Notes Augusta Changes Wont Increase Field
With an overhaul of the PGA TOUR schedule and format, the Masters revamped its qualifying this year to invite winners of PGA TOUR events that get full FedExCup points, those who qualified for the Tour Championship at the end of the FedExCup season, and those who finished in the top 30 on the PGA TOUR money list.
The Masters will be played April 10-13 and the field will not be set until the Shell Houston Open the previous week. But here's how it's shaping up after the first year of the new criteria:
Twenty-two players already have qualified by finishing in the top 30, making the Tour Championship field or winning. Camilo Villegas, who would not have qualified for the Masters under the old system, was the only player at East Lake who did not finish in the top 30 on the money list.
Nick Watney (New Orleans), Brian Bateman (Buick Open) and Jonathan Byrd (John Deere) only qualified by winning tournaments. And only one player, Steve Flesch, was added to the field in the top 30 category through the money earned during the Fall Finish.
Under the previous criteria of top 40 on the money list, 23 players would have qualified. The five players who finished inside the top 40 were Justin Leonard, Carl Pettersson, Ken Duke, Sean O'Hair and Henrik Stenson.
Stenson will qualify as top 50 in the world ranking at the end of 2007. There are two weeks left of worldwide events that get ranking points, and among those on the bubble are Anders Hansen (No. 49), Rod Pampling (No. 52) and Bradley Dredge (No. 53). If there are no changes, 11 players will be added to the Masters field by the end of the month.
Going into the 2008 season, about 85 players will have qualified. The only spots up for grabs until April will be winners from 14 tournaments and anyone who gets into the top 50 by the end of March.
So for the field to be more than 100, different players would have to win every week who aren't already eligible. And that's about as likely as Martha Burk being invited to the club for peach cobbler.
The Masters had 97 players compete last year, and no fewer than 92 players over the last five years.
TIGER CLUBS: Tiger Woods was in south Florida on Monday to promote new products from Nike, with most of the attention on the driver. But that led to a question about what additional clubs Woods takes to a tournament, particularly irons.
He brings a backup putter, wedges, fairway woods and a driver -- but no irons.
'I don't really foresee myself breaking any irons,' Woods said.
But that's what happened at the Masters last year when he tried to hit his approach on No. 11 from behind a pine tree. The shaft snapped in half when it struck a tree.
It was the second time in two years Woods had to play a stretch of holes without one of his irons. His caddie, Steve Williams, dropped his 9-iron into a pond on the seventh hole of the Ryder Cup in Ireland.
Woods said he brings different wedges depending on the grass and conditions, and he carries a few 2-irons with different lofts. He also carries a backup putter, made by Nike. But his first-string putter is a Scotty Cameron, the only club in his bag that doesn't have a swoosh.
Don't expect that to change. Woods has won 12 majors with that putter.
HOWELL'S EQUIPMENT: Charles Howell III signed an endorsement deal with Callaway when he turned pro in 2000, but don't look for that brand when he shows up at Kapalua next month for the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
Callaway officials said Howell has asked out of his contract, and he was granted his release.
'Sometimes you wonder what they're thinking,' said Nick Raffaele, vice president for sports marketing at Callaway. 'But we don't want any player who's not comfortable. I hope he finds what he's looking for.'
That part remains unclear. Howell's agent, Thomas Parker, declined comment until there was more news to report.
WOMEN'S WORLD CUP: Juli Inkster and Pat Hurst will get another crack at the Women's World Cup.
The longtime friends finished second to Paraguay by seven shots in January. They got another chance when Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr both declined to play this year, saying they wanted a long break before the start of the official season.
Creamer also is skipping the Lexus Cup, matches between Asia and players from the rest of the world. That will give her a three-month break from competition. Asked the last time she had a break that long, Creamer smiled and said, 'When I was 12,' and it wasn't clear if she was joking.
Kerr, the U.S. Women's Open champion, didn't sound like she would ever play. This is the second year in a row she turned down the offer, and while she is playing the Lexus Cup, she said the Women's World Cup 'just comes at a bad time in the schedule.' Kerr plans to spend the first two months getting in shape for the season.
DIVOTS: Scott Verplank had to withdraw from the Merrill Lynch Shootout because of minor surgery on his thumb, which has been bothering him all year. He also had to skip the Target World Challenge, but will recover in plenty of time for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship in Kapalua to start the 2008 season. ... Despite going wire-to-wire at Q-school, Frank Lickliter declined interview requests every day until it was over. 'Hogan didn't talk to the press,' he reasoned. Then again, Ben Hogan was never at Q-school. ... The Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf will return to a team event next year for the first time since 2002. It will be a better-ball format as it was from 1978 to 2001, only now the prize money will count as official and both players will be credited with an official victory. ... American Express announced a new program in which anyone who buys lessons from participating PGA of America professionals can bring along a guest for no additional charge.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Nine players earned PGA Tour cards after making it through all three stages of Q-school.
FINAL WORD: 'She's never going to beat me, though.' -- Tiger Woods, on his 6-month-old daughter showing some early interest in golf.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: Fathauer dunks one off flagstick for eagle
The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest will take place Saturday night in Los Angeles, but Derek Fathauer kicked things off a little early with this eagle in the third round of the Genesis Open.
Playing his second shot on the par-4 third hole at Riviera Country Club, Fathauer dunked one off the flagstick and into the hole for an eagle-2:
The shot got the the 32-year-old, in search of his first PGA Tour victory, under par for the round and into the mix early on Moving Day.
Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open
MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.
The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.
England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.
The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.
''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''
Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.
That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.
''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''
The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.
J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives
ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.
The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.
Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.
Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.
Green birdied her first three holes on Saturday and then added two more on the eighth and ninth. Two more birdies followed on the back nine with her only dropped shot a bogey on the 17th.
"I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.
"It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."
South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.
Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.
"It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."
Cantlay, McDowell, Saunders share lead at Riviera
LOS ANGELES - Tiger Woods waited 12 years to get back to Riviera and lasted only two days.
Woods had three straight bogeys early on the back nine Friday and didn't play well enough to make up for his misses. He had a 5-over 76 and missed the cut in the Genesis Open for the first time in nine appearances as a pro.
He was at 6-over 148, one shot worse than his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old at Riviera.
''I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well, didn't feel very good on the greens,'' Woods said. ''And consequently, never made a run. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way.''
Patrick Cantlay ran off three straight birdies toward the end of his morning round, starting with a tap-in on the par-3 sixth when he missed a hole-in-one by a fraction of an inch, and shot a 69. He was tied with Graeme McDowell (66), the former U.S. Open champion who is trying to work his way back from a two-year slump.
They were at 7-under 135.
Sam Saunders also was at 7 under, making back-to-back birdies until it was too dark to continue. He had three holes remaining in his second round. Ryan Moore bogeyed his final hole for a 68 and was one shot behind at 136.
Rory McIlroy overcame a few short misses on the front nine for a 69 and was at 2-under 140.
Cantlay was coming off a three-putt bogey when his tee shot at the par-3 sixth - the hole with a bunker in the middle of the green - landed above the flag and to the right, and then rolled back down the slope just over the right edge of the cup.
''I actually missed a little to the right, but it's a bowl back there so as long as you get the number right, it should be pretty close,'' Cantlay said.
He followed with a short iron into 5 feet for birdie, a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then a wild drive that led to a bogey on his final hole.
McDowell has gone 59 starts worldwide since his last victory and has fallen out of the top 200 in the world. He had missed four straight cuts dating to late last year, though he felt he was hitting it well in practice. What helped was seeing some good scores.
''All I'm missing is a couple little numbers and a little bit of confidence,'' McDowell said.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and gets to stick around for the weekend. He was at 1-over 143. Bubba Watson, who won in 2014 and 2016, has fallen out of the top 200 in the world after a two-year drought. He shot a 70 and was at 4-under 138, and then headed for the NBA All-Star weekend to play in the celebrity game.