EVENT #11 OAKMONT RUCKHAUS TOUR FIRST ROUND
It had been at least six weeks since they last played a competitive round of golf. Who knew what The Chairman was up to or there was another guiding hand above him. In any case, it had felt like purgatory or Century Village. You remember Century Village, don’t you? Probably still around, too–the place where Red Buttons was the spokesman. They called that place “God’s waiting room,” and for good reason. It was also known as “Cemetery Village” and “Cardiac Canyon,” but that’s neither here nor there. But the 400 or so still on The Tour had been in this holding pattern waiting for something to happen. And, since many were getting a new lease on life, maybe they thought they were in God’s waiting room again.
Back from limbo, the members of the three tours woke up at Oakmont. Man, this was getting grueling for them as most of the courses were in some sort of “Open” rotation–the US, the British or maybe something like the Ryder Cup. The object of this tour was to have the best golfers play at the best (read: toughest, though there were softies like Kapalua and Scottsdale in the mix and reports that Harbour Town was on tap as well) courses with the cream rising to the top. And, after ten tournaments, that seemed to be happening.
The Ruckhaus Tour was up first. There weren’t many folks in the gallery as the largest crowds were expected for the Gerney Tour; that’s where many of “the best of the best” were. The ones who paid their way in or who were comped still got to see some competitive golf. The only allowance The Chairman made for this tournament was the rough being cut down to so-called “PGA” height. That the golfers had to play courses in the “Open” rotations nearly every week was difficult enough; they weren’t going to constantly play out of grass better suited to a machete than a golf club.
The opening round leader was one of those guys who thought he had been placed in “God’s waiting room” for the past six weeks, as he thought his second call to the almighty was just around the corner–Alex Campbell, with 4-under 66.
Campbell kept himself in play most of the time, never getting into much trouble. And, at places like Oakmont, that’s the object of the game. After opening with three regulation pars, albeit all lag putts from long distance, Campbell made his first birdie at the par five fourth (there’s only one par five on each nine with a total par of 70). Missing short with his second, Campbell hit a long greenside bunker shot to three feet to make his four.
But he gave that stroke right back on five. Placing a 3-metal to the left side of the fairway for a good angle at the back right pin placement, Campbell caught his pitching wedge approach heavy and pushed it short and right. In the rough between the green and the bunker, Campbell couldn’t get up and down, missing a nine-footer for par.
But a spot-on approach at seven led to a seven-footer for birdie. Three more of those regulation pars followed before Campbell sunk an 11-foot birdie putt at eleven. Four more pars followed, including a “sandy” at the twelfth, an interminably long par five of 671 yards. Then came back-to-back birdies at sixteen and seventeen. Sixteen was a long par three–229–not the longest on the course as eight was playing at 294. But a 3-iron and a eight-foot putt netted birdie at sixteen and a birdie at the short par four seventeenth (only 301–how is a 294 a three par and 301…on, forget it) followed by a scramble par at the 485 yard last and Campbell had an impressive 34-32-66.
Peter Alliss is one shot back at 67.
Alliss went out in an impressive 32, including a birdie at five when he drove into the “Church Pews,” eventually getting up and down from 156 to make his four.
But the back nine was a roller coaster with his lone par coming at the last. Ten was a fat pitching wedge approach and bogey. But Alliss bounced back with a sand wedge approach at eleven to three feet and a birdie. Down the coaster again to a bogey at twelve when his approach (and this ain’t no two shot par five) went into the deep greenside bunker on the right, short siding himself in the process, making bogey there. Then it was three straight birdies on putts of three feet at the par three thirteenth, then four feet at fourteen and six at fifteen. Then, downhill again, missing left and short at sixteen and not being able to get up and down, and on seventeen when he chili dipped his approach out of the rough. The par on eighteen wasn’t quite a “gimme” either, missing on his approach but getting up and down, needing a 12-footer to save par. Needless to say that the nineteenth hole provided welcome relief for Alliss.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP NINE (Because there are twelve tied for tenth):
All are at -2: Hunter Mahan, Scott Simpson, King Brady, Jim Ferrier, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Francis Ouimet and Hal Sutton.
Speaking of Sutton, and Wes Ellis, too, for that matter. Both started off like a house on fire. For Sutton, it was birdies on three of his first four holes. But he bogeyed three with a three-putt and, after the early run, had two birdies and two bogeys the rest of the way.
Ellis got off to an even better start. Birdies on one, two and four, including putts of 22 feet at two and 17 at four, got him to a quick 3-under. But back-to-back bogeys at seven and eight (eight was actually a double bogey) and again at fourteen and fifteen, and that quick start turned into +2, which ties him for 52nd.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
There were three, two coming at six and both with a 6-iron.
Chris Perry and Rex Caldwell elected to play a 6-iron at the 196-yard sixth. That was the club of choice for most of the golfers today. With the pin in the center left and plenty of green to work with, Perry and Caldwell each recorded an ace. For Perry, it was the first under par hole after five straight pars on his roundabout way to a 69 (four birdies, four pars, three bogeys and a double). For Caldwell, it was the lone bright spot in a disaster of a day as he was 4-over through five on his way to a 76. Caldwell did his best “Lawrence of Arabia” imitation at five, with three shots in the sand, including two around the green.
The other shot of the day, and it pales by comparison to a pair of aces, was by Fulton Allem at two. Electing to go with driver off the tee at the 353 yard hole, Allem just managed to avoid the bunker in the right center of the fairway, one which would have been out of play with a 3-metal or shorter. But, daring and unafraid, the intrepid Allem followed that by holing a wedge from 60 yards. Alas, he gave those two shots back in the next three holes, then went even par the rest of the way–two birdies, two bogeys–and finished with an even par 70.
Homero Blancas was 3-under through seventeen before driving behind a tree, missing the green (barely) with his third and taking three to get up and down for double. Still, his 1-under put him in the twelve-way logjam for tenth.
WHERE’S THE CART GIRL?:
John Daly, with five bogeys on the front and out in 39. But, Daly left a good taste in his mouth–for him, that’s probably some old Number 7, with birdies at sixteen and eighteen, finishing with a 3-over 73.
Fred Daly, no relation, with a birdie at four before bogeying the final four holes on the front side. Not done yet, he bogeyed five more on the inward nine and finished with a 78.
Rich Beem, who started with a 6-iron approach and a five foot birdie putt at the opener, then four straight pars. Then he bogeyed eight of his last thirteen to finish with a 77.
And then there was Bernard Gallacher, who went on a 7-over run in just four holes starting with a triple at six, finally hitting the green with his fourth shot–and six is a par three with no water. After bogeys on the next two, Gallacher came up short and in the sand with his approach on nine then three-putted for a double.
Stay thirsty, my friends, though those four probably emptied out the beer supply by the turn.
EVENT #11 OAKMONT RUCKHAUS TOUR SECOND ROUND
It was another nice, dry day in western Pennsylvania. Lots of roll at the old course with the only downside being that the greens weren’t holding much–leading to more scrambling or, for the balls that held the greens, longer putts. Still in all, the overall scoring was about the same as yesterday with the aggregate at about 2 ½ over par.
Yesterday’s leader, Alex Campbell, missed three more greens, didn’t scramble anywhere near as well and putted a couple more times. All that added up to a 3-over 73. At 1-under for the first two rounds, he still only has seven golfers in front of him.
Campbell’s day was pretty much done inside of the first four holes. Missing the fairway with his tee shot on one, he also missed the green wide right with his approach then fumbled his way around the green, eventually making a double bogey six. Two was a two-putt par from 28 feet. Three looked a lot like one and another double. And, landing in the “Church Pews” on four left Campbell without a prayer. Playing at 593, Campbell had no chance at reaching the green in two and airmailed the green with his third. Unable to get up and down–again–it cost him another stroke. Five strokes lost to par in just the first four holes. A bogey and three birdies the rest of the way, including making a two at the long par three sixteenth for the second straight day thanks to a 59 foot putt and Campbell managed rein in what could have been a truly disastrous round.
Taking over the lead was Mike “King” Brady, with his second straight 68.
Brady was all over the place as he had but seven pars for his entire round. He bounced around through the early holes as a chip-in for birdie at two was negated by a visit to the Church Pews and a bogey at the next. And a birdie on the 593 yard fourth thanks to an approach that managed to check up eight feet from the hole was forgotten about not too long after thanks to missed par putts of four and three feet at six and seven.
At 1-under now, Brady went on a 4-under run over the next five holes to right the ship and then some. A 313 yard blast off the tee at nine led to an easy 7-iron approach and, this time, Brady converted the short three-foot putt. At ten, an errant drive was followed by a nearly miraculous 4-iron from 211 that stopped eight feet from the back right pin location. Brady made that putt too. After par at eleven, Brady took three to reach at the 642 yard twelfth. Everybody took three. The difference for Brady is that he dropped his 13-foot birdie putt, one of only eleven birdies there today. After that, he managed to just clear the large trap fronting the green at the par three thirteenth and stop a 6-iron pin high then dropped the 11-footer for his fourth birdie in the last five and get it to 5-under. Brady’s only blemish the rest of the way was at the 501 yard par four fifteenth where an errant 2-iron approach was pushed into the large righthand bunker and h couldn’t make his “sandy.”
68-68 for Brady and he leads by one over six others–Wayne Levi (66 today), Johnny Bulla and Mike Hill (both 68), Jim Ferrier and Hal Sutton (both 69) and Peter Alliss (70). And, in a five-way tie for eighth at 1-under, three shots back, are Billy Joe Patton (67), David Frost and Bart Bryant (both with 70), Francis Ouimet (71) and, as mentioned previously, yesterday’s leader, Alex Campbell (73).
ROUND OF THE DAY:
Woody Austin with a 64.
After his first hole, Austin never would have guessed he’d have the low round of the day–and by two shots–as he slashed his driver almost out on the interstate. Stuck in the trees, Austin was able to advance his ball only about 130 yards. As the hole was playing 488, he still had 150 in. Flying the green, Austin had trouble chipping, finally getting on in five with only a 14-foot putt salvaging a double bogey six.
Two pars followed and then Austin went to work. Four feet from the pin with his approach on the par five fourth. Then three feet at the par three sixth. Then two feet at eleven and four feet at fourteen. In between, birdie putts of fifteen and twelve feet at seven and eight, thirteen feet at ten and ten feet at fifteen. 8-under for that impressive twelve-hole run and that first round 77 was a thing of the past with his 1-over aggregate putting him in a five-way tie for 23rd. More importantly, it kept him around for the weekend as even an even-par round would have sent him packing.
+6 and you stayed for the weekend. +7 and sayonara, with 79 making the cut. Headed for an early exit included Bruce Lietzke, Jumbo Ozaki and John Mahaffey (+7), Shaun Micheel and DJ Trahan (+8), John Daly and Frank Stranahan (+9), David Feherty and Rich Beem (+10), Billy Andrade (+11) and Fulton Allem, who had one of the shots of the day yesterday as he holed out for eagle at two. After an even par 70 yesterday, he couldn’t get his engine started today going out in 45 with four double bogeys included on his way to an 82 which, it just so happens, was the worst round shot by anybody over the first two days.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Frederik Jacobson at three and Johnny Pott at seventeen.
Jacobson got off to a great start with birdies at one and two. But he topped that at three, blasting a driver 338 down the middle and leaving only 97 yards then slam dunking a three-quarter sand wedge. Alas, Jacobson couldn’t sustain that torrid start though he managed to level off, parring the rest of the way in save for a bogey at the last. 67 for the day puts Jacobson in a ten-way logjam at even par.
Pott (143, +3) will be around for the weekend. After a slow start where he had back to back doubles at three and four, Pott got one of those shots back with birdies at three and eleven partially canceled out by a bogey at the 280 yard par three eighth. But Pott finished with a flourish. At the 324 yard par four seventeenth, a well-placed 3-metal off the tee led to just 82 yards in. And, with a difficult pin placement in the back right with bunkers awaiting even a moderately errant shot, Pott watched his sand wedge check up and fall into the hole. Not done yet, Pott birdied the 494 yard par four last, hitting his 3-iron approach out of the rough pin high then draining a 17-footer. So, after a 39 front, Pott regrouped for a 31 back nine and an even par 70 today.
EVENT #11 OAKMONT RUCKHAUS TOUR THIRD ROUND
Another day, another leader.
Francis Ouimet, with a 66, the low round of the day, vaulted out of a five-way tie for eighth to move to the top of the leaderboard at 5-under par.
Though it failed him twice, Ouimet had the putter working before his approach shots made his life much easier with the flat blade. He birdied the 585 yard par five fourth for the third straight day, this time by draining a 37 foot putt. Then, 13 feet for birdie at the par three sixth and the same at the par four tenth. Then, closer still–a nine footer at eleven, six feet at fourteen and two at fifteen. Ouimet then finished up with an eight footer for birdie at the last.
His putter failed him at five, lag putting from 65 feet, still coming up five feet short and missing that. The par three thirteenth saw another three-putt, this time from 37 feet as Ouimet missed badly and couldn’t convert from eight feet. His other bogey came at the interminable twelfth hole. Playing at 643, Ouimet flew an 8-iron approach from the rough over the green and took two to get up and down.
The other low round of the day came from Fred Hawkins, also with a 66, saving his best work for last.
Hawkins birdied the short par four second, cashing in with a 19-foot putt. Then, pars all the way to thirteen followed by birdies for four of the final five holes, all courtesy of a spot-on putter–25 feet at thirteen, 11 at fourteen, 16 at seventeen and nine at the last. Hawkins’ only blemish on that finishing kick came at the par three sixteenth. Playing at 224, Hawkins held the green with a 3-iron–his ball rolling to the back. 40 feet away, Hawkins three-putted, missing a five-footer for par.
Hawkins’ 66 moved up into a tie for second at 4-under with the man who’s probably in the best position of anyone who has a chance tomorrow–assuming he can keep up what he’s done the first three days–Hal Sutton.
Sutton is among the best at greens in regulation (tied for third with Hawkins at 77.8% and just behind Ouimet) and, when he misses, he’s at the top in scrambling and among the best in sand saves. He’s also the only golfer to break par for all three days.
After an opening round 68, Sutton shot his second consecutive 69. Unlike Mike Brady’s round yesterday, which had but seven pars on his way to a 2-under 68, Sutton was a modicum of consistency with 15 pars, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 14 greens while scrambling successfully on the four he missed. Birdies at eleven and thirteen came on short putts of four and ten feet and Sutton’s lone bogey came on a three-putt at the short par four fifteenth, needing three putts from just 21 feet, missing a four-footer for par.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
In a four-way tie for fourth at 2-under, three shots back, are Hunter Mahan, Dudley Wysong and Roger Maltbie, all with 68s, and yesterday’s leader, Brady, with a 72. And, in a three-way tie for eighth at 1-under are Billy Joe Patton (70) and Wayne Levi and Mike Hill, both with 72.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Camilo Villegas at six. He aced the 205 yard hole with a 6-iron. But, what does he do for a follow-up as he parred the hole in the first round, birdied it the next and aced it today. 3-2-1. Will he not play the hole tomorrow and get a zero? By the way, Villegas is in a ten-way tie for thirteenth at 1-over.
DRIVE FOR SHOW:
Bubba Watson. He’s averaging 345 off the tee. That’s 19 yards better than anyone else who, at this point, is Todd Hamilton. The somewhat bad news? Watson is hitting those fairways at just a 60% clip, merely average. Better news? He’s tied with David Frost for eleventh at even par, just five shots back.
EVENT #11OAKMONT RUCKHAUS TOUR FINAL ROUND
Hal Sutton seemed ready to be anointed “Most Likely to Succeed.” Yes, he was in second place after three rounds, but he had been doing everything right–including the stuff he had done wrong, as his scrambling and sand play had covered up for previous boo-boos. As a result, he was the only man to break par in each of the first three rounds.
He missed by one shot.
Where did Sutton go wrong? The answer was “nowhere.” The weather was excellent again and the greens very hard, which meant that, seemingly, everyone had trouble getting close. Sutton was no exception as, though he played regulation golf, always seemed to be putting from long distance.
The result? Sixteen regulation pars. One scramble par–at eleven, which he almost holed out, his ball stopping on the rim of the cup. And one birdie, at fifteen, where he dropped a 13-foot putt. Sutton missed two nine-footers and two eleven-footers in his sojourn around the venerable course. But, as putting at Oakmont can be a tricky thing on a normal day, hard, slick greens can present a challenge to any pro staring down a ten-footer. So, maybe Sutton can be excused.
Four rounds under par. The only player in the 132-man field to do it. And what was Sutton’s reward? Second place at 5-under 275, $108,000 and a one-week guarantee on the Staffa Tour. Enjoy the consolation prizes; the IRS man is waiting for you in the parking lot.
Who won? The man who was leading after the second round, Mike Brady, whose reward, beside at least a permanent trip to the Staffa Tour and a hundred and eighty grand, will be to hide his sexuality on a badly-written 1970s sitcom. Like Sherwood Schwartz turned out anything of quality?
Brady came through when it counted, with the second best round of the day, a 66 (equaled by Mike Morley).
Brady worked for his 66, as he missed half his fairways but, among his first four birdies, three came from out of the rough. Right out of the gate, at one, Brady went with a 3-metal off the tee. With bunkers lining both sides of the fairway and in the hitting zone of most pros, it appeared to be the safe play. But no, as he pushed it right, just managing to avoid a bunker waiting at 260 yards out. With a good look at the back left pin placement, Brady’s 3-iron from 238 rolled to a stop just six feet from the hole. Not sure what Brady was thinking at five when he pulled the driver out of his bag. The hole was playing at 370 and not reachable by any means. He outdrove the fairway by plenty, nearly landing in a ditch. But his pitch from 50 yards stopped just under pin high right and he drained the 14-foot birdie putt. Eleven was a regulation birdie, fairway, green five-foot putt. Twelve, playing at over a third of a mile, was rough off the tee for Brady, 3-iron into a ditch, then a 5-iron he pulled out of some orifice on his body safely onto the green from 202 and a 19-foot birdie putt.
Magic like that pushed Brady into the lead at 6-under, which he wouldn’t relinquish. Except…
The par three sixteenth, playing at 238…Brady went with a 4-iron and chunked it right and short. Not wishing to get cute, he pitched safely on and two-putted. That bogey dropped him into a tie with Sutton. More magic at seventeen as he mishit a 3-metal at the short par four into one of the deep bunkers on the left which shouldn’t be in play for most of these guys. The good news was that, even faced with a tough bunker shot, it wasn’t from that far away–only 97 yards. Safely on the back fringe and only fifteen feet away, Brady lipped out. All things considered, it was a decent par.
Now to eighteen and the tournament on the line… 490 yard par four and Brady smacked the hell out of his driver, over 300 yards. Faced with 184 in, a good look at the pin and plenty of a very large green to work with, Brady watched his 5-iron roll to a stop just six feet past the hole. Still, nothing’s easy on the greens of Oakmont and Brady almost missed, his ball dropping in the hole through the side door (a result of 19).
Sutton, in the final group and just behind Brady, pounded his driver–315, dead center. As he was walking to his ball, he heard the cheers on the green. He knew they couldn’t have been for Fred Hawkins who, at 4-over for the day, had taken a tumble down the leaderboard after starting the day one shot back. So, that must’ve meant that Brady had dropped his birdie putt. They just don’t cheer like that for pars.
Eighteen was playing at 490. Fortunately, Sutton’s long drive left him with a short iron, a 7-iron from 175. And he knocked it pin high, about ten feet away. Sutton had a good look at the putt but didn’t judge the pace quite right, his ball trickling to the right as it slowed down. Should’ve hit it harder. Par was little consolation.
So, after all that magic, it was a birdie in crunch time which gave Brady the one-shot win.
As for yesterday’s leader, Francis Ouimet, he dropped two shots early on two missed greens at one and three and never recovered, shooting a 2-over 72. And, though he had three birdies, Ouimet wasn’t up to the scrambling aspect of golf today, making bogey three other times on missed greens. Even still, he finished all alone in third at 3-under 277.
ROUND OF THE DAY:
Fwenchman Arnaud Massy, with a 64. That sprung him over a whole bunch of golfers and he finished tied for fourth with Wayne Levi (69 today) at 2-under.
Massy nailed short birdie putts of nine and four feet at one and seven, but also dialed long distance for birdie at four and five (34 and 20 feet). Out in 31, he birdied eleven with an eight-footer, failed at twelve as he three-putted from just sixteen feet, and finished up quite nicely with birdies at the final two holes, almost holing out from 81 yards at seventeen as his ball checked up on the rim of the cup, and on eighteen where, after a 320 yard drive, he hit a 7-iron to ten feet and made the putt.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN (OK, fifteen, as all will advance to the Staffa Tour next week):
Mike Hill (70) and Dudley Wysong tied for sixth at 1-under. Larry Nelson (69) and Fred Hawkins (74) tied for eighth at even par. And, in a six-way tie for tenth with all shooting even par 70s were: Jim Ferrier, Larry Hinson, Camilo Villegas, Homero Blancas, Bud Allin and Johnny Bulla.
EVENT #11OAKMONT STAFFA TOUR FIRST ROUND
Second verse, same as the first, as the “B” flight took their turn at venerable Oakmont. As with the Ruckhaus Tour event, the weather was perfect, the wind a light breeze, at best, and the greens holding and rolling like the club’s parking lot.
There were the quick starters. Bob Estes was the best of that lot, birdieing the first four holes, two with fine approaches and short puts and two on challenging putts of 22 and 18 feet. Alas, he couldn’t keep up the torrid early pace. Out in 5-under 30, thanks to back-to-back bogeys at eight and nine and no thanks to overshooting the green at the par three sixth and making a four, a double at the 671 yard twelfth where Estes couldn’t find the fairway with any shot, got on in four and then three-putted, and bogeys at the final two, left Estes at 2-under 68 for the day. Not bad, but he’s in a twelve-way tie for fifteenth.
Gil Morgan also shot out of the gate quickly with three birdies in a row starting at two and all thanks to fine approaches which left birdie putts of nine, five and three feet. But Morgan couldn’t maintain that pace either, only maintaining, so to speak, as two birdies and two bogeys the rest of the way left him exactly where he was after the fourth hole: 3-under, putting him in a seven-way tie for eighth.
Chad Campbell birdied one, two and four. But he finished the front side with back-to-back birdies before recovering with short putt birdies on ten and seventeen. 3-under through four remained at 3-under through eighteen and, like Morgan, is in the large tie for eighth.
But the best and most sustained start of the lot belong to the day’s co-leader, Jack Burke, with a 5-under 65.
Burke was 6-under through eleven, the only golfer to go that low today. And there was only one gimme birdie among the lot as his 8-iron approach at six stopped within two feet of the cup. Twelve looked like another birdie waiting to happen as Burke smacked his driver 353 yards. But, as this hole is about ten miles long, Burke still had nearly 320 yards in. But he was a little sloppy with a 4-iron layup, giving it a full swing and landing in the rough about 100 yards out. !00 on the fairway would have been a piece of cake. 100 out of a tough lie flew the green and Burke made bogey. But Burke got that shot back with a birdie at fourteen but gave it away just a hole later as his drive on fifteen landed in the other set of “Church Pew” bunkers–most golfers, after landing there, are usually heard to take the Lord’s name in vain, or worse–and he made bogey.
The other co-leader probably played the best round of anyone in the 130-man field.
Andrew Strath hit every fairway and missed only three greens in regulation, successfully scrambling every time to make par. Strath’s first four birdies were on putts of six, four, six and five feet with only his birdie on eighteen, at 22 feet, being substantially challenging. And it turned out to be a no-doubter, as he knocked his putt dead center (a result of “1”). Machines don’t have highlight reels and Strath played like a machine today.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
Donnie Hammond, John Huston, JC Snead, Charlie Coody and Jack White are tied at 4-under. Coody had a birdie run on the back nine, running off five in the first six holes including four in a row starting at twelve with only the one at fourteen being something less than a sure thing as it took a 26-foot putt to make his three. Like Coody, Snead had a birdie run after the trip to the snack bar, running off three in a row and four in the first five holes. The one on eleven was pretty, as Snead flew the green with his approach but he chipped in from 45 feet. Huston saved his best work for last, birdied four of the last five holes, all on fine approaches and putts no longer than ten feet (9, 5, 5 and 10 at the last).
And, along with Morgan and Campbell in that seven-way tie at 3-under are Bob Ferguson, Al Besselink, Brandt Snedeker, Jim Turnesa and Flory Van Donck.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Brad Faxon at five. He couldn’t find the fairway with a road map today, hitting only four. The fifth hole was no different, as Faxon’s 3-metal off the tee narrowly avoided the three large bunkers on the left. Staring down 145 in and with a lot of green to work with, Faxon’s 8-iron was right on line, rolling in for an eagle two. Unfortunately, Faxon didn’t see another birdie until sixteen and posted five bogeys after that eagle, the first of those coming at the very next hole. Faxon’s 1-over 71 was about the average for the field today and puts him in the middle of the pack in a 20-way tie for 57th.
DRIVE FOR SHOW:
After knocking down a quart of Red Bull at the turn, Niclas Fasth unloaded his drive at ten to the tune of 382 yards, dead center. Playing at 464, he was left with but a three-quarter sand wedge. Sometimes those partial swings can be a real pain in the ass and, though it wasn’t quite that for Fasth, he still left himself a twelve-footer for birdie which he ran three feet past, making the return putt for par. 1-under at the time, Fasth finished up with an even par 70. Maybe he should dial it down to decaf.
EVENT #11 OAKMONT STAFFA TOUR SECOND ROUND
Steady, if unspectacular play marked the second round as, once again, conditions were optimal and the greens hard and fast.
First round leaders Andrew Strath and Jack Burke continue to lead. 5-under after yesterday’s play, neither could get it to 7-under at any point during the round, each finishing with a 69 and a halfway score of 6-under. But they’re not the only ones at the top of the leaderboard as JC Snead shot a 2-under 68.
Snead first, as he’s the new kid here… Starting his day at 4-under, work on the practice tee paid off immediately as he birdied the opening hole going 3-metal, 7-iron and 12-foot putt at the 488 yard hole. Must be nice to be able to bang a 7-iron 211 yards. But Snead gave that shot back on three with a three-putt from 25 feet, missing a six-footer for par (these greens are treacherous) and another two holes later when his tee shot ended up behind a tree. But he regrouped and birdied three out of four starting at seven. Seven and eight were especially pretty. After banging out a driver over 300 yards at seven, Snead’s 8-iron approach from 175 stopped a foot away for a “gimme.” And, on the longest par three probably anywhere, Snead hit a 3-metal at the 280 yard eighth to within three feet. Regulation pars the rest of the way in starting at eleven and save for the last hole when Snead overshot the green and got up and down, making a 12-foot putt to do so and he finished with a 2-under 68.
Strath, who was more machine than man yesterday in shooting a 65, had a bit of a rough go on the front side as, unlike Snead, he left his game at the practice tee, bogeying one (short on his approach after hitting out of long grass) and three (three putt from 22 feet). But that was sandwiched around his second birdie in as many days at two, the short par four. Strath fell to 3-under for the tournament with another three putt, this time at seven. But, like Snead, he birdied eight with a 12-foot putt. Strath picked up two more birdies at eleven and thirteen, the latter being a “beaut” as he holed out of the very deep bunker fronting and guarding the left side of the par three. He wasn’t as fortunate at sixteen, the final par three, missing just left and chili-dipping trying to get on, eventually making bogey. But Strath bounced back at the very next hole, the short par four seventeenth, hitting a three-quarter sand wedge to five feet and converting the birdie putt.
As for Burke, two three-putts on the front, along with another bogey where he couldn’t find the short grass no way, no how and a miraculous birdie, chipping in from the rough surrounding the fifth hole, and he was out in 37. After running off six rather routine pars, Burke finished with a flourish, holing out of the greenside bunker at the 501 yard par four fifteenth, knocking in a fifteen-footer for birdie at sixteen and hitting a 319 yard drive and a 7-iron to five feet at the last and making birdie there too.
LOW ROUND OF THE DAY:
67, shared by six golfers. The biggest beneficiary? Dave Hill, who’s now all alone in sixth at 4-under. Hill seems to like fourteen and fifteen, birdieing them for the second straight day. Yesterday, it was on a pair of fourteen-foot putts. Today, Hill hit a bit closer to the targets–eight and seven feet.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Lionel Hebert at three. With the “Church Pews” on the left and five bunkers on the right, Hebert played safe with a 3-metal. Facing 155 in, he selected a 9-iron, took aim at the back center pin location and one-hopped it into the cup for an eagle two. Hebert also had a birdie at one but never played an under par hole the rest of the day, finishing with a 1-over 71 and is even par for the tournament and in a nine-way tie for 25th.
Freddy McLeod birdied three of the first five holes. For the ones at the second and fourth holes, they were the second in as many days. Flirting with danger at two, as his driver stopped just short of the fairway bunker–the one in the right center of the fairway at about 285, McLeod butchered an easy pitch, leaving a 38-footer for birdie, which he made. And, though he had a birdie at ten, he gave all those shots back, culminating with a three-putt bogey at the last. Still in all, 68-70 leaves McLeod at -2 and in a seven-way tie for twelfth, definitely within striking distance.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
Bob Ferguson (68 today) and Charles Coody (69) are tied for fourth a shot back at 5-under. Hill was mentioned as being all alone in sixth. And, in a five-way tie for seventh at 3-under are Bob Hamilton and Alan Robertson (both with 69), Gil Morgan (70) and Donnie Hammond and Jack White (both with 71).
THE CUT LINE:
Lots of people will be around for the final two rounds as 84 will be picking up a check this week. Top 70 and ties and within ten strokes of the leader were one and the same this week as eighteen players were tied for 67th at +4, which also happened to be ten strokes behind the threesome at 6-under. Notables making an early exit: Hale Irwin and Curtis Strange (+5), Stephen Ames and Lee Elder (+6), Fred Couples and the “Wee Scot” Bobby Cruickshank (have one of his putters–an old hickory-shafted one–in my garage) at +7, Carl Petterson (+8) and Carlos Franco and Christy O’Connor, both at +9.
GOING OUT IN A BLAZE OF GLORY:
Phil Blackmar, who won at Celtic Manor on the Ruckhaus Tour in event number eight, then proved that that week’s win was a fluke by missing the next two cuts before finishing dead last in the first two rounds this week. Someone has to and he’s the lucky guy at 77-76, putting him at +13.
Brandt Snedeker, Thomas Bjorn and Jimmy Adams were the only three golfers with the distinction of shooting under par on day one only to be shown the exit after day two.
Snedeker actually had a chance as, after shooting 3-under 67 yesterday, he was at 5-over for the day coming into sixteen. But he hacked sixteen into a double bogey, taking three just to get on at the par three. That put him right on the cut line. But seventeen was a missed six-footer for par and it took Snedeker four to get on at the last, eventually sinking a five-foot bogey putt. 9-over for the day and sayonara.
Bjorn’s balze of glory came early on at six. 185, par three. 7-iron pushed right. More grass than ball on the second and into the bunker separating him from the green. Over the green from the bunker. More grass than ball again with his fourth. On in five and two putts for a quadruple bogey seven. 69-77 for Bjorn and he, too, said sayonara.
After a 69 in round one, Jimmy Adams apparently traded in his clubs for meat cleavers, machetes and shovels, ballooning to a field-worst 82. What can be said? Back-to-back doubles at eleven and twelve and another at the last for good measure. He actually birdied fourteen, technically from off the green as he dropped a 21-foot putt from the fringe. Hey, it could have been 83 or 84, right? But 69-82 was better than only three other golfers. Though he has his full-time Staffa card, it’s been a tough year for Adams, cashing in only three times to the tune of $74,000, his biggest check coming at Celtic Manor, when he tied for eleventh.