Leonard keeps share of Disney lead

By Doug FergusonOctober 22, 2011, 8:17 pm

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. –  Justin Leonard took his hand off the club not long after contact on the fifth fairway, unhappy with another shot that was not up to his standards, knowing he would have to scramble just to avoid dropping another shot.

From 70 feet away, his chip-and-run banged into the pin and dropped for a birdie.

His 3-wood into the par-4 ninth sailed into the gallery, leaving him behind a bunker some 35 yards from the flag, such a tough shot that he hoped only to get it close enough for a reasonable putt at par. He holed that for birdie, too.

Leonard has been used to this kind of days in what has become his worst year on Tour. Saturday at Disney, he managed to turn it into a 70 that put him in a tie for the lead with PGA Tour rookie Kevin Chappell in the Children's Miracle Network Classic.

'Today, I scored,' Leonard said. 'And it's something I have not been doing at all this entire year.'

Chappell was much more consistent in a round of 66, overcoming a bogey on the opening hole and giving himself a steady diet of 10- to 15-foot birdie putts throughout the day on the Magnolia Course.

They were at 14-under 202, one shot ahead of 21-year-old Bio Kim, who needs at least a two-way tie for second to secure his Tour card for next year.

The race for the PGA Tour money title had some possibilities, but only briefly.

Luke Donald, who trails Webb Simpson by $363,029, was tied for fourth when he reached the par-5 14th hole. Donald was only three shots out of the lead and three shots ahead of Simpson. When he walked off the green, Donald was in a tie for 14th, tied with Simpson and six shots behind.

For the second straight day, Donald hit a shot into the hazard on the 14th. He three-putted for double bogey, ending his PGA Tour streak of 483 holes without a three-putt. He had to settle for a 70, while Simpson shot 69 to move one ahead of Donald, and only four shots behind the leaders.

'Yesterday I hit a dozen really poor shots, shot 71 and today I hit two really poor shots, but unfortunately they cost me and almost shot the same score,' Donald said. 'It's just the way golf is sometimes.'

Simpson is likely to win the money title at this stage, as Donald would need no worse than a two-way tie for second. He was tied for 14th, five shots behind. Donald figured he would need a 62 in the final round.

'I'm a little more confident than I was two hours ago,' Simpson said, not making it clear if he was talking about his 32 on the back nine or his chances of capturing the money list.

Leonard, who is No. 144 on the money list, is moderately surprised to be atop the leaderboard in the final tournament of his worst season on Tour. Even though he already is exempt for next season, he has never finished out of the top 125 on the money list. And he hasn't been playing much golf late in the afternoon on the weekend.

This was the kind of round that easily could have gotten away from him. He opened with a sloppy bogey on the opening hole, and then some exquisite play with his short game.

The par-5 fourth hole won't get as much attention, but it might have been his best shot. From the back of a bunker, facing a shot in which the green ran away from him, it came out clean and stopped 2 feet away for birdie. On the fifth, he chipped in from 70 feet when he was hopeful of getting par.

He used the belly of his wedge to roll in a shot from just off the eighth green, and he hit a flop shot from 35 yards that dropped in for the most unlikely birdie on the ninth.

At the time, Leonard was swapping spots atop the leaderboard with Henrik Stenson, who even traded some short-game magic by holing out from a bunker on No. 6, right after Leonard's long chip-in for birdie. When Leonard rolled in the shot from off the eighth green, Stenson poked him in the behind with his putter and said, 'That's two, now.'

'The strength of my round was definitely from off the green,' Leonard said, smiling. 'I certainly didn't play great today, and to be able to hole ... really the two shots, 5 and 9, from off the green certainly is a huge boost. There are days when those things don't go our way, and the round can get away from me.'

There is plenty of work ahead. Leonard is atop the leaderboard going into the final round for the first time since Disney two years ago, when he lost in a playoff to Stephen Ames. Sunday will be only the third time Leonard has been at least tied for the lead going into the last round in the last six years. He didn't win the other two.

Eleven players were within four shots of the lead, a group that includes Simpson and five players who are trying to get inside the top 125 on the money list to secure their Tour cards for next year.

Kim is at No. 168 and appeared to fall from the pack when he drove into the woods on No. 5 and wound up with a double bogey to fall three shots behind. That was the last mistake he made, however, and with three birdies on the back nine, he is only one shot behind going into Sunday.

Nick O'Hern had a 70, while Stenson dropped two shots over the last five holes for a 72. They were at 12-under 204.

Chappell gives himself a C-plus for his rookie season. He played well down the stretch at the Texas Open only to finish second behind Brendan Steele, and a solid weekend at Congressional gave him a tie for third in the U.S. Open. That puts him in the Masters for next year, so Chappell has few complaints.

He is No. 83 on the money list and is playing Disney only to try to end the year on a good note. Winning would be ideal, and he looked comfortable throughout the day as he worked his way into a share of the lead.

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.