Watney Stricker share lead in Tampa

By Associated PressMarch 20, 2009, 4:00 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. 'Nick Watney is playing so well that he doesnt even realize it.
 
Coming off a wrenching one-shot loss to Phil Mickelson at Doral, Watney kept right on rolling Friday with a 4-under 67 at the Transitions Championship to share the 36-hole lead with Steve Stricker.
 
I guess Im playing very well, but it really seems like this is just what Im supposed to be doing, Watney said.
 
Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker had a four-birdie, no-bogey 67 Friday. (Getty Images)
It will be the third straight weekend round that Watney will be in the final group. He played with Mickelson the last two rounds at the CA Championship, and it might not get any easier at Innisbrook.
 
Stricker, who also had a bogey-free 67, is playing quite well this year, too.
 
Take away one bad patch ' a 77 in the last round to lose the Bob Hope Classic, followed by a missed cut in Phoenix ' and Stricker has shot par or better in every round this year. This was his 10th straight sub-par round.
 
I know that Ive been playing well, Stricker said. I know Ive been shooting some good scores. But no, I havent paid attention to that. I look at my stats and I realize I was up there in the stroke average. Obviously, I must have been shooting some decent scores.
 
They were at 6-under 136 on a Copperhead Course that is among the strongest tests on tour. It has become even tougher with sunshine that is baking out the greens and strong wind in the afternoon that makes it field more like June than the Florida swing.
 
You dont play this course thinking youre going to make a bunch of birdies, Charles Howell III said after a 66 put him in the large group at 5-under 137. At least I dont. Maybe thats my problem.
 
The bigger problem is finding separation at a tournament that doesnt seem to allow it. Some two dozen players were within four shots of the lead going into the weekend.
 
Jonathan Byrd reached 8 under through 11 holes until he kept finding the bunker and making bogeys. He had to settle for a 70 and joined Howell in the group at 137 that included two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (68), Stuart Appleby (67) and former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman (69), who turned 50 last week.
 
This is a golf course that it kind of scrunches the field a little bit, said Joe Ogilvie, who joined that group after a 66. Youre not going to see a guy well, (Jim) Furyk might get it to 10 under but youre not going to see a guy shoot 62 on this golf course.
 
Ogilvie spoke too soon.
 
Furyk opened with a 65 for his first lead on the PGA Tour in nearly 20 months. He was 13 shots worse on Friday while playing in the afternoon, and had to two-putt from 30 feet on his final hole simply to make the cut. He wound up with a 78 to finish at 1-over 143.
 
Ryo Ishikawa, the 17-year-old from Japan, had a 73 to finish at even-par 142 and make his first PGA Tour cut. He missed the cut in his PGA Tour debut last month at Riviera.
 
Masters champion Trevor Immelman had consecutive sub-par rounds for the first time since the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, shooting a 70 to join the group at 4-under 138 that included Rich Beem and Steve Flesch, who each had 67.
 
Stricker made his blunder early in the tournament when he took double bogey on the second hole from a plugged lie in the bunker and a three-putt, which really irritated him. But he has been solid ever since, and was especially happy about two birdies on the par 3, the last one coming on No. 8 with a 5-iron to 15 feet.
 
If you play the par 3s well here this week ' play them at even par or better ' youre doing well, he said.
 
Watney seems to be everything well at the moment. He attributes most of that to a putting aid called Inside Down the Line Putting Track which swing coach Butch Harmon asked him to try. That was in October, and Watney has been rolling ever since.
 
First came his victory in the Buick Invitational with birdies on two of the last three holes, then a spirited duel with Mickelson in which Watney came up an inch short on a birdie putt at Doral to force a playoff.
 
Im keeping the game pretty simple and putting well, Watney said. Hopefully, that will continue.
 
Divots: Nick Watney wrote the initials LM on his cap in honor of Lee Markarian, a friend in Fresno, Calif., who had triple bypass surgery on Thursday. Just so he knows Im thinking about him, Watney said. Bob Estes had a 78 to miss the cut, but what really stung was an insect. After taking a penalty drop in the trees on the 11th hole, he felt something sting him while hitting his next shot. Estes said the stinger stayed in his neck until someone used a piece of tape to extract it. Brandt Snedeker missed the cut for the fifth time in seven starts this year.
 
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  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''