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The Tour – Eighth Event

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR RUCKHAUS TOUR

No passports, no TSA people copping a cheap feel and no jet lag.

Members of all three tours woke up across “the pond” and it was the 137 remaining members of the Ruckhaus Tour taking first crack at Celtic Manor while the others rolled over and went back to sleep.

The Chairman greeted them at the fifteenth hole. “You have two ways to attack this hole. Either go left, hitting a long iron to the corner of the dogleg then leaving a pitching wedge or less or go straight at the green. If you choose the latter, it’s 274 to the pin and maybe a club or two uphill. I’ve made sure that the conditions are as benign as possible so all you have to be worried about is hitting straight.”

Knowing what it took to get out of the second circle of hell that was the Ruckhaus Tour, every one of the 137 knew that there was only one choice. And everyone knew that the only chance to get out was to land on the green or fringe. Miss right and end up in the fescue. Miss left and face two deep bunkers, trees and even a river bank where a ball landing on it would roll to certain death in a watery grave.

137 teed off, all using driver. There were 40 “greenies,” all good for a sleeve of balls and 10% off in the pro shop. 8 made eagle, all but one coming from the green or the fringe. There were over 90 “Oh, fucks.”

The two fringe players also made the longest putts. Frank Nobilo nailed one from 43 feet while Phil Blackmar connected from 37. Tommy Nakajima made the longest “greenie,” also 37 feet.

CLOSEST TO THE PIN: Gardner Dickinson, one foot. Yes, he made the putt.

SHORTEST MISS: Rich Beem missed an eight-footer.

Steve Jones rolled through the green and managed to stop on the bank. Though most balls roll in, his stayed up, though he got lucky and stayed on the top of the bank rather than rolling down to the creek. He then chipped in for eagle.

Billy Burke came up short and had a basic pitch and run. But his ball stopped on the rim of the cup. In this tour, a miss is as good as a mile and it’s back to purgatory for Burke.

Gene Sauers came the closest to actually slam dunking the ball, his ball mark just inches from the cup. Alas, he rolled through the green and onto the bank, staying up but eventually making four.

ADVANCING TO THE NEXT HOLE (the sixteenth, by the way): In addition to Blackmar, Dickinson, Nakajima, Nobilo and Jones, Randy Glover (19 foot putt), Bruce Lietzke (21 feet) and Earl Stewart (13 feet) will also move on and will also be guaranteed at least next week on the Staffa Tour.

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR RUCKHAUS TOUR SECOND HOLE

The Chairman was waiting in a golf cart on the sixteenth tee. “Only eight of you survived the first hole. Congratulations! Of course, you all know that there are other holes and eliminations to follow, each difficult in their own way. The good news for all is that you won’t have to go through this next week. The bad news is that only one of you will be guaranteed to never have to do this again. So, from 1 in 137, it’s down to 1 in 8.

“That brings us to this hole. Unlike at the last, where eagle was the only realistic way to survive, it’s quite possible that level par might be the benchmark here. This hole is a par four, 499 yards, a bit uphill off the tee but a slightly downhill approach. The bad news is that many shots which land in the middle of the fairway tend to roll off to the right and into the rough. And, coming in from that angle, you’ll have to clear the two front bunkers to take aim at a pin that’s not too far behind them. And, unless you’re a heavy hitter, your approach will be from 200 yards or further. Again, I’ve arranged for the conditions to be at their most optimal. So it’ll be just you, your skills and the golf course and no excuses like wind or soft fairways which cost you 20 or 30 yards of roll. Go for it!”

And, with that, The Chairman drove off, though all eight golfers swore that, when he passed the 150 yard marker, he disappeared. As the golfers played their shots and walked down the fairway and rough, all took a glance at the point where they thought they last saw The Chairman’s cart. And they all swore that the tire tracks just vanished.

[Ed. note: I wrote the above before I played the hole. My prediction was spot on.]

Par was, indeed, the benchmark as, though five players made the green in regulation, none one-putted.

LONGEST DRIVE: Steve Jones, 301 yards and the only golfer to approach the green from less than 200. He two-putted from 18 feet.

CLOSEST TO THE PIN: Phil Blackmar, 17 feet. He two-putted.

THREE PUTTS: Tommy Nakajima and Frank Nobilo. Sayonara to both. Too bad for Nakajima, as he hit is tee shot into the fairway bunker and followed that with a spectacular 2-iron from 227 that held the green.

A PITCH AND A PUTT: Earl Stewart, who missed the green left but who chipped to four feet for par.

A “SANDY”: Bruce Lietzke.

NOT A “SANDY”: Gardner Dickinson.

Who’s left? Randy Glover, who two putted from 26 feet.

OFF TO 18: Blackmar, Glover, Jones, Lietzke and Stewart.

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR RUCKHAUS TOUR THIRD HOLE

The Chairman was waiting at eighteen.

“573, par five. Downhill about a club both off the tee and on the approach. Most of you can reach in two, providing you hit your first in the fairway. The only wrinkle is that there’s a pond and not a lot of landing area in front of the green. And there’s also a good possibility that, unless your ball takes a hard bounce, it’ll likely roll back, maybe even into the pond, should it land short of the green. And, with the pin in the front right, even if you land on the green or just short, as you’ll likely be hitting a fairway wood in, your ball might roll to the back leaving a long putt. So, you could lay up short of the pond and trust your short game to get you close.

“So, the question is: Do you gamble and go for eagle knowing that any putt will likely be a long one or, do you think birdie is good enough?

“Good luck, gentlemen.”

Four of the five went with the driver. Only Randy Glover decided that he wouldn’t be able to get home in two no matter what he hit and played for placement. Phil Blackmar led the driver contingent with a 337 yard blast.

Glover got on in three but his pitch was a poor one and he three-putted for bogey.

Steve Jones’ tee shot landed in the rough and he laid up. But his pitch was short and rolled back. His next chip got close and Jones one-putted for par. So, out goes Glover.

Bruce Lietzke, even after a 300 yard drive, decided that his 3-wood might make it over the pond on the fly. Or it might not. Trusting his short game, he laid up. So much for trust as his pitch wasn’t close and Lietzke added insult to that by three-putting from 22 feet for bogey. So, out goes Lietzke.

Like Lietzke, Stewart hit a 300 yard drive and came to the same conclusion. Pitching to within 11 feet, Stewart two-putted for par.

And then there was Blackmar. After outdriving the other four by over 30 yards, Blackmar went at the green with a 2-iron. Landing just short, he got lucky and the ball trickled on, leaving a 14-footer for eagle. Though he missed that, he easily tapped in for birdie.

So, in three holes, Phil Blackmar is the winner of the eighth event on the Ruckhaus Tour and has earned his full Staffa card with the possibility of actually making it to the famed Gerney Tour.

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR STAFFA TOUR FIRST ROUND

Like many boxing matches, the first round consisted of the 134-man field poking and prodding their way around the course with a bit of wind thrown in as an added wrinkle as Celtic Manor played at about 2 ½ shots over par. There were no spectacular shots and, unlike in many golf tournaments where someone jumps out to a quick early lead, that didn’t happen here.

But someone has to lead. And that someone is Henrik Stenson, with a 5-under 66.

Stenson managed to avoid the bunkers and managed to scramble his way around the recently-bulit course, even going to 7-under at one point, the only player to do so. He strung his birdies together, dropping a 16-foot putt on the par four second and following that with an 8-iron on the par three third to within five feet. After running off four straight pars, two on scrambles, Stenson went on a tear. The eighth hole saw a 5-iron approach stop within five feet. The par five ninth saw Stenson knock in a 32 foot putt from off the front fringe. He cashed in on the par three tenth with a 6-iron from 206 to within six feet. And his approach to within six feet on the par five eleventh saw Stenson make it four birdies in a row. An 18-foot putt on the par three thirteenth made it 5-under in a stretch of six holes before Stenson lost his edge as a tee shot in the water on fourteen led to a double bogey and, after parring the drivable fifteenth, Stenson three-putted from 11 feet on sixteen before regrouping and dropping an 18-footer for birdie on the par three seventeenth.

One back, in sole possession of second, is Bob Rosburg, who saved his best work for the end.

Like Stenson, his tee shot on fourteen also had a water landing. Not to worry, his and many other balls will be re-sold in the pro shop as “gently used.” A cup of bleach and a gallon of hot water and an overnight rest in a bucket and those balls will look like new. Anyway, Rosburg ended up boegeying fourteen to bring him back to even par. But he drove fifteen and drained a 33-foot putt for eagle, only one of four on that hole today. Matter of fact, those were the only four eagles on the course today. After a scramble par on sixteen, Rosburg birdied the par three seventeenth with a 7-foot putt and reached the green in two on the lengthy par five finishing hole, two-putting from over 40 feet, also for birdie.

ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:

Bell Melhorn is all alone in third, two back with a 3-under 68. And, in a massive logjam at 69, are Charles Coody, Allan Robertson, David Edwards, Mark Hayes, Billy Joe Patton, Ted Schulz and Jug McSpaden. Of the 134 golfers, only 21 broke par.

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR STAFFA TOUR SECOND ROUND

An overnight storm both softened the course as well as got rid of the windy conditions which plagued many of the golfers yesterday. And, though reversed, the two men at the top of the leaderboard yesterday were there today though the remainder of the top ten consisted of new faces.

Bob Rosburg, in second place after yesterday’s round and who did so by finishing with a bang, going 4-under over his final four holes (an eagle and two birdies), continued his sharp play on the front side of today’s round.

Opening with birdies on one and two (an 11-foot putt on one and approach to within three feet on the par five second), Rosburg went on to birdie three of the four remaining par fours on the front side and all on chip-ins. Approach shots on four and six were pushed to the right–the one on six was almost a water landing. But Rosburg took off his shoes and, from the muck of the river bank, calmly chipped in. And is approach on eight was pulled pin high to the left. And, once again, Rosburg calmly chipped in. 31 on the front and a birdie, bogey and an otherwise even par 35 on the back and Rosburg’s 66 today put him in front of yesterday’s leader by one at 9-under par.

Speaking of… Henrik Stensen had his short game working, scrambling for par successfully on eight of ten attempts and, for the second straight day, managed to avoid the sand. That added up to a 3-under 68 and, at 8-under for the two rounds, is one behind Rosburg.

Stensen did what no one else did either yesterday or today. And that was to eagle the par five eleventh. A driver and a 2-iron left him on the front of the green. And a nearly 40-foot putt got him an eagle three. A miraculous chip from the fescue on the drivable par four fifteenth led to a three foot putt for birdie. And, after a three-putt bogey on the par three seventeenth, Stensen ensured his spot in the final twosome by getting up and down from 80 yards on the par five last.

NEWCOMERS TO THE TOP TEN:

Hale Irwin and Roberto de Vicenzo each shot 66s to move into a tie for third at 6-under. Willie Smith shot the round of the day with a 65 to move into a tie for fifth with Herman Keiser (67) at 5-under. For Smith, he earned his keep with a 5-under run in the seven hole stretch between eleven and seventeen, shooting 30 on the back nine. And, in a seven-way tie for seventh at 4-under are Peter Jacobsen (66, and who finished his final four holes at 3-under), Jonathan Kaye (who opened with four birdies then played even the rest of the way) and Bob Charles (both with 67) and DJ Trahan, Dave Hill, Jack Burke and Bud Holscher (all with 68).

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Bob Estes on seven. 212 with a 3-iron and an ace. Unfortunately, it was the only bright spot for Estes in two dismal rounds as his 78-76 left him ahead of only five other players and he missed the cut by nine. Speaking of…

THE CUT LINE:

Among others joining Estes in “two rounds and out” are Seve Ballesteros, Miguel Angel Jiminez, Brad Faxon, John Huston, Porky Oliver, Tommy Bolt, Gil Morgan and a pair of Ians, Woosnam and Poulter. The cut was at +3 with 76 sticking around for the final two rounds. Another member of the cut group was Billy Joe Patton. Tied for fourth yesterday with a 69, Patton had two bogeys, a double and a triple and an ungodly 43 on the front nine as he ballooned to an 80 and missed the cut by four. Bill Mehlhorn, all alone in third after a first round 68, almost joined Patton. But, unlike Patton, Mehlhorn did his worst work on the back nine with two bogeys and two doubles. What saved him was a birdie on eighteen where he got up and down from 95 yards. 68-77 and +3 overall saw Mehlhorn just limp in under the cut line.

MAYBE I COULD SUBSTITUTE OTHER HOLES?:

The seventh, eighth and ninth holes have been a disaster for Ken Green. Two days, six holes, 9-over. In round one, Green actually parred seven but, on eight, his tee shot into the fairway bunker led to a double and on nine, he hit his drive and subsequent two shots in the fescue and made another double. In today’s round, he bogeyed seven by hitting into the long grass again, bogeyed eight with a three-putt from 13 feet and tripled nine as he drove into the fescue again, hit his second into a bush and had to take a drop and also hit his fourth from the long grass. Fortunately, he’s 7-under on the other 30 holes and, at 2-over, will be around for the weekend.

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR STAFFA TOUR THIRD ROUND

KJ Choi was just about finished with his round when the leaders were just getting underway. He also set the standard that no one else could follow, finishing his day in a tie for second place.

Starting the day at even par for the tournament and having gone 5-over for the front nine over the first two days, Choi put his foot to the floor and went 8-under for his first thirteen holes.

His first birdie came on the par five second and that after a lousy pitching wedge from 118 left him 35 feet away. But he knocked the putt in dead center and Choi was off to the races. His birdie on four came courtesy of a 6-iron to 11 feet. On five, he nearly holed out from 195, tapping in for another three. Six was a 9-iron approach to seven feet and another birdie while eight was an 8-iron approach and a 12-foot putt. So, it was a happy balance between fine approach shots and holing out putts which weren’t exactly “gimmes.”

On to the back nine and Choi birdied the par five eleventh for the third day in a row, getting up and down from about 40 yards, also for the third day in a row. Twelve was an 8-iron approach to six feet and, on the par three thirteenth, Choi stuck a 5-iron to the very receptive green within four feet.

Fourteen has been an anathema to Choi this week and was the source of his only blemish today. To set it up, in the first round he got up and down for par. Yesterday was a second shot in the water and a double bogey. Today, Choi’s tee shot just missed the water; he put his second in the greenside bunker and couldn’t get up and down, making bogey. Pars the rest of the way in and Choi finished with a 7-under 64 and 7-under for the tournament, and trails but one golfer.

And that golfer is yesterday’s leader, Bob Rosburg.

Starting his day at 9-under, Rosburg stumbled out of the gate, leaving his approach shot short on the opening hole then not being able to get up and down, scoring a bogey five. Five took another stroke away as he pushed his 7-iron approach way right. But Rosburg righted the ship somewhat, almost holing out for eagle on the par five ninth but tapping in for an easy birdie. And a bogey on fourteen was canceled out by a 21 foot putt for birdie on the par three seventeenth.

So, in the end, Rosburg lost one stroke to par and is at 8-under through the first three rounds.

Also losing a stroke to par was the first round leader and in second place at the halfway mark, Henrik Stenson.

Out in 39 after a horrendous front nine which saw a tee shot in the water, another drive pushed way right, an approach into the sand and no save and a three putt, albeit from nearly 70 feet, Stenson appeared as if he were going to drop off the radar completely. But ten and eleven have been good to him so far (6-under through three rounds) as he cashed in with a 16 foot putt for birdie on the par three tenth and got up and down from 25 yards on the par five eleventh.

So, today’s 72 put Stenson in a three-way tie with Choi and Henry Picard (66, including a chip in on six) for second.

ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:

In a four-way tie for fifth at 6-under are Ed Furgol (66 today), Dave Hill and DJ Trahan (both 69) and Hale Irwin (even par 71). And, in a four-way tie for ninth are Jock Hutchinson (67), Jack Burke (70), Herman Keiser (71) and Willie Smith, who didn’t come close to reprising his 65 of yesterday, also with a 71.

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR STAFFA TOUR FINAL ROUND

After tearing it up yesterday to the tune of a 64, only KJ Choi remained standing while the rest of the leaderboard dropped like flies. But Choi did have two challengers who came up a stroke short, though through different methods and from quite a distance away, while Choi almost gave a two stroke lead away.

Bob Rosburg actually was the overnight leader coming into today, up by one.

“Rossy” played even par on the front side, though he needed birdies on five, six and nine to cancel out a double on three (tee shot in the water) and bogey on four (poor approach and couldn’t get up and down.

The TV people forgot about Rosburg by the fifteenth tee. Twelve was a disaster, as his tee shot on the par four landed in the water and his third barely made the forced carry, landing on the bank of the pond fronting the hole, missing the green by nearly 30 yards. A bad chip and three putts later and Rosburg had a triple bogey seven. His tee shot on fourteen almost hit water again, but Rosburg did have a shot, albeit from a poor lie. A second shot sprayed right and a poor pitch and Rosburg rang up a double. Great in baseball, lousy in golf. Five strokes dropped in the space of maybe a half hour, 40 on the back side and, with a 76, Rosburg was cooked.

Henrik Stenson, the first round leader and in second the past two days, went down faster than a two dollar hooker. After a bogey at the opening hole, Stenson put two in the water on the par three third. A triple there, followed by a double at five (approach shot short and in the water) and a bunch of other bad shots and Stenson went out in a horrendous 44. The back nine was a bit better, 37. 81 for Stenson, playing in the second to last group, was placed in witness protection by the TV folks.

Henry Picard, who started play in a three-way tie with Choi and Stenson, fared better than Stenson or Rosburg. Two birdies and two bogeys sent Picard out in an even par 36. He played par golf on the back nine, save for one hole. That was the fourteenth. A bit left off the tee, Picard had 230 to the green on the long par four and sprayed in right, eventually finishing with a double bogey. Nonetheless, Picard finished up in fifth place, five shots back.

Hale Irwin, who started play one stroke farther back than the above threesome, was the only other member of yesterday’s leaderboard to hang in there, though he never mounted any sort of challenge.

Opening today’s play at 6-under, Irwin got it to eight with three birdies and a bogey through the first eleven holes, including birdieing eleven for the fourth straight day. But Irwin gave a stroke back on twelve no thanks to a poor approach, though a miraculous chip over the bunker to the short-sided pin ensued. But, just eight feet away, Irwin two-putted for a five.

Parring the next five and then looking at the leaderboard on the eighteenth tee, Irwin had to go for broke at the last. But his drive, while in the fairway, wasn’t long enough to go for the green in two as he was over 300 yards out. Laying up short and hoping to get up and down for birdie, Irwin was only able to hit within 16 feet then three-putted for a bogey six.

6-under ended up being good for fourth place for Irwin and a trip up to the Gerney Tour, at least for next week.

As for Choi’s two challengers came from five groups back as Jack Burke came through with the round of the day.

Burke’s day didn’t start well with bogeys on one (short on his approach) and two (flew the green). But that was canceled out by three birdies and a bogey and an even par 36 for the front side.

The hot dog at the turn must have had recuperative powers as Burke lit up the back nine. He got up and down for birdie on the par five eleventh, then birdied the drivable par four fifteenth as well as knocking home an 11-footer for birdie on sixteen and getting up and down from 85 yards for birdie, finishing up with a 14-foot putt on the last. 67 for Burke on a windy, difficult day and he was the clubhouse leader at 9-under with Choi about an hour and a half behind, also at 9-under.

Challenger number two came from three groups back as Dave Hill, who started the day a 6-under, got it to 10-under, first with three birdies and a bogey on the front side, then an impressive eagle at the eleventh where a booming drive of over 300 yards was followed a 3-iron with the wind at his back on target from 250, a 12-foot putt and an eagle three.

But the fourteenth wasn’t kind to Hill. It wasn’t kind to many golfers but, for Hill, it was his third bogey on this hole in the tournament. Like many, Hill seemed to have trouble balancing the crosswind and the water on the left, leaving his second way right then taking three to get up and down.

Still in the hunt at seventeen, Hill missed the green just right and elected to putt from the fringe and from 50 feet away. He missed badly and three-putted for bogey.

But, even at 8-under, Hill had a chance to get a stroke back at the par five last. And he did, playing short of the creek and trusting his sand wedge. Well, the wedge betrayed him as he was eighteen feet away, but his putter didn’t his ball having just enough gas to make it to the hole.

9-under for Hill and he, like Burke awaited what Choi would do on the last couple holes. But let’s backtrack just a bit.

After birdieing the par three thirteenth for the fourth straight day, this time going right after the tough front right pin placement–water in the front and to the right–and draining a 10-foot putt, Choi stood on the tee at fourteen at 10-under. The nearby video board showed Burke dropping his birdie putt on eighteen to get to within two and Choi watched every inch of that 14-foot putt and showed no outward emotion. Then Choi went out and bogeyed fourteen as his 4-iron approach was pushed way right.

Now even up with Burke and Hill, Choi went for the green on the drivable par four fifteenth. He missed to the right but just missed landing in the fescue which could have ended up costing him a bogey or worse. Sitting in the rough with the pin on the short side, Choi hit a miraculous chip, bouncing the ball up before hitting the flag stick and falling in for an eagle two and the deafening roar that Burke surely heard even if he wasn’t watching on TV back in the clubhouse and Hill heard a hole and a half away.

But Choi gave one back on sixteen as his 2-iron approach on the long par four overshot the pin and stopped on the back fringe. Still, Choi was less than 20 feet away. But his putter betrayed him as he missed badly, leaving eight feet for his four. But he rimmed the cup and was only one up with two to play.

Seventeen was a 200-yard par three, pin in the front left, and Choi selected a 5-iron. But the wind held his ball up and he landed short and left though with what looked like an easy pitch. Before he had a chance to chip, he got a look at his second challenger, Dave Hill, getting up and down on eighteen to get to 9-under. But after watching Hill get the stroke back, Choi calmly chipped his ball to within a foot with an easy tap-in following.

With the par five finale coming up, Choi didn’t need to be daring, his goal to reach the green in three and two putt. And that he did as a conservative 3-metal off the tee and a 2-iron left Choi well in front of the pond and with 117 in. With a good angle at the right side pin placement, Choi’s pitching wedge was at the target but long, leaving just over 20 feet. Though most of these guys can compartmentalize and somehow shove earlier mistakes out of their brain, that three putt at sixteen still had to be looming in the back of Choi’s mind. Or maybe not, as Choi just wanted to get close and did, his ball stopping less than a foot away. Amid a hush of a crowd just waiting to erupt, Choi tapped in for an easy par, a one-shot win and a season-long ticket to the big money Gerney Tour.

ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:

After Burke, Hill and Irwin, Henry Picard (73) and Allan Robertson (68) were tied for fifth at 5-under while Andrew Strath (68), Jock Hutchinson, Herman Keiser and Willie Smith (all 72) finished in a four-way tie for seventh at 4-under. All will move up to the Gerney Tour next week and will stay there as long as they cash checks and permanently should they finish in the top ten.

RELEGATED (9):
Seve Ballesteros, Camilo Villegas, Russ Cochran, Ernie Vossler, Billy Andrade, Billy Joe Patton, Ian Poulter, Andrew Magee and Mark James.

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR GERNEY TOUR FIRST ROUND

Tom Watson has played some of his best golf across the pond, winning five British Opens, three Senior British Opens and, at nearly sixty, almost winning a sixth Open Championship, losing in a playoff.

So, it should come as no surprise that, when playing in the British Isles on The Tour, Watson would perform well. But, it’s worth a mention that Watson finished tied for 29th in the only previous Tour event held on British soil, at a respectable 7-under par, though well back of Tiger Woods’ 20-under.

Watson tore apart the Celtic Manor 2010 Course early on before falling back, though he ended the day tied for the lead with a solid 5-under 66.

After routine two-putt pars on the first three holes, Watson registered a birdie at the par four fourth, his 8-iron approach stopping seven feet from the hole. After another two-putt par on five, Watson cut the corner with his tee shot on six, flirting with the water hazard which allows you to carry just as much as you’ll think you need to get over. An aggressive sand wedge from 139 checked up a foot from the hole. Another spot on approach at eight led to another birdie and, after a poor approach on the par-five ninth, playing as a three-shotter with the heavy winds, Watson chipped in from off the green for yet another birdie.

That was the second in a string of five in a row as Watson continued his mastery on the back nine starting with an 18-foot putt on the par three tenth, an up-and-down for birdie on the par five eleventh and, flirting again with a water hazard on twelve, Watson hit a 3-iron approach from 200 yards and from a seemingly impossible stance at a “lefthanded golf hole” (we joke with a friend of mine who’s a lefty and call some holes “lefthanded golf holes” when he gets a favorable stance that a righthander wouldn’t or when he hits one straight down the middle, which is often) to within a foot of an eagle.

After two-putting from nearly 70 feet on the par three thirteenth, Watson got a bit verklempt, as his approach on fourteen was short, costing him a stroke and, on the drivable par-four fifteenth, his drive was sprayed right, into the fescue, and it cost him yet another stroke.

But Watson righted the ship, though it didn’t look it after his tee shot at sixteen which landed in the left fairway bunker on the fly and left over 250 yards in. Watson had room to swing a long iron, but it landed short. But Watson got up and down from 30 yards for par. Seventeen was a two-putt par three and the par-five eighteenth was a three-shotter and another two-putt.

66 for Watson and the only player to get it to 7-under before falling back.

Sharing the top spot with Watson is a man who played well in his first British tourney on The Tour, Miller Barber.

As a conditional member of the Gerney Tour, he gave Woods a run for his money in week one, finishing with a more than impressive 18-under at St. Andrews, earning over a million dollars and earning his full Gerney card with a top ten finish.

Unlike Watson, Barber did a more workmanlike job around the course as a pitching wedge approach on the par five second almost landed in the hole, Barber tapping in for birdie. He wasn’t as aggressive as Watson on six, carrying a little less water and leaving a longer shot in which was only OK. But Barber converted with his putter from 17 feet for his second birdie of the day. An 8-iron on eight led to a four-footer to go three under before some sloppy play around the green at nine led to his only blemish of the day as Barber had to chip on for his fourth shot then two-putted from just seven feet for bogey.

Barber two-putted for par on ten before hitting the shot of the day on eleven. At the par five, Barber banged one 290 off the tee but just into the right rough. His 2-iron came up about 20 yards short. But he chipped in from there for the only eagle at the eleventh today. For what it’s worth, even with the dearth of eagles, eleven was playing as the easiest hole on the course today to par (4.49) and, by strokes, easier than three of the par fours (16th, 4.66 – 12th, 4.53 – 16th, 4.50). A 14-foot putt for birdie on the twelfth followed by pars the rest of the way, including a couple scrambles and an impressive par after driving into the fescue at fifteen and Barber joined Watson with a 66.

Right behind Watson and Barber are Corey Pavin and Christy O’Connor, each shooting 3-under 68s.

Pavin got it to 5-under on the front side thanks to his putter, connecting on three putts of under ten feet, but also from 13 feet on four and 20 feet on one. But, taking three shots to get out of the fescue on fifteen led to a double bogey and otherwise erased a string of pars starting at the ninth.

O’Connor was a bit more up and down, with three birdies and two bogeys and at 1-under while standing on the fifteenth tee. Playing at 275, O’Connor went a little long, his ball stopping just off the back of the green. But an impressive chip from 75 feet and O’Connor had one of only two eagles on the hole today, Greg Norman (72), who held the green and sunk a 25-foot putt being the other.

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Barber, on eleven.

OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES:

Ben Hogan doubled six, as he put his approach shot into the water, and bogeyed seven, three-putting from six feet, going out in 39. But three birdies on the back, which doesn’t sound like much, and Hogan came home in 32 and an even-par 71. Along with Barber, they were the only two to go that low on the back nine. Maybe it’ll carry over to round two.

Lloyd Mangrum was at 5-under before three consecutive birdies starting at fourteen. Like others, the fescue got hold of him on fifteen. After an atrocious drive which landed well short of the green, Mangrum took two to get out of the heavy grass.

Bobby Locke bogeyed the opening hole as he had trouble chipping from the heavy grass next to the green. After that? Three bogeys and the rest pars, finishing with a 69.

JH Taylor is renowned for his accurate driving. Repeating something I mentioned here earlier, Taylor would have the aiming posts you might find on some courses, especially with blind tee shots, removed for fear he might hit them. Taylor wasn’t straight today, hitting only eight of thirteen fairways. But he was really good at scrambling, converting for par on five of seven opportunities and finishing with a 69.

ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:

Well, there was Watson and Barber at 66 and Pavin and O’Connor at 68. And, tied at 2-under 69, along with Mangrum, Taylor and Locke, are Byron Nelson and Harry Vardon. And, in an eight-way tie for tenth at 70 are Sam Snead, Jim Barnes, Jimmy Demaret, Bobby Nichols, Justin Leonard, Nick Faldo, Kenny Perry and Peter Thomson.

WHY BOTHER?:

After bogeying one and putting two in the water off the tee on the par three third and making seven, Hubert Green was at 5-over through three and 7-over through seven. An eleventh hole birdie got one back. But a 4-over stretch of three holes starting at fourteen and where he played “Army golf” at fifteen (right into the fescue off the tee, skulled one across the green and into the water before taking a penalty stroke and another stab from the fescue which held the green then two-putting for a double) and Green was looking at 80 or better. But birdies on seventeen and eighteen brought him back to 79. And, even with that horrid start and that lousy stretch on the back nine before his finishing kick, Green is still better than three others–Mike Weir (80), Jacky Cupit (81) and Ted Kroll, who somehow managed to register twelve pars while still shooting an 82.

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR GERNEY TOUR SECOND ROUND

WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU.

Before The Tour, he was considered as one of the greatest golfers of all time. Certainly he was among the most beloved.

However, through the first seven events of The Tour, the best showing he had was a tie for thirteenth at Sawgrass. The good news was that he hadn’t missed a cut and had a bit over $400,000 to show for himself, good for 68th on the money list. Thanks to today’s performance, that’ll make eight events in a row in which he’s cashed a check. And, after 36 holes at Celtic Manor, this week’s check could be a big one.

And now, without further ado, all I have to say is this: Arnie shot a 63.

On a much calmer day than yesterday, Palmer scrambled for par on one. Then, boom, boom, boom, spot on approaches and three straight birdies. Then four straight pars before reloading.

At the 578 yard par five ninth, Palmer unloaded a 328 yard drive and easily reached in two and made birdie. A 6-iron to within six feet on ten netted another birdie and another 300-plus yard blast on the par five eleventh and reaching in two still another. A 30-foot putt for birdie on the par three thirteenth made it 7-under on the day. On fifteen, Arnie ate his Wheaties and overshot the front pin placement on the drivable par four by fifty yards. Though his chip from under a tree left a bit to be desired, Palmer bagged a 17-foot putt for his final birdie of the day. With a final chance to go lower, Palmer laid up in front of the pond on eighteen but couldn’t get up and down from 80 yards as his errant pitch left him over 35 feet away. But he two-putted for par and a tournament-low 63.

As another legend went low yesterday, Palmer has company at the top as Tom Watson shot a more pedestrian 68.

After a 66 yesterday, Watson made birdies at places he had yesterday (six and eleven) and places he hadn’t (fifteen and eighteen). And he bogeyed one he made birdie at yesterday (ten, as after a fat 6-iron, Watson came up short of the green and couldn’t get up and down).

They’re in front by two over another legend. Matter of fact, the leaderboard is filled with them. More about that in a moment.

Jack Nicklaus is all alone in third at 6-under thanks to a 6-under 65 today.

Nicklaus’ putter stepped forward on the first two holes thanks to birdie putts 22 and 19 feet. Fine approaches on six and eight got him to within eight and four feet, respectively, and he easily drained both, going out in 32. Three birdies on the back, including just missing from 44 feet for eagle on fifteen was marred only by a bogey on eighteen when he got more grass than ball on his approach from in front of the pond and made bogey.

ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:

Let’s just say that it could be some finish as, behind Palmer, Watson and Nicklaus is a five-way tie for fourth at 5-under among Ben Hogan, Tom Weiskopf, Bobby Locke, Scott Hoch and Al Besselink. And in another group of five tied for ninth at 4-under are Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Lloyd Mangrum, Corey Pavin and Bobby Nichols.

THE CUT LINE:

+3, with 78 making it. Alas, some legends are also on this list: Phil Mickelson, Payne Stewart, Gary Player and Fred Couples just missed at +4. Bobby Jones, Johnny Miller, Nick Price and Retief Goosen missed at +5. Padraig Harrington and Paul Runyan were at +6. Tom Kite was at +7 and Vijay Singh and Ted Ray were at +8.

A couple other notable cuts, and only for their improvement today over a horrible yesterday, were Ted Kroll, who shot the worst round of all 123 golfers with an 82, improved his score by 15 strokes to a 5-under 67. But he came up three strokes short of making the cut. Hubert Green, who had an awful start yesterday (5-over through three and 7-over through seven) before leveling off and finishing at an 8-over 79, thanks to birdies at the last two holes, took ten strokes off his game today. Like Kroll, Green came up three strokes short.

Yesterday’s co-leader, Miller Barber, treaded water before a run of three birdies in four holes starting at twelve (two wayward tee shots and a wayward approach) saw him finish with a 3-over 74, his 2-under total putting him in a seven-way tie for eighteenth.

SHOT OF THE DAY:

Willie Anderson on two.

At 616, the second hole was a definite three-shotter. So, after banging out a nearly 300-yard drive and a 240-plus 2-iron, Anderson was still 77 yards out. One three-quarter sand wedge later and Anderson was in the hole, literally, with the only eagle on the second hole today.

With a 3-under 68 today, Anderson is at even par for the tournament and in a twelve-way tie for 33rd.

Also, Tiger Woods on ten. 2-over through seven and 5-over for the tourney, Woods birdied the par five ninth before almost acing ten, his 6-iron from 210 stopping one foot the hole. Adding birdies on seventeen and eighteen saw Woods go 4-under over his final ten holes. Maybe he’s turned it around but, at 1-over for 36 holes, the week one winner at St. Andrews has 56 golfers either ahead of or even with him.

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR GERNEY TOUR THIRD ROUND

As in round one, the wind played a factor today with only six golfers breaking 70. Coincidentally, they’re also the top six names on the leaderboard. And Arnold Palmer is still leading.

Palmer managed to avoid the greenside bunkers for the third straight day and generally kept himself out of trouble all the way around the course. That translated into a 3-under 68 and a two shot lead over Tom Weiskopf.

Palmer’s only blemish in his round came on five when the wind and a hook got his ball and he drove into the fescue. Though able to make reasonably solid contact with his next shot, he nonetheless came up 60 yards short of the green and took three to get in from there. Palmer’s putter also bailed him out. Faced with putts of over 80 feet on three and five, he lagged close on both and made par and dig likewise on shorter efforts on six and ten, though both were over 40 feet away. Palmer also did a fair job of scrambling, including cashing on the drivable par four fifteenth for the third straight day. This time, even a driver into a hard wind left Palmer 30 yards short of the green and in the bunker. Faced with a long sand shot, Palmer overshot the hole by 16 feet but made the birdie putt.

Also managing to avoid the sand around the greens was Tom Weiskopf, who joined Q-School winner Scott Verplank and Gene Littler at 67 for the low round of the day.

Out in an even par 36, Weiskopf saved his best for the inward nine. He birdied the par five eleventh for the third straight day, this time getting up and down from 30 yards. A 7-iron over the flagstick on twelve led to a 14 foot putt for another birdie. After a par on thirteen, a tremendous 6-iron approach led to yet another birdie. After a drive into the fescue and somehow holding the green with his second led to a par on fifteen, Weiskopf became the only person to birdie sixteen today as a 4-iron approach from 221 just cleared the right hand bunker and nestled five feet from the hole.

4-under today puts Weiskopf at 9-under, two shots back of Palmer.

Tom Watson, even up with Palmer after two rounds, got swallowed up by the combination of the wind and his short game. For instance, on the par five second, Watson banged out a 312 yard drive, landing in the rough and narrowly avoiding the nearby bunker. He placed his second to within 75 yards. On in three and an easy par, right? Wrong, as his approach was pushed left into the deep rough. He barely got a club on the ball with his fourth shot, chili dipped his fifth and chunked his sixth though finally making it to the fringe, then two-putted for a snowman.

76 for Watson. Even still, he’s tied for eighth though, at eight back, he’s going to have to make up some ground while hoping those in front back up past him.

THE REMAINDER OF THE CREW IN THE 60s:

Scott Hoch. Doubled three after putting his tee shot in the water. Five birdies the rest of way including dropping a 23 foot putt at the last and Hoch was in with a 68, good enough for 8-under and third place.

Scott Verplank. Had trouble finding the fairway (only 6/13) but scrambled like his life depended on it (7/7 and 2/2 in sand saves). His 67 moved him into a tie for fourth. But, at six back, he still has some work to do.

Gene Littler. 31 on the back, including birdieing eleven for the third straight day and fifteen, where he hit a miraculous shot out of the fescue to within eight feet after the wind knocked down his driver to the tune of 229 yards and Littler finished with a 67. Like Verplank, he’s six back with eighteen to play.

Old Tom Morris. “Steady” would be an accurate description of the old Scot today. Three birdies and a bogey and a 69. He’s tied with Jack Nicklaus (73 today) for sixth, seven back. It should be noted that sonny boy (Young Tom) is also in the hunt. Though his 72 dropped him back, he’s still tied for eleventh at 2-under.

That covers most of the top ten. To round it out, tied with Watson for eighth are Art Wall (70) and Jimmy Demaret (71). Only twenty golfers are at par or better.

SHOTS OF THE DAY:

Weiskopf on sixteen, who had the only birdie there. And Mark O’Meara on seven with the only birdie at the par three which, at 3.24 was marginally the toughest of the four (three was at 3.23 and none were playing under par). With the wind in everyone’s face and with the pin front left, O’Meara needed a 3-metal just to clear the front left bunker at just under 200 yards. He did and managed to stop his ball within eight feet, sinking the putt.

O’Meara shot a 1-under 70 and is at 1-over for the tournament.

Honorable Mention: Greg Norman. If there were still screws on golf clubs, managed to hit his drive off them on fifteen. In difficult conditions in the first round, Norman managed to drive the green when almost everyone else couldn’t and knocked home a 25-footer for eagle. He drove the green as well today and left himself double the distance. Alas, though he couldn’t repeat Thursday’s performance, he did two putt for birdie. With a 72 today, Norman dropped back to 1-under and is tied with Bobby Locke for fourteenth.

BEN HOGAN:

In the running at 6-under after yesterday’s play, Hogan played what was likely the worst stretch of golf he’s ever played. A variety of bad shots led to bogeys on the first five holes. After almost holing out with his approach on six and making birdie, Hogan put his tee shot on the par three seventh in the right front bunker and made yet another bogey. A birdie on the par five ninth sent him to the snack bar in 40. One over on the back, thanks in part to a double on twelve when he put his tee shot in the water and a 76 dropped him off the radar to even par for the tournament and into a tie for sixteenth.

EVENT #8 CELTIC MANOR GERNEY TOUR FINAL ROUND

The Sports Illustrated cover was no jinx.

Arnold Palmer played slow and steady around the course, picked his spots and finished with a 4-under 67 and 15-under 269 for the tournament, winning by, literally, a foot. OK, so you got the ending first. But the rest of the story is pretty good.

After settling in a with a pair of two-putt pars on the opening two holes, Palmer’s putter went to work, dropping birdie putts of 16 and 10 feet on the next two holes. But he gave one back on five as a wayward approach found the only greenside bunker. Two more two-putt pars surrounded by a scramble found Palmer on the ninth tee still at 1-under for the day and still two-up on his nearest competition and other member of the final twosome, Tom Weiskopf.

Both birdied the par five ninth and both after over 300 yard drives, solid irons and short pitches, each going out in 1-under 34.

Palmer added one to his lead on ten as his routine par bested Weiskopf’s fat 6-iron to the left front bunker leading to bogey.

Weiskopf outdrove Palmer by 40 yards on the par five eleventh. But, in the end, solid second shots for both led to short pitches and up and downs for birdie, Palmer’s lead remaining at three shots.

After routine pars on twelve, both made the same club selection on the par three thirteenth, a 6-iron from 187. And both ended up the about the same distance away, 25 feet for Palmer and two feet farther away for Weiskopf. But, being just past pin high left made Weiskopf’s putting easier than where Palmer was, above the hole. Weiskopf two-putted while Palmer missed short and left a six-foot tester in which he failed. And Palmer’s lead was down to two with six to play.

But Palmer got the stroke right back, the difference likely being a few feet as Palmer’s 3-metal off the tee just managed to avoid the left side rough while Weiskopf got a bit of extra roll and stopped in the heavier grass. Palmer parked a 5-iron approach to seven feet while Weiskopf pushed his approach just a hair right and off the green. Though Weiskopf got up and down, Palmer made the putt. Arnie’s lead was back to three with five holes left.

And the Army was happy.

And so was Palmer, as he followed the birdie on fourteen with another at the drivable par four fifteenth. Missing just wide right with the driver but managing to avoid the fescue, Arnie got up and down. But he couldn’t shake Weiskopf, who did the exact same thing. Three up for Palmer with four to go.

And the Army cheered louder.

And, like a person totally oblivious to his surroundings, it fazed Weiskopf not one bit.

Palmer parred sixteen, in spite of both his drive and his second landing in the “litter box.” Weiskopf, possibly with his blinders on but also needing a dose of divine intervention, pushed his drive way right though still leaving a good view of the green. And then his 2-iron hit the green on the fly and didn’t hold, rolling off the back. And divine intervention showed up as Weiskopf chipped in. Two holes left and two shots to make up for Weiskopf.

Having honors on the par three seventeenth, Weiskopf stuck his tee shot seven feet from the hole. Palmer, possibly a bit flustered by Weiskopf’s sudden surge, came up just short of the green. Palmer got up and down while Weiskopf sank his putt. And now it was Palmer clinging to a one-shot lead with one to play.

And Weiskopf had honors again. And he unloaded a 357 yard blast on the par five last, outdriving Palmer by 75 yards. Palmer laid up in front of the pond. With the pin placement tucked in the right side of the green near the bunker, and having to fly that bunker and 233 in, Weiskopf still might have second-guessed himself by laying up, leaving a better angle at the pin and trusting his short game. After the tournament Weiskopf said he should have gone for it–at least going for the center of the green and two-putting.

Palmer’s pitch came up short and left, 21 feet to be exact, and left the door open for Weiskopf. Wide open, as it turned out, as Weiskopf’s pitch checked up five feet from the hole. Palmer putted first and missed. Normally, the player in front on the final green will mark his ball and ceremoniously tap in for the win. Palmer, possibly in a bit of gamesmanship, declined and calmly sunk his par putt, much to the delight of the majority of the gallery. After all, his win wasn’t quite assured anyway.

Palmer raised his hands, not in victory, but to hush the crowd as Weiskopf stared down his five-footer. And he pushed it just right, missing a playoff by, literally, a foot.

After Palmer and Weiskopf, pretty much everyone else was playing for “show” money throughout the day. Two players made a run, but would have had to break 60 to catch the leaders. And that just wasn’t going to happen. But…

ROUNDS OF THE DAY:

Plural. Jimmy Demaret and Art Wall each unloaded a 63, zooming both into a three-way tie for third with Scott Hoch at 11-under. Four birdies on the front, three on the back and an eagle at fifteen thanks to a driver within eight feet and Demaret was actually staring down 62 or better. But a fat 6-iron on seventeen led to bogey. And Demaret could do no better than par on the other two holes.

As for Wall, he went out in 30 thanks to six birdies. After a birdie on eleven, his third in four days, Wall got derailed on fourteen, again for the third time in four days, this time thanks to a tee shot in the rough and a wayward second. A two-putt birdie on fifteen and a spot on approach on eighteen to within a foot and Wall had his 63.

ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:

Well, there’s Palmer and Weiskopf. And then there’s Wall, Demaret and Hoch tied for third, all at 11-under. And then there’s the rest of the field. Byron Nelson closed with a 66, good for a sixth place finish. But, at 7-under, he finished eight back. Bobby Locke was all alone in seventh at 6-under, also finishing with a 66. Tom Watson, who got derailed by the wind yesterday, bounced back with a 69 to finish all alone in eighth at 5-under. And, in a four-way tie for ninth at 4-under were Julius Boros (65), Jim Furyk and Sam Snead (both with 66) and Scott Verplank (72).

Jack Nicklaus, who was in the hunt early, finished 73-73 to tie for 21st. Ben Hogan, who had a horrible front side yesterday, bounced back with a 68 to finish in a tie for 13th. And Tiger Woods, who didn’t miss the cut by much, posted a 67 to join Hogan and six others at 3-under.

RELEGATED (9):
John Ball, James Braid, Fred Couples, Bobby Jones, Tom Kite, Paul Runyan, Bob Toski, Mike Weir and Fuzzy Zoeller.

By |2017-02-13T11:23:09+00:00November 20th, 2011|The Tour Archives|Comments Off on The Tour – Eighth Event

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