Notes Sawgrass Shows Teeth Stadlers Repeat

By Associated PressMay 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 THE PLAYERSPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Nicholas Thompson watched his ball stop safely on a ridge at the par-3 No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass, then waited for it to roll.
He expected it to happen much sooner than it did, and when it finally took off, it became one of the wildest adventures at the famed island green on a windy Sunday.
Thompson took his time getting to the green, walking about as slowly as he could while keeping an eye on his ball. He figured one of those 40-mph gusts in the final round at The Players Championship would do the trick. But it seemingly took forever.
It wasnt until Thompson reached down to mark his ball that it started to turn. It rolled about 25 feet closer to the hole, leaving him with a 5-footer for birdie.
I was just baffled that it didnt roll down (sooner), he said. Literally, it was within 2 inches of catching the slope. When I went up there, I went to put my marker down and got about 3 inches or 4 inches from the ground and the ball just started rolling.
Thompson threw his hands up in the air, egging on the wildly cheering gallery, called over a rules official just to be sure he didnt have to remark the ball and then made the putt.
Others werent as fortunate at the 128-yard hole.
Charlie Wi knocked two in the water and finished with a quadruple-bogey 7. Jim Furyk, Rocco Mediate and Mark Wilson made triple bogey.
With the wind whipping left to right, the shortest hole played tougher than just about any other on the Stadium Course. Only the par-4 18th was more difficult Sunday.
Kevin Stadler thought his shot would land in the middle of the green, but when the wind got done with it?
I hit a perfect shot and it barely stayed on the green, he said.
The hole yielded just eight birdies, and two of those came from the same pairing. Pat Perez and Brett Quigley had two of the best tee shots of the afternoon there, and may have provided the best reaction.
Perez, struggling most of the day en route to a 5-over 77, knocked his shot within 2 feet. He watched his ball inch closer and closer to an ace, then tossed his club across the tee box in mock disgust when it stopped just short.
Just having some fun, Perez said.
He wasnt done, though.
Quigley followed with a similar shot that landed a few feet farther left, then rolled to about 8 feet. He tossed his club to Perez, who then tossed it, too.
I liked him throwing his, saying, Thats enough for me, Quigley said. Thats exactly how I felt. You wake up every morning thinking about that tee shot. You know its going to be tough. When you come down the ninth green youre thinking about what the wind is going to do on 17 and trying to get a read on it. Its just the hardest shot we play.
Talk about an encore.
Kevin Stadler, making his debut at The Players Championship, eagled the 384-yard par-4 fourth for the second consecutive day.
He holed out from 95 yards with a 60-degree wedge in the third round Saturday, then made another eagle from a nearby spot Sunday. He holed out from 98 yards with a sand wedge in the final round.
That doesnt happen often, said Stadler, the son of former Masters champion Craig Stadler. I hit a great shot yesterday. Today, I got lucky. I got a good little hop and I could tell by the way people were watching it up by the green that it was going to be close.
I couldnt believe it dropped in again. It was pretty wild.
And pretty rare.
Hal Sutton is the only other player to accomplish the feat at The Players. Sutton eagled No. 4 twice in 2001.
Stadler can only imagine what it will feel like to step to the tee box at No. 4 in the future, but he knows those shots will stick with him forever.
It has treated me nicely the last couple of days, thats for sure, said Stadler, who shot 71 and finished 3 over.
Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow visited TPC Sawgrass for the final round, watching the action on the famed par-3 17th with his brother, father and a few friends.
Tebow had hoped to catch former Florida golfer Chris DiMarco, but DiMarco was finished before Tebow arrived at the course.
Tebow, who became the first sophomore to win college footballs most prestigious award, didnt get an early start because he got home late Saturday night from a missionary trip in eastern Europe.
The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Tebow lives nearby in Jacksonville and attended Nease High in Ponte Vedra Beach. So was he able to get through the hometown crowd without much problem?
Not really, said Tebow, who was escorted by two sheriffs deputies.
DIVOTS: Chad Campbell had the round of the day, making six birdies and shooting a 4-under 68. Jesper Parnevik took a quadruple bogey on the par-5 ninth and shot 85, four strokes better than the highest score recorded at The Players since it moved to Sawgrass in 1982. Michael Campbell shot 89 in the first round in 2003. J.B. Holmes had a par-free front nine Sunday, making four birdies and five bogeys. Camilo Villegas finished 12 over and can blame his score on the final two holes. He was 8 over for the week on Nos. 17 and 18, including double-triple finish Sunday.

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    Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:40 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.

    Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.

    “I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”

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    Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.

    “We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.

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    Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

    The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

    “I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

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    The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

    Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

    “It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

    By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

    With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

    Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

    The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

    The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

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    As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

    “There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

    Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

    “You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

    “It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

    Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

    Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

    “It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

    Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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    Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

    According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

    The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

    The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.