Couples shares Masters lead; McIlroy, Garcia one back

By Associated PressApril 6, 2012, 11:17 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Before there was Tiger, Rory, Sergio or Phil, a smooth-swinging guy named Freddie used to make `em go crazy at the Masters.

He can still make it interesting.

Freddie Couples turned back the clock Friday - back to 1992 - during a seven-birdie second round that coaxed a fist pump from the California-cool 52-year-old and put him in a tie for the lead with Jason Dufner at Augusta National.

“Can I win?” Couples said, repeating the question that so many are asking now. “Yeah, I believe I can. Yes.”

He shot 5-under 67, the same score he posted 20 years ago during the second round of what turned out to be one of the most popular wins in the history of the tournament. Were it not for the gray hair beneath his cap, this might have been confused for a replay of that `92 win instead of the second round in 2012.

“Standing out there, I said, `What the hell,’ a lot. What do I have to lose here?” Couples said.

Meantime, Phil Mickelson made six birdies during a round of 4-under 68 to pull to 2 under for the tournament.

Tiger Woods had nowhere near as good a day. Struggling with his swing for the second straight round, he opened with two birdies on the first three holes, but gave that all back and more. He shot 3-over 75 and was at 3 over for the tournament, closer to the cut line of 5 over than the lead.

Last year, he was seven back but came back to briefly grab the lead on Sunday before finishing fourth.

“One of the neat things about this tournament is the 10-shot rule,” Woods said, referring to the rule that brings all players within 10 of the lead back for the weekend. “Anyone can win the golf tournament who makes the cut. Guys have won this from five, six down going into the back nine. I just need to be solid, cut that deficit down and get off to a quick start like I did last year on Sunday.”

Couples got off to a quick start Friday, shooting a 3-under 33 on the front nine to move into contention. Two years ago, he opened with a 66 and became the oldest player to hold the outright lead after the first round at Augusta. Last year, he shot 68 on Friday to push his way into the top 10.

This time, he heads into the weekend with a chance to become the oldest major winner. He’s six years older than Jack Nicklaus was when he won his sixth Masters on that unforgettable Sunday in 1986. Twenty players in the field weren’t even born when Couples played his first Masters back in 1983.

Still, he’s hardly the only big name near the top.

Sergio Garcia shot a 4-under 68 to finish one shot back, tied with Rory McIlroy, who shot 69, and Bubba Watson, who shot 71.

“I know I’m playing well,” said McIlroy, who overcame last year’s final-round collapse at the Masters and won the U.S. Open two months later. “The recent results show that. I just wanted to come here and play, put myself in position to win another tournament, another major.”

Also in the tie at 4 under were 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood. Westwood spent most of the day in the lead, but three-putted on the 18th green for a double-bogey to close his day at 1-over 73 and 4 under for the tournament.

“The double at the last (hole) was a disappointing way to finish,” Westwood said. “But if you get out of position slightly on this course, it can punish you.”

Couples, a winner on the senior tour two weeks ago, often ambles around these grounds, twirling a golf club, looking as if he’s playing a leisurely weekend round instead of grinding through one of golf’s toughest tests. On this day, his 106th competitive round at the course, all the scenes looked familiar: Freddie bending at the waist to stretch, reaching his hand into the back of his waistband to rub his aching back, squinting into the sunlight, wincing at the occasional twinge of pain.

“What would it take?” he said. “A lot more birdies, a lot more made putts.” Maybe a painkiller or two.

He teed off into a fairway bunker on No. 3, but spun the approach back to 5 feet and jammed the putt home for birdie No. 1. He was pin high and 4 feet away on No. 4, and suddenly, Couples was doing more than playing ceremonial golf - something he has always desperately wanted to avoid.

He hit a hybrid into the 15th green to 20 feet and barely missed the eagle putt. When he rolled in a 20-footer on 16 to get to 5 under, he pumped his fist and yelled “Bam.”

Yes, folks, “Boom-Boom” is back in the mix.

He closed it out by salvaging par on No. 18 with a chip from in front of the green that stopped, checked up, spun backward to about 2 feet for a stress-free putt. He doffed his cap, raised both fists and smiled that wide smile, knowing he’ll be sleeping in late Saturday - and sleeping on the lead.

 

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm