Notes Zachs Snowman Art Work

By Associated PressAugust 4, 2007, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio -- Eight holes into the third round of the Bridgestone Invitational on Saturday, Zach Johnson was tied for the lead. That melted away on one hole.
'I tried to play safe every shot. I tried to play the percentages on every single shot,' he said, recapping the par-4 hole. 'And I had to hit a 4-footer for an 8.'
Gamely trying to make light of the situation, he added, 'It was a good 8.'
The reigning Masters champion was 1-under on the day and 5-under for the tournament and tied for the lead with playing partner Rory Sabbatini as he stepped to the ninth tee.
But Johnson's drive went into the thick, clingy, deep grass right of the fairway. It grabbed his club and caused his second shot to go across the fairway into the left rough. The best he could do from there was to muscle the ball short of the green, where he chipped over the green into more of the thick stuff.
He barely advanced his first chip, then came up short of the green with his second. From there he was able to chop the ball on the green with his seventh shot and hit the putt for the quadruple-bogey.
Still not over the ninth, he came back with a double-bogey 6 on the 10th. Johnson finished with a 76 and enters the final round tied for 11th, six shots back of Sabbatini.
'I tried to be conservative. I tried to take the smart approach, which is how I play,' he said. 'I got slapped around pretty good.'
Someone painted an obscene sketch near the middle of the fourth green sometime between the end of the second and the beginning of the third round of the Bridgestone Invitational.
'It was vandalism,' PGA TOUR tournament director Slugger White said. 'We put some green sand on it to try to mask it as best we could.'
But that didn't do the job. The paint was clearly visible to players. As he played the fourth hole, Tiger Woods glanced at it and smiled.
He laughed as he later called it one of the strangest things he has seen at a tournament -- including streakers at the British Open.
Tournament officials said they were able to use the original third-round pin placement, which was on the back left portion of the green. The final-round pin placement also will not be affected by the paint. It will be on the back right quadrant of the green.
'I guess we got lucky as far as that goes,' PGA TOUR tournament official Dillard Pruitt said. 'It could have been a lot worse. I know at Pebble three years ago or whatever, somebody basically took a shovel and dug on the 10th green. ... It was bad. We had to fill and actually hold up play a little bit.'
Since the Bridgestone Invitational is running concurrently with the Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend in nearby Canton, hotel rooms are scarce and those that are available have doubled in price.
Ben Curtis is a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan. Since he also represents the NFL on tour, wearing the colors and logos of the nearest pro teams at each tournament, it's only natural to wonder what he thinks about the contract impasse between the Browns and quarterback draftee Brady Quinn.
'Just sign. Come on,' Curtis said after playing in the second round of the Bridgestone Invitational at Akron Firestone Country Club. 'I know he wants to think he's a great quarterback and I'm sure he is, but obviously ... there's a reason why he was 22nd (in the first round of the draft). Just prove it on the field if that's what you think you are. You're still going to make a lot of money. That's the thing, it's still not like he's not going to make a lot of money.'
By the way, Curtis said he doesn't seem to play better or worse wearing any particular team's colors -- even those of Browns' rivals Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.
'It's not the clothes,' he said. 'It's the guy in the clothes.'
Tied for the lead with Rory Sabbatini, Tiger Woods pulled his drive on the par-4 13th hole far to the left -- so far left that it ended up in the 14th fairway. Woods then powered a shot high over the trees lining both sides of the parallel fairways that traveled 192 yards into the bunker off the back right corner of the 13th green. From there he blasted to 4 1/2 feet short of the cup and rolled in his par putt, preserving a share of the lead.
Joe Durant, in third place at one point, finished bogey, double-bogey to shoot a 71 that left him at 2-over 212 and six shots off the lead.
'It (the course) is very difficult, and I kind of proved that the last two holes,' he said.
Related Links:
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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).

    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the 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 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.