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2014-15 PGA TOUR
It’s time to give ASG Golf another spin, this time for the 2014-15 season. And, though it won’t be the all-time greats, there are a few in there who may be looked at that way when they finally put their clubs away for the last time. There are more shot-by-shot courses available. And that’s a good thing because you can watch these guys negotiate their way around a golf course.
In this iteration, it’s actual lineups (save for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, The Players Championship, the majors and the Fed Ex Cup playoffs, as winners at other tour stops will affect who plays in the ones just mentioned). I’ll try to keep the actual courses pretty close, though I will likely make the Farmers Torrey Pines South only, the AT&T Pebble Beach only as one course can handle the entire field at both places, though if could somehow split the field in half or thirds and have all courses going at the same time I would. The WGC Match Play Championship was played at Harding Park. It’ll probably be moved to nearby (and shot-by shot) Olympic. Also, the Barclays may likely be played at Ridgewood instead of Plainfield, if only because Ridgewood is shot-by-shot and is on the regular rotation having hosted the tournament in 2014. And, hopefully Conway Farms will be shot-by-shot by the time its turn comes up as the third Fed Ex playoff event.
All of that said…Enjoy!
Silverado Resort & Spa
Welcome to the Neil and Marvin Bush Savings & Loan Invitational. Not to worry, the Clintons and Trump are coming up later in the season.
OK, enough comedy. Wasn’t much anyway. It’s time for the 2014-15 PGA season to get under way.
Many of the tour’s heavyweights won’t show up until after the first of the year. Nothing like starting the year in Hawaii. So, what the first six events of the wrap-around season will do is to give some of the lesser lights or up-and-comers a chance to win some good money, maybe automatically qualify for majors and win some cash before guys like Spieth, Day, McIlroy and the Johnson boys show up.
Also, as opposed to how I did it on “The Tour,” I’m going to abbreviate the clubs. 3W, 8I and PW, for instance, as opposed to 3-wood (or metal, as they’re not made out of wood anymore), 8-iron and pitching wedge. Less typing.
Though it wasn’t Tim Finchem throwing out the first ball or Jack Nicklaus hitting the ceremonial first tee shot at The Masters, Byron Smith was in the first threesome and hit the first tee shot of the season. Let the record show that it was 300 on the nose down the left side of the fairway. He also flew the green with his approach but chipped close and made par. He also shot a 5-over 77 and will probably play tomorrow and that’s it before heading off to Vegas and trying again.
Tough day out there as the wind was up and playing havoc with all shots. The greens didn’t hold much, either, until some light rain came through in the afternoon and softened things up just a bit.
Rookie Blayne Barber (he had three starts in 2013, so maybe he still qualifies as one) made the best of the often times difficult conditions with a 6-under 66.
Barber bogeyed the long (242) par-three second when the wind knocked down his 3W tee shot into the front bunker. And that was the end of the bogeys as it was pars and birdies the rest of the way including nearly holing out from 100 at seventeen and tapping in and dropping a 23-footer for birdie at eighteen.
William McGirt and Cameron Percy are tied at 67. McGirt bounced back from a fourth hole bogey with a birdie at the par-five fifth as he played 6-under the rest of the way while Percy birdied three of the four par-fives and had no bogeys.
The tie at 68 goes down to ninth—Justin Thomas, Hunter Mahan, Kevin Kisner, Scott Piercy, Brendan Steele and Tony Finau. Then, it’s Chez Reavie, Steven Bowditch, Ricky Barnes, Justin Leonard and Jon Curran at 69.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Barber at seventeen.
Zac Blair would get honorable mention. There were only four birdies at two, a 242-yard par three into the wind that was playing as the most difficult hole on the course. Blair needed a driver to get there and won the closest to the pin contest at eight feet and, of course, made birdie. Of course because, if he two putted for par, no one would care. He shot 71.
After a quiet, yet productive 3-under through fourteen, Steven Bowditch had a tremendous finishing kick, shooting the round of the day (equaled by two others) while taking a one-shot lead in the process.
Bowditch dropped a couple lengthy birdie putts at fifteen and sixteen—17 and 16 feet, respectively. But seventeen was the shot of the day. Hooking his tee shot, he had a clean line in out of the rough from 112. Getting over the trees in his way was no problem. Never truly sure as to how balls will come out of the rough, Bowditch went for the green and was hoping for a two-putt. He did far better as his ball released and rolled next to the hole, just about hanging over the edge of the cup. He then made it four birdies in a row as he got up and down from 58, making the five-footer to close out his round while hoping he could have played nine more. At -10, he leads by one.
Mark Leishman made sure it’ll be two Aussies in the final pairing tomorrow as he came home with a better finishing kick than Bowditch. Even at the turn, he dropped a sixteen-footer for birdie at ten then a fourteen-footer for birdie at twelve. Then, eight feet for birdie at fourteen, ten for another birdie at the par-three fifteenth, up and down from 40 at the par-five sixteenth, a 9I over the trees and to eight feet and yet another birdie at seventeen and, after a bit of army golf at eighteen, up and down from 74 to seven feet at the last. So, five birdies in a row to close it out, a 29 back nine and a day’s best 65. At -9, he’s tied for second with Hunter Mahan, who shot a 67.
With five birdies, including three putts of under ten feet, Mahan did his best work on the front side as he ran off nine pars on the back—all regulation, too. Not a scramble among the lot.
After those three, John Huh also equaled the round of the day while getting to 8-under. He’s tied for third with Scott Piercy, who had a pair of 68s, and William McGirt (69).
It’s Ricky Barnes (68) and Cameron Percy (70) tied for seventh at -7 with yesterday’s leader, Blayne Barber (72) among a group of four tied for tenth at 6-under. The others are Tony Finau, Brendan Steele and Justin Thomas, all of whom shot 70.
THE OTHER SHOT OF THE DAY:
Tom Hoge at five. A reachable but double doglegged par-five, he went for the green in two from 230. With a 2I, he launched his ball over the trees, over a curving road that’s out of bounds, over some more trees, hit the fringe and rolled to within fifteen feet of a nearly inaccessible back left pin placement, then made his eagle putt, the only one at the hole today. 3-under at the time, he gave two back with a double at twelve when he shanked his tee shot well right and onto a different road. So, two road holes for Hoge, which he played at even par.
Speaking of Hoge, despite a 71 today, he didn’t make the cut, which was at even-par, 75 sticking around for the weekend. Not a lot of big names here, but notables making an early trip to Lost Wages include Davis Love, Kevin Streelman, Alex Cejka, Hideki Matsuyama, Vijay Singh and, after playing five over through the first five yesterday on his way to a 79, Brooks Koepka.
Second round leader Steven Bowditch looked to be well on his way to being the third round leader as well. And then came the back nine.
With four birdies and a bogey on the front side, Bowditch was at -13 and up a shot on John Huh and Hunter Mahan. He started the back nine with three regulation pars. At thirteen, Bowditch hooked his tee shot then took a flyer out of the rough with his second, couldn’t pitch close and made bogey. Two holes later, he hit his tee shot in the water at the par three and made double. Army golf at the par five next saw Bowditch take four to get on and yet another bogey. Behind a tree with his tee shot at seventeen, he came up short and in the bunker with a second shot he had to keep low and made yet another bogey before recovering with a birdie at the par-five last. Still, it was a 40 back nine and 9-under for the tourney. Even so, he’s still in the top ten (tied with six others for eighth) and is only three shots back.
Huh and Mahan are the men at the top, both at -12. Huh had four birdies in the first ten holes before parring out and shooting 68 while Mahan had two bogeys but still shot 69.
Scott Percy is at -11 while Steve Wheatcroft, Chez Reavie, Eric Compton and Tony Finau are tied for fourth at 10-under. Wheatcroft shot the best round of the four and the best round of the day with a 65 (equaled by Jonas Blixt—which makes me think of the movie “Team America and the scene between Kim Jong Il and Hans Blixt—the sex scene with marionettes made me bust a gut). Wheatcroft didn’t get his first birdie until the par-five fifth, the only hole he’s birdied each day. He ran off three in a row starting at ten and he can thank his putter for most of his birdies—12 feet at eight, 19 at ten, 36 at eleven, 19 at sixteen and 14 at the last. Reavie, Compton and Finau shot 67, 67 and 68, respectively.
Joining Bowditch (73) at -9 are Martin Laird (66), Bo Van Pelt (67), Chris Stroud (67), Ricky Barnes (70),Cameron Percy (70) and Mark Leishman, who dropped out of a tie for second with an even-par 72.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Brendan de Jonge at seven. The 222-yard, par-three wasn’t giving up much—only four birdies, the least of any hole today. Amazingly, three of the par-threes are playing among the four toughest holes this week. In the process of running off four consecutive birdies, De Jonge parked a 3I to within a foot. He shot a 4-under 68 and is one shot out of the top ten at -8.
William McGirt and then Steven Bowditch set the early pace.
At 6-under and six shots off the lead, McGirt had an earlier tee time. And he just breezed around the course to the tune of a tournament best 10-under 62. He birdied three of the par-fives. Of the other seven, only four putts came from under ten feet. Even with all the birdies, McGirt was a bit streaky, running off five birdies in the final six holes to close out the front nine then five of six starting at twelve. As it turned out, though 62 was three shots better than anyone could accomplish this week, he needed one more birdie at the par-five last. Left off the tee at the 567-yard hole, he couldn’t get home in two but needed twelve feet for birdie and ran it past just on the high side.
Bowditch was the round two leader and dropped back a bit after a 73 yesterday. But he bounced back with a 65 today, his second of the tourney. He shot a 5-under front side which included an eagle at the par-five ninth and after he hooked his tee shot about forty yards off line. Having a look at the green, Bowditch hit a miraculous 3W from 257 to a tight back left pin location to within a dozen feet and making the putt. But he couldn’t keep up that torrid pace with five pars and a bogey in the next six, the bogey coming at the par-three eleventh when he jacked a 7I well left but did well to hit reasonably close but missed for par from eight feet. But Bowditch had a finishing kick in him, birdieing the par-five sixteenth, hitting to seven feet at seventeen and making a one-putt birdie at the par-five last.
So, 16-under for both McGirt and Bowditch and both were the standard bearers as the leaders still had half a round to go.
Scott Piercy and Steve Wheatcroft were in the second-to-last pairing and both stalled out. Piercy was 3-under through eight but couldn’t do better (or worse) than par the rest of the way. Wheatcroft, coming off a 65 yesterday, was also 3-under on the front side—3-under through five, as a matter of fact, but bogeyed three of the first four to start the back nine and got his head above water today only with a birdie at sixteen.
Hunter Mahan and John Huh were in the final pairing. Mahan staggered around the front nine, three bogeys and two birdies sending him to the turn in 1-over 37. The one at nine was a bit insulting as he made the green easily with his second at the par-five from 280. But he rolled through the green and followed that up with a three-putt. Back-to-back birdies at sixteen and seventeen got him under par for the day.
Huh had a much better day. Like Mahan, Huh started his day on the lead at 12-under. He birdied the third on a 6I to three feet. He hit out of the rough to eight feet at four and made another birdie. Then it was a 20-footer for birdie at the par-three seventh and up and down from 60 at the par-five ninth. So, at the turn, Huh was even with McGirt and Bowditch, both watching on TV in the clubhouse.
The bad news for Huh was that there was no one on the course to push him and he was playing against the scoreboard as he had at least two strokes on everyone else still out there.
Ten was a two-putt par. At the par-three eleventh, Huh kept the water out of play but hit just short of the green with a chip near the hole saving par. Long distance two-putt for par at twelve as he hit to the wrong side of the green. Center of the green and par at thirteen. Fourteen was bunker off the tee and a safe play to the front left of the green and a heck of a lag putt from nearly 90 feet. But the easiest holes were still to come, so maybe Huh was playing it safe.
But first was the par-three fifteenth, one of the most difficult holes on the course this week. Three of the four par-threes were among the four most difficult holes this week. Maybe thinking about the water front and right, Huh pulled a 4I at the 198-yard hole. Leaving a testy pitch, he did well to get to six feet but missed the downhill tester and dropped a stroke.
Now needing to make up a stroke to pull even with McGirt and Bowditch, Huh had two par-fives in the final three holes to play, both among the easiest holes at Silverado this week. At 570 and a bit into a steady breeze, Huh couldn’t get on in two at the par-five sixteenth but hit his third from 50 yards to five feet and made the birdie putt to get back into a share of the lead. Seventeen was playing at 363—a bit of a dogleg left and Huh yanked his tee shot well left. The good news was that he had just 84 yards left over some redwoods (not the really big ones—those are impossible to hit over). He hit close but missed a curving seven-footer that would have given him the lead.
OK, so it was birdie the last or head to a three-man playoff.
Huh’s tee shot into the wind was dead down the middle but not all that far—about 265. He hit a 3W second as far as he could go but came up 65 yards short at the 567-yard hole, his ball rolling just into the right rough. But with the pin left center and the bunker on his left not in the way, Huh had a great look at the hole and pitched to seven feet under the hole. With a putt straight uphill, Huh buried it for the win.
So, it’s Huh winning it on the final hole at -17 with a final round 67. McGirt and Bowditch were right behind at -16. Tony Finau, finished quite respectfully with four birdies in five holes starting at thirteen and that after a bogey at twelve to take fourth place money at -15 with a final round 67. Scott Piercy parred his final ten holes after going 3-under before that. As he had three par-fives in that finish, making birdie at all three would have tied him with Huh. He finished at -14. The rest of the top ten was all tied for sixth at -13—Bryce Molder (65), Jason Kokrak (66), Mark Leishman (68), Chez Reavie (69) and Mahan with 71.
-1 made the cut (it was even par here).
Sang-Moon Bae won with -15 (he finished tied for 34th at -6 here).
John Huh missed the cut.
Steven Bowditch finished second at -13. He finished second here, too.
Hunter Mahan (t3 at -12) and Bryce Molder (also t3 at -12) finished in the top ten. Both shot -13 here and finished in the top ten.
JOHN HUH (-17)
The first winner in the 2014-15 season
Yeah, like his hat says, he was money this week
Shriners Hospital for Children Open
Las Vegas, Nevada
It’s off to Lost Wages for some early season desert golf.
Let’s just say that the wind made things interesting, especially for the afternoon crew, as the aggregate was just 1-under par.
Charlie Beljan was one of the early starters and was the only man to see 7-under at any point in the round, finishing with a bogey at eighteen and ending the day as co-leader with a 65.
Beljan hit four solid approaches at par-fours—to three feet at four, seven and ten and nine feet at fifteen and made birdie at all. Eighteen could have been far worse as his approach was a pulled 7I from 184 and nearly went into the pond. Managing to hang on the fringe, because just about anything farther left would have rolled into the drink, he ran a 45-footer ten feet past and missed the par putt.
Derek Ernst got to face the full effect of the wind. So maybe his 65 was a better round that Beljan’s. But that won’t matter when the money is handed out as it’s only the numbers on the scorecards that count.
Ernst, who had no bogeys, dropped a couple long putts—25 feet at six and 31 feet at eleven. He also drove the green at the drivable par-four fifteenth. Playing at 294 with both the tee and pin up a bit, Ernst’s ball rolled to the back of the green and he two-putted from nearly sixty feet.
After those two, it’s Charlie Hoffman, Kevin Kisner, Stewart Cink, Spencer Levin and Eric Compton at 66 with fourteen others tied at 67.
On the flip side, there’s DA Points, who will need divine intervention to make it to the weekend.
He parred the first. Good. He three-putted at two for bogey. He just missed the green at the par-four third, chipped (not well) and three-putted for double-bogey. He three-putted the fourth, missed the green left at the par-three fifth and hit a poor pitch and made bogey. He followed that up with a three-putt at six, missing a two-footer to save par. The only time Points went in the right direction was at fifteen. He laid back there, getting up and down from 90, making birdie with a nine-footer. All told, a 79 for Points, two shots worse than anyone else today.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Tony Finau at nine.
570 into the wind and he got home with a 3W from 274, his ball stopping six feet from the pin. He made the eagle putt, the only eagle on the course today and was a nice bounceback from the three-putt bogey at the par-three eighth. He’s also in that fourteen-man traffic jam at 67.
What have you done for me lately?
Well, first, the wind was down for earlier tee times, kicking up later in the day. All told, the course was playing nearly two strokes easier today.
One man who had to play in the stiff breeze today was yesterday’s co-leader, Charlie Beljan. He shot a 6-under 65 yesterday. Today? 76. He was all over the place—errant tee shots, poor approaches, two balls in the water and a three-putt, including a missed four-footer and two missed six-footers. And yesterday’s leader missed the cut today. I always thought the upcoming quote was attributed to Steve Blass when his career went south, but the correct attribution goes to Graig Nettles after the Yankees acquired Goose Gossage in 1978 as a closer, sending ace reliever Sparky Lyle, who only won the Cy Young in 1977, to the background and he’d be traded the next year. Beljan, like Lyle, went “from Cy Young to sayonara.” Blass never won the Cy Young, though he did come close, finishing second in 1972. By the next season, his control was gone. And by ’74, he was out of MLB. So, he went from near Cy Young to sayonara awfully quick.
Moving to “Cy Young” was Mark Wilson, who shot a day’s best 62 moving him into a three-way tie at the top at -11.
Wilson birdied the first four and all thanks to the flat blade on putts of 20, 17, 30 and 12 feet. He missed from five feet for birdie at six. Eh, nobody’s perfect. But he did birdie the par-five ninth to go to the turn in a scintillating 30. Then, 25 feet at twelve before running off three birdies in a row starting at fourteen. Wilson tried to drive the green at fifteen, came up short but darned near pitched out for eagle, eventually tapping in for birdie. And, at the par-five sixteenth, Wilson laid back with his second but almost got into trouble as his ball rolled inside the red hazard line, a couple rolls from a trip into the water. So, what did he do for a follow-up? Hit from 82 yards to seven feet and made birdie as he could do no wrong today.
Kyle Reifers is one of the other two men at 11-under after a round of 64, and that after back-to-back bogeys at five and six that put him over par for the day. But he more than recovered with a 6-under stretch for five holes starting at twelve, including an eagle at fifteen when he not only drove the green at the 304-yard hole, but just five feet to the left of the pin and an eagle.
Kevin Kisner shot 65 and is the third man at -11. He shot 4-under in a five-hole stretch starting at thirteen. Like Reifers, he drove the green at fifteen. Unlike Reifers, he was fifteen feet past the pin but missed his eagle putt by a roll of the ball.
After the three leaders, it’s Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb (64 each) and Webb Simpson (65) at -10. And, an eight-way tie for seventh consists of Chez Reavie (63, and who was streaky—good streaky—with four birdies in five holes to close out the front then four in a row starting at thirteen), Daniel Berger (64), Harris English (65), Nick Taylor (65), Brandt Snedeker (65), Troy Merritt (66), Rory Sabbatini (66) and Stewart Cink (67).
Yesterday’s other co-leader, Derek Ernst, fared a lot better than Beljan, shooting a 69. He’s in a nine-way tie for fifteenth and -8, just three shots out of the lead.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
There were five eagles at fifteen, all from players who drove the green. But it was Reifers who won the closest to the pin contest at five feet and so he gets the “shot of the day” award.
Sam Saunders was 6-under for the and at -10 overall after dropping a ten-footer for birdie at the par-three fourteenth. For those who don’t know, Sam is Arnie’s grandkid. And, if you have to ask which Arnie, you’re reading the wrong thread. After pars at fifteen and sixteen, Saunders pulled a 6I into the pond at the par-three seventeenth. His next attempt off the tee was too safe, missing right of the green and between the bunkers. He pitched to five feet but missed the putt for double-bogey. So, it was a three-bagger there and he followed that with a three-putt bogey at eighteen, rimming out a two-footer that would have saved par. If he parred out, he would have been a shot out of the lead. Instead, he’s tied for 35th.
-4 with 74 sticking around for the weekend.
Besides Beljan’s fall from grace, other notables packing up and heading to the other side of the country at Sea Island, Ga., are Michael Thompson (maybe sister Lexi should have been playing instead), Jason Kokrak, Sang-Moon Bae, who won in real life last week at Silverado, Alex Cejka, Billy Horschel, Kevin Streelman and Cameron Tringale.
As it was yesterday afternoon, the wind was still up a bit and the course was on the soft side and the greens very receptive, which they’ve been for all three rounds. Isn’t the desert supposed to be dry? Maybe it’s the martinis that are dry.
In any case, Justin Thomas, in one of the early pairings, set the pace with a 7-under 64 to move him to -12. He was at the top of the leaderboard for quite a spell. But, eventually, others who finished at or near the head of the class yesterday teed off and passed him by. But not many, as there are only eight in front of him and another seven tied as his 43 spot leap up the leaderboard was the largest of anyone today. Of Thomas’ seven birdies, every one of them came on approaches to eight feet or less. And the eight feet was at the par-three seventeenth. If you’ve read Mark Broadie’s book, “Every Shot Counts,” approaches are where the money is. And Thomas was money today.
Of those who passed Thomas by, it’s Brooks Koepka and Harris English tied at the top at 15-under.
For Koepka, who had a bogey-free 64, the highlights for him came on the back nine. He ran off three birdies in a row starting at twelve. But the one at the par-three fourteenth garnered him the most noise. Overshooting the green with a 9I at the 170-yard hole, he chipped in from just outside of forty feet. And to prove that was no fluke, he did the same thing again at seventeen. This time, he kept his 7-iron away from the water, pushing it a bit too far right, his ball stopping between the bunker and the green. With a bit of an awkward stance, he chipped in again from just outside of forty feet.
English finished with a flourish, bouncing back after a failed sand save at eleven to birdie four in a row starting at thirteen with two spot-on approaches at thirteen and fifteen and lengthy putts at the other two, including 33 feet at the par-three fourteenth.
After Koepka and English, three are tied for third. Rory Sabbatini bounced back after back-to-back bogeys saw him at 2-over through six to play bogey-free 7-under golf the rest of the way and shoot 66. Robert Streb and Webb Simpson each shot 67.
And, in a three-way tie for sixth are Scott Brown, Charlie Hoffman and Bill Lunde, each of whom shot 66. And the other seven tied with Thomas are Adam Hadwin (65), Hideki Matsuyama (66), Robert Garrigus (66), Chesson Hadley (67), Brandt Snedeker (67), Stewart Cink (67) and one of yesterday’s co-leaders, Kevin Kisner (67). The other two co-leaders, Mark Wilson and Kyle Reifers, dropped well off the pace after rounds of 73 and 74, respectively.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Morgan Hoffmann at nine.
Serious consideration could be given to Koepka’s two chip-ins. But, since he’s one of the leaders, why not give credit for an equally good shot to someone else? Bouncing back off a three-putt bogey at the par-three eighth, Hoffmann was just off the right side of the green in two at the par-five ninth. And he chipped in from 45 feet for eagle!
Turns out the final hole was Hoffmann’s undoing. 11-under and in the thick of things after seventeen, Hoffman over-cooked a 3I into the water at eighteen and made double. Let’s just say he would have had about a dozen fewer bodies to climb over tomorrow had he made par.
And, now, we have desert golf as everything dried out. The fairways were running and the greens weren’t holding a lot. And a stiff breeze prevalent through most of the previous three rounds, ratcheted up during the afternoon, playing havoc with the leaders on the back nine.
But, first, Ryan Moore.
He started his day ignominiously, shanking the hell of his first tee shot and making bogey. A poor approach at three led to another bogey. But, birdie at four, as he nearly holed out from 188. And another at seven as he nearly flushed a 9I from 131. And another at the par-five ninth as he got up and down from 126. Nice, but only 1-under at the turn. And, considering he started his day at 6-under, he was still well out of it.
But Moore was a machine gun on the back nine. 33-foot birdie putt at ten. 3I from 223 to seven feet and another birdie at eleven. Two-putt par at twelve. Up and down from 124 at the par-five thirteenth. Pin high and 20 feet for birdie at the par-three fourteenth. Drove the green to within ten feet at the drivable (289) par-four fifteenth. And he made that putt for eagle. And he followed that up with another eagle at the par-five sixteenth with a 3W from 274 to ten feet. Missed the green at seventeen but almost chipped in. So, par there. Alas, the gravy train finally derailed at eighteen as, after steering clear of the water, Moore ran his chip well past and made bogey. Still, 29 on the back nine and a round of 63 and the leader in the clubhouse at -14 and with no guarantee that the wind wouldn’t see some of the guys yet to tee off back up just a bit.
But that 14-under lasted only until Camilo Villegas showed up.
Villegas started the day two shots ahead of Moore and also posted a 63 to become the new leader in the clubhouse at -16. Villegas didn’t have the hot streak of Moore but still put together a 6-under in a six-hole stretch. And that included an eagle at sixteen. With a very favorable wind, he smacked his drive 357 and came home with a 5I at the 569-yard hole, his ball rolling to just three feet of the pin.
Of the leaders coming into today, Harris English four-putted the second on his way to a double-bogey and never recovered, posting a 1-over 72. OK, the first putt was from 90 feet. But he missed from seven feet for par and rimmed out from two feet for what would have been a bogey.
The other leader coming in, Brooks Koepka, got stymied by the wind, holding his own the whole day but little else. 1-over coming into sixteen, he birdied the next two to finish under par for the day and 16-under for the tourney, sharing second and third place money with Villegas.
If you looked at the leaderboard and knew nothing of how the round played out, it would look like Koepka was in a dogfight with Villegas, Kevin Kisner and Robert Streb, each of those two making bogey at the last to finish at -15, and even Rory Sabbatini, who finished at -15 after an unspectacular round of 70. And also Webb Simpson, playing two groups in front of the leaders and who did less than nothing on the front nine. In the end, however, Simpson got his act together and pulled away to win by three leaving Koepka dangling.
Simpson started his day a shot behind the leaders. And his first swing of the day was a pull hook. Not able to get to the green in two, he made bogey. He’d make two more. At five, his downhill birdie putt from just off the back at the par-three kept running—right off the green. And, at seven, he missed the green with his approach and missed from six feet to save par. But he did have two birdies, including one at the par-five ninth for the fourth consecutive day, and he was 1-over at the turn.
And then, Simpson went on a run. Thirteen feet for birdie at ten. Fourteen feet for birdie at twelve. Up and down from 93, saving birdie from thirteen feet at the par-five thirteenth. That got him to -16, even with Villegas and Kisner, who was walking off sixteen, and one up on Koepka.
Par at fourteen for Simpson as he missed the green at the par-three well left and had to feather a short-sided flop shot over a bunker and made the nine-footer to save his three. He tried to drive the green at fifteen but missed well right and was staring down another short-sided flop shot. And Simpson did it again, this time to five feet and the outright lead at -17. And how did he celebrate that? With a ballsy second shot at sixteen. Where he could have laid back and made it a three-shotter, instead he went for the green in two from 256 and with the wind at his back, a laser of a 2I stopping pin high and seventeen feet right of the pin. And he dropped that putt for eagle and this one was just about over. With two to play and three shots on his nearest competitors, Simpson went for the center of the green both times and two-putted for par.
So, Simpson comes up a winner by three in his first start of the season at -19.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Simpson’s two flop shots in crunch time merit serious consideration. But the honor will be shared by Chez Reavie and Jim Herman, both of whom eagled the fifteenth. For Reavie, it came from out of the bunker. And for Herman, who had two eagles there this week, it was a 40-yard chip from off the back of the green.
Simpson won this tourney in 2013 and Moore the year before that.
Ben Martin won it at -20. In the ASG event, he finished tied for 18th at -12.
Simpson and Koepka both finished tied for fourth at -15. Streb finished at -13 and English finished at -12.
WEBB SIMPSON (-19, wins by three)
The McGladrey Classic
Seaside Golf Course
Sea Island, Georgia
Starting with the 2015-16 season, this is now known as the RSM Classic. Same company. New name. Probably have to stay ahead of the creditors.
Also this is the first quick play course of the season, which means that there will some imagination necessary to fill in the details. But, between Blue Golf and the spectator guide, which has a fairly detailed course description and both on-line, well, that’ll make life easier. In any case, the write-ups will contain less detail than the shot-by-shot courses.
Charley Hoffman shot out of the gate with a 9-under 61 to put at least three strokes on the rest of the field. Five birdies in a row starting at six, nine overall, no bogeys, thirteen fairways and a field leading 21 putts while coming home in 5-under 30 (par is 35-35-70). He also birdied three of the four par-threes.
Tony Finau was an early pacesetter, running off five birdies in a row starting at two—all par-threes and fours—on his way to a round of 64. He would’ve had a 63, but his tee shot at seventeen got pushed offline by the cross breeze and he landed in one of the two large bunkers and couldn’t get up and down. Finau is joined at 6-under by Mark Silvers, who recovered from a nasty triple-bogey at ten when he sliced his tee shot into the marsh, with six birdies in the final eight holes, and Will McKenzie.
Alex Prugh and Eric Axley are at 65 while Alex Cejka and Fabian Gomez came in with 66. Will Wilcox, Brian Davis, John Merrick, William McGirt, Russell Henley, Bill Haas and Tom Hoge round out the extended top ten at 67. Hoge was 6-under through fourteen before getting derailed as he bogeyed the next three before parring the last.
Sea Island native Davis Love III is the host of this tourney. In real life, the Champions Tour-qualified Love (also AARP) won the PGA Wyndham Championship later in the season, meaning he still has some gas left in the tank. Today, however, he bounced around, with three bogeys and a double just coming up short of offsetting four birdies and a first round 71. At the moment, that leaves him just on the good side of the cut line.
First round leader Charley Hoffman couldn’t keep up the torrid pace of that first round 61. Though it looked as if he might for a while, he fell back a bit. Fortunately, “lighting it up” today meant Scott Langley’s 64. And, as he was lurking near what would be the cut line after day one, he didn’t threaten the leader.
Hoffman bogeyed the first but more than made up for that by running off four birdies starting at three and he looked like he was well on his way to another fine round. But he hit a 3-over stretch from nine through twelve. Might have been worse except for the birdie at ten. But he went thud with a double at eleven when he drove into the waste area. So, that nice birdie run disappeared. Pars the rest of the way after that and Hoffman finished with an even-par 70. And, as nobody near him after round one went low, he’s still the leader and still at 9-under but now by two strokes instead of three.
Shawn Stefani moved into a three way tie at -7 on the strength of a 65. Even par through six with a birdie and bogey, he went 5-under the rest of the way including back-to-back birdies at nine and ten and fourteen and fifteen. Stefani is joined at 7-under by Bill Haas (66) and Eric Axley (68).
Nick Watney (66), Alex Prugh (69) and Mark Silvers (70) are tied for fifth at -6 while Steve Whetatcroft (66), Matt Kuchar (67), Will Wilcox (68) and Alex Cejka (69) round out the remainder of the top ten at 5-under. Tony Finau, who was tied for second after day one, shot a 2-over 72 and fell out of the top ten—now tied for twelfth with nine others at -4.
CUT LINE: +1 with 75 making it. Not making it was tour host Davis Love III, whose 71-72 made certain that he’d be doing some work behind the mic for NBC for the weekend rounds.
Charley Hoffman had a three-shot lead after the first round after shooting a sizzling 61. He shot even par yesterday but still held a two-shot advantage. And, after today, his lead is all gone and four golfers have passed him by.
Hoffman started his day bogey-double-bogey. Though he recovered from that 4-over start, he never truly recovered, posting a 1-over 71. There are fourteen players in the top ten (trust me; it makes sense). And, on a breezy day, only two shot over par, Alex Prugh being the other. Hoffman’s tied for fifth at -8, two shots off the pace.
That pace is now set by Eric Axley with a 67 and a 10-under total. Axley missed the green at the par-three third and made bogey. But he bounced back with birdies at the next two and also ran off three in a row starting at fifteen.
Danny Lee had the round of the day with a 5-under 65. That moved him into a three-way tie for second at -9, a shot off the lead. Lee was 5-under after a birdie at eleven. But he misfired on his approach at thirteen and his tee shot at fourteen and made bogey at both but recovered with birdies at the par-five fifteenth and the par-three seventeenth. Lee is tied with Will Wilcox (66) and Mark Silvers (67) at -9.
There’s a threesome at -8, Hoffman being one. The other two are Alex Cejka (67), who bogeyed the last today after making double there yesterday, and Shawn Stefani (69).
Bill Haas (70) is at -7, Arnie’s grandkid, Sam Saunders (67), is in ninth at -6 with Will McKenzie, William McGirt, Tony Finau (all at 67), Matt Kuchar (70) and Prugh (71) all tied for tenth at -5, five shots back.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Fifteen was playing at 565, either into the wind or with a stiff cross-breeze as it’s a doglegged par-five. Even so, it was the easiest hole on the course as birdies and pars were split fairly evenly. But it was Mark Anderson, in on a sponsor’s exemption, with the lone eagle, the brightest spot in an otherwise mediocre round with five bogeys and a double (and three birdies, too) and score of 72. Limping in at the cut line, he’s now at 3-over.
Another day on the island with a course in perfect shape and buffeted by warm sea breezes out of the south. Actually, since it’s a small island, winds from any direction would come from off the ocean. But the course is on the southern end of the island.
OK, enough setup. Eric Axley came in with a one-shot lead on Danny Lee, Will Wilcox and Mark Silvers and another shot on Alex Cejka, Charley Hoffan and Shawn Stefani.
Axley got off to a quick start with birdies at two and four and extended his lead to three shots, a lead which he held through the first eight holes.
Wilcox made the first inroad into Axley’s lead at the ninth. 452 and into the wind, Wilcox holed out from about 165 for eagle. As he was 9-under at the time, Axley’s lead was cut to two. Lee’s birdie at the tenth, playing with a more favorable wind, made it two players within two of Axley.
And Axley blinked, as Wilcox, playing in the penultimate twosome, birdied the eleventh as he out-drove the fairway bunker on the left (at about 260, it’s easy to do for these guys) while avoiding the two on the right. Axley heard the cheers at the eleventh green as he was walking to his ball. And, when it was his turn to hit, he under-clubbed his approach, putting his ball in the right front bunker and couldn’t get up and down, making bogey. And, what was a three-shot lead only three holes ago was now a tie game at -12 with Lee only a stroke behind and Silvers and Hoffman both within two.
It became a three-way tie just one hole later as Lee bucked a stiff cross-breeze at the 225-yard, par-three twelfth and made birdie, the other two making par. Silvers and Hoffman both made bogey there, essentially making it a three-man sprint to the wire.
The thirteenth is a par-four that doglegs around the marsh with the breeze pushing balls toward one of the three bunkers right smack in the driving zone. That’s why they’re there, right, because a bunker at 150 off the tee is worthless. Wilcox’s tee shot ended up in the farthest of the bunkers and he made bogey while, in the final twosome, Lee hit two beauties and made birdie while Axley parred. So, now it was Lee by one over Axley and two on Wilcox.
All three parred the fourteenth and fifteenth.
Sixteen is a fun hole. Into a slashing breeze, if you take aim at the far bunker of the dogleg, it’s about 230 to carry the tidal creek and 280 to the bunker. If you want to aim left of the bunker, it’s about 245-250 to carry. Take aim at the bunker and the approach is maybe 110 with the pin tucked behind the lone greenside bunker. Wilcox and, a few minutes later, Lee got close and made birdie while Axley parred. Good news for Lee as he had a two-shot lead with two to play. Good news for Wilcox, too, as a par would have definitely finished him.
Seventeen is a 200-yard par-three into the cross-wind with the pin tucked behind the two bunkers on the right. Wilcox and Axley tried to get close but couldn’t, both making par. Lee played conservatively and was content to walk off with his “3.”
Eighteen was playing at 470 into the wind. Though there are bunkers either side of the landing area, the fairway is a generous 40 yards wide. So, though keeping it safe wasn’t too big a deal, holing out from 180-190 was. Both Wilcox and Axley gave it a go. They had to. But the best Wilcox could go was par while Axley over-cooked his approach just a bit and ended up in the left greenside bunker. Lee calmly watched the proceedings, went for the center of the green and parred to win it by two.
So, it’s Lee (65) winning at -14 with Wilcox (67) at -12 and Axley (69) at -11, Hoffman (68) at -10 and at least five shots to the rest of the field.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Wilcox at nine.
Robert Streb (-14, and with a final round 63) won in a three-man, two-hole playoff over Brendon de Jonge and Will MacKenzie. Of those three, MacKenzie fared the best of the lot this week at -5 with de Jonge at -4 and Streb missing the cut by a shot.
As there were two cuts this week, Lee missed the first cut, as did Wilcox with Axley, at -7, making a good accounting.
DANNY LEE (-14, wins by two)
Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Looks like Davis Love might have better luck here than he had at his home course last week as he got out of the gate with a 6-under 66. Tied with Michael Putnam and Ryan Moore, it was the best round of the day.
Four birdies and an eagle at the par-five third sent the 50 year-old Love to the turn in 6-under 30. He got it to -7 with a birdie at the par-five tenth. But two bogeys and a birdie the rest of the way and he finished where he finished the front nine.
Putnam was the only other player to see 7-under with back-to-back birdies at thirteen and fourteen getting him to that score. But he bogeyed the par-five eighteenth. At nearly 640 yards, it was the only par-five playing over par, so he had company.
Ryan Moore birdied the last to get to -6, only one of thirteen in this exclusive 71-man field to do so.
Charl Schwartzel and Patrick Reed are at 67, John Senden and Charlie Wi at 68 and Lee Westwood, James Hahn, Chesson Hadley and Seun-Hyun Baek at 69.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Rikard Karlberg at sixteen. At 318, it’s drivable for some, though it’s tight with water all the way down the right side. The Swede was top ten in driving today, so maybe he did. But, however he did it (and this is quick play so it happens quickly), he eagled the hole, the only man in the field to do so. It also got him from 2-over back to even-par, which is where he finished today.
Davis Love and Ryan Moore both got to double digits under par. But both gave back, more so for Moore.
When yesterday he had to share the lead, Love is the sole leader today and by two strokes at 7-under. 4-under through six, half of that coming with an eagle at the par-five fifth, Love gave all but one of those shots back with bogeys at seven, nine and thirteen, all par-fours. But he bounced back with a birdie at fourteen before bogeying the long par-five last to finish at 1-under 71.
Moore got off to a great start—5-under through ten to get to -11, the only man in the field to go that low. But a bogey at the par-three eleventh sent Moore into a tailspin as he went 6-over in six holes, including a double-bogey at twelve. He righted the ship for one hole with a birdie at seventeen before bogeying the last and finishing with a 73.
1-over through twelve, John Senden birdied the fourteenth and seventeenth to get under par for the day and he’s tied for second with Moore at -5. That twelfth hole has been a killer for Senden—bogey and double bogey.
Yesterday’s co-leader, Michael Putnam, shot a 74 to fall into a three-way tie for fourth at -4 with Brian Davis (69) and Paul Casey (70). Billy Horschel (70) and Hideki Matsuyama (71) are tied for seventh at -3 while Will Wilcox (round of the day 67 and it would have been better except that he bogeyed the final two holes), David Lipsky (72), Lee Westwood (73) and Patrick Reed, who ballooned to a 75 are tied all tied for ninth at -2.
On a day when the course was playing two strokes tougher than yesterday, only 20 players are at even-par or better. The good news is that, as there’s no cut in this tournament, all will have a chance to redeem themselves on the weekend.
Davis Love was at the top of the leaderboard for most of the round before bogeying two of the final three holes. Ryan Moore and Paul Casey zipped on by and that’s one, two and three going into tomorrow and possibly the only three with a chance as they’ve opened up some daylight on the rest of the field.
Moore rebounded nicely after yesterday’s 73 with a 6-under 66, one off the round of the day. And that came after an opening round 66. He improved his lot by ten strokes on the back nine alone—41 yesterday, 31 today including birdies at the final two. He’s at 11-under and leads by two.
Moore’s playing partner tomorrow will be Casey, who had a solid finishing kick today with three birdies to close out his round and a score of 67. He’s at -9.
Love had a lone birdie at eight among fourteen pars. Then he bogeyed sixteen and eighteen, finishing with a 73 and falling out of the final pairing, which used to be a jinx on “The Tour.”
Love’s at -6 and will be paired with Patrick Reed (70), the first man to post -4, John Senden (73) being the other. That’s seven strokes back for those two and a lot of work tomorrow.
Four are tied for sixth at 3-under: Anirban Lahiri (69) from India, who plays mostly on the Asian Tour, Hideki Matsuyama (72), Billy Horschel (72) and Brian Davis (73). Tied for tenth at 2-under, nine shots back, are Seung-Yul Noh (69), Steven Bowditch (71) and Lee Westwood (72).
ROUND OF THE DAY:
Had there been a cut, it wouldn’t have happened as, after opening rounds of 79 and 76, Australian Marc Leishman put it together today with a bogey-free round of 65. Needless to say, he had the biggest move in the field today, three dozen spots into a tie for 30th at +4.
It was Moore’s to lose. Damn near did, too.
But first, Moore’s nearest competition—Paul Casey…
Starting the day two back, he bogeyed the fourth and sixth then finished himself off for good at the par-five tenth when he cut his tee shot a bit too much and ended up in the water. So, one of the easier holes on the course cost Casey a double-bogey dropping him to -5. A bogey at the last and a final round of 77 saw Casey finish in sixth at 4-under.
Moore’s next nearest competition was Davis Love, who started the day five shots off the lead.
Love birdied the seventh, eighth and tenth which, considering he was in the second-to-last pairing, actually put him into the lead, albeit temporarily, at -9. Hold that thought there for a sec, please.
Moore, who started the day at 11-under, played par golf through the first five. As this is quick play, whether he struggled and had to work for it or merely played conservatively and dared the few within shouting distance to catch him is open to conjecture. But Moore’s foundation started to crack with a pulled approach into the left greenside bunker at six and a bogey. After a par at seven, Moore overshot the hole at the par-three eighth and a tricky downhill putt turned into a three-putt and another bogey. Reeling just a bit now, Moore pushed his tee shot into the water at the short (404) ninth. Now hitting three with his approach, he made bogey and slipped to -8.
Back to Love. As he birdied the tenth, he held the lead only until Moore matched that. But Love bogeyed the lengthy (236) par-three eleventh as he steered clear of the water and tight pin position on the right, missing the green left. Moore parred to re-take the lead.
Both bogeyed the twelfth, a par-four with forced carry as a stream fronts the green. Pars for both at thirteen. Love parred the fourteenth. A shortie, only 358, Moore made bogey when his ball cleared the pond fronting the green on the left but spun back in. So, with four holes to play, Love and Moore were tied at -7 with no one else within three.
Love bogeyed the par-three fifteenth when he hit into the bunker and couldn’t make the sand save while Moore parred. But Love recovered when he tried to drive the 318-yard sixteenth. He just missed the green but got up and down for birdie while Moore played a bit more conservatively and parred. So, it was back to a tie at -7 with just two holes to go.
Seventeen is a bit longer than sixteen, 336, and with a stream bisecting the fairway, dividing it in half lengthwise, unlike at the previous hole, you won’t try to drive this one. Both hit for placement off the tee. Love got on in two and made his regulation par. Moore got a bit closer and made his birdie putt.
Eighteen is a downhill (just a bit) monster of 634. Love can still pack a wallop, even with his AARP card in his back pocket. But he couldn’t reach in two and could have done better with his third and walked off with a par. But he needed birdie.
Moore didn’t know that par was good enough until after he was getting ready to hit his second. When he found out it was, he played for placement with his second and hit his third close, making birdie to win by two at -9.
So, even with a final round 74, Moore had two very timely late birdies to win it by two over Love. Seung-Yul Noh closed with a 69 to finish in a three way tie for third at -5 with Anirban Lahiri (70) and Patrick Reed (71). Then, it was Casey (77) in sixth at -4. James Hahn (69) and John Senden (73) tied for seventh at -3 with Lee Westwood (72), Hideki Matsuyama (73) and Billy Horschel tying for ninth at -2.
WORTH A MENTION:
Had there been a cut, Marc Leishman would have been given up for dead after opening rounds 79 and 76. But he bounced back with a day’s best 65 yesterday and posted a 68 today to finish in a tie for fifteenth at even-par.
Art imitates life as Moore won the actual tourney by three shots, although with a better finishing round (67) and better score (-14). Love also acquitted himself quite well, finishing in a tie for eighth at -10. John Senden (-11) was also in the top ten.
RYAN MOORE (-9)
Art imitates life as he won the actual tournament as well as the replay.
World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions
After a slow start, it’s Rickie Fowler out front by two after the first round with a 7-under 65.
1-over after making a large mistake and putting his second at the par-five second into the water and making bogey, Fowler went 8-under the rest of the way. Overall, top ten in fairways, top ten in greens and just 24 putts.
Hideki Matsuyama got off to a quick start with a 6-under front side. But he landed in the fairway bunker at eleven and the greenside bunker at the par-three twelfth, both leading to bogeys. He’d recover immediately with back-to-back birdies. Unfortunately, he gave away a shot at the par-five last when he put his approach into the water, making bogey and finishing at 5-under 67.
Henrik Stenson, with seven birdies and two bogeys, is also at 67 along with Louis Oosthuizen, who birdied three of the final five.
Adam Scott, Hiroshi Iwata, John Senden, who had a good week in Malaysia last week, and Kevin Streelman are all tied for fifth at 68 with a nine-man logjam at 69—Jimmy Walker, Mark Leishman, who got off to a much better start than last week, Justin Rose, Frenchman Alexander Levy, Kevin Na, Marc Warren, Marcel Siem of Germany, Gary Woodland and that Spieth kid.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Keegan Bradley at sixteen.
Current golf design seems to have one par-four that’s reachable from the tee. At Sheshan it’s the sixteenth. 288 as the crow flies, it requires a pretty good shot, probably something with a bit of a fade as it would require about 250 to carry the water on a direct line, certainly doable for this crowd. Though there’s no breakdown between those who laid back and who went for it, in the 2016 version of this tourney, 91% were at par or birdie as there were no eagles. So, it’s easy pickins’ though being reachable would make a pro lick his chops.
Bradley stayed on the green and made the eagle putt, the only one at the hole today. That was the good news for him. The bad was that it was the highlight of his day by a long shot as he was 5-over before that happened including a 40 front side. He finished with a 3-over 75.
The breeze was up a bit though it didn’t affect play that much, maybe ¼ stroke overall.
It’s still Rickie Fowler at the top, though his lead was halved to one, as he followed his first round 65 with a 67.
Learning nothing from yesterday, Fowler again got in trouble at two as he put his approach into the water at the par five again and made bogey. But he turned it around, though not as powerfully as yesterday, a bogey at the par-three sixth as he missed the green, tempering the charge. But he ran off four straight birdies starting at eleven to put a spring in his step.
65 was the round of the day, as well, John Senden and Justin Rose accomplishing that with Senden moving into second and Rose a shot behind that in third.
Senden not only kept it bogey-free, but six of his seven birdies came at par-fours.
Rose bogeyed the first and fourth. Sandwiched around birdies, he was even-par at that point, meaning he went 7-under over his final fourteen holes.
Louis Oosthuizen moved into fourth at -9 on the strength of a 68. Luke Donald’s 66 moved him to -8 and in sole possession of fifth place. Jimmy Walker (68) is sixth at -7 while Jordan Spieth (69) and Henrik Stenson (71) are tied for seventh at -6. Brandt Snedeker (69), Gary Woodland (70) and Hiroshi Iwata (71) are all tied for ninth at -5. Woodland also had one of the shots of the day.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Both came at the short par-four sixteenth. Gary Woodland and David Lipsky. Eagles for both. Woodland we know about. For Lipsky, it made a bad round more palatable as he finished with a 74 and +1 overall. The good news is that, as in Malaysia last week, there is no cut here as this exclusive field has only 65 golfers. So, Lipsky will pick up a check this week.
Rickie Fowler was doing OK—a steady 2-under for the day. And then came the final four holes.
At fifteen, he came up short at the long, uphill par-four and landed in one of the cluster of four bunkers at the front right of the green and made bogey. Sixteen is the drivable par-four and he put a little too much fade on his tee shot, ended up in the drink and made another bogey. Four large bunkers surround the green at the par-three seventeenth from front left to back right. He put his tee shot into one of them and made yet another bogey. Then, at the par-five eighteenth, in trying at least partially undo his previous three holes, he sliced his tee shot into the water. Then, trying to recover and carry his third all the way to the green—forced carry, by the way, he put that in the water, too, and made double-bogey. So, what was once a decent round ended as a 3-over 75 and a trip down the leaderboard. By position, not all that far, as he’s tied for fourth. By strokes, it’s a different story—six back.
The leader is the man who shot the round of the day, Justin Rose, with a 67, which was equaled by Brandt Snedeker. More about him in a moment.
Rose was 5-under after ten. He got himself into a bit of trouble at eleven when his tee shot landed in the farther of the two fairway bunkers. He got that stroke back and one more when he slaughtered his tee shot at the 590-yard, par-five fourteenth, avoiding the airplane at 150 yards (the satellite shot for the course shows a jet flying overhead), and was able to reach in two then made his eagle putt. But he gave a shot right back with a bogey at fifteen. Rose leads by four at 15-under.
John Senden, second by a shot after yesterday’s play, got stuck in neutral, two birdies and as many bogeys leading to a round of 72. He’s in solo second, four behind Rose.
Snedeker also shot 65 to move into solo third at -10. He started with back-to-back birdies and had no bogeys today.
Henrik Stenson (69) is tied with Fowler at 9-under. There were two eagles at sixteen today. Stenson had one of them.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
Jimmy Walker (71), who was the other player to eagle the sixteenth, and Louis Oosthuizen (73) are tied for sixth at -8, seven shots off the pace. Hiroshi Iwata (70) and Luke Donald (73) are tied for eighth at -7 while Patrick Reed (69), Gary Woodland (71) and Jordan Spieth (72) are tied for tenth at 6-under.
There’s not much to say here as Justin Rose came into this final round up by four, no one ever got within three with Rose leading by as much as five for maybe half the round before winning by four.
Playing partner John Senden birdied the first hole to close the gap to three. Both birdied the par-five second, and the par-four third and the par-three fourth before Rose birdied the fifth to extend the lead to four with Senden backing up at seven to make the lead five. It was never less than four the rest of the way and was five going into eighteen with Rose taking it easy and making bogey. He could have made a snowman and it wouldn’t have mattered.
I guess I could recite stats. OK. Third in driving distance, second in accuracy, top ten in greens and numero uno in putting. Tough to beat that. And nobody did.
So, it’s Rose (68) winning it at -19. Senden (68) was next at -15. Brandt Snedeker (also with 68) was next at -14. Henrik Stenson (68, a popular number) finished at 13-under. Rickie Fowler (71) finished in fifth at -10. After that, it doesn’t matter, though Jordan Spieth, just at the edge of the top ten, blew up and shot 77, including a triple and a pair of doubles. Great in baseball. Sucky in golf.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Adam Scott eagled the par-four seventh. At 346, it’s a little past drivable. Some take a run at it, leaving a short pitch while others lay back and hit a full wedge. No idea what Scott did. But, with little to lose, it’s a good guess he went for it. He holed out from somewhere for eagle as he shot a day’s best 66, equaled by Shane Lowry. Scott finished in the top ten—tied for ninth at -6. Come to think of it, Lowry also zoomed into the top ten finishing eighth at -7. Yeah, top ten and you miss by a dozen.
Senden at fifteen. The guy who finished second and the eagle only closed the gap to four as Rose made birdie at the hole. Anyway, 487, slight dogleg left with a half dozen bunkers surrounding a severely sculpted green. Senden holed out probably from the 190-200 range.
Bubba Watson recovered from a double-bogey at seventeen to eagle the eighteenth, finishing tied with Tim Clark at -11. Watson birdied the first playoff hole to win. In the replay, both finished up the track, Clark at even-par and Watson at +2.
Rickie Fowler repeated his -10 score. It was good for a tie for third in real life.
Snedeker was in the top ten, tied there with Jason Dufner.
JUSTIN ROSE (-19)
Wins by four
Sanderson Farms Championship
Country Club of Jackson
While the big boys are halfway around the world playing for big money, much of the rest of the crew that didn’t qualify for Shanghai is in Mississippi this week playing for the fourth lowest purse on the PGA Tour this year or, relatively speaking and considering the sponsor, chickenfeed.
Not a lot of big names here, though some past their prime—like Daly and Duval—are playing. As this is not a full points Fed Ex Cup event, the winner won’t be invited to the Masters but will still get the two-year exemption.
Alex Prugh leads the way at 7-under 65. He had a great back nine after starting it with a bogey at the par-three tenth when he rolled through the green at the 223-yard hole to the back bunker which isn’t all that visible from the tee. After that, six birdies over the final eight hole for Prugh.
Sean O’Hair is next at 66. He had a bogey-free back nine, coming home in 32 including birdie at the last, no small feat as it’s 505, par-four with a long iron approach uphill about a club. But nineteen others also made birdie there, so maybe it wasn’t playing that difficult.
There are five at 67: Byron Smith, Chad Collins, Nick Watney, Cory Whitsett and Dicky Pride. Five more are tied at 68: Jason Kokrak, Martin Laird, John Peterson, Steven Alker and a fellow who’s been playing well in the early going, Will Wilcox. Of that last fivesome, Kokrak was the only other player in the field to see 7-under. Then he hooked his tee shot in the water at sixteen and made double and also bogeyed the last.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
David Duval at fifteen. At 330, it could be drivable. But it requires either barely avoiding or clearing a fairway bunker at about 250 and threading the needle to get the ball to the green. How he did it is unknown, but Duval registered the only eagle at the hole today. Which turned out to be a big help as he had bogeyed fourteen and would follow the eagle with bogeys at sixteen and seventeen and a round of even-par 72.
Tony Finau’s 66 was the round of the day and it vaulted him into the lead at the halfway point at 9-under. With five birdies, Finau did his best work on the back nine. He’s 1-under for the front nine for the first two rounds. So, if he’s still close on Sunday, his skills on the back nine might be a large factor.
Yesterday’s leader, Alex Prugh shot a 1-under 71. Had he played the back nine today as he did yesterday, he’d be leading by five.
Prugh is joined at -8 by Sean O’Hair. He started off his day with two birdies and looked well on his way to going low. But his next anything that wasn’t a par was a birdie at fourteen but gave it right back at the second easiest hole on the course, the 330-yard fifteenth.
After those three, it’s John Peterson (69) at -7, Tom Hoge (67), Scott Piercy (68) and Jason Kokrak (70) at -6 and Michael Block (69), Ryan Armour (70), Martin Flores (70) and Nick Watney (72) at 5-under.
The cut line was +1 with 80 making it to the weekend. Around here, there’s no second cut after the third round should 79 or more make the round two cut. A couple of the old-timers—John Daly and David Duval—didn’t make it. One who did and who has a fighting chance at the moment is 46-year old Australian Rod Pampling (69), who’s one stroke out of the top ten at -4.
Second round leader Tony Finau was one of only two golfers in the top twenty (Michael Block the other) to shoot over par today. Obviously, he is no longer the leader, his 1-over 73 dropping him into a tie for fifth, three shots off the pace.
After birdies at four and six that extended his lead, Finau bogeyed three in a row starting at eight and never recovered.
The man at the top now is John Peterson, having shot a 4-under 68. At -11, he leads by a shot. Peterson birdied the first three and pretty much got stuck in neutral after that with two bogeys and two birdies to close out the front side. It was pars all the way through the back nine save for birdie at the short (151) par-three thirteenth.
First round leader Alex Prugh, who shot 71 yesterday and dropped to second, stayed there after shooting 2-under 70. Like Peterson, he was busy on the front nine with four birdies and two bogeys and quiet on the back with one of each. He trails Peterson by a shot.
Nick Watney (68), another busy man with only eight pars, and Sean O’Hair (71), who bounced back from a double at six after hitting into the trees and compounding it with a three-putt with three birdies on the back, are tied for third at -9. Chad Collins shot the round of the day. 67 was it on a day like the other two where the field played at just about level par. Collins had five birdies and a bogey on the back nine. He’s tied for fifth with Finau at -8. After that, it’s Scott Piercy (71) at -7 and Fabian Gomez (70), Rod Pampling (70), Martin Flores (71), Ryan Armour (71) and Jason Kokrak (72) tied for eighth at -6, five shots back.
Derek Fathauer looked to have a good round in the works as he birdied four in a row starting at two. But he stalled out with just a bogey at ten and a birdie at thirteen, both par-threes, among a whole bunch of pars. One more shot gained somewhere and he’s in the top ten. Two or three and he could have been well in the mix tomorrow. But, at 5-under and tied for thirteenth, he’ll have a half dozen shots to make up.
It was a four-horse race among the four players in the final two pairings. No come-from-behind golf here.
To set things up, the final pairing consisted of leader John Peterson at -11 and Alex Prugh at -10. Playing immediately in front of them were Sean O’Hair and Nick Watney, both at -9.
Peterson increased his lead to two with a par at number one. Prugh sliced a shot off that lead with a birdie at the par-five third and Peterson’s lead disappeared for good as Prugh birdied the tricky par-five third, raised undulating green and all. O’Hair birdied the second, fifth and sixth to make it a threesome at -12 with Watney at -10, with only a par-five birdie to show for himself among five pars.
All parred the par-three seventh, except for Watney. O’Hair stepped on the gas at eight. A doglegged par-four, most will draw a 3W or less as there’s a creek crossing the fairway just past 300. And, with just about 70 yards to the front, there’s no need to swing from the heels here. With the pin on a small level area behind a large bunker, O’Hair hit close and made birdie. Hearing the cheering up ahead, Peterson and Prugh assumed someone had birdied, probably O’Hair. Then, those two both came up short and in the bunker with neither able to make the sand save. And, in the space of a few minutes, there was a two-shot swing as O’Hair led by two at -13.
O’Hair stretched his lead to three with a birdie at the par-five eleventh. With back-to-back birdies at nine and ten, Watney had moved up a bit making it a threesome at -11.
Peterson and Prugh closed the gap to two as each birdied the 421-yard, par-four twelfth as both hit close to a tight pin position on the far left of the green and behind a bunker.
O’Hair got the stroke right back at the next hole, the shortest on the course at 145. With the pin front left, missing short likely means a testy bunker shot and missing long a downhill putt. But a few minutes later, Peterson followed up with a birdie. So, it was O’Hair by two at -15 with five to play, Peterson two back, Prugh three off the pace and Watney four.
Fourteen is a straightaway par-five of 588. There’s a bunker on the left for the pros at about 290 and another for the second shot of the hackers at about 390. So, avoid the bunker and it’s clear sailing for these guys. O’Hair got close in two and added a stroke to his lead with a birdie. Playing behind him, only Prugh was able to match that with the other two parring.
If not a drivable par-four, you can get very close off the tee at fifteen as the hole plays at 330. Of the four, only O’Hair was a bit more conservative. But, in the end, all were able to get close with their seconds and all made birdie.
Sixteen was the toughest hole on the course this week. 479, slight dogleg left with a swamp running down the left. Trying to avoid the swamp by playing right might get you a good look at only the left side of the green with a cut shot in the offing. Watney hit a solid tee shot down the middle and made birdie. O’Hair steered clear of the pond but missed short and left with his approach and made bogey. Behind those two, Prugh did what Watney did while Peterson mimicked O’Hair. So, with two holes left, it was O’Hair at -15, Prugh at -14 and Watney and Peterson at -13.
Seventeen is a bit of a breather before a very difficult closing hole. 416, straight away with a generously wide (35 yards) fairway. There’s a bunker at 355. Not sure why it’s there except as some kind of optical illusion. But, if you trust your yardage and ignore that bunker it should be a good birdie hole, which Watney and Peterson did with the other two parring. So, with one left, it’s O’Hair by one at -15 over the other three.
Eighteen is a par-four, 505. Uphill maybe a club on the second, the pin is tucked in behind the right greenside bunker. The good news is that, with a 35-yard wide fairway, all could whale away. And all did. But it was O’Hair who under-clubbed his long iron approach into the bunker and couldn’t get up and down. As Watney was second to hit at eighteen, he didn’t get overly aggressive and played for the center of the green. So, those two were tied at -14. Both Prugh and Peterson had teed off and knew of O’Hair’s travails before they hit their approaches. Both backed off a bit and, like Watney, went for the center of the green and two-putted.
So, we’ve played 72 holes and four men are tied at the top at -14. The playoff will begin at eighteen.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP TEN:
After the foursome in the playoff, it was four shots to Fabian Gomez at -10 with Jason Kokrak and Scott Piercy at -9 and Kyle Reifers and Charles Howell III at -8.
The order was Watney, O’Hair, Peterson and Prugh, or just about the same order as in the final round.
The playoff started at eighteen. The consensus was that par would do here with accounts being settled at seventeen, the second playoff hole. The consensus was wrong. All four reached the green safely in two with all trusting their putters. Watney and Prugh sank their birdie putts while O’Hair and Peterson did not. So, two out and off to seventeen.
Seventeen is the “breather” hole in between sixteen and eighteen, which were playing as the two toughest holes on the course this week. Both Watney and Prugh hit safely off the tee, but it was Watney putting his approach closer and making birdie to Prugh’s par.
So, that’s it as Nick Watney wins in overtime with a pair of birdies.
Nick Taylor won it by two at -16 over Jason Bohn and Boo Weekley. Taylor barely made the cut in the replay and finished tied for 75th at +4.
As far as the four in the playoff, Prugh fared the best of the lot at -4 with Peterson at -3 and O’Hair at even-par. Watney missed the cut.
Of the others in the top ten, four got close to their actual scores: Gomez, Howell and Reifers at -9 with Kokrak at -8.
NICK WATNEY (-14)
Wins in four-man, two hole playoff
OHL Classic at Mayakoba
El Camaleon Golf Club
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Phil Mickelson shot a 58 here, the lowest round shot by anyone in about a gazillion rounds played on 85 different courses on The Tour. Mickelson isn’t in the field here this week as most of the heavyweights won’t start playing on this side of the world until Hawaii or the West Coast Swing.
Harris English is the first round leader on the strength of an 8-under 63. And he had a really good chance to break 60. He had seven birdies alone on the front side but couldn’t break 30 as he hit what should have been a routine short iron approach at six thin and into the sand in front of the green barely missing a watery death. He also bogeyed fifteen and doubled the sixteenth when he missed the expansive fairway and hooked his tee shot into the mangroves. But he recovered with birdies at the final two.
Of the three two shots back at 65, Charley Hoffman got off to the quickest start with birdies at the first four holes. But, after a 6-under front side, he bogeyed ten, twelve and fourteen before getting all those strokes back with three consecutive birdies to finish.
The other two at 4-under are Bo Van Pelt (Linus and Lucy’s brother), who had a pretty good front side going except for the double at five when his tee shot flirted with the right side a bit too much and he, too, ended up in the mangroves, and Tim Wilkinson, who had two bogeys but bounced back immediately from both.
After that, it’s Brian Davis, Jerry Kelly and Ken Duke at 66 and whole bunch of guys at 67: Russell Knox, Billy Hurley III, Spencer Levin, Tom Hoge, Andres Gonzales, Zac Blair, Pat Perez, David Hearn, Alex Prugh, Jonathan Randolph and Justin Hicks, not exactly a laundry list of big names.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Right behind those eighteen is another group of nine at 68. One of those is Daniel Summerhays. He earned the shot of the day honor at seven, a 116-yard par-three. So you know where this is going.
For the 2015 tourney, it played as the fourth hole as the course was re-routed a bit. Both seven and fifteen are par-threes with greens right on the ocean, as are the sixth green and sixteenth tee. The good news was that, even on the ocean, the breezes today were minimal. But 116 can be a tough shot for a pro as there’s a good chance it’s not a full swing. Summerhays aced the hole with a sand wedge, a nice recovery from the bogey he had at six.
Alex Prugh had the round of the year so far, turning in an 11-under 60. If this were shot-by-shot, I’d be able to say he did this or that. What I can say was that, after a 29 front, including an eagle at the par-five eighth, Prugh, who’s been up and down between AAA and the major leagues for the first eight years of his career before finishing inside the top 150 on the Fed Ex points list last year and earning conditional status, had two chances to break 60 and parred the final two holes. He leads by five at -15.
Harris English, who was the two-shot leader after day one, shot a more pedestrian 69, closing with a bogey at eighteen, and is at -10, at least two shots ahead of everyone else whose last name isn’t Prugh.
Brendan Steele moved up two dozen spots into a tie for third on the strength of a 65, which would have been the round of the day. Except for that Prugh fella, of course. Steele had a good round going yesterday before hitting the skids on the back nine and bogeying three holes in a row starting at fourteen. Today, it was only a lone bogey at six.
Steele is joined at 8-under by David Hearn, Zac Blair and Tom Hoge, all of whom shot 67.
Robert Garrigus, whose start nearly equaled that of Prugh, shot a 30 front side but leveled off to par on the back nine on his way to a 65, leaving him in a four-way for seventh at -7 under, eight back of the lead. The other three at -7 are Justin Hicks (68) and Tim Wilkinson and Bo Van Pelt, both of whom shot 70.
THE CUT LINE:
+1, with 73 making it. Though there a few big names in the field, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington went two and out. Harrington’s inability to make the cut became a running joke on The Tour. And, just to compare, the cut line at this event on The Tour was -2. Tells you something about the quality of the competition.
At the very bottom of the 123-man field were brothers Michael and Andrew Putnam, who finished at +11 and +13, respectively.
Alex Prugh couldn’t match his 60 of yesterday. Did anyone expect him to? But, as his 4-under 67 was two shots off the best round of the day, Prugh was able to extend his already generous five-shot lead to eight. Meaning the rest of the field is likely playing for place and show money.
Nothing really jumped off the page for Prugh as he more than overcame three bogeys. Three holes he’s done well at were five, six and eight as he’s birdied those holes every day. That’s 9-under right there.
Tom Hoge is solo second at -11. He birdied three in a row starting at two.
Scott Verplank is the man who shot the round of the day with a 65. That shot him fifteen spots up the leaderboard into a tie for third at 10-under. And to think he finished with his lone bogey of the day at eighteen. He’s tied with Rory Sabbatini (67), Bo Van Pelt (68) and David Hearn (69).
Carl Petterson (67), Patrick Rogers (70) and Harris English (74) are tied for seventh at -7 while John Curran, Jerry Kelly, Nick Watney and Johnson Wagner all shot 69. They’re tied for tenth at 6-under with Brendan Steele (73) who dropped from third.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Shawn Stefani at fourteen. 452, par-four. With a creek bisecting the fairway at about 315, most will lay back with a 3W. Which means coming home with something in the neighborhood of a 7I. Which Stefani holed out for eagle—at the toughest hole on the course today and which yielded only two birdies. That got him under par for the day and he eventually finished with a 68. At 2-under, he’s well off the lead.
Alex Prugh, his second-round 60 and eight-shot lead going into the final round held up quite easily. On cruise control the entire day, his lead dwindled to as little as four. But that was midway on the back nine. It was Rory Sabbatini, the man who finished second, who tried to dial up the aggression but ended up falling back and Prugh won by six with birdie at the last and an even-par 71.
For the 30 year-old Prugh, who bounced up and down between the Nationwide and the PGA Tours for the previous eight years he’s been a pro, this is his first PGA Tour win and makes him eligible for the next tourney—the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii as well as the Masters, Players and US Open, not to mention a two-year exemption. Life is good.
So, it’s Prugh at -19, Sabbatini (68) at -13, Jerry Kelly (65) at -12 and John Curran (67) at -10 with no one else within ten.
Prugh missed the cut by a shot as Charley Hoffman won at -17 with Shawn Stefani a shot behind and Danny Lee and Andres Gonzalez two back.
Stefani finished at -6 here. Kelly was the only man to make the top ten in both the actual tourney and replay. In the actual tourney, he finished fifth at 14-under.
ALEX PRUGH (wins by six at 19-under)
Looks like he got a guitar strap to go with that trophy.
Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Kapalua Resort – Plantation Course
No actual lineups for this tournament as whoever won in the calendar year of 2014 is eligible. And, with the exception of Ryan Moore winning in Malaysia both in real life and in the replay, the other early winners of the wraparound season were different.
So, getting a spot in this tourney were John Huh, Webb Simpson, Danny Lee, Nick Watney, Alex Prugh and Justin Rose.
And, no longer eligible are Sang-moon Bae, Ben Martin, Nick Taylor, Charley Hoffman and Robert Streb.
After three pars to start, Jimmy Walker holed out from 117 for eagle at four. That started a 6-under stretch to close out the front nine and he’s the first round leader with a 7-under 66.
Walker birdied the par five fifth as he got up and down from the back of the green, hit driver/PW to seven feet at six and made birdie, parred the seventh, hit an 8I over the flag at the par-three eighth and made the twelve-footer coming back for another birdie then closed out the front nine with a 30 yard pitch and putt for birdie at the par-five ninth.
Walker three-putted for bogey at thirteen but bounced back with a birdie at fourteen with a fifteen-foot putt. Then, at the 657-yard downhill last, he hit a 3W to the front of the green and closed out his round with a two-putt birdie.
Billy Horschel had four birdies on the first six holes on the back nine on his way to a first round 67.
Jason Day started his day with a bogey and had three on the day but still shot 68.
After those three, it’s JB Holmes, Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman at 69. And Holmes started his round by missing the green to the right and ending up in the hazard, making triple-bogey seven. And Matsuyama had back-to-back three-putt birdies on four and five before getting his game into gear and playing 6-under the rest of the way.
Tied for seventh at 70 are Justin Rose, Russell Henley, Geoff Oglivy, Matt Every and Brendan Todd.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Walker’s eagle at four.
Jimmy Walker made it back-to-back 66s to open a four stroke lead at -14.
As was the case yesterday, Walker didn’t get his first birdie until the fourth hole. Well, yesterday, it was an eagle. Today he hit to eight feet and made birdie. Amazingly, of the four birdies he had at par-fours that approach was the farthest from the pin, his best coming at twelve when he nearly holed out from 95. Walker closed out his round by missing short and right of the green but pitched to within two feet of the back pin location at the 674-yard hole.
After Walker, after an even-par front side, Jason Day shot a 5-under back nine, his back-to-back 68s leaving him at -10 and four shots behind the leader.
JB Holmes, who started the tourney with a triple bogey, did better today but still bogeyed the opening hole when, with visions of what he did yesterday—missing right and in the hazard—he missed left and pitched not too close and made five. After that, eight birdies and another bogey, a round of 67 and he’s also tied for second at-10.
The jump from the tie for second to fourth is another three strokes, meaning Matt Kuchar (68), Geoff Ogilvy (69) and Justin Rose (69) and all at 7-under have seven shots to make up. Of those three, Oglivy could have been a shot or maybe two closer to the lead but he hooked his second at eighteen into the hazard and made bogey after birdieing the hole yesterday.
After a 67 yesterday and only trailing by one, Billy Horschel shot an even-par 73 and dropped down into a tie for seventh at -6 with Patrick Reed (68). After that, it’s Alex Prugh (68), John Senden (70) and Hideki Matsuyama (72) are tied for ninth at 5-under, nine shots off the pace.
Even with an exclusive 35-man field, there’s still a cut—top 20 and ties. Number twenty is Ben Crane and he’s twelve shots back.
Some who are taking the early puddle-jumper to Honolulu include Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, both of whom hit their tee shots on seventeen into the hazard and made double-bogey and missed the cut by a shot.
Jimmy Walker didn’t match his 66s of the first two rounds. As it turned out, he didn’t have to. Starting the day in front by four, Jason Day and JB Holmes, his nearest competition, closed to within two. But Walker stepped it up just a bit while the other two fell back and that four shot lead after 36 holes is still at four after 54.
Walker gave back a shot at the very first hole as he steered clear of the hazard and missed the green to the left and couldn’t get up and down. But he bounced around, going bogey-birdie for the first six holes before back-to-back birdies at nine and ten. At nine, he came up short and in the front bunker at the par-five but got up and down for birdie while ten saw him drop an eighteen-footer. But Walker gave back at fourteen. At 302, it should have been an easy par. But Walker came up short on his second. Up near the bunker wall, he had to blast out, his ball rolling to the back fringe where he three-putted from 40 feet. But he got those strokes back with birdies at sixteen (20-foot putt) and eighteen (up and down from 74 as his tee shot didn’t roll out).
Day dropped shots at each of his first two holes before going on a four birdie run to get to 12-under. But he missed the green at seven and eight before making birdie at the par-five ninth. So, not a par among the lot through the first nine. A three-putt at the par-three eleventh saw him drop a shot but, like Walker, birdied sixteen and eighteen to finish at -12. Which will put him in the final twosome with Walker.
After three-putting the first, Holmes birdied half the remaining holes on the front nine to get to -13. For Holmes, if he can find a way to avoid that first hole, he’d be tied with Walker as he triple-bogeyed it on Thursday then bogeyed it each of the past two days. Holmes played par golf on the back nine—save for the double-bogey at fourteen. The course overview on the PGA Tour website says, “Putts numbering three or more will be commonplace given the green’s size and slope and the wind’s effects.” Sounds like it was written by a lawyer. How about, “This green is a bitch to putt if you don’t get close?” Holmes four-putted from just inside of 30 feet. He’s tied for third at 11-under.
The round of the day—and by three shots, no less–was turned in by one of the others who finished the day at -11, Russell Henley.
Henley cruised through the front nine with three birdies. But he kicked it up on the back. He hit to five feet at ten and made birdie. Counting the birdie at nine, he made it three in a row by dropping a 31-foot putt at the par-three eleventh. Two pars followed, though he missed from six feet for birdie at twelve. Henley hit to three feet at fourteen and made birdie and reached in two at fifteen and made birdie there, too. Then, he hit to six feet at sixteen and made it three birdies in a row again. Seventeen is a long, downhill par-four, 558. Short in two, Henley chipped to seven feet but missed the par putt. But he got the stoke back at the last. Hitting just short of the green with his second, he chipped close and made birdie to finish with an 8-under 65.
Matt Kuchar is the other player at -11 as he had three birdies sprinkled among his seven birdies and a round of 69.
After those four, it’s Justin Rose (70) at -10, Webb Simpson (68) and Billy Horschel (70) at 9-under with the next group a foursome apparently well out of it at -6.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Justin Rose at nine.
507 today and uphill all days and into the wind most days, Rose got home with a pair of 3W to the raised green (as being uphill isn’t quite enough) then sank a fourteen-foot eagle putt. Not quite “shot of the day” it was the hole of the day as it was the only eagle on the course today.
It was Jimmy Walker’s to lose. He didn’t. Starting the day with a four-shot lead, he led by as much as seven before winning by five.
Walker (67 today) stepped it up early with a 5-under front nine. Three and six are par-fours and he hit to six and five feet, respectively. So, birdies there. There are two par-fives on the front. He reached those in two and two-putted both. So, two more birdies. The eighth is a downhill two clubs or so par-three of 190. Going over the stick with an 8I, Walker made the fifteen-foot comebacker for yet another birdie. He hit 3W/SW at ten to nine feet and sank the putt to get to 22-under and stretched his lead to seven over Jason Day, JB Holmes and Russell Henley. Of those three, only Day (68) was able to offer even a halfhearted challenge, picking up two strokes over the final eight holes thanks to three birdies and a bogey to finish second at -17.
Henley took show money at -16 with Holmes and Matt Kuchar at 15-under. Bill Horschel (69) finished at -13 and Justin Rose (73) at -10. And that’s the end of the double-digit crew.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Kuchar at five. An uphill par-five that plays at 532 and into a light breeze, the fairway slopes right into the hazard and, whatever you do, don’t miss the green short or right. Kuchar hit a driver all of 240 and a 3I for placement. Then, from 59, he holed out for eagle, the only one on the course today.
Walker came darned close to winning the actual tourney, as well. Tied with Patrick Reed at 21-under, he lost on the first playoff hole. Reed didn’t play as well in the replay, finishing at -7.
In a short field event such as this, the was a lot of commonality between the real leaderboard and the fictional one. Day and Henley finished tied for third at -20. Brendon Todd finished tied for eighth at -9 while, in the real world, he finished tenth at 15-under.
Wired the field as he won by five at 22-under.
Right state, wrong trophy. That one was won at Waialae a week after this.
Sony Open in Hawaii
In the first full field event of the calendar year, Daniel Berger, Brendon de Jonge and Justin Thomas are the first round leaders each shooting a 6-under 64.
Berger eagled the ninth with a 30-foot putt to get to 3-under. Even with the bogey at the par-three eleventh when he landed in the right side bunker, Berger still played 3-under on the back nine even though he had to work for it as none of his four birdie putts were gimmes—all between eight and thirteen feet, even at the par-five last.
de Jonge had no bogeys and made a couple lengthy putts such as 20 feet at two and 16 feet at six. The one at six started a three birdie in four-hole run.
Thomas started his day by taking a flyer out of the rough and over the green at one leading to bogey. After that, it was all downhill including three birdies in a row starting at three, all on putts of between ten and twenty feet.
After those three, it’s Troy Merritt, Daniel Summerhays, Steve Wheatcroft, Jason Gore and Matt Jones two shots back at 66 with another fourteen at 67. One of those fourteen is 54-year old Kenny Perry, who’s making this tourney the start of an extended stay in the islands as he’ll be playing in the Champions Tour event that starts their season next week.
Daniel Berger is the only first round leader who can claim he’s the second-round leader. And, today, he won’t have to share.
Berger had no bogeys. And, among his three non-par-five birdies, he let his putter do the talking—26 feet at one and 31 at twelve. He also hit to seven feet and made bogey at six. So, except for that birdie at six, Berger never really hit close, though he made it to the green most of the time as, forced to scramble three times, he converted on all.
Daniel Summerhays (65) improved on yesterday’s score by a shot and is in second at 9-under. And to think he double-bogeyed the second when he hooked his tee shot into the water. He also finished up by running off three birdies in a row starting at fifteen with the one at the par-three seventeenth a near hole-in-one as his 7I from 187 spun back and stopped on the edge of the cup.
It’s Steve Wheatcroft at -8 after a pair of 66s. He started with a bogey after hitting his approach on one a bit thin and over the green. But he more than recovered, especially at the par-threes at four and eleven. At the 199-yard fourth, he hit a 5I to four feet. And he topped that at twelve when he hit a 5I at the 193-yard hole to just two feet. Birdies at both.
Camilo Villegas shot the round of the day, a 9-under 61 that moved him into a tie for fourth at -7. He had a couple shots for the highlight reel, one which will be noted below. The other came at sixteen when, after a trip into the right side trees at the dogleg left hole, Villegas only chance to hit the green was on the left side with the pin on the far right. He did just that then dropped a 51-foot putt for birdie.
Joining Villegas at -7 are Kevin Kisner (64), KJ Choi (65), David Hearn (66) and Kenny Perry (66) with Danny Lee (64) and Harris English (64) leading a four-man contingent tied for tenth at 6-under. The other two are Jason Day and Francisco Molinari, both of whom shot 66.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Villegas at eighteen.
Par-five, 539, hard dogleg left. The nines are reversed for the tournament—something about late-day lighting and such. So, this is the ninth hole for the members. Villegas hit a perfect shot to the corner of the dogleg and had 259 in. Out came the 3W. With a clean shot in, why not? He rolled up and on and holed out for a double-eagle! Nice way to close out a round.
With a par of 70 for the pros, this course has only two par-fives. And Adam Hadwin eagled both. Distance-wise, it’s not hard to reach the green in two at either as the ninth is 510 and the eighteenth 551, plus or minus the pin location. Hadwin had no trouble reaching at either. At nine, he was pin-high but a bit left and dropped a 38-footer. At eighteen, he over-cooked his 3-iron approach just a bit but sank a 28-foot putt for his second eagle. That accounted for 4-under in a 5-under round of 65. At -4 for the tourney, he’s tied for 22nd, six shots off the pace.
THE CUT LINE:
Even par with 80 making it. As there is no secondary cut on this tour, all 80 will play the entire weekend. Some making the early trip to Palm Springs include Jerry Kelly, who not only finished third at the last regular tour event in Mexico, but who also shot 67 today. Also, Alex Prugh, who’s been playing some decent golf so far this season, Davis Love, Steven Bowditch, Vijay Singh, Russell Henley and Geoff Ogilvy.
Daniel Berger led or shared the lead for the first two rounds. Not anymore, though he’s close.
It’s Harris English and KJ Choi at the top of the leaderboard at 10-under.
English bounced back off back-to-back bogeys (in the water off the tee at two and a three-putt at three) to post a 66. English finished with a bang, making birdie at four of the final six holes. Eighteen-foot putt at thirteen, chip in from just off the back at fifteen, sixteen-foot putt at sixteen and a sand save including an eleven-foot putt at the last.
Choi managed to make birdie where English faltered, including getting up and down out of the fairway bunker from 149 at two. But he bogeyed the fifth on a failed sand save and the sixteenth, when he had to stand in the greenside bunker to chip and came up eight feet short.
Berger, as noted, is close by at 9-under after a round of 71, tied with Zack Johnson and Steve Wheatcroft. Not nearly as sharp as in the previous two days, Berger didn’t quite have enough to recover from four bogeys, including back-to-back at eleven and twelve after a failed sand save and then a poor chip—so poor that he had to do it again.
Johnson shot the round of the day (equaled by Stewart Cink and Mark Wilson) with a 64. He had a couple dandy approaches, including from 154 to two feet at eight and from 159 to just a foot at twelve. By comparison, Wheatcroft shot a fairly mundane 69.
That takes care of one through five. Cink was the best today of a three-man contingent at 8-under as his 64 including bouncing back off back-to-back bogeys at six and seven with, among other things, finishing up with four birdies in his final five holes. Included in that run was a 50-foot putt for birdie at sixteen. Joining Cink at -8 are Sean O’Hair (67) and David Hearn (69).
Five are tied for ninth at 7-under: Matt Jones (68), Francisco Molinari (69), Danny Lee (69), Kenny Perry (70) and Camilo Villegas (70).
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Brice Garnett at one.
After a nice drive down the left side of the fairway at the sweeping dogleg right, Garnett had 211 to get home. A 3I effort to a back right pin (the green’s not that deep on that side, so front and back aren’t separated by much, maybe fifteen yards), hit the front of the green, bounced off the stick and fell in for eagle. Though he had two other birdies, Garnett finished where he left off after that eagle—2-under 68 and -3 overall.
It was Harris English and KJ Choi in the final pairing. On the Golf Channel TV broadcast, Choi quickly became the forgotten man after bogeying the first three holes. And English hung in there for a while before back-to-back bogeys at four and five sent him in the wrong direction (missed sand save at four followed by an errant tee shot at five). Even so, he was sort of in it until the bogeyman made another back-to-back visit at twelve and thirteen after two more errant tee shots.
So, that left the door open for two players who started the day a shot out of the lead—Zack Johnson and Steve Wheatcroft.
Johnson ran off seven regulation pars—nothing truly close—and one scramble before finally making his first birdie at the par-five ninth. And, even there, he did so by getting up and down from behind the large right front bunker. But, even with that one birdie, Johnson actually had the lead at 10-under. Adam Hadwin, playing about five holes in front Johnson, got to 11-under after two birdies and a 31-foot eagle putt to close out the front side. But, by the time Johnson got it to -10, Hadwin had bogeyed three of the first five holes on the back nine, tempered a wee bit by a thirteenth hole birdie.
Wheatcroft, playing with Johnson, was 3-over through eight (botched sand save, three-putt, errant tee shot—a little of everything) before dropping a 47-foot eagle putt at the ninth. He’d join Johnson at 10-under with a 7I approach from 169 to two feet at thirteen. But Wheatcroft would bogey the sixteenth on an errant approach.
At this point, let’s bring Daniel Berger into the mix. Berger led or shared the lead for the first two rounds and was one back starting play today. He was horrid early on with bogeys and one and two and a double at three when he not only came up short and in the bunker but also three-putted after he ran his par putt five feet past. But Berger fought back, finally getting to even-par on the day after hitting pin high at seventeen and making his eight-foot putt.
So, coming to the par-five eighteenth, Johnson (-10) had a shot on Wheatcroft and Berger and also one on Jason Day (67), who was finished for the day. English would also come into eighteen at -9. But…
Berger was playing in the group in front of Johnson and came to the conclusion that he probably needed an eagle at the par-five last to make it to a playoff. As it was the easiest hole all week, Berger’s conclusion made sense. That he made birdie considering he hit his second and third out of bunkers was mighty impressive. And his third got within two feet of that eagle. Still, at 10-under, he was temporarily tied for the lead.
But, maybe that 10-under had a chance as Johnson might have nicked some overhanging palm tree branches off the tee as his drive went less than 250 and, though he had the distance to make it to the green, he had no angle. Wheatcroft did the same thing, his tee shot barely going 260. But he’d have to draw a 3W to have any chance. Johnson hit to within 60 yards with a weight taken off him when Wheatcroft over-cooked his 3W. Johnson hit pin high but to ten feet—no gimme there while Wheatcroft pitched to seven feet. But Johnson made his putt, which shut the door on Wheatcroft, who made his birdie putt anyway, and Berger, who was done.
Only one man left to catch Johnson. And that was English, who needed eagle. He hit a good drive to the inside corner of the dogleg and elected to hit a 3I from 257. Maybe he was between clubs or he thought he could get more mileage than he did as he came up short. Even so, he had a good look at the hole but ran his aggressive eagle pitch thirteen feet past, eventually parring.
So, Zach Johnson (68) wins it by a shot at 11-under. Berger and Wheatcroft (both with 69) took second at -10 with Day (67) and English (71) in third at -9. After that, Hadwin (68) finished sixth at 8-under and Stewart Cink (71) seventh at -7. Five tied for eighth at 6-under: Chad Collins (68), Graham De Laet (69), Chez Reavie (70), Webb Simpson (70) and Kenny Perry (71). Technically, senior citizen Perry would automatically qualify for next week’s PGA event in Palm Springs. But he’ll choose Hawaii instead as the Champions Tour begins next week in Kona.
Jimmy Walker, who won at Kapalua last week in the replay, won in real life here. Impressive performance, too, winning by nine at 23-under. Walker didn’t have anywhere near the luck in the replay, finishing at 3-over.
There was only one man who finished in the top ten of both events, Harris English. Fourth here, he finished tied for third at -14 in the actual tourney.
Zach Johnson finished tied for 64th at 8-over while Steve Wheatcroft missed the cut by a shot. Besides English, Daniel Berger did the best of the top contenders in the replay, as he finished tied for thirteenth at 11-under.
ZACH JOHNSON (-11, wins by a shot)
I’d say he’s keeping track of the fiber in his diet (and white paint), but that looks like a plastic tee.
Humana Challenge – In Partnership with the Clinton Foundation
PGA West Palmer and Nicklaus Private Courses and La Quinta CC
La Quinta, California
Starting this year (2016), it’s not Humana anymore but Career Builder, though the Clintons are still around. Not to worry, Trump has the Doral weekend covered quite nicely because his name is also on the Puerto Rico course where those who didn’t qualify for the WGC event (also at his course) are playing. But, not anymore, at least as of 2016, as the guy who owns the course paid Trump for the use of his name and he ran behind on his payments. Also, this tournament had a really good chance to to be the last one held at PGA West. But, as there was a common Director of Golf or some such between La Quinta and PGA West, PGA West came to the rescue, though the courses used there will be different from the past. So, instead of the Palmer and Nicklaus Private Courses, it’ll be the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course designed by Pete Dye (or, for those who have played some of the courses he’s designed, it’s “Die,” which is what people usually wish for him and his son PB—or Perry).
Also, as this tourney is spread over three courses, unlike real life where all three courses are going at once with the pro-am and all, this will have to be a different course every day. In this rotation, it’ll be the Palmer course, then Nicklaus, then La Quinta and back to Palmer with the cut after the third round.
Lots of low scoring as expected as desert golf is conducive to guys playing 20-under or better. On “The Tour,” the Palmer and Nicklaus courses each held their own four-round event and the winning score at both was 32-under. That’s what happens in an all-star league.
By the way, this is quick play, meaning the descriptions will be at a minimum, though I can always make up stuff.
Players who shot 65, 66, 67 found themselves as much as four shots off the pace as John Merrick and Justin Thomas are the first round leaders at 63. And to think Thomas was 1-over through five. But he birdied five out of six starting at six and finished up with four out of five. Merrick had no bogeys and started off on the right foot by birdieing four of the first five.
Five more are at 64, including last week’s winner, Zach Johnson. Also, Martin Flores, Ryo Ishikawa, Nicholas Thompson and Adam Hadwin, who finished sixth last week. Four more are at 65: Chris Kirk, Dudley Hart, Jeff Overton and Rory Sabbatini.
It’s golf on the Nicklaus course today. And, like yesterday, it was a shooting gallery with 63 again being the best score.
This time it was done by Chris Kirk (and equaled by Jason Gore), who took the lead at the halfway point by two at 16-under.
A bogey at seven seemed to wake up Kirk as he played 7-under over the final eleven holes.
Sixteen others behind Kirk are double digits under par. Martin Flores (66) and yesterday’s co-leader, Justin Thomas (67) are at -14. Max Homa (64) is at -13. Three are tied for fifth at 12-under: Oscar Fraustro (66) and Nicholas Thomas and Zack Johnson, each of whom shot 68. The rest of the top ten consists of six at 11-under: Gore and his 63, Tim Wilkinson (65), Kevin Kisner (65), James Hahn (66), Cameron Tringale (67) and yesterday’s co-leader, John Merrick (70).
Over to La Quinta (not the budget motel) for the third round. The cut will be made after today.
Chris Kirk still leads it after a third round of 4-under 68. At 20-under, he still leads by two.
Kirk had a grand old time on the front side as he shot 5-under and looked well on the way to opening up some serious daylight on the rest of the field. But he was confounded by the back as he shot 1-over, including the cardinal sin of bogeying a par-five, especially one without water on it. But it does have sand.
James Hahn’s 65 moved him into second place at -18. He ran off four birdies in a row starting at fourteen. Max Homa (68) and Martin Flores (69) are tied for third at -17. Kevin Kisner (67) is in fifth at 16-under. The tie for sixth at -15 goes down to tenth. Two guys who moved into the top ten shot the day’s best 64—Webb Simpson and Phil Mickelson. Simpson peeled off five birdies in a row starting at four and ran his hot streak to eight out of ten before eventually making bogey at the par-four sixteenth. Mickelson, who had no bogeys, closed out the front nine with four straight birdies. The rest of the crew at -15 are Charley Hoffman (67), Cameron Tringale (68) and Zach Johnson 69, who will have some work to do if he wants to win two in a row.
Back to the Palmer course.
Chris Kirk opened the round up two on James Hahn and three on Max Homa and Martin Flores. Kirk played well enough to keep his opponents at bay while none of them went low enough to be a threat. Kirk stretched his lead to as much as five before almost backing over himself. In the end, he won by two at 23-under.
Hahn took himself out with a hook into the water off the tee and a double-bogey at the ninth with Flores also hurting himself when he, too, hooked his tee shot in the water at ten and also made double-bogey. Homa started his day off with two bogeys but recovered with three birdies on the front nine. Cameron Tringale, who started five off the lead, bogeyed the first but bounced back with three birdies in a row and another at the short (358) par-four eighth to give Kirk the biggest run for his money.
But Kirk stretched his lead to five with an eagle at the par-five eleventh which moved him to 24-under.
Flores bounced back off the double-bogey by birdieing three of the next four and closed to within a shot as Kirk chunked his second into the canal at what should have been an easy par at the short (364) sixteenth. But the green is long and very narrow and even a bit of a wayward short iron can get you into trouble.
Going into the 523-yard par-five eighteenth, water all the way down the left and the pin tucked far left, Tringale, down two, needed eagle to pull even with Kirk, who was two groups behind. He could only muster up a birdie. Homa, playing with Flores, also needed an eagle. And he could only birdie. Flores, down one, needed a birdie to press Kirk. And, on the second easiest hole on the course this week, he could only par. That left Kirk up a shot going into the final hole. Hitting 3W off the tee, he bailed right a bit on the second just to make sure he stayed dry but still managed to get up and down for birdie when par would have been quite enough.
So, Kirk (69) wins it at 23-under with Tringale (66), Homa (68) and Flores (68) all splitting second, third and fourth place money. Tony Finau (66), Zach Johnson (67 and who didn’t win his second in a row, though he gave it a good effort) and Kevin Kisner (68) finished tied for fifth at -20. Webb Simpson (69) finished eighth at 19-under with the top ten being rounded out Ryan Moore (67), Tyrone van Aswegen (68) and JJ Henry (68) at -18.
Bill Haas (-22) won it by a shot over Charley Hoffman, Matt Kuchar, Sung Joon Park, Brendan Steele and Steve Wheatcroft. The only common finisher in the top ten was Webb Simpson, who finished tied for seventh at 20-under. Kirk finished tied for 56th at 11-under.
CHRIS KIRK (-23)
About ready to snack on his putter. He could probably eliminate the metallic taste with a little mustard.
Waste Management Phoenix Open
Though he kept his driver in the bag most of the day, Bubba Watson starting slugging from the get-go and is the first round leader with a 6-under 65.
Watson birdied the first two on approaches of under ten feet. And, for one of the rare times he used that big pink-headed club, he cashed in for eagle. That came at the par-five thirteenth when he took the shorter and tighter route as the large fairway is partially divided by so-called “native area” (what most golfers call shit). A fairly mundane (for him) 316 off the tee, Watson used a 4I to get home from 253. Must be nice to be able to hit it that far. He hit the front of the green, checked up a bit and rolled to within seven feet.
Watson’s only blemish came at the bullring that is the sixteenth. Being 6-under at the time and the leader either on or off the course as no one else saw 6-under today, save for Watson, still didn’t stop the lubricated boo-birds when he pulled a 9I well right, pitched OK but missed the nine-footer for par. But he got that shot back with a 13-foot birdie putt at eighteen.
Daniel Summerhays and Danny Lee, who won the McGladrey earlier this season, are tied at 65. Summerhays would have been tied with Watson, except that he three-putted at eighteen when he ran his first putt from 27 feet eight feet past. Lee birdied three of the par-fives, two on lengthy putts, including 25 feet at sixteen, which made the 20,000 or so surrounding the green quite happy.
After that, it’s Cameron Tringale, Russell Henley, Jeff Overton, Brian Davis and Jason Kokrak at 67 with Luke Guthrie, David Toms, Rory Sabbatini, James Hahn, who faltered in the final round after playing in the final pairing last week, Andres Romero and Brian Stuard at 68.
It rains in the desert sometimes. Makes everything pretty, too, as much of what lies dormant during the dry times begins to bloom and flower. It also made the course play about two shots easier.
And it’s still Bubba Watson at the top with a round of 64 to move to 13-under and a two shot lead over a fellow who lit it up today, not that 64 is anything to sneeze about.
The highlight of Watson’s day came on the back nine when he went 5-under in a four-hole stretch starting at thirteen. Just off the green at the par-five thirteenth, he chipped to four feet and made birdie. He then made a fifteen-foot putt for birdie at fourteen. At the par-five fifteenth and into a breeze, Watson hit his drive about 280 in the air and got very little roll. For those who want to have a go at the green in two, it’s all carry. So, Watson pulled out the 3W from 279 and hit to eighteen feet under the hole and made the eagle putt. Then, remembering the less than welcome reaction to making his lone bogey of the day at sixteen yesterday, Watson hit pin high and sank the fourteen-footer for birdie.
Angel Cabrera was the fellow who lit it up today to the tune of a 62, meaning nine of the 11-under he is for the tourney came today.
Cabrera had quite a run on the back nine, coming home in 6-under 30. He ran off four birdies in a row starting at thirteen, including a 3W out of the rough from 252 at fifteen that rolled nine feet past the pin. Unfortunately, he missed the eagle putt and had to settle for birdie. Finally, at eighteen, he hit his 8I approach from 177 to within a foot.
George McNeill also lit it up with a 62 to move to 9-under and in a three-way tie for third with some kid named Spieth (64) and Brian Stuard (65). McNeill started his day with four birdies in a row and went on a five-birdie run on the back nine, most of that under par stuff due to an excellent approach game. Some of his better efforts included hitting an 8I to three feet at one and two near hole outs—a 3I from 224 to a foot at fourteen and he topped that at the par-three twelfth when he stuck a 4I from 207 to the edge of the cup. How it didn’t drop was a mystery.
After the first five, Zach Johnson, Chris Stroud and Ryo Ishikawa all shot 66 to move into a tie for sixth at 7-under, six shots off the pace. They’re joined by Danny Lee, who shot a 69. Jeff Overton (69) is in tenth at 6-under.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
McNeill at twelve.
THE CUT LINE:
-1 with 76 sticking around for the weekend (or, conversely, 53 heading out early to Legoland).
Those missing the cut include Gary Woodland, who shot a 66 today. Maybe it was that 76 yesterday. Also leaving early, Bill Haas, Nick Watney, who won at Sanderson Farms, Hideki Matsuyama (who might still be playing as he’s so damn slow), Brandt Snedeker, Freddy Jacobson and, proving it happens to the best of them, Rickie Fowler.
Bubba Watson is doing his best to wire the field as he’s still the man at the top. But he has company now in Angel Cabrera. And, at 15-under, those two have at least four shots on the rest of the field.
After opening rounds of 65 and 64, Watson shot a more mundane 69. He started his day off well with three birdies in the first four holes with a 24-foot birdie putt at the par-three fourth as part of that run. But Watson seemed to get complacent on the back nine. Maybe it was the five- or six-shot lead he had at the time. For example, at the par-five thirteenth, when he went with the big club the first two days, he laid back with a 3I off the tee and played conservatively. OK, he still made par. But had he known Cabrera would take a run at him, he might have played a bit more “balls to the wall.” By seventeen and with Cabrera up his ass, Watson went for the green at the drivable seventeenth, missed right but made a tremendous short-sided pitch to four feet and a birdie. But, at eighteen, he pushed his second and, though he landed on the green, he three-putted from 55 feet.
Now for Cabrera. He bogeyed the final three of the front nine, all on bad tee shots and/or approaches to lose a stroke overall. It was on the back nine where Cabrera stepped it up. He birdied thirteen on an up and down from 93. On in two at fifteen, he two-putted for birdie there. At the bull ring, he dropped a 21-footer for birdie. He tried to drive the green at seventeen, came up short but got up and down on a testy pitch from 57. Eighteen saw a two shot swing Cabrera hit his approach to twelve feet and made the birdie putt. So, 31 on the back nine after a 30 yesterday. If only Cabrera could play the back nine twice tomorrow.
As mentioned, it’s four shots to the next in line, who happen to be Brooks Koepka, who shot the day’s best 63, and Jordan Spieth (69). Koepka birdied all three par-fives. But where he earned his keep was at the par-fours. Five birdies there with four of them coming on approaches of eight feet or less. The one that wasn’t was a 31-footer off the fringe at six.
Ryan Moore (64) and Zach Johnson (68) are tied for fifth at -10 with Danny Lee (69) in seventh at 9-under and Adam Hadwin (67), Michael Thompson (your sister plays better, 67), Ben Martin (68) and Harris English (68) tied for eighth at 8-under.
Detecting a threat, Bubba Watson took the lead after today’s first hole and ended up wiring the field winning by three at 19-under.
It was Watson and Angel Cabrera in the final twosome and at least four shots to everyone else. And, though Brooks Koepka closed to within two, Watson had no problem holding off the competition.
At the first hole, Cabrera hit to nine feet with Watson hitting four feet closer. It was Watson who made the putt to give him the lead he wouldn’t relinquish. Watson birdied the third but gave back at the sixth. But Cabrera hit his approach into the greenside bunker at nine and made bogey. So, after a lackluster front nine for what was both leaders, it was Watson by two at the turn.
Both bogeyed the tenth, but it was Watson who stepped things up after that with an 8I approach out of the rough at eleven to two feet and a birdie. At the par-three twelfth, he hit a 6I to the center of the green and a 29-foot putt for birdie. Watson then played conservatively at the par-five thirteenth for second straight day but, this time, he got up and down from 57 yards for birdie. Two holes later, at the final par-five, after a 337-yard blast, he got on with a 5I from 214 and missed from eleven feet for eagle, tapping in for birdie instead. That put him up four on Cabrera who could only muster back-to-back birdies at fourteen and fifteen. And he didn’t finish second as Zach Johnson birdied the final four to zoom past Cabrera and pick up place money.
So, it’s Watson (67) at 19-under, Johnson (65) at -16, Cabrera (71) at -15, Koepka (69) and Ryan Moore (68) at 13-under and Jordan Spieth (71) at 11-under. In a three-way tie for seventh at -10 were JB Holmes (64), Keegan Bradley (67) and Michael Thompson (69). Rounding out the top ten were Daniel Berger (66), Russell Henley (67) and Matt Kuchar (67), all at 9-under.
Though he didn’t win, Watson did pretty well, finishing tied for second at 14-under, a shot behind Koepka, who did pretty well in both places, too. Jordan Spieth (-11) matched his score but finished tied for seventh. Daniel Berger matched his tied for tenth finish, missing his actual score by a shot at -10.
BUBBA WATSON (-19, wins by three)
Looks like he’s happy. Maybe a little demented, too.
Farmers Insurance Open
Torrey Pines – South Course
San Diego, California
As the North Course is quick play only, it was decided (by me, who else?) to play the entire tournament on the South Course. With ASG, the daylight is unlimited, so a single course would have no trouble handling a full field.
It’s Freddy Jacobson and Alex Cejka out front with 5-under 67 as the top ten looks a lot like the United Nations (except that these golfers do more than the UN ever did) as there are flags of eight different countries represented.
Jacobson, from Sweden, had no bogeys and did his best work on the back nine with four birdies. One place (four, actually) where he had no birdies was at the par-fives. At eleven, a downhill par-three playing at 216 into a bit of a breeze, Jacobson parked a 5I ten feet away just under pin high and made the birdie putt. He also banged in birdie putts at twelve and fourteen of 33 and 11 feet. But he did his best work at seventeen. Just off the back with his approach, he chipped in from 40 feet for birdie.
Cejka, from Germany, was generally spot-on with his approaches—a choked down PW from 98 to a foot at two, a 6I to five feet at seven, a 3I to a tough back left pin position at the 236 yard, par-three sixteenth to five feet and, finally, after going for the green in two at eighteen, Cejka jacked his drive well left. Had there been a grandstand there, he would have gotten a drop closer to the hole. Instead, he had 55 yards from just on the left (far) side of the cart path and a lot of green to work with, Cejka pitched to five feet and made his final birdie of the day. And then there was the one at five. Just off the left side of the green and pin high, Cejka holed a dainty little fifteen foot chip for birdie.
The rest of the UN consists of Jamie Donaldson (Wales) at 68 and a whole bunch at (69): Marc Leishman (Australia), Russell Knox (Scotland), Jhonattan Vegas (Venezuela), Sang Moon Bae (South Korea) and three Americans, Tony Finau, Scott Brown and Stewart Cink.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Rickie Fowler at eleven.
Unlike Jacobson, who used a 5I, Fowler went with a six. With the breeze to knock it down a bit, his ball landed softly and rolled in for a hole-in-one! So, one swing got him back to even on the day and an 8I from 154 to two feet at fourteen made sure he went under-par and he finished with a 71.
The wind was blowing harder, which made conditions difficult for scoring. Matter of fact, the low round of the day was only 68, which happened to be about 6 ½ under the average. The three who did it (only three) moved from the chopping block into contention.
But first, Tony Finau and Scott Brown each shot 70 which was good enough to move into first place by two shots at 5-under as yesterday’s leaders, Alex Cejka (77) and Freddie Jacobson (80) dropped off the radar.
The highlight of the day for Brown came at thirteen. Into the right rough off the tee, he had a little space between trees and placed a 5I from 183 to three feet and made birdie. As for Finau, he bounced back off a three-putt bogey at seven with back-to-back birdies. At eight, he flew the 179-yard, par-three with an 8I landing in the back bunker. And he holed out of the bunker. Then, at the 619-yard ninth and after a 321-yard drive, Finau, who is one of the few who could probably reach in two, uncorked a 3W from 298. But he yanked it left. Even so, he nearly made eagle when he hit a delicate pitch from 64 yards to a small landing area to within a foot.
Blayne Barber and Tom Gillis (71 each) are tied for third a 3-under, two shots back. Then, there’s a group of nine at -2, including two of the 68 shooters—Billy Horschel and Michael Putnam. Horschel fought off four bogeys while finishing with an eagle at eighteen when he hit a 3W out of the rough from 263 to twelve feet. Good thing the green is two-tiered with the pin in the back because, on Sunday, he’d have been a mile away. Putnam had three for the highlight reel today. At the 198 downhill par-three second, he parked a 6I to a foot. Then, at the par-five sixth, Putnam nearly had a double-eagle when he hit a 3I from 255 to two feet, tapping in for eagle. He almost made it a second eagle when, at the par-five thirteenth, he hit a SW from 76 that checked up and stopped on the edge of the cup.
The rest of the crew at 3-under are Steve Wheatcroft (69), Seung-Yul Noh (70), Adam Hadwin (70), Jimmy Walker (71), Pat Perez (71) and Jamie Donaldson (74).
The other 68 belonged to James Hahn, who moved up into a tie for fourteenth at -1. Amazingly, as many players really had to work out there, Hahn really didn’t have to as he had no bogeys and only three scrambles, including one he birdied. That came at seventeen when he hit his approach off the back and chipped in from 40 feet. The other shot worth mentioning came at the 179-yard slightly uphill par-three seventh when he put a 7I two feet right of the hole.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
There have been a lot of good ones already. But the honor goes to Bill Haas at seven. But first, Haas triple-bogeyed the par-five sixth when he faded his drive into the canyon and finished with a three-putt. So, he wasn’t a happy camper heading into seven. With another canyon on the right to deal with, Haas stayed left off the tee, rolling just off the fairway into the light rough. A 3I from 217 and needing a high fade (did Nicklaus design this place?) was right on target, rolling into the hole for an eagle! That got Haas back to even on the day. He’d finish today with a 73 and 1-under for the tournament.
THE CUT LINE:
Well, Haas didn’t have to worry about being cut as 4-over was good enough to stick around for the weekend. Heading off to Pebble Beach include Angel Cabrera, who finished third last week in Scottsdale, Justin Rose, who won in China, Brandt Snedeker, Rickie Fowler, who had a hole-in-one and a 71 yesterday but ballooned to 83 today including following a double-bogey at six with a three-bagger at seven as both tee shots went into the canyon, and Tiger Woods. Around here, his glutes fired but his game didn’t with rounds of 78 and 77.
Under much easier conditions, meaning only a slight breeze off the ocean, Jamie Donaldson shot the round of the day with a 6-under 66 and will be the leader by a shot going into tomorrow at 8-under.
Donaldson got off to a good start by parking a 7I from 175 to the back right pin location at one to four feet and a birdie. He also birdied every par-five and dropped a 20-footer for birdie at seventeen. He was also 5/5 in scrambling. As that last thing tends to balance out over time, Donaldson is hoping it doesn’t balance out tomorrow and the 39-year old can win his first PGA tourney after winning three times on the European Tour.
Scott Brown, who was one of the co-leaders coming into today, shot a 70 to drop a slot. He’s a shot behind at 7-under. He darned near aced the second when his 6I at the 193-yard slightly downhill third spun back and stopped at the edge of the cup. Brown also fought off two bogeys by making birdie at nine and eighteen and dropping a nineteen-foot putt for birdie at fourteen.
Tony Finau, who was the other co-leader coming into today, had two bogeys and a double in his first four holes on his way to a less than memorable 78, dropping into a tie for 32nd, meaning he’ll be finishing up while the leaders, one of which could have been him, are making the turn tomorrow.
Steve Wheatcroft opened his day with a pair of birdies and made it back-to-back 69s to move into a tie for third at -5, three shots back. He’s tied with Blayne Barber (70), who still has yet to break 70.
After that, five are tied for fifth at 4-under: Jason Gore (67), Jordan Spieth (68), Carlos Ortiz (69), Retief Goosen (69) and Billy Horschel (70). Then, tied for tenth at -3 are local boy Phil Mickelson (67), Colt Knost (68), Dustin Johnson (69) and Brian Harman (70).
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Brown at three.
Jamie Donaldson didn’t have to do much to win his first PGA Tour event as his nearest competition did it for him.
Donaldson’s playing partner, Scott Brown bogeyed his first three holes on his way to a 75. When, yesterday, he nearly aced the par-three third, today that same 6I was hit a little fat and ended up as a fried egg in the front bunker.
Steve Wheatcroft and Blayne Barber, both next in line, both shot 73. Wheatcroft didn’t get his first birdie until the fourteenth hole while it took until the seventeenth for Barber. And that came after double-bogeying the par-five thirteenth when he hooked his second into the canyon.
Jason Gore, who started four shots back, gave it the best run of the also-rans with a round of 69, pretty good considering the best round of the day was 68 (Paul Casey, KJ, Choi and Alex Prugh). And Gore was pretty well out of it before making birdie at seventeen and eighteen. So, if this was the horse track, it could be said that Gore got up in the final jump to take place money.
Now to Donaldson. He hit close and birdied the second. But he gave that and another shot back with bogeys at four (bad tee shot, bad approach) and and six (three-putt, and at a par five—for shame). But Donaldson looked at the leaderboard and it showed he had a two-shot lead over Brian Harman, who’d stall out. So, Donaldson was feeling pretty good about his chances, even with the bogeys. So, he hit to six feet at the par-three eighth and birdied that then got up and down from in front of the green at the par-five ninth, saw he was up by three and was content. Remembering that truly content doesn’t come until you’ve won at least your first tournament, Donaldson was still a bit on edge.
Three regulation pars started the back nine and he birdied the par-five thirteenth even after failing to hit the fairway on his first two shots, getting up and down from 98 and making a 20-foot putt to do so.
And Donaldson saw he was up by four as Gore had just bogeyed the fourteenth. So, Donaldson didn’t press matters, though he hit a horrible tee shot well right at fifteen but recovered with a testy pitch over the greenside bunker to five feet and a par. He bogeyed the seventeenth on an errant approach and saw he was up two on Gore with a par-five to play.
He used the driver at eighteen, but missed the fairway to the right. Using his noodle on the next shot, he hit an 8I out to the center of the fairway and needed four shots to get up and down from 88. It took him three as he hit away from the almost sucker Sunday pin placement and two-putted for the win.
So, Donaldson (71) wins it at 9-under with Gore (69) at -7. Pat Perez and Ben Martin finished with 69s to finish tied for third at 5-under. Also joining them were Billy Horschel and Jordan Speith, both of whom shot 71. The rest of the top ten finished at 4-under: Brian Harman (71), Steve Wheatcroft (73), Blayne Barber (73) and Scott Brown, who was tied for the lead after two rounds, with a 75.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Certainly it was the shot of his day. And, because his name is also Day makes it more—what?–ironic.
Jason Day, who came into today at 1-under, played 5-over through his first five holes, including a double at four when he three-putted from just nine feet. But he turned his game around enough to finish the day at even-par. Included in that turnaround was the ninth hole. After a 340-yard drive, Day hit a 2I from 268 just under pin high and made the eagle putt.
Day won it in a four-man, two hole playoff with the winning score the same as it was in the replay—9-under. Scott Stallings and Harris English were eliminated on the first hole and Holmes on the second. There was no commonality in the top ten between the real tourney and the replay.
Donaldson played well, only five shots off the pace at -4. But he finished tied for nineteenth.
RALPH MALPH, uh, JAMIE DONALDSON
Wins by two at 9-under for his first PGA Tour victory
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach, California
Normally, this tournament is spread out over three courses, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula being the other two. But, since those two are quick play courses and there’s no pro-am and there’s also plenty of daylight, Pebble Beach will host the whole thing. The cut will still be after the third round. That’s because I made a mistake and neglected to change it.
Thanks to overnight rain, today’s version of Pebble Beach featured receptive greens and lift, clean and place and was otherwise very accessible with Scott McCarron setting the pace with a 9-under 63 and an early two-shot lead.
Didn’t look like a good start for McCarron as he three-putted the first hole. But, after that, he ran off five birdies in a row and seven out of eight to close out the nine. Highlights? Tough to say as he hit close most of the time, his longest birdie putt being fifteen feet at the par-three fifth. Maybe the highlight was the lone par. That came at the famed par-three seventh when a gust of wind at his back and an extra helping of Wheaties saw McCarron fly the green with a SW. He then pitched to seven feet and made the putt. Two bogeys on the back slowed him down a bit, but he recovered with three consecutive birdies to finish up—a 7I to a foot at sixteen, to four feet at the par-three seventeenth and up and down from 75 at eighteen, a hole that was playing as a three-shotter because of a steady breeze. Oh, did we mention (inside joke about APBA for you Tabletop readers), he also had the shot of the day? See below.
After McCarron, it’s Tyrone Van Aswegen and Ricky Barnes at 65. Of Van Aswegen’s six non-par-five birdies, nothing was farther away than eleven feet. And, for Barnes, he birdied all the par-fives but couldn’t say anything close to that about the par-threes as he played them in 1-over, the bogey coming at seventeen when he pushed his tee shot into one of the back right bunkers.
Then, it’s Kyle Reifers and Chad Collins at 66 and Ryan Palmer, Pat Perez, Brian Davis, Kevin Kisner, Kyle Stanley and Seung-Yul Noh at 67.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
McCarron at fourteen.
The lengthy, doglegged par-five of 576 is a three shotter if only because of the small and fairly inaccessible green. McCarron eagled it anyway as, after a tee shot that narrowly missed the farthest bunker at the inside of the dogleg, McCarron laid up to 85 yards then holed out.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY:
If you remember, Scott McCarron shot a 63 yesterday. But something happened between yesterday and today to the point where he totally lost it. Not ‘missed the cut’ lost it, though it would have been had he shot even a 66 yesterday. In any case, McCarron got a bit of a reprieve as the cut is after three rounds here.
Today’s round: 80. He didn’t quite go from best to worst as ‘worst’ was Tim Herron’s 82. But what does 80 look like? Well, it started with a scramble birdie at the par-five second, if ‘scramble birdies’ were such a thing. Then, it was a three-putt bogey at three and a triple at four when it took him five to get up and down from just behind the green. Included in that was a misjudged putt on a severely downhill section of green that ran off of it. McCarron added five bogeys in a seven-hole stretch starting at nine and finished up with another when he yanked his second into the water. Where does that leave him? Tied for 44th at 1-under and eleven shots off the lead…
…which is held by Kyle Reifers after a pair of 66s. Reifers cashed in at all four par-fives and, the two times he hit close—within eight feet—at par-fours, he cashed in there, too. And he bounced back off a three-putt bogey at eleven with a fourteen-foot birdie putt at the par-three twelfth.
It’s Billy Horschel in second at 9-under after a round of 67. He did well early on, with four birdies in five holes starting at two. But, where he had trouble was at the par-threes as he parred two and bogeyed two others. At seven, playing all of 97 yards, Horschel ended up in the front bunker and had to blast out. Except that the pin was in the front and he couldn’t get close. Then, at seventeen, with the easier pin placement on the right, Horschel just missed the green, chipped OK but missed an eight-foot putt to save par.
Four are tied for third at 8-under: David Lingmerth (67), Zac Blair (67), Steven Bowditch (67) and Blake Adams (68). Then, Alex Cejka with a 66 is in seventh at -7 with Nick Taylor (68), Scott Brown (69), Jonas Blixt (70) and Kevin Kisner (71) rounding out the top ten at -7.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Jim Herman at eleven.
Not a long hole (373), Herman hit a 2I to the middle of the fairway then short-armed a SW and holed out from 94 for eagle. That’s the good news. At 3-over, he’s on the ropes and will probably have to shoot 70 or even 69 tomorrow to make it to Sunday.
Kyle Reifers led by three at the start of play. After it, he was the only man in the top 20 to not break par, a 3-over 75 seeing him tumble down the leaderboard to seventh at -9, three shots off the pace.
A quick look at Reifers… He had three bogeys in the final four holes of the front nine. Sliced tee shot into the cove at six, three-putt bogey at eight, short, fat and in the front bunker and a bogey at nine. Bogey, birdie and a hell of a par save on the back. At eighteen, it was another big push off the tee out of bounds. If mulligans were allowed, he would have made eagle as, after a 334-yard blast, Reifers got up and down from 218 to nine feet.
The current leader was Reifers playing partner today, Billy Horschel, who shot a 69 and leads by a shot at 12-under.
Horschel might have had a six-shot lead if not for a bogey, double-bogey and triple-bogey. The three-bagger came at four when he five-putted the hole. Well, technically, as the first putt came from off the fringe, it was only a four-putt. The double came at ten when he pushed his tee shot onto the beach. Now for the good news: Horschel played the par-fives in 5-under, meaning there was at least one eagle in there. That came at two when he needed just an 8I for his approach, hitting to seven feet. He also holed out a neat, little short-sided pitch at sixteen.
The three men behind Horschel all made serious Saturday charges.
Low man on that totem pole is the man in second—Jason Day with a 66. And it could have been lower if not for the double at nine and the bogey at eighteen. The one at nine came courtesy of a nearly impossible bunker shot when he had to blast out and flew the green. At eighteen, his tee shot went out of bounds. But he also had two three-birdie runs while making birdie at three of the par-threes on shots to six, four and three feet at five, twelve and seventeen.
One notch up that totem pole was Brandt Jobe with a 65. He’s at 10-under. And that included a double-bogey at eight when he put his approach into the cove and then at nine on a fat approach. But he played the back nine in 6-under 30 including an eagle at the last on a 32-foot putt.
The fellow at the top of the totem pole with the best round of the day was Johnson Wagner with a 64. He’s also tied for third at 10-under. Wagner also had to do battle with the bogeyman after missing the green at eight and three-putting thirteen with bogeys at both. But he also ran off five birdies in a row starting at two, two after getting on in two at par-five and two on solid approaches. And he hit pin high at the par-three fifth and dropped a thirteen footer. Wagner also eagled the eighteenth when he hit a 3I second to eighteen feet.
Zac Blair and David Lingmerth, both with 70 also remained in third place.
Tied for seventh at 9-under with Reifers are Nick Taylor and Jonas Blixt, both of whom shot 69. Also shooting 69 was Kevin Na, who’s in tenth at -8.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Lingmerth at six. Playing into a gusty breeze, Lingmerth muscled a driver/3W combo all of 471 yards at the 517 yard hole. So, from 47, he choked down on a SW and it went into the hole on one hop for eagle.
As the original tourney spread out over three courses necessitated a cut after three rounds, so it was done here. Actually, I made a mistake as, with the tourney held on one course, I should have made the cut after the second round. But the lie sounds better.
Anyway, the cut was 1-over with 73 making it to Sunday. Those heading on the early Greyhound to LA include David Duval and Chris Smith, noted mainly because hit his tee shot in the drink at the last and made double-bogey while Smith put two out of bounds off the tee and made a snowman. On the flip side, Cameron Piercy made eagle at the last and still came up a shot short.
Also, Jim Herman had the shot of the day yesterday, a hole out from the fairway at eleven for eagle and it was noted that he would have had to shoot 70, or maybe even 69 to make the cut. 70 was the number. Herman shot a 72. Also heading out early include Dustin Johnson, Jason Kokrak, Ernie Els and Patrick Reed.
Billy Horschel came into the final round with a one-shot lead. He held off playing partner Jason Day and an early charge by David Lingmerth to win by three.
First, Lingmerth, who birdied four of the first seven holes to join Horschel at the top of the leaderboard, if only for a minute or two. Lingmerth birdied the two par-fives, damn near holed out from 106 at four, his ball one-hopping off the stick and stopping at the edge of the hole. At the par-three seventh, he hit to five feet. But, as quickly as Lingmerth went up, he went down. At eight, he put approach into the cove and recovered to make bogey. Could have been worse. He missed the green left at nine and, with a tenuous chip, couldn’t get close. Then, he doubled the tenth on a four putt, missing twice from inside five feet. In the end, Lingmerth would finish with a 73, at 9-under, seven shots back and barely inside the top ten.
Where Day went south was a two-shot swing at four. In what should have been an easy par hole, Day tried to drive the 331 yard hole and pulled his shot way left and in a bunker that probably shouldn’t have been in play. He just overshot the green with his second, didn’t chip well and made bogey. In the meantime, Horschel hit his second to five feet and made birdie.
Day backed up another shot when he missed the green at five and made bogey with Horschel heading further in the right direction with a birdie at the par-five sixth (to Day’s par) that extended his lead to four.
Day fell back as far as 9-under when he flew the green with his approach at nine and his ball went bye-bye but recovered with a 4-under back nine to finish tied for second at 13-under.
Kyle Reifers, who was the second round leader at 12-under, started the day at -9 and made a bit of a run, though he was done by the time Horschel was teeing it up at seventeen. Reifers ran off three early birdies in a row at three, four and five, the last of those being a chip in from about 30 feet. 14-under going into eighteen, a birdie definitely would have seen Horschel sit up and take notice. But he couldn’t even muster up a par, three-putting for bogey, which would cost him about $150,000 with Day most appreciative for the extra cash when Reifers backed into him.
As for Horschel, up three going into eighteen, he almost got stupid when he yanked a 2I almost into Carmel Bay. But it stayed in play, landing in the sand next to the retaining wall. On in three and a two-putt and the ballgame was over.
So, Horschel (68) wins it by three at 16-under with Reifers (68) and Day (70) tied for second. Matt Jones (64, -11) finished fourth with Mark Hubbard (68) and Scott Brown (69) tied for fifth at -10. The rest of the top ten consisted of six tied at -9: Brendon Todd (66), Hudson Swafford (70), Danny Lee (70), Alex Cejka (70), Jonas Blixt (72) and David Lingmerth (73).
Brandt Snedeker won it by three at 22-under. The good news is that real life pays real money as he finished at -3 in the replay and earned 17,000 fake (or Zimbabwean) dollars for his effort.
There were some common names in the top ten—Jason Day, Brendon Todd and Matt Jones. Day tied for fourth at -17 with Jones at -16 and Todd at -15.
BILLY HORSCHEL (-16, wins by three)
The flamingos may be fake, but the alligator likely lurking in the pond isn’t.
Northern Trust Open
Pacific Palisades, California
Jordan Spieth is the first round leader after an opening round of 8-under 63.
His longest birdie putt was sixteen feet and most of them were ten or less, including three feet at four, nine at five, five at eight, four at sixteen and up and down from 62 to to feet at seventeen. He was also 5/5 in scrambling and had no bogeys. Sometimes—many times, that superb scrambling eventually comes back to earth. Then again, this is Spieth we’re talking about, so instead of exceptional scrambling, he’ll just hit greens and get rid of it altogether.
After Spieth, it’s JB Holmes at 64. He started his day off with an eagle. First, with a dozen of those threes, it was the easiest of the three par-fives on the course. Second, it was almost a double eagle as he nearly holed out a 6I from 200, the ball being one gust of wind from falling in the cup.
Kyle Reifers, who had a pretty darned good tournament last week up the coast, is in at 65. He had the shot of the day. I’ll get to that in a minute.
After those three, it’s Spencer Levin, Steven Bowditch, Kevin Na and Keegan Bradley at 66 with nine more at 67: Jim Herman, George McNeill, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau, Jimmy Walker, Harris English, Zac Blair and Pat Perez.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Reifer’s was numero uno. Again, just one second, please.
Ken Duke gets honorable mention for his effort at thirteen. A sweeping dogleg left par-four, Duke hit his drive to the far left of the fairway. Might have been better had he hit it to the right as, with the pin front left, it would have made for an easier approach than the one he had not too far from the overhanging trees. So, what did he do? Drew a 7I from 163. On the green, a hop and a spin back into the hole and he had an eagle! Duke was up and down like an elevator all day. 3-under through five. Gave it all back plus one by the turn. 5-under through the first four holes on the back with a reverse bounceback of a bogey at fourteen and 3-over through the final five leading to a grand total of 1-under 70.
And now for Reifers. Fourth hole, 238, par-three, a hair downhill with the pin right smack in the front. Tough to stick a 5I, which is what Reifers hit. And he didn’t. But he did land just in front of the green and hopped on and rolled in for a hole-in-one! That’s the third year’s worth of a mortgage paid off (read the fine print: no more than $1,000 a month). All have occurred in the first round. Less pressure? Easier pin placements?
Another day, another round of the day for Jordan Spieth. Well, almost, as Chesson Hadley shot a 64 which saved his ass from the chopping block.
Spieth shot a 65, which kept him in the top spot and now two ahead of JB Holmes, who’s doing a pretty fair job of keeping up the torrid early pace. After that it starts to drop off as the bottom end of the top ten is already eight shots back. And, if somehow, the cut included anyone within ten shots of the lead, there’d be only 29 players left.
Spieth got his first bogey of the tournament at four. The funny thing was that, if it were yesterday’s pin—the one where Kyle Reifers had his hole-in-one, par would have been just about certain. Instead, he hit a medicore chip and missed from nine feet to save par. But that was the only blemish as he birdied the other three par-threes (combined total leave of 20 feet, meaning don’t get mad; get even), birdied two of the three-par-fives and should have birdied the last but missed a five-footer.
Holmes shot a 66. He’s at 12-under. Yeah, he made his shots. But, if a single highlight had to be chosen, it would have to be at ten. At 305 and downhill, it’s drivable, at least inviting. But the green looks like either an enlarged kidney or peanut and it’s surrounded left, right and back by sand. To get really close from the tee is probably not unlike trying to land a commercial jet on an aircraft carrier. But people keep trying—with the golf part, that is. Holmes jacked his drive left then, need to thread his way through the palms, landed a 50-yard wedge shot on and made the eleven-foot birdie putt.
Harris English is at 10-under after a round of 65. No bogeys and a great start to his day with an eagle at the first as, safely on in two, he sank a 23-footer. Also, at the sixth, the par-three with the bunker in the middle, he hit a 5I from 204 to two feet.
THE REST OF THE TOP TEN:
Brian Harman (65) and Kevin Na (67) are tied for fourth at -9. Brendon Todd (67), Jim Herman (67) and Reifers (69) are tied for sixth at -8. John Merrick (69) is in ninth at -7 with Davis Love (65), Alex Prugh (66), Adam Hadwin (67) and Tony Finau (69) tied for tenth at 6-under.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Both came at ten.
If one had to be chosen, it would be Ryo Ishikawa, partly out of pity. He did win the closest to the pin prize with a driver to five feet and an eventual eagle. But, even with the eagle, he still shot 73 and, at 5-over, it’ll be an early flight to Florida.
The other came from Scott Piercy who, at 4-under, will earn a check this week. Missing the green just left, he chipped in on the contoured green from just outside of 30 feet.
THE CUT LINE:
1-under with 74 getting paid. Besides Ishikawa, others leaving early include Brandt Snedeker, Nick Watney, Charley Hoffman, Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Luke Donald and Graham DeLaet.
Jordan Spieth put the screws to the rest of the field. Not that he really needed it, but he got help from his nearest competition, JB Holmes, dropping like a rock and Harris English just on the wrong side of par. Spieth shot a 63 and his two-shot overnight lead is now thirteen. And, at 22-under, he’s already set the tournament record (Lanny Wadkins, -20 in 1990).
Holmes first, as he shot a 78 and could do little right. Three bogeys in a row starting at three as he just couldn’t seem to string two shots together. He put his tee shot into the barranca (fancy word for “ditch”) at seven and made double-bogey. He also doubled the par-five eleventh when it took him two to get out of a difficult lie in the front bunker. It sucks to be in the final pairing and get blown out like that.
Didn’t affect Spieth, however. That 63 was the round of the day by two shots. I mentioned something about Spieth being 5/5 scrambling in the first round and how even the best of them eventually come back to earth. Yeah, scratch that, as Spieth is 10/11 through the first three rounds with one bogey in 54 holes. Honest to goodness, nothing jumped off the page in today’s round as he was just a machine. But he did learn at the fourth hole. He was just short at the par-three yesterday, didn’t chip well and made bogey, as mentioned, the only one he’s had so far. Today, just short again. This time he chipped to three feet and made par. Oh yeah, by the way, first in greens and first in putting this week.
AND THE REST (like the first year of “Gilligan’s Island”–what “rest?” – are people coming and going? Did you know that Dawn Wells was the swiftest of the lot as she was the only cast member who had residuals put into her contract? And she’s still getting paid!):
Six are tied for second at -9 (which, normally, would be pretty good): Danny Lee (66), Cameron Tringale (67), Tony Finau (68), Kyle Reifers (70), Kevin Na (71) and Harris English (72). And Daniel Summerhays (65), Carlos Sainz, Jr. (67) and Brian Harman (72) are tied for eighth at 8-under.
Up by thirteen over six others going into the final round, Jordan Spieth could have been excused if he laid back and shot par or even a couple over.
But, no, Spieth couldn’t do that. He was forced to scramble only once (at fifteen) and failed for only the second time in twelve attempts in the tourney at doing that. So, it was fairways and greens and, when you hit every darned green save for one, some are going to get close. Or, you could knock home a putt from outside of 40 feet, as he did on fifteen. No matter, Spieth shot a 65 and won by fourteen while shattering Lanny Wadkins’ 30-year old tournament record by eight shots at 28-under.
Taking a closer look, the shortest of Spieth’s non-par-five birdie putts was eight feet, meaning that everything was working.
Human sacrifice for Spieth today (meaning his playing partner in the final pairing) was Danny Lee. Lee, who won at Sea Island, was a poor lost soul, bouncing around a bit but playing okay as he shot an even-par 71. He ended up tied for seventh and lost by nineteen. It’s a good thing prize money is determined by where you finished and not how badly you got your ass kicked.
On the other hand (there is one, I guess), George McNeill (64, and the only player to best Spieth’s score today) and Cameron Tringale (66, and one of the six who were in second place starting play today) had pretty good tourneys, finishing at -14, which meant that score would have won or tied 20 times since Wadkins’ then record score. Today it was like, ‘Who finished second to Secretariat in the Belmont?’
The record will show that Brian Harman and Daniel Summerhays (68) finished tied for fourth at 11-under with Charles Howell III (65) at -10. Kyle Reifers, Kevin Na, Tony Finau and Danny Lee all shot 71 to finish tied for seventh at -9.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Matt Jones at ten. Held the green with a driver and dropped a 38-foot eagle putt.
James Hahn won it at only 6-under in a three-man, three-hole playoff over Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey. Spieth came close, missing by a shot, and was tied for fourth. Looks like he did just a little better in the replay.
Kyle Reifers was the only other player to finish in the top ten of both tourneys, finishing tied for eighth at 4-under.
JORDAN SPIETH (-28, wins by 14)
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
The west coast swing is over and it’s time for the one in Florida. Jordan Spieth and his record-setting win at Riviera aren’t here this week, which’ll make the rest of the field happy.
On a windy day making low scoring difficult, it’s Rory McIlroy out front with a 3-under 67. Yeah, that’s it—67, as only 20 players shot par or better.
With a favorable wind, McIlroy tried to drive the green at the first and fourth. And those holes are 354 and 384. He hit his drive 331 at the first and got up and down. And his drive at four was 359 and rolled into the large greenside bunker. And he got up and down there, too. He also birdied the second after a wind-aided 338-yard blast, though he can hit them nearly as far without the wind. So, 3-under through four. Two birdies and two bogeys the rest of the way including a three-putt at sixteen when he severely misjudged an uphill putt.
Kevin Kisner, Sean O’Hair and David Hearn are at 68. Of the three, only Kisner had no bogeys. And only three scrambles. Which was not easy to do with all that wind.
Ben Martin, Jeff Overton, Zac Blair, Russell Henley and Hudson Swafford are the remainder of the under par crew—all at -1.
With the wind down, scoring was easier. And Rory McIlroy still leads after shooting another 67.
McIlroy, who got off to a good start yesterday (3-under in the four holes), topped that today with four birdies in the first six holes. Highlights in that run included hitting a 5I to three feet at the 220-yard fifth and a 7I approach from 192 to three feet at six. After that, there was only a tenth hole bogey on an errant approach among eleven regulation pars and just one other scramble. McIlroy’s 6-under score is only one of seven under par and he leads by two.
Thomas Bjorn shot the round of the day (equaled by Carlos Ortiz) with a 64. He moved into second at 4-under. The highlight of his day may have come at eighteen, when he pushed his drive a bit, barely cleared the water and barely avoided going in once it did clear. 3W to 130 yards, PW to four feet and a birdie. Other than that, Bjorn made a few putts as his shortest non-par-five putt was eight feet, certainly no gimme.
Then it’s two more shots to Jerry Kelly and Tony Finau, each of whom shot 68. Both fought off two bogeys. For Kelly, except for the relatively easy four-foot birdie putt at thirteen, his putter did a fair amount of talking as his three other birdie putts were 12, 10 and 32 feet. For Finau, he shot 4-under on the back including a ballsy birdie at eleven. With the pin far right and with water on the front and right of the green, Finau parked a 7I from 198 eight feet right of the hole. Not much room there. Then, at eighteen, he got on in two at the 606-yard hole with a 347-yard drive and a 275-yard 3W. That adds to 622, meaning he didn’t hit his first (or second, for that matter) shot dead straight. He two-putted from 60 feet for birdie.
The rest of the under par crew consists of Jason Bohn (68), Nicholas Thompson (69) and Zac Blair (70). Even par goes down to fourteenth. Best rounds there were Ortiz’ 64 and Martin Flores’ 65.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Should call it ‘hole of the day.’ Patrick Rodgers at three.
At 548, getting on in two is no problem for most of these guys. Getting on in two and close to the far right pin location behind a large bunker might pose a bit of a problem. Rodgers made it to the center of the green and dropped a 38-foot eagle putt, the only eagle on the course today. Even with four bogeys, Rodgers still managed to shoot 69, that eagle providing some help. And at 1-over, he’ll still be around for the weekend. Speaking of…
THE CUT LINE:
+5. Tough course. High cut line.
Those heading to Miami for the WGC event, Puerto Rico, for those who didn’t qualify and really need a check, or nowhere in particular include Kyle Reifers, who finished top ten last week at Riviera. Never mind that top ten was in the next county somewhere after Jordan Spieth won by fourteen. Also leaving early are Martin Kaymer, Freddie Jacobson, Luke Donald, Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Cameron Tringale and Lee Westwood. Save for Reifers, these guys were looking to tune up for Doral. Missing the cut wasn’t part of the plan.
It’s still Rory McIlroy at the top thanks to some good golf with his four nearest competitors not getting it done. What was a two-shot lead is now six.
Within two shots of McIlroy, Thomas Bjorn was also in the final pairing. After a first hole bogey, he had three front side birdies and went to the turn in a respectable 2-under. But the “Bear Trap” (holes 15-17—that Nicklaus fella who designed this course is a real cut-up, huh?) got him as he three-putted fifteen and put his tee shot in the water at seventeen, both par-threes. He also put his tee shot in the water at eleven and made bogey. So, 2-over 72 today for Bjorn. He’s still in the top ten (tied for fourth, so not too bad). But he’s eight shots back.
Jerry Kelly, tied for third coming in and four shots back, also shot 72. 2-under through three, his four bogeys came mostly on poor approaches though he did three-putt the sixteenth. Back to even par for the tourney, Kelly is now tied for eleventh.
Tony Finau was tied with Kelly. Like Kelly, he was 2-under through three before things went south, all on the back nine. He doubled at eleven when his tee shot almost went into the water. Forced to take off his shoes and socks and take a cut at a ball with a poor lie, he put number two in the water. The show repeated itself at fourteen. Crappy lie off the tee shot. No feet in the water this time. If he were a lefty he would have. Second in the water. Four on, two putt and a three bagger.
Back to McIlroy. After a pair of 67s to open, he bettered that by one shot. Not round of the day, but close, missing by one.
Like Thursday, McIlroy was 3-under through four. But he put his tee shot in the water at five and made double and three-putted the ninth, for bogey. The back nine was clean with three birdies, including a 30-foot putt at sixteen and a sandy at eighteen, having to make a fifteen-footer to do so.
David Hearn will be playing with McIlroy tomorrow, or at least will try and keep up. 65 today, which was the best and equaled by Dustin Johnson, who is in the top ten, and Justin Rose, who isn’t (but close as he’s tied for eleventh). Five birdies, no bogeys and he birdied the par-four eighth for the third straight day, this time coming up about a half club short but right under the hole, but he made the uphill fourteen-footer.
Martin Flores shot 66 and is tied with Hearn. He eagled the third, putting a 3I at the 558-yard, par-five within ten feet of the back pin location.
THE REST OF THE TOP TEN:
Jason Dufner (66) and Bjorn are tied for fourth at 2-under, eight shots back. 1-under covers the rest of the top ten: Dustin Johnson and his 65, Chad Campbell (68), Brian Stuard (69) and Zac Blair and Nicholas Thompson, both at 70.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Justin Thomas at eighteen.
608, meaning it’ll take two bombs to get on in two, which Thomas did (338 and 282, the latter with a 3W). With the pin back left, there was a little room for Thomas to land on the roughly triangular-shaped green and roll up, which he did. To three feet. And an eagle. It also got him under par for the day at 69. At 3-over, he has a ways to go.
Another week, another ‘wire’ job as Rory McIlroy came into today leading by six and walked off eighteen the same way. OK, it wasn’t Jordan Spieth at Riviera last week. But a six shot win in any PGA Tour event, especially one when some of the bigger foreign names are on this side of the pond tuning up for the WGC and The Masters is something to be proud of.
Unlike Speith, who floored it from beginning to end, including a final round 65, McIlroy actually shot over par, a 1-over 71.
McIlroy’s nearest competition coming in was Martin Flores, who started heading backwards after a first hole birdie and shot 75, and playing partner David Hearn, who held his own for the first four holes before dropping like a rock and shooting 80. With those guys gone and the next in line, Thomas Bjorn and Jason Dufner, shooting 72 and 74, respectfully, McIlroy used the driver more than would be expected. But, as he hits the ball a long way, it didn’t really matter where his tee shots ended up, except for wet, of course, as he was usually hitting a short iron from somewhere on every par-four. With that 71, McIlroy was never more than one shot either side of par today. Steady as she goes…
THE REST OF THE TOP TEN:
Some big names on this leaderboard as Dustin Johnson (68) finished a distant second at 3-under. Then, it was Billy Horschel, who won two weeks ago at Pebble Beach (68), at -2 and Victor Dubuisson (68) and Rickie Fowler (69) at -1. Bjorn (72) finished at even par. Six tied for seventh at 1-over: Will McKenzie (69), Carlos Ortiz (71), Paul Casey (71), Nicholas Thompson (72), Zac Blair (72) and Flores with a 75.
In an absolute stunner, because he hadn’t won in seven years and hadn’t gotten place or show money in the past five, Padraig Harrington woke up from the dead and won at 6-under, defeating Daniel Berger in a two-hole playoff. In fantasy-land, Harrington played like the guy going through seven dark years as he missed the cut by five.
The only common top-ten finisher was Casey, who finished tied for third, a shot back.
McIlroy had an abysmal tourney, missing the cut by two, making him the worst Rory this week as Sabbatini tied for eleventh at 2-under.
RORY McILROY (-9, wins by six)
So, no “S” under there?
Puerto Rico Open
Trump International Golf Club
Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
With the WGC event running concurrently at Doral, this tournament is a place for some to pick up what they think is easy money while still getting a two-year PGA Tour exemption if they win. As this isn’t a full point event, what the winner won’t get is a trip to The Masters. This event also has the lowest purse of any Tour event. Also, after this year, this course is no longer called ‘Trump International.’ As with lots he does, Donald Trump sold his name but not his expertise. Waiting for him to sell it for a line of hair care products for guys with bad dyed comb overs. Anyway, the guy who owns the course couldn’t afford to pay for it anymore. So it’s now called ‘Coco Beach Golf and Country Club.’
I’m going to cover the entire tourney in one post, for two reasons… First is, I wrote this up once and don’t feel like doing it again. The second is that, as this is quick play and as it’s a garbage event (sorry, but almost everybody who’s anybody in golf is playing at Doral), it doesn’t warrant that level of coverage. Though I could probably piecemeal some stuff, I don’t have a lot of information to work with.
Roberto Castro led after the first day with a 7-under 65. Scott Pinckney and Troy Matteson, who led after 36 and 54 holes, respectively, were both lingering nearby at 67. Jonathan Byrd and Spencer Levin also got out of the gate well with 66s.
Pinckney had the shot of the day with an eagle at seventeen. Playing around 410, don’t miss the generous fairway (40) to either side as it’s large bunkers to the left and water to the right. It’s a good guess Pinckney holed out with a PW.
As noted, Pinckney led after the second round as he shot his second straight 67. He bounced back after hooking his ball into the water at the par-five second with two birdies. He also finished 3-under in the final four holes.
Pinckney took a three-shot lead into the third round as Castro couldn’t do any better than par and Levin (73) and Byrd (74) ended up on the wrong side of it. Ryan Armour shot 68 to join Castro at -7 while Matteson (71) inched up a notch to 6-under and Michael Bradley a bit more than that with a 67.
Pinckney started the third round with a three-shot lead but fell back with a 74. Even so, he was only three shots back. Matteson’s 67 moved him to 11-under and a one-shot lead over Armour (69) and Jeff Overton (66) with David Toms also going low (66) to move up eleven spots into a tie for fourth with Steven Alker at 9-under. First round leader Castro dropped a half dozen spots with his second consecutive par round.
In the final round, Matteson ballooned to a 75. Yes, he got paid handsomely (about $93,000). But the $540,000 winner’s share would have been much better. He did one thing right early, birdieing the par-five second. After that, it was four bogeys and the rest pars.
Playing partner Overton fared much better, his 69 getting him to 13-under, which turned out to be good enough to get him into a playoff. And he needed a birdie at the 630-yard last to do it.
Steven Alker was the second man in the playoff thanks to a 68. And he birdied seventeen, the one Pinckney eagled on Thursday.
The man who came out of nowhere was DJ Trahan who shot a tournament best (by two shots) 63.
Trahan birdied three of the par-threes and had to finish birdie-birdie to get into the playoff. As he finished early and with Alker at 13-under with eight holes still to play and Overton at -12 with seven to play, Trahan figured he’d get paid, finish in the top ten and automatically qualify to watch paint dry at the Valspar in Tampa next week.
But the 13-under stood up as Alker bogeyed eleven and twelve and Overton bogeyed the twelfth, both recovering just enough to get back to -13.
Now Trahan was playing for something bigger—his Tour card as he hadn’t won there in seven years and lost his card after the ’12 season doing nothing on the Web.com Tour to earn it back, getting into events like this on sponsors’ exemptions.
The playoff started at the par-five eighteenth. At 630, it’s a three-shotter for just about everyone not named Rory or Bubba. Trahan and Overton parred while Alker ended up in one of the greenside bunkers, couldn’t get up and down and made bogey.
Sixteen was next. 205, par-three. Pin tucked left over the lone bunker. And, somewhat unusually, no wind to speak of, Trahan went for the center of the green, landed toward the front of it and rolled up with par looking pretty good. Overton took a more aggressive line and his baby draw hit the green but rolled off and down into the catch area. He didn’t pitch close. Trahan two-putted for his par while Overton missed his par effort. So, two pars was enough to win the truncated skins game with Trahan picking up the biggest skin of all, his pro career.
For the record, though my aim is to play actual lineups, if only because I don’t necessarily know why players played (or didn’t) in certain events or if they played in the following week’s event because they qualified by finishing in the top ten and not for some other reason, as Trahan earned his full card, he’ll play in all the non-majors including the Players Championship. So, welcome back, DJ!
DJ TRAHAN (-13, wins in a three-man, two-hole playoff)
This photo pretty much sums up the last seven years of his career.
‘How come it didn’t go in?’ Or, ‘Missed again.’
WGC Cadillac Championship
Trump National Doral – Blue Monster
There are seventeen players in the top ten (yes, it makes sense) and the flags of ten countries. Martin Kaymer of Germany leads the way in an easy day for scoring with an 8-under 64.
Good day for Kaymer as he had the putter working. He also cashed in at all four par-fives. But, of the other four birdies, it was 59 feet at six, thirteen feet at the par-three thirteenth and he finished with a bang by dropping a seventeen-footer at seventeen and a 25-footer at the last. Kaymer missed one green. Of the others he didn’t and didn’t birdie, the average leave was 31 feet. So, in other words, his putter bailed him out big time.
Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand and Sweden’s Alexander Noren are tied at 65. Jaidee also cashed on at all the par-fives and dropped a couple long ones—47 feet at two and 24 feet at five. So Jaidee’s approach to five feet at sixteen looked like a tap-in. Noren eagled the par-five eighth and followed that by putting his tee shot in the drink at the par-three ninth and giving those two shots right back.
Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia are at 66. McIlroy hit a 6I at the 206-yard fourth to two feet. Johnson had three front side birdies. The longest of those putts was four feet. Garcia eagled the eighth when he hit a 3I from 256 to eight feet. He would have shot 65 but he put his tee shot among the palms at eighteen and couldn’t get home in two.
Bubba Watson is at 67. He shot a 5-under back nine to do it. There are ten more at 68: Danny Willett, Patrick Reed, Greg Chalmers, Hideki Matsuyama, Graeme McDowell, Paul Casey, Jim Furyk, Charl Schwartzel, Ian Poulter and Ryan Palmer.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Zach Johnson at sixteen.
317, par-four. Drivable, except for an inaccessible green fronted by four large bunkers with two more waiting in the back for balls that roll off. For those who aren’t daring, it would be played as a slight dogleg left with a 4I or 5I off the tee for placement and maybe a PW in. Or, there’s Johnson, who went with a 3W. Why, I don’t know, though there’s another landing area in the 280 range, the shorter one is easier to hit and it’s a full wedge home as opposed to half of something though, with the pin in the back, it’s easy for these guys to choke down on a wedge and watch it check up on one bounce. OK, enough already. Johnson jacked his tee shot left and in a very large bunker that probably shouldn’t be in play for these guys, though it’d probably intimidate the shit out of a hacker. SW from 106 out of the sand and…bulls-eye! Eagle the hard way! That got him to 2-under at the time. He finished birdie-bogey and remained at 2-under.
Rory McIlroy, who went wire to wire last week at the Honda, is halfway to making it two in a row, his 4-under 68 getting him to 10-under and a share of the lead with Dustin Johnson.
Both shot 68. For McIlroy, his day started with a faded approach at one that faded a bit too much and ended up in the pond to the right of the green, making bogey. The same thing happened on the par-five eighth, except that it was a hook. But he also birdied three in a row starting at fourteen. Two good putts came first—fifteen and eighteen feet. Then, at sixteen, McIlroy elected to take the conservative route and choked down on a SW from 96 to a back right pin location. That he damned near holed out, a gust of wind (which there wasn’t again today) from blowing into the hole.
As for Johnson, his only blemish came at the 238-yard thirteenth. Long and right, but on the green, as the pin was front and center, Johnson saw his 51-foot birdie attempt come up five feet short. And he missed that. Like McIlroy, he took the conservative route at sixteen and hit to two feet.
Martin Kaymer couldn’t match his opening round of 64. But his 71 still sees him at -9, in a three-way tie for third and just one shot out of the lead. His last birdie came at nine as he never gave himself a good birdie shot the rest of the way. Even at sixteen, he hit to eleven feet from a hundred yards.
Kaymer is tied with Graeme McDowell (67) and Bubba Watson (68). McDowell nearly holed out from 89 at the par-five first and never even had as much as two birdies in a row while Watson got hot in the middle of the round as he went 3-under in a four-hole stretch starting at eight. Two of them were par-fives which, surprisingly, it took Watson three to get on at both. Eight was a fat 4I approach into one of the three large bunkers fronting the green while, at ten, he cut off just about as much water as he could but got no roll. With just over 300 to go, even he laid up.
THE REST OF THE TOP TEN:
Sergio Garcia (70) and Thongchai Jaidee are tied for sixth at -8 with six more at 7-under: Jimmy Walker (67) and five more who shot 69—Ian Poulter, Ryan Palmer, Jim Furyk, Paul Casey and Patrick Reed.
THE CUT LINE:
Fooled you! In this 72-man field, there was no cut!
Took a look and found out 73 actually started (and finished). Who was the missing golfer? Danie Van Tonder who, though listed on the European Tour, seems to play mostly on the Sunshine Tour in his native South Africa as the two tours sometimes run events that are part of both tours, “code sharing,” as the airlines call it. For the record, he was no factor at Doral, finishing tied for 66th in his only North American event.
Second round leader Rory McIlroy will have to come from behind if he wants to win two in a row. The good news, if any, is that he kept it under par—71—and, at 11-under is only two shots out of the lead.
That lead is shared by Victor Dubuisson and Patrick Reed, both of whom shot the best two rounds of the day. They’re at 13-under.
Dubuisson, who shot 65, did all the necessary work in just the first eleven holes. Save for maybe the five-footer for par at the ninth, a hole that bit him in the ass on Thursday, his putter did a lot of the heavy lifting, including a 33-footer at six. All things being equal, Dubuisson could have been in front by three if not for what happened two days ago when he put his tee shot in the water and almost did it again from the drop area on the way to a triple-bogey six. And he had birdied five of the six holes prior.
Reed, who shot 66, bounced back off a second hole bogey by chipping in from just past 40 feet and just off the left front of the green at three. He cashed in on three of the par-fives and was in the neighborhood (five and seven feet at two others) with his only lengthy putt being eighteen feet at the sixteenth as his putter bailed him out of what could have been a better approach from 84. What Reed has done so far is to be one of only two golfers to have kept in under 70 for the first three rounds.
The other is the man in third—Bubba Watson who maintained that spot with a 69 to lurk a shot behind the leaders. He chipped from about the same spot as Reed but not only didn’t make it, he didn’t make his par putt, either, running a nine-footer just past. Not much on the highlight reel for Watson—maybe the par save at seven when he chipped from behind the green, came up short and made a nine-footer for the save.
McIlroy is in fourth, two back. He birdied the par-five first. Lots did. But he bogeyed the second when the breeze knocked down what was already a poor drive into the fairway bunker and he came up short with his second. He followed that up with a four-putt double-bogey at three when he ran a 60-foot downhill putt well past and followed that by three-putting from eighteen feet. Though doing nothing spectacular, he got those shots back plus one more.
After that, it’s Paul Casey (69) and Dustin Johnson (72) tied for fifth at 10-under with Jordan Spieth (68), Charl Schwartzel (69), Jim Furyk (70) and first round leader Martin Kaymer (72) tied for seventh at -9.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Casey at two.
457 and into a slashing breeze, most players were losing at least 20 yards on their drives, Casey being no exception. Coming in from about 200 with the pin right center, you’d have thought the pin would have been more accessible than it was. Casey got the distance right but his ball ended up on the other side of the green. So, what did he do? Dropped a 47-foot putt for birdie. Which happened to be the only one at the hole today.
Overnight leaders Victor Dubuisson and Patrick Reed got off to good starts but faltered, opening the door for others to jump through. The jumpers turned out to be Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.
Reed birdied the par-five first but backed up at five when he hit his 7I approach out of the rough heavy and into the front bunker and made bogey and backed up again at seven when he put his approach into the water at seven and made double. He got those shots back with birdies at the par-five eighth and tenth and an 8I over the pin and a fifteen-foot comebacker for birdie at eleven. Reed parred the next two, at which point I’ll put him on hold for a minute.
Dubuisson dropped birdie putts of 18 and 13 to get to 15-under but gave those shots right back plus one more as he bogeyed the next two as he put his tee shot at the par-three fourth into the water and made double and did pretty much what Reed did at five right down to hitting his approach fat and into the bunker. He birdied the par-five eighth, but it was pars the rest of the way as he got close but once. That came at sixteen and he missed the five-footer that would have gotten him to 14-under.
Casey, who started three shots out of the lead, made his move starting at six. He hit to eight feet there and made birdie. Casey birdied the par-five eighth, sank a 22-footer for birdie at the par-three ninth then birdied the par-five tenth, which got him to 14-under. But, as quick as he went up, he came down. Three-putt bogey at the par-three thirteenth. Missed the green right at the par-three fifteenth. Left with a short-sided pitch, he couldn’t get close and made another bogey. Birdie at sixteen. Third-easiest hole this week, so that wasn’t too hard. But he bogeyed the last two, missing the green at seventeen and putting his tee shot among the palms at eighteen to finish at 11-under.
Johnson went to the turn in even-par—two birdies, two bogeys. He made a move on the back nine by birdieing thre in a row starting at eleven. Approach to six feet at eleven. Twelve’s a par-five. And five feet at the par-three thirteenth. And he hit to five feet at seventeen and birdied that, too. Par at eighteen. 14-under. Good. But not good enough.
Watson started the final round a shot back at -12. He opened with seven pars, nothing really close enough for an easy birdie putt. He birdied eighth and parred the ninth that put him in a tie with Casey and Dubuisson at 13-under. A 334-yard drive leaving just an 86-yard approach to five feet at eleven made it 14-under. With pars at twelve and thirteen, that left Watson tied with Reed and one up on Casey, Johnson and Dubuisson.
Remember when I put Reed on hold after the fourteenth hole? Time to bring him back in as fourteen saw a two-shot swing.
A slight dogleg left, Watson, playing in the second-to-last group, cut off a bit too much but managed to avoid the two large bunkers. With just an 8I in, he got over the nearby palm trees with no problems and landed safely on the green. And then he finally made a decent-length birdie putt—seventeen feet. In the final pairing, Reed pushed his tee shot into one of the outside bunkers, then came up just short with his approach and into the very large front left greenside bunker. Then needing a four-footer to save par, he missed that.
Sadly, Reed never recovered from that. Though he made par at fifteen, it was after he put his tee shot in the bunker then made an 18-foot putt for the save. At the easy sixteenth, he hit to six feet and missed that. Seventeen was an approach into the bunker and a bogey. Eighteen saw a fat approach that limped onto the green. With the pin back left, Reed was staring down 122 feet worth of putt. Needless to say, he three-putted.
Back to Watson. Now up two, he could have done better at sixteen as he hit to twelve feet. But, as he made the birdie putt, he really couldn’t have expected to do much better. That put him up by three with two to play.
Johnson, playing in front of Watson, birdied the seventeenth. Playing safe, Watson used a 4I off the tee at the 437-yard seventeenth. He muscled a 6I just over the green but chipped close and save par.
Up two on Johnson with three on Dubuisson and four on Reed and just eighteen to play, Watson knew he could take it easy. So, the driver stayed in the bag. 3W followed by a 6I from 227 (6I from 227?) for which he was just going for the center of the green anyway. Turned out he was a bit too far away as he had nearly 90 feet worth of putt remaining and three putts to do it. Though closer would have been nicer, Watson still rolled his first putt to five feet and made that for par and, taking a look at the scoreboard, the win as there was no way for anyone on this earth to make a hole-in-one on the eighteenth at the Blue Monster.
So, it’s Watson and a final round 68 winning by two over Johnson (68) at 16-under. Then, it was Dubuisson (72) at -13 and first round leader Martin Kaymer (69) at -12. Four were tied for fifth at -11: Jordan Spieth (70), Charl Schwartzel (70), Casey (71) and Reed (74). Four were tied for ninth at 10-under: Henrik Stenson (66), Jimmy Walker (68), Ryan Palmer (70) and second-round leader and last week’s winner Rory McIlroy (73).
Johnson and Watson earned large checks in the real world, just that the order was a little different as Johnson won at 9-under with Watson finishing third two back with JB Holmes (tied for 40th at -2) in between. Stenson finished tied for fourth at 4-under and McIlroy was tied for ninth at -1. So, with the wind a factor only in the third round, the course played a little easier in the replay.
BUBBA WATSON (68 today, -16 overall wins by two)
Second win of the season for him–in only five starts.
Innisbrook Resort – Copperhead Course
Palm Harbor, Florida
Luke Donald has the first round lead with an 8-under 63. He ran off four birdies in a row starting at thirteen. Details are lacking as this is quick play. Donald might have shot 62 if not for his only bogey of the day at the last. A difficult driving hole with a narrow fairway (25 yards) and trees or bunkers tight to the fairway, Donald could have pulled or pushed his tee shot. Or, with the pin back left as it was in the first round of the 2016 tourney, could have come up short and three-putted or chipped but came up short, or landed in one of the two bunkers and couldn’t make the save, or, or, or…
Kyle Reifers, who has shone some flashes of brilliance in the early going with three top tens and a second at Pebble Beach, is in with a 64, along with Zac Blair, Ben Crane and Jerry Kelly. Kelly has a third to his credit in Mexico. Crane would have been tied for the lead if not for a bogey at eighteen.
After that, it’s John Peterson at 65, Charles Howell III, Will Wilcox and Alex Cejka at 66.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Both came at twelve. 385, par-four, pin back right. Even with the short distance, don’t hit the tee shot past about 240 as there’s water straight away and, if you draw the ball—the hole turns that way, the creek that feeds the pond bisects the fairway. So, the second shot in will probably be a 9I.
Justin Hicks and Ricky Barnes both holed out for eagle. Hicks shot 68 and Barnes 72.
First round leader Luke Donald was the only player in the top 30 to not break par. Dropping ten shots from yesterday’s 63, he also dropped out of the top ten. Finishing bogey-bogey left a rotten taste in Donald’s mouth for tomorrow.
Ben Crane played another solid round with a 65 to go with yesterday’s 64 to take a three-shot lead at 13-under. Might have been four shots but he hit long at eighteen and three-putted the severely sloped green coming back, one of two bogeys for Crane today. But he cashed in on all four-par-fives.
Jamie Donaldson moved up into a tie for second at -10 thanks to a 65. Donaldson birdied four out of five to start his round and finished with three out of four, two of them par-threes.
Donaldson is tied with Zac Blair (68). Blair had a run of three birdies in four holes starting at eleven, two of them par-fives. He might have had second all to himself but under-clubbed his tee shot at the seventeenth, a 230-yard, par-three with the pin on the long (44), narrow (14 in the middle, wider front and back) green in the way back.
Russell Knox shot a 65 to move into sole possession of fourth. He birdied four out of five starting at three. The one he missed was at the par-five fifth. But, at over 600 yards, it was the most difficult of all the par-fours.
After that, it’s Louis Oosthuizen (64, round of the day along with Mark Wilson), Jordan Spieth (67) and Jerry Kelly (70) tied for fifth at 8-under with Wilson, Patrick Reed (66), Mark Leishman (68), Alex Cejka (69) and John Peterson (70) tied for eighth at -7.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
That twelfth hole is a popular place as it had its third hole-out in two days, Bo Van Pelt doing the honors today. It also came in the middle of a 4-under in three-hole run starting at eleven. That was the good news. The bad news was that he still missed the cut by two. Speaking of…
THE CUT LINE:
Even-par with 86 getting paid this week. As there is no secondary cut here, all will stick around until Sunday.
Those leaving early, many heading over to Arnie’s place, include Adam Scott, Cameron Tringale, John Huh and Alex Prugh, both of whom won earlier this year, and, making his first start with is brand new tour card, DJ Trahan.
Overnight leader Ben Crane did a disappearing act. I wish I knew the details but four bogeys, four doubles, not a birdie to be had and a round of 83 which was five shots worse than everyone else. That thud was Crane falling out of first place, and by three shots, into a tie for 40th.
The two players in second coming in, Jamie Donaldson and Zac Blair, also took a dump, Donaldson with a 73 and Blair with a 76. Donaldson is still tied for fourth while Blair dropped just outside the top ten. The amazing part was that 13-under led yesterday and, after today, that number is -9.
So, with the three top players dropping off, a player who was eleven shots off the pace coming in is now tied for the lead. That’s Matt Kuchar after a round of 64.
And to think he had two bogeys. But what Kuchar did well was to birdie four of the five par-threes. One of those bogeys was at eighteen. Otherwise he might have been the leader going into tomorrow. But now, he has to share with Jerry Kelly (70) and Jordan Spieth (70).
Tied for fourth with Donaldson at -8 are John Peterson (70) and Russell Knox (72) with Daniel Summerhays (70) at -7 and David Hearn (68), Nick Watney (69), Jim Furyk and Jason Bohn (69) at 6-under as there are seventeen players within four shots of the lead. And seeing that Kuchar came from eleven down. Ah, that can’t happen again tomorrow, could it?
Three players led at 9-under starting play. And, of those three players, only one didn’t back up—Jerry Kelly. That doesn’t mean he won.
Jordan Spieth was one of the other two. Lacking detail, he never did better than 10-under, which actually put him into a tie for the lead at one time. At 10-under going into the last, he needed a miracle, as in an eagle. But he double-bogeyed the hole and that was that.
Matt Kuchar zipped up the leaderboard yesterday after a 64. Today, he bogeyed the second and third and managed to double-bogey the par-three eighth. At 248, it’s long and with a narrow green. But there’s no water so, while bogey is a possibility, double is a reach and Kuchar was one of only two to make “5” there. Kuchar eventually finished with a 73.
1-over at the turn, Kelly didn’t perk up until the back nine. First, he birdied three in a row starting at eleven. Unofrtunately, he bogeyed the par-five fourteenth but got that back and one more with birdies at the final two holes. Those final two birdies would prove to be significant.
After a first hole bogey, Jason Bohn birdied five of the next six to get to 10-under. At 12-under coming into eighteen, he had trouble getting to the difficult back right pin location as there’s not a lot of landing area back there. Overshooting and into the back bunker, he couldn’t make the sand save. Like Kelly’s birdies, that would also prove to be significant.
Like Kelly, Jamie Donaldson played a quiet front nine. If you remember, he came into today a shot out of the lead. He perked a little near the turn with birdies at seven and nine. He birdied the par-five eleventh, too, but took a giant step backward with a tee shot into the water at the par-three thirteenth and made double. But, instead of getting down on himself, Donaldson doubled down and birdied the next three to get to -12. As Bohn was walking off eighteen with that bogey, Donaldson was in sole possession of the lead. He parred out with Kelly making two timely birdies and Bohn just missing in making what would be a three-man playoff.
So it’ll be a two-man playoff between Donaldson and Kelly.
THE REST OF THE TOP TEN:
Mark Leishman finished nicely, a final round 66 moving him into a tie for fourth at 10-under with John Peterson (69). Then, it’s two shots to Danny Lee, who had the best final round of all (64), Carlos Ortiz (65), Sean O’Hair (68), Nick Watney (69) and Spieth (72).
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Twelve again, as two more hole-outs from the fairway made it five there this week. Steven Bowditch and Patrick Reed did the honors today. At 76-64 (meaning he just made the cut)-73-67, Bowditch had an up and down tourney, finishing tied for 24th at -4. Reed was disappointing. 7-under at the halfway mark, he finished with a pair of 74s. The good news was that, had he shot those 74s first, he wouldn’t have gotten paid. Instead, he finished at 1-under and made fourteen grand.
Reed did a lot better, making it into a three-man playoff. No, he didn’t win. Spieth won with a birdie on the third hole over Reed and Sean O’Hair.
Kelly and Donaldson both missed the cut.
Spieth (winner), O’Hair (tied for second) and Lee (tied for seventh) finished in the top ten of both tourneys.
It started at eighteen. Pars for both.
Off to sixteen. 473, par-four. Sweeping dogleg right. Water down the right on the drive and with a tight fairway and the water, it’s best to keep the driver in the bag. Pin back right behind a large bunker. It was also the most difficult hole on the course this week. I wish I had the details, but both bogeyed it.
Off to seventeen. Par-three, 207. Long, narrow green, though it widens past the bunkers that frame the green on either side. But the pin was up and left, about fifteen yards on but between the two bunkers on that side. Donaldson stayed on the green and parred while Kelly overcooked a 5I just a bit and landed in one of the bunkers. At least it makes for a good story. Donaldson parred while Kelly couldn’t make his par putt.
So, Donaldson wins for the second time this season after also winning out on the left coast at the Farmers. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t won on the real PGA Tour but who has three European wins and a second at Doral.
JAMIE DONALDSON (-12, defeats Jerry Kelly in a three-hole playoff)
Wins his second tournament of the season
“So, Siri, who’s the best golfer in the world this week?”
“The number one golfer in the world is Jordan Spieth.”
“Damn. I knew I should have gotten one of those android phones.”
Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard
Bay Hill Club & Lodge
Louis Oosthuizen has the first round lead with a 7-under 65. His day didn’t start too well with a fat 5-iron at the 220-yard third plugging in the front bunker leading to a bogey. But he finished a whole lot better by birdieing four in a row starting at fourteen. Fourteen and seventeen are lengthy par-threes (213 and 222). And he hit to four feet at both. Fifteen was a seventeen foot putt. And the par-five sixteenth saw Oosthuizen go for the green in two on a must carry out of the fairway bunker. Yeah, he could have laid up. But he didn’t and two-putted for birdie.
Berndt Wiesberger is one of three at 66. From Austria, Masters-qualified and generally European Tour player Wiesberger played at the Farmers, Doral (he qualified for that, too) and here as a tune-up for Augusta. Like Oosthuizen, he started out a shot in the hole (a bogey after an errant approach that nearly went into the water at three) before bouncing back with three consecutive birdies. Near the end of his round, Wiesberger missed a nine-footer for eagle at sixteen before hitting to seven feet and a birdie at seventeen.
Zac Blair and Billy Horschel also shot 66. Blair started with three birdies in his first four holes and finished with three in a row, including sinking a 40-footer at seventeen and besting that with a 46-footer at eighteen. Horschel played the par-fives in 5-under. That means there was an eagle in there somewhere. That came at sixteen when he got on in two and sank a 26-footer.
Gary Woodland is at 67 with Henrik Stenson, Kevin Na, Sean O’Hair, Justin Thomas, Brian Stuard and Rickie Fowler at 68.
Gary Woodland shot his second consecutive 67 to take a one-shot lead at the halfway mark.
Woodland, who hasn’t won in a couple years and has had a rough go so far this one with five missed cuts in ten events (counting today) and, except for a fourteenth in China, not much else, made some putts because, other than birdieing all four par-fives, his three par-four birdies came on putts of 24 feet at nine, ten feet at ten and, saving the best for last, a 53-footer from just off the green at the par-three seventeenth.
First round leader Louis Oosthuizen, didn’t match his 65 of yesterday. But his 2-under 69 was good enough to keep him close by, a shot out of the lead. Oosthuizen started off well with two birdies and an eagle in his first four holes. The birdie at one was on a PW to two feet. The one at three came after a tee shot in the bunker, a second to the center of the green and a 22-foot putt. Then, he got on in two at the par-five third and sank a thirteen-footer for eagle. Other than Woodland late in the day, Oosthuizen was the only man to ever get into double digits and had a five-shot lead at the time. But he gave most of it back including second shots into the water at eleven and sixteen and bogeys at both. And he saved that bogey at eleven by sinking a 47-foot putt. But he walked off eighteen a bit happier after a wind-aided 361 drive and a choked down wedge to four feet.
The other man at -9 is Henrik Stenson after a round of 67. He worked today, scrambling six times (his only bogey came on a three-putt), four coming in the first five holes (the other was a birdie at the par-five fourth). And his non-par-five birdie putts were of 10, 12, 24 and nine feet. Yeah, he worked today.
After that, Graham DeLaet finished with three consecutive birdies to shoot 66 and move into fourth place at 8-under. He also hit a 7I at the 187-yard, par-three eighth to three feet.
Robert Streb (67) and Davis Love (68) are tied for fifth at -7 with Daniel Berger (68) and Bill Horschel (72) at 6-under. Four are tied for ninth at -5: Alex Prugh (68), Brendan Steele (69), Zac Blair (73) and Berndt Wiesberger (73)
THE CUT LINE:
+1 with 72 getting paid this week.
As this is the last event in the Florida swing, many of these guys will be heading off to two events in Texas before The Masters. Some of those checking out early include Morgan Hoffman, Angel Cabrera, Graeme McDowell, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott and freddie Jacobson. And, as for DJ Trahan, the guy who finally earned back his Tour card, he’s two-for-two in missing cuts as he missed by five this week.
Though all the top players were under par today, some were more than others.
Overnight leader Gary Woodland shot 2-under 70. No, he’s not in the lead anymore but he’s just a shot out. Like Henrik Stenson yesterday, Woodland spent a lot of the day scrambling. Yes, he was mostly successful (6/7), but he worked. And, when he hit the green on the par-threes and fours he parred, the average leave was 33 feet. One really long one (and which didn’t count because his birdie putt was a lot closer) came at the par-five twelfth. On in two, he had 75 feet for eagle. He got that putt to six feet but missed for birdie.
The man who worked hard yesterday didn’t have to today. That’s Stenson and he’s now the leader at -13 after a round of 68. Among five birdies, his best effort came at the seventh when his 6I at the 207 yard hole stopped within three feet. Alas, he made his lone bogey at eighteen. Bailing left with a 7I, Stenson hit a nice pitch to five feet. And missed the par putt.
Joining Woodland in a tie for second are Robert Streb (67) and first round leader Louis Oosthuizen (69). If he’s in it late tomorrow, Streb could definitely be a factor as he’s played the final three holes in a cumulative 8-under with birdies at all except for the two-putt he had at eighteen today. Oosthuizen birdied three of the par-fives but also had back-to-back bogeys at thirteen and fourteen on approaches that landed in bunkers, though he missed from five feet to save par at thirteen.
Daniel Berger moved into fifth place at -11 with a 67. He might have moved all the way into the lead except for the tee shot he hit out of bounds and resultant double-bogey at eighteen.
Brandt Snedeker shot the round of the day with a 65. He’s tied for sixth at -10 with Davis Love (69) and Graham DeLaet (70). As far as Snedeker is concerned, he holed out of the bunker for birdie at the par-three fourteenth. Pumped, he drained a 33-foot birdie putt at fifteen, went for the green in two at sixteen, pushed his shot but followed that up with a chip to two feet and another birdie. Missing the green left at the par-three seventeenth, he pitched over the bunker and to two feet and a par then sank a fifteen-foot birdie putt at eighteen.
It’s two shots to Brendan Steele (69) in ninth at 8-under with Stewart Cink (69), Daniel Summerhays (69), Berndt Wiesberger (70) and Billy Horschel (71) at -7.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Snedeker’s effort at fourteen is certainly worthy. But that was topped by Kiradech Aphibarnrat at nine.
Aphibarnrat, from Thailand, who is golf’s answer to Bartolo Colon (5′ 8”, 230), plays mostly on the European Tour. Not quite sure why he headed out this way as he didn’t play in the WGC event at Doral. Looks like he might have been trying to qualify for The Masters by winning here. He didn’t win but did well, finishing in a tie for sixth. What that got him was a spot in the Texas Open. And he missed the cut. And he headed to playing on the European and Asian circuits, only coming back for the PGA and again for the 2016 event at Doral and again at Arnie’s tourney, where he finished tied for sixth and could be heading to Texas again. A vicious cycle.
Anyway, about Aphibarnrat’s shot… After a 295-yard drive dead down the middle at the slight dogleg left, he flushed a 7I from 183 for eagle.
Let’s just say that things dropped in just right for Daniel Berger. Coming into today he was two shots out of the lead. And he shot a 66. And everyone else in front him couldn’t break par.
First, Davis Love, who started a shot behind Berger, offered an early challenge running off three consecutive birdies starting at four to get within a shot of the lead which, at the time, was Gary Woodland’s 14-under. But then came the back nine and Love went through a stretch when he couldn’t hit a shot, missing a five-footer to save par at eleven, then making bogey at thirteen (poor tee shot to where he could only pitch back to the fairway), fourteen (missed the green well left at the par-three and couldn’t pitch close) and a double at fifteen when he shanked his tee shot out of bounds. So, what was once 13-under eventually became 9-under.
Second round leader Woodland was playing with first round leader Louis Oosthuizen in the penultimate pairing. Woodland got to the lead at 14-under with back-to-back birdies at three (32-foot putt) and four (just short of the green in two and a chip to three feet). But a double-bogey at eight, when he chunked his second into the water, provided the first coffin nail with a 2-over back nine (three bogeys and a birdie) finishing the job as he shot 74.
Oosthuizen ended up at even-par. But he had a puncher’s chance late in the round. At 14-under but still three behind with two to play, Oosthuizen put his tee shot at the par-three seventeenth into the water and made double.
Robert Streb was playing with overnight leader Henrik Stenson in the final pairing. Streb eliminated himself early. At three which, along with six, combine to circle around a lake, Streb put his tee shot into the water. After taking a drop, he put his approach in the water as well, leading to a triple-bogey seven. Though he did get back to under par with a birdie at sixteen, he bogeyed the last to finish at even par.
Stenson came in to today at 13-under. He bogeyed the first when he hit just long and couldn’t get close with his chip. He birdied the fifth on a half wedge to two feet. But he doubled the sixth when he hit his tee shot into the fairway bunker, hit his next under a tree and tried to hit low and maybe stop near the front of the green or just limp on. Except that he hit his shot a little too hard and it rolled into the water eventually resulting in a double-bogey. After a birdie at seven, he closed out the front nine with bogeys—errant approach at eight and a three-putt at nine. Stenson would finish with a 75.
And so the dance floor was wide open for Berger.
Berger dropped a 37-footer for birdie at two. He then birdied the par-fives at four and six to get to 14-under and share the lead with Woodland. But, after Woodland backed up at eight, Berger sank lengthy putts for birdie at nine (16 feet) and ten (seventeen) to make it a four-shot swing and open at least four lengths on the rest of the field. A bogey and two birdies the rest of the way as Berger was never pressured, finishing with a final round 66, 17-under par and a five-shot win and his first PGA title.
With a second at the Sony Open in Hawaii earlier this year, Berger’s off to a good start as he’s seventh in both money as well as points.
THE REST OF THE TOP TEN:
Steele, Oosthuizen and Streb split second third and fourth money at -12 with Stenson, Woodland, Graham DeLaet (72) and Brandt Snedeker (72) tied for fifth at 10-under. Love was joined in a tie for ninth with Boo Weekley (67) and JB Holmes (69).
Stenson (second) and Oosthuizen (tied for ninth) finished in the top ten in both tourneys as Matt Every won it at 19-under. The replay wasn’t as kind to Every as he missed the cut by three.
Berger had a decent tourney, finishing tied for thirteenth at -10.
For the record, Kirabech Aphibarnrat, who was mentioned yesterday, finished tied for 30th at 4-under. As I’m not sure if the only reason he got into next week’s Texas Open was because of his top ten finish in the actual tourney this week, he’ll play in Austin starting Thursday.
DANIEL BERGER (-17, wins by five)
Wins his first PGA Tour title–and impressively, too.
Valero Texas Open
JW Marriott TPC San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
Quick play, so what detail is lack will be made up with imagination.
As was the case at Doral, Martin Kaymer is the first round leader. He didn’t win there but did finish fourth. So, maybe another decent finish is in the cards this week. Kaymer shot a 6-under 66, birdieing three of the four par-threes, of all things, including the one at sixteen, which is a Texas-sized version of the sixth at Riviera right down to the bunker in the middle. He had no birdies at the par-fives.
Jim Furyk, Alex Prugh and Marc Warren, who fought off three bogeys, are at 67 with Jordan Spieth, who birdied four in a row starting at four, Brendan de Jonge, who finished up with three birdies, Davis Love, Shane Lowry and William McGirt at 68.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Cameron Beckman at sixteen.
197 to the center, as the green is 43 yards deep, the hole could have been playing between 180-220. And, though a little longer with the green being a bit larger, this hole bears resemblance to the sixth at Riviera as there’s a bunker in the middle of the green. For many events, the PGA Tour site has the pin sheets along with the Strackaline pinsheet info, which shows pin placements for each round as well as the contours of the greens. As luck would have it, though I wrote this weeks ago, this tourney is being played as I’m posting and the hole is listed as playing at 183 (or pin toward the front) today. The ace got him under-par for the day. But he had a reverse bounceback and bogeyed the seventeenth, finishing with a 72. This was the fourth hole-in-one on the Tour this year. All have come in the first round.
Martin Kaymer led after the first round at Doral and finished fourth. So, maybe the good start helped. And he led after the first round here yesterday. But, what happens if you shoot a 77 in today’s round? Good thing he had that 66 yesterday. Because 70 or worse would have sent him packing. As it is, he’s eight shots out of the lead. He had a half dozen bogeys and a lone birdie at the par-five fourteenth.
The man at the top, for the moment, at least, is Zach Johnson, today’s 66 moving him to 9-under. Johnson had a three birdie run starting at five and no bogeys. And only one of those birdies was at a par-five.
Of the foursome at -8, Brian Stuard made the largest leap up the leaderboard with a day’s best 63, or ten shots better than yesterday. Must’ve been the hot dog at the turn as he ran off six consecutive birdies to start the back nine. The other three at 8-under are Matt Kuchar (67), William McGirt (68) and Alex Prugh, who finished where he started the day (in second, that is) with a 69.
Jason Kokrak (67) and Kevin Na (68) are tied at 7-under. Pat Perez (65) improved by eight shots and is at -6. And tied for ninth at 5-under are Branden Grace (67), Boo Weekley (68) and Shane Lowry (71)
Some near the top of the leaderboard took a dump today. Jim Furyk (73), Chris Stroud (73), Marc Warren (75), Brendan de Jonge (75), Jordan Spieth (75) and John Merrick (76). They were all in the top ten yesterday and dropped by ten or more spots today.
THE CUT LINE:
That list above wasn’t everybody who took a flying leap out of the top ten. Three found that their fall occurred in a bottomless pit, as in ‘sayonara,’ at least for this week. Martin Flores (78), Davis Love (79) and Jim Herman (78) all went two and out.
2-over made it by the way with 74 sticking around for the weekend. Other early exits include Cameron Tringale, Jerry Kelly, Dustin Johnson, Danny Lee, Graeme McDowell, Zac Blair, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, freddie Jacobson and, for the third time in as many tries since re-earning his Tour card, DJ Trahan.
Zach Johnson not only maintained his lead from yesterday, he extended it to four shots.
Johnson shot a 5-under 67 today to move to 14-under. He ran off three birdies in a row and finished with a pair as well. He also had only his second bogey in 54 holes when he three-putted the severely downhill green.
Pat Perez moved up six notches to second at -10 on the strength of a 68. Perez had an up and down front nine with three of each. But he picked it up on the back as he birdied the thirteenth as well as finishing with three in a row.
Brian Stuard, who was second after yesterday’s round, stayed right there after a round of 70. After an even-par front, which including bogeying the par-five eighth (OK, it is over 600 yards), Stuard had two birdies and no bogeys on the back nine.
After that, it’s William McGirt (71) at 9-under, Matt Kuchar (72) at -8 and at least eight shots from first to the rest of the field. Steven Bowditch (68) and Branden Grace (71) are at -6 with John Merrick (66), who bounced back after yesterday’s 76, and Jordan Spieth (68), who did likewise after a 75 both moving back into the top ten at -5. They’re joined by Martin Kaymer (68), KJ Choi (69), Andres Gonzales (70) and David Hearn (70).
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Robert Garrigus at eighteen.
Normally, an eagle on a par five isn’t worthy of the honor. But the eighteenth is a uphill par-five of 590 yards with a fairway bisected the final 150 yards by a creek and a three-tiered green awaiting.
Garrigus is second in the field in driving distance at 311. So, is it possible that he reached in two? Very outside chance. In any case, he eagled the hole, the only one there so far in this tournament.
After three rounds of doing very little wrong, Zach Johnson did very little right. And, by the time he did right, it was too late.
Leading by four, Johnson did birdie the par-five second. But he had three bogeys and a double on the front side alone, the double coming at six after he hooked his tee shot into the trees.
One of the men in second, Brian Stuard, had an even rougher day that Johnson as he ballooned to a 77. He double-bogeyed the first and had two other double-bogeys and two bogeys through the first thirteen holes. That makes 8-over already. Like Johnson, he also woke up late with birdies at fourteen, sixteen and seventeen.
William McGirt and Martin Kaymer, in fourth and fifth, each shot 72.
All of that combined to leave the door open for Pat Perez.
Perez actually didn’t do a whole heck of a lot on the front nine as Johnson and Stuard were doing all the heavy lifting, so to speak. Perez birdied his first two, gave it back at four and with a birdie at nine getting him back to 12-under and, almost surprisingly, with a two-shot lead.
Marvelling at his inheritance or good fortune, Perez birdied the eleventh, thirteenth and fourteenth on his way to a final round of 67 and a three shot win at 15-under.
For Perez, who was actually seen smiling (as he’s generally his own worst enemy), this was his first win since 2009 when he won what was then known as the Bob Hope Classic and only his second career win.
THE REST OF THE TOP TEN:
Johnson took second at -12 and Matt Kuchar (71) and McGirt (72) third at -9. Jim Furyk (67) recovered off poor middle rounds of 73-74 to finished tied for fifth at 7-under with Justin Thomas (68). Jason Dufner (69) and Andres Gonzales (71) tied for seventh at -6. And Stuard and his 77 was joined by Martin Kaymer (72) in ninth at 5-under.
Well, there was a Johnson in the top ten. But it was Dustin, who finished tied for sixth at 2-under. He missed the cut in the replay. But there was no commonality in the top ten.
Perez obviously didn’t win the real tourney. He finished tied for 20th at 2-over, the same as Zach Johnson.
PAT PEREZ (67 today, -15, wins by three)
That could be a smile on his face.
Yes, he did win. But it could also be said that others lost and he inherited the win.
The $1,116,600 check will be cashed just the same.
Shell Houston Open
Golf Club of Houston
A man who hasn’t won in four years—and for four years before that—and a man making his PGA Tour debut are atop the leaderboard.
It’s Aaron Baddeley and Smylie Kaufman on top with 6-under 66s.
Baddeley, who last won at Riviera in 2011, birdied the first hole he played, dropping a 36-foot putt to do so. But he did his best work on the back nine, all but one truly thanks to his putter as he sank birdie putts of ten feet at eleven and fourteen at twelve. Then he hit pin high at the 226-yard fourteenth and sank a 20-footer. His only solid approach came at sixteen, a 197-yard, par-three where he placed a 5-iron to four feet. The par save at eighteen was pretty good, too. In the bunker off the tee, his 4I approach was short of the green by about 20 yards. Needing to finesse a lob wedge over a bunker to a short-sided pin location, Baddeley hit to five feet.
Kaufman didn’t birdie his first hole. But he did birdie the next three. At two, maybe it was just nerves or he misjudged his lie in the rough as he flew a 7I from 165 over the green and 35 yards past the pin. And then he holed out! Maybe, for Kaufman, it answered the question of whether he belonged here because he hit to fifteen feet at three and made the birdie there as well as getting up and down quite easily at the par-five fourth. And, after he got his first bogey, on a three-putt at the par-three seventh, he bounced right back by hitting just off the green at the par-five eighth and making birdie.
Franceco Molinari and Charl Schwartzel are tied at 67. Molinari hit two great approaches to start the back nine—three feet at ten and two at eleven—as he birdied four of the first five. Schwartzel might have been tied for the lead except for the approach he pulled into the water at eighteen.
The rest of the top is populated by those who shot 68. Lee Westwood, who seems to show up on this side of the pond when he wants to tune up for a big event (like The Masters), is one. The others: Two-time winner this season Jamie Donaldson, Sam Saunders, Russell Henley, Scott Pinckney, Kevin Kisner, Danny Lee, who also won earlier this season, and Justin Thomas.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Kaufman’s shot at two is most certainly worthy. But there are two others who also deserve honors.
Greg Owen at five. Owen hasn’t done much this season. Though he did finish thirteenth at Pebble Beach, that was, by far and away, his best finish to date as he’s made just three of eight cuts.
Dogleg left, water to carry off the tee and it runs down the left side a bunch but shouldn’t interfere with the approach. Owen hit a 6I from 202 to a back left pin position on the money, his ball rolling into the cup for an eagle. Too bad about that last hole, though, as he didn’t hit his tee shot straight, pulling it into the water and making double-bogey, putting him over par (73) for the day.
Jordan Spieth at twelve.
345, par-four. Drivable for some as long as they can get some roll. Not for Spieth. He does lots of things well on the course but hitting for distance isn’t one of them. He used the driver anyway. Hit it dead center. Then holed out from 67. Though the eagle was a big help, but Spieth was all over the place today, four bogeys and a double more than canceling out the eagle and three birdies as he shot 73.
The good news for yesterday’s leaders Aaron Baddeley and Smylie Kaufman is that they’re either still leading (Baddeley) or close by.
Baddeley’s 69 kept him in front by a shot at -9 under. He parred the front side and had to work for it as he scrambled four times. He also parred the first two on the back side before bogeying the twelfth on a pulled drive and getting more grass than ball on his shot out of the rough. But that bogey seemed to provide a wake-up call for Baddeley as he birdied the next four, two par-fives and two par-threes, including a 34-foot birdie putt at fourteen.
Kaufman’s 70 kept him within a shot of the lead. But it could have been a whole lot better. He started with three straight birdies, including hitting a PW to a foot at one. 5-under through eight, even the missed green and bogey at the par-three ninth still left him at 10-under and a two-shot lead at the turn. Two birdies and a bogey on the first four back nine holes improved Kaufman’s score by a shot. But he’d like to forget the final three holes as he bogeyed all. At sixteen, he pulled a 5I left of the green, not good as the pin was far right. At seventeen, he took a flyer out of the rough with his approach with his ball bouncing off the grandstand. And, at eighteen and after a fine tee shot, he pulled his 3I approach into the water.
Joining Kaufman in second is Matt Jones (66). Jones didn’t post a par on the back nine until the eighteenth. He also had six birdies which were tempered, unfortunately, by two bogeys. Jones’ putter helped him a bit with birdie putts of 25 feet at ten, fifteen feet at sixteen and sevnteen feet at seventeen.
Tony Finau shot the round of the day with a 65, passing nearly four dozen golfers and moving into a tie for fourth at 7-under with Russell Henley (69) and Francesco Molinari (70). Finau’s second shot game was in fine working order as he hit a PW to five feet at one, a 9I from 157 to two feet at three and a SW to a foot at ten. With his length off the tee, he had no problems birdieing three of the par-fours.
Scott Piercy (67) and Kevin Kisner (70) are tied for seventh at 6-under with seven more at -5: DA Points (67), Rickie Fowler, Louis Oosthuizen and Troy Merritt at 68, Cameron Percy at 69, Danny Lee (71) and Charl Schwartzel (72).
THE CUT LINE:
Even-par with 77 making it. Some leaving early will be heading to The Masters while many others will have next week off.
There were some surprises among the early leavers were Patrick Reed, Alex Cejka, Anibran Lahiri, who dropped by from the European and Asian tours to tune up for The Masters, Jerry Kelly, Nick Watney, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Martin Kaymer and, after a horrid round of 78, Jordan Spieth. In real life, Spieth tied for the lead with JB Holmes and Johnson Wagner with Holmes prevailing in a two-hole playoff.
Well, Aaron Baddeley, who has neither won much nor won in a while, won’t win again, biting the bullet with a 6-over 78 to fall to 3-under par and seven shots off the lead.
The first hole birdie was kind of nice. But Baddeley went careening downhill not long after. He double-bogeyed the third after putting his approach in the water, came up for air for a moment with a birdie at four. But he went down for good after that, going 4-over for the final four holes (and the last was a par) to finish up. The big finish was making double at seventeen when he shanked his tee shot well right and into a creek that probably shouldn’t have been in play.
Smylie Kaufman and Matt are Jones are still playing well and still lurking nearby, as they were after yesterday’s round. But the man on top is now Russell Henley after a 3-under 69. Henley bogeyed on and three, the third after a hooked tee shot into the water. But he finished strong with birdies at twelve, thirteen and fifteen, the last two par-fives.
Kaufman’s still a shot back after posting a 71. He’s joined by Danny Willett and Paul Casey, both of whom posted strong rounds of 66 and 67, respectively.
Willett had five birdies on the front nine which was tempered just a bit by a three-putt bogey at six. He started the back nine by birdieing three of the first four including nearly holing out for eagle from just over a hundred yards at thirteen. Willett might have been tied for the lead if not for his clubface closing down out of the rough at seventeen and ending up in the greenside bunker and an eventual bogey.
Casey got off to a good start with a PW from 151 to two feet at the first hole. He also made a handful of medium length birdie putts. The bogeyman also got him twice—a three-putt from just off the front of the green at five and a tee shot pushed into the water at eleven.
Tom Hoge and Adam Hadwin vaulted over two dozen other players as they each shot 66. At 8-under, they’re two shots back and tied with Kevin Kisner (70) and Matt Jones (72) for fifth. Hoge started his day by birdieing four of the first five including a SW to tap-in distance at one while Hadwin started his birdie parade with a PW to two feet at three and birdied four out of six to start the back nine.
After that, it’s a six-way tie for ninth at 7-under. Steven Bowditch (67), Chad Campbell (68), Charl Schwartzel (70), Scott Piercy (71), Francesco Molinari (72) and Tony Finau (72).
It was a tight field going into the final round as there were 21 players within four shots of the lead. But, among the guys at the top, only Paul Casey was able to make a run and ended up not only emerging from the crowd but winning by four.
Casey was playing in the second-to-last pairing with a rookie making his PGA Tour debut, Smylie Kaufman. Kaufman acquitted himself quite well with a round of 70. Yes, he finished five back. But, as he finished in the top ten (tied for fifth), he earned a free ride into the next regular tour event at Harbour Town. In real life, he missed the cut and so wasn’t afforded that benefit.
Anyway, it was pretty much Casey and overnight leader Russell Henley, who started the day up by a shot on Casey at 10-under, going at it.
Casey made birdies at two, three and four—a couple of ten-footers or so while dodging a bullet at four as he went for the green in two at the par-five and nearly put his ball in the water. Thankful for his good fortune, he chipped to seven feet and made the birdie putt. In the meantime, Henley’s putter save him big time with an eighteen-footer for birdie at three and, after missing short at four, still had 20 feet to save par, which he did.
Casey birdied the sixth when he rolled off the back of the green with his approach but chipped in. Unknown at the time, it gave him the lead he’d never relinquish.
Both birdied the par-five eighth. But Henley’s playing partner, Danny Willett, eagled it on a 2I from 270 to seven feet and, all of a sudden, he was within two shots of the lead along with Lee Westwood, who was making his own climb up the leaderboard having birdied six of his first eight holes. But Westwood had started four shots back and so he still had some work left to catch current leader Casey. In actuality, Westwood was about six holes ahead of Casey and, with two birdies and a bogey on the back nine, he was at 13-under and a shot out of the lead. But he was running out of time while Casey and Henley still had plenty left.
Where things turned for Henley (and, for that matter, Casey) was at ten. Henley appeared to have a good look at the green from 123. Looked like an easy PW. But he caught it heavy and came up 25 yards short of the green eventually making bogey.
Westwood would miss the green right at eighteen and make bogey. So Casey had at least two shots on the rest of the field. That made life a little easier. So did back-to-back birdies at twelve and thirteen. Twelve’s a shortie of 357 and Casey hit his second to five feet. Thirteen is a par-five. Tee shot in the rough, second in the bunker and, with 114 yards still to go, he put his bunker shot to five feet. That put him up at least three on everyone as Charl Schwartzel made a belated challenge and got to -13.
Casey took advantage of one more par-five—at sixteen—to tack on another shot as he got up and down from 94—not great, as he had to convert from eleven feet.
So, the three-putt bogey from 40 feet at sixteen wasn’t a killer as Casey was still up three with two to play. Which he played conservatively—maybe a bit too conservatively, as he was past 60 feet on seventeen and nearly 50 at the last. But he two-putted both.
So, Casey (65) wins it by four at 16-under with Westwood (66), Schwartzel (67) and Henley (70) tied for second at -12. Kaufman and Willett (both 70) finished at 11-under, Kaufman making a cool $250,000 in his first PGA Tour event. Danny Lee (68), Tony Finau (69) and Matt Jones (70) and Adam Hadwin (70) tied for seventh at 10-under.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Casey’s chip-in at six.
As mentioned in the cut list after round two, JB Holmes came from behind with a final round 64 to make it a three-way tie at 16-under, then beat Johnson Wagner and Jordan Spieth in a two-hole playoff, Spieth being eliminated on the first hole.
Henley (fourth at -14) and Casey (ninth at -12) were the only two to appear on both leaderboards.
Holmes and Wagner finished tied for 64th at +2 while Spieth missed the cut.
Quit while you’re a head.
PAUL CASEY (-16) wins by four.
There are a number of big names in the top ten, including the man at the top, who’s won three green jackets. All told, eight green jackets (nine, if you count the 2015 real life winner—Spieth, duh) populate the fourteen people in the top ten (yes, it makes sense).
On a breezy day with the greens a little more receptive after some overnight rain, it’s Phil Mickelson with a two-shot lead after a 7-under 65.
Mickelson’s first shot of the tourney was a 340-yard drive down the middle and his second was a choked down wedge to four feet. His third was a birdie putt. He nearly reached the green in two at two. Unfortunately, he hit a 35-yard pitch thin and rolled off the back. But, using the putter, he sank that for another birdie. Five pars followed before nearly making eagle at eight as he hit his 3W second from 265 to eight feet. But he ran his putt just past and tapped in for birdie. Mickelson followed that with a 26-footer for birdie at nine. At the twelfth, he had the distance right but not the direction, ending up on the wrong side of a severely-sloped green and looking at 55 feet worth of putt. And, son of a gun if he didn’t sink that parabola of a putt. He also birdied the two back nine par fives, which meant he birdied all of them.
Camilo Villegas is next with a 67. Like Mickelson, he made hay at the par-fives, birdieing them all. His finest hour (or few minutes) was overshooting the green out of the trees at seventeen, barely holding on at the back left then dropping a 56-foot putt for birdie.
Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Cameron Tringale are at 68. Spieth eagled the fifteenth when he hit pin high from 237 to nine feet. He might have joined Villegas at 5-under but bogeyed the last when he pushed his approach into the bunker. Matsuyama eagled the thirteenth when, after pushing his 300+ yard drive just a bit, he still got on the green in two and sank a nineteen-footer. Tringale birdied the 246-yard fourth by hitting just over the stick with a 2I and made the eight foot comebacker.
The rest of the top ten is at 69. One in that group has three green jackets—Tiger Woods. Hey, with three jackets, maybe he should have gotten a couple pair of slacks, too. Two others who won clothing are Vijay Singh and Zach Johnson. Also included in this list are Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day, Brendan Todd and John Huh.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Mickelson’s putt at twelve and Villegas’ putt at seventeen, both over 50 feet and both for birdie.
Another day, another guy with a jacket.
But, first, a man with three who was yesterday’s leader—Phil Mickelson. For some reason, he just couldn’t hit close. Wind wasn’t a factor and the greens, though quicker than yesterday, were still receptive. For some odd reason, Mickelson couldn’t attack the pins. His lone birdie came after he flew the pin with an 8I at five by a club and made the 35-footer coming back. His short game was pretty good as he scrambled successfully four out of five times including at eleven when he pulled his second well right and long. With the pin in the front near the pond, Mickelson pitched to a foot from 46 yards.
Vijay Singh and Jason Day are the men at the top after shooting the rounds of the day with 7-under 65. Singh has a jacket; Day will probably get one soon enough. They’re at 10-under.
Singh bounced off a bogey at three when he flew the green with his approach by hitting a 2I to a tight pin position just over the front bunker at the 236-yard fourth to just four feet. He had a couple other good ones—at fourteen with a SW to to six feet and at seventeen with a PW to eight feet.
Day hit close at one and six—like eight feet close. You know, makeable. And he made them. And besides birdieing the par-fives, he also dialed long distance on a couple. At nine, after pushing his drive into the trees, he had a little opening and managed to get to the green with a 6I from 192 and made a 23-footer for birdie. Then, at the last, safely on but a club short, he made a 32-foot uphill putt for another birdie.
Graeme McDowell shot a 66 to move into third at 9-under. Like many, he made hay at the par-fives, birdieing all. But his shot of the—very likely the shot of the day, came at eleven. In the same position as Mickelson but about 20 yards closer, he chipped in for birdie. Speaking of… Mickelson is in fourth at -8.
Hideki Matsuyama (70) and Camilo Villegas (71) are tied for fifth at -7. Matsuyama bounced off back-to-back bogeys at eleven and twelve, including pushing an 8I into Rae’s Creek at twelve, with three consecutive birdies. OK, two were par-fives and he was on in two at both. But a birdie’s a birdie. Villegas compounded playing army golf with a three-putt at one to make double-bogey. In the end, however, he got those shots back as he was a busy man on the front nine with just two pars. The back nine looked like a duck—quiet on the top with eight pars and a birdie, but busy below the surface as he was 4/4 in scrambling including at twelve when he hit an 8I a little thin, his tee shot going over the azaleas and into the trees. Even so, he had a look at the green and threaded a pitch to eleven feet above the hole and made the tester for par.
The rest of the top ten is at -5: Paul Casey, Thongchai Jaidee and the high amateur in the field, Antonio Murdaca, all at 68, with Henrik Stenson at 69 and Matt Kuchar with 70. Murdaca, from Australia, qualified as the Asia-Pacific Amateur champion. In the replay, two other amateurs, Canadian Corey Conners and South Korean Gunn Yang will also be playing on the weekend. Yang, who went to San Diego State, qualified as the US Amateur Champion. Conners, who went to Kent State (got to check those H1-B visas), qualified as the runner-up. In real life, all missed the cut, with Conners, though he missed the cut by three, lowest scoring among the lot. Ofd the three, only Yang hasn’t turned pro, although he played in eight other PGA events in ’15, missing the cut in all but the Crowne Plaza. Murdaca is playing for money over in Asia while Conners is playing in Latin America.
One major surprise here is 63-year old Ben Crenshaw. He’s a legacy here, having won in both 1984 and ’95, meaning he can come back here forever. No, he won’t win but, at 2-under, he’s tied for 23rd. Yes, he could always putt, dropping one from 33 feet at three on Thursday. And, it looks like he can still crank one when he has to as, of his four other birdies, he reached in two on three of them (two at thirteen and one at fifteen). The result here is a total opposite of what actually happened as he beat nobody, his 91-85 rounds being thirteen shots worse than next in line Mike Weir.
Another legacy who made the cut, though he still has some gas in his tank is Fred Couples, who won in ’92, at 1-under.
THE CUT LINE:
It’s only top 50 and ties with +1 sticking around.
Those notables who didn’t make it include two-time winner this year Jamie Donaldson, Bill Haas, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, JB Holmes and Angel Cabrera.
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee didn’t make the biggest move of the day. That was reserved for amateur Corey Conners, who moved up 26 spots to fifteenth after shooting a 69. But Jaidee made the most important move, shooting the round of the day and moving into a tie for first with Jason Day, who maintained his position.
On a breezy day with the course starting to firm up a bit, Jaidee shot a 6-under 66. He started his day with three straight birdies. The one at two was kind of nice. Playing a bit into the wind, Jaidee was hitting his third at the par-five from 98 to a difficult way back left pin location. And he hit to six feet and made his birdie. He bogeyed the fifth when he pulled his approach just a bit. He had the distance to the back pin location just about right but his ball ended up in the back bunker. But Jaidee bounced back off that with three birdies in the final four holes to close out the front nine, including at the par-five eighth when he nearly holed out from 40 yards. He bogeyed the tenth which, playing into the wind made it the most difficult hole on the course as, long and a bit right, he couldn’t chip close. But he reached in two and both back nine par-fives and birdied both.
Day shot 71 to maintain his share of the lead. Day birdied two of the first three. Good start there. But he doubled at nine when he hooked his drive into the woods and had to take an unplayable. Day had trouble with the back nine par-fives, pulling his 7I second shot into the greenside bunker and making par and also pulled his drive at fifteen. Still in the expansive fairway, he had trees in his way and could only place a PW to give him a good look at the green with his third. Par there, too. He birdied the eleventh and fourteenth, eleven on an eighteen-footer. But he gave those shots back at sixteen (just off the green with his tee shot at the par-three and a curving chip that was just too tricky) and seventeen (a fat 9I into the front bunker). Just long at eighteen, he was still able to putt and nearly sank his 25-footer.
Vijay Singh lost his hold on first by shooting even-par 72. But he’s still only a shot back at -10, tied with Graeme McDowell (71), who finished day where he started—in third a shot back.
Singh was never one shot away from par at any time during the day, though he did have back-to-back bogeys at nine and ten—nine on a trip into the trees and a three-par-putt at ten. His birdies came at par-fives.
McDowell recovered off a slow start—2-over through five including back-to-back bogeys at four (tee shot into the front bunker) and five (three-putt). He got under-par for the day with a 3I second at fifteen to thirteen feet and an eagle putt.
Going into tomorrow, there will be eight players within five shots of the lead. Besides the four already mentioned, Hideki Matsuyama (69) is in fifth at 9-under, Phil Mickelson (71) sixth at -8, Jordan Spieth (69) seventh at -7, Danny Willett (67) eight at 6-under and low amateur Antonio Murdaca (72) at -5. There’s a five-way tie for tenth at 4-under: Dustin Johnson (69), Tiger Woods (70), Cameron Tringale (71), Paul Casey (73) and Camilo Villegas (74).
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Patrick Reed at twelve.
At the famed par-three over Rae’s Creek, Reed pushed an 8I, barely clearing the water. From about 70 feet and fortunate to have a good lie, Reed pitched on, his ball curving into the hole for a birdie.
Reed shot 72. At 1-over for the tournament, he’s back a ways.
It was the players against the course though, truth be told, the crew running this tournament was hoping the greens would have been just a little bit quicker. But they were fast enough. In any case, there was no wind or weather to get in the way, just a gorgeous day in northeast Georgia. It was a heck of a finish, too. But there were a couple opening acts before the main players came out on stage.
Opening act number one was Rory McIlroy, who shot a 7-under 65. As he started the day at even-par, he was no factor in the finish though he did make it into the top ten. He started off on the wrong foot when he overshot the green at one and made bogey. After that, he could do no wrong. He birdied three of the par-four with help from his putter as no tee shot was closer than nine feet. He made it to the green in two at the 581-yard uphill par-five eighth and two-putted for birdie. But his best effort came at seventeen when he hit a 321 yard blast then hit a PW to five feet.
Opening act number two was Rickie Fowler. With a round of 66, he also made it to the top ten at 8-under. And he had two bogeys, including a three-putt at nine and a trip into the trees off the tee at seventeen. But he birdied all four par-fives and saved his best work with a par at eighteen when he hit into the trees, had no other choice but to pitch out to the tenth fairway and got up and down from 102, making a fifteen-footer to save par. Without the bogeys and though he would have been waiting in the clubhouse for a while, Fowler would have been well in the mix. Instead, he finished tied for sixth.
OK, the warm-up acts are done. Time for the show.
2:20 Jordan Spieth (-7) Danny Willett (-6)
2:30 Hideki Matsuyama (-9) Phil Mickelson (-8)
2:40 Graeme McDowell (-10) Vijay Singh (-10)
2:50 Jason Day (-11) Thongchai Jaidee (-11)
Through the front side, nobody could gain any more than a single stroke with the others either treading water or heading backward.
Spieth went to the turn in even par thanks (or no thanks) to two bogeys and two birdies. Playing partner Willett birdied the fourth and the eighth but gave them both back at nine with a big, ol’ shank into the trees then, unable to get on in three, three-putted from just seventeen feet.
Matsuyama and Mickelson both gained a stroke. Matsuyama birdied the second and third but three-putted from long distance for birdie at four. He should have gotten one more at eight, but he three-putted from long distance there, too, missing from six feet to save par. Mickelson had three birdies, none closer than eleven feet, to go along with two bogeys.
McDowell and Singh both had a rough go on the front nine. Wayward approaches led to bogeys for McDowell on four, seven and nine with no birdies to help out and no other good approaches to indicate that maybe he’s turn things around on the back nine. Among sub-standard approaches, Singh hit a beauty at the par-three sixth, a 7I from 183 to three feet and his lone birdie. He probably should have had another at eight as he appeared certain to get up and down from 92. But he missed a four-footer. All told, Singh played a 2-over front side.
Both Day and Jaidee gave two shots back. For Day, it was three-putts at four and seven. At 50 feet, the one at four might have been understandable. At seven, it was just inside 30 feet. Jaidee had bunker trouble at three and seven with both resulting in bogey. He might have had one more at nine, but he scrambled after missing the green by at least ten yards and the hole by 30 as he salvaged par from nine feet. But none of his approaches were anything to write home about. Average leave, excluding the par-fives—36 feet.
To try to get this to real time, Spieth and Willett parred the tenth and eleventh. Mickelson and Matsuyama parred the tenth with both in the fairway at eleven. McDowell parred the tenth while playing partner Singh three-putted for bogey from 30 feet.
With help from the downhill fairway, Jaidee uncorked a 317-yard drive. Bringing him back to reality, Day out-drove him by 20 yards.
Out to twelve:
Spieth first to play…8I…the hole playing at 161…safely on, but he’ll have a fifteen-foot downhill curving putt. Willett…that’s a beauty…five feet, just past pin high.
Matsuyama…217 with a 4I…not sure if it has the distance…looks like he has the line…way short as he lands in the pond. Mickelson from 210…a more conservative line…center of the green.
Spieth…nice touch! That’ll get him to 8-under. Willett…a little easier…birdie for him, too, as he moves to 7-under.
Day could have done much better as he has 32 feet for birdie…runs it past and he’ll have to clean up from three feet. Jaidee from eighteen feet…Oh, my goodness…how did that not fall in? Both parred.
In order to keep his line, Matsuyama had to move back about 40 yards. These half wedges can be tricky. And he has to hit over the pond…not a good shot…he’ll be looking at about 20 feet. Mickelson…nice putt…he’ll tap in for par. Matsuyama two-putted for double bogey.
Out to thirteen:
Spieth…204 out of the light rough…but he has a good line to the green…safely on, but he’ll be two-putting from about 40 feet. Willett…just inside of 200…looks like he pushed it…that’s in Rae’s Creek.
Mickelson first to play…8I…a bit long…but he should be able to putt from off the back. Matsuyama, coming off a double-bogey…pushes this one…just made it over. Not an easy shot, but Patrick Reed holed one out from over there yesterday.
Back to the eleventh green:
Both men hit safely on but well short…McDowell away…nearly 80 feet…still well short…He’ll have some work to do. Singh…same line and about fifteen feet closer…He didn’t learn anything. Singh will be first to putt. Both about seven feet…Nice putt. McDowell learned well and sank his putt, too. So, pars for both.
Matsuyama…Nice pitch. Mickelson…on line…looks good…nice putt…he’ll tap in for par. Matsuyama, five feet straight uphill…Nice par.
Back to eleven:
Jaidee from 207…5I…he’s giving over 30 yards to Day…looks like he’s pulled it a little…if he takes out the ten-iron for the next shot he might find Matsuyama’s ball, too. Day…aggressive line with an 8I…nice shot…about ten feet under the hole. Like Matsuyama, Jaidee would make double-bogey while Day would rim out but tap in for par.
McDowell…a little bit long…but he can putt. Singh…same line as McDowell…a little too long as he’s in the bunker.
Willett chipped—not well. Fifteen feet to save par…That’s a big par save right there! Spieth putted close and he’ll tap in for birdie.
Singh, out of the bunker…It’ll be a tough one to stop…Runs past…The good news is that ten-footer will be uphill. McDowell, electing to putt…And that runs past, too…Not quite a gimme coming back. Singh would miss from eleven feet while McDowell would drain his four-footer. So Singh dropped a shot.
Out to fourteen:
Spieth and Willett hit safely to the center of the fairway. Short irons for both.
Mickelson pushed his drive just a bit and has no line to the green. He’ll just want to leave himself an easy third shot. Matsuyama from 213…safely on…he’ll have a putt like Spieth’s just a few minutes ago. Mickelson hit over the flag from 75 but his ball didn’t spin back enough and he two-putted from thirteen feet while Matsuyama two-putted from about 40 feet for birdie.
Day…with a 9I…many others have used an eight…a little left…just cleared the front bunker…He can putt, but it’ll be a long one…Jaidee…8I…a bit long and in the back bunker.
Spieth and Willett hit safely on…Spieth cleaning up after a fifteen-foot putt…Now Willett…his 20-footer was a bit too aggressive…Has sixteen feet coming back…Nice putt.
A look at the leaderboard:
Spieth -9 14
Mickelson -9 13
Matsuyama -9 13
Day -9 11
Willett -7 14
McDowell -7 12
Jaidee -7 11
Singh -6 12
Day is away even though he’s on the green…He missed on the high side…It’ll be a difficult par putt. Jaidee, out of the bunker…Nice shot…looks good…a little quick…rolls past…he’ll have a little work coming back. Both would make their par putts.
Out to fifteen:
Spieth up first from 240. With two eagles here already, he’s played this hole in 5-under…3I…drawing left a bit but pin high. He’ll be past 30 feet. Willett…about five yards closer but might have the trees in his way…Staying right…looks like he’ll catch the corner of the green…past 40 feet for him but birdie opportunities for both.
Day…Look like he tried to turn it over. Went dead straight…He’ll be hitting out of the trees. Jaidee…Looks pretty good…just catches the end of the rough. He should have a good look at the green.
Matsuyama first to play…9I…Look like he tried to spin it but it took one hop and stopped on the back fringe. Mickelson…out-drove Matsuyama by 50 yards…3/4 wedge from 108…Mickelson not too happy with that as he pushed it a little as he certainly wanted to get closer than 20 feet.
McDowell first to play…Nice drive down the right side. Singh…pulled it a little…just rolls off the fairway but he should be OK.
Back to thirteen:
Day…has a line out of the trees but can’t get a full swing on it…He’ll be hitting his third from about a hundred. Jaidee…5I from 196…That might be a lot of club. Doesn’t want to come up short, though…That won’t hold the green as he rolls off the back. The chip might be fun.
Willett…41 feet just off the back…That’s going to run past…and run…He’ll have a lot left for par. Speith, now…34 feet…nice putt…he’ll tap in for birdie. That’ll get him to 10-under and put him into the lead…for the moment.
Matsuyama from just off the back…about 25 feet…Nice putt. Mickelson…looks good…runs it just past. Mickelson wondering how it missed. Pars for both as Matsuyama cleaned up from three feet.
A look at the leaderboard:
Spieth -10 15
Matsuyama – 9 14
Mickelson – 9 14
Day – 9 12
McDowell – 8 13
Willett – 7 15
Singh – 7 13
Jaidee – 7 12
Day…a couple minutes ago…over the flag with a choked down wedge…he’s not happy with that one. Back to live action…Jaidee, from just off the back…electing to use the putter…good line…that has to slow down…well past…just stayed on the green…a couple more rolls and that would have been down the bank and into the creek. Day…from about 30 feet…not quite enough steam as it runs by on the low side. Both parred.
Out to sixteen:
174, par-three…pin at its Sunday best…remember that miraculous chip by Tiger Woods a few years ago?…Spieth with a 7I…going right at it…Nice shot…he’ll have about twelve feet left. Willett…needs birdie here…they all do…he’s pushed that right…into the bunker
Matsuyama first…from 248 with a 2I…Ooh, that looks good…What a shot! About eight feet left and uphill for eagle! Mickelson…maybe five yards closer…3I…again he’s pushed it just a bit…that’ll roll off a few feet off the back.
A few moments ago…Singh, from 34 feet as he pulled his approach just a bit…He’ll have that left (about two feet) for par…McDowell…hit an 8I to eleven feet pin high…make that two in a row for him…nice putt!…that’ll get him to 9-under.
Back to sixteen:
Willett…out of the bunker…just has to get it on and it should roll the rest of the way…What a shot!…Willett never expected for that to go in. But, because it missed by so little, he’s probably wondering how come it didn’t go in. He’ll tap in…Spieth…12 feet…just missed. But he’s still leading at 10-under.
Mickelson from just off the back…He’ll have a little work left (about six feet)…the good news is that it’s uphill…Matsuyama from about eight feet…uphill a little right to left…if he sinks it, he’ll take over the lead…How did he leave that short. Both made their birdie putts so both joined Spieth at 10-under.
Over to fourteen:
Jaidee out-drove Day, for a change…Day, from 162…with a 9I…right next to the pin!…but it’ll spin back a bit….Jaidee…9I from 145…pulled it just a bit.
Spieth…right down the middle…Willett…pretty much along for the ride now as he has virtually no chance…Pushed it.
McDowell…9-under…from 250…as this is the last real birdie opportunity on the course he has to go for it…3W…it’ll be tough to hold the green with that…nice shot…had the distance right except that it won’t hold and’ll roll a couple yards off the back…Singh…after hitting his drive just over 300 has 227…4I…that’ll hold the green. Great shot!…from about ten feet, he’ll have a decent chance at eagle. At 7-under now, birdie likely won’t be good enough.
Just a few moments ago…Just past 30 feet…Nice putt…He tapped in for par…Day…ten feet…not easy as there’s not too much straight on this course…just ran it past. Pars for both. So Day is at 9-under and Jaidee at seven.
Live now…Day…right down the middle…Jaidee…Also well out there.
Over to sixteen:
Matsuyama…7I…doesn’t want to be there (far right in the way back and looking at a 50 foot downhill putt)…Mickelson…Also with a 7I…Much better…over the flag…but he’ll have a little work left for birdie.
McDowell from just off the back…Nice chip…about two feet left for birdie…Singh…eleven feet…needs this eagle putt to get to 9-under…left to right…just missed…he’ll have to settle for birdie. McDowell to 10-under. He’s tied for the lead.
Willett’s in the trees but Spieth is away…170 with an 8I…That’s a mistake…He just pulled it…a chip and a putt—maybe. Willett…should be able to get it to the green but doesn’t have a line to the pin…
Jaidee from 232…4I…looks good…a little short. Just kicks on. He got real lucky there as he could have easily hit the apron, popped up and rolled back into the pond…Day…222 with a 5I…Uh, oh, pushed it…Will it carry?…Just made it over…How did that not roll back into the pond…Day with a big break…Let’s see if he can cash that in.
McDowell with honors…6I…lots of guys have been going with sevens…Oh, that’s long…should’ve used the seven…Singh, at 8-under, needs birdie…7I…a little long, but he’ll be able to putt.
Spieth had what seemed to be an easy approach with an 8I but pulled it…now has to run a chip along the top part of the green near the fringe…good line…not slowing down fast enough and Spieth will still have some work left, like ten feet worth…Willett, from just off the front…looks good…and that rolls past. Spieth missed his par putt from eleven feet and Willett did likewise from seven. So, Spieth falls back to 9-under and out of the lead. At 6-under, Willett’s done.
Back to fifteen:
Both guys would rather be lucky than good as both approaches could well have rolled back into the pond. Day, first to play…Good line…runs it just past…he’ll have about five feet coming back…Jaidee…also a good line…didn’t quite get it there…makeable birdie putt coming up. Day made his putt and Jaidee his. So Day has a piece of the lead at 10-under with Jaidee two back.
Let’s take a look at the leaderboard:
Mickelson -10 16
Day -10 15
McDowell -10 15
Spieth – 9 17
Matsuyama – 9 16
Jaidee – 8 15
Singh – 8 15
Back to sixteen:
McDowell flew the green…Has a good lie but it’ll be difficult to get close…too hard…looked like he wanted to land it above the hole and hoped gravity would take over…but that ran well past…might have hit more ball than he bargained for and he’ll still have a very difficult putt…Three words McDowell didn’t want to hear–‘still your turn’…long putt…close…he’ll tap in for a difficult bogey…Singh, now…Outside of 30 feet…not quite enough…that’ll run just under the hole…easy par, but he needed birdie as he stays at 8-under while McDowell falls to -9.
Spieth…he’s frustrated…that’s headed well right…Willett hooked his a bit left but he’ll have a look at the green from between the trees.
A few moments ago…Mickelson jacked his tee shot well right and had no choice but to hit a SW to here (center fairway about 80 yards out)…nice shot…he’ll have about seven feet for what would be a great par…Matsuyama…also hit into the trees on the right but had a look at the left center of the green…the pin’s way right, though…He’s on. At least he has a chance…Back to live action…Matsuyama…Shotlink says 42 feet…Oh, my! What a putt!…That’ll get him into a share of the lead at -10…You can bet that everyone still in contention heard the cheering here…Mickelson, waiting for the crowd to die down…What a par save!…And you can bet the other five heard that, too.
Final pairing at sixteen:
Day with an 8I…Most have gone with a seven…A little short but he’s on…maybe fifteen feet…Jaidee…at 8-under…needs to birdie at least two of the final three to have a chance. And even that might not be enough…7I…a little right of Day’s ball…about the same distance.
Singh, like Matsuyama, has to birdie out…right down the middle…McDowell…dropped a stroke at the last…pulled it a bit…clips the trees…but he’ll have a look at the green though it’s probably about 40 yards back of what he had hoped for.
Just a moment ago…Spieth had no choice but to chip out to the tenth fairway. Now his third from 135…he has to hole this out to likely have any chance…9I…over the pin…a little too aggressive as it takes one hop and lands on the back fringe as he was hoping to spin it back.
Back to the tee on eighteen:
Matsuyama, coming off a birdie…Shares the lead at 10-under…Nice drive…Mickelson at 10-under and also with a share of the lead…Nice shot…He’ll have a good look at the green.
McDowell from 197…a little longer than he bargained for…5I out of the rough, which isn’t that rough around here…looks good…Wow! That almost went in on the fly…But it’ll roll past and just off the green…Singh…from 172…7I…needs birdie…needs two birdies, come to think of it…That looks good…within ten feet…definitely a makeable putt.
The official had to come out make a determination as Shotlink had the exact same fourteen-foot length for both Day and Jaidee…Jaidee will go first…just slides past…He’ll tap in…at 8-under, he’ll have to birdie the final two…Day…right to left and downhill a bit…looks good…Yes!…You know the other five still in contention heard that…Spieth now knows for certain he’s finished…par putt for Spieth…nearly 50 feet from just off the green…Nice putt but not good enough…He’ll tap in for bogey…If there’s any consolation, he’ll be the clubhouse leader—tied with Rickie Fowler—at 8-under. But, barring disaster for all still out there, that won’t last long…Willett now cleaning up his par effort…disappointing day for him but he’s had a good tournament at 6-under.
McDowell, from just off the back…Just missed…That was close…You don’t expect to make putts from that far, especially on these greens but when you get that close…he’ll tap in…remains at 9-under…Singh…has to make this…oh, just a bit too aggressive…he’ll stay at -8.
Day, with a one-shot lead…He didn’t want to do that…pushed it right into the trees…pounding his club on the ground in disgust…Jaidee…nice drive down the right side.
Back to eighteen:
Matsuyama from 184…at 10-under…6I…looks good…maybe 10-12 feet…He’ll have a chance to get a share of the lead…Mickelson…Bones flashing six fingers, so 6I…pushed it…He’ll have to get up and down to stay at 10-under and hope Day bogeys at least one of the last two and Matsuyama misses here.
McDowell…nice shot…doesn’t hit them as far as many out here but he almost always leaves himself a good look…Singh, just a moment ago…Nice drive, but he’ll have to hole out his approach.
Day and Jaidee actually have the same distance…162 for both…Day will be first to play…He got very lucky in that he has a little opening and can hit the club he wants, as opposed to keeping it low with a less lofted club…8I…Oh, my goodness! What a shot!…he’ll have that much left (maybe eight feet) to likely salt this thing away…Jaidee…now knows he needs birdie here to have any chance at all…Wow!…just as good as Day’s shot.
Mickelson…a little too far off the green so he’ll have to chip…Oh!…Mickelson thought he had it…so did most of the patrons (don’t call them ‘gallery’ as the folks at Augusta don’t like that as they think ‘gallery’ means ‘mob’)…Matsuyama…to get to 11-under and a share of the lead…twelve feet…just slide by…pars for both and they’ll have to wait and see what Day can do.
Let’s look at the leaderboard:
Day -11 16
Matsuyama -10 F
Mickelson -10 F
McDowell – 9 17
Fowler – 8 F
Spieth – 8 F
Singh – 8 17
Jaidee – 8 16
Day…seven feet…He could effectively finish it right here…Oh!…He thought he had it but it just slid by…Jaidee, to get to (minus) nine…six feet…Bullseye!…He needed that.
Singh, marginally away…He has to hole this out from 185…5I…that’s a lot of club, even a bit uphill…long…stopped quickly enough but no backspin…he’ll be past 30 feet…McDowell…needs a birdie to have any chance…also with a 5I…not quite enough…might have hit it a little fat…but he’s on and will have an uphill putt.
Back to the tee:
Jaidee…needs birdie, maybe more than that…right down the middle…at least he’s giving himself a chance…Day, with a one-shot lead…doesn’t want to make the mistake he did on the last hole, though he nearly got a birdie…good shot.
Up to the green:
Singh, from 37 feet…He’ll have that left (about six feet) for par…McDowell…27 feet, uphill, a little left to right…Big time putt for McDowell!…Day saw that…Doesn’t really matter to him as there are already two (Mickelson and Matsuyama) at -10…Now there are three.
Last look at the leaderboard:
Day -11 17
Matsuyama -10 F
McDowell -10 F
Mickelson -10 F
Jaidee – 9 17
Jaidee, from 172…7I…certainly needs birdie and hopes Day somehow messes up…good line…a little too hard…spins back but he’ll still be about 20 feet above the hole…Day…162…8I…pushed it a little…and long…looks like it’ll hold the green…but he’ll be putting from a different area code.
No guaranteed winner yet as Day still has a lot to go. But Jaidee, being the gentleman, encouraging Day to walk on ahead. Day’s never won a major. He’s been close as he’s finished second and third here and has two seconds under his belt at the US Open.
Day, now getting a really good look at what he has to do…shaking his head a bit…He knew he dodged a bullet at seventeen…this one is 60 feet, downhill, big time right to left…just wants to get it close…on the way…great putt, especially under the circumstances!…but, not necessarily a gimme…three feet usually is, but on the eighteenth hole of the Masters when you’re looking for your first major…Jaidee now…needs to make this to have even a whisper of a chance…hey, he tried…what’s the old expression, ‘never up, never in?’…but it’ll still be his turn…even if he were inside of Day it still would have been his turn…seven feet…nice putt!…saves par…nice tournament for Jaidee…9-under in his second Masters…OK, Day now…three feet…for the win…not wasting any time…It’s in! Day has won his first major!…Getting congratulations from his fellow competitors who hung around near the green after signing their scorecards…Day wins it by a shot at 11-under!
Sorry to say that Day’s actual performance was more uneventful as he finished at 1-under and tied for 28th as Spieth won his first major by four shots at 18-under with Mickelson finishing second. Matsuyama tied for fifth at 11-under and McIlroy also made an appearance in both top tens. -7 and tied for ninth in the replay, he finished fourth at 12-under in the actual tourney.
JASON DAY (-11)
No, it’s not a green jacket, something he has yet to win in real life,
but something equally as prestigious, which he might win in fantasy-land.
Harbour Town Golf Links
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Jordan Spieth, fresh off being ticked at himself for letting a solid chance of winning his first major get away, and the kid from up the road from me, Morgan Hoffman, share the first round lead, each with 9-under 62.
7-under 29 for Spieth as he made the front nine his own personal shooting gallery. He nearly holed out from 111 at the first—as in edge of the cup nearly. At the 199-yard, par-three fourth, he placed a 6I to three feet. He eagled the par-five next. OK, that was a 26 foot putt. And, at eight, he hit a 6I eight to eight feet right of the pin. Spieth cooled off on the back nine as he just couldn’t seem to hit close. He did at sixteen and made birdie. His other was a chip-in from just off the back at thirteen.
Hoffmann also played the front side in a blistering 29. Though you have to have a good approach game to do that, Hoffmann wasn’t as sharp in that department as Spieth as his putter did some talking, too—fifteen feet at four and sixteen at nine. He also eagled the fifth. But that was on a short-sided chip-in. Like Spieth, Hoffmann had trouble getting close on the back nine. The two he cashed in on were a 9I to three feet at thirteen and, at fifteen, the lone par-five on the inward nine and a three-shotter for most as it’s difficult to bring in a long iron over the trees to the green, Hoffmann almost holed out his third, tapping in for his four.
Then, it’s at least two shots to everyone else with Marcel Siem, Brandt Snedeker, Chad Campbell and Justin Thomas at 64 with Justin Leonard, Brian Stuard, Kevin Streelman, Troy Merritt, Charley Hoffman and Patrick Reed at 65 with Stuard and Reed also making it to the highlight reel. Gunn Yang, one of three amateurs to make the cut last week at the Masters, is one of eleven who shot 66.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Time for Quicken Loans to pay some mortgages.
Stuard and Reed at four. 199, par-three, water down the left and fronting the left half of the green. Pin on the right or, in other words, accessible. Stuard aced it with a 5I while Reed did likewise with a six.
Matt Kuchar at seven. 207, par-three. Sand surrounds three-quarters of the kidney-shaped green, the front of which is framed by trees. In other words, hit it on or close or get screwed. Kuchar made his hole-in-one with a 6I.
That makes seven holes-in-one this season. Amazingly, all have occurred in the first round.
Leonard at sixteen. Dogleg left, 389, par-four. This hole must have been lengthened recently, because the PGA Tour says 434. Maybe they wanted to make the tee shot more challenging as it’s maybe a long iron or hybrid out to the fairway avoiding the tree in the middle of it at 275 then a short iron in. Tacking on another 50 would make this 3W or driver hole and tight as trees and waste sand hug the left side. Leonard, not long off the tee, used his 3W, hitting it 255. From 135, he holed out a 9I for his second eagle of the round as he knocked in a 46-foot putt at two for his first.
There are a couple really good stories going on here and the only reason why this first story is going first is because this guy still has the lead.
The first story is Morgan Hoffmann shooting his second consecutive 62. Amazingly, he has only a one-shot lead at 18-under. And that’s because of the second story. And that doesn’t involve Jordan Spieth, who also shot 62 yesterday.
Unlike yesterday, Hoffmann’s approach game was right on target today. He hit to three feet with a choked down wedge at the first. At the par-three third he hit a 7I at the 195-yard hole to a foot. To six feet at nine. To seven feet at the three-shot par-five fifteenth. And to four feet with a 7I at the last. He made one lengthy putt—28 feet at eleven. And he chipped in from the side of the green at ten.
So, a pair of 62s and Hoffmann leads by just one? That’s because Ian Poulter set a PGA Tour record and tied the ASG record with a 13-under 58 (Phil Mickelson at Mayakoba). The good news is, as this is the first shot-by-shot 58 I’ve witnessed, it can be dissected, if not shot-by-shot, certainly hole-by-hole.
First hole: Out-drove the fairway by a little bit, hit to eleven feet and made birdie.
Second hole: Missed right with his tee shot at the par-five but faded the heck out of a 2I to just seven feet. But he missed the eagle putt.
Third hole: Two-putt par from fourteen feet.
Fourth hole: Barely held the right side of the green at the par-three but made a 37-foot birdie putt.
Fifth hole: On in two at the par-five but rolled to the back of the green while the pin was up front. Two-putted for birdie from nearly 70 feet.
Sixth hole: Just off the back right at the par-four and two-putted for par.
Seventh hole: The other front side par-three and, again, was on the wrong side of the green. But he covered for that by sinking a 41-footer for birdie.
Eighth hole: Two-putt par from 28 feet.
Ninth hole: The hole plays only 325 but, with sand covering the entire front of the V-shaped green, it’s a two-shotter. Poulter hit his second to three feet. Birdie. That started a run of five straight birdies.
Tenth hole: Fifteen-foot birdie putt.
Eleventh hole: 8I to four feet at the back pin location and birdie.
Twelfth hole: Pin high with a 7I but a little left. Made the thirteen-footer.
Thirteenth hole: 9I on target but spun back a little. Made the eleven-footer.
Fourteen and fifteen: The only back-to-back pars all day. Missed the green at the par-three fourteenth but chipped close. On in three at fifteen but missed from twelve feet for birdie.
Sixteenth hole: After a lousy tee shot where he was left of even the massive waste sand on the inside of the dogleg, Poulter was able to draw a SW around the trees to the green. And made the thirteen-footer for birdie.
Seventeenth hole: Not only on the wrong side of the green at the par-three but off of it. Able to putt off the short grass, he sank the 37-foot putt for birdie. So, though Poulter was awful with his tee shots at the par-threes, he still played them in a collective 3-under. When things are going right…
Eighteenth hole: 4I from 202 to five feet and yet another birdie.
30 on the front and 28 on the back (par is 36-35). I used to be able to shoot in the mid-50s on the old Links game at this course. And that’s because it wasn’t too hard to control the shots and the greens were fairly easy because they’re not nearly as contoured as many of the other courses these fellows play. But Poulter made it look like Links out there.
After those two, it’s difficult to say that 14-under and four shots back is mundane, but it might be. Spieth shot 66 and Germany’s Marcel Siem made it two consecutive rounds of 64 to get to that point.
Spieth had his first and, so far, only bogey of the tournament when he hit into the waste area at six and couldn’t get home. But he more than made up for that by chipping in from about 65 feet for birdie at eight and putting from 45 feet and just off the green at ten.
Amazingly, Siem’s 64 came with three bogeys. More amazingly, two came at par-fives. At five, he hooked his drive in the water and, at sixteen, he pulled his 2I second into the water. Hooks with a driver happen, but the second at sixteen was an error in judgment as he could have hit an easy 4I or 5I for placement as he never could have reached with that 2I. Otherwise, though Siem hit close a few times, he also made some long ones—44 feet at six, 22 at sixteen and 51 from just off the green at seventeen.
After those four, it’s double digits under par just to be in the top ten. Troy Merritt (64) and Chad Campbell (65) are at 13-under and tied for fifth. With back-to-back 66s, Charles Howell III is at -12. Patrick Reed (66) and Justin Thomas (67) are tied for eighth at -11 with George McNeill (62) and Carlos Ortiz (64) at 10-under. McNeill nearly holed out at eleven and sank a short-sided chip at eighteen.
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Another day, another shooting gallery as the course is playing at about 2 ½ shots under par. All shots below were for eagle.
Russell Henley holed out with an 8I from 158 at three. Henley got all the 6-under he is in the tourney today with a 65.
Jonathan Byrd holed out with a choked down SW from 96 at nine. With a 64 today, he’s just outside the top ten at -9.
Ben Crane holed kept it just inside the severe dogleg at sixteen while taking the tree in the fairway out of play. He holed out from 98. And then he dropped a 45-footer from off the green for birdie at seventeen. And those were the last two good things he’d do this week as his 68 today and 2-under total weren’t good enough to play tomorrow and Sunday. Speaking of:
THE CUT LINE:
-5, which is the lowest two-round cut line of the season, beating the one in Las Vegas by a shot. 73 will be around for the weekend. Leaving early include Danny Lee, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, Zach Blair, Vijay Singh and, even though he can still play well at his advanced age, Tom Watson (+6), who beat absolutely nobody.
Shoot even-par in this place and you’re going to get run over, even if you were the leader coming in.
After a pair of 62s, Morgan Hoffmann shot even-par 71 and three players passed him by with three others pulling even. A quick look: After no bogeys in the first two rounds, Hoffmann had four today on a combination of poor tee shots and some sub-standard work around the green. A good example: At six, a sweeping dogleg left, Hoffmann pushed his tee shots, farther right than even the large bunker residing there. Having the distance but not the angle to get to the green, he missed just left and into a deep bunker. Needing to get the ball up quickly, he got more ball than he would have liked and flew the green. Even so, he nearly chipped in for par but had to settle for a tap-in bogey. He’s still at 18-under which, though tied for fourth, is now six shots out of the lead…
…which is held by Ian Poulter, who shot a far more pedestrian 64 after his record-breaking 58 of yesterday. He’s at 24-under.
A half-roll of the ball one way or the other and Poulter might have shot 62 or less. As it is, he leads by two. Picking up where he left off yesterday, he hit a pitching wedge that stopped at the edge of the cup at one. On the back nine, Poulter ran off four birdies in a row starting by hitting a 9I to a foot at twelve. At thirteen, he almost holed out from a buck and quarter, once again a light breeze away from the ball falling into the hole. At the par-three fourteenth, Poulter put a 6I to two feet. Then he got up and down at the lone par-five from 105 to eight feet.
First round co-leader Jordan Spieth shot a 63 to take sole possession of second at -22. With Billy Horschel and his 60 today at -19 (more in a moment), other than Spieth, Poulter has at least five shots on the rest of the field. But, with lots of low scores, tomorrow could be quite amusing.
Under optimal conditions, most who kept it in play could attack the pins with short irons, and Spieth was no exception. Even so, he still made four birdie putts of over ten feet, including 48 feet from just off the green at eight.
And now for Mr. Horschel. 60. With a bogey when he hit a fat 6I at the fourth into the drink. So he hit from the drop area—about 110—to four feet and salvaged bogey. And, with that bogey coming after three consecutive birdies to start his round, including approaches to two feet at one and a foot at three, Horschel bounced right back with four more birdies in a row including flashing the putter at seven (seventeen feet) and eight (ten feet) and again at ten (32). One that got away came at twelve when he missed from eight feet. Undaunted, Horschel birdied the next two, including chipping in from nearly 50 feet at fourteen. Another one that might have gotten away was at the par-five fifteenth when he hit his third to nine feet. Quite possibly a bit pumped up with having a 59 in his sights, he ran the birdie putt three feet past but made the par. Though he birdied sixteen, the chance at 59 disappeared when he missed the green just left and in the bunker at the par-three seventeenth. Faced with a short bunker shot out of a deep bunker and without a lot of green to work with, Horschel put a little too much mustard on it as it went past the pin and just off the green. But he saved par anyway by sinking the 25-footer off the fringe. Horschel got his 60 at the last. Over the pin out of the rough with his second, he buried a 24-footer for birdie. And, with that, Horschel is all alone in third at 19-under.
The other three, besides Hoffmann, in a tie for fourth at 18-under are Carlos Ortiz (63), Chad Campbell (66) and Marcel Siem (67). Three are tied for eighth at 17-under: Pat Perez (63), Patrick Reed (66) and Troy Merritt (68).
SHOTS OF THE DAY:
Mark Wilson at two. Par-five and, at 490 (pin was at the front of the green but the hole is short, no matter what), it was reachable for everyone who hit it on or near the fairway. Wilson hit a 3I from 218 that was almost a double-eagle, stopping to within tap-in distance. Might be the easiest eagle he’ll ever make. Unfortunately, with five bogeys, he didn’t do too well after that great start and shot 70. 8-under wouldn’t be too bad in many tournaments. Here, Wilson is being lapped.
Martin Flores at five. The other front side par-five. With about a 45 degree dogleg to the left, without a draw on the driver, it’s possible to out-drive the fairway. Flores almost got in trouble as he cut a bit too much off the dogleg. Just a bit more and he might have been in the hazard that runs down most of the left side from where the hole turns. With a good look out of the rough, his 3I was on target but released and rolled off the back. At which point he chipped in from 45 feet for eagle.
The only eagles today occurred at two (six) and five (five). Yet two players had two helpings of eagle, Flores being one with Ortiz the other. Ortiz we know about as he’s tied for fourth. Flores (68, meaning he gave back after 4-under worth of eagles) is at -11, tied for 24th.
Must’ve been the Sunday pin placements as the weather was beautiful for the fourth straight day. Because a course that was playing 2 ½ shots under par for the first three days was playing a stroke harder today. And, when there have been a 58, a 60 and four 62s, no one could break 64 today (George McNeill, who had one of those 62s).
With Ian Poulter, he of the 58, up by two over Jordan Spieth, he of a 62 and a 63, it was generally a two-man contest, though Horschel, he of the 60 and, down five, next in line past Spieth, finished strongly and ended up splitting the place and show pool.
Both Poulter and Spieth birdied the par-five second. But, where things turned a bit was at the other front nine par-five.
At the fifth, Poulter out-drove the dogleg and, though being under the trees, did well to advance a low 4I to within about 30 yards of the green. In the end, he made par. Spieth rolled just into the rough and had a much better look at the green. He not only got on in two, but hit to twelve feet and sank the eagle putt to pull even with Poulter at 25-under.
Spieth dropped a shot at seven—only his fourth bogey of the tournament—when he under-clubbed a 6I at the par-three as he landed in the front bunker. With the pin in the way back, he had trouble getting close.
Poulter backed into Spieth at eight. On in two, he may have misjudged the distance as he came up two clubs short and it took him three putts to get down from 65 feet.
Both backed up again at eleven. For Poulter, it was another three-putt, this time from half the distance compared to the one at eight, as he ran his first putt five feet past. Spieth took a bit of a flyer out of the rough, chipped OK but missed from six feet to salvage par.
Spieth pulled back even at the thirteenth when he hit his PW approach on the number to a tight front pin location immediately behind a large deep bunker then dropped a nine-footer for birdie. For the record, Poulter pulled his approach into the bunker, blasted out, with his ball rolling just off the green and he drained his eleven-footer to salvage par.
At that point, enter Horschel, even if but for a drive-by as, while Poulter was stuck at even-par and Spieth two shots better, Horschel was 3-under and now two shots back at 22-under.
Spieth had honors at fourteen and overshot the green with a 7I at the 194-yard hole. The good news was that he was still on the short grass. Poulter flirted with the water that frames the green right and center with the pin at its Sunday best in the back right. He came up short with a 7I by seventeen feet. Spieth chipped—not too well, leaving nine feet. Poulter applied the pressure by making his birdie putt. And Spieth responded to that by sinking his par putt or it could’ve been a two-shot swing.
Both birdied the par-five fifteenth, Poulter on an up and down from 76 while Spieth had a great look from the right fairway and tried to draw a 3I. Unfortunately, the penal front bunker got in the way. But Spieth blasted out to three feet and converted. Horschel had birdied the thirteenth (pin high to ten feet) and actually got on in two at fourteen, no small feat as the dogleg is only 100 yards from the green, meaning either serious draw or serious height on a fairway wood or long iron. Horschel hit just past the pin with a 4I, his ball rolling to the back where he two-putted from past 50 feet. That got Horschel to 24-under, within a shot of Spieth and two of Poulter.
Both Spieth and Poulter played for placement at sixteen, though Spieth had to stand in the waste bunker to hit his second out of the rough. Both hit to within 10-12 feet of a tight left pin placement. But both missed their birdie putts.
Poulter overshot the green with a 5I at the 194-yard seventeenth. So, Spieth went with the six and landed in the center of the green. But the pin was back left and Spieth still had 35 feet to go. Poulter chipped to seven feet—not great but makeable. And Spieth might have surprised even himself by sinking his birdie putt. Though even with Spieth, Poulter looked a bit deflated while Horschel was walking toward his second shot now knowing he needed a miracle. Poulter pushed his putt just a hair and it was a two-shot swing, Spieth now with a one-shot lead heading into eighteen.
Horschel hit his second at eighteen pin high but a bit right and had 23 feet for birdie. Fast forward a sec… He made it, meaning he had to hope Spieth, who had just four bogeys all week, had one more in him while Poulter and his truckload of birdies would do no better than par.
Spieth had honors at eighteen and steered clear of Calibogue Sound, so much so that his drive trickled into the right rough. Even so, he had a good look at the green. The pin? Another story as, front and left, there was no way from that lie and that angle to get close. But all he needed was par.
Poulter swung for the fence but pushed drive even farther right than Spieth, right of the cart path. Like Spieth, he had a line to the green but not the pin.
Poulter was first to go from 185 and played a 5I as well as could be expected, landing on the right side of the green and rolling to the center. But, remember, he’d be putting from the top tier of a two-tiered green.
Spieth was a bit more conservative, his ball a bit right of Poulter’s, just catching the side of the green and rolling just off the back. Where Poulter would have 37 feet worth of putt, Spieth would have 30 more feet plus, should he wish to putt, the speed of the short grass plus that tier of the green to deal with.
Spieth elected to use his putter. All he wanted to do was to just get close, no small order from nearly 70 feet. Let’s just say Spieth was quite content as he got the speed right, his ball stopping three feet to the Sound side of the cup.
Poulter, just about done, hit a foot closer than Spieth and made his par to leave the dance floor, so to speak, open for Spieth to make his winning putt. Which he did.
So, Spieth, with a final round 67, wins for the second time this year and, once again in record fashion. At Riviera, he shattered Lanny Wadkins’ 25-year old tournament record by eight shots. At 26-under here, he shattered Brian Gay’s six year-old tournament record by a half dozen.
As it turned out, three others would have broken the tournament record as well. But the record book will give them short shrift as players who didn’t win. Those three are Poulter (70, -25), Horschel (65, -25) and Pat Perez (66, -21), who’s playing some good golf after a third at the Farmers and win at the Texas Open three weeks ago that ended a six-year winless funk.
As for the rest of the top ten, Justin Thomas (66) finished fourth at 20-under. Troy Merritt (68) was at -19. Morgan Hoffmann stalled out after opening rounds of 62 to shoot 71 in the final two. He finished at -18, tied for sixth with two other guys who shot 71—Chad Campbell and Carlos Ortiz. Ben Martin (66) and Russell Henley (67) finished tied for tenth at 17-under.
For the record book, DJ Trahan, who earned back his Tour card with a win in Puerto Rico, finally made his first cut since, finishing tied for 65th at 5-under. Also Smylie Kaufman, who finished tied for fifth at Houston in his debut as a pro and, as a result, earned a free pass into this tournament, something he didn’t do in real life, finished tied for 32nd at 11-under, not too bad. Unfortunately, with playing actual lineups for the most part, Kaufman won’t show up again until the Barbasol, which will run concurrently with the Open Championship.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
With neither any holes-in-one nor any hole outs from any appreciable distance, the honor goes to Spieth’s 35-foot birdie putt at seventeen that gave him the lead for good—with help from Poulter’s bogey.
Jim Furyk, who hadn’t won in five years, needed birdies on both playoff holes to defeat Kevin Kisner. Winning score: 18-under. In the replay, Furyk still hasn’t won, finishing tied for 26th at -12 while Kisner shot rounds of 69-70 and still missed the cut.
Spieth, who played pretty well after winning The Masters, and could have been excused if he suffered any letdown, still played pretty well, finishing tied for eleventh at -10. In the replay, he took out his aggressions at being tied for the lead as late as the fifteenth hole on Sunday before losing by three as Jason Day won his first major as he set yet another tournament record.
The only golfers to appear in both top tens were Merritt (third at -16, two shots back) and Hoffmann (tied for ninth at -11).
JORDAN SPIETH (-26)
And yet another tournament record and lots more money in his bank account
Zurich Classic of New Orleans
This one’s quick play, so don’t expect a lot of detail.
It’s New Orleans, or at least close by, so expect damp (it was) and a little soft and slow (it was), necessitating lift, clean and place. Bernd Wiesberger (I prefer mine not so well done) has the first round lead with an 8-under 64. He birdied five of the final six on the front nine. He might have scored 63 except for the bogey at the par-three seventeenth when he steered clear of the water running all the way down the left side and, instead, went too far right and didn’t chip close.
Harris English and Kyle Reifers are at 65. After making bogey at four, English bogeyed eight of the next including five in a row starting at ten.
Russell Knox is at 66 with seven more at 67: Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Adam Hadwin, Steven Alker, Tommy Gainey, Scott Stallings and Colt Knost.
It does dry out around here occasionally, so it seems. No lift, clean and place today.
And Scott Stallings shot his second consecutive 67 to take a one-shot lead at the halfway mark at 10-under. It’s been 36 holes and no bogeys for Stallings who also birdied just one par-five today, which happened to be the most difficult one on the course—the eighteenth—585 with water all the way down the right. For what it’s worth, “most difficult” doesn’t mean the number fifteen handicap hole as the par-fives are usually the number 15-18 holes on the course. This one is number eleven.
Harris English, who was in second yesterday, is still there, a round of 70 leaving him a shot behind Stallings. After two bogeys yesterday, English had three more today. Five bogeys and he’s still scoring. He also finished birdie-birdie.
Kevin Kisner shot the round of the day (65) and is part of a five-man crew tied for third at -8. Kisner eagled the second. OK, it’s a par-five. But the green was doubled in size and elevated a bit in time for last year’s (last year being 2014, as we’re playing ’15 here) tourney. The rest of the crew at 8-under are Michael Thompson (66), Jason Day (68), Justin Thomas (69) and Kyle Reifers (70).
Three are tied at 7-under: Robert Streb (66), Ryo Ishikawa (69) and yesterday’s leader Bernd Wiesberger (73).
THE CUT LINE:
Even-par with 83 playing on the weekend. As noted, there is no secondary cut.
Those leaving early include Sam Saunders, Retief Goosen, Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger, Sean O’Hair, Steven Alker, who was only in the top ten yesterday then shot the day’s worst 81 today, and, since he earned back his Tour card in Puerto Rico and he’s being kept track of as a result, DJ Trahan. So Trahan is two-for-six in making the cut since.
So much for a pair of 67s and the lead as Scott Stallings bogeyed the final three holes and finished with a 2-over 74. He’s still in the top ten—barely–at 8-under, four shots out of the lead.
John Senden shot the round of the day with a 64. What that did for him as one of the early starters was to put him atop the leaderboard with Stallings, who had yet to start, and was the leader in the clubhouse for quite a while. For the moment, he’s tied for third at 10-under, two shots back.
Senden birdied all four par-fives. What he wasn’t was streaky as he never birdied more than two holes in a row. Senden might have shot 63, but he bogeyed the par-three seventeenth. But he bounced back with a birdie at the last.
Michael Thompson is the current leader at -12 after a round of 68. He was busy on the front with five birdies, though they were offset just a bit by a pair of bogeys. He was also ready to close strongly as he birdied sixteen and would birdie eighteen. But the par-three seventeenth caused him trouble as it did to many others as it’s the number two handicap hole. He bogeyed there.
Cameron Smith had the second best round of the day with a 65. That got him to 11-under and into the final twosome tomorrow. Like Senden, Smith never birdied more than two holes in a row, though he did birdie four out of five starting at eleven.
Joining Senden in the tie for third are Robert Streb (69) and Justin Thomas (70). After that, Chad Campbell (69), Kyle Reifers (71) and Harris English (72) are tied for sixth at 9-under. Joining Stallings in a tie for ninth at -8 are Troy Merritt (68), Jason Day (72) and Kevin Kisner (72).
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Aaron Baddeley at thirteen.
403 on the scorecard, this hole bears a decent resemblance to the sixteenth at Harbour Town. Sharp dogleg left, large splotch of waste sand to the inside of the dogleg and even a tree in the fairway, though at 297 from the tee, it’s more in play than the one in Hilton head. Or, lay back with a long iron or hybrid, take the tree out of play and come in with a full PW. Or, do one thing that can’t be done at Hilton Head because of all the trees in the way–drive the green—365 to the center. But it’s 325 to carry the waste sand.
As he’s not long off the tee like some around here Baddeley laid back then holed out from probably about 130-135 for eagle. After a horrific 39 front that had four bogeys, including three in a row, the eagle jump started the back nine for Baddeley as he played thirteen through seventeen in 5-under and finished under par at 70. He’s also under par for the tourney at -6.
Must’ve been the Sunday pin placements as the weather and course conditions couldn’t have been better. Only one man shot lights out today and he was too far behind to make it than a really profitable day for him.
That man was Morgan Hoffmann, whose 64 was, with the exception of Fabian Gomez (66) and John Merrick (67), two guys who were further out of it than he was, four shots better than anyone. For the record, it got him to 10-under and a tie for seventh.
What that meant was that the leaders had to grind it out today.
Michael Thompson, who came into today with a one-shot lead, bogeyed his first two holes, the second a par-five, and, for good measure, the fourth as well. But, as quickly as things went bad, he turned it around with three consecutive birdies.
Cameron Smith was Thompson’s playing partner. Starting the day one shot behind, he birdied the fifth to temporarily grab a hold of the lead.
Robert Streb, who started the day at 10-under birdied the two front nine par-fives to get to 12-under.
John Senden was Streb’s playing partner. He bogeyed the fourth but he eventually got rolling, a birdie at the tenth getting him to 12-under.
The third man at 10-under starting today, Justin Thomas, birdied the first, gave it back at ten but got it right back at eleven.
Now add Jason Day and Cameron Smith into the mix and, at the turn, there were three men in the lead at 12-under and four others a shot behind.
It was four men at 12-under when Senden birdied the tenth with Thomas making bogey to fall back to -10. But he’s get that shot back with a birdie at the par-five eleventh. Thompson would birdie that hole as well to take the lead at -13.
Smith dropped back with a bogey at twelve, which saw Thompson lead Streb by one with at least two to everyone else.
But Smith bounced back with birdies at thirteen and fourteen to get to 13-under. Streb birdied the thirteenth to get to -13 as well.
Harris English started the day at 9-under. He bounced around the front nine, getting to -11 by the seventh hole but fell back with a bogey at the par-five eleventh. But he birdied the fourteenth and fifteenth to join the party at 13-under. But, as quickly as he got to the party, he had to leave as he double-bogeyed the sixteenth. At 355, some try to drive it close. But there’s water on the left side from 90 yards in and 236 to clear a large bunker complex on the right with not a lot of wiggle room once you do. Not sure what English did but it’s a good bet water was involved and he fell back to 11-under. Though he’d birdie the par-five last, he’d come up a shot short.
Smith bogeyed both the fifteenth as well as the par-three seventeenth before birdieing the eighteenth and he, too, would come up a shot short.
Thomas would never do better than 12-under and he’d bogey the final two to fall back to -10.
Day was 11-under after seven and never improved on it, finishing that way after a fifteenth hole bogey and seventeenth hole birdie.
That leaves two—Streb and Thompson.
At 13-under coming into seventeen, Streb pulled his ball just a bit into the water. But, after a drop near the green, he was able to chip close and salvage a bogey.
13-under at one time, Thompson bogeyed the thirteenth and fifteenth but bounced back with bogeys at sixteen and seventeen.
Needing birdie at eighteen, Streb did just that, a tall order as the hole plays 585 with water all the way down the right side.
Needing par to stay even, Thompson did just that.
The playoff will start at eighteen. But first…
THE TOP TEN:
After Streb (69) and Thompson (71), it’s English (69) and Smith (71) tied for third at -12, Whee Kim (68) and Day (69) tied for fifth at 11-under, Hoffmann (64) and Thomas (72) tied for seventh at -10, Zach Sucher (68, and who hasn’t done much with two cuts made in eight tries coming into this week), Stallings (71) and Senden (73) tied for ninth at 9-under.
Justin Rose won by a shot at 22-under. In the replay, he made the cut by a shot and limped in at +6 beating or tying only four others.
Day (-19) and Kim (-17) were the only two players to appear in both top tens.
Thompson finished tied for 48th at 10-under while Streb missed the cut, which was -3.
One and done as Streb birdied while Thompson pushed his second in the water (it sounds good) and made bogey.
ROBERT STREB (-13)
Wins in a playoff.
Have to scratch off that “McGladrey” on that trophy and etch in “Zurich.”
WGC – Dell Match Play
The Olympic Club
San Francisco, California
The tournament was actually played at Harding Park, just across Lake Merced from The Olympic Club. But Harding Park is quick play and Olympic isn’t. So this tournament will be held at Olympic. One allowance is that the rough will not be the US Open style, but cut down a bit. It’ll still be a tough course.
The write-ups of at least the two early rounds will be quick as there’s so much of it.
ROUND OF 64:
Brandt Snedeker d. Miguel Angel Jiminez, 3 & 2.
Snedeker birdied the second and went 2-up with a par at five. Jiminez won the sixth but Snedeker came right back at seven and Jiminez never won another. Both missed the green at the par-three thirteenth, but it was Snedeker who got up and down. The clock finally ran out on Jiminez as Snedeker dropped a seventeen-footer for birdie at the par-five sixteenth which officially went down as a halve.
Billy Horschel d. Tommy Fleetwood, 2 & 1
Though Fleetwood won the first with a birdie, Horschel sank a 38-footer for birdie at three and won the sixth with a par. Both missed the green at the drivable (249, tee and pin up) par-four seventh but Fleetwood managed to salvage birdie anyway. But Horschel connected from 32 feet at eight and 15 at ten, both birdies, to go 2-up. Fleetwood did close to one but no closer. Horschel got up and down for birdie at the par-five seventeenth to end it.
Brooks Koepka d. Alexander Levy, 5 & 4
All-square after three, it was all Koepka after that. Koepka’s 58-foot birdie putt sank Levy after just fourteen holes as Koepka played those holes in an impressive 5-under.
Francesco Molinari d. Graeme McDowell, 4 & 3
Molinari won four of the first seven, three on pars, as McDowell played like shit. Except for bogeys at twelve, it was pars for the win or halve on every hole save for the seventh. The clock mercifully ran out for McDowell as he missed a seven-footer for birdie that would have kept the match going.
Louis Oosthuizen d. Matt Every, 20 holes
Neither golfer played particularly well, 3-over for both through the first eighteen (at least it would have been had this been medal play). Two holes were halved with bogeys and another was won by Oosthuizen with a bogey (the fourth, as his three-putt beat Every’s approach that went well left and was stymied by a tree). Both scrambled for par at nineteen. Twenty saw Oosthuizen park a 6I to two feet and win it with a birdie.
Harris English d. Marc Warren, 3 & 2
Not close as English took four of the first seven as Warren recovered slightly but never got closer than 2-down. English’s birdie at the par-five sixteenth (only 519 with the tees up as it can play up to 670) finished off the Scotsman.
Bubba Watson d. Thongchai Jaidee, 3 & 2
Watson won the first two as he kept that pink-headed driver in his bag most of the day. But Jaidee took three of the final four on the front nine to pull even. However, it was all Watson on the back nine (or seven) as he took the eleventh with a par as Jaidee missed the fairway and green (and, if you miss the fairway here, there’s a good chance you’ll miss the green, too) and the twelfth and fourteenth on birdie putts (15 & 9 feet) as Jaidee just couldn’t get close.
Sergio Garcia d. John Senden, 2-up
Ten winners in eighteen holes for these two and, except for Senden dropping a fifteen-footer for birdie at three, Garcia never played from behind. Garcia went ahead for good with a birdie at sixteen as he came up just short in two but chipped well while Senden tried to do the same but tried to finesse it a bit too much and came short and with a bad lie. A two-putt par was good enough to win the last as Senden missed both the fairway and green with his desperation birdie chip running off the green.
Jason Dufner d. Hunter Mahan, 2 & 1
Mahan took the second with a par and the fifth with a bogey as both stumbled around the green but Mahan did it better. After that, it was all Dufner with a 25-footer for birdie at eight, a neat short-sided chip and a putt for par at ten, then halves all the way to sixteen when Dufner got up and down for birdie from 75 while Mahan pushed his tee shot into the trees and screwed himself. The seventeenth makes it back-to-back par-fives and Dufner struck again as he reached the 530-yard hole in two and made birdie while Mahan’s drive followed the contour of the fairway right into the rough and he couldn’t get to the green in two nor get up and down, though he tried and missed from six feet for what would have been a halving birdie.
Patrick Reed d. Stephen Gallacher, 4 & 3
All-square through eight as each had won two holes, Reed stepped on the gas by winning four in a row, the first three on pars and the last in that run an 8I out of the first cut to five feet and a birdie at twelve. Gallacher won the fourteenth with a par as Reed couldn’t find either the fairway or green. But Reed’s chip and putt for par at fifteen trumped Gallacher’s three-putt.
Kevin Na d. Danny Willett, 4 & 3
All-square through four, Na won at five, seven, nine and eleven, four on pars and the one at the drivable seventh with an eagle as he drove the green and made a 25-foot putt. Willett won the thirteenth with a par. But any hope he had was dashed as Na hit to three feet at the par-three thirteenth and won it with a birdie. Two halved pars later and Willett was done.
Keegan Bradley d. Ryan Moore, 3 & 1
The more I watch, the more I realize that there’s no such thing as a halved birdie hole here. Matter of fact, it’s difficult to win a hole with a birdie as this is a difficult course. Anyway, all-square through fifteen with only two holes won for both and never more than a one-hole difference, Bradley showed some finishing kick. At the par-three fifteenth, Bradley sank an eighteen-footer for birdie as Moore’s chip just missed. At the first of back-to-back par-fives at sixteen, Bradley reached in two and two-putted as Moore got on in three in missed from nine feet for what would have been a halve. And, at seventeen, Bradley got up and down from 103 to two feet for birdie, far better than Moore’s effort.
Bernd Weisberger d. Marc Leishman, 1-up
And to think Leishman would have defeated Weisberger by a shot had this been medal play (even-par to +1, by the way). With Leishman 1-up through fourteen, Weisberger won the next two with a pitch-in for birdie at the par-three fifteenth (Leishman nearly holed his out, too) and a par at sixteen when Leishman three-putted, missing from five feet for what would have been a halve. Leishman missed from eight feet for birdie at seventeen and had to settle for a halve while he nearly won the eighteenth but his chip fell a foot short and the halve wasn’t good enough.
Branden Grace d. Mikko Ilonen, 1-up
Eleven holes were won as this one goes the distance as the South African got past the Finn, both shooting the equivalent of 1-under. The clincher came at eighteen. Obviously. Ilonen was at the side of the green in two and chipped to three feet while Grace hit to twelve feet. With Ilonen and nearly everyone else figuring that this was going to overtime, Grace sank his birdie putt for the win.
Ryan Palmer d. Zach Johnson, 3 & 2
Yes, this is match play, so anything can happen. But this is probably the first match that could truly be considered an upset. Palmer won the first and had the lead throughout, though Johnson drove to just three feet at seven and made eagle to win that hole. The next six holes were halved, the twelfth with bogeys and the rest pars before Palmer won the next two with an eight-footer for birdie at fourteen and a nine-footer for birdie at fifteen while Johnson nearly missed the green on the long side at the 150-yard hole. Now dormie, the sixteenth was halved with pars though Johnson missed from just seven feet that would have kept the match going.
Joost Luiten d. Anirban Lahiri, 6 & 5
The Dutchman makes me think of Juice Newton (remake of Merrilee Rush’s “Angel of the Morning”) while Lahiri just wanted to get the plate number of the truck that ran him over. Lahiri won the first and Luiten won seven of the next twelve, all with pars except for the eagle at seven on a 26-foot putt. So, Luiten shot even-par and cleaned Lahiri (+7) out.
Henrik Stenson d. Adam Scott, 4 & 3
Stenson was 7-up at the turn (4-under in medal scoring). That Scott was able to string this one out to the fifteenth hole, winning three on the back nine, is a testament to something.
Victor Dubuisson d. Shane Lowry, 2 & 1
Streaky as, though Dubuisson won the first, Lowry won three of the next four. Then, after a bogey halve at six, Dubuisson won five of the next six. After a halve at the par-three thirteenth, Dubuisson won the fourteenth with par and even after running his birdie putt fifteen feet past and giving Lowry an opening after the latter had missed the green. That sent the match to dormie-land. But Lowry hung in, winning the fifteenth with par while Dubuisson missed the green, and won the sixteenth with a sixteen-foot birdie putt while Dubuisson needed two just to get out of the left greenside bunker. Lowry seemed poised to take the seventeenth as well as he hit from 105 to six feet. But, from three yards closer, Dubuisson did the same thing. Both made their birdie putts for the halve that closed out the match in Dubuisson’s favor.
Jimmy Walker d. Webb Simpson, 2 & 1
All-square through three, as each won a hole with a first hole halve, Walker took two in a row at five and six with pars as the fairways and greens became a moving target for Simpson. After four halves, Walker won the eleventh with a two-putt par as Simpson missed the green under a tree. That was probably the beginning of the end for Simpson, who eventually got it back to 2-down with a birdie win at sixteen (meaning the match was already dormie) as Walker missed from just six feet for birdie but Simpson cashed in from three. Simpson made a twelve-footer for birdie at seventeen to try and keep this match going, but Walker had already hit to three feet with the halve ending the match.
Lee Westwood d. Charley Hoffman, 5 & 4
Sorry, Charley, as Westwood won the first three, all on pars, and never looked back as Hoffman never got closer than 2-down, at which point Westwood took the first two on the back nine to extend the lead to four with a seven-footer for birdie at fourteen finishing the job.
Gary Woodland d. Jamie Donaldson, 19 holes
So much for a two-time winner this season as Woodland, who’s made just four cuts in eleven tries, gets the win. These two played horribly—5-over each for eighteen holes in medal play and, with one exception in regulation, every hole was won with par. Each won four on the front nine before matching pars for the first seven holes on the back. At seventeen and at all-square, Donaldson reached in two while Woodland’s drive was pushed a little, took the slope of the fairway and rolled into the rough. On in three, Woodland left himself no real chance for birdie—not on these greens as Donaldson two-putted to go 1-up with one to go. Donaldson was in the fairway with his tee shot, as was Woodland. Woodland hit first with an 8I to ten feet. And Donaldson pulled what should have been an easy 9I. Donaldson chipped to four feet. Woodland ran his birdie putt just past and Donaldson appeared ready to skate away with a scramble par halve. But he rimmed out! Woodland counted his blessings as he walked back to the first then hit a perfect tee shot to the left center of the fairway. Donaldson, having watched his match get away, pulled his drive left. Donaldson had no choice but to try and advance a low 3I as Woodland hit a downhill 4I from 245 to just two feet. Donaldson had to hole out from 100. Damn near did, too, as he ended up near Woodland’s ball. But Donaldson knew he was cooked and he told Woodland that was it.
Charl Schwartzel d. Rory McIlroy, 1-up
Upset time. These guys came to play–3-under for Schwartzel and -1 for McIlroy. Nine holes were one between the two, seven on birdies. Six wins on the front side, four by Schwartzel including three in four holes starting at five and which undid a 1-up lead by McIlroy. Two-putt pars for both at ten and eleven. McIlroy got one back by hitting to ten feet and making birdie at twelve while Schwartzel caught a 7I heavy out of the rough and couldn’t get home. McIlroy thought he had another at the par-three thirteenth as Schwartzel came up short and was staring down a 40-yard bunker shot. Which he hit to two feet and which halved McIlroy’s two-putt par. Halved bogey at fourteen as both tried to avoiding the sloping fairway to the left and ended up in the right rough with both coming up short on their seconds. But McIlroy pulled even at the 150-yard fifteenth as he hit to six feet, or ten feet closer than Schwartzel. So, all-square with three to play. McIlroy thought he was going to pull ahead at sixteen as Schwartzel jacked his second left of the green while McIlroy got on in two. But Schwartzel hit a good pitch and bailed himself out with an eight-footer for birdie. McIlroy had honors at seventeen and, as was the case at fourteen, he tried to take the sloping fairway (to the right in this case) out of play by staying left. Too far left as he was in the rough. Schwartzel kept it in the fairway and came up just short with his second at the par five while McIlroy had no way to get home in two and didn’t get close with number three as Schwartzel got up and down for birdie while McIlroy missed the halving birdie putt from fourteen feet. The last hole was playing at 355. McIlroy might have given it a go but, like Schwartzel, laid back and depended on his short iron game. Schwartzel, from 154, hit the green–the smallest in the course–with an 8I. But he still had eighteen feet to go. McIlroy hit his approach from 20 yards closer and didn’t do any better with a 9I. Schwartzel putted close and McIlroy told him to pick up. McIlroy ran his by. That’s it.
George Coetzee d. Paul Casey, 3 & 1
Even split on the first four holes before things quieted down as, with the exception of the ninth, the next ten holes were halved pars. Coetzee took the ninth by knocking in a 39-foot birdie putt and nursed that lead until the back-to-back par-fives at sixteen and seventeen. Coetzee got up and down for birdie from 51 while Casey was under a tree after his drive. Dormie now, Casey missed from twelve feet for birdie at seventeen while Coetzee sank the winner from eleven.
Jim Furyk d. Justin Rose, 6 & 4
All-square through four, Furyk took four of the next five to close out the front nine, three with pars. After Rose had the temerity to win the tenth, Furyk pounded him into the ground by winning twelve, thirteen and fourteen, nearly holing out a 6I from 182 at twelve as Furyk won what turned out to be the third most lopsided match in the first round (Joost Luiten and, coming up, Jason Day).
Martin Kaymer d. Chris Kirk, 2-up
All-square through sixteen with three wins apiece, Kaymer nearly holed out for eagle from 92, the tap-in good enough for the win as Kirk could only hit to twelve feet from 95 and missed for the halve. Then, at eighteen, Kaymer opened the door for Kirk as he tee shot trickled into the rough. But Kirk did himself no favors by hitting farther left. Still his turn, the club face closed down on Kirk’s approach and he landed in the deep left greenside bunker. Kaymer hit on while Kirk couldn’t hit close and Kaymer’s two-putt par was good enough.
Matt Jones d. JB Holmes, 2 & 1
See-saw affair through ten as each won three holes with no one ever going more than 1-up. But Jones took the par-three thirteenth with a par as Holmes three-putted from 39, missing a four-footer that would have halved the hole. Then, at fourteen, Jones knocked in a 27-footer for birdie as Holmes went just off the back with his approach. Halved pars at fifteen, though Jones had to scramble. Halved par at sixteen. Both got on in two at seventeen, neither close and the hole was officially scored as a halved birdie, ending the match in Jones’ favor.
Rickie Fowler d. Ian Poulter, 2-up
Birdies won the first four, three of them by Poulter on putts of 15, 17 and 7 feet. Fowler took the fifth and eighth to pull back to all-square. Halved pars through the first four on the back nine before Poulter pulled his tee shot at fourteen and Fowler’s par put him back into the lead for the first time since the first hole. After a halved par at fifteen, Fowler played army golf at sixteen and bogeyed, Poulter getting back to all-square with a par. Poulter hit his third thin at seventeen and flew the green. As Fowler had yet to hit his third, he hit to six feet and made birdie to put Poulter on the ropes. But Fowler gave Poulter a chance by pushing what should have been an easy tee shot at eighteen. Poulter hit in the fairway and hoped that Fowler would screw up. But, from 141, Fowler placed an 8I out of the rough to the back pin location to just four feet leaving Poulter to have to hole out from 138. Needless to say, he didn’t. Poulter missed his 15-foot birdie attempt and, with the match on the line, didn’t concede Fowler’s putt. Which he knocked in anyway.
Jordan Spieth d. Dustin Johnson, 5 & 3
A walk in the park for Spieth as, once he got rolling, Johnson never got closer than 3-down. The highlight in that run was when both missed the green at the par-three third. Johnson had plenty of green to work with and almost holed out while Spieth short-sided himself and did. Johnson hung in there until the fifteenth when Spieth hit to two feet at the par-three. Johnson gave it the old college try and hit to six feet. Johnson missed and waved the white flag.
Matt Kuchar d. Russell Henley, 5 & 3
1-up at the turn, Kooch rattled off three in a row, two on help from Henley as he made bogey, to just about salt this one away. The clincher came at fifteen when Henley provided more help as he pushed a 9I at the par-three just after Kuchar hit to eight feet. Henley just missed on his chip while Kuchar made the winning birdie putt.
Brendon Todd d. Bill Haas, 20 holes
Along with the Oosthuizen-Every match, this was the longest one of the first round. With Todd 1-up through five, Haas peeled off three in a row, two with par wins. But Todd fought back, making a fifteen-footer for the win at twelve and a par at fifteen as Haas missed the green. But Haas won the seventeenth with birdie as he hit his third to six feet, or 20 feet inside of Todd. Needing to win the eighteenth to keep the match going, he missed the green. But so did Haas. But Todd chipped to two feet, or seven feet better than Haas and the par was good enough to win the hole. Todd almost won it on the nineteenth as Haas not only missed the green but hit a poor chip. However, he salvaged the halving par with a thirteen-foot putt as Todd made a far more routine par. At the twentieth, Todd missed right and just long with his approach—not a good shot with a 6I out of the fairway and considering the pin was left center. Open door for Haas and he pushed a 7I short and right. Maybe it was the right to left sloped fairway. Haas chipped, leaving eight feet while Todd chipped to six. Haas missed; Todd didn’t.
Jason Day d. Ben Martin, 7 & 5
The most one-sided match of the first round as Day won four of the first five and Martin never won a hole. Even so, Day shot only 2-under for thirteen holes as Martin, at +5, appeared to do far more losing than Day winning. But, hey, they’re all line drives in the box score.
Andy Sullivan d. Hideki Matsuyama, 1-up
Another upset. Sullivan won four on the front nine as was 4-up before Matsuyama could figure out what was going on. Sullivan let Matsuyama get back in to the match as he missed both the twelfth and thirteenth greens and pars were good enough for Matsuyama to win a pair. Halved bogey at fourteen as both missed the fairway and hit poor approaches. Halved par at fifteen, Matsuyama salvaging it as he missed just short at the par-three and made the eight-footer. Both were about 25 yards in front of the green at sixteen, but it was Matsuyama who got up and down to close to within one. Matsuyama hit his third to five feet at seventeen but it was Sullivan who bagged a thirteen-footer for the halve. Sullivan did it again from longer distance at eighteen as he missed the fairway with his tee shot and landed on the green with his second as Matsuyama was in the fairway and hit his approach to three feet. But Sullivan sank a 32-footer to dash Matsuyama’s hopes of taking this to overtime.
ROUND OF 32:
This is one heck of a golf game. But what it can’t do is replicate the “pool play” format that started this year (2015) where players were placed into sixteen seeded four-man groups with each golfer playing each other with the winner moving on into the round of sixteen. Instead, it’ll be an NCAA style single-elimination.
Billy Horschel d. Brandt Snedeker, 1 -up
Even contest with neither going more than 1-up as eleven holes were won outright. All-square going into seventeen, Horschel reached the par-five in two and two-putted for birdie while Snedeker’s tee shot was in the rough. But even the dumbed down rough here is still pretty nasty, Snedeker needed three to get home. And his birdie putt was from sixteen feet, which he missed. Down one going into the final hole, Horschel was first up both with his tee shot and his approach. And he hit his approach from 127 to three feet. About ten yards closer, Snedeker hit over the flag but still had ten feet. And Snedeker made his birdie putt. But so did Horschel.
Brooks Koepka d. Francesco Molinari, 2 & 1
Molinari won two early holes, including a 39-foot putt for birdie at two. But Koepka bounced back, including winning the eighth with a 23-foot birdie putt as the wins at five and ten came on pars as Molinari struggled around the greens. Twelve was a par win for Molinari as the rough ate up Koepka’s 9I approach to the point where the club face opened so much that he pushed it out of bounds. But Koepka put the hack job behind him as he nearly aced the thirteenth then took the fourteenth when Molinari put his approach into the right greenside bunker. And, unlike the PGA Tour, where many bunkers aren’t hazards, the ones here, combined with the often difficult greens, make sand play an adventure. Anyway, Koepka was 2-up after fifteen. Molinari won the sixteenth with birdie, making a six-footer while Koepka missed from 20. But Koepka returned the favor, missing the green well right with his second at seventeen but pitching to six feet and making birdie while Molinari missed from 24.
Harris English d. Louis Oosthuizen, 3 & 1
English took three of the first four (with Oosthuizen the other) and all on pars. So, as is the case with most of these matches, people don’t necessarily win holes; they lose them. Though Ooosthuizen closed the gap to one on two occasions, he never got any closer and English closed it out with two-putt birdies at sixteen and seventeen as Oosthuizen hit poor approaches both times.
Sergio Garcia d. Bubba Watson, 3 & 2
Though Watson won the first, Garcia won five of six starting at the third, only one with a birdie as he sank a 39-footer at five. But Watson had some life in him as he won the eleventh, thirteenth and fourteenth with the only birdie at thirteen as Garcia missed from eighteen and Watson, on the same line and two feet closer, was paying attention. Now only up one, Garcia perked up and dropped a twelve-footer for birdie at fifteen and a 22-footer for birdie at sixteen as Watson, on close to the same line and two feet closer only thought he learned, though he came close, running his putt just past.
Jason Dufner d. Patrick Reed, 4 & 2
Dufner won six holes in this match, five with birdies, amazing considering how many of the matches have played out with pars winning many holes. All-square through three, Dufner’s putter did the heavy lifting as he sank winning putts of seventeen feet at six at 25 at ten and also winning with a two-putt par at nine as Reed pushed his drive into the trees. So, a putt here and a putt there and Reed realized he was down three and the match was getting away from him. Halved pars to thirteen, with Dufner playing a beauty out of the bunker at thirteen to three feet. Reed got one back at fourteen with a birdie, Dufner making Reed’s life easier by hacking his way around the green. With that out of his system, Dufner’s putter went back to work, back-to-back fourteen foot birdie attempts dropping at fifteen and sixteen for the win as Reed could hit close either time.
Kevin Na d. Keegan Bradley, 4 & 3
Faiways and greens proved to be elusive targets for these two. Halves through the first seven, two on bogeys. Na won the eight with par. Should’ve been a halve as, even though Bradley pulled a 6I at the par-three, he pitched to just two feet—and missed the putt! Sufficiently rattled, Bradley missed the fairway and green and nine and bogeyed, as Na cruised to a regulation par. Na banged in an eighteen-footer for birdie at eleven as Bradley came up just short of the green. Two par halves followed. Then, at fourteen, both missed the green to the right, short-siding themselves. But it was Na who chipped in from just outside of 30 feet to go 4-up and dormie. Both hit the green at fifteen and parred, though the final insult for Bradley was missing from six feet for birdie.
Branden Grace d. Bernd Wiesberger, 3 & 1
Wiesberger won the first two holes. It took until the twelfth for Grace to get it back to all-square. So, Weisberger sank a sixteen-footer at thirteen to get the lead right back besting Grace’s fourteen-footer on nearly the same line. And Grace turned it right back around by rattling off four straight birdies, the first on an approach to the three feet and the last on a near hole-out from about 30 yards.
Ryan Palmer d. Joost Luiten, 2 & 1
Luiten had one of the more lopsided wins in the first round as he disposed of Anibran Lahiri, 6 & 5. Luiten hit pin high at the 240-yard third and won that with an eight-foot putt. But Palmer drove the green at seven and two-putted for a birdie win, parred the ninth for another win as Luiten over-cooked his second just a bit into the greenside bunker and made bogey and made an eight-footer to win the tenth. Palmer took one step backward as he missed the green and made bogey to Luiten’s par, but took two steps forward by nearly acing the thirteenth and making a routine par at fifteen as Luiten’s tee shot at the par-three was well off line. Now dormie, Luiten birdied the sixteenth to get one back. But he pushed his second at seventeen. Though a nice pitch got him on in three, Palmer was on in three, as well. And a halved par wasn’t good enough for Luiten. But it was for Palmer.
Henrik Stenson d. Victor Dubuisson, 3 & 2
All-square through ten with three holes won each, Stenson drained a 43-footer for birdie and the win at twelve. After halved pars as both missed the green at thirteen, Stenson hit to three feet and birdied the fourteenth, though a par would have been good enough as Dubuisson hooked his tee shot into the trees. Stenson saved par and a halve at fifteen with a tremendous bunker shot to four feet, at which Dubuisson came to the realization that maybe Stenson was better today, at least on the back nine. Stenson got on in two at fifteen while Dubuisson’s drive ran off into the rough. A two-putt birdie for Stenson and ‘sayonara’ Dubuisson.
Lee Westwood d. Jimmy Walker, 3 & 2
Westwood took the second and eighth with pars as Walker missed the green at two and missed from three feet for the halve at eight. Four halved pars followed before Walker hit one over the stick at thirteen and made the six-footer for birdie coming back to finally win a hole. Both missed the green at fourteen. But Westwood had a fairly easy chip while Walker had a perilous bunker shot. Par and a win for Westwood. Both had ten footers on the same line at fifteen. Walker was marginally away and missed while Westwood studied carefully and made his putt to go 3-up and dormie. Though both were in the trees at sixteen and both made it to the green in three, Westwood, away, putted to tap-in distance while Walker missed from 20 feet for birdie, the halve making Westwood a winner.
Charl Schwartzel d. Gary Woodland, 5 & 4
In the one-sided match, Schwartzel was darned close to a spectator, parring five in a row to close out the front nine, winning them all, as Woodland imploded, including at the drivable seventh when he botched two chips and, ready to hit his sixth from past 20 feet, Schwartzel said, ‘enough’ as Woodland conceded the hole. Woodland got one back at eleven as Schwartzel played army golf, but birdie putts of fourteen and thirteen feet at thirteen and fourteen closed out the match.
Jim Furyk d. George Coetzee, 4 & 3
Furyk was a magician with the putter on the front nine, draining birdie putts of 35, 23, 9 and 20 feet. Throw in a par win at five and Furyk was 5-up at the turn as he went out in a blistering 30 (had this been medal play). Overmatched, Coetzee won his first and only hole with a 21-footer for birdie at thirteen. Furyk then ran out the clock with two halved pars in what might have been the most one-sided match of the second round.
Martin Kaymer d. Matt Jones, 5 & 4
Kaymer won five of the first eight, three on birdies with two pretty close (seven feet at one, six feet at four) to open some serious daylight on Jones. Jones got one back—and only one—with a par win at eleven as Kaymer airmailed his approach from out of the rough. After a halve at twelve, Jones lost the thirteenth when he pushed a 6I well right and a bit short. Which, of course, went down as a two-putt par win for Kaymer, a 5-up lead and dormie. Kaymer easily two-putted for par at fourteen and, in a last gasp, Jones missed from thirteen.
Jordan Spieth d. Rickie Fowler, 6 & 5
The most one-sided match of the second round and with Fowler on the short end, to boot, as Spieth dispatched him with surgical precision. 25-footer for birdie and the win at three for Spieth as Fowler landed in the right greenside bunker. 20 feet for birdie at four as Fowler missed from 22. Fowler won his only hole at six as Spieth came up short and didn’t chip well. Fowler missed from eighteen feet for birdie at seven while Spieth, watching intently as his putt was on the same line, sank a fifteen-footer. Two-putt par and a win at eight as Fowler missed the green. Nine feet for birdie at nine as Fowler again missed the green in the bunker. 4-up at the turn. Spieth hit the green in regulation at eleven and twelve and dared Fowler to do something, which he couldn’t. 26 feet for birdie at twelve as Fowler missed short and didn’t sink a 70-foot chip. A near ace at thirteen as Fowler missed the green and they shook hands, Fowler being outwardly gracious as he darned near got emasculated.
Brendon Todd d. Matt Kuchar 5 & 3
Todd had the lead the whole way. But when Kuchar closed to within one, Todd ran off four straight threes, two of them birdies and those two fairly lengthy putts of 22 and 13 feet. Kuchar won his only two holes on pars with the second one, at eleven, a darned good chip to a foot from nearly 70 feet.
Jason Day d. Andy Sullivan, 2 & 1
This certainly wasn’t anything close to the 7 & 5 cakewalk Day had over Ben Martin in the first round. This one was very competitive, with Day playing at 2-under and Sullivan at even-par as Day won four holes in the first twelve and Sullivan three with all but one being birdies. Day made a couple lengthy putts—22 and 16 feet at five and twelve, respectively, while also hitting to three feet at two. Sullivan made 14-footers at seven and eleven. Thirteen, fourteen and fifteen were halved pars. Sullivan made his only real mistake at sixteen as, in the bunker in two, he barely got out with his third and had to stand in the trap to hit his fourth while Day missed the fairway with his first two shots but got on in three and made par. Sullivan got on in two at seventeen and was poised to keep the match going as Day got on in three and not terribly close. But Sullivan got too aggressive with his 35-foot eagle effort and ran it eight feet past, then missed the comebacker. It went down as a par halve and a win for Day.
ROUND OF 16:
The wind was up just a bit making an already difficult course that much tougher.
Brooks Koepka d. Billy Horschel, 1-up
Koepka let a couple get away with a pair of three-putts on the front side. So, what might have been a 1-up lead for him turned out to be the same score but in Horschel’s favor. Koepka sank an eleven-footer for birdie at ten to get back to all-square. But Horschel returned the favor with a 20-footer for birdie at twelve as Koepka flew the green with his approach. So, with Horschel 1-up, Koepka hit to seven feet and birdied the thirteenth. And he salvaged par from thirteen feet as both missed the green at fourteen. And, as both missed the green and compounded that by hitting horrible chips at fifteen, it was Koepka who got the win with a bogey. But, hey, a win’s a win and Koepka was now 2-up and with the clock now spinning like a propeller for Horschel. But Horschel slowed that clock down a bit with a two-putt birdie at sixteen as Koepka came up short with his second. Horschel had a chance to get back to even at seventeen as he hit to five feet. But Koepka hit to ten and sank his halving birdie putt as Horschel also made his. It was win or go home now for Horschel. So he went home as his approach was just a hair short and landed in the rough between the bunker and the green while Koepka landed on safely, albeit 30 feet away. By distance, Koepka was up first and putted close and Horschel told him to pick it up. Horschel now had to sink his chip. He had the line but was too aggressive as his ball ran six feet past. He would have kicked himself if it had come up short. But Koepka advances to the quarter-finals.
Harris English d. Sergio Garcia, 1-up
Though Garcia won the first with a par, English won four of the remaining eight holes on the front nine to open a tidy lead. Garcia helped the process along as he had trouble finding the fairway. Ah, hell, that’s “golf-speak.” How about ‘he couldn’t hit the fucking ball straight?’ English picked up another hole at twelve. Garcia actually found the fairway this time. And, dead on from 184, he pulled an 8I into the bunker. So, English was 4-up. But then, an alarm clock went off in Garcia’s golf bag or the Five Hour Energy kicked in or something as Garcia went on a tear. Around here, that usually comes with help as the other guy is often backing up. 20-footer for birdie at thirteen as English missed the green in the bunker. Par win at fourteen as English missed the green a bit long this time. Par win at fifteen as both missed the green but Garcia hit a better pitch, converting from seven feet. Par halve at sixteen. And, though English played the hole better, getting on in three, as opposed to Garcia’s army golf and needing four to get on, Garcia salvaged the half with a sixteen-foot putt. Birdie win at sixteen as both got on in three but English was hitting out of the rough and couldn’t get close. So, after wandering aimlessly for the first two-thirds of the round, Garcia was back to all-square. Both were left and into the rough off the tee at eighteen. It’s a short hole (only 345) and both had clean lines in, so even with the sub-standard tee shots it was wedges for both. English, from 123, was up first and hit a beauty to two feet. Garcia, from four yards closer, didn’t do as well but the nine feet he had left was makeable. Until it wasn’t, as Garcia ran the downhill putt past. English tapped in for the winning birdie.
Kevin Na d. Jason Dufner, 5 & 4
This was the most one-sided match in the third round as Dufner never won a hole and shot 5-over for the fourteen that were played. And to think the clincher came on a three-putt bogey as Dufner had no angle to the green at fourteen after over-cooking his drive. Under a tree and with no shot to the green, it took him two more just to get on. And not close as he had twelve feet left. Needless to say he missed that.
Ryan Palmer d. Branden Grace, 2 & 1
Of the first nine holes, seven were won by someone and only one with a birdie. 1-up at the turn, Grace’s lead lasted for just one more hole as Palmer won the tenth with a par, both missing the green but Palmer making his five-footer as Grace missed from seven. Grace would go up one more time in the match with a five-footer for birdie at fourteen as Palmer missed the green. But Palmer won the fifteenth with a twelve-foot birdie putt, besting Grace’s effort from eight. Then, he won the sixteenth he chipped close from in front of the green and made birdie as Grace couldn’t get up and down from 68. Then, at seventeen, it was an easy two-putt birdie as Grace pulled his second—and from out of the fairway and missed from a dozen feet for what would have been a halve. Game over.
Lee Westwood d. Henrik Stenson, 3 & 1
Westwood took three on the front, one with a birdie, one with a par and one, at nine, with a three-putt bogey as Stenson took two to get out of the greenside bunker. But Stenson took the tenth and eleventh, the latter when Westwood three-putted. So, though down one, Stenson was back in the match. Both scramble parred the twelfth and two-putted the par-three thirteenth. But Westwood opened up some daylight as he sand a twelve-footer for birdie at fourteen as Stenson was on the green but nearly two clubs short. Par was good enough to win at fifteen as both missed the green but Stenson’s chip ran away from him. Now dormie, Stenson’s two-putt birdie at the first of the back-to-back par-fives kept the match going. Until the next hole as Westwood returned the favor with a two-putt birdie of his own as Stenson couldn’t get close with his third from 99.
Charl Schwartzel d. Jim Furyk, 3 & 1
Down one at the turn, Schwartzel reeled off four in a row starting at eleven, two on birdies, the best of the lot coming at the par-three thirteenth when, with the pin on the left, he missed right then chipped in from 50 feet. An ugly halve at fifteen sent the match to dormie-land. It’s a par-three and all of 95 yards, a distance that will screw up most pros as they can’t take a full cut. Both pulled their tee shots left into one of three diabolical bunkers framing the front and left of the green. Both blasted out, Furyk into the opposite bunker and Schwartzel rolling off. Both were able to get up and down for bogey. Furyk kept the match going with a par at sixteen as Schwartzel caught his third heavy out of the rough. At seventeen, Schwartzel returned the favor to end it, his approach, from 70 yards closer than Furyk’s, stopped a foot from the hole and he made the tap in birdie as Furyk couldn’t hit to within 15 feet. Furyk played 6-over for the seventeen holes, all but one of those “overs” on the back nine.
Martin Kaymer d. Jordan Spieth, 1-up
After splitting the first two, Kaymer had back-to-back winners at six and seven, both pars, as Spieth had trouble hitting the fairway. Spieth even doubled the 295-yard seventh as he pulled his tee shot into the trees, then hit into one of the greenside bunkers, then, short-sided, missed the green. Ugly. Anyway, Kaymer never relinquished the lead. Spieth got one back at ten as he hit his approach to six feet and made birdie but gave it right back with a bogey at eleven. Spieth hit a 3W out of the rough from 242 to three feet at fourteen and won that hole. Then, after a par at fifteen (a scramble for Spieth), Kaymer got the hole back at sixteen with a sixteen-foot birdie putt as Spieth hit two awful shots to start the hole and, as it turned out, he would have had to have holed out from 69 just for the halve. One hole away from elimination, Spieth hit close at seventeen–five feet. But so did Kaymer at seven feet. Let’s just say that Spieth made his. At eighteen, Spieth hit a 4I dead down the middle. But he put two much mustard on an 8I, as in about a club and a half past the pin, bouncing off the back while Kaymer hit pin high, sixteen feet left of the pin. Spieth chipped to seven feet. Kaymer missed his but within gimme distance. But so did Spieth. But, as Spieth’s was for par, Spieth conceded the hole and the match.
Brendon Todd d. Jason Day, 1-up
No one was ever up more than one hole with neither shooting “lights out,” 2-over for both. The final four holes saw four winners. With Day 1-up after fourteen, he pulled his tee shot at fifteen. Seems like a lot of players were doing that at this odd-distanced hole. In any case, Todd’s par was good enough to get the match back to all-square. Todd took the lead at sixteen as he dropped an eighteen-footer for birdie while Day missed from eleven. Day got it back to even by two-putting for birdie at seventeen as Todd pushed his 8I third. OK, one hole for the money. Day couldn’t have placed his tee shot any better. Same for Todd. Up first, Day inexplicably pushed choked-down wedge. Fifteen yards closer, Todd hit a 9I to the green and hoped that Day wouldn’t get up and down. Todd upheld his end while Day chipped reasonably well, too, but missed his eight-footer for par.
Brooks Koepka d. Harris English, 2 & 1
Fairly evenly contested front nine with Koepka up a hole at the turn. The differences, which would come back to haunt English, were that his two wins were by par while Koepka won his three with birdies. Koepka had another birdie win at ten as he knocked in a nineteen-foot putt, three feet farther than English’s. Both had trouble around the green at eleven and the hole was halved with birdies. But English had trouble around the green at twelve as well as many of the greenside bunkers all over this course are deep and usually require more of a blast than finesse and his second into the front bunker was no exception, Koepka winning the hole with a par to go 3-up. Koepka got into that sort of trouble at fourteen as English parred to close the gap to two. English scrambling for a halving par at fifteen, matched birdies at sixteen, Koepka’s turn this time to scramble as his second missed left of the small green, then matched pars at seventeen, English missing from eight feet for the birdie that would have kept the match going.
Ryan Palmer d. Kevin Na, 20 holes
Palmer won three of the first four holes, all with pars, to open a quick lead. But Na chipped in from in front of the green at six and drained an eighteen-foot birdie putt at eight to slice Palmer’s lead to one. Palmer made a 23-footer at eleven to gain some breathing room. Halved pars followed over the next three holes, both scrambling at the par-three thirteenth before Na buried a 30-foot birdie putt at fifteen and got up and down from the right front bunker for birdie at sixteen as Palmer missed from eight feet for the halve. So, now it’s a tie game. It was Palmer who reached in two at the par-five seventeenth and made birdie. But Na got up and down from 89, making an eight-foot putt for the halve. Both got on in two at the short eighteenth, though neither got close. Two putts for both and it was off to overtime. As was the case the first time around, Na could neither find the fairway nor green with his first two shots. Well, he could have found them; he just couldn’t hit them. This time, he pitched from under a tree to six feet and made par while Palmer took the easy road—fairway and green—and made a two-putt par. Where Palmer thought he might have won it at the nineteenth until Na hit that clutch pitch, he knew he won it at the twentieth when Na hit his tee shot well left and was pretty well stymied by the trees. Seeing that, Palmer, who used the driver the first time he played the hole today, backed it down to a 3W with his singular goal to keep the ball in play, which he did. But he made an egregious mistake with his approach as he flew the green with an 8I, landing in the back bunker. Maybe he wanted to take the more diabolical front bunker out of play as the pin was located behind it. The good news was that the back bunker was easier to play out of than the deeper front one and he had a lot of green to work with. Na was able to advance his ball only about 100 yards, getting back to the fairway but hitting a poor third as he wanted to get closer than the thirteen feet he was. Still, he had a small opening. Palmer hit his bunker shot to seven feet. Bigger opening as a two-putt for both would mean yet another hole. But Na ran his putt just past while Palmer drained his.
Charl Schwartzel d. Lee Westwood, 2-up
In a streaky match, Schwartzel got off to a quick start, winning four of the first five, two with birdies, while Westwood won the other. But Westwood came storming back, winning the ninth with par as Schwartzel pushed his shot into the trees, then three in a row starting at eleven, the one at eleven being the only birdie in that run as he hit to four feet with Schwartzel hitting to eight feet on close to the same line and missing. So, after thirteen, Westwood was 1-up. But, after two halved pars, Schwartzel scrambling from in front of the green at fourteen, Schwartzel had the final comeback. He birdied both par-fives, the one at sixteen a neat little sandy that he nearly holed out, Westwood missing from seven feet for the halve, and the one at seventeen an up and down from 95 to three feet, or about 20 feet better than Westwood’s effort from ten yards further. So, 1-up for Schwartzel with one to play. Both went with 4I on eighteen but it was Westwood who pulled his just a bit. From out of the rough to a front pin located behind a deep bunker, Westwood couldn’t stick his shot and he was left with 20 feet. Schwartzel was able to stick his–but twelve feet left of the pin. Two putts wouldn’t be good enough for Westwood. Almost made it, too, running it just past. With no pressure, Schwartzel made his.
Brendon Todd d. Martin Kaymer, 3 & 2
All-square through nine with two holes won for each and even-par 34 for both had this been medal play, Todd stepped it up on the back. Or maybe it was Kaymer who backed up a bit as Todd won the eleventh and twelfth with pars, eleven a scramble including a thirteen-foot putt as Kaymer missed the green both times. 3-up came on a 29-foot birdie putt at fourteen as Kaymer missed the green again and barely got out of the bunker with his third. Kaymer drained a 28-foot birdie putt at fifteen to get one back. But he got into trouble off the sixteenth tee and compounded that by pulling his second left and catching his third heavy and into the left front bunker. All the while, Todd kept it in play, making it to the green in two and waltzing off with a winning birdie.
If you were expecting names like Spieth, Day, McIlroy or Fowler to be here, sorry. But, without a marquee name in the semis, the two matches were dandies, both going to overtime.
Rain that started during the front nine softened the course up a bit. Let’s just say that, by the back nine, the course could be had.
Brooks Koepka d. Ryan Palmer, 22 holes
In the longest match so far, both played the first eighteen as evenly and effectively as possible, each winning five and each shooting 2-under 68. Let’s pick it up at sixteen, Palmer 1-up, as the last three holes of regulation were something for the highlight reel. Both hit the fairway with their tee shots at sixteen. Koepka, from 279, hit a 3W to just four feet while Palmer, eight yards closer, pulled his just a bit and landed in the bunker. Which he hit out to eight feet. And which he made for birdie. But Koepka drained the eagle putt and that match was all-square. Both hit the fairway with their drives at the par-five seventeenth. Away by 30 yards, Koepka again used the 3W. Not as good this time as his ball landed just in front of the green. With the pin toward the back, he’d be looking at 50+ feet. Unfortunately, Palmer couldn’t make hay, under-clubbing a 3I and landing in the left front bunker. Still away, Palmer landed on the green but still had about 20 feet to go. Which didn’t matter as Koepka made what was measured as a 53-foot putt from the fringe for his second consecutive eagle. Which might have deflated Palmer. But which didn’t as he stuck his approach seven feet right of the pin at eighteen just after Koepka had hit his to six on nearly the same line. Up first, Palmer made his putt. But Koepka didn’t, his putt slipping by. So, off to overtime. Both missed the fairway at one and it was Palmer who took a flyer as his approach went just off the back. But he scrambled for par, saving it from seven feet. Two-putt pars for both at two, both from around 20 feet as neither hit their short iron especially close. Both pulled their tee shots at the par-three third with the possible edge going to Palmer as he was left of the bunker while Koepka was in it with both having some green to work with as the pin was center-right. But neither got close and both two-putted for a bogey halve. Palmer missed the fairway with his tee shot but made it to the green with his approach while it was just the opposite for Koepka. Koepka chipped to three feet while Palmer came up four feet short from about 30 feet. But Palmer rimmed out while Koepka’s was a no-doubter. Tough ending for Palmer in a very hard-fought match.
Charl Schwartzel d. Brendon Todd, 23 holes
The just completed Koepka-Palmer match was the longest of the tournament–until this one. This one didn’t quite have the regulation finish of the other match, though there was more than a bit of excitement, but it was obviously very even, each man winning four with only one birdie win for each, neither having more than a one-hole lead and a 1-over 71 for both. Like the other match, let’s pick it up at sixteen. Both got on in two at the first of the back-to-back par-fives, Todd to six feet and Schwartzel to four, both on the same line. Todd made his but Schwartzel rimmed out. That got the match back to all-square. Schwartzel got on into at seventeen after Todd hit his third to eleven feet. Needing to two putt from nearly 40 feet, Schwartzel ran his first past and, needing to make another four-footer, missed that one, too. So, the hole went down as a halved par. At eighteen, Todd pushed what should have been an easy 8I approach well right while Schwartzel hit a SW to eight feet. While Schwartzel had visions of the final match vs. Koepka tomorrow dancing in his head, Todd nearly holed out his pitch. Now with two missed four-footers dancing around his brain instead, Schwartzel ran his birdie effort just past. And, for the second time today, it was off to overtime. It’ll be Todd with honors as long as this goes. The first hole is a brutally long par-four—515. So, missing the fairway in the soggy rough didn’t help Todd any and he advanced his ball enough to give himself a full cut with a SW in while Schwartzel hit the fairway but missed the green just to the right. Todd hit to nine feet while Schwartzel chipped to seven. Todd made his putt and, finally, Schwartzel made his. Two putt pars and a halve at two. Both flew the green at the 245-yard, par-three third. But both were able to chip to almost gimme distance for another halved par. At four, Todd just missed the fairway and Schwartzel didn’t. Both made it to the green in regulation but neither was close. Two putts for both and another halve. At five, Todd did better with his tee shot than he did playing this hole the first time today. But his 4I approach from 208 rolled off the back of the green. Schwartzel just missed the fairway from the tee and his club face opened on his approach. Heading uphill Schwartzel chipped to two feet while Todd’s chip ran away from him and he missed the nine-foot comebacker. This far along in the match and with Schwartzel having missed a couple shorties, Todd wasn’t conceding. Schwartzel said after the match that he wasn’t put off by that as he might have done the same thing had the tables been turned. And he sank his winning par putt.
Brendan Todd d. Ryan Palmer, 5 & 4
After a little more overnight rain, the course was still soft and it was lift, clean and place for both final day matches.
Palmer played like ka-ka as Todd won one of his six holes with a bogey and three others with pars. One of Todd’s two birdie wins came at the first as he knocked down a 37-foot birdie putt just after Palmer missed the green and chipped close enough to where he’d walk away with a halving par. Todd’s bogey win came at the long (240) par-three third as both missed the green but it was Palmer who missed it on the short side and in a penal bunker, the extrication from same rolling off the other side of the green and into the rough. Fast forward to eleven. After a flyer out of the rough, Palmer missed his eighth green of the day. In eleven holes. Who’s going to win playing like that? Not him. Todd parred to go 5-up. Palmer actually did win one—the twelfth on a twelve-foot birdie putt. Two holes later, Palmer missed yet another green, his tenth in fourteen holes and, though Todd probably could have won the hole and the match with a two-putt par, he sank a thirteen-foot birdie putt to close it out.
Brooks Koepka d. Charl Schwartzel, 1-up
This match was much more exciting than the semifinal; that’s for sure. Koepka won the second as, though both hit the green, Schwartzel three-putted, his first, from outside of 30 feet, running five feet past. But Schwartzel turned it around and held Koepka at bay for the next eight holes. At four, he hit a spectacular 6I out of the rough from 179 to just a foot, a birdie and a win. Koepka got in trouble at six as it took him four to get on at the par-four, the fourth as he went for the way back pin location and hit it a little too strongly. Schwartzel made his par on a nine-foot putt. Good for him, as Koepka knocked in a twelve-footer for bogey that might have halved the hole. Schwartzel two-putted for par at the 197-yard eighth as Koepka pulled a 5I. And Schwartzel also won the eleventh, this time with some help as Koepka missed from eighteen feet left of the pin on his birdie attempt while Schwartzel, on the same line, sank a thirteen-footer for the win. So, Schwartzel was 3-up after eleven. And back came Koepka, winning the twelfth with a two-putt par as Schwartzel came up short out of the rough and into the the right bunker which, like most on this course, is jail. Both pushed 7I at the par-three thirteenth with both making spectacular scrambles, both pitching to two feet. At fourteen, it was Koepka who cashed in on Schwartzel’s miss for birdie from eleven feet as he sank one on the same line from three feet closer. And now Schwartzel’s lead was whittled to one. At sixteen, the first of the back-to-back par-fives, both reached in two. And, as was the case at two, Schwartzel was a bit too aggressive with his first putt, running it eight feet past and he missed for birdie while Koepka, second to putt, just aimed for the “circle” and made the three-footer to get the match back to all-square. Schwartzel started to lick his chops at seventeen as Koepka pushed his drive into the rough while Schwartzel hit two beauties and was on the green in two. But Koepka hit a choked-down wedge from 83 to just three feet and Schwartzel’s hopes of going into eighteen up one were dashed. Eighteen is a shortie—340 and with the smallest green on the course. It’s funny; on a course where more people lose holes than win them, the finale is one where aggressive play may well be rewarded. No drivers here, as Koepka hit a 5I and Schwartzel a 4I as maybe Schwartzel wanted to be a bit longer and see what Koepka did on his second shot and plan accordingly. From 120, Koepka hit a one-hopper to four feet. Schwartzel took the same approach from 115 but came up eight feet short. Schwartzel just missed; Koepka didn’t.
So, Koepka gets his first PGA win, and at a WGC event, no less. In real life, he got his first one at this year’s (2015) Phoenix Open. In fantasy land, he finished fourth with a second at Las Vegas the week before.
Bringing the muscle in his first PGA Tour win as he defeated Charl Schwartzel, 1-up.
The Players Championship
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
One clerical item first and I think I got it right. This is a 144-man field with qualifications, not unlike the four majors. One of them is that you have to win a PGA Tour event over the previous season. As my fantasy season differs from the actual one, two winners from there will oust two players from the actual field even though there are more than two players who won on the actual tour but who didn’t win in the replay. And that’s because those players were already in thanks to the Fed Ex or World Golf rankings or the money list. But, once the field is filled out with event and money list winners, any open spots will go to those ranked highest in the Fed Ex ranking who didn’t otherwise qualify.
So, DJ Trahan and Alex Prugh are in and Matt Every, Padraig Harrington and Sang-moon Bae are out. That leaves one open spot. Which will go to Jason Gore as he’s the highest in my Fed Ex rankings so far this season among those who didn’t otherwise qualify.
As far as the golf was concerned, let’s just compare it to Wimpy, from the old Popeye cartoons. You know, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Because many will likely pay for the filet mignon they got today–2 ½ shots under par worth. And it didn’t matter if they started early or played the balance of their round after some of that Florida liquid sunshine rolled through, softening up the place; many had an easy go of it.
At the head of the class today was Jordan Spieth with a 9-under 63. Another day at the office for the kid. Just nine fairways. But seventeen greens. Birdied all four par-fives. Five other birdie putts of 3, 9, 11, 2, and 16 feet, all on par-fours.
Seven are tied at 64, including 48-year old David Toms. He’s shown a couple flashes of his old self–a fifth in Puerto Rico and thirteenth at Phoenix while making seven of eleven cuts. But, in the other five where he’s gotten paid, he hasn’t done a whole heck of a lot. Toms eagled the second, placing a 2I from 236 to five feet as he played the par-fives in 5-under. He would have been tied with Spieth except for the poor drive at the last where he had to lay up well short of the green and made bogey.
The other six at 64 are Rickie Fowler, whose first swing of the day was a duck hook and an eventual bogey. To which he bounced back with a 39-footer for eagle at two. Also, Ryan Palmer, who also eagled the second, Matt Jones, who bogeyed the last, Sergio Garcia, Steven Bowditch and Marc Leishman.
65 is occupied by Keegan Bradley, who had two bogeys, Danny Willett, Andres Romero and Bryce Molder.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Garcia at eighteen.
Eighteen was the most difficult hole on the course today (4.30) with seventeen immediately behind (3.26). Garcia not only birdied both, making him the only man to accomplish that feat, but he chipped in from 45 feet at eighteen for one of only five birdies at the hole today.
Except maybe for the pin placements, there was no apparent reason why the course played a stroke and a half harder and nine strokes harder for yesterday’s leader, Jordan Spieth, whose even-par 72 resulted in a dozen players passing him by.
A quick look at Spieth, who was pretty much a par machine today… Take out the par-fives (1-under today after -4 yesterday) and Spieth scrambled half the time, going 6/7 in that department. So, it was great that he was saving par, because he could have easily shot 74 or 75 today. The only really legitimate chance he had for birdie he blew, missing a five-footer at twelve.
The fellow at the top bested Spieth’s round of yesterday by a stroke as Brandt Snedeker shot a 62. At 13-under, he leads by a shot over five others.
Snedeker, who has had some flashes of brilliance in an otherwise decent season (34th in points), as he has three top-tens including a third at Shanghai, shot his best round of the season and by two shots. Snedeker made a couple of long ones, including 56 feet from just off the fringe at four and 29 feet at ten. And he followed that putt at four by nearly holing out with a 7I at five. He also eagled the par-five sixteenth, hitting a ballsy 5I from 203 to six feet. And, as water is in play down the right side and the pin was far right, Snedeker actually found some room between the pond and the stick when he could easily have played for the center of the green and made birdie.
As mentioned, five are a shot behind—Justin Thomas (66), Andres Romero (67), Danny Willett (67), Sergio Garcia (68) and Rickie Fowler (68). Thomas started his day off with an airmailed second out of the rough, making bogey. Then, two holes later, he parked an 8I at the 170-yard third to two geet left of the cup. Romero overcame three bogeys and Willett four with Willett also hitting to six feet and making eagle at two. Garcia bounced back off a tee shot in the water and a double at seven by making birdie at the final three holes, including draining a 31-footer at the famed seventeenth. Yesterday, seventeen and eighteen were playing as the two most difficult holes and Garcia was the only player in the 144-man field to birdie both. They played a little easier today. Even so, Garcia was one of only three (Aaron Baddeley and Bo Van Pelt) to do it and, of course, the only man to do it twice. Might come in handy on Sunday. Fowler might have gone into tomorrow sharing the lead with Snedeker, except that he three-putted the last from 47 feet, missing from five feet (short, by the way) for what would have saved par.
The rest of the top ten consists of a group of five at 10-under, three shots off the lead: Adam Hadwin (65), Jason Day (66), JB Holmes (66), Jerry Kelly (68) and David Toms (70). Hadwin came home in 30, including a 51-footer for eagle at sixteen. Day reeled off four birdies in a row starting at five, including a PW that he nearly holed out at seven from 145.
THE CUT LINE:
4-under, with 77 playing on the weekend. That’s four shots better than the actual even-par of last year.
Some surprises (as in players leaving early): Rory McIlroy (who hit into the water and double-bogeyed seventeen then bogeyed eighteen and missed the cut by one), Phil Mickelson (bogeyed eighteen and missed by a shot), Cameron Tringale, Jason Dufner, Billy Horschel, Adam Scott, Bill Haas, Vijay Singh, last week’s match play winner, Brooks Koepka, two-time winner this year Jamie Donaldson, Martin Kaymer, Louis Oosthuizen and, though not expected to do much, his name still carries some weight–Tiger Woods.
The breeze was up a bit and the course played just a bit harder. But it’s still playing under par.
Justin Thomas, one off the lead at the start of play today, shot the round of the day and will head into tomorrow up by four.
Thomas has played steady golf all season, missing only two of eighteen cuts. But he’s been playing his best golf in the past month, finishing fifth in the Texas Open, fifth at the Heritage and seventh at New Orleans. Though the 21-year old Thomas, who earned his full card after a fine Web.com season in 2014, has yet to win a main event, he seems primed to do so here. Let’s just hope the yips don’t catch up.
Though Thomas, who shot a 7-under 65 today, eagled the par-five second, and which happened to be the only eagle there today after sixteen in the first two days, he did his best work on the back nine, which he’s played in a total of 13-under, or about two-thirds of the -19 he is now. He bogeyed the fifth, the second time he’s done that as he’s missed the fairway all three days and has only one other bogey to show for himself in 54 holes. He birdied both back nine par-fives but his best work was done in two other places—at fourteen, where he hit a 4I out of the rough from 227 that rolled to with a foot of a tenuous back left pin placement, and at seventeen, when he sank a tricky downhill 30-footer, birdies at both.
JB Holmes (67) will be playing with Thomas in the final pairing tomorrow. And he’s tied with Danny Willett (69) at -15.
Holmes strung four birdies in a row together starting at two. The one at the second was spectacular as he butchered what was supposed to be a 3I approach that, instead, went right and somehow just managed to avoid a watery death. Even so, he was amongst dense trees but not only managed to find a narrow opening but pitched to with a foot of the hole. Holmes might have done better, but he bogeyed the twelfth and thirteenth, twelve on a three-putt and thirteen as he missed the par-three into a difficult pot bunker. After that, he seemed to stall out, doing well enough to par the rest of the way but never giving himself a chance to do any better than that.
After parking a 6I to two feet at thirteen, Willett bogeyed the next two. or he might have been a bit closer to the lead as well. He bounced back with a birdie at the par-five sixteenth then was apparently content to par the last two rather than risk any further damage.
After those three, it’s Robert Streb (66) and Jason Day (68) tied for fourth at 14-under, five shots back. Streb had six birdies on the back nine. Unfortunately, he also had a pair of bogeys. Day dropped a 22-footer for eagle at sixteen. Unfortunately that was sandwiched by bogeys before and after, essentially negating that eagle.
Day one leader Jordan Spieth (68), Adam Hadwin (69) and day two leader Brandt Snedeker (72) are tied for sixth at -13. Spieth, who had an opening day 63, seems to have leveled off a bit. The good news for him is that he’s had exactly one bogey in the first 54 holes (the fourteenth yesterday). So, he’s not making mistakes out there. After three bogeys on the front, Hadwin finished with a bang, making birdie at the final four, including putts of 39 feet at fifteen and 36 at seventeen. Snedeker never did get it rolling today, but it was three-putts at fourteen and seventeen that kept him from finishing under par.
It’s Aaron Baddeley (69), Sergio Garcia (72) and Andres Romero (72) all tied for ninth at 12-under. Remember how Garcia had been the only man in the first two days to birdie both seventeen and eighteen while playing the final three holes in 5-under and how that could have been a factor had he been in the mix on Sunday? Yeah, scratch that thought as he parred the final three, including a three-putt at sixteen while not getting close at the last two. Though, at seven back, if the chips fall exactly the right way…
Well, though the yips associated with being in the driver’s seat having never won did materialize for Justin Thomas, he managed to overcome them. And, only one other player was able to make a run at him before falling back. So, Thomas, who’s been playing the best golf of his career over the past month, won his first PGA Tour event and on one of the biggest stages.
Thomas was a bit shaky early on. He kept the driver in the bag for his first tee shot, just went for the green with his second and made a two-putt par. He felt his oats a bit at the par-five second but pushed his drive right a bit. He could have laid up from out of the rough but decided to have a go at the green in two with a 3W over the water, sand and trees from 267. Ballsy. He came up short and right but had a lot of green to work with, chipped to six feet and made the birdie putt. Routine par at the par-three third. He pushed an 8I approach right and pitched poorly but made a 21-foot putt to salvage par at four. At five, Thomas hooked his drive well left, almost into a water hazard separating the hole from one on the Valley Course. But he not only managed to stay in play, he hit a 7I out of the rough to eight feet and made birdie.
At that point, Thomas counted his lucky stars as that four-shot lead could well have been history. Instead, his lead had increased to five as no one was coming after him—yet. So, after counting those stars, he kept his driver in the bag for the next two holes and made par, then parred the par-three eighth. Even at the par-five ninth, the driver remained in the bag. But he hit two poor 3W and pulled a PW, leaving him short-sided and in the bunker. But Thomas took the smart road out and accepted a bogey rather than trying to be cute and ending with a double or worse.
And Thomas looked over at the leaderboard and saw Adam Hadwin moving up quickly.
Hadwin started the day six shots back. He had three early birdies, including hitting a 6I to two feet at three. But he backed up after flying the green at four and making bogey. That reversal was only temporary as he ran off four consecutive birdies starting at eight and all with the putter as he sank putts of 30, 10, 11 and 7 feet. And, playing about two holes in front of Thomas, Hadwin had closed the gap to one.
Hadwin a couple chances to pull alongside or even move ahead but failed to do so, missing birdie putts of eleven and seven feet at twelve and thirteen. Thomas only knew that Hadwin had parred those holes; he didn’t know how close he had come to possibly losing the lead. So, Thomas left the driver in the bag again and parred the tenth then blew a chance to make birdie at the par-five eleventh as he couldn’t get up and down from 58, his approach hit just a bit too hard and into the rough between the green and the bunker that frames the front and right sides of the green. His chip could have been better but, once again, his putter came to the rescue as he made the eight-footer for par.
Thomas made routine pars at the next two while getting word as to how close he came to losing the lead. In the midst of that, Hadwin dropped a stroke at fourteen as his 5I approach to a back pin placement was hit too hard and, though landing on the green, bounced off and just off the back. He got too much grass on his chip and managed to just trickle on, then two-putted from 20 feet. Hadwin breathed a little easier and parred the next two, albeit on long first putts.
But Hadwin again closed the gap to one as he got on in two and made birdie at sixteen. But, after making that one step forward, he took two back, nearly going off the back of the island green at seventeen but just hanging on and then chipping but short of the slope that might have seen his ball roll down close to the hole and a possible par save. After that, he hit well right at eighteen but was still able to get a 5I to the front of the green. The bad news was that he had 85 feet worth of putt left because the Sunday pin placement is a bitch, back left near the water and a bunker. But he putted to four feet and it looked like a great par save was in the offing. But he missed the putt.
Thomas, playing at sixteen, saw the red 18 go up and then the red 17 next to Hadwin’s name and breathed a whole lot easier. Until he nearly put his 6I approach into the water, barely making it to dry land and plugging in the pot bunker in front of the green. Once again counting those lucky stars, Thomas knew that, crappy lie or not, par here was good enough, so just get out, two-putt and leave. He got out, alright, his ball releasing to the back of the green, only a precious few feet from a watery death. Thomas grimaced at what could have been then sank his fourteen-foot birdie putt. Talk about ice water running through your veins.
Pumped up a bit, seventeen was a PW to the center of the green and a par. The approach at eighteen might have been a bit too far left for comfort. But he held the green and two-putted for the win.
So, it’s Thomas (70) winning his first by four at 21-under. Hadwin (67) and Jason Day (68) tied for second at -17 with Danny Willett (71) at -16. Aaron Baddeley and Sergio Garcia (both with 69) tied for fifth at 15-under. Justin Rose (69) and Robert Streb (72) tied for seventh at -14 with Jerry Kelly (69), Daniel Summerhays (69) and Zach Johnson (70) rounding out the top ten at 13-under.
SHOT OF THE DAY:
Thomas’ 7I at five. Others hit closer and chipped in, but making birdie when he may have been inches away from double-bogey and eventually going on to win qualifies that as ‘shot of the day.’
Rickie Fowler won in a playoff. Starting in 2014, any playoff would be a minimum of three holes (16, 17, and 18) with sudden death (17 and 18 over and over) after that. Fowler, Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner made it a threesome in the first such playoff at this tourney. Fowler and Garcia were still tied after three holes with Fowler winning it on the fourth as he hit to within five feet of the treacherous Sunday pin placement at the island green and made birdie. Winning score for 72 holes was 12-under.
The only man to appear in both top tens was Garcia.
Thomas finished tied for 24th at 5-under.
JUSTIN THOMAS (-21, wins by four)
That makes him a first-time winner on the PGA Tour.