Japanese Tiger Leads Nissan Open
Despite his only bogey in the first two rounds, the 34-year-old known as the 'Japanese Tiger' had a 4-under 67 and a one-stroke lead going into the weekend.
'I'm very happy and surprised to be in front,' he said through a translator.
Taniguchi was at 133, one stroke ahead of Jesper Parnevik, Len Mattiace, Brad Faxon and Scott McCarron.
Faxon had a 67 at Riviera Country Club, scene of his greatest PGA Tour round in 1995, when he had a 28 on the front nine and closed with a 63 in the PGA Championship to earn a spot on the Ryder Cup team.
McCarron, who played Riviera about once a month while going to UCLA, drove the 305-yard 10th green and holed a 36-foot eagle putt on his way to a 65.
Parnevik had six birdies and four bogeys in a fun-packed round of 69, while Mattiace birdied his last four holes for a 65.
Bob Tway had a 68 and was another stroke back, while David Duval showed once again that nothing beats a clear head. He has a history of performing well after taking time off, and a 69 on a clear, breezy day off Sunset Boulevard left him only three strokes back.
'This tournament always seems to have guys bunched up,' McCarron said.
And just about everyone was still in the picture. Those who made the cut were only nine strokes out of the lead. That includes Robert Allenby, who had a 66 and was at 139. He avoided becoming the fifth straight defending champion to miss the cut.
Sergio Garcia had a 67 and was at 140.
They refer to Taniguchi as 'Tiger' on the Japanese Tour because he pumps his fist whenever he makes birdie and prefers to wear red shirts on Sunday. His results bear no likeness to Tiger Woods.
Taniguchi has won only three times on that circuit, and he hasn't won since 2000.
Still, he is one of several Japanese players who is slowly emerging on the global scene. A year ago, he finished third in the Match Play Championship in Australia after losing 2-and-1 to eventual champion Steve Stricker, then beating Ernie Els in the consolation match.
Not many recall his third-place finish in a World Golf Championship event. A victory in the Nissan Open would be another matter.
'America is the top tour in the world. All the players are in the top class,' he said. 'That's a big difference from Japan. I'm satisfied winning Japan, but not totally satisfied. I'm trying to win in the U.S.'
Taniguchi described himself as a steady player who can be aggressive, and he used that combination well. His only birdie putt longer than eight feet was a 25-footer on No. 15, and his only bogey over the first 36 holes came when he missed the green long on No. 18.
Taniguchi is playing on a foreign exemption, and typically plays the West Coast events when possible because he is familiar with the courses.
No one gets vibes quite like Faxon.
'I played the best round of my life - ever - here in '95,' he said.
The better explanation for his 67-67 start was seeing his swing coach in San Diego before coming to Los Angeles, just like he did last year at the start of a season in which he won the Sony Open in his second tournament.
'I'm ready to play like I was at the beginning of last year,' he said.
It helped that Faxon managed to get a few extra hours of sleep. This is his second tournament since daughter Charlotte was born Jan. 18.
He also has developed a knack for holing shots from the fairway this week. On Thursday, it was a 70-yard pitch from the 11th fairway for eagle. On Friday, he got a boost by hitting into the bunker on No. 7, coming up short of the green and holing a 40-yard chip for birdie.
News, Notes and Numbers
*Jeff Maggert was disqualified when he bent his putter out of frustration on the 18th hole, then tapped in for bogey. One problem. Under Rule 4-3b, a player may not use a club that is damaged other than in the normal course of play when its characteristics have been altered. The penalty is disqualification.
'I thought it was a two-stroke penalty, but then I got to thinking about and called a rules official over,' Maggert said. 'The way I've been putting, maybe a new putter is what I need, anyway.'
*The Nissan Open is raising its purse next year by $800,000, making total prize money $4.5 million. There also will be a name change. While Nissan remains the title sponsor for at least four more years, Countrywide Credit Industries will be the presenting sponsor.
*Duval is playing for the first time with a bimatrix shaft in his driver. The shaft is a combination of steel by the clubhead and graphite.
Full-field scores from the Nissan Open
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.