Mar 31

Henrik Stenson out of Houston Open, battling illness

Henrik Stenson's final Masters prep suffered a blow on Monday when the Swede pulled out of the Shell Houston Open with the flu.

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Stenson announced his withdrawal via Twitter, also sharing that he won't play a previously scheduled practice round at Augusta National ahead of Houston.

The world No. 2 still intends to play in the Masters.

In his last three PGA Tour starts, Stenson has finished in the top five in them all, including a runner-up finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Stenson, who will turn 39 this week, had his best-ever finish at last year's Masters, finishing tied for 14th place.


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

Mar 30

Tiger Woods falls out of OWGR top 100 for first time since 1996

For the first time since 1996, Tiger Woods is not even in the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Woods checks in at No. 104 in the latest ranking, dropping another eight spots from the week prior. It's his first week outside the top 100 since Sept. 28, 1996 -- the week before Woods' first pro win in Las Vegas.

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This should come as no surprise to anyone as Woods has earned just 9.73 world ranking points in the last 15 months. Were it not for the remaining value from tournaments Woods playing in the closing three-fourths of 2013, he would be in the 300s. Simply put: If Woods doesn't play, he doesn't earn points.

So, when will Woods play again? Golf World's Tim Rosaforte reported Monday that Woods has been posting "good scores" at Medalist, Woods' home club in Florida. Rosaforte said several area friends reported Woods has "the edge" back. If Woods truly has found his game again, then expect to see him in the Masters.

Will he contend? Who knows. 


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

Mar 30

Several players unable to crack world top 50 to earn Masters invite

Some of the final invites to Augusta National were sealed with Sunday the cut off to crack the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Anirban Lahiri, Paul Casey, Branden Grace and Bernd Wiesberger earned spots in the year's first major by remaining in the top 50. 

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Just one player hopped into the top 50 that was outside of it last week: Brendon Todd, who was already in the Masters by virtue of his Byron Nelson Championship victory. 

Several players had opportunities to break into the top 50, but all came up short. 

Marc Warren had to beat Todd at the Valero Texas Open to move from 52nd into the top 50, but didn't. Warren was T-35. Todd was T-30 at TPC San Antonio.

Harris English also finished T-30, but had to finish at least in the top 10, and get a little help, at the Texas Open. 

Overseas, George Coetzee had a chance to earn a Masters invite with a win at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II. He came up two shots short of winner Richie Ramsay, finishing third and left on the outside of the gates on Washington Road. 

There's only one more way to get into the Masters: win the Shell Houston Open. 


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

Mar 30

Cristie Kerr wins Kia Classic to end two-year winless drought

Welcome back to the winner's circle, Cristie Kerr.

Kerr won the LPGA Tour's Kia Classic on Sunday at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif., for her first win since the 2013 Kingsmill Championship. The two-time major winner closed with 7-under 65 to win by two shots over Mirim Lee on 20 under par, a new tournament scoring record.

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The win is Kerr's 17th and the first by an American-born player on the LPGA Tour dating back Christina Kim at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last November. It's also Kerr's first win since she became a mother to son Mason in December 2013.

World No. 1 Lydia Ko made a Sunday charge, shooting 5-under 67 for her 28th consecutive under-par round on the LPGA Tour, one shy of Annika Sorenstam's record set in 2004. However, Ko came up three shots short of a second win this season.


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

Mar 30

Jimmy Walker wins the Texas Open, ending the 54-Hole Curse

It took 20 tournaments, but the PGA Tour has its first multiple-time winner in the 2014-15 season, and it's probably a guy you didn't expect -- but should have.

Jimmy Walker won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday by four shots, earning his second win of the year to follow up on a successful title defense at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Walker closed with 2-under 70 at TPC San Antonio's Oaks Course to pick up the win in his hometown. He ended a streak of nine consecutive tournaments where the 54-hole leader or co-leader failed to hoist the trophy on Sunday.

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Jordan Spieth tried his best to put some doubt in the ultimate outcome, making four consecutive birdies before a closing par with the tournament all but finished.

"(Spieth) really made me fight hard," Walker said. "He kept hitting it close, and I had to keep making putts."

Unfortunately for Spieth, who also shot 70, Walker matched the last two birdies of Spieth's run with longer putts so that the 21-year-old only gained two shots on the lead.

"You're never out of it in this game," Spieth said, "but Jimmy shut that down pretty quickly with his made putts."

If the 36-year-old late bloomer wasn't already on your radar for the Masters, he should be. For Walker, it's not only his second win this season but his fifth in the last 17 months -- the most on the PGA Tour in the span. He hits the ball a mile (17th on Tour), is third on Tour in strokes gained putting and leads the Tour in birdies per round. 


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

Mar 28

Interview: Arnold Palmer talks Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy and the Masters

This week, we had an opportunity to interview Arnold Palmer. Over email, Palmer discussed a variety of subjects, including the Masters, Rory McIlroy, his Arnold Palmer Invitational and a health issue he's faced with the help of Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

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Ryan Ballengee: Given all you've accomplished in your professional life, what are the goals and challenges that motivate you today?

Arnold Palmer: I still enjoy what I do. I haven’t been playing much golf and none since I dislocated my shoulder in December, but I come to the office every day. We have a lot going on right now and we’re working on some exciting projects in our businesses and charities.

Ed. Note: Last week, Palmer's golf-course design company announced plans for its first-ever Scottish course at Castle Stuart.

RB: Did you have a chance to speak with your grandson after his run at the Puerto Rico Open? If so, would you share what you said to Sam?

AP: I was disappointed that Sam could not pull out his first win there, but also proud of his playing. He was doing something right to get himself into the playoff and I’m pleased by the progress he is showing.

RB: The reaction has been mixed to Rory McIlroy's club-throwing incident at Doral. When you were in your 20s, did you ever have an incident that made you that visibly frustrated?

AP: When I was playing in a junior tournament one time, I missed a short putt and threw my putter into the trees. I went on to win the tournament and later, instead of my dad congratulating me, he told me that if I ever threw a club again, I’d never play in another golf tournament. I haven’t thrown a club since.

RB: The PGA Tour recognized the importance of the Arnold Palmer Invitational by now offering a 3-year exemption to the winner. What does that mean to you and what do you think it will mean for the long-term future of the event?

AP: Of course I’m very pleased that the PGA Tour has recognized our event in this way. I think players will give it a second look when planning their golf schedule and it will help our event remain relevant and a place where the guys want to play every year.

RB: How did you learn of the blood clot in your leg, and how were Janssen Pharmaceuticals products instrumental in your treatment?

AP: Many people don’t know that I experienced a blood clot caused by deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, which is when a blood clot forms in a deep vein in the body, often the leg or thigh. I’m fortunate that my DVT was diagnosed and treated before it led to something even more serious and that’s why I encourage people to talk to their doctor if they think something is wrong. I’ve teamed up with Janssen Pharmaceuticals to raise awareness about blood clot prevention and treatment. My story is on www.Drive4Clots.com.

RB: What was your first Masters Champions dinner like, and do you think it has evolved in the spirit Ben Hogan intended back in '52?

AP: I remember what a thrill it was to attend my first Champions Dinner. Just being in the same room with some of the guys I had admired growing up and to be there because I had won The Masters was quite an honor. I still attend the dinner every year and it is one of the highlights of my time at Augusta during Masters week.


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

Mar 28

Harmon: Rory McIlroy may be bulking up too much

Butch Harmon has seen this before: A top player falling so in love with the gym that his golf game suffers.

Harmon saw that with Tiger Woods, and now he thinks he's seeing it again with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

"If you look at Tiger and how much stronger he got as he went on, you look at Rory the way he is now," Harmon said on the Irish radio program "Off the Ball."

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"The only caution I would give Rory is, I see a lot of pictures of him lifting a lot of very heavy weights and I think, in a way, you can almost hurt yourself in the gym if you get too bulky. Hopefully, he will keep his body tone down, more like a Dustin Johnson (a Harmon client), who’s in absolutely perfect physical shape to play golf."

McIlroy, with the help of sponsor Nike, posted a video this week of the four-time major winner's workout routine. In it, McIlroy talked about how he became dedicated to work in the gym, including using a workout as a reward for a good round on the course.

Harmon doesn't dismiss strength-training. However, Harmon, believes that training should focus on core strength -- particularly for someone like McIlroy who hits the ball so far.

He said, "That helps support your back and your back is not geared for making a golf swing thousands and thousands of times and you have to have the strength in your core to handle that."


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