Notes Lonard gets big laughs OHair-raising

By Associated PressAugust 1, 2008, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio ' Peter Lonard wandered out of the heat after shooting a 66 Friday and walked right into the interview hall of fame.
 
His session might have been one of the funniest in PGA TOUR history. It certainly wins the prize this week at the Bridgestone Invitational.
 
Heres a sampling of some of the Aussies best lines:
 
On how he hurt his back recently: I just woke up at Wachovia, went to the range ' actually past the range and went straight to the first tee (because I) wanted to hit off in front of Nathan Green because hes a really slow player.
 
Asked how he qualified for the Bridgestone (he won the Australian PGA ' which he called the fifth major ' for the third time): I dont know. Someone just phoned up and said, Youre in!
 
On how much shorter the rough at Firestone Country Club is this year rather than last: If it was like (it was last year) yesterday, I would have shot 100. (He shot a 69.)
 
On what he would do if he didnt play golf: I did try working once before and I didnt enjoy it very much.
 
How he decided where to go on vacation recently: Im just sitting in a bar with my mate and he said, You should go somewhere. I went, Ive been everywhere. Theres nowhere I havent been. He said, Theres got to be somewhere. I said, Well, Ive never been to Egypt! So I went to Egypt.
 
On his tour guide in Egypt: Im thinking Im going to sit back and look at a few pyramids and take a few photos and all of a sudden shes asking me, This is the fourth dynasty of who? It was like hanging out with your headmaster for a day at the age of 40. It was brutal.
 
On trying to impress her with his fame as a professional golfer: I said I played golf for a living. She just snickered and that was it, like, Idiot. '
 
On Tiger Woods not being in the Bridgestone field: To me, him not being here is probably the difference between 38th and 39th. So I dont miss him. But Im sure the boys up in the big-money end, they definitely notice a difference.
 
OHAIR-RAISING: After shooting a 67 Friday to tie for third two shots back of leader Vijay Singh at the Bridgestone, Sean OHair for the first time publicly revealed the details of his harrowing accident early last month near his home in West Chester, Pa.
 
I shifted maybe a little too quick, OHair said.
 
Making matters worse: a rainy road, inexperience with a stick shift, and (gulp) a new 5.4-liter, high-performance Ford Mustang Shelby GT.
 
I hit a pole probably going about 35 mph. It just jumped right out in front of me, OHair cracked.
 
He had chest pain after hitting the wooden power pole head on. X-rays showed he didnt have any fractures, although he did have some fluid buildup in his chest. He had to take three weeks off, then played poorly in the next three tournaments before tying for third last week at the Canadian Open.
 
The car wasnt totaled, but his wife Jackie said he had to get rid of it ' after hed had it just three days.
 
Now hes got a Cadillac Escalade. With an automatic transmission.
 
BUCKEYE CHALLENGE: Noted Wisconsin fan Steve Stricker, on who will win when Ohio State plays against the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on Oct. 4: Badgers. By 3.
 
PAULS PACK: Three middle-aged guys followed Irelands Paul McGinley around throughout his first 36 holes at the Bridgestone Invitational. Each wore an oversized, white T-shirt. Niall Hopkins said Mc in letters 2 feet high, with Rich Sylvia sporting GIN and Oliver Kelly LEY.
 
The backs of their shirts, when they stood in a row, spelled out IRL representing Ireland ' their native land and that of their favorite player.
 
All three live in Cape Cod and met McGinley at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Whenever McGinley plays in the United States, they try to make the trip. They traipsed along with him at the PGA Championship last August in Tulsa, only then they had five guys who wore shirts spelling out GO McGINLEY. Now theyve had to get by with less.
 
The fewer guys the bigger the letters, Kelly said with a laugh.
 
Sylvia added, With more guys, though, its harder to keep them in line.
 
SOMETHING CLICKED: Stuart Appleby was slogging through his first nine holes at Firestone Country Club, fighting his swing and fighting his self-doubts.
 
It was a bit degrading, he said after having five bogeys and four pars. It was pretty ugly. I dreamt of getting to par.
 
Then suddenly, things turned around.
 
Over his last 27 holes, hes had 11 birdies and has completed rounds of 70 and 66 to climb into a tie for seventh at the Bridgestone at 4-under 136.
 
I didnt have the ball position right and I wasnt making a very good downswing, he said of what was wrong through his first nine holes. I decided to knuckle down. Its been a real good run.
 
Now Appleby believes hes ready to roll.
 
I feel confident, he said. This weekend is going to be more like this last 27 holes.
 
DIVOTS: Six players in the Bridgestone field must win to get into next weeks PGA Championship: McGinley, Brett Rumford, Richard Finch, Lucas Glover, Hidemasa Hoshino and Craig Parry. Jim Furyk foundered until holing out from 160 yards for eagle at the par-4 17th. Of the 80 players in the field, five have played in all 10 Bridgestones, and three are in the top 10 through 36 holes: Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Appleby. Chris DiMarco, who shot a 70, said he feels better than at any time since hurting his shoulder 2 1/2 years ago. Mickelsons only bogey in 36 holes came when he missed a 7-foot putt for par on his next-to-last hole. He then made a 19-footer to save par on his final hole.
 
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    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 what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin 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.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    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.