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PGA Tour To Launch OTT Channel Through Xumo

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The PGA Tour will launch its first ad-supported streaming over-the-top video channel on smart TV devices as part of a partnership with streaming TV company Xumo.

The channel, which went live on Xumo over the weekend, will include live coverage of matches, as well as highlights, recaps, interviews and tournament previews.

“It is complementary to the first tournament schedule that you get through the Golf Channel and others, but it is a special new program through OTT,” Xumo CEO Colin Petrie-Norris tells Digital News Daily. “It is the first OTT deal that will include all the VOD-based content for the tour.”

Xumo takes live and library content and turns into linear, 24-hour video feeds. The company now has more than 150 channels featuring entertainment, news and sports content. The channels are primarily distributed through smart TV sets from companies like LG, Sharp and Panasonic.

Petrie-Norris says the companies are “partnering together” on advertising sales for the channel, and that the PGA will “be leaning into this heavily themselves” to promote it to the tour’s advertisers and fans.

“This OTT/CTV cord-cutter audience is extremely valuable, so for them to be able to offer that as part of their sales offering is compelling,” he says.

The deal also marks another significant step by a major sport to move into OTT. With Major League Baseball signing a deal with Facebook this month for 25 games, and with the NFL and Major League Soccer eyeing new digital streaming deals, it seems every sports league is testing how far it can go without disrupting existing businesses.

In the case of the PGA Tour, this channel won’t interfere with existing broadcast rights, but will, as Petrie-Norris says, be “complementary” to that programming.

“The PGA Tour is such a well-known brand, such a household name, with such a passionate, loyal audience, and we are extremely flattered that they saw the value in a partnership with us, and we think it is an exciting sign that the OTT streaming platforms are gaining some traction in the world of live sports,” he says.

Woods looks to rise in FedExCup, world ranking

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Tiger Woods’ laser approach leads to birdie at Honda

After a week off, Tiger Woods is scheduled to play in the next two PGA TOUR events, starting with this week’s Valspar Championship. Woods, who’s playing the Valspar for the first time, will be looking to build on the positive signs he showed in his 12th-place finish at The Honda Classic.

Woods, who last won in 2013, will begin the week ranked 132nd in the FedExCup. He’s accrued 100 points in his three starts this season. He earned 35 points for his T23 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open and 65 points for his 12th-place finish at The Honda Classic.

The top 125 in the FedExCup after the Wyndham Championship will qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs. It took 365 FedExCup points to qualify for last season’s Playoffs. Woods has not competed in the FedExCup Playoffs since finishing second in 2013. He is the only two-time winner of the FedExCup (2007, ’09).

Woods rose one spot in the world ranking last week, from No. 389 to No. 388.  It’s his highest ranking since Nov. 14, 2015.

Justin Thomas extended his lead in the FedExCup after finishing runner-up to Phil Mickelson at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. Thomas has 1,573 points, 259 more than Patton Kizzire. Thomas also moved to a career-high No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Mickelson moved to No. 3 in the FedExCup and No. 18 in the OWGR after his first win since 2013. Mickelson qualified for the TOUR Championship in the first seven seasons of the FedExCup, but has failed to make it to East Lake in three of the past four seasons. He finished a career-best No. 2 in the 2009 FedExCup.

Bubba Watson does things his way, and that’s OK … most of the time

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Bubba Watson is the kind of guy who opens a candy shop and stops eating sugar.

The kind of guy who gets snubbed for the Ryder Cup team and shows up to make sandwiches.

The kind of guy who protests a long drive competition by hitting an iron.Bubba Watson ended a two-year victory drought — his longest of the decade — by closing with a 2-under 69 on Sunday for a 2-shot victory in the Genesis Open.In the wake of Watson’s third career Genesis Open victory, his unorthodox machinations will again be analyzed and overanalyzed by couch potatoes hoping to give him a couch session. Good luck with that. Trying to figure out Bubba is about as difficult as hitting a 330-yard drive with a 20-yard fade — such an inconceivable concept that he’s about the only one who can pull it off.

This week, Watson again offered plenty of fodder for those attempting to solve his riddle.

Golf is hard, and winning golf tournaments is supposed to require laser-like focus from beginning to end. So, what did Bubba do? He filmed a show with Jay Leno. He hung out with Ellen DeGeneres. He watched a taping of “The Big Bang Theory.” And he played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, comically hoisting up an air ball and getting another shot rejected by Tracy McGrady.

“It gives me something else to do instead of focus on the negative,” Watson said after his 2-stroke victory. “I don’t think about the negative and I get to think about hanging out with cool people, so it made it fun.”

Undoubtedly, this notion will spark further theories over what makes him tick and how he feeds off these things to succeed. He needs distractions. He needs a fun environment. He needs to be loved. He needs attention.

All or some or none of those theories might be true. Just when we think we’re starting to understand him, Bubba takes a hard left turn like one of those booming drives and changes direction.

Four years ago, he revealed that one of his greatest goals in golf was reaching 10 career PGA Tour wins, even suggesting that he might retire upon completion. Which makes it noteworthy that Sunday’s win was indeed the 10th of his career — and he’s not going to retire.

Not now, at least. Not yet.

Retirement has been on his mind a lot, though. Last year, Watson suffered from an undisclosed medical issue. He dropped from 210 pounds to 165 or even less. “I got tired of weighing myself,” he said, “because I was scared to death.”

He quickly followed that comment by insisting the issue wasn’t life-threatening.

“I mean, nothing worse than a paper cut,” he explained. “It was nothing, it is nothing.”

It wasn’t nothing. Whatever it was — and yes, it’s absolutely well within Watson’s rights to not have the world know his medical history — it affected him. The man who already has self-diagnosed ADD and suffers from panic attacks didn’t win any tournaments, posted just three top-10s and missed the cut in three of the four majors.

He also contemplated retirement.

“I was close,” he said. “My wife was not close. My wife basically told me to quit whining and play golf. She’s a lot tougher than I am.”

When asked to elaborate on why retirement was an option, he stated, “I would rather be healthy than play golf, so that’s what I was focusing on. I was focusing on the wrong things. Pitiful me and not how beautiful my life was, things like that. So that’s the short answer for all that. All the emotion and everything.”

He called last year the lowest point in his career, as the two-time Masters champion dropped out of the top 100 in the world ranking.

That helps to explain why he punctuated his tournament-clinching final-hole par with immediate sobbing, tears streaming down his face as he embraced caddie Ted Scott.

There were undeniably observers who wanted to analyze him in that moment, those who believed the reaction stemmed solely from his two-year journey to again reach the winner’s circle. As with most Bubba observations, there was more to his emotion than he’ll ever reveal.

Minutes later, eyes still red from crying, he explained why his 10th victory means so much.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with Bubba Watson,” he said. “We don’t know if I’m ever going to win again, if I’m going to win 100 times, we just don’t know. I cherish this one because it’s my latest and my greatest.”

Emotional Woodland breaks five-year victory drought in Phoenix

Gary Woodland wins in sudden death at Waste Management

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It had been five long years since he won, but that wasn’t what was on Gary Woodland’s mind when he made the final putt and pointed to the sky. He was thinking of the family member who was gone but not forgotten.

“Yeah, that was just kind of a tribute to last year,” Woodland said after shooting a final-round 64 and beating Chez Reavie with a par on the first playoff hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. “Obviously, we lost a little girl, and being there, seeing my wife give birth to her, that’s real.”

Woodland’s eyes flooded with tears. “Just wanted her to know I still love her,” he said.

On March 29 of last year, Woodland released a statement that he and his wife, Gabby, had lost one of their unborn twins. He had just withdrawn from the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, and in the statement he added that “doctors will be monitoring the health of my wife and the other baby for the remainder of the pregnancy.”

Just over 10 months later, Gabby and their son, Jaxson, surprised him on the 18th green as the family celebrated Gary’s first victory since the 2013 Barracuda Championship. Woodland calls Jaxson his “miracle” son, and he and Gabby held him close and continue to do so after the trials of 2017.

“Really took off about four months,” said Woodland, who moves from 38th to fifth in the FedExCup standings. “But I found a way to get to the TOUR Championship, kind of battled through the end of the year, and I couldn’t wait for 2018 to start.” Said Brennan Little, Woodland’s caddie: “His demeanor has been better. Last year was a bit of a mess. I mean, not really knowing his schedule, missing a few events, going home. Now the wife and the baby have been out; his attitude has been really good, which I think you can see in some of the rounds in Hawaii and San Diego, he got off to some bad starts and brought them back.” Woodland was trending in the right direction after a T7 at the Sony Open in Hawaii and a T12 at the Farmers Insurance Open. Matt Kuchar, who hung around to congratulate Woodland after the victory, said he played nine holes with Woodland on Tuesday before the start of the WMPO and was wowed. “He was driving it just so well,” Kuchar said.

In addition to his wife and son, Woodland was cheered on by his parents, his sister and her husband, and others from back home in Topeka, Kansas. (He now lives in South Florida.) He got a text from his coach, Butch Harmon, on Thursday, urging him to put four good rounds together and not worry about the score. He did that, and recent putting lessons from friend Brad Faxon paid dividends, as well, as Woodland made 200 feet of putts on the weekend.

“I was in the zone,” he said. “I mean, I really had it going. My caddie asked me when I got done, did I know I made nine birdies. I didn’t even know I did that.”

Now it’s on to California for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and the resumption of a career that for five years was sidetracked by frustration, injuries and loss.

“It’s really hard to put in words right now,” Woodland said. “Last year we battled through it, couldn’t get to the off-season quick enough, couldn’t start 2018 soon enough. For [Jaxson] to be here, it’s obviously a miracle, but I’m just so excited to share this with him and my family, and hopefully it’s the start of something special.”

Winner’s Bag: Dustin Johnson, Sentry Tournament of Champions

Dustin Johnson dominates the field of winners at Sentry

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It didn’t take Dustin Johnson long to break in his new TaylorMade equipment on the course. Using a new M4 driver for the very first time, Johnson hit the defining shot of the tournament with the club on the par-4 12th hole at Kapalua’s Plantation Course during the final round.

Coming off a frustrating bogey, Johnson rocketed his tee shot over 430 yards and watched as it raced down the hill to within a couple inches of the cup for a tap-in eagle. The improbable shot started a torrid stretch that saw Johnson go five under over the next five holes to pull away from the field en route to an eight-shot victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Johnson hit two drives over 400 yards on Sunday with the new driver that debuted in Maui. The club (along with M3) features the company’s new Twist Face design that improves accuracy on off-center hits by curving the face more open in the toe portion of the face and more closed toward the heel.

Johnson tested both M3 and M4 in practice early in the week and felt M4 produced a flatter ball flight that would be better suited for the wind at Kapalua. The loft sleeve was adjusted one click open, to the standard setting, to produce Johnson’s go-to fade shot shape.

Here’s a look at the rest of the TaylorMade equipment in Johnson’s bag.

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (Fujikura Speeder 661 Evolution 2.0 Tour Spec X shaft), 9.5 degrees

3-wood: TaylorMade M4 3HL (Project X HZRDUS Black 6.5 95X shaft), 16.5 degrees)

Irons: TaylorMade P-790 (3-iron; True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shaft), TaylorMade P-730 DJ Proto (4-PW; True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts)

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52 and 60 degrees; KBS Tour Black 130X shafts), TaylorMade Hi-Toe (64 degrees; KBS Tour Black 130X shaft)

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Black

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Top 5 picks to be PGA Tour Player-2018

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Of the top five finishers in the 2016 FedEx Cup standings, only Dustin Johnson was able to repeat and finish inside the top five in 2017. Rory McIlroy fell from No. 1 to 58, with no wins and six top-10 showings in 14 events. Adam Scott fell even further, from No. 4 to 79.

That shows how fleeting success on the PGA Tour can be, even for the top players in the world. It also shows how difficult it is to identify a set, elite group entering the new season.

Things change quickly, as Xander Schauffele just proved by finishing third in the FedEx Cup standings and winning the Tour Championship in his rookie season.

The talent pool is deeper than it’s ever been, with five different players topping the Tour’s money list in each of the last five seasons. That’s a far cry from a recent 11-year stretch which featured just two different top dogs – Tiger Woods earned said honor eight times from 1999-2009 while Vijay Singh led the money list in 2003-04 and 2008. Woods also reached the top spot again by winning five times and earning $8.5 million in 2013.

Looking ahead to 2018, Justin Thomas will attempt to become the first to repeat as Player of the Year since Woods did so in 2006-07. But the competition is stiffer than ever.

Here’s a look at five Player of the Year candidates for the 2017-18 season.

5. Justin Thomas

Let’s start with the reigning champ. He already has a win in just three starts this season, beating Marc Leishman in a playoff in October at the CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES. Next month he’ll look to defend a pair of titles in Hawaii – Thomas began 2017 with wins at the SBS Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open, where he shot 59 in Round 1 and finished 27 under. There’s still room for improvement – Thomas finished 47th in strokes gained: putting a year ago and is still learning at age 24. There’s no reason to think he won’t be firmly in the Player of the Year hunt once again.

4. Dustin Johnson

The year of Dustin was abruptly canceled in April when Johnson missed the Masters due to a back injury. That slip-and-fall derailed a run of three straight victories at the Genesis Open, WGC-Mexico Championship and WGC-Dell Technologies match play. He might have edged Thomas for POY honors with a major victory, but he missed the cut at the U.S. Open and finished outside the top 10 at the British Open and the PGA Championship. The game really started to come around again at the end of the season, and he finished T-2 at the WGC-HSBC Champions in October after a surprising final-round 77. Still, there’s no reason to believe Johnson can’t have the same type of run this season and maybe bag another major to claim the throne.

3. Rickie Fowler

Still waiting for that first major, but Rickie has been on a roll for several months. He shot 61 to run away with the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas and has six top-5 finishes in his last 11 starts. He won once a year ago but said it was his best year on Tour from a statistical standpoint. And he has to be getting tired of congratulating good friends Thomas and Jordan Spieth after major victories of their own. Seems like every year is going to be the year for Fowler, but 2018 represents his last chance to win a major before age 30.

2. Jon Rahm

Now ranked No. 5 in the world, the 23-year-old Spaniard enters his second full season on Tour with big expectations. He set a high bar last year with wins at Torrey Pines and the Irish Open. He also finished on a tear with four consecutive top-10 finishes at the Northern Trust (T-3), Dell Technologies Championship (T-4), BMW Championship (T-5) and Tour Championship (T-7). Rahm is an emotional player and might need to reel it in just a tad to see better major results, a T-27 finish at the Masters representing his best finish. Rahm should seriously contend at majors at least once or twice a year from now on given his talent level.

1. Jordan Spieth

Tough to leave Rory McIlroy off this list, but the Northern Irishman was too inconsistent in health and form throughout 2017 to replace any of the aforementioned five. Spieth won his first Claret Jug with that epic showing at Royal Birkdale and can complete the career grand slam with a victory at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, site of the 2018 PGA Championship. Spieth added victories at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Travelers to reach 11 career wins at age 24. Let’s see if he can take the title back from his good friend, Justin.

 

Angel Cabrera, Angel Cabrera Jr. win PNC Father/Son Challenge in 1st appearance

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One answer seemed to be the only thing Team Cabrera didn’t have in sync this weekend at the PNC Father/Son Challenge. The question: Hey guys did you think you had a good shot at winning coming into the event?

Through an interpreter, Angel Cabrera Jr. immediately uttered “No,” but laughter broke out when, almost simultaneously, father Angel Cabrera said, “Sí.” He then expounded on where his confidence came from, especially in a year when he missed the cut or withdrew in 15 of 20 starts combined on the PGA Tour, Web.com Tour, PGA Tour Latinoamerica and PGA Tour of Australasia.

“I didn’t have a very good year on tour, so I wasn’t really playing that well,” Cabrera said, through an interpreter. “But once you make it to a golf tournament like this and you are able to tee it up on the first hole, you know you can win.”

And that they did.

Team Cabrera, competing in the Father/Son for the first time, opened in 59 on Saturday and followed up with a Sunday 60 to post a 25-under 119 in the scramble format and earn a three-shot victory.

Defending champions David Duval and stepson Nick Karavites tied for second at 22 under at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, Grande Lakes along with the team of Bernhard Langer and son Jason Langer. Team O’Meara (Mark and son Shaun) and Team Pate (Jerry and son Wesley) tied for fourth at 21 under. Team Daly (John and son John II) tied for ninth at 18 under.

When you think about it a little, the elder Cabrera’s confidence before the tournament seems even more curious.

On top of competing in the event for the first time, Team Cabrera wasn’t even in the original field – only gaining a spot when Team Strange (Curtis and son Tom) withdrew prior to the tournament. And the 48-year-old dad also entered at less than 100 percent due to a wrist injury. His son wasn’t exactly knocking down pins ahead of this weekend, either. The 26-year-old Angel Jr., who goes by Angelito, is a pro golfer who has competed in 15 career PGA Tour Latinoamerica events and earned one PGA Tour start.

But he’s only been a part of three Official World Golf Ranking-counting events since the beginning of 2015. As a pair, though, in this tournament – where the teams of two consist of a player who has won at least one major or the Players Championship with the other not holding a PGA Tour card – they were perfect for each other.

“The good thing was that when I missed, he hit a good shot and the other way around,” the elder Cabrera said. “That was crucial.” The Cabreras entered Sunday with a one-shot lead and never seemed like they were going to succumb to the pressure, birdieing the first and fourth, and eagling the third and fifth to go out in 6-under 30.

They were 23 under and one ahead of Team Duval when they were forced to hit an approach shot from a fairway bunker at the par-4 16th. But the duo finished the hole with a birdie to move two ahead. Team Duval could put on no more pressure, and Team Cabrera was able to cruise to victory on 18, which the duo birdied.

“(This week) has been so special that it really can’t compare to any event I have played in the past,” Angelito said. The younger Cabrera has been a part of some previous keen moments and gestures in golf. Angelito was his dad’s caddie during an entertaining playoff loss at the 2013 Masters.

He also boasts a Zebra headcover with the initials Y.E. stitched on – those would be for Y.E. Yang, who gave Angelito that headcover as a gift during the 2009 Presidents Cup. But Angelito’s dad has been part of even more incredible moments, including winning two major titles (the 2007 U.S. Open and ’09 Masters).

Where does this victory rank?

“This is a very special win, I can assure you of that,” the elder Cabrera said. From the man who could envision it all along.

Final Results

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Jordan Spieth in PGA Win

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“This is one of the best courses on tour,” McIlroy said in June. “It’s a par 70. It’s fun. You can make a lot of birdies. But if you put yourself in the wrong spot, you can make bogeys pretty quickly as well.

“The crowd out there, I teed off before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and they were really good. It was a pleasure to be here this week. It was great to play in front of such great crowd.”

Spieth said during the championship presentation he intends to return to defend his title, while McIlroy expressed interest in returning. Next year’s event is scheduled for June 21-24.

Spieth’s winning shot, ending a playoff with Daniel Berger, turned the tournament into a national highlight reel for a few days after it had ended.

The shot from the right bunker hit the green and rolled straight to the center of the cup. Spieth celebrated by throwing his sand wedge and chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller.

“It was a joke how big the crowd on 18 was,” Greller said.

“I mean, the ground was shaking,” Spieth said. “I jumped up and saw it [ball] coming right down on the pin,” he said of his final shot. “And I went nuts. That was fun.”

The tournament wasn’t over, however, until Berger missed a birdie putt from about 50 feet from the left front portion of the green.

Spieth earned the $1.22 million first-place prize and was the third player to lead wire-to-wire and win the championship, joining Gene Littler in 1959 and Tim Norris in 1982. The victory for Spieth, 23, was the 10th of his career. The only other player to have done that by age 24 was Tiger Woods.

The victory happened after Spieth (even-par 70) and Berger (67) tied at the end of regulation at 12-under 268.

“What a tremendous last four holes, finishing holes, where you can get the crowd super involved with an amphitheater setting,” Spieth said. “I mean, if I were a fan, I would pick this tournament. This one and Phoenix [Waste Management Open] is kind of two that stick out to come to on the PGA season, just given the excitement of the closing holes.”


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