By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
This week’s ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf will be held at one of the world’s finest courses – the Alister Mackenzie-designed Royal Melbourne Golf Club – and use a format that will mirror the one that will be used in the 2016 Olympics. Using stroke play – a team’s score will be the combined score of its two participants – also allows players to compete for an individual prize and Official World Golf Ranking points.
A strong field has assembled at Royal Melbourne. Here’s a look at some of the groups to keep an eye on (Note: all times local):
Adam Scott (Australia)-Matt Kuchar (USA)-Matteo Manassero (Italy): Adam Scott, the local favorite, plays alongside a representative from each of the past two World Cup champions. Matt Kuchar teamed with Gary Woodland to win in 2011, while the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco, won the title in 2009. Manassero is representing Italy this week alongside Francesco Molinari. This group also features the top two finishers from last week’s Talisker Masters, also held at Royal Melbourne. Scott won that title by two shots over Kuchar; it was Scott’s second consecutive win after also winning the previous week’s Australian PGA Championship.
Jason Day (Australia)-Graeme McDowell (Ireland)-Jonas Blixt (Sweden): Australia’s other representative, Jason Day, will play alongside the McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, and Blixt, who has won twice on the PGA TOUR in the past 13 months.
Kevin Streelman (USA)-Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain)-Francesco Molinari (Italy): The past two World Cup champions are represented in this group. The United States won in 2011, while Italy won in 2009. All three members of this group are in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, as well.
Ryo Ishikawa (Japan)-George Coetzee (South Africa)-Vijay Singh (Fiji): Ishikawa and Singh got off to strong starts in the fall portion of the 2013-14 schedule. Ishikawa is 17th in the FedExCup standings after making the cut in all three of his starts, including a runner-up at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Singh is 10th in the FedExCup after finishing runner-up at the Frys.com Open; he’s coming off a third-place finish at last week’s Talisker Masters at Royal Melbourne.
Victor Dubuisson (France)-K.J. Choi (Korea)-Hideto Tanihara (Japan): Dubuisson is one of the hottest players in the field, finishing in the top three in his past two starts on the European Tour; he won his first title at the Turkish Airlines Open and finished third at last week’s DP World Tour Championship-Dubai, the European Tour’s season finale. Tanihara won last week’s Taiheiyo Masters in Japan, finishing one shot ahead of teammate Ryo Ishikawa.
By PGATOUR.COM staff
You may remember Rickie Fowler and Jonas Blixt showing up in matching orange gear while playing together in the final round of The Barclays in August. Back then, Blixt borrowed some of Fowler's orange gear.
Well, it appears Fowler and Blixt are at it again, although this time it appears to be unintentional (see Tweet below). Fowler and Blixt appeared in a photo on Twitter wearing a matching Puma white, blue and magenta ensemble just before Saturday's third round of the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
SAN MARTIN, Calif. – The 2013-14 season here, and Jonas Blixt is beginning it with defense of his first PGATOUR title. The 29-year-old Swede used the time since his last start, the BMW Championship, to rest and make some swing tweaks, a difficult thing to do during the week-to-week grind of competition.
“I think the biggest part for me was I was so tired. Just played so much golf this year, and it was hard, my brain wanted to do something and my body didn’t want to do it,” he said. “I think these two-and-a-half weeks that I (had) off have just been helping me to get my body and mind the way they are supposed to be.”
Blixt, a PGA TOUR rookie in 2012, shot four consecutive rounds in the 60s at last year’s Frys.com Open (66-68-66-68) to finish one shot ahead of Tim Petrovic and Jason Kokrak.
“I expect myself to play well this week,” Blixt said. “I like the golf course. I’ve played well here before. I love the place. ... I think that's the biggest thing coming into this week, that you're so excited to play the golf course that that's going to help me make a couple more birdies.”
Blixt is part of the premiere grouping Thursday morning at CordeValle Resort. He’s playing with Gary Woodland and Billy Horschel; the threesome tees off No. 10 at 7:40 a.m. Woodland and Horschel both qualified for the 2013 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. All three players won in 2013. Woodland claimed the Reno-Tahoe Open, Horschel won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and Blixt won his second TOUR title at The Greenbrier Classic.
Blixt made seven of his final eight cuts in the 2013 PGA TOUR season, starting with his Greenbrier win. He also finished fourth at the PGA Championship, his best showing in a major. He played alongside fellow Swede Henrik Stenson in the final round. Stenson went on to win the FedExCup; Blixt could be its early leader if he could replicate last year’s fall. He also finished third at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
The FedExCup points make the fall more important, but Blixt’s goals remain the same.
“For us players, it’s a golf tournament,” Blixt said. “We come here to win it. I get really excited every time I tee up.”
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Rickie Fowler is wearing his traditional head-to-toe orange for the final round of The Barclays. He's not the only one.
Jonas Blixt, who is also sponsored by Puma and is paired with Fowler, showed up at Liberty National in the same outfit -- one he actually borrowed from Fowler.
The two had been talking about going all-orange if they ever played together on a Sunday. When Blixt found out they would be, he tried to get Puma to ship him the same outfit, only it wouldn't arrive by their 1 p.m. ET tee time.
"You can't plan for being paired in the final round," said Fowler, who had an extra pair of orange pants and an orange shirt that he left in Blixt's locker.
"It's a little tight," added Blixt, who is carrying an extra pair of pants in his golf bag just in case there should be a wardrobe malfunction.
Both are 7 under and five strokes off the lead.
Jonas Blixt's tee shot on the 18th landed in the pocket of fan Muhammad Khokhar. (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Jim Furyk spent a frustrating Friday trying to find the rhythm of his golf swing and it still wasn’t with him as he teed off Saturday in the third round of the PGA Championship. A utility wood off the first tee found the rough and Furyk followed that up with a double cross at the third but things changed at the fourth.
Furyk always follows up a bad swing with immediate practice swings and the rhythm returned on the fourth hole. From that point of the round forward, Furyk was a dangerous golfer, culminating on the 53rd hole.
The 17th hole was one mean par 4 and it took Furyk to tame it. He sank a 17-foot birdie putt on the toughest hole at Oak Hill to take a one-stroke lead into the final round.
The 485-yard hole gave up just seven birdies the entire day while playing to a stroke average of 4.427. Of the 75 golfers to play the hole, 34 made par, 34 made bogey or worse and Furyk was one of the seven with a birdie.
Conditions: Golf courses are laid out to be played with the prevailing wind. At Oak Hill that means out of the west. So, when the wind gusted out of the northwest in the third round, it was a puzzle golfers struggled to solve. The wind swirled through the tree tops, making it very difficult pull a club. Golfers had to understand, bogeys were going to be made and that was just part of the examination.
Blixt's wayward tee shot: Jonas Blixt knew he hit a bad drive off the 18th tee but he had no idea just how bad the shot really was. The ball flew directly into the back pocket of a spectator. Muhammad Khokhar had the ball lodge right next to his wallet in his back right pocket. When Blixt arrived, there was discussion as to who should remove the ball. Blixt was naturally hesitant to reach into Khokhar’s pocket and the former Florida State golfer giggled with the gallery until a rules official instructed Khokhar to take the ball out of his own pocket. Blixt identified it as his drive and was granted a free drop. Blixt proceeded to hit a 205-yard 5-iron to within 3 feet of the cup and birdie the 18th to finish 6 under.
Hole location: The tees at the 15th hole were moved up so the par 3 measured a manageable 179 yards but the hole location was extremely difficult. The cup was cut 31 paces onto the green and just seven off the right side. As the leaders came through, it was tough to even see the flagstick that was encased in late afternoon shadows. The hole played to a stoke average of 3.280 and was the fourth-most difficult hole on the course. It yielded just seven birdies to the 75 golfers.
Short game: Rory McIlroy went from being in danger of missing the cut on Friday afternoon to the fringes of contention by Saturday night. McIlroy birdied four of his last seven holes in the second round to finish 36 holes at even par and then shot 67 in the third round thanks to a pair of unlikely birdies at both the 17th and 18th holes. McIlroy’s short game has been sharp. He has a total of 83 putts in 54 holes with just 25 coming in the third round.
Momentum swing: Nobody had a greater disparity in score than Justin Rose. He finished off his second round with an inward 29. Rose played the same nine-hole stretch in the third round and shot 42. His misery included a pair of doubles and four bogeys without a birdie. That’s a 13-shot swing.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here
Jonas Blixt, who won The Greenbrier Classic, carded a bogey-free 66 to move into the mix at the PGA.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Playing the ball as it lies didn't apply to Jonas Blixt on Saturday, at least not after his tee shot on the 18th hole at Oak Hill landed in a fan's back pocket.
Blixt was given relief, hit his approach to 3 feet and made birdie to cap a bogey-free 66 that vaulted him into contention with one round to go in the PGA Championship.
No Swede has ever won a major championship.
"That would be huge," said Blixt, who is 6 under for the week. "It's a very small country. There's a lot of golfers from there. You set up your goals high and that's a very high goal for both me and Henrik. To win one would be very, very special."
So was his play on a breezy afternoon. Blixt made four birdies and took just 25 putts.
As for the shot that landed in the fan's pocket?
"He's doing well to catch that on the fly in his back pocket," joked Lee Westwood, who played alongside Blixt. "I think the Yankees ought to sign him up."
As for Blixt, he couldn't help but laugh, either, adding, "I was just glad it wasn't plugged."
A fix to Jonas Blixt's address position while putting made a big improvement. (Petersen/Getty Images)
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
Jonas Blixt is one of the very best putters in the world, as evidenced by his No. 2 ranking in strokes gained–putting last season on the PGA TOUR. But early this season, Blixt got a little bit away from his normal putting practice routine and drills. He wasn’t rolling the ball as well, so his swing coach, Jorge Parada of TOURAcademy TPC Sawgrass, made it a priority to get him back to his structured drill routine. He also made a slight change to Blixt’s setup, softening his right elbow so that his right shoulder wouldn’t get too high. Because his shoulders weren’t always level, he had a tendency to hit down on the ball slightly, which affected his distance control.
It seems like a minor adjustment, but the right arm plays a vital role in the putting stroke, and is often the key to getting it back on track. It was for Blixt. This past Sunday, he rallied from four strokes back on the strength of his putter, shooting a 3-under-par 67 to capture The Greenbrier Classic by two strokes. On Sunday, Blixt needed just 26 putts, and for the week he led the field in putts per GIR (1.604) and was second in strokes gained–putting (1.918). In the latter category, he vaulted from 67th on TOUR to 47th.
At address, make a conscious effort to keep your right arm soft. You want your right elbow to point to your right hip, not out away from your body, which is what happens when it becomes too straight and rigid. If you straighten your right arm the right shoulder gets too high, which not only causes you to hit down on the ball, but in many instances affects your line as well. Most amateurs swing the putterhead on an out-to-in path when the right shoulder rides up.
By softening the right elbow, you’ll accomplish three things: 1) you’ll draw your elbow in toward your ribcage and level out your shoulders, allowing you to catch the ball more level (in the center of the putterface) at impact; 2) you’ll reposition the right forearm so it’s on the same plane as your putter shaft; and 3) you’ll square the forearms and shoulders to the putt’s starting line. The combination of all three things will create a more instinctive environment for the putterhead to swing on the correct arc, and catch the ball level at impact -- not on the way down.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy,go to www.touracademy.com. For more game-improvement tips from the TOURAcademy instructors, download the new free TOURCaddie App for iPhone and iPad users at the App Store or www.AppStore.com/PGATOURCaddieAs an in-app upgrade for $9.99, you gain immediate access to more than 175 on-course tips.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Jonas Blixt just drained a 6-footer for birdie at the 16th hole to take sole possession of the lead at The Greenbrier Classic at 13 under.
Minutes later, Johnson Wagner bogeyed the 15th hole, his third on the back nine, and suddenly Blixt's lead is two strokes. Joining Wagner at 11 under are his playing partner Jimmy Walker and Steven Bowditch, who has played 17 holes.
Wagner's tee shot on the par 3 landed in the rough beside the greenside bunker, he chipped long to 33 feet and missed the putt for par.