Jan 28

Fantasy golf power rankings: Waste Management Phoenix Open

The largest and rowdiest crowd in golf convenes upon TPC Scottsdale on Thursday for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. In addition to a lot of fans, almost every major American golf star is in the Phoenix area this week, including Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

TPC Scottsdale has been renovated by original architect Tom Weiskopf, playing a little tougher with new challenges and changes. However, winning in Phoenix means going deep, so we're recommending players this week who know how to shoot low numbers.

Here are our top five picks:

  1. Bubba Watson -- Watson faded down the stretch to a T-2 finish here last year and has three top-10 WMPO finishes overall in eight career starts. Looked solid enough at Kapalua.
  2. Jordan Spieth -- Spieth's never played at TPC Scottsdale, so this is a bit of a risk. However, Spieth ended 2015 with two consecutive wins against big-name, albeit small, fields.
  3. Phil Mickelson -- Mickelson is the all-time money leader in this event and was a winner here in 2013, nearly shooting 59 en route to tying a tournament record at TPC Scottsdale. Modest finish at Humana (T-24) was a good indicator.
  4. Brendan Steele -- Steele was one of many runners-up last week at Humana, which only further strengthens our tip this week. Steele has been inside the top six in his last three WMPO starts. He likes the place.
  5. Hunter Mahan -- Mahan won here in 2010 and has been a decent moneymaker in this event since. He'd be great in a one-and-done league this week if you're not using Steele for some reason.

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

Jan 28

The 19th Hole Golf Show: Filling in the gaps in Robert Allenby’s memory

Some 12 days after Robert Allenby's weird Friday night in Honolulu, we still don't have a clear picture of what happened. However, the Aussie has implored the media to step aside and only let police investigate his story.

Forget that.

Based on the story Allenby told and the accounts of three homeless people who witnessed some aspect of that night, we try to reconstruct the timeline of the night and what really happened to the 43-year-old Aussie in the two-and-a-half-hour stretch he cannot recall.

Was he drugged? Was he robbed? Was he beaten? How'd he wind up back at Amuse Wine Bar? We try to answer all of those questions on this week's "The 19th Hole Golf Show."

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Jan 27

Allenby sticks by story, scolds media in bizarre news conference

Robert Allenby convened a news conference on Tuesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, then pretty much used the opportunity to scold the media for trying to fill in the details of a story that two hours of which the Aussie golfer said he cannot recall.

"I became a victim and now it's all been turned around," Allenby said. "I understand how the media works."

The 43-year-old is right: He was a victim, robbed of his credit cards by at least one person, with those cards used to rack up some $25,000 in fraudlent charges. That shouldn't be forgotten. 

However, the details of what precipitated and followed that crime are the subject of conjecture and unclear from the public accounts of at least five people who interacted with Allenby after he missed the cut Jan. 16 at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Allenby has remained consistent in his telling, cobbled together from his memory and what homeless woman Charade Keane, who is consistently credited with helping Allenby, shared with him. Here it is: 

Allenby went to Amuse Wine Bar in Waikiki Beach with two friends, including caddie Mick Middlemo, after dinner that Friday night. Middlemo left to go to another establishment, where Allenby and his other friend were to meet. The friend and Allenby got separated. Allenby signed for his check at 10:48 p.m. and left Amuse. As he turned the corner, he remembers getting hit, then waking up in a park. He believes he was taken by up to three assailants into an underground parking garage, beaten, robbed and thrown into the trunk of a car. The golfer said he woke up in a park, 6 miles from the wine bar, to two homeless men kicking him. He then said Keane helped extricate him from the situation with the help of a yet-to-be-identified retired military man and put in a taxi back to his hotel.

On Tuesday, Allenby assessed the time from the crack in the face to waking up in the park as ranging from 11:06 p.m. on Friday to 1:27 a.m. on Saturday.

"From about 11:06 to 1:27 a.m., I have no memory in my brain. I have nothing," Allenby said Tuesday. "I can't tell you how frustrating that is because we all want to know the truth."

Keane has since said she didn't tell Allenby he was thrown from a car and that she didn't find him in a park, but rather around the corner from Amuse Wine Bar. She did concur two homeless men were in an argument with Allenby. She assessed they were agitated and aggressive with him, so she helped him out of the situation.

The two homeless men, Toa Kaili and Chris Khamis, have spoken and said they saw Allenby twice that night. At around 1:30 a.m., the men claim, they saw Allenby passed out near the wine bar and tried to help him gather himself. When Allenby was agitated by the men, Kaili left and Khamis remained. As Khamis was turning to find a cab for Allenby, Khamis said Allenby passed out and injured himself on a lava rock. Khamis added Allenby also told him he had been to a strip club earlier in the night.

Golf Channel has done additional digging into the story, backing up Khamis' claim Allenby had been to a strip club. The reporting also has Allenby in Amuse Wine Bar talking to three people, though it is unclear who those people are and what role, if any, they had in Allenby losing his credit cards.

For his part, Allenby said he doesn't know the people he saw in security-camera footage.

"I never met them in my life," he said. "I only saw them on surveillance."

Those people are the most important related to the case. They likely hold all the details to round out what happened to Allenby and in figuring out who should be charged with a robbery.

If the three people in question, or someone else, drugged Allenby as he believes, the golfer isn't saying. He did admit at the end of his news conference that he did take a drug test, but would not reveal the results.

From start to finish, Allenby was visibly angry that any media member doubted his story or did additional digging into it.

"The media have decided that they are the most amazing experts at investigations," he said. "There's a reason why detectives in Honolulu are some of the best in the world. I'd really appreciate it if maybe we can let them do their job."

Allenby said he expects something will be reported soon on what the police have found. In the meantime, Allenby will tee it up this week at TPC Scottsdale, potentially subjecting himself to a barrage of hecklers who are likely as skeptical of aspects of his story as the media the golfer wagged his finger at on Tuesday. 


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

Jan 27

Tiger talks missing tooth, rediscovered power ahead of Phoenix Open

Tiger Woods' missing tooth is back and so, he says, is his distance. The combination had the former world No. 1 and current No. 47 in a good mood on Tuesday ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. 

Woods talked about the dental surgery he had to repair a pair of teeth he said were damaged by a cameraman when he traveled to Italy a week ago to surprise girlfriend Lindsey Vonn as she celebrated her record 63rd women's World Cup downhill skiing win.

"The dude with video camera on shoulder kneeling right in front of me stood up and turned and caught me square in the mouth," Woods said. "He chipped that one, cracked the other one. ... Luckily, he hit the one I had a root canal on. That's the one that chipped. But the other one had to be fixed as well because it had cracks all through it."

The flight home from Italy, Woods said, was painful.

"Even breathing hurt," he said. "I had to fly home and get it done first thing in the morning, which was nice."

Woods also looked more svelte than the last time we saw him at the Hero World Challenge back in December. That's thanks to the flu, which Woods said he dealt with for three weeks after the tournament, where he was visibly sick. He lost 15 lbs in that span and hasn't put much of it back on his frame.

While Woods had a little work done to have a complete set of pearly whites, he was doing a little work to his short game, which was astonishingly bad back in December. Woods mishit some nine chip or bunker shots during the limited-field event. In that time, Woods said he's hit "thousands of chips" shots, trying to settle on his new technique rather than falling back into the method he used when working with Sean Foley.

Woods also said he's been gaining significant distance since we saw him last, employing the old-but-new swing he's developed with new swing consultant Chris Como. 

"My driving has come around a lot faster (than I expected)," he said. "I'm a lot longer than I ever thought I could be again. I'm touching numbers that I did 15 years ago."

If you can remember how good Tiger Woods was in 2000, then you'll understand that's a big statement. If he's even a good portion as precise as he was that year, then 2015 could be a big comeback year for Woods.


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

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.