Levin flawless to lead Bay Hill

By Doug FergusonMarch 25, 2011, 2:12 am
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. – Spencer Levin is atop the leaderboard after the opening round for the third time this year, so that’s nothing new. It was his score Thursday afternoon at Bay Hill that surprised him and everyone else.

In warm, blustery conditions on a course that allowed only three rounds in the 60s and the most rounds in the 80s in nearly two decades, Levin had a 6-under 66 and a three-shot lead over Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Tiger Woods and his power group of Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland provided the entertainment everyone expected, although not this variety. Woodland hit a tee shot onto another golf course, Johnson wound up 80 yards over a green and onto the next tee, and Woods’ angrily tossed his wedge after his best shot of the day.

Their scores weren’t impressive.

Woods missed a 10-foot par putt on the last hole for a 73, his highest opening round since 1999 at Bay Hill, where he is a six-time winner. Johnson and Woodland, coming off a win last week at Innisbrook, each shot 77.

Levin built the largest 18-hole lead of the year on the PGA Tour, but even that doesn’t illustrate how well he played. His 66 was nearly nine shots better than the average score at Bay Hill, which featured gusts over 20 mph and crusty conditions in the afternoon.

Fowler and Mahan played in the morning, as did Phil Mickelson, who opened with a 70.

The tough conditions showed themselves more at the bottom of the leaderboard. U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell had an 80, as did Bob Hope winner Jhonattan Vegas and Brandt Snedeker. Ricky Barnes shot an 82.

There were 13 rounds in the 80s, the most at Bay Hill since there were 24 in the second round in 1983.

And then there was Levin.

“Six under … I didn’t really even think about that on the range,” Levin said. “Because I know the course is hard, anyway, and then you 20, 30 mile per hour wind and makes it even more tough. “I was just kind of hoping anything around par, maybe anything under par, would be a good score in the afternoon for sure.”

As usual, it came down to putting.

Levin, who also had at least a share of the lead in the Honda Classic and Northern Trust Open at Riviera, holed a par putt from just off the green at No. 6 and chipped in for birdie from left of the second green. The finish kept his spirits high. From the right bunker on No. 8, he blasted out across the green and down the slope to 8 feet for par, then atoned for a mediocre bunker shot on No. 9 with a 10-foot putt.

“That was nice,” Levin said. “Obviously, a lot better mood. Parred the last two when I could have bogeyed, so that was good.”

There wasn’t much good about the feature group.

Woods struggled with his tee shots on the front nine and didn’t hit a single fairway, although he only was in big trouble once off the tee. The bigger problem was the wind, and Woods twice had to back off putts because he couldn’t keep still.

“I didn’t drive it well starting out, and then I golf a hold of that,” Woods said. “Hit my irons well all day, and on the green, it was just tough to take the putter back straight because the wind was gusting and it was tough to get the right speed.”

It looked as though he might not have to putt on the par-5 12th with a wedge that covered the flag. It hit the bottom of the pin and spun back some 25 feet. Woods dropped his club then flung it toward his bag.

Johnson and Woodland, two of the biggest hitters, each reached a par 5 in two with the wind straight into them – Woodland on the 560-yard fourth, Johnson on the 557-yard 12th.

They also hit shots rarely seen at Bay Hill.

In a left-to-right wind on the par-5 sixth, Woodland lost it to the right. It bounced off a cart path, over the fence and wound up in the water on the par-3 “Charger” course at Bay Hill, which is out of bounds. That led to a double bogey.

On the eighth, Johnson caught a flyer out of the rough and after a few bounces on the cart path, his ball finally settled 80 yards over the green and toward the front of the tee box on No. 9. Johnson was left with a blind shot over the trees and a TV tower, and it carried all the way into the water, leading to a double bogey.

Fowler set the pace in the morning and reached 5 under, helped by an eagle on the 16th. He didn’t finish as well as Levin, however, dropping shots on the eighth and ninth hole to end his round at 69. It was enough to lead until Levin warmed up.

“It’s nice to have fresh green the first nine holes, and the greens are still soft,” said Fowler, who was in the first group of the day. “You don’t have to worry about balls bouncing too much.”

Mickelson didn’t hit it his best, was pleased with his short game, especially on the greens. He took only 26 putts, and like Fowler, said it helped that the greens rolled true except in a crosswind.

“I was able to salvage par with my short game, and it was a good opening round,” Mickelson said. “I’ll certainly take it.”

Levin, entering his third year on tour and still looking for his first win, now gets to try to build on his lead Friday morning when conditions should be a little more tame.

Woods feels the same way. Sure, it was his highest opening round since a 74 in 1999, but it wasn’t awful compared with the field.

“I think even par to under par would have been a good score this afternoon,” Woods said. “Spencer obviously played well. But most of the low scores were this morning, so I’m still right there in the ball game.”

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.