Loud and Clear Van Pelt Leads

By Associated PressMay 6, 2006, 4:00 pm
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bo Van Pelt hardly would call himself a fashion plate.
'I'm pretty much a khaki and white shirt guy, pretty bland,' he said.
Yet that hardly describes his attire Friday at the Wachovia Championship. He stuck with the white shirt, but completed the ensemble with -- gasp! -- BRIGHT ORANGE PANTS.
Bo Van Pelt
Bo Van Pelt made a statement with his game and his attire Friday.
'I guess I felt the heat,' Van Pelt said. 'I put on these orange pants, and I felt like I really better play good or I was going to get made fun of. Maybe I ought to wear them more often.'
Something worked, that's for sure.
Van Pelt set the 36-hole tournament record, tying the course mark with a 64 Friday for a 10-under total of 134 at Quail Hollow. It was good for a three-shot lead over former U.S. Open champ Jim Furyk, with Davis Love III another stroke back.
Play was suspended for about 90 minutes during the afternoon because of thundershowers, then called off for good about 30 minutes after it resumed when more bad weather moved through.
Seventy-four players did not finish the round, although six players -- including John Daly -- didn't show up to finish the round, knowing they likely would miss the cut. Luke Donald also withdrew with a back injury.
The cut was at 2-over 146, and among those making it on the number was 52-year-old Jay Haas, who birdied three straight holes Saturday morning and finished with a par. His 23-year-old son, Bill Haas, completed a 72 and was six shots off the lead.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson dropped two shots in seven holes Saturday morning and was at 1-under 143.
Van Pelt matched the 64 shot by Kirk Triplett in the first round of the inaugural event in 2003.
'I was concentrating when I was out there, but it's always fun when you feel like you've got control over your golf ball,' said Van Pelt, still looking for his first career victory. 'You know, you feel like you can work it the way you want to work it. They rhythm with my putter felt really good, so that always helps.'
He finished off his round in style with a birdie on the 17th hole -- one of only nine birdies made Friday on the 217-yard par 3 with a peninsula green. With the pin to the far left -- only 15 feet from the water -- Van Pelt hit a 5-iron into 6 feet.
He added a sand save on the finishing hole to complete his round of nine birdies and one bogey.

'It's not the end all, be all, but obviously I want to win,' Van Pelt said. 'It would mean a lot.'
To do so, he needs to hold off a stellar field that includes eight of the 10 players in the world. Tiger Woods is missing, having already decided to skip the tournament for the first time in three years to be with his father, Earl, who died of cancer earlier in the week.
Furyk, who shared the first round lead with three other players, got to 9 under before some problems late, with bogeys at 16 and 17 spoiling his day a bit. He finished with a 69.
'Yeah, I'm disappointed,' Furyk said. 'I felt like in my mind I should have played those holes better. If those bogeys come at 4 and 13, you know, none of us would think twice about it. They just happened to come at 16 and 17.'
Defending champ Vijay Singh was five shots behind after a 68 to leave him at 5-under 139.
'The golf course is a driving golf course, so you drive the ball and you can give yourself chances at birdies, like I did,' said Singh, who beat Furyk and Sergio Garcia in a playoff last year. 'No matter which way you do it, you've got to put the ball in the fairway.'
Love didn't do that very well -- he found the short grass on only six of the 14 driving holes -- but he got away with it. He had three birdies to offset two bogeys on the front, then finished the back nine without another bogey to match his score of 69 from the first round.
Winless since 2003, when he won four times, Love is trying to put less pressure on himself these days.
'I think I've been trying too hard, obviously trying to win majors and trying to make Presidents Cup teams and Ryder Cup teams,' he said. 'I felt like the last two days, I went out and played and had fun and enjoyed myself, and got into playing golf.'

Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Wachovia Championship
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  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquinn Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.