretty solid week with everyone making the cut.

Jon Rahm – This guy is quickly becoming one you have to watch every single week. 9-under, tied for 2nd.

Matt Kuchar – Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. 3-under, tied for 12th.

Bud Cauley – He rebounded from a shaky first round to turn in a decent week. 2-over, tied for 41st.

Brandt Snedeker – It’s a nice paycheck compared to what I make. Sure wish I’d worked harder on my putting as a kid. 3-over, tied for 48th.

Tiger Woods Arrested for DUI

 

Golf Super star Tiger Woods was arrested Monday in Florida for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs according to records from the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. The 14 time major’s champion was booked into Palm Beach County jail Monday at 7:18 am. According to documents Woods was released at his own convenience at 10:50 am, with a mugshot online showing his tired looking and unshaven face. Woods was arrested during a traffic stop at 3am according to a public information officer of the Jupiter Police Department.

The Golf star has not competed in golf since pulling out of the Dubai Desert Classic in February after one round because of back pain. He had spinal surgery on April 20th, which was his fourth surgery in three years.

Woods wrote recently on his website last week that he was feeling better since his last procedure. He stated he was feeling better than he had in years. This is the transcript to his exact words on his website. “My surgeon and physiotherapist say the operation was successful. It’s just a matter of not screwing up and letting it fuse,” Woods wrote.”I’m walking and doing my exercises, and taking my kids to and from school. All I can do is take it day by day. There’s no hurry.”But, I want to say unequivocally, I want to play professional golf again.”

Woods, who was widely expected to surpass Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships, has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.

 

The 19th Hole: Byron Nelson Classic

Billy Horschel might not care much for the comparison, being a Florida Gator and all, but the word “bulldog” is a good one to describe the golfer and his style.

He’ll take chances, he’ll play without fear, and he’ll show more passion and fire than many on the PGA Tour.

All those elements showed up, along with a red-hot putter, as Horschel scored victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic over the weekend, topping Jason Day in a playoff.

“I want to be in Majors and having a chance to win big tournaments,” said Horschel, a former FedEx Cup winner. “I want to go down with the greats, if I can. I came here because of that and I came here because I needed to get a run of tournaments. I needed to play more tournament golf.”

Playing in the same group, Horschel and Day both had chances to win on the 18th hole in regulation but missed on birdie tries.

Horschel only needed par on the same hole in the playoff to capture the win, his fourth in his PGA Tour career, after Day missed a short par putt.

“You never want to win with an opponent like Jason misses a short putt like that,” Horschel said. “Listen, I’ve missed short putt not too long ago to lose a playoff. I know the feeling. You always want to win with a birdie on the last hole. It’s the way the game of golf goes sometimes.”

While he didn’t win, it still was a productive and important week for Day, who has struggled mightily both on and off the course in 2017.

His mother has been battling lung cancer but her condition reportedly has improved since a surgery she underwent a few months ago.

So coming back to the Metroplex, which he called home for several years before relocating to Ohio has proved a nice jump-start to Day’s season.

“To be able to play the way I did (Sunday), I played some good, solid golf,” Day said. “Obviously, once again, it’s a little disappointing but it’s not the first tournament I’m going to lose. I’ve lost plenty of other ones beforehand and I’ll lose plenty more in the future.”

James Hahn had the lead on the back nine on Sunday but eventually settled for third, one shot back of Horschel and Day.

 

This Week

The tour goes across town from Dallas to Fort Worth for the Dean & Deluca Invitational, much better known among golf fans as the Colonial, named for Colonial Country Club, the longtime site.

It’s one of the tour’s classic courses, tree-lined and filled with tricky angles. It’s one of the shortest courses on the tour but one that’s held the test of time.

A year ago, Jordan Spieth came through for his only win of the season, finishing strong with a chip-in birdie at the 17th and a long birdie putt at No. 18.

 

Dean & Deluca Invitational picks

Jon Rahm – At the start of 2017, the young Spaniard was ranked around 137th in the world. Now he’s 12th. And climbing. He has all the shots, even at a course like this where his huge power isn’t quite as much of an advantage.

Matt Kuchar – We never go too long without having Kuchar among our selections. You already know that.

Brandt Snedeker – Sneds tied for second in this event two years ago and has quietly had a solid season.

Longshot – Bud Cauley – This is a bit of a stretch as a “longshot,” having recorded four straight top 10s and really finding his groove.

Byron Nelson Pick Results

Everyone collected a paycheck but nobody made a huge run at the win.

Dustin Johnson – The No. 1 player in the world made a lot of birdies but offset them with far too many bogeys to push the leaders. 6-under, tied for 13th

Kevin Tway – A strong third round propelled Tway to another solid finish in what’s been a breakthrough spring. 4-under, tied for 20th

Ryan Palmer – He never shot worse than 71 but never better than 68. 3-under, tied for 27th

Gary Woodland – The big hitter faded a bit the final day. 1-under, tied for 40th

The 19th Hole: Youth is served, again, at TPC

Si Woo Kim became the youngest champion in the history of The Players Championship over the weekend. But that’s not the whole story.

Anyone who has watched this young Korean’s assent in the game in his early career shouldn’t be shocked. At just age 21, he’s already had a surprising amount of professional experience.

Kim completed PGA Tour Qualifying School while just 17 ½ years old, but had to wait until age 18 by PGA Tour rules to play as a professional. Since, he’s competed on both the PGA and Web.com Tours, capturing the Wyndham Championship last August for his first win on the big tour.

Now he has a more prestigious trophy.

At TPC, he was steady all day Sunday as veterans Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen tried to mount final-round runs. But at the end of the day it was Kim standing alone at 10-under par, three shots ahead of Oosthuizen and Poulter, who tied for second.

And while he has more experience than people may realize, this is still far and away Kim’s golf highlight to date.

“I still can’t believe I’m the champion, and I’m the youngest champion,” Kim said through an interpreter. “I’m looking forward to working hard from now on.”

He’s the second Korean to win this event, following K.J. Choi. And in a year filled with impressive young champions, golf has yet another one. The future continues to look really bright.

 

This Week

The PGA Tour starts a two-week swing in the Metroplex at the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic.

For the week after such a big event, this tournament has quite a good field. Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and Dallas product Jordan Spieth are among the players teeing it up in Irving, just down the highway from the former site of Texas Stadium.

Last year, Garcia won the event in a playoff after he and Brooks Koepka tied at 15-under par. Koepka also returns to take another swing at the TPC Four Seasons course, one that can offer some advantage for big hitters like himself.

 

TPC Picks

Everyone made the weekend but nobody was able to mount a big enough charge.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello – Our longshot pick had the highlight shot of the week, a double-eagle 2 on Sunday. 6-under, tied for 4th

Hideki Matsuyama – The best Japanese player on the planet had yet another solid finish. Even par, tied for 22nd

Sergio Garcia – Three double bogeys on Sunday derailed any chance of a second career TPC win for The Masters champion. 1-over, tied for 30th

Rickie Fowler – He was having a decent week until an awful final round of 79. 7-over, tied for 60th

 

AT&T Byron Nelson Picks

Gary Woodland – Did someone say this is a good track for long hitters? Few hit it any farther than Woodland.

Ryan Palmer – We don’t always pick Palmer when there’s a tournament played in his home state of Texas. But we sure seem to a lot.

Dustin Johnson – A T12 last week was his worst finish in almost three months. It’s hard not to use a pick on a guy playing this well.

Longshot – Kevin Tway – The Oklahoma State product has been on a blistering run recently, finishing T3 in San Antonio and T5 in Charlotte, as well as third in the Zurich Classic team event in between.

The 19th Hole: Harman’s Big Day

The current trend on the PGA Tour is guys breaking into the win column after long waits. Two weeks after Kevin Chappell scored his first win in his 180th start, Brian Harman did so in start No. 172 at the Wells Fargo Championship.

And there was nothing simple about it, not with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson breathing down his neck. But Harman, at 5-foot-7 and literally towered over by Johnson, scored back-to-back birdies on the final two holes to post the one-shot victory.

“It’s very hard to stay patient because you know what it feels like to win, you know what it takes,” Harman said. “You feel like you’re capable of it but it just doesn’t happen. And then it doesn’t happen again and it doesn’t happen again, and then that’s where the doubt starts to creep in. So this one feels very good.”

Harman needed that strong finish to secure the victory against the man quickly establishing himself as the game’s best.

Johnson missed The Masters with a back injury suffered when he slipped and fell at his rental home the day before that event, and his return was a big story on the week.

Perhaps lost a bit in the shuffle was he was gunning for his fourth consecutive win, dating all the way back into February. It looked unlikely after he was way back in the pack after the first two rounds, but strong efforts on the weekend pushed him to the top of the leaderboard.

But in the end, it was the diminutive lefty Harman who stood the tallest.

Daly A Winner Again

It’s been a while since here was more popular win in golf than what happened on the PGA Tour Champions in Houston over the weekend.

John Daly scored his first win on the circuit for age 50 and up, capturing the Insperity Invitational by one stroke.

Daly’s demons are well-chronicled, from issues with alcohol abuse to marital and legal problems. It’s given him the face of a real guy who fans can relate to, and along with his colorful ensembles and go-for-broke attitude around a golf course, it’s made him one of the game’s most popular figures.

And it’s good to see his name atop a leaderboard again.

 

This Week – The Players Championship

Pretty well seen as the biggest non-major event of the golf season, The Players Championship brings one of the season’s strongest fields to a renovated TPC Sawgrass.

The course still has its famous features, notably the island green at the par-3 17th hole. But it’s also seen a number of changes to several holes, including a shortening and tightening of the par-4 12th and a new lake now sitting between the 6th and 7th holes that replaces a spectator mound. The greens are also seeded with a new type of grass.

Last year, this event was the crown jewel in Jason Day’s strong early season run, as he cruised to a four-shot victory from Kevin Chappell after a dominant opening round of 63.

He’s back along with the other four of the top five in the World Golf Rankings and many others in the top 50.

 

Wells Fargo Picks

Two did alright and two struggled.

Phil Mickelson – Lefty hung around the leaderboard most of the week but just couldn’t get enough putts to drop. 4-under, tied for 18th

J.B. Holmes – After being in the top 10 for two days, Holmes faded a bit to lose some money on the weekend. 1-under, tied for 36th

Kevin Kisner – One of the favorites in many handicappers’ eyes this week, Kisner misfired early. 3-over, Missed the cut.

Patrick Rodgers – The youngster struggled badly the first two rounds. 7-over, missed the cut.

TPC Picks

Sergio Garcia – Coming off his first major win at a course he’s done well at a number of times, this pick seems obvious. But obvious is often right.

Hideki Matsuyama – His play hasn’t been as good since the calendar turned after an amazing end to 2016. But he’s ready for a big week.

Rickie Fowler – He won two years ago before a missed cut last season. His form is good and he’s going to be back in the chase.

Longshot – Rafael Cabrera Bello – With as strong as this field is, even the “longshot” is a great player. And the Spaniard is on the verge of huge things.

The 19th Hole: Teamwork Pays Off

The first team event on the PGA Tour since 1981 wound up being bigger than four days could handle, thanks to some rough weather in and around New Orleans.

So the Zurich Classic went to a Monday playoff that neither of the participating teams seemed to want to win. Finally, after numerous missed birdie putts, Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith won the event on the fourth playoff hole.

The young Australian Smith scored his first career win and was almost unable to speak immediately after from the emotion, finally just getting out “I can’t even talk” to CBS announcer Dottie Pepper. Blixt scored his third career win but first since the Greenbrier in 2013.

Smith finished things off with a putt just under four feet to win it on the fourth playoff hole.

“It was pretty cool to knock the putt in for the win,” Smith said. “I guess it would have felt a little bit different if Jonas had done it for my first win.”

“To have a putt to win on the PGA Tour when you’ve been working toward it your whole life is a completely different feeling. It felt like the longest putt I’ve ever hit.”

The event was two days of alternate shot and two days of best-ball. And the young duo of Blixt and Smith played the entire event, plus the Monday playoff holes, without a bogey, the only team in the field to do so.

Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner matched their 27-under par total for the 72-hole tournament, finishing with a final-round 60 that left the two teams four shots clear of anyone else but couldn’t manage to drop a birdie putt despite several chances in the playoff.

Kelly Kraft and Kevin Tway finished third at 23-under, with Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer coming home fourth at -22.

 

Schedule Turning A Corner

The season really starts to ramp in May, as following this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, the tour hosts its biggest non-major event of the season, The Players Championship.

Then come two stops in Texas, Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament and before long it’s the U.S. Open. It’s heating up, literally and figuratively.

 

Wells Fargo Preview

He’s back after a back injury forced him out of The Masters.

No, not that guy or that back injury.

But Dustin Johnson, when last we saw him, was suffering after a fall in his rental home the day before The Masters eventually caused him to miss the event. He’s back to full speed from the injury and in the field at the Charlotte-based event this week.

A year ago, James Hahn broke through by claiming a playoff victory over Roberto Castro in this event. They were barely ahead of a trio of superstars – Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy – who rounded out last year’s top five.

 

Zurich Classic Picks

Having eight guys to pick instead of four didn’t help us get a winner, either.

Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley – A strong final day got the youngsters a little bigger paycheck. 19-under, tied for 5th

Hudson Swafford/Harris English – A rough ride in the third round hurt the Georgia Bulldog alums. 13-under, tied for 32nd

Jamie Lovemark/Luke Donald – The defending runnerup Lovemark and his partner Donald had an awful first round. 5-under, missed the cut

Seung-Yul Noh/Byeong-Hun An – This team’s struggles really surprised me. I thought they’d be a great value pick. 4-under, missed the cut

AP Photo/Mike Groll, File

Wells Fargo Picks

Phil Mickelson – Tied for fourth here a year ago, Lefty still has the game to compete at this event.

Kevin Kisner – Assuming he’s not worn down from getting pushed into a Monday playoff in New Orleans, Kisner’s game is in a great place right now.

J.B. Holmes – The huge hitter had a pretty good week with partner Bubba Watson in New Orleans.

Longshot – Patrick Rodgers – I’ve probably referred in the past to Jack Nicklaus liking this guy’s game. That’s good enough for me.

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