Weir Maintains Slim Lead in Maui

By Associated PressJanuary 5, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 Mercedes Benz ChampionshipKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Mike Weir finally got one last birdie putt to fall, and it was enough to put him in the lead Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
 
But even after a 5-under 68 on the most gorgeous day at Kapalua this week, one look at the leaderboard told the Canadian he would need another one just like it on Sunday, if not better.
 
This working vacation suddenly turned into a grind.
 
Weir, who missed three straight birdie chances inside 10 feet on the back nine, hit a deft chip to 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 18th that put him at 13-under 206 and gave him a one-shot lead over Nick Watney, who birdied his last two holes for a 67.
 
'I'm going to have to shoot another low one tomorrow,' Weir said.
 
Daniel Chopra (67) and Jonathan Byrd (69) were another stroke back.
 
In the 10 years that the season-opening event on the PGA TOUR has been coming to the Plantation Course at Kapalua, there has never been so many players in contention going into the final round. Twelve players were separated by five shots, including defending champion Vijay Singh and Kapalua homeowner Jim Furyk.
 
'There's a lot of guys that have an opportunity tomorrow,' Steve Stricker said after a 68 that left him four shots behind. 'For me, it's going to take a real low one to catch him. But it's out there.'
 
Weir had to wait three years to make it back to Kapalua, the longest stretch without winning in his career, and he appears ready to make sure he won't have to do that again. Playing in the final group with Stephen Ames of Calgary, followed along by a gallery with shirts, flags and even tattoos of the Canadian flag, Weir played without a bogey on a soggy course with strong breezes and sensational views.
 
But he never could pull away, not with the numbers being posted ahead of him.
 
Weir had three great looks at birdie starting on the 14th, but all of them grazed the lip. He wasn't too worried because the stroke was good, and he had not forgotten the two par saves he made from 12 feet earlier in the round.
 
'I wanted to go as low as I could,' Weir said. 'I saw a lot of good scores out there and I wanted to keep going.'
 
Watney made up a lot of ground on his final two holes with an approach that caught the ridge and grain beautifully on the 17th hole that set up a 20-foot birdie, then came up just short of the 650-yard closing hole in two shots for a routine birdie that put him in the final group.
 
'I hit the ball really well. It was a pretty stress-free day as far as that goes,' Watney said. 'I made some putts coming down the stretch, which is nice, and I'm excited for tomorrow.'
 
It should be quite the shootout. One birdie can change everything. One mistake can send someone tumbling down the leaderboard.
 
Ames kept pace through nine holes and was tied with Weir at the turn, but he came up short of the 10th green, made bogey, and did not make another birdie until the final hole. He shot 70 and was alone in fifth at 10-under 209.
 
The group at 9 under included Furyk, whose 66 matched the low round of the tournament. Furyk, who bought a home years ago off the 18th fairway, had other plans for this week if he didn't win the Canadian Open last year to qualify. Having grown up in western Pennsylvania, he was invited by Pittsburgh Steelers coach to attend the wild-card game Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
 
'I guess it's too bad I won last year,' he said. 'I would have enjoyed that immensely.'
 
Kapalua isn't too bad, especially because Furyk hasn't been at his best on the Plantation Course since winning in 2001. Also at 9-under 210 were Justin Leonard and Brandt Snedeker, while Singh, Chad Cambell and U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera followed at 8 under.
 
'For whatever reason, there just isn't much separation, which is good for me because I haven't done anything to separate myself,' Leonard said. 'There's a lot of guys there. It would be easier being four shots behind with only a couple of players ahead of you. I'm not going out there thinking about winning the tournament, but it is doable.'
 
Weir attributed the bunched leaderboard to the conditions, which have been soft all week. One year he was at Kapalua, Ernie Els hit a drive so far on the par-5 15th that he had only an 8-iron into the green, and most of the field could reach the downhill, downwind closing hole in two shots because of how fast the ball runs on the fairways.
 
With balls slowed by the wet grass, the advantage for big hitters isn't as great.
 
'I think maybe some of the longer guys can't separate themselves as much because the ball is not traveling out there as much,' Weir said. 'You see a lot of guys in the same areas. That's probably why the scores are a little more bunched.'
 
DIVOTS
Paul Goydos gets the award for most improved this week. After opening with an 81, he was eight shots better with a 73 in the second round, and followed that with a 67 on Saturday. ... Henrik Stenson and Joe Ogilvie are the only players who have yet to break par this week on the Plantation Course. ... With more rain overnight, rules officials allowed players to lift, clean and place their ball on the short grass for the first time this week.
 
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    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


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    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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