Laird builds momentum has two shot lead at Bay Hill

By Doug FergusonMarch 27, 2011, 2:01 am
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. – Martin Laird already had lost a four-shot lead Saturday at Bay Hill, and as his 6-iron on the par-3 17th began to fade weakly toward the pond, he wondered if a two-shot lead would disappear even quicker.

He was happy to see it land in the bunker, some 80 feet from the flag. Then came a long blast from the sand to 6 feet, and a par save that felt like a birdie. It was like that all day at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, only one thing didn’t change.

Laird never surrendered the lead.

The 28-year-old Scot made it through an up-and-down day with a 2-under 70 and had a two-shot lead over Spencer Levin.

“That was a big one,” Laird said of his par save on the 17th, one hole after a two-shot swing gave him a cushion. “I was lucky. I wasn’t sure if it was going to make it over the water, to be honest, when it was in the air. And I was lucky to make it over, and then that was a big up-and-down.”

Now comes the hard part.

Laird was at 11-under 205. This is the third time in his last 12 stroke-play events on the PGA Tour that he has been atop the leaderboard going into the final round, and the last two ended with someone else celebrating. At The Barclays, it was Matt Kuchar hitting a 7-iron to 30 inches to beat him in a playoff. In Las Vegas, it was Jonathan Byrd making a hole-in-one to win a three-man playoff.

Levin, who had to scramble for bogey on the easy 16th to fall two shots behind, put his troubles behind him quickly and finished off a 71 to get into the final group.

That’s not to say it will be a two-man race.

With wind in the forecast, six players are separated by five shots. That includes two players who appear to be getting closer to their first PGA Tour win, Steve Marino and Rickie Fowler.

It does not include Tiger Woods.

The six-time Bay Hill winner had another Saturday swoon, trading an eagle and birdies with bogeys and a double bogey that sent him to a 2-over 74 and left him 10 shots out of the lead.

“Hopefully, the wind blows tomorrow and I can post a good one,” Woods said. “And I can get a little momentum going into Augusta.”

Others are simply trying to get there, starting with Levin. Nothing short of a victory would send him to the Masters.

“That’s in the back of my mind, for sure,” Levin said. “That’s a nice thing to be thinking about – hopefully, try not to think about it, though. You have to think about what you’re doing here.”

Laird ran off three straight birdies early in the round to build a four-shot lead. Four holes later, Levin pulled within one shot and they were tied for the lead with three holes to play.

That’s when it turned in the Scot’s favor.

Laird got up-and-down for birdie from just right of the green on the 16th, while Levin was in trouble from the start. He drove into the trees, chipped out into a bunker and then pulled his third shot into the water. He had to make a 6-foot putt to escape with bogey on the easiest hole at Bay Hill.

“I know tomorrow I have to concentrate hard … and hopefully I’ll wind up on top,” Laird said.

He went to Augusta National to practice a few weeks ago and looks forward to the Masters. But that can wait. The winner at Bay Hill gets a trophy, a big paycheck and an audience with the King, tournament host Arnold Palmer.

“This is a pretty good tournament to win, too,” he said.

But there is much work ahead of him, especially if the gusts return to a course that already is demanding.

Bubba Watson, a winner already this year at Torrey Pines, holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th to finish off a 68. He was at 7-under 209, four shots behind. Also at 209 was Marino, who already has had two good chances at his first PGA Tour win this year.

Fowler, dressed in hot pink that elicited cries of “Pretty Rickie” from a large, sun-baked gallery, overcame a double bogey on the sixth when he drove into the water and shot 70 to stay in the game at 6-under 210, along with David Toms (69).

Woods started poorly, going from the left rough to the bunker and missing a 7-foot par putt on the opening hole. He had one stretch that went birdie-bogey-eagle, and with the leaders getting away from him, went after the flag on the 13th and hit along the rocks. He wound up missing a 5-footer to take double bogey, then hit a fat shot from the bunker into the water on the 16th to make bogey.

He has yet to break 70 in the third round this year.

“I made a few mistakes out there,” Woods said. “There was a point in the round I had to get more aggressive on 13 and paid the price for it. I figured I needed to shoot 3 or 4 under, and it backfired on me a little bit.”

He will complete a full year on tour without a victory. Sunday is his last round before the Masters.

Some others are simply trying to get to Magnolia Lane. Of the top 10 players on the leaderboard, four have yet to qualify. That includes Marc Leishman, who had a 66 to reach 5-under 211. Also at 211, six shots behind, were John Senden (68) and Charles Howell III, the Augusta native who was four shots out of the lead at one point until bogeys on two of his last four holes. He shot 73.

Levin figures to have the best chance at catching Laird.

“As good a chance as anybody except the guy right here,” he said, motioning to Laird.

DIVOTS: Vaughn Taylor, another Augusta native who has not yet qualified for the Masters, shot 76 to fall nine shots behind. … Erik Compton, who has had two heart transplant, started the third round at 4-under par. He shot 80 and dropped to 69th place. … Masters champion Phil Mickelson had a 69 and was at 2-under 214. He plans another two-day trip to Augusta National before going to the Houston Open in his final tune up.

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.