Johnson shares lead; Woods advances to weekend

By Doug FergusonMay 11, 2012, 11:27 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – After breaking 70 for the first time in seven weeks, Tiger Woods headed to the back of the practice range at the TPC Sawgrass to fine-tune his swing. That was much better than going to the clubhouse to clean out his locker.

The Players Championship featured Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson and Kevin Na atop the leaderboard Friday.

What it lacked was some of the golf's biggest names.

Rory McIlroy stumbled to a 76 and became the first player at No. 1 in the world ranking to miss the cut at Sawgrass since Greg Norman in 1996. Steve Stricker had made a PGA Tour-leading 49 cuts in a row until he shot 74 and ended a streak that began in August 2009. And with 11 holes left in his round, Woods was two shots over the cut line and in jeopardy of missing back-to-back cuts for the first time in his career.

The thought never crossed his mind.

Instead, he blistered a 5-wood into the breeze on the eighth hole – the toughest par 3 on the course – and watched it catch a slope on the edge of the green and roll 8 feet away from the cup. That was the first of four straight birdies for Woods, who wound up with a 68.

He said he was only thinking about a 66 to get momentum going into the weekend, and he missed by two.

''I was trying to shoot my number today,'' Woods said. ''Sixty-six was my number today. I figured that would have been a good way to go into the weekend, being probably four or five back. But I'm still with a good chance.''

Everyone has a chance going into the weekend, including Woods and Phil Mickelson, the Hall of Fame's newest member. They were six shots behind. But they are chasing the gang from Sea Island – home of Kuchar and Johnson, along with PGA Tour rookie Harris English, who was one shot out of the lead.

Johnson made five birdies on the back nine until a bogey on the 18th hole, though he matched the best score of the second round with a 66. Kuchar, who made a strong run at the Masters last month, played bogey-free over his last 13 holes for a 68. Na started the back nine with three straight birdies for a 69.

''It's fun to be back in position with a chance to win again,'' Kuchar said.

They were at 8-under 136, meaning only eight shots separate first from worst going into the final 36 holes on a most unpredictable Stadium Course. The top 14 players on the leaderboard were separated by only three strokes.

English birdied the 17th and 18th for a 67, while the group at 6-under 138 included past champion Adam Scott (70).

McIlroy, who only last week lost in a three-way playoff at Quail Hollow, opened with a birdie and didn't make another one the rest of the day. He missed the cut for the first time in more than a year, though it wasn't unusual at the TPC Sawgrass. In three appearances at The Players Championship, McIlroy has never broken par or made the cut.

''Hopefully, I'm coming back here for another 20 years,'' McIlroy said. ''If I don't figure it out on my 20th, there's something wrong.''

Woods followed his birdie at No. 8 with an iron over the trees and into a bunker, only about 10 feet from being perfect. He still made birdie, along with a 5-footer on the 10th and a two-putt birdie from the fringe on No. 11.

''I hit a good shot there at 8 and made the putt, and from there I really hit some good shots,'' Woods said. ''I probably could have gotten one or two more out of it. But I really played well today. I was just very consistent, and nothing spectacular, just real solid golf.''

Martin Laird was solid for 33 holes and was the only player to reach double digits under par for the week. He was at 10 under with three holes to play when he lost four shots on the last three holes. His hopes for eagle turned into bogey with a 4-iron into the water on the 16th, and he dunked one on No. 17 for double bogey.

The good news?

''I'm glad it happened on a Friday, and not on Sunday,'' Laird said after a 73 put him in a large group two shots behind.

Ben Curtis and FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas were in the group at 5-under 139, while the group at 3-under 141 included Quail Hollow playoff winner Rickie Fowler and Luke Donald, who at least has a chance to go back to No. 1 in the world now that McIlroy has missed the cut. Lee Westwood also was at 141.

Johnson started with two birdies and felt in control for most of the sunny morning.

''I never really gave the golf course much,'' he said.'' In other words, I kept it where you need to keep it. My misses were proper. I was aggressive when I could be aggressive. And I caught a couple nice saves in there, too. But when you shoot that kind of score around this golf course – any day in the year, or any week – you're putting well. Clearly, that's what I've been doing the best.''

Laird went to 10 under with his birdie on the 15th. Then, he hit a beautiful tee shot on the 16th and was in perfect range to think about an eagle.

''It was one of those ones that I had an absolutely perfect number for a 4-iron,'' Laird said. ''It's one of those ones that you almost wish that you don't, and you play a little safer. I hit three or four great iron shots in a row right at the flag and kind of got a little greedy there and tried to fade one in the wind. So that was the first mental mistake I've made all week. If you do that on your 16th hole in the second round, you're doing pretty well.''

He went into the water on the 17th, and his third shot was some 50 feet away. He ran the bogey putt to the back edge of the green, and made a 12-footer for double bogey. He then failed to get up-and-down from right of the 18th green.

Even so, he's still in the hunt going into the weekend. And that's all anyone wants on this course, anyway.

''I've just got to take out of it that I played the last three in 4-over par, and I'm still third,'' Laird said. ''So I'm obviously playing some pretty good golf leading up to that. You don't lose that in the space of three holes. I'll be fine tomorrow.''

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.