Twenty-One May be the Winning Number

By Associated PressOctober 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
  LAS VEGAS -- Garrett Willis arrived at the course behind schedule, cut short his time at the driving range and managed an abbreviated warmup workout in the fitness trailer before beginning play.
 
It didn't seem to matter much -- well, aside from that bogey on his second hole.
 
Willis shot a 10-under 62 on the TPC Summerlin course Friday for a share of the second-round lead in the Frys.com Open.
 
D.J. Trahan and rookie George McNeill matched Willis at 13-under 130. McNeill shot a 7-under 64 on the par-71 TPC The Canyons course and Trahan had a 64 on the same course in an event missing all of the world's top-20 players.
 
After playing the Canyons course Thursday, Willis went 7 under on his back nine in the second round to finish one stroke off the course record of 61 set by Davis Love III in 2001.
 
Not a bad showing in Sin City considering he had a late night at The Palms Hotel and Casino and then a 7:10 a.m. tee time after fighting his way through the morning commute traffic. Fellow player Jesper Parnevik even offered Willis a ride, noticing he'd been waiting a while outside the lobby.
 
Jason Gore and John Huston were tied for fourth at 12 under. Gore followed his 63 on The Canyons course Thursday with a 4-under 68 on Summerlin on a hazy, mostly cloudy day in the desert for the early groups before a sunny and breezy afternoon. Huston shot a 6-under 65 at The Canyons.
 
Gore had a bogey and only one birdie on the front nine, but made four birdies over his final nine holes.
 
'I think I was pressing a little bit too much on the front nine and just said, 'Heck with it,'' Gore said. 'After the way I played on the front nine, I'm glad to finish up with 4 under. It looked like I could have shot 5 over at one point.'
 
John Daly bounced back from a first-round 74 with a 9-under 63 on Summerlin -- shooting an 8-under 28 on the back nine -- to put him at 6 under for the tournament. He was 4 over for the tournament with 11 holes to play, but birdied Nos. 7 and 9 to reach the turn at 1-under 35. He then birdied 10 and 11, eagled 13 and birdied Nos. 14 through 17.
 
'Nothing's been going right in two years, and to do that, it's just a great feeling to get a decent round in for a change,' Daly said. 'It was a shock to me.'
 
Scott Verplank, the highest ranked player in the field at No. 24, and Charles Howell III missed the cut after being expected to contend. They were both at 3 under.
 
Willis made eagle on the third hole -- his 12th -- then birdied Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 9 on his sizzling back nine to shoot his second best round of his career, in just his 11th PGA TOUR event of 2007. He followed his bogey on No. 2 with a birdie, then also had three straight birdies on 14, 15 and 16.
 
Paired with Duffy Waldorf, who sported lilac slacks and his trademark Hawaiian shirt, it wasn't until his 17th hole that Willis noticed he was atop the leaderboard.
 
'When I made a bogey on the second hole, my first thought was, 'Great, you put yourself in a position where you'll have to grind it out for the cut,'' said Willis, who finally felt awake about halfway through his round. 'When I turned at 3 under, I was just more concerned with hitting good golf shots. And then I birdied No. 1, which was my 10th hole. After that I felt relaxed.'
 
Willis, who turns 34 next month, has made $85,682 on the tour this year and another $112,053 in 16 events on the second-tier Nationwide Tour. He won the Tucson Open in 2001 for his lone PGA TOUR victory, but has played more Nationwide tournaments over the past three years than PGA TOUR events. He missed three straight Nationwide cuts during one tough stretch earlier this year.
 
Willis' PGA TOUR season hasn't been a memorable one.
 
In his 10 previous starts this year, he withdrew once and missed five cuts.
 
The 32-year-old McNeill, who recently made a 'drastic change' to shallow out his swing, followed a bogey on No. 8 with an eagle into the wind on No. 9.
 
'That just carried me on for the next few holes,' he said. 'I kind of started off all boring and monotonous.'
 
While most players say they are able to focus despite the slow pace that comes with competing in a Pro-Am, they were ready to get to the final rounds this weekend with only pros.
 
'I've never been paired with a jerk,' Gore said. 'I think that would put a really bad taste in my or everybody's mouth.'
 
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  • Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

    The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

    Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

    What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

    Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

    Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

    Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

    Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

    Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

    He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

    Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

    Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

    Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

    Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

    "I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

    The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

    Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

    "I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

    McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

    By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

    When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

    Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

    Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

    While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

    Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.