Monday, March 2

Padraig Harrington Finds 'Mental Edge'

THE LAST TIME PADRAIG HARRINGTON WON on the PGA Tour, Barack Obama was 17 days from being nominated for president of the United States. Harrington won the PGA Championship on August 10, 2008. It was the Irishman's second consecutive major and third overall. "Paddy" was on top of the golf world. There was only one way to go.

Padraig Harrington explained his decline on Feherty
in July 2014. (Golf Channel image)
"There's no doubt on your way back down it's a lot different," Harrington told Golf Channel's Steve Sands after winning the Honda Classic in a sudden-death playoff, "but hopefully this isn't an isolated win."

Harrington made up four shots on the lead over the closing nine holes and sank a birdie on the final green to get into a playoff. (As usual, PGA National was brutal. The winning total was 6 under.) He then closed out the victory when Daniel Berger hit into the water on the treacherous par-3 17th and made double bogey.

The water also drowned the hopes of others.

Ian Poulter started the final round with a three-shot lead. Poulter hit into the water five times during a final round that stretched over two days, missing the playoff by a single shot.

"It's a shame to hand tournaments away," Poulter told Sands. "I've handed one away this week. It's going to hurt."

Meanwhile, Harrington, who claimed his first PGA title at the Honda Classic a decade ago, is heading in a better direction.

"I really do believe in myself," he said.

"I think I really found that mental edge that has been lacking the last number of years and, hopefully, I can stick with that going forward and be consistently contending. Because I know if I am contending I can win."

NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller was impressed by what he saw.

"Yesterday we pretty much had written him off because he was going the wrong direction missing short putts," Miller said.

"But you talk about a sweet win. At 43 years old he's gone through the bottom dregs of golf ... from a three-time major champion winner to almost, sort of, embarrassing. And just stuck with it."

Harrington lost his PGA Tour card last year and got into the Honda Classic field with a sponsor's exemption. With the 20th victory of his professional career, Harrington moved from 297 to 82 in the world golf rankings.

If he's not back, he's certainly on his way.

Thursday, February 26

Golf on TV: The Honda Classic, Honda LPGA Thailand, Joburg Open

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

The PGA TOUR kicks off the Florida Swing this week. The field includes 16 of the top-25 players in the world, including World No. 1 Rory McIlroy making his 2015 PGA TOUR debut.

The LPGA Tour continues the international stretch of its 2015 schedule, with nine of the top-10 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings in the field for the Honda LPGA Thailand. And the European Tour stages the first of three consecutive events in South Africa with the Joburg Open.

* * *

PGA TOUR

The Honda Classic
Dates: Feb. 26-March 1
Venue: PGA National Resort & Spa (Champion Course), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         2-6 p.m. (Live) / 9 p.m.-1 a.m. (Replay)
Friday              2-6 p.m. (Live) / 9 p.m.-1 a.m. (Replay)
Saturday         1-3 p.m. (Live) / 3-5 p.m. (Live, Spotlight Coverage) / 7 p.m.-Midnight (Replay)
Sunday            1-3 p.m. (Live) / 3-5 p.m. (Live, Spotlight Coverage) / 7 p.m.-Midnight (Replay)

Tournament Airtimes on NBC (Eastern):
Saturday          3-6 p.m. (Live)
Sunday            3-6 p.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Henley defends: Russell Henley defeated Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox and Ryan Palmer with a birdie on the first playoff hole for his second career PGA TOUR win.

Headlining the field: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed and Russell Henley.

* * *

LPGA TOUR

Honda LPGA Thailand 
Dates: Feb. 26-March 1
Venue: Siam Country Club Pattaya (Old Course), Chonburi, Thailand

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         1-5 a.m. (Live) / 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              1-5 a.m. (Live) / 11 a.m.-1 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday          1-5 a.m. (Live)
Sunday            1-5 a.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Nordqvist defends: Anna Nordqvist finished two shots ahead of Inbee Park for her third career LPGA Tour victory.

Headlining the field: Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Shanshan Feng, Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen, So Yeon Ryu, Hyo Joo Kim, Karrie Webb, Lexi Thompson and Anna Nordqvist.

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

Joburg Open
Dates: Feb. 26-March 1
Venue: Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club (East & West Courses), Gauteng, South Africa

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):
Thursday         7-9 a.m. (Live) / 5-7 a.m. (Tape delay)
Friday              7-9 a.m. (Live) / 5-7 a.m. (Tape delay)
Saturday          5:30-9:30 a.m. (Live)
Sunday            5-9:30 a.m. (Live)

Event Notes

Coetzee defends: George Coetzee won by three shots for his first career European Tour win.

Headlining the field: Darren Clarke, George Coetzee, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Edoardo Molinari, S.S.P. Chawrasia, Andy Sullivan, Gregory Bourdy, Alex Noren and David Horsey.

Wednesday, February 25

Will Love Cure My Ryder Cup Fatigue?

I HAVE RYDER CUP FATIGUE. To be honest, I don't feel like talking about it. At least not about the US of A. But I do feel obligated. That's because the PGA of America's ballyhooed 11-member task force, after just two meetings, has announced its choice for U.S. Ryder Cup captain in 2016.

Davis Love III will get another turn
as U.S. Ryder Cup captain. (Edelman)
Davis Love III.

OK, fine. No, really, I'm OK with this selection.

I felt that Love did a great job in 2012. He was considered to be positively brilliant until his squad coughed up a commanding 10-6 lead on Sunday at Medinah.

Was that Love's fault? Um, no.

Love is a solid choice for 2016. A "company" man, so to speak, AND a players' captain. It should help the U.S. captain and his team that next time is a home game, but don't count on it. For a very long time, Europe has been better, period. That might continue. And yes, the U.S. players must play better if they want to win. The captain can only do so much.

Will they throw Davis under the team bus if the United States loses at Hazeltine in 2016?

Probably. I'm afraid so. That's what always seems to happen. It makes me sad.

For now, though, a new captain has been selected and all is well in Palm Beach Gardens. Maybe we can all finally move on from that U.S. loss five months ago. Please?

Tuesday, February 24

No Doubt About Lydia Ko

THERE WERE MILD RESERVATIONS THREE WEEKS ago when Lydia Ko achieved No. 1 status in the women's game. Just 17 years old, the New Zealander ascended to the top spot in the Rolex Rankings after a runner-up finish at the Coates Golf Championship in Ocala, Florida.

Lydia Ko
(LPGA.com)
None of Ko's peers questioned her game or that Ko was more than capable of ruling the ladies circuit. But some openly wondered about the current points system and if it rewarded Ko too soon.

That small debate is now moot. Ko is for real. She has not let her foot off the accelerator.

This past weekend the teen solidified her ranking with a victory at the Women's Australia Open at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. It was her sixth title on the LPGA Tour. Watch out.

As the Australian media (via Geoff Shackelford) noted, Ko hit 64 of 72 greens in regulation, tops in the field. This is especially noteworthy at Royal Melbourne, home to elevated and contoured putting surfaces, and also one of the great courses on the planet.

Ko seems to take it all in stride. Again, she is 17. And she is confident. Youth and confidence can be a formidable combination.

"I didn't really know how I would play and how I would react to becoming world No. 1, and I always wondered that," Ko said at LPGA.com.

"Sometimes I got close and I was still world No. 2, 3 or 4, and then after Ocala (the Coates Golf Championship) I couldn't pull off the win but then I became world No.1. I played average in the first two days in the Bahamas but then I fired back.

"It's good to know that just from my confidence that I can still play good and not really think about the world rankings."

Yes, that's good to know for Ko. Perhaps not so good for her competitors.

There's no doubt about it: Ko is good, very good, maybe even great. Time will tell.

Monday, February 23

Riviera Roughs Up Field, Hahn Wins Northern Trust Open in Playoff

MAN, THAT RIVIERA IS a tough track.

Hogan's Alley, as it has been called through the years, is a dark alley of sorts, the kind of scary alley you don't want to get caught in late on a Sunday when you're trying to get home with a win.

That was certainly the case yesterday in overcast, rainy, breezy Pacific Palisades, situated a short distance from the Pacific Ocean.

James Hahn
A player named James Hahn survived the Riviera gauntlet better than the others, outlasting Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey in a sudden-death playoff. It was the first PGA Tour title for Hahn, who came to Los Angeles ranked 297th in the world and left with a career-changing victory and ranked No. 86.

Riviera may have stolen Hahn's lunch money, but it mugged 54-hole leader Retief Goosen and roughed up other golfers who had legitimate chances to win on a gray Sunday in L.A. Names such as Johnson, Jim Furyk, Graham DeLaet, Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth and Sang-Moon Bae struggled over the closing holes.

The only moves were backwards. There was talk from the CBS towers of possible birdies, like on the 17th, a reachable par-5 with two big pokes. But it was just talk. As it turned out, for many contenders, that deceptively difficult 17th was a bogey hole not a birdie hole.

So was the 18th, one of the best finishing holes on the circuit.

In a TV interview immediately following the playoff, Hahn was humbled by his achievement.

"I never would have thought I would win this tournament," he said, paying homage to the name golfers he had beaten.

That seems about right at Riviera. The unheralded player wins, the name players only come close and a classic golf course is the master of them all.

Thursday, February 19

Golf on TV: Northern Trust Open, ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, Hero Indian Open

The following edited content was supplied by Golf Channel in a news release.

The PGA TOUR shifts to Southern California this week with 2014 Northern Trust Open winner Bubba Watson defending at Riviera Country Club.

The LPGA Tour returns with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, as 41-time LPGA Tour winner and Australia native Karrie Webb will try to defend in her home country in an event she has won on five previous occasions. And, the European Tour will co-sanction the Hero Indian Open for the first time ever this week.

* * *

PGA TOUR

Northern Trust Open
Dates: Feb. 19-22
Venue: Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         5-8 p.m. (Live) / 8:30-11:30 p.m. (Replay)
Friday              5-8 p.m. (Live) / 8:30-11:30 p.m. (Replay)
Saturday         1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 6:30-9 p.m. (Replay)
Sunday            1-2:30 p.m. (Live) / 7:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. (Replay)

On CBS:
Saturday: 3-6 p.m.
Sunday: 3-6 p.m.

Event Notes

Watson defends: Bubba Watson finished two shots ahead of Dustin Johnson to earn his fifth career PGA TOUR victory.

Headlining the field: Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Hideki Matsuyama, Fred Couples and Davis Love III.

* * *

LPGA TOUR

ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open
Dates: Feb. 18-21
Venue: Royal Melbourne Golf Club (Composite Course), Melbourne, Australia

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Wednesday     11 p.m.-2 a.m. (Live) / 1:30-4:30 p.m. (Thursday replay)
Thursday         11:30 p.m.-2 a.m. (Live) / 1:30-4:30 p.m. (Friday replay)
Friday              11:30 p.m.-2 a.m. (Live) / 3-6 p.m. (Saturday replay)
Saturday          9 p.m.-2 a.m. (Live) / 3-6:30 p.m. (Sunday replay)

Event Notes

Webb defends: Karrie Webb won by one stroke over Chella Choi for her 40th career LPGA Tour win, and it was her fifth time winning her national open championship.

Headlining the field: Lydia Ko, Na Yeon Choi, So Yeon Ryu, Jessica Korda, Shanshan Feng, Karrie Webb, Charley Hull, Ai Miyazato, Chella Choi, Minjee Lee and Cheyenne Woods.

* * *

EUROPEAN TOUR

Hero Indian Open
Dates: Feb. 19-22
Venue: Delhi Golf Club (Lodhi Course), New Delhi, India

Tournament Airtimes On Golf Channel (Eastern):          
Thursday         9 a.m.-1 p.m. (Tape delay)
Friday              5-7 a.m., 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Tape delay)
Saturday          5:30-9:30 a.m. (Tape delay)
Sunday            5:30-10 a.m. (Tape delay)

Event Notes

Tournament being played as official European Tour event for first time: This is the 51st edition of the Hero Indian Open, but the first time that it will be contested as an official European Tour event. It is co-sanctioned by both the European Tour and Asian Tour, and marks the first European Tour event in India since the 2013 Avantha Masters.

Headlining the field: Miguel Angel Jimenez, Arjun Atwal, Anirban Lahiri, Jeev Milkha Singh, Siddikur Rahman, Daniel Chopra, S.S. P. Chawrasia and Jyoti Randhawa.

Wednesday, February 18

Darren Clarke Picked as 2016 European Ryder Cup Captain

Darren Clarke (zrim)
DARREN CLARKE WILL BE THE NEXT European Ryder Cup captain. Clarke will lead the 12-man squad in the fall of 2016 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.

EuropeanTour.com reported:
The 2011 Open Champion becomes the first Northern Irishman to lead Europe against the United States, having played in the biennial contest five times, featuring on the winning side on four occasions. He was also a vice captain under Colin Montgomerie and José María Olazábal in the European wins in  2010 and 2012 respectively, and succeeds Irishman Paul McGinley, who captained Europe to a 16 ½-11 ½ triumph at Gleneagles last September. 
Clarke takes the reins for the 41st Ryder Cup with the aim of leading Europe to a record fourth consecutive victory in the biennial contest. 
The 46 year old was chosen by a five man selection panel consisting of those three most recent European Ryder Cup Captains - McGinley, Olazábal and Montgomerie – as well as the Chief Executive of The European Tour, George O’Grady, and European Tour Tournament Committee member David Howell, which met at Wentworth Club today (Wednesday February 18). 
Clarke said: "I am naturally extremely proud to be selected as European Ryder Cup captain for 2016. The Ryder Cup has been a massive part of my life and my career, so to have the chance to lead Europe next year is a huge honour. 
"I am lucky to have played and worked under some fantastic captains in my seven Ryder Cups to date, and I look forward to the challenge of trying to follow in their footsteps and help Europe to a fourth consecutive Ryder Cup victory at Hazeltine next year."

Tuesday, February 17

Morgan Pressel to Receive Charlie Bartlett Award

Morgan Pressel (LPGA.com)
MORGAN PRESSEL IS BEING RECOGNIZED for her foundation's work to raise awareness about and fight breast cancer.

Following are major portions of the announcement at LPGA.com:
HOUSTON (February 16, 2015) – There were obstacles, no doubt, to turning professional at the age of 17, even before she had graduated high school. But what often got overlooked about Morgan Pressel is that she had been faced with an even greater challenge a few years earlier – the death of her mother, Kathryn Krickstein, from breast cancer. 
With two wins and more than $5.8 million in prize money, the 26-year-old Pressel has clearly handled the professional golf thing. But it’s the other side of the story – her growth as a person and her commitment to her mother’s memory – that has won her a legion of supporters. 
Now it has also won her an honor from the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA), the Charlie Bartlett Award presented by Aberdeen Asset Management. Given to a playing professional for unselfish contributions to the betterment of society, the award pays tribute to Pressel for the charitable efforts she has made through the Morgan Pressel Foundation to heighten breast cancer awareness and fight the insidious disease. 
"Carrying out the mission of the Morgan Pressel Foundation is a team effort, and an honor like this would not be possible without the hard work of many, especially my family and my community at St. Andrews Country Club (in Boca Raton, Fla.)," Pressel said. 
In six years, the foundation has raised more than $3.4 million and the efforts have been felt in her hometown area, Palm Beach County. The Kathryn Krickstein Mammovan became a reality a few years ago, working out of Boca Raton Regional Hospital. It travels throughout the county to provide affordable breast exams and care to those who otherwise might not be able to afford it.
Pressel will receive the award at the GWAA Annual Awards Dinner on April 8 in Augusta, Georgia.