Levin surges ahead at Phoenix Open

By Associated PressFebruary 3, 2012, 11:57 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Spencer Levin took the Phoenix Open lead with a hard-charging approach. He figures that’s the best way to stay there, too.

“You don’t want to get too tentative or play away from shots,” Levin said. “If you want to play well and make birdies you can’t do that, so I’m just going to try and stay as aggressive as I can the next two days.”

Levin holed out from a greenside bunker for eagle on the par-4 17th and shot an 8-under 63 on Friday to reach 14 under. He had a five-stroke lead when the delayed second round was completed Saturday morning at TPC Scottsdale.

“Hopefully, I can just keep trying to believe in myself and just keep trying to make my swing, and we’ll see what happens,” Levin said. “I’m going to give it my best shot. It should be fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

On 17, Levin took one last drag on his cigarette, stamped it out in the rough and climbed into the bunker behind the 17th green. He set up quickly, took a quick glance at the hole and splashed out. The ball landed about 10 feet from the hole, bounced twice and rolled into the cup for an eagle-2.

“That was pretty cool,” Levin said.

Harrison Frazar was 11 under with three holes left Friday when play was suspended because of darkness. He had two bogeys Saturday morning to drop to 9 under.

“There toward the end it was getting kind of tough to control the ball and to see it,” said Frazar, the St. Jude Classic winner last year. “The temperature dropped, so the ball flies a little differently.”

Webb Simpson, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 6, was third at 8 under along with tour rookie John Huh. Simpson shot a 69 in the last group to finish play on No. 18, and Huh had a 66.

“That was probably the darkest I’ve ever played,” Simpson said. “I couldn’t really see anything.”

Kyle Stanley was 7 under after a 66 as he tries to rebound from a devastating loss last week. On Sunday at Torrey Pines, he made a triple-bogey 8 on the final hole of regulation and lost to Brandt Snedeker in a playoff.

The 27-year-old Levin, remembered for a hole-in-one and 13th-place tie in the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock while still in school at New Mexico, is winless on the PGA Tour. He came close last year, losing a playoff to Johnson Wagner in the Mayakoba Golf Classic. At Torrey Pines, Levin had a share of the first-round lead after a 62, but followed with rounds of 76, 73 and 72 to tie for 43rd.

“Last week I played great the first round and didn’t play well the rest of the week, but overall I think my game is getting better,” Levin said.

Fan favorite Phil Mickelson finished off a 70 at dusk to reach 4 under. He had a bogey and a double bogey in a front-nine 38, then made four birdies—the last drawing the loudest cheers of the day on the amphitheater par-3 16th—on the back nine.

“The front nine, I don’t know what to say. I mean, it was just terrible,” said Mickelson, the former Arizona State star who won the tournament in 1996 and 2005.

“I was able to kind of self-correct it a little bit for the back to shoot 4 under and turn it around. It’s not what I was hoping for going into the day, but I’m looking forward to playing the weekend and seeing if I can light it up.”

Defending champion Mark Wilson, coming off a victory two weeks ago in the Humana Challenge, was 3 under after a 69.

Levin was one of 42 players who finished the first round Friday morning after play was suspended because of darkness Thursday.

He hit his first shot of the day to 3 feet to set up a birdie on the par-3 seventh and parred the final two holes for a 65 that left him a stroke behind first-round leaders Jason Dufner and Ryan Palmer.

Levin then birdied the first two holes in the second round, holing 20- and 15-foot putts. He hit to 2 feet to set up a birdie on the fifth, added a 15-footer on No. 12 and got up and down from behind the green on the par-5 13th for another birdie.

The key shots came on the par-5 15th after he hit his approach into the water and had his ball roll into a sand-filled divot on the penalty drop. He hit to 10 feet, made the putt to save par, then birdied the par-3 16th and eagled the par-4 17th.

“That was huge,” Levin said. “I took a drop and the ball rolled a good step and a half into this sand divot. I didn’t even see it. Some weird thoughts were going through my head. I actually hit a great shot. I hit it out of the sand divot to about 10 feet. I was just trying to get it on the green.

“So, the momentum from being in the sand divot to making a par and then going 2-2 on the next two holes was huge. It could have gone the other way.”

On the 16th, he hit a little draw pin-high to 8 feet and made the putt to the delight of the noisy fans who chanted his name before he teed off. He then holed the bunker shot after driving over the green on the 335-yard 17th and closed with a par on 18, missing a tricky, downhill 10-footer.

“That was a fast one,” Levin said. “I didn’t really get it started on line, but I just nudged it and it still went a foot and a half by. But that was a tough pin because if you get left of it, it’s off the green, so I hit a good second shot.”

Thirty-four players were unable to finish the second round Friday after frost delayed the start for an hour for the second straight day. On Saturday, play was delayed 15 minutes because of frost. Last year, frost and frozen greens delayed play nine hours during the week, forcing a Monday finish.

DIVOTS: The crowd was announced at 116,299, the fourth-largest for a Friday in tournament history. … Arron Oberholser, returning from hand and hip injuries, shot 72-71 in his first PGA Tour start since October 2009. He missed the cut by a stroke. … Jeff Overton withdrew on the final hole because of a lingering left wrist injury. After opening with a 67, he was 5 over for the round when he hooked his tee shot into the water on 18 and stopped playing. … Vijay Singh, Stewart Cink, Tommy Gainey and Chris Kirk withdrew after play was suspended.

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Mickelson misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”