Leonard tied atop Disney; 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.

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook sank a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without making a bogey on the Plantation Course or the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

Cook was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back.

Bubba (64) fires his lowest round of 2017

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:12 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Bubba Watson’s plan when he left the Dell Technologies Championship in September was to take a few months off and come back fresh in 2018

Those plans changed after a few weeks.

“What we figured out was the mental side, preparing for kindergarten - not for me, for my son - preparing for [wife] Angie's knee surgery. It's been a tough go,” Watson said.

“Being home and being with the family and everything, I realized how much I missed the game of golf, and that's why I wanted to come and play in these tournaments.”


RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


The plan has paid off this week at the RSM Classic, where Watson is tied for 12th place after a second-round 64 on the Seaside course moved him to 7 under par.

Watson, who tied for 51st two weeks ago in Las Vegas, got off to a quick start on Day 2, playing the opening nine in 29. Despite a miscue at the 14th hole, when his tee shot wedged into a tree, he was solid coming in for his best individual round this year.

The left-hander was particularly sharp with his ball-striking after what has been a difficult year.

“I want to play golf now and right now I'm swinging at it pretty nicely,” he said.

S.H. Park (65) builds three-shot lead at LPGA finale

By Doug FergusonNovember 17, 2017, 9:58 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Golf felt so easy to Sung Hyun Park that only when she took out her card to catch up on her scores did she realize she had closed out the front nine with five straight birdies at the CME Group Tour Championship.

Park kept right on attacking.

The 24-year-old from South Korea added a 30-foot eagle putt late in her second round and finished with a 7-under 65, giving her a three-shot lead going into the weekend at Tiburon Golf Club.

Nothing seems to bother her, even the chance to cap off an amazing rookie season by sweeping all the big awards on the LPGA Tour.

''To be honest, I don't feel quite as nervous as I thought I would,'' Park said through an interpreter. ''After the first shot, after the first hole, I felt a lot more comfortable. I'm not feeling as nervous as I thought I might be going into today.''

Leave that to the players chasing her.

Even with a three-putt bogey on the final hole, Park was at 12-under 132 and was three shots clear of Caroline Masson (66) and Sarah Jane Smith (69).


CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


More importantly, none of the other players in the chase for the $1 million Race to the CME Globe bonus or any other big award was within five shots of Park, who is trying to become the first rookie since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to win LPGA player of the year.

Lexi Thompson, who leads the Race to the CME Globe and the Vare Trophy for lowest adjusted scoring average, shot a 67 and wound up losing ground. She was six shots behind and must stay within 10 shots of Park to win the Vare.

So Yeon Ryu, who leads the points-based award for player of the year, managed a 71 with her sore right shoulder but was 11 shots back.

The other two players who need to win the tournament to collect the $1 million bonus also had their work cut out for them. Brooke Henderson had another 70 and was eight shots behind, while world No. 1 Shanshan Feng shot 73 and was 11 shots behind.

Park was in control, only she didn't see it that way.

''I don't think it's quite that far of a lead,'' Park said. ''Two, three shots of a lead can change at any moment. We will have to see what's in store for this weekend.''

Park began her big run with an 18-foot birdie on No. 5, got up-and-down for birdie from just off the green at the par-5 sixth, holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 7, and then closed out the front nine with birdie putts from 8 feet and 15 feet.

''I actually didn't know that I was going five birdies in a row,'' Park said. ''Come hole No. 10, I realized that I hadn't been jotting down my scores as diligently, and so I realized it a little bit later on. And it felt great.''

That gave her the lead by one shot over Suzann Pettersen, except that Pettersen faded badly on the back nine.

Pettersen dropped four shots in a three-hole stretch by getting out of position off the tee and she shot 39 on the back nine for a 70 to fall five shots behind.

''I feel like I'm playing good,'' Pettersen said. ''Three bad drives on the back nine cost me four shots. That should not be possible on this course, where the fairways are about 100 yards wide.''

Park was honored at an awards banquet Thursday night as the LPGA rookie of the year. Now, she has more awards in her sights. A victory would give her the award for player of the year. She would capture the money title, which she leads over Ryu. And depending on how the weekend goes, she might be able to surpass Thompson in the race for the Vare Trophy.

Thompson did well to recover from two bogeys on her opening three holes.

''I hit a few really erratic shots in the beginning. It wasn't a good start to the round,'' Thompson said. ''Just tried to stay positive and find something that could work for the last 14, 15 holes.''

Lydia Ko fell six shots behind in her bid to avoid a winless season. She was one shot behind going into the second round but managed only three birdies in her round of 71.

Park, meanwhile, had everything going her way. Even when she pulled her drive on the par-5 14th into a sandy area with a root next to her ball, she picked it clear and sent it through a goal post of trees back to the fairway. Three holes later, she blasted a drive and had only a 7-iron into the green at the par-5 17th, which she hit to 30 feet and made the long putt.

Does anything make her nervous?

''I hate spiders,'' she said. ''But in terms of golf, I always get nervous to this day on the first tee. I can feel my heart pounding.''

It's a feeling that doesn't appear to last very long.