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.”

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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