Calc Takes Over Top Spot in New Orleans

By Associated PressApril 20, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Zurich ClassicAVONDALE, La. -- Mark Calcavecchia was on the PGA TOUR before Zurich Classic first-round leader Kyle Reifers was born.
They both put themselves in some tough spots during Friday's second round, and the seasoned pro handled it better than the TOUR rookie.
'It's a miracle I don't have any bogeys yet, considering the places I hit it today,' Calcavecchia said after his 3-under 69 vaulted him from second place to the top of the leaderboard.
The 47-year-old former British Open champ stood at 9 under, one shot ahead of Lucas Glover (69) and Nick Watney (67).
'I shot the lowest score humanly possible today, considering the places I was,' said Calcavecchia, who won the PODS Championship last month for his 13th PGA TOUR title. 'It kind of reminded me of Tiger Woods, who seems to make every 10-foot par put he looks at when he needs to.'
Reifers, who shot a course-record 64 on Thursday, repeatedly pulled shots left off of the tee, costing him his first two bogeys of the tournament as he failed to consolidate the two-shot lead he had when the day began. He finished with a 73, leaving him tied for fourth at 7 under with Charley Hoffman (69).
'I just couldn't buy one. I felt like I was hitting good putts and they just didn't drop,' Reifers said. 'I'm only two off the lead so I can't complain. I want to get on that back nine on Sunday and have a chance to win. So I didn't shoot myself in the foot too bad.'
Certainly, it could have been worse, but the 23-year-old impressively saved par twice on the back nine, where he started his second round.
On No. 13, his drive laded at the base of a towering cypress tree that blocked his view of the green. With his back pressed against the trunk, his ball surrounded by protruding roots known as cypress knees, he chopped the ball into the middle of the fairway about 92 yards from the pin.
'Those aren't fun ones, just hitting it 4 yards. It's like giving away a shot,' Reifers said.
His next shot landed 4 feet from the hole, setting up his par putt.
On the picturesque par-3 17th, with an alligator lurking in the water nearby, he missed the green on his tee shot, then botched his chip so badly that one spectator could be heard hollering, 'That's horrible,' as the ball skidded nearly 31 feet past the pin. He redeemed himself with a one-putt that quickly turned the gallery in his favor, then he tossed his ball into the crowd.
Moving to the front nine, he birdied the par-4 fourth after hitting an approach shot from to the rough to within 9 feet of the hole.
It was the first time in his young career Reifers had begun a second or later round of a PGA TOUR event with the lead.
'I didn't feel out of place. I didn't feel like I didn't belong,' Reifers said. 'I just didn't hit it the way I wanted to off the tee and got into some squirrelly places and was kind of grinding all day.'
Calcavecchia made what he termed 'miraculous pars' with one-putts of about 11 and 8 feet on the sixth and eighth holes. Both putts came after he had hit into bunkers with difficult uphill lies.
On No. 15, his approach shot went over the green, then his chip about 9 feet past the pin. He putted in from there to save par. On the par-3 17th, he needed two shots to hit the green, then made par again with a 10-footer. He finished with a crowd pleasing 29-foot put to end his round on No. 18, holding his club in the air as the ball dropped.
'Maybe I'm wising up a little,' said Calcavecchia, who credited a calmer mental approach to his 20th-place finish at the Masters two weeks ago. He said he easily could have turned that 20th place into a 40th or 50th 'like I have in the past by losing it a little bit ... and doing some stupid things.'
Just don't try to call him more mature.
'No. I'll never mature,' Calcavecchia said. 'I'll be a kid until I'm dead.'
The cut was at 1 under, meaning 85 golfers moved on to the final two rounds. Boo Weekley, last weekend's winner at Hilton Head, S.C., was not among them after finishing his second round at 5 over. ... Six players finished the second round tied for sixth at 6 under, just three shots off the lead. They were Daniel Chopra, Wes Short Jr., Paul Stankowski, Jason Schultz, Steve Wheatcroft and Chris Stroud. Stroud was at 8 under before he hit into the water on No. 9, his final hole of the round, and ended his round with a double bogey. ... With Watney one shot back and Reifers and Hoffman two shots behind, chances were good that a first-time PGA winner could emerge from New Orleans' tour stop for the fifth time in the last six years. ... Former LSU star David Toms again had a large gallery following him. With a birdie on No. 8, he managed a 73 to go 4 under through the first two rounds. Because Reifers was fell back to into the field a bit, Toms predicted that 'anyone who makes the cut will have a chance.' ... After several players sponsored by Titleist played the opening rounds with Virginia Tech hats to show support for the university reeling from the murders of 32 people earlier this week, the PGA Tour received donated hats with the schools colors and trademark 'VT' to give to all players during Saturday's third round.
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.