Big names near the top at Sr Players

By Associated PressOctober 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
Champions TourTIMONIUM, Md. ' Professional golfers are notorious tinkerers anyway, and the incentive to tweak ones swing only increases as time passes between wins.
 
So Phil Blackmar and Des Smyth have been doing some major overhauling lately. At least on Thursday, the changes worked.
 
Blackmar, Smyth and Bruce Fleisher shot 5-under 65s to share the first-round lead in the Senior Players Championship, the fifth and final Champions Tour major of the season.
 
Phil Blackmar
Phil Blackmar is searching for his first Champions Tour victory. (Getty Images)
Blackmar holed out from the fairway for eagle to help offset four bogeys, Smyth had a bogey-free day, and Fleisher made four straight birdies early in his round to top the leaderboard.
 
All three are winless this year.
 
Fred Funk, Scott Hoch, Bernhard Langer and Eduardo Romero opened with 66s and 19 players were within three strokes of the lead after an ideal day for scoring at the East Course at Baltimore Country Club.
 
Blackmar, a Champions Tour rookie who took seven years off from competitive golf, provided the highlight of the day with his approach shot on the 389-yard, par-4 10th hole. His shot with a pitching wedge from 106 yards landed about 10 feet short of the cup and skipped in for an eagle.
 
A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, Blackmar said he expected to be in contention more this season. He has had just three top-10 finishes despite putting well. As the years gone on, Ive felt uncomfortable with my swing, he said. Its been getting shorter and shorter going back. Less (shoulder) turn. Its taken its toll mechanically. It reached the point where I had to do something.
 
That something has consisted of a lot of practice time spent working on new swing keys, but he is not ready to declare his swing changes a success just yet. I hit a lot of good shots today. Im excited about that, said Blackmar, whose last win of any kind came at the 1997 Shell Houston Open. Im also very suspicious. I know my game. I know that it comes and goes.
 
Smyths game seemingly left him after last year. This has been a really terrible season, he said. Its been a struggle. Ive been working on a swing change over the last five or six weeks because I got frustrated with how the years gone.
 
Smyth, whose son won nearly $14 million in the Irish National Lottery two months ago, hasnt had a victory since 2005 and hasnt even managed a top-20 finish this season. But he had three tap-in birdies on the front nine and birdied Nos. 11 and 14.
 
He hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation while trying to perfect a new backswing. He decided to make the change after seeing a videotape of his swing. The minute I saw it I knew I had to make a big change to get it back on track, he said, pleased by the early returns. Really, I was just hoping I could find a little bit of form at the end of the season, so I could take something into next year. I know conditions were really good, but still, it takes a bit of golf to shoot 65.
 
Fleisher, an 18-time winner on the Champions Tour but winless since 2004, is the only one of the three leaders who hasnt overhauled his swing recently. Im too old, said Fleisher, who turns 60 next week. To go after something new at this point would be kind of silly.
 
Fleisher shot a 5-under 30 on the front nine and, after a bogey at 10, sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th to move into a tie for the lead. Just one of those days that everything clicked, he said, adding that he believes he can still win on a tour dominated by players five or more years younger than he is. It certainly becomes harder and harder, but I think it can be done.
 
Related Links:
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  • Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

    By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

    Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

    Getty Images

    LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

    The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

    LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

    "The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

    It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

    "He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

    After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

    The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

    At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

    But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

    What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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    Woods arrested for DUI, enters diversion program after getting "professional help"

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    Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

    Article: Woods pleads in court guilty to reckless driving


    Woods goes from unsure of his pro golf future to resuming full golf activities

    Article: Doctor clears Woods for full golf activity six months after back surgery

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    Woods out and about in 2017

    Article: Video, images of Tiger's round with Trump

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    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm