Dufner chips in at 18 to take one-shot lead

By Associated PressMay 19, 2012, 12:10 am

IRVING, Texas – Standing over his ball in a swale behind the 18th green, Jason Dufner would have been content with a par and a spot in the big group tied for the lead in the Byron Nelson Championship.

Instead, Dufner had the lead to himself Friday. He finished by chipping in from 37 feet, his fourth birdie in five holes, after driving wide right and having his approach roll over the green.

''No, that wasn't in the thought process,'' Dufner said. ''Pretty lucky for it to go in, but that's part of golf. Sometimes you get those breaks.''

His second long chip-in wrapped up a 4-under 66 for a two-round total of 7-under 133. That put Dufner a stroke ahead of a group of six players that included Matt Kuchar, the world's fifth-ranked player who won The Players Championship last week.

Dufner got married the week after his first PGA Tour victory at New Orleans last month, and returned to play last week.

He has the 36-hole lead for the fourth time this season, including the Masters, and the seventh time in his career. The experience of having a victory can provide a different mindset while leading at the halfway point again.

''Maybe a little bit,'' he said. ''I'm confident with my game and happy with where my game is right now.''

Kuchar shot a 68 to join first-round leader Ryan Palmer (70), Chad Campbell (66), Pat Perez (67), Dickey Pride (68) and Marc Leishman (69) at 6 under.

Defending champion Keegan Bradley (68), who last summer won the PGA Championship three months after becoming a first-time winner in a Nelson playoff against Palmer, was two strokes behind the leaders along with Ryuji Imada (68) and Charley Hoffman (69).

Kuchar recovered from a miserable early stretch when he had two bogeys and a double bogey in a four-hole span.

After a birdie at No. 10 to start his second round, Kuchar had a bogey at the 455-yard 12th when his approach from the rough landed in a bunker. His approach at No. 14 went in the water, leading to a double bogey before he again wasn't able to get up-and-down out of a greenside bunker at the par-4 15th.

''I got on the wrong side of things,'' Kuchar said. ''Par 5, took advantage of that. So I was pleased that I was able to hang in there and bounce back.''

His approach at the 546-yard 16th was inside of 5 feet. That was the first of his five birdies without another bogey over his final 12 holes.

Kuchar still has chance to become the first PGA Tour player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win in consecutive weeks. Woods also was the last player to win in his next start after winning The Players Championship. That was in 2001, two years after David Duval pulled off that feat.

The only other top 10 player in the field is Phil Mickelson, who had a fitting finish in a round of 69 with a double bogey after his tee shot at No. 18 went in the water and his approach after the drop went over the green.

''I hit it terrible today, there was no other way around it,'' Mickelson said. ''I've just got some mechanical issues where I was not striking the ball very solid. I was able to hit decent shots on the backside to make birdies and make a run, but that last hole stunk.''

Dufner was 4 under when he caught a glimpse of a scoreboard early in his back nine and noticed the crowd near the top with little movement on a day with steady winds.

''I was kind of around par for the day, trying to stay patient a little bit, maybe get a birdie or two,'' Dufner said.

Even after a bogey at No. 12, when his approach landed in a greenside bunker, Dufner did much more than he hoped for down the stretch.

That started with three birdies in a row. There was a 21-foot putt at No. 14 before he holed a 35-foot chip at No. 15, then made a 21-foot birdie putt at No. 16.

''Ended up getting birdie on four of the last five, couple of chip-ins, which you don't expect, especially the one on 18,'' Dufner said. ''It was a nice way to finish.''

Before his last hole, which he preceded with consecutive birdies, Mickelson had only one bogey despite being in trouble several times.

There was the par save at No. 8 after he missed the fairway but knocked his second shot from the rough to inside 4 feet. His tee shot at No. 9 landed under a tree and he used a 5-wood to punch the ball under branches. It rolled up onto the green and he made a 17-foot birdie putt.

The consolation for Mickelson is that he is within six strokes of the lead with two rounds to play.

''There will be a bunching on the leaderboard,'' he said. ''If I give myself some more chances (Saturday), I 'm starting to feel a little bit better with the putter, and I should be able to make some.''

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.