Crane (-7) takes lead in Memphis; play suspended

By Associated PressJune 6, 2014, 1:59 am

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Phil Mickelson came to the St. Jude Classic wanting to tune up for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst by finishing strong.

He did just that Thursday.

Mickelson shot a 3-under 67, birdieing three of his final four holes in windy conditions before a thunderstorm softened up TPC Southwind. It was his first round in the 60s since the third round at the Wells Fargo Championship. He hadn't shot below 70 since. He missed the cut at The Players Championship and tied for 49th last week in the Memorial following a visit from FBI agents and lingering questions about an insider-trading investigation. Lefty hasn't won in 19 events dating to the British Open and is among the players in Tennessee tuning up for Pinehurst.

''I did exactly what I need to do and some momentum that I need heading into the U.S. Open,'' Mickelson said. ''Tomorrow's round, the same thing. Finish strong and play a good round.''


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Ben Crane shot a 7-under 63 giving him the lead in the suspended first round, taking advantage of the 3 1/2-hour delay that left nearly perfect scoring conditions with no wind and rain-softened greens. He had five of his seven birdies on his final nine, the last a few minutes before play was suspended because of darkness.

Sixty players were unable to finish the round.

Peter Malnati shot a 65, and Billy Horschel also was 5 under with two holes left to play. Retief Goosen and Joe Durant each had a 66, while Stuart Appleby, Zach Johnson and Jason Bohn were on the course at 4 under. Appleby had a hole-in-one on the 157-yard eighth hole, using a 7-iron. That was his 17th hole, and the last one he completed.

Crane needed only 24 putts for his best round of the season, including a 27-footer for birdie on his final hole at No. 9 with only a handful of people watching because officials closed the course to spectators because of the high winds with the storm.

''We caught a huge break being on this side of the wave,'' Crane said. ''You know this is ideal Memphis weather. It's as good as it gets. It was calm, barely any wind. The greens softened up. We were able to attack some of the pins.''

Mickelson, who tied for second at Southwind last year, was among the 53 players who finished before play was delayed. Even with tricky wind Thursday morning, Mickelson said his focus on each shot was much better. He's trying to better visualize the shot and curve his irons so that his approach shots land closer to the hole, giving him more tap-in opportunities.

Finishing with the three birdies in his final four holes was exactly what he wanted in a round with five birdies and two bogeys.

He hit his approach from 135 yards on the par-4 sixth to 5 feet and rolled in the birdie putt. He left himself longer putts with a 7-footer on the par-3 eighth and an 11-footer on the par-4 ninth, but knocked them in for his strong finish.

''I've been struggling with finishing the round strong,'' Mickelson said. ''I had a good round last week on Thursday and then played poorly. To birdie three of the last four made it a great round. That's exactly what I need to do.''

Firm greens made it tough to land balls close, but Goosen credited them with helping him roll in some of his birdie putts. He sank a couple from 5 feet or closer, but also had a couple birdie putts from 14 feet. Goosen also saved par on No. 7 with a 12-foot putt.

''The greens are as good as greens as you can get,'' Goosen said. ''The greens are rolling close to 13 on the stimpmeter. They are really good. You hit the right putt, they are going to go in.''

A seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, Goosen hasn't won on tour since 2009. He has two top-10 finishes this year as he continues his comeback from back surgery in August 2012. He tied for third in Memphis in 2011 and said he really likes the course.

Divots: Robert Garrigus withdrew after hurting his wrist in the 18th fairway. He had a 79 that included three bogeys, a double and an 8 on the par-4 17th. ... Players will resume the second round at 7 a.m., with the second round starting approximately 40 minutes later.

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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.