Weir Takes Control at Kapalua

By Associated PressJanuary 4, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 Mercedes Benz ChampionshipKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Kapalua might consider changing its logo to a Maple Leaf this week.
 
Mike Weir of Canada, who only 10 weeks ago qualified for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship with his first victory in more than three years, made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 6-under 67 in much more agreeable conditions Friday for a one-shot lead over Stephen Ames and Jonathan Byrd.
 
Ames, the only player in the field who actually lives in Canada, fixed a flaw in his putting stroke and also shot 67, making birdie on three of his last five holes despite missing a 6-footer along the way.
 
Weir, raised in Bright's Grove, Ontario, now lives in Utah and played only one full round of golf last month when he went to San Diego to check on equipment. Ames was born in Trinidad & Tobago and moved to Calgary in 1991, becoming a naturalized citizen in 2003. He hasn't played since winning the Skins Game, and during his 10-day vacation on Maui, only played 18 holes over two days with his sons.
 
And here they are on an island in the Pacific, their names atop the leaderboard in the first tournament of the year.
 
'That's odd,' Weir said. 'We're probably the least ready for it. There might be something to that.'
 
Canadian tourists on the west coast of Maui won't be hard to find on Saturday.
 
About 100 of them were standing above the first fairway in the opening round when Ames and Weir playing in consecutive groups, and they seemed to split up. They can stay in one place for the third round. Weir, at 8-under 138, and Ames will be in the final group.
 
Byrd made birdie on his last two holes for a 69.
 
Brandt Snedeker was atop the leaderboard most of the round for the second straight day until faltering late. This time it wasn't a broken driver but a faulty putter. He had a 15-foot birdie for a share of the lead, but three-putted for a 69 that left him two shots back.
 
Nick Watney, who led the first round after a 68, made two late birdies for a 72 and was at 6-under 140 with Snedeker.
 
The best round belonged to Mark Calcavecchia, certainly no flat-belly but in much better shape for the Plantation Course at Kapalua after hiking up South Mountain outside Phoenix to get his legs in shape. He hit every green in regulation, three-putted twice, but still made nine birdies in his round of 66 and was at 5-under 141.
 
What helped more than a steady heartbeat was the weather.
 
Clouds drifted across the Kapalua for most of the day, but there were no steady blasts of showers until the end of the round. The wind wasn't nearly as severe, either, and it reflected in the scoring.
 
The course played more than three shots easier. Ten players broke 70, compared with only two in the first round.
 
Perhaps the best example was the 503-yard ninth hole, which plays into the trade wind and was so tough earlier in the week that most players had to blast a fairway metal just to reach the second portion of the fairway. Weir isn't the biggest hitter on tour, but he managed to reach the green in two on Friday, then made a 15-foot eagle putt that sent him on his way.
 
He played the par 5s in 5 under.
 
Ames found the answer late Thursday afternoon on the putting green, when he noticed his head too far behind the ball that caused his putter to swing upward too quickly through the ball. He showed up about 10 minutes earlier than usual -- this is a working vacation -- to correct the problem, and took only 26 putts on the tough greens of Kapalua.
 
Most of his birdies came inside 10 feet, but he got his round going with a pair of 15-footers, and the 20-foot birdie at the end.
 
'This is a family vacation,' he said. 'Golf keeps getting in the way.'
 
Weir and Ames are thrilled to be at Kapalua, perhaps because it took so long for them to qualify. Weir's previous victory was the Nissan Open in 2004 as he retooled his swing under Andy Bennett and Mike Plummer. He saw progress, but didn't get any measurable results until one glorious Sunday at Royal Montreal, when he beat Tiger Woods in a singles match before a delirious home crowd at the Presidents Cup.
 
It was no coincidence that he won three weeks later in Arizona as part of the Fall Series, the third-to-last event of the season.
 
'I think there was a correlation there,' Weir said. 'It was a tough few years. I felt like I was on my way there. To win after 3 1/2 years is almost harder than the first one.'
 
Ames won the final event of 2007 at Disney, winning by one shot with a bunker save from 65 feet. He only went to Disney to work on his game, and this week is not much different.
 
'I went there to work on my game, and I'm still working on my game,' Ames said. 'I'm happy with the progress I've made.'
 
Twenty players were under par, and the first tournament of the year is still wide open. Ten shots separate Weir from Joe Ogilvie in 27th place among the 31-man field, with four players bringing up the rear.
 
Calcavecchia is on somewhat of a hot streak. He won the Merrill Lynch Shootout with Woody Austin in December, tied for seventh in the Target World Challenge and is swinging as well as ever.
 
Plus, he only carried one putter.
 
Calcavecchia ditched his 5-wood Thursday for a long putter and a conventional one -- the latter being the putter he used to win the PODS Championship in March. He went with the long putter only Friday, and that might be the end of the experiment.
 
'You'll probably never see it in action again,' Calcavecchia said of his short putter. 'It got me here, though.'
 
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  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    FALLING

    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

    By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

    God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

    We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

    Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

    There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

    It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

    Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

    Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

    BORN IN 1912

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
    May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
    Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

    Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


    BORN IN 1949

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
    Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
    Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

    Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


    BORN IN 1955

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
    Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
    Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

    Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

    Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
    Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
    Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
    Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
    Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

    A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


    EUROPE'S BIG 5

    Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
    April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
    July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
    Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
    Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
    March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

    The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
    Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
    May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
    May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
    June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

    Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


    BORN IN 1980

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
    July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
    July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

    Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

    Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.