Blanks' five-birdie finish leads Love by one at John Deere

By Associated PressJuly 8, 2011, 12:43 am

SILVIS, Ill. – His putting was miserable, he was missing cuts and every round was turning into a struggle.

Kris Blanks knew he was better than that so he made a change, focusing on the part of his game that was causing the most grief. He had to do something about his putting.

“I always equate a golfer to NASCAR. We’re always making tweaks,” Blanks said. “I just needed to do something to change it up and that’s what we did.”

Sometimes the tweaks don’t work.

This time, they did.

Blanks birdied his final five holes Thursday to finish with an 8-under-par 63 and grab the first-round lead at the John Deere Classic.

Blanks, who played the back nine first, rolled in a 25-foot putt on No. 5 to start his late run and capped it with an 11-footer to leave him alone at the top after Canadian rookie Matt McQuillan and veteran Davis Love III had held that spot much of the day with 64s.

“I hope I can keep it going,” Blanks said. “I’ve never made a cut here. I think this week I will – hopefully.”

Blanks, 38, is in his third year on the Tour and came in tied for 175th in putting. But after tinkering with his approach the previous night, he found what he needed and put himself in good position to reach the weekend.

“It was good to finally see some putts fall, which I’ve been struggling with all year,” said Blanks, who has missed the cut in 11 of 20 tournaments. “So that was definitely a positive. It’s just fun to make some putts.”

If Blanks was a surprise in the lead, seeing McQuillan near the top was even a bigger shock. McQuillan, who has missed 10 straight cuts this year, grew so discouraged with his game in 2005 that he spent two years tending bar in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario.

He then played a year on the Canadian Tour and two on the eGolf Tour before going to Q-School on what he called “a shot in the dark” and earning a spot on this year’s PGA Tour.

But he hasn’t made a cut since tying for 54th at the Sony Open in mid-January and has won just $12,705 on the year.

“It’s very difficult, and to stay positive and patient has been the key for me,” McQuillan said. “I’m out here playing with the best players in the world and on the best golf courses in the world.

“So it’s very tough to stay positive and patient. But I just figure I’m out here, I qualified to get out here, so I’m trying to have fun and make some birdies.”

Though no one approached the eye-popping numbers of last year’s first round, when Paul Goydos shot a 59 and Stricker had a 60, there were plenty of golfers bunched in the mid-60s. Goydos matched Stricker with a 66, as did Charles Howell III, Josh Teater, Lee Janzen, D.A. Points, Cameron Percy, Brendon De Jonge, Zach Johnson, Cameron Beckman, Chez Reavie and Jim Herman.

Goydos said conditions were completely different from a year ago, when rain left the course soft and vulnerable to low scores.

“It plays shorter, but it plays harder,” he said. “It’s hard to kind of squeeze your ball in there on some of the holes. Last year we were just shooting darts. The ball stopped where it landed. Today, you had to kind of bounce it in a little. It makes it more difficult.”

It wasn’t particularly difficult for Blanks, who spent time on the putting green Wednesday and a half-hour in front of the mirror in his hotel room later that evening trying to get everything right.

“The way I was stepping into the ball was creating my shoulders to be open, so I just changed my routine where I don’t go with it the same way,” Blanks said. “It was more awkward, but at this point, I kind of needed some awkwardness. If it felt comfortable, I was back to my older tendencies.”

After a bogey on No. 4 dropped him to 3 under, Blanks faced a 25-foot uphill putt on 5 and knocked it in. His confidence suddenly fired, he came back with a 14-footer for birdie on 6, rolled in birdie putts of 17 feet on each of the next two holes, then topped off his big day with a final birdie at No. 9.

“I thought my speed was real good all day,” he said. “I worked real hard yesterday afternoon and evening and went to a heavier putter to try to get the ball rolling.”

McQuillan recovered from a crazy bogey-eagle-bogey start to play near flawless golf the rest of the way – seven birdies without a bogey.

“Well, I figured I got my great stuff and bad stuff out early and then just tried to make some good swings,” he said.

His play Thursday left him with a much better feeling than he had when stepped away from the game six years ago. He welcomed the change at first because he needed something different. Eventually, it helped the former University of Georgia golfer realize what he really wanted to do.

“After about a year working, I realized golf wasn’t too bad,” he said.

Starting on the back nine, Love rolled in an 11-foot birdie putt on his first hole and went on to his best round of the year. He salvaged par on No. 17 by holing out from a greenside bunker and made a 13-foot putt for par on No. 8 after hitting into a bunker and then the rough.

“I putted well,” Love said. “Even the ones that didn’t go in, most of them I felt like I hit really good.”

Marino, who has two runner-up finishes this year, was even after three holes and a modest 2 under at the turn. But birdies on 10, 11, 12 and 13 put him in a position to challenge for the lead, a spot he would have held had he not missed a 9-footer for birdie at 14.

“Shooting 7 under the first day is awesome,” Marino said. “But it’s not going to get you anything come Sunday.”

David Toms (hip) and Robert Garrigus (back) withdrew from the tournament halfway through their rounds because of injuries. Toms said his injury will keep him out of next week’s British Open. George McNeill (76) and Scott Verplank (78) pulled out after finishing their rounds.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.


Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)