Leonard among leaders in Tampa Bay

By Doug FergusonMarch 16, 2013, 10:23 pm

PALM HARBOR, Fla. - Justin Leonard walked toward the 12th green Saturday at Innisbrook and saw a scoreboard that showed he was tied for the lead in the Tampa Bay Championship. He knocked in his 8-foot birdie putt, assumed he was ahead, and then never looked at another board the rest of the day.

He might do the same Sunday.

There's no point in staring at scores, not with so many names separated by so few shots. Besides, the Copperhead course at Innisbrook is playing so difficult even in pleasant weather that it's best not to think about anything except the next shot.

''It is hard,'' Leonard said after his 4-under 67 put him in a three-way tie for the lead with Kevin Streelman and George Coetzee of South Africa. ''There's not a whole lot of birdie holes on those last six holes. With the greens getting firmer and faster as they did today - which I'm sure they will again tomorrow. You have to be pretty patient out there and really pick your spots pretty carefully.''


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Adam Scott and K.J. Choi set the tone early for this wild day by going into full retreat.

That allowed for a game of musical chairs at the top of the leaderboard, with nothing remotely close to being settled going into the final day. Sixteen players were separated by only three shots at a tournament where the winner has come from behind to win in four of the last five years.

Streelman finished his 6-under 65 nearly three hours before the last group walked off the 18th green.

''I wanted to get to 6 under today,'' Streelman said. ''I had that number in my mind to at least have a chance going into tomorrow, so I was happy to get there.''

He had no idea at the time he would all the way to the top of the leaderboard.

Leonard ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn and had the lead to himself before a bogey from the bunker on the 15th. Coetzee bounced back from his lone bogey with a birdie on the rowdy 17th hole, where Hooters waitresses serve wings in the grandstands. That gave him a 68.

They were tied at 6-under 207, more evidence that the Copperhead course is perhaps the most complete test in Florida. Even on a warm, breezy afternoon, it was easier to go backward that to move away from the field.

Scott and Choi were proof of that.

Scott had a two-putt birdie on the opening hole to briefly take the lead, and that was the highlight of his day. He three-putted from about 15 feet for bogey on third, made bogey with a wedge in his hand on the par-5 fifth hole and stumbled to a 76. Choi, who also was one shot out of the lead, didn't make a birdie in his round of 76.

They still were only five shots out of the lead.

Shawn Stefani, the 31-year-old rookie who led by one, had a 74 and still was only two shots behind. His day could have been much worse except for a tee shot that caromed off a tree and into the fairway on the second hole, and a big hook on the third that hit the tire of a golf cart and stayed in play. Instead of hitting his third shot from the tee, he could reach the green for a two-putt par.

The group one shot out of the lead included 2010 winner Jim Furyk (67) and Ben Kohles (69), the Virginia grad who last summer went from college to two straight wins on the Web.com Tour to earn a spot in the big leagues.

Defending champion Luke Donald had a 67 and was only two shots behind at 4-under 209, along with 19-year-old Jordan Spieth of Texas, who is coming off a runner-up finish in Puerto Rico and can be set for the year on the PGA Tour the rest of the year depending on how he plays Sunday.

He looks as if he's good enough to win.

The group at 3 under included Harris English, in a tie for the lead on the front nine until he stumbled to a 73, and Sergio Garcia, who never looked happy and sounded even worse on his way to a 72.

English is among 12 players from the top 16 who are not yet eligible for the Masters, and a win on Sunday would take care of that.

Leonard has gone 122 starts on the PGA Tour over nearly five years since his last win, though he felt comfortable in the lead for the final few hours of the third round. Innisbrook requires more smarts than just smashing the ball off the tee, and Leonard used the ninth hole as an example of thinking his way around. Realizing the pin was not tucked on the side, he laid back off the tee with a 3-wood, and then hit 6-iron into 10 feet for a birdie.

He also got up-and-down from a front bunker on the 11th, and then hit 6-iron to 8 feet on the 12th. His only regret was missing a 5-foot birdie on the 17th that would have given him the outright lead. Not that it would have mattered all that much.

There's a good chance he won't even be among the leaders when he tees off.

Spieth, meanwhile, is in a great spot - and not just on the leaderboard.

He had no status this year after turning pro, but he had two good finishes on the Web.com Tour that has left him about $4,500 short of securing status. He was thinking about sticking with the Web.com Tour until deciding to honor the exemption he was given to the Puerto Rico Open, and that worked out well.

''My focus had been on the Web.com,'' he said. ''Now my focus is out there. It's a nice change.''

But he's thinking more about the top of the leaderboard than how much money he needs to earn this week, and he has just as good of a chance as anyone. Spieth showed his shot making with a 6-iron out of the trees that led to 12-foot birdie on the 16th.

''That wasn't a smart shot,'' he said with a smile.

Coetzee is part of a group of young South Africans who have worked their way into the top 50 in the world, and he'll make his Masters debut next month. The best part about a chance to win is getting his PGA Tour card.

He was flirting with the cut line with nine holes to play Friday until a 32 on the back nine, and then a solid round today. Coetzee is still finding his way in America, uncertain about the courses and not knowing the faces that go with the names.

''Golf is golf,'' he said. ''Doesn't matter where you play, everybody still gets to the golf course, and nobody knows what's going to happen.''

That could be especially true Sunday.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."