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Mobile Bay LPGA Classic Preview: Let’s Roll

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By Vince Robitaille

GolfWRX Staff Writer

After a brief stint on the jewel of the Pacific, the LPGA heads back to the core of continent this week, more precisely, to Mobile, Ala. The event has now changed patronyms thrice in three years – the sponsor situation finally settling and a name for the event being selected, hopefully for the long haul this time around, the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic – its location, nevertheless, remains true and steady. While the RR Donnelley Founders Cup was established in an effort to honor the women’s trailblazers, the LPGA Tour, through their yearly stop in the Ole South, lets us appreciate the legacy of one of the upmost illustrious families in golf… well, once more in the year, this time not involving any green fabric nor gold threads. Set on The Crossings course at Magnolia Grove, arguably not the least eleventh of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic will assume the role of battlegrounds for the 143-golfer strong field, come Thursday morning, many of whom have experienced repeated success at the venue.

Maria Hjorth is unquestionably a member of the aforementioned group. The veteran Swede will be looking to defend her title, but, most importantly, to heat up the fire under her lukewarm game of the past months, much like she did in 2011. After disposing of her adversaries in rather tight fashion – late birdies on Nos. 15 and 17 enabling her to edge out her closest pursuer by two strokes – Hjorth went on a impressive run that included eight top-15 finishes and five top-10s; her best subsequent result consisting of a solo third in the HSBC Brasil Cup. Unfortunately for our subject, one of her rare off weeks came in late September with her 1-3 performance on the grounds of Killeen Castle in the 2011 Solheim Cup.

Speaking of last fall’s European victory, while Hjorth’s contribution was left wanting, no one’s impact on the events came anywhere near the seismic force of her fellow countrywoman’s, Sophie Gustafson, who will also be part of this week’s field. While the 38-year-old Gustafson has experienced a downshift in results over the past 7 months, following her 4-0 performance in Country Meath, the course’s setup might prove favorable to her and yet another Scandinavian star that often shined on the Robert Trent Jones Trail, current World No.3 Suzann Pettersen. In fact, The Crossings, with its large receptive greens and exploitable lines that will lend aggressive yet reliant strikers of the ball a helping hand, one could easily see either of our two candidates come out on top in Alabama; the preponderance of the flagstick being significantly diminished and the primary concern becoming sharp iron play.

Leaving without mentioning Song-Hee Kim, after having brought to the table the subject of golfers who’ve made Mobile their proverbial home away from home, would be a probant proof of sheer incompetence on Yours Truly’s part. The 2006 Duramed Futures Tour champion’s bright days now appear foggy – 16 months removed from her stellar 2010 campaign which included 13 top-10’s – but, even in less than optimal form, the Korean simply can’t fare faultily at Magnolia Grove, her 2011 AVNET Classic performance is a prime example of this. Whilst many would find themselves hard-pressed to put their hard-earned money on a player that has shown quite lackluster shape in recent memory, repeated success in precise settings – especially in our beloved game where courses and conditions are, not only, highly peculiar, but demand a specific array of skills depending on said peculiarities – has us wondering if another deep run is in the stars for the now World No. 48.

Click here for more discussion in the “LPGA/ladies golf talk” forum.

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REPORT: Tiger Woods to play in the Genesis Open on Feb 15

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Last season, Tiger Woods withdrew from a press conference at the Genesis Open due to back spasms. This season, Woods will reportedly play in the 2018 Genesis Open at Riviera C.C. in Pacific Palisades, California from February 15-18.

By withdrawing from the 2017 Genesis Open — an event which his Tiger Woods Foundation hosts — Woods ensured that a promising comeback was not to be. At the start of 2017, Woods committed to play in the Farmers Insurance Open, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic… an aggressive schedule for Woods, who hadn’t played much competitive golf in the previous year due to back injuries and surgeries. Things didn’t go as planned, however, as Woods missed the cut at the Farmers, withdrew after an opening-round 77 in Dubai, and withdrew from the Genesis Open and the Honda.

Since then, Woods has had spinal fusion surgery, and he recently finished T9 at the 18-player 2017 Hero World Challenge. It was there he showed the golfing world — and probably himself, too — that he can still compete among the world’s best golfers when he’s healthy.

At the Hero World Challenge, Woods was consistently hitting 179 mph of ball speed off the tee with his driver, and despite some early concerns with the wedge, he showed prowess around and on the greens. He was yip-less, fast, healthy, and finished 8-under through four rounds. A Tiger Woods comeback seems more plausible now than it has in three years.

Woods will continue to test his game at the 2017 Genesis Open — a start that will come 26 years after competing as a 16-year-old amateur in the 1992 Nissan Open at Riviera. Much like 26 years ago, Woods comes to Riviera as a golfer who needs to prove himself… it’s just that this time around, he has 14 majors and 79 PGA Tour wins to his name.

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Thursday’s Photos from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.

The 20-team field includes some of the game’s legendary major champions, and their sons. Notable teams include John Daly/Little John Daly, Nick Faldo/Matthew Faldo, Tom Kite/David Kite, Bernhard Langer/Jason Langer, Greg Norman/Greg Norman Jr., Jack Nicklaus/Gary Nicklaus Jr., and Lee Trevino/Daniel Trevino.  The teams will compete in a scramble format over 36 holes to decide the winners of the Willie Park Trophy.

Last year, David Duval and his step-son Nick Karavites took home the trophy, and they are back in the field this year to defend.

Check out our photos below from this year’s event!

Thursday’s Photos

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos

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Friday’s Photos from the 2017 QBE Shootout

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 QBE Shootout at Tiburon G.C. in Naples, Florida. Formerly known as the Franklin Templeton Shootout, or the Shark Shootout, the unofficial event plays host to 24 of some of the world’s best golfers, competing in a two-person team competition. The format calls for 54 holes; first-round scramble, second-round modified alternate shot, and third-round fourball (or better ball).

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Here is a list of the teams:

  • Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland
  • Keegan Bradley-Brendan Steele
  • Kevin Chappell-Kevin Kisner
  • Jason Dufner-Billy Horschel
  • Harris English-Matt Kuchar
  • Tony Finau-Lexi Thompson
  • Brian Harman-Pat Perez
  • Russell Henley-Kyle Stanley
  • Charley-Hoffman-Zach Johnson
  • Shane Lowry-Graeme McDowell
  • Brandt Snedeker-Bubba Watson
  • Sean O’Hair-Steve Stricker

Last year, Harris English and Matt Kuchar took down the crown, finishing at 28-under par for the event. Of course, they’ll be playing together again this year as the defending champs.

Check out our photos from the 2017 QBE Shootout below!

Friday’s Galleries

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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