Taylor leads Reno-Tahoe after 36 holes

By Associated PressAugust 6, 2011, 2:48 am

RENO, Nev. - Vaughn Taylor’s only two career wins on the PGA tour have come at the Reno-Tahoe Open, where he’s making a bid to claim a third after a 6-under-par 66 on Friday gave him a one-shot lead over Will MacKenzie.

Taylor had an eagle and four birdies, then parred the last five holes to move to 9-under 135 at Montreux Golf & Country Club, where his victories in 2004 and 2005 make him the 13-year-old tourney’s only two-time winner.

“It’s good to come back to a place you’ve played well,” said Taylor, 35, who grew up and still lives near Augusta, Ga.

“I’m sure those other guys would say the same thing,” he said. “A lot of good memories, a lot of good vibes, and you almost feel like you kind of pick up where you left off.”

Steve Flesch, the 2007 champion, shot a 69 and is tied for third with Hunter Haas and first-round leader Nick O’Hern at 7-under 137. Haas had a 67, O’Hern a 72.

“It’s fun to just get back in contention,” said Flesch, who also won at Turning Stone in 2007 for his fourth career victory but hasn’t won since. “I’ve been playing so poorly for three years now. It was fun too actually see my name up there.”

Steve Elkington birdied four of his last five holes for a 65 to get to 6-under 138 in a group that includes 2002 Reno champ Chris Riley, who shot a 72 Friday, and Notah Begay III, the winner of the inaugural tourney in 1999. Begay carded a 67 to make his first cut since 2009 at the AT&T National.

“I’m usually going home after the first two rounds,” Begay said. “But it feels good. I played great. My putting has been fabulous.”

“You come back, good memories, past champion, people remember you and they cheer for you and it kind of gives you good energy,” he said.

His group at 6-under also includes Roland Thatcher, who shot a 67 Friday, along with Michael Thompson (68) and Robert Garrigus, Jay Williamson and Rod Pampling, who all shot 70.

Taylor holed out from a greenside bunker on the first hole, made a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 second hole and added a 25-foot birdie on the par-3 11th. He drove the ball 302 yards on the 518-yard 13th, then hit a 5-iron stiff from about 210 yards to set up the short eagle putt.

“It ended up about three or four feet from the hole and those are always nice to have for eagle,” Taylor said.

He credited a switch to a “spinnier ball” for part of his success on the 7,472-yard mountain course where the ball typically travels about 10 percent farther than at sea level.

“You need it to stay in the air in the altitude,” he said about one of the many calculations required to determine yardages often in swirling wind. “The caddie does all the math, and we decide on clubs together. It’s too difficult to do on your own.”

MacKenzie, who followed an opening 67 with a 69, said even a little bit of wind can make the course play much harder.

“You’re judging so much - 10 percent air quality, elevation changes and then we’ll throw in the wind and the greens dry out. It’s really difficult to get close to the hole,” he said.

Garrigus ranks third on tour averaging 310 yards per drive but even he’s getting a kick out of the added length.

“I know I hit it far already, but it’s extra special when you can hit a tee shot 400 yards and you don’t really have to do much,” he said. “I can hit 3 wood off the tees on the par 5s and still get to them in two and some of them are 600 yards.”

Elkington birdied three of the four par 5s, settling for par when he missed a 20-footer on the 620-yard 18th.

“You’ve got to play those holes well if you want to shoot low,” he said.

Haas birdied all four of the longest holes and had looks at eagle putts on three of them, including the 18th when he drove the ball 311 yards then hit his approach 310 yards to inside 28 feet.

“It makes the round a little easier when you’re hitting good approach shots from 270, 280, 300 yards,” Haas said. He said the problem is “trusting that distance.”

“You’re hitting a pitching wedge from 175 yards or something like that. You’re used to hitting a pitching wedge 140. That’s kind of hard to trust,” Haas said.

“It’s a guessing game sometimes.”

 

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


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Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).