Notes Barnes finds comfort zone in majors

By Associated PressApril 10, 2010, 4:55 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ricky Barnes only has one finish in the top 10 in regular PGA Tour events, that coming at Riviera this year when he finished well back in ninth place.

Put him in a major, and it’s a different story.

In his first major since he was a runner-up at the U.S. Open last summer, Barnes was solid again Friday with a 2-under 70 that left him in the group with Tiger Woods at 6-under 138.

“I think that my last major that I played in got me ready,” Barnes said.

Even though he tied for second at Bethpage Black, that wasn’t enough to make Barnes eligible for the British Open or the PGA Championship. It only got him into the Masters.

“I was looking forward to coming here and playing well,” Barnes said. “I put myself in a good spot after the first two rounds and hopefully I can make some more noise on the weekend.”

Barnes’ only other trip to the Masters was in 2003 when he was the U.S. Amateur champion. Paired with Woods, he outplayed the defending champion by finishing six shots ahead of Woods over the first two rounds before finishing in a tie for 21st.

“I was telling someone last night that I never really wanted to come back here unless I was playing as a pro,” Barnes said. “It’s one thing to get invited by a member or something, and I would never turn it down, but I always wanted to come back here and play as a pro. And I’m here, and I want to take it a step further and compete come Saturday and Sunday.”

TAKE YOUR PICK: Like any good Italian kid, Matteo Manassero grew up playing soccer.

He also played golf and when it came time to choose, golf won out.

“I started golf at 3 years old. It’s always been a passion,” said the 16-year-old, who became the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters on Friday. “I’m better at golf, so I kept golf.”

But he hasn’t lost his love for the beautiful game.

“I really like soccer, too,” Manassero said. “I really like to play it and watch it.”
Rory McIlroy will have to find something else to do this weekend. Maybe even longer than that.

After playing the weekend at all four major championships last year – and finishing in the top 10 at two of them – McIlroy missed the cut at the Masters Friday. His 77 in the second round left him at 7-over, four strokes off the cut line.

More troubling, though, is the back pain that’s been bothering him since February.

“The whole game is getting to me at the moment,” McIlroy said. “I think I just need to go home for a few weeks and try and sort my head out. I don’t know when I will play again at the moment. I just feel like taking a complete break to get my head right and the back cleared up fully.”

McIlroy is scheduled to play at Quail Hollow in three weeks, but said he might wait until the BMW PGA Championship, which is May 20-23 at Wentworth.

“The back is OK. I can still feel it, but if I rest it then it will be fine,” he said. “I just need to go home for a while and see what I need to do for the rest of the season to get better.”

McIlroy said he first felt the back pain during the Dubai Desert Classic, where he tied for sixth. Tests revealed nothing worse than strained ligaments, and the 20-year-old got treatment. But he’s broken 70 only twice in his last three starts, and missed the cut last week in Houston.

He made only two birdies at Augusta National, where he tied for 20th last year.

“I am just not myself at the moment, and this is the sort of golf course that makes your mistakes look even worse when you are slightly off,” McIlroy said.
Ian Poulter was on the practice range when he decided to change up the clubs in his bag. He took out a utility club and replaced it with a 3-iron because of the wind direction.

It all worked out fine – until he hit a tee shot on the par-5 13th in perfect position.

“That utility I was talking about? Would have been perfect,” Poulter said.

Given the sidehill lie, Poulter didn’t feel comfortable hitting the 3-iron. Instead, he tried to cut a 5-wood that went 45 feet long. He two-putted for a birdie, so it worked out for him in the end.
Ryan Moore is giving Ian Poulter some competition for “best dressed” at the Masters.

While Poulter likes to push the envelope with unusual color and pattern combinations, Moore is decidedly old-school. His outfits look like something out of the Bobby Jones and Sam Snead era, right down to the tucked-in ties.

“I love the classic golf look,” Moore said Friday. “I obviously have my own spin on it, but I love the Bobby Jones look. I wish it would come back.”

Moore, 27, was best known for shunning endorsements the first four years of his PGA Tour career. When he won at the Wyndham Championship last year, he almost looked like an amateur, with no sponsor logos on his bag or clothing. He signed earlier this year with Scratch Golf – the deal made him a part-owner – but he’s still dressing himself, putting together outfits from his personal closet

On Friday, Moore wore a navy cardigan with blue, green and white stripes, his peacock-blue tie tucked into his blue-and-white checked shirt and secured with a silver, antique car tie clip. On Thursday, he wore a blue tie and white button-down.
“It’s almost gone a little too sporty,” Moore said of the game’s current fashion trends. “I just love the classicness of (what he wears). I wish I could pull off a Sam Snead hat, but I’m not cool enough.”
Thongchai Jaidee withdrew because of an elbow injury. He was at 6 over for the tournament when he dropped out after 10 holes Friday. … Tim Clark and Vijay Singh were both playing with neon yellow balls. … Michael Campbell, the 2005 U.S. Open champion, failed to make the cut for his fifth straight year, the last for which he had an exemption.

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Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

“I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

“I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

“I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

“[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

“He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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This week, let the games(manship) begin

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

“Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

“There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

“Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

“I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

“It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

“Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.