Leonard shares Disney lead; Donald slips

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2011, 7:38 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Justin Leonard described his round Friday at Disney as a 'fun, easy day,' and it was every bit of that. He had a 9-under 63 for his lowest round of the year, putting him in a tie for the lead with Henrik Stenson and Bio Kim at the Children's Miracle Network Classic.

It was only after his round that he felt as though he was on Thunder Mountain without ever leaving the golf course.

Leonard is at No. 144 on the PGA Tour money list and not the least bit worried about keeping his card because he already is exempt through 2012. Because of a misprint in the media guide, reporters didn't understand how he was exempt, leading to confusion – and a brief spell of panic for Leonard – while Tour officials researched the regulations to confirm the answer.

By the time he headed for the Magic Kingdom for the parade with his four children, all was well. The leaders were at 12-under 132, two shots clear of Nick O'Hern. Gary Woodland was in the group at 9-under 135.

The money list is magic at Disney.

Webb Simpson and Luke Donald are battling for the money title, and they both played the opening two rounds at 7-under 137, meaning they will be paired again Saturday. Simpson has a $363,029 lead, so the third round looms large for Donald.

The stress is at the bottom. The players at Nos. 123, 124 and 125 – D.J. Trahan, Bobby Gates and James Driscoll – all made the cut.

Kim is at No. 168 and will have to finish no worse than second to avoid Q-school. Stenson, who had a 64 on the Palm Course, is at No. 180 but is exempt through 2014 from winning The Players Championship. Leonard also has no concern about next year. 

'I did call the tour a couple months ago and asked about my status. I'm exempt for next year, so I'm not playing with that kind of pressure,' Leonard said in his press conference. 'I don't know how, I just am. I gave the same look to the telephone. `How is this guy still exempt?''

It was a reasonable question, for his exempt status on his biography page showed him exempt through his position on the money list in 2010. In the exempt ranking at the front of the media guide, however, it shows him in the winner's category.

The answer took time. Andy Pazder, the chief of operations, was out of the state on business and did not have immediate access to the records. It required an official at Ponte Vedra Beach headquarters to go through each year's regulations to provide the correct answer. That took time, and a tour official at Disney didn't want to keep Leonard waiting. He told him the staff was checking on it.

'Are you going to eat?' media official Mark Stevens said to him.

'I already ate,' Leonard replied. 'I think I'm going to go throw up.'

As it turned out, Leonard had the correct information all along. His British Open win in 1997 came with a 10-year exemption. Starting in 2003, the tour began adding to the 10-year exemption with every win. Leonard won five times after 2003, thus he is exempt through 2012.

Leonard is not exempt for the Tournament of Champions in Kapalua to start next year, and that's something he now has a chance to remedy at Disney. Over the last few months, he has gone to Morris Pickens to develop some practice strategies, and Dave Stockton Jr. for help getting back to his natural putting stroke.

It has paid off so far at Disney, where he took advantage on the Palm for a bogey-free round of 63.

Kim had a 65 on the tougher Magnolia Course, and his spot on the leaderboard was far more critical.  

'I'm not afraid of Q-school, because I'm only 21 and I've got a lot of things to do and a lot of tournaments to do,' Kim said.

Far more fearful was undergoing heart surgery in his native South Korea while the FedEx Cup playoffs were going on. He previously had the surgery for an irregular heartbeat when he was 11, and knew he was having a problem when he nearly fainted at the Wyndham Championship in August.

He was back to playing golf before long, and now is hoping for a big week.

Simpson had a bogey on the final hole at Magnolia for a 69, while Donald battled a sinus infection and a lack of energy on his way to a 71 as they at least stayed in the game. Their battle was summed up on the 12th hole, when Donald stuffed his tee shot into 2 feet, and Simpson followed with a shot into 3 feet. Both made birdie.

'I think both of us are in the same mindset and trying to win the golf tournament,' Simpson said. 'We want to beat not only each other, but we want to beat the field. I feel that's just natural as competitors. He's got a little further to go. All it takes is a good weekend, and he would be right there.'

Donald can finish no worse than a two-way tie for second, provided Simpson finishes down the leaderboard. It's a tall order for Donald, the No. 1 player in the world.

'I'm going to need to go low on the weekend,' Donald said.

That won't be the case for a pair of British Open champions, David Duval and Ben Curtis, who both missed the cut. Duval was outside the top 150 on the money list, meaning he would have to go through two stages of Q-School to get his card back. Having gone through Q-School last year, the former world No. 1 is likely to take a year relying on sponsor exemptions and his status as a past champion.

Curtis was at No. 149 and likely to fall out of the top 150. Curtis still has the option of playing the European Tour, where he is exempt, while also playing the PGA Tour.

Meanwhile, four players from the Champions Tour all made the cut.

Michael Allen, whose only win was the Senior PGA Championship two years ago, had a 66 and was in the group at 9-under 135. Others playing the weekend are Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Pernice Jr. and Tom Lehman.

Leonard (63) and Stenson (64) played on the easier Palm course, while Kim had a 65 on the Magnolia.

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."