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.

Jan 22

Witness: Allenby fell, injuring himself after trip to strip club

Maybe there was a good reason to be skeptical of Robert Allenby's account of a harrowing night last Friday and early Saturday in Honolulu.

The two homeless men who accosted Allenby, according to the homeless woman the golfer credits with saving his life, have now spoken to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and offer a very different account of their encounter with the Aussie.

Toa Kaili and Chris Khamis told the paper they came upon Allenby around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, presuming he was homeless and in need of help. 

"I was like, 'Hey brother, you got to wake up because the sidewalk sweepers are going to come. You don't want to get swept up,'" Kaili said to the Star-Advertiser. "So it took him about nine minutes before he got to his senses and when I got him up his feet, I said 'Okay. Check if you got everything on you.' And that's when he noticed, like, 'I don't got my phone or my wallet.'"

Kaili said Allenby eventually grew agitated, so he left, leaving Khamis to help. Khamis said as he was turning around to find a cab for Allenby, the golfer passed out and fell onto a lava rock, injuring himself. 

"There was no crime (when I was present). It was his stupidity," Khamis said. "He passed out and hit his head. I was there. Nobody pushed him out of a car."

Khamis, 47, added Allenby had told him before the fall that he had been to a strip club earlier in the night to "get some action."

Allenby's retelling of his night after missing the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii is significantly different. Allenby said he was at Amuse Wine Bar with two friends, including caddie Mick Middlemo, after dinner when Middlemo left ahead to go to another bar where the group would reconvene. Allenby's other friend disappeared, perhaps to use the restroom. The 43-year-old said he signed his check at 10:48 p.m., turned the corner after leaving the bar with who he believes are three assailants who may have drugged him, then remembers getting hit -- with a bat or fist -- and nothing else. He then said he woke up in a local park some 6 miles from the bar, dealing with a pair of homeless men kicking him. Allenby said Charade Keane, the woman who helped him leave the situation with the then-unnamed pair of Khamis and Kaili, had told him he had been thrown from a car and sustained injuries in the process.

Keane disputes several aspects of Allenby's story, saying she came upon the golfer around the corner from Amuse Wine Bar trying to negotiate with Khamis and Kaili for the return of his belongings. Keane claims Allenby asked her to withdraw $500 using one of his credit cards to pay off the men. When they were unhappy with Allenby's offer or attitude, Keane, with the help of a still-unidentified retired military man, helped Allenby escape the situation. 

Allenby has since contacted Keane and was filmed giving Keane a $1,000 gift card as thanks for her help. He withdrew from this week's Humana Challenge on the PGA Tour, citing advice of his doctor.


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

Jan 22

Montgomerie: Phil Mickelson should step up and be ’16 Ryder Cup captain

Colin Montgomerie has a bright idea: Phil Mickelson should be the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. 

Monty, speaking with Kicca.com, a new sports-geared social media site in the U.K., laid the gauntlet to the left-hander.

"Phil Mickelson's comments were heard and read around the world," Montgomerie said. "A lot of people were thinking 'Stand up to the plate. OK, if you feel that strongly about the situation become captain yourself.'"

After the U.S. loss the Ryder Cup for the third-straight time to the Europeans at Gleneages in Scotland in September, Mickelson torched captain Tom Watson, saying Watson did not listen to player input on any decision. Mickelson also wondered aloud why the PGA of America had abandoned the system 2008 captain Paul Azinger employed to win the matches at Valhalla, suggesting Azingers' "pod" system of grouping similar players together in terms of social functions and in match pairings was a great fit for the American side.

Mickelson's comments, in part, spurred the PGA of America to form an 11-man task force, whose mission it is to audit how the U.S. approaches the biennial matches and make changes. The task force, on which Mickelson is a participant, is also likely to identify a 2016 captain for Hazeltine, the next U.S. home match. That captain is expected to be named sometime in the first half of 2015. Three-time winning Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples has said he has been contacted by the task force, leading many to believe he's the target for captain. 

John Daly has also lobbied for Mickelson, or Tiger Woods, to take the reins.

Montgomerie also realized putting Mickelson at the helm might attract even more scrutiny on a U.S. team that has only won two matches in the last 10 tries.

"The trouble there, of course, is Phil would have to win the Ryder Cup," Montgomerie said, "having said what he said, so it does put pressure on the whole system."


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

Jan 22

What’s new and neat from the PGA Merchandise Show

ORLANDO -- The PGA Merchandise Show is golf's version of prom. Everyone puts forth their best for the golf world to see, from the little guy risking everything in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle to the game's biggest equipment makers using the show to reconnect with customers and demonstrate industry leadership.

Many years ago, this show was where a slew of new products were introduced and the golf year truly began. Today, the product cycle is way less than two years -- sometimes, just a matter of weeks -- so an industry show isn't the place to play a whole lot of new cards on the table. That means the show's fun is in connecting with movers and shakers in the game who come here to talk shop and finding what could be the next great thing.

On Day 1 of the show, we sought out some of the quirky and new...and seem like they have a realistic hope for success.

Here are a few of the products I found that stood out to me:

DST Golf training golf club ($100): You may not realize this, but the shaft in your golf club bends when you swing it. At impact, the shaft bows toward the target line. That feeling is impossible to replicate with any kind of standard design training club, so a British man decided to create a training club that could reproduce the idea shaft position -- bent and all -- at impact. That's DST Golf, which comes in a wedge and 8-iron with the bent shaft. Players figure out the ideal hand position using a white line on the bottom groove of the club face, extending up the hosel. The theory is that if a player can learn to repeat the ideal position, they're more likely to do it with their real clubs. Interesting idea and worth a test.

Aeroe GolfPod travel bag-case ($600): If you like to play golf when you travel, you know the absolute pain that it is to lug golf clubs around in a hard case or risk damaging them in a soft case. A New Zealand-based company called Aeroe is hoping to change that with a hard case, weighing just 6.5 lbs, that offers the benefits of a hard case while doubling as a golf bag with 14 full-length club dividers and two built-in compartments for storing everything you need to play a round of golf, as well umbrella and shoe compartments. 

A Day 2 recap is forthcoming, as well more occasional equipment news and info here at Devil Ball Golf. For more coverage, follow me on Twitter.


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

Jan 21

Johnson, Gretzky welcome baby boy into the world

Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky became parents on Monday, with the Great One's daughter giving birth to the engaged couple's first child, a son.

"Paulina and I are happy to announce the arrival of our baby boy, who was born in Los Angeles on Monday morning," Johnson said Tuesday night in a statement released by his management company. "Both Paulina and the baby are healthy, resting comfortably and in great spirits!

"We sincerely appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received and plan to release further details in the coming days!"

As mentioned in the statement, no word yet on the child's name, weight, height and all of those usual baby nuggets. However, we should find those out soon.

In the meantime, this would seem to put Johnson on schedule for a return to the PGA Tour at either the Farmers Insurance Open in two weeks or the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am a week later.

In July 2014, Johnson had taken an indefinite leave of absence to deal with what he described as "personal challenges."

Several reports, most notably from golf.com, claimed Johnson's time away wasn't voluntary, but rather a six-month suspension for violating the PGA Tour's drug policy. The Tour denied that claim, but reports emerged suggesting Johnson had a problem with cocaine.

In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, his first since leaving golf last summer, Johnson offered an update on his progress and his return. Johnson denied any issues with drugs, but does admit to a vague set of broader problems, for which he hired a team to help him deal with in his time away from the PGA Tour.

“I did not have a problem [with cocaine],” Johnson says. “It’s just something I’m not going to get into. I have issues. But that’s not the issue.”

Johnson told SI he got rid of the enablers and is taking steps in the right direction. He said he's shed 20 pounds of bad weight and added 13 pounds of muscle.

It sounds like Johnson is doing all the right things. Perhaps his focus on fatherhood will also help him become a better version of himself.

More from Yahoo Sports:


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

Jan 20

D. Johnson denies cocaine problem, suspension ahead of PGA Tour return

Dustin Johnson is set to make his PGA Tour return next month after announcing July 31, 2014, that he would be taking an indefinite leave of absence to deal with what he described as "personal challenges."

Several reports, most notably from golf.com, claimed Johnson's time away wasn't voluntary, but rather a six-month suspension for violating the PGA Tour's anti-doping program. The Tour denied that claim, with the whole thing likely more a matter of semantics than anything.

Beyond that, reports suggested Johnson had a problem with cocaine and, though tangential to Johnson's leave of absence, that he had an affair with a fellow PGA Tour player's wife.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, his first since leaving golf last summer, Johnson offers an update on his progress, return and journey to fatherhood with fiancée Paulina Gretzky. Johnson denies any issues with cocaine, but does admit to a vague set of broader problems, for which he hired a team to help him deal with in his time away from the PGA Tour.

“I did not have a problem [with cocaine],” Johnson says. “It’s just something I’m not going to get into. I have issues. But that’s not the issue.”

Instead, he says Grey Goose vodka and soda with a lime was his elixir of choice.

“My way of getting rid of [stress and anxiety] was drinking or partying,” Johnson says. “Yeah, that might work for that day or the next week, but eventually everything keeps piling up.”

Johnson tells SI he got rid of the enablers of his bad behavior. He's shed 20 pounds of bad weight, added 13 pounds of muscle and a typical day is, shall we say, mundane: wake up early, eat breakfast with his fiancée's parents (granted that means spending the morning with Wayne Gretkzy), then play a round of golf. All this in an effort to finally tap into his potential at 30. The Coastal Carolina product says he's ready for the challenge.

“I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface,” he says. “And that was a really big part of what I’ve been doing, to help myself reach that potential.”