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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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.