Jan 27

Hall of Famer Charlie Sifford recovering after stroke

Charlie Sifford, who was the first black man to earn a PGA Tour card, is recovering after suffering a stroke, according to Golf Channel.

The 92-year-old, who is also battling a bacterial infection, is reportedly in stable condition at South Pointe Hospital in Cleveland.

Sifford broke pro golf's color barrier after the PGA of America desegregated in 1961, winning twice in his PGA Tour career, including the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and 1969 Los Angeles Open. He won two senior titles.

In 2001, Sifford became the first black golfer inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Last November, he became just the third golfer, behind Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 27

LPGA Tour opener hosted on course with replicas of golf’s greatest holes

The 2015 LPGA Tour season kicks off this week with the inaugural Coates Golf Championship at Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club in Ocala, Fla.

While the tournament and venue are new for the LPGA, at times, the host course might feel rather familiar. That's because Golden Ocala sports eight holes that are replicas of the some of the most famous in the world.

Here's a look at the replicas, which were pulled from five courses and largely leaned on the Open Championship rotation.

1. The par-3 fourth hole is a replica of No. 8 at Royal Troon, also known as "The Postage Stamp", complete with bunkering and a very small green. It's target golf at its best.

2. Muirfield's par-5 ninth inspired Golden Ocala's fifth hole. The driving area is pinched with a bunker guarding and blocking the left side of the fairway. A slew of bunkers up the right-hand side can capture a wayward, aggressive second shot

3. The par-3 sixth attempts to copy the par-3 16th at Augusta National. With a long carry over water and three bunkers to catch balls short left and right, as well long, the best place to put the ball is on the lower left-hand portion of the putting surface.

4. Golden Ocala's 11th hole is a replica of the par-3 12th at Augusta National. The original is probably the best short hole on the planet, with a carry over Rae's Creek to a wide-but-narrow green guarded front and back by bunkers.

5. What kind of tribute course would Golden Ocala be if the next hole, the 12th, wasn't modeled after the par-5 13th at the home of the Masters? That's right. The big dogleg left is in play, and there's a replica bridge to give that Augusta National feel leaving the tee box.

6. The 13th hole at Golden Ocala starts the jump to the Home of Golf, with the first of two back-to-back St. Andrews replicas. This hole is an homage to the Road Hole 17th at the Old Course. Though there's no Old Course Hotel, pretty much every other detail was nailed in building this hole, including the stone walls, road behind the green and the infamous Road Hole bunker.

7. The next hole is modeled after No. 1 at the Old Course, which is a straightforward par 4 whose putting surface is guarded by a stream. The green is deceptively large.

8. The final replica hole is at the 15th. Shaped after the par-3 fourth at Baltusrol's Lower Course, this long par 3 is guarded by water in front and four large bunkers on the other sides. The putting surface is large, but club selection is still an important factor.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 26

Devil Ball Golf World Top 5: Rory still has the edge

Welcome into the Devil Ball Golf World Top 5, our weekly power rankings that looks at a shorter window than the two-year timeframe which guides the Official World Golf Ranking. 

5. Patrick Reed (Last start: T-24 at Humana Challenge, OWGR: 15): The 2014 winner of the Humana Challenge faded on Sunday -- well, relatively speaking. His 1-under 71 dropped him 15 places on Sunday. However, he's got a win in 2015 and has a respectable title defense in a tournament that's really tough to win once much less in consecutive years.

4. Jimmy Walker (Last start: WIN at Sony Open in Hawaii, OWGR: 13): In the two events Jimmy Walker has played in 2015, he's beaten the collective field by nine shots in regulation. It's hard to start the year off much better than that. The beginning of the season has become Walker's strong suit.

3. Bubba Watson (Last start: 10th at Hyundai Tournament of Champions, OWGR: 4): Watson reboots this week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which should suit his game well. He was runner-up a year ago to Kevin Stadler, who can't defend his title due to injury.

2. Jordan Spieth (Last start: WIN at Hero World Challenge, OWGR:  9): Spieth won his final two tournaments of 2014, the Aussie Open and Hero World Challenge, by a combined 16 shots. He makes his 2015 debut at TPC Scottsdale, so we'll see if he can pick up where he left off in 2014.

1. Rory McIlroy (Last start: 2nd at Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, OWGR: 1): The unquestioned world No. 1 jumps back into the European Tour's Middle East Swing in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. McIlroy is the favorite, of course, and hopes for a better result in the U.A.E. than the consistent heartbreak in Abu Dhabi.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 26

Bill Haas strikes again at the Humana Challenge, gets 6th Tour title

Since 2010, there are two guys who have more PGA Tour wins than Bill Haas: Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

Haas notched his sixth tour title on Sunday, pulling out a one-shot win at the Humana Challenge over a slew of challengers, including Matt Kuchar, at 22 under par. The 32-year-old fired a final round of 5-under 67 to pull out his second win in this tournament. 

The victory didn't come stress-free for Haas, whose tee shot at the par-5 finishing hole stopped on the very edge of a fairway bunker. After weighing whether to swing backwards outside the bunker or sideways in it, Haas took a baseball-style cut to set up a third shot and a two-putt par for the win.

Justin Thomas appeared on the verge of a win in his rookie season -- or at least a chance in a playoff -- but his approach shot to the par-4 16th at the Palmer Private Course at PGA West found the water. The resulting double bogey ended his chances. 

A number of players who finished a shot back, including Charley Hoffman (64), Brendan Steele (64) and Sung Joon Park (65) came from well behind at the start of the day to earn big paydays. Colt Knost, who shot 63 early in the day, jumped 30 spots into a tie for 10th place.

But back to Haas, who told Golf Channel after the win that, earlier in the week, he didn't think he had the game to score in a tournament that commands taking it deep under par. Not only did Haas have that game, but it coupled well with his ability to close out tight tournaments. Of his now six wins, four were by a shot, either in regulation or a sudden-death playoff.

The question for Haas now is if he can start to produce in majors. Until 2014, Haas had never even made the cut in all four in a single season. His best major finish is a T-12 effort in 2011 at Atlanta Athletic Club. If Haas will ever figure seriously on any of the game's four biggest stages, it's likely now since he's in the sweet spot where most players get theirs. However, given his father's longevity both on the PGA and Champions Tours, Haas could prove a late bloomer.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 25

Robert Allenby to hold news conference at Phoenix Open

On one hand, it was good that Robert Allenby withdrew from the Humana Challenge.

On the other, Allenby's absence didn't give him a chance to respond as others who witnessed pieces of his harrowing Friday night a little over a week ago in Hawaii shared their recollections. From claims of strip-club visits to falling on lava rocks, it wasn't a good week for the 43-year-old Aussie.

Next week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open may not be much better, where Allenby still intends to play. Hundreds of thousands of fans, many well-researched but alcohol-fueled, could prove to heckle the golfer into a nervous breakdown. Perhaps realizing a precarious situation and a need to move on as quickly as possible from this whole thing, Allenby will hold a news conference on Tuesday ahead of the tournament, according to a Golf Channel on-air report Sunday.

It's unclear if Allenby intends to read a written statement, riff on reporter's questions or some mix. 

Meanwhile, Honolulu police continue to investigate Allenby's case as a second-degree robbery, with officers only certain of the golfer losing his wallet and other belongings. Credit cards Allenby carried that Friday night in Waikiki Beach have been used to make over $20,000 in fraudulent purchases.

However, police are not investigating other aspects of Allenby's original story, including the kidnapping and assault Allenby alleged happened to him after leaving Amuse Wine Bar. Allenby claimed he left the bar shortly before 11 p.m. on Jan. 16, then said he remembered being hit in the face after turning the corner. Then he said the next thing he recalled was waking up in a park some 6 miles away from the wine bar in a dangerous situation with two homeless men, since identified as Chris Khamis and Toa Kaili. Allenby said a homeless woman, Charade Keane, helped him from the situation and, along with an unidentified retired military person, got Allenby into a cab bound for his hotel for the Sony Open in Hawaii, where he missed the cut. Based on information he pieced together, Allenby said he was probably drugged, taken into an underground parking garage, assaulted, robbed and then thrown from a car into the park.

Keane has since spoken about her version of events, saying she came upon Allenby around the corner from the wine bar, not in a park. She claimed Allenby was in an argument with Khamis and Kaili and helped Allenby from the encounter. She denied Allenby's claim she told him he was thrown from a car.

Khamis and Kaili have claimed they came upon Allenby twice during the night: shortly after Allenby had left Amuse and again around 1:30 a.m. when they saw him passed out. Both claim Allenby became agitated when they were trying to help, with Kaili leaving the scene. Left to help out Allenby, Khamis claimed Allenby passed out again and fell to the ground, hurting himself on a rock. Khamis also claimed Allenby had told him he had gone to a strip club earlier in the night.

Where Allenby will go with this new, contradictory information is anyone's guess, but the next chapter of this bizarre story will be written on Tuesday.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 25

On the Board: The storylines heading into Sunday at the Humana

Welcome into On the Board, a new feature we've concocted here at Devil Ball Golf to go over some of the top players on the leaderboard at the Humana Challenge -- and subsequent big golf events -- to set the table heading into the final round. 

We have a four-way tie for the lead at the final Humana (a new sponsor will come for 2016), so we should naturally look at what's on the line for the quartet at 17 under par, the defending champion and Matt Kuchar, the guy who should lead.

Erik Compton (-17, T-1): A two-time heart transplant recipient, Compton is in search of his first PGA Tour win. He finished a distant T-2 to Martin Kaymer in the 2014 U.S. Open for his first top-three finish of his PGA Tour career. This week, Compton leads the field with just one bogey through 54 holes. 

Bill Haas (-17, T-1): It should be no surprise Haas is here. He broke through for his first PGA Tour win here in 2010 and suffered a playoff loss in his 2011 defense. Haas is nursing a nagging wrist problem, but that doesn't seem to have held him back through the first three days.

Justin Thomas (-17, T-1): Thomas is making a really early push for Rookie of the Year honors. In position to win last week on Hawaii before Jimmy Walker ran away from the field over the weekend, Thomas shared the lead after 36 holes. He's taken that share 18 holes further this week. Barring a meltdown, Thomas should notch his third top-10 finish of the young 2014-15 season on Sunday.

Michael Putnam (-17, T-1): Putnam, who won the Web.com Tour money list in 2013, is seeking his first win. He's never finished better than fourth on the PGA Tour, including at last year's RBC Canadian Open. 

Matt Kuchar (-16, T-5): Kuchar should lead this golf tournament, but slipped with three bogeys in the final four holes to lose his edge. Kuchar struggled last Sunday at Waialae Country Club with a chance to win the Sony Open in Hawaii, shooting 1-over 71 while Jimmy Walker blitzed the field. Kuchar will get lapped again if that happens for a second straight week.

Patrick Reed (-14, T-9): The defending champion isn't out of it by any means, particularly with rounds in the low 60s a real possibility. Reed knows he'll have to get off to a hot start to have any chance, so look for him to put his foot on the proverbial gas.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 24

Palmer didn’t finish off 59, but had record run at Humana Challenge

Through 10 holes of his second round on Friday at the Humana Challenge, Ryan Palmer had to feel like shooting the tournament's second-ever 59 was a mere formality. After all, Palmer was 10 under to that point in the round, with six birdies and two eagles in an eight-hole run after a pair of opening pars at the Nicklaus Private course in the California desert. 

However, playing back to front, Palmer stumbled with consecutive bogeys on his 11th and 12th holes of the round. Palmer recovered with three birdies in the final six holes, which, without the bogeys, would have gotten him to 59. Instead, he ended up with 11-under-par 61.

“You have that feeling inside you that there’s no way I can miss this,” Palmer said. “You get in that zone. They could put that pin anywhere they wanted and I could have found it.”

While Palmer didn't match David Duval's final-round 59 from 1999, he did set a PGA Tour record for the longest birdie-eagle stretch. Palmer's front-nine 27 was a shot shy of Corey Pavin's PGA Tour mark for the lowest nine-hole total.

Although Palmer didn't get to the happy side of 60, he did get on the very happy side of the cut line. Palmer's second round jumped him from 82nd place into a tie for seventh, just three shots back of 36-hole leader Matt Kuchar.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 24

Zach Johnson’s Humana shot from the rocks didn’t go so well

Sometimes you get into a tough spot playing golf. And sometimes you want to try to pull off a hero shot instead of taking a penalty drop or an unplayable lie. That happened to Zach Johnson on Friday at the Humana Challenge, and the results were bad.

Johnson was on the par-4 10th at the Palmer Private course -- one of three played this week -- when he tried to cut off a little too much with his drive of water on the dogleg-left hole. His drive landed in a rock pile. Instead of taking a drop and a penalty stroke, Johnson tried to hit his ball from the rocks. The ball caromed off the rocks and went backwards into the water hazard. 

In the end, Johnson made a double-bogey 6 en route to a 2-under 70 in Round 2. At the Humana Challenge, taking a step -- or a shot -- backwards really kills any chance of winning. At 5 under through two rounds, Johnson is 10 shots back of leader Matt Kuchar. 

Meanwhile in Hawaii, Bernhard Langer had an equally nasty encounter with rocks at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, the Champions Tour season-opener on Hawaii. On the par-5 seventh, Langer found himself amid some lava rocks, eventually double-hitting his ball on the way to a quintuple-bogey 10 on the hole. 

Langer still shot even-par 72 to trail leader Rocco Mediate by six shots after Day 1.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan 24

Dustin Johnson commits to Farmers Insurance Open

Suspension or leave of absence, Dustin Johnson will have been away from the PGA Tour for six months when he returns to competition at the Farmers Insurance Open in two weeks. 

On Friday, tournament officials confirmed Johnson has committed to the event to be played Feb. 5-8 at Torrey Pines near San Diego. The official deadline for the field is the Friday of next week's event, the Waste Management Phoenix Open. 

Johnson has not competed on the PGA Tour since missing the cut at the RBC Canadian Open in July. On July 31, 2014, Johnson announced he was taking a leave of absence to address "personal challenges." Shortly after, golf.com reported Johnson had been suspended six months for failing a third drug test under the tour's anti-doping program. The report also claimed two of those failed drug tests turned up cocaine. Johnson and tour officials have denied that the South Carolina native was suspended. 

In multiple interviews this week in anticipation of his return, Johnson has said he has "issues" but denied cocaine was one of them. Johnson didn't enter rehab during his leave of absence. 

The return follows a blueprint detailed months prior, suggesting Johnson wouldn't return to golf until fiancee Paulina Gretzky had given birth to the couple's first child. Gretzky gave birth to a boy, Tatum, on Monday in a Los Angeles-area hospital.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.