Watson Takes Control at US Senior Open

By Associated PressJuly 6, 2007, 4:00 pm
U.S. Senior OpenHAVEN, Wis. -- If Tom Watson ever figures out this golf course and quits swinging so awkwardly, the rest of these guys might really be in trouble.
 
Watson shot a 6-under-par 66 in the second round of the U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits on Friday, moving to 8 under for the tournament and taking a three-stroke lead over five players.
 
Watson made eight birdies Friday, including a string of four straight just before he turned nine holes. But after his round, he said he still doesn't have much a feel for the course, making him think twice about the way he is swinging.
 
'They've put a couple of tees in different places today, so you go, 'Wait a minute, where do you hit it here?'' Watson said. 'And it makes me a little bit unsure of my swing.'
 
Watson certainly hid those insecurities well -- especially during the birdie binge that began on the par-4 14th.
 
'I made some awkward swings out there, to hit some awkward shots, and got away with them for the most part,' Watson said.
 
Watson's closest pursuers at 5 under are Loren Roberts, Des Smyth, Lonnie Nielsen, Ben Crenshaw and Vicente Fernandez.
 
'Obviously, he still hits it as good as he ever did,' Roberts said. 'For him, it's a matter of making putts and obviously he made some putts. He's going to be tough to catch.'
 
Watson, 57, has won five British Opens, two Masters and a U.S. Open -- but he has yet to win a U.S. Senior Open in seven previous tries.
 
Watson has finished second in three of the past five senior opens, losing a duel with Allen Doyle last year despite playing in front of his home-state fans at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan.
 
'It would be nice to not finish second again and come back with that beautiful trophy, it sure would,' Watson said. 'I have had my opportunities here.'
 
And now he has another shot at it, thanks in large part to tranquil wind conditions in the morning.
 
'You had to get some birdies with the wind laying down as it did,' Watson said. 'I made that run on the backside with four in a row, and that obviously was what I needed.'
 
Watson is well-known for his ability to play in the wind, but that's a skill that hasn't really been needed the past two days at Whistling Straits.
 
The course's signature high winds whipped up during practice rounds early in the week but have been mostly absent during the first two rounds, leading to unexpectedly low scores.
 
But that didn't help first-round leader Eduardo Romero, who had a rough afternoon capped by a triple-bogey meltdown on the 18th hole.
 
Romero's tee shot landed in a bunker, from which he pitched across the fairway and into another bunker. His next shot landed in a creek short of the green, and he needed help from fans in a nearby grandstand to find his ball.
 
'It's no good for a finish, but there's two more days to go,' said Romero, who noted that his back was bothering him during the round.
 
He finished 5 over for the day and is 1 under for the tournament.
 
Meanwhile, a pair of big names won't be around for the weekend.
 
Doyle was trying to become the first player to win three straight senior opens; instead, he became the first defending senior open champion to miss the cut since Bruce Fleisher in 2002. Doyle shot an even-par 72, but he missed the cut after shooting 83 in the first round.
 
'We had high hopes, and we go home a little disappointed, but that's the way it is,' Doyle said. 'We went home the last two years probably sky-high.'
 
Two-time senior open champion Hale Irwin missed the cut by one stroke when he failed to sink a short putt on 18. It was the first time Irwin sat out the weekend in a Champions Tour major, a streak of 24 straight.
 
A frustrated Irwin said he would take the next three weeks off.
 
'I'm fed up with it,' Irwin said. 'I've got to get my mind straight, my game straight. Nothing's straight right now. Very disappointing.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Senior Open
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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 a trip to Augusta.

    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).

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

    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 Web.com 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.