Golf: Amid a star-studded Sunday leaderboard in Phoenix, it was Gary Woodland who walked off with an emotional win. Meantime, Juli Inkster makes a little U.S. Solheim Cup history.
By Jeff Shain, PSN managing editor
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- It’s hard to say which was more surprising on the Waste Management Phoenix Open’s final day – Gary Woodland ending his drought or a leaderboard of top names unable to join a playoff. Rickie Fowler held the 54-hole lead, with a chase pack of Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson, Xander Schauffele and Daniel Berger all within two shots. Instead, it was local product Chez Reavie who took Woodland to extra holes before the big Kansan won with a par. Victory was especially sweet for Woodland, who endured a star-crossed 2017 that included a miscarriage and losing a mentor when his college coach passed away. His last victory came 4 ½ years ago in Reno.
- Juli Inkster is back for a third stint as U.S. Solheim Cup captain, a widely heralded move as the Americans seek to engineer a three-peat next year in Scotland. The winner of seven LPGA majors has proven a master hand in getting the most from players, leading Team USA to a 2015 comeback in Germany and following up with last year’s win in Iowa. Inkster becomes the first U.S. captain to serve three consecutive terms. Scotland’s own Catriona Mathew will captain the European side when next year’s matches are held at Gleneagles.
- The Phoenix Open’s raucous reputation took on a new dimension when a male streaker cavorted on the 17th green during Wednesday’s pro-am. Fans gave him a standing ovation for a performance that included break-dancing, practicing his golf swing and tossing sand out of a bunker. Security eventually stepped in to lead the man away to face charges of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct. To no one’s surprise, a police spokesman said the man showed “symptoms of alcohol intoxication.”
- Golf is more dangerous than rugby. Yes, that really is the finding of a statistical analysis by a group called Golf Support, which concludes that despite the violent injuries in football, hockey and rugby, golf and other leisure sports (tennis, bowling) have a greater overall frequency of injuries – 1.8 per 1,000 persons. Hockey and rugby report 1.5 injuries per 1,000. According to the stats, low-back issues account for one-third of golf injuries, followed by elbow woes at 27 percent. Other numbers: Some 40,000 golfers each year are struck by errant shots, and 15,000 or so are hurt in cart accidents.
PGA TOUR: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Site: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.
- Defending champion: Jordan Spieth cruised to a four-shot romp, nearly going wire-to-wire as he made the final round nearly a ceremonial lap. Speith sat one back after an opening 68 at Monterey Peninsula CC, before consecutive 65s opened a six-shot gap heading to the final day. No one got any closer than three from that point on.
- Last week: Gary Woodland became the PGA Tour’s latest playoff winner, capturing the Waste Management Phoenix Open by dispatching Chez Reavie on the first extra hole. Woodland carded nine birdies in a closing 64 that made up a four-shot deficit. Reavie birdied Nos 17 and 18 to force OT, but couldn’t save par in replaying the 18th after coming up short of the green.
- Tour talk: Spieth arrives after an early exit in Phoenix, ending a run of 15 consecutive made cuts going back to May. Twelve of those 15 were top-15 finishes. … Dustin Johnson makes his first U.S. start since overpowering Kapalua a month ago. … NBC’s Peter Jacobsen, age 63, is set for his first Tour start since 2014. … Spyglass Hill GC & Monterey Peninsula CC (Shore) round out the three-course rota.
- TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET, Saturday, 2-3:30 p.m.; Sunday 1-2:45 p.m.) and CBS (Saturday, 4-7 p.m.; Sunday, 3-6:30 p.m.).
- Etc.: First Look from PGATour.com; Pebble Beach National Pro-Am primer from Pro Golf Weekly.
EUROPEAN TOUR: ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth
Site: Lake Karrinyup CC, Perth, Australia
- Defending champion: Perth’s own Brett Rumford was dominant in the unique event’s debut, leading by five after 54 holes of stroke play and emerging with the crown after a final day of six-hole match play. Rumford was a 2&1 victor over Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai in the final, claiming his sixth European win.
- Last week: India’s Shubhankar Sharma fired a 10-under-par 62 to overtake a faltering Lee Westwood at the Maybank Championship, notching his second European win in his past four starts. Sharma also won the Joburg Open in December, with this victory lifting him to No.70 in the world rankings.
- Tour talk: The atypical format calls for three rounds of stroke play before trimming the field to 24 for match play. The top eight seeds get a bye into the second round, with every match scheduled to go just six holes. … Westwood, Tyrrell Hatton and 2016 Masters champ Danny Willett headline the field.
- TV: Golf Channel (Wednesday-Friday, 11 p.m.-4 a.m.; Saturday, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.).
PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: Boca Raton Championship
Site: Broken Sound CC (Old Course), Boca Raton, Fla.
- Defending champion: Scott McCarron eagled Broken Sound’s par-5 finishing hole to leapfrog Kenny Perry and Carlos Franco at the end, notching his third Champions victory in a span of 17 starts. McCarron took a share of the lead into the final round, then briefly fell back before his closing heroics.
- Tour talk: The year’s first full-field Champions event features 17 of last year’s Schwab Cup top 20, including champ Kevin Sutherland and the tireless Bernhard Langer. … Boca Raton has yet to crown a repeat winner in its first 11 editions. … Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rymer makes his Champions debut.
- TV: Golf Channel (Friday, noon-2:30 p.m.; Saturday, 3:30-5:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3-5 p.m.).
WEB.COM TOUR: Club Colombia Championship
Site: Bogota GC, Bogota, Colombia
- Defending champion: Ethan Tracy forced a playoff with a dramatic holeout to end regulation, then finished off his first Web.com victory with a 20-foot birdie on the second extra hole to beat Roberto Diaz. Standing 101 yards from the flag at No.18, Tracy’s wedge bounced three times before spinning back into the cup.
- Last week: Scott Langley charged from six shots back to make the Panama Championship his first professional victory, firing a 5-under-par 65 on the final day to walk off with a two-shot triumph over Rafael Campos. Eric Axley led by two after 54 holes, but a 76 opened the door for Langley and others.
- Tour talk: Campos now has a pair of top-3 finishes in three 2018 starts, leaving Panama after three straight rounds in the 60s. … Colombia’s Sebastian Muñoz won on home soil two years ago and began his year with a top-10 in the Bahamas. … Former PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel will tee it up.
- TV: None.
LPGA TOUR: Idle
Next up: Women’s Australian Open, Feb. 15-18, Adelaide, Australia
- Tour talk: Add Suzann Pettersen to the “fake news” outcry when it comes to President Trump. In her case, the Norwegian firebrand took aim at a newspaper back home that quoted her as saying Trump “cheats like hell” on the course. Pettersen says a reporter took words out of context when she joked Trump must pay caddies well because his drives almost always could be found in the fairway.