OHair Grabs Lead Lefty Primed at Sawgrass

By Associated PressMay 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 THE PLAYERSPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Sean O'Hair braced for the worst as his ball descended toward an island green that suddenly looked smaller. He bowed his head, then stuck his hand on his hip as he waited to see his ball disappear into the water.
 
It worked out better than he could have imagined Saturday at The Players Championship.
 
What looked like trouble on the infamous 17th hole turned into the centerpiece of a birdie-birdie-birdie finish for O'Hair, who wound up with a 6-under 66 and a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson going into the final round of golf's richest tournament.
 
'After that hole, I felt like puking,' O'Hair said.
 
Mickelson narrowly escape trouble down the stretch. His tee shot on the par-5 16th rattled through the trees on the right until it popped out in the first cut of rough, and he carved an approach from about 235 yards to 20 feet for a two-putt birdie. His final tee shot was high and hugging the lake down the left side, but settled in the fairway. He stuck his approach 2 feet away for birdie and a 69.
 
O'Hair was at 9-under 207 and will be paired with Mickelson in the final group.
 
But this is hardly a two-man show at the TPC Sawgrass.
 
Peter Lonard made a double eagle on the par-5 second -- the second albatross this week -- and played bogey-free the rest of his round until getting stuck behind a tree and dropping a shot on the last hole for a 68. He was at 7-under 209 along with former U.S. Amateur champion Jeff Quinney, who shot a tournament-best 64 in the morning to put his name atop the leaderboard.
 
Jose Coceres was among five players who had at least a share of the lead, but that changed when his 8-iron hopped over the island green and he took double bogey.
 
'I just let the pressure of 17 get to me, and I just hit it too hard,' Coceres said after his 68.
 
One guy who took himself out of the tournament was Tiger Woods, who failed to break par for the fifth straight round at The Players. He shot 73 -- leaving him 14 strokes back at 5 over -- and walked off the course without speaking to reporters.
 
Woods snap-hooked a fairway metal into the water for double bogey on No. 7, pulled his tee shot on the next hole and made another bogey and couldn't make up any ground on a day when everyone else was firing off birdies.
 
He played with Henrik Stenson, whose eagle-birdie-par finish gave him a 66.
 
Joey Sindelar played alone in the first group and predicted a wild day when he said, 'You could be on offense today.'
 
And they were.
 
Quinney was on his way to his 64 when the gallery came to life behind the second hole. Lonard had 211 yards to the front of the green, hit a 5-iron and couldn't see when the ball caught the slope and raced toward the hole.
 
'The reaction said it all,' Lonard said. 'But I didn't believe it until I picked it out of the hole.'
 
That seemed to set the stage for plenty of excitement at Sawgrass. With only a gentle breeze and several hole locations that allowed for birdies, it was a race to see who could get to the top of the leaderboard and stay there.
 
And typical of this golf course, there was plenty of punishment.
 
Sergio Garcia made a swift climb into contention with eight birdies in 16 holes, only to finish by pulling a 6-iron into the water for double bogey, and getting defensive when someone asked about the shot.
 
'I didn't yank it, I just pulled it a little bit,' Garcia said. 'It went 2 yards into the water. It didn't go 30 yards in the water.'
 
Davis Love III wasted a good round with a double bogey-triple bogey finish. Tom Pernice chipped across the 18th green and into the water on the final hole.
 
And there is always a nail-biting moment with Mickelson.
 
He was on the practice range at 8 a.m. -- more than six hours before his tee time -- with swing coach Butch Harmon, and the lesson seemed to pay off as Mickelson kept the ball inside the ropes and his name where everyone could see it. Then came a wayward tee shot on the par-5 ninth that led to bogey, and a tee shot into the bunker behind trees on the 10th.
 
Instead of the safe shot, Mickelson went through a tiny gap in the trees and onto the front of the green, escaping with par.
 
'It was plenty big for a ball to fit through,' he said. 'It was a tough enough shot where I felt like Bones (caddie Jim Mackay) would try to talk me out of it.'
 
O'Hair never dreamed of a birdie-birdie-birdie finish. After a three-putt bogey on the 15th, he only wanted to hit the next fairway. His approach came up just short of the green, setting up a simple pitch for birdie.
 
Then came the 17th, where O'Hair figured he would be another victim.
 
'I just thought it was a good, solid 9-iron,' O'Hair said. 'I hit it exactly the way I wanted to, but as I hit it, the wind died. I was like, 'That's in the water.' It ended up being a great shot.'
 
His expression told it all from the time the ball left his club until it settled 5 feet from the hole. As he stood there glaring, his face finally softened when he saw it land, and he slid his tongue out the side of his mouth, realizing his good fortune.
 
Luke Donald (65) and Carl Petterson (70) were among those in the group at 5-under 211, while U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was in the group five shots behind.
 
The most surprising contender might be Quinney.
 
He shot 83-80 last week at Wachovia and was in the middle of the pack going into the weekend at Sawgrass.
 
'This is not a course where you really want to come in struggling with your game, because Pete Dye is known for intimidating golf shots,' Quinney said. 'Golf is just a crazy game.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - THE PLAYERS Championship
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

    Getty Images

    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.