CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Winless for almost 12 years on the PGA Tour, Billy Mayfair will take whatever he can get.
There was that Friday game he won a few weeks ago at Whisper Rock, the Arizona club where members include Geoff Ogilvy and Paul Casey. He won a match against his wife, a good college player. And he won a qualifier Monday, significant because it gave Mayfair a tee time in the Quail Hollow Championship.
Now comes a chance for the real thing.
Mayfair kept the ball in play Saturday and kept the lead at Quail Hollow, shooting a 1-under 71 to take a two-shot lead over Masters champion Phil Mickelson and Carolina favorite Davis Love III.
A victory would be his first since the 1998 Buick Open, and the first time a Monday qualifier won on the PGA Tour since Fred Wadsworth in the 1986 Southern Open.
“Today was a real test for me,” Mayfair said. “I kept it going for 18 holes and still have the lead going into tomorrow.”
It is hard for Mayfair not to get caught up in the possibilities.
He lost his PGA Tour card after the worst season of his career, and a victory would sure take care of that. He only got into Quail Hollow because of a Monday qualifier that he almost missed. Mayfair was late arriving in Charlotte, had to race to the course to make his tee time and then shot a 65, his best score of the year.
All that’s left is to hold off Mickelson, Love and a collection of players who have won far more recently than Mayfair.
“I’ve got to put it out of my mind,” he said. “I’ve got to use my 21 years of experiences out here, and I’ve got to say, ‘You know what? I’ve been out here.’ I’m a tour veteran, I’ve got a lot of veterans that are chasing me. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I know what I need to do tomorrow and how to handle it. And try to do the best I can.”
He has been good enough so far, finishing three rounds at 9-under 207. It’s his first 54-hole lead in four years.
Mickelson, in his first start since winning a third green jacket, overcame food poisoning at the start of the week and a few errant shots to put himself in a great position to join a strong list of champions at Quail Hollow. He birdied the par 5s on the back nine, and he closed with a tough two-putt from 60 feet for a 71.
He made par, and he made a point.
It was such an impossible putt that Mickelson told his caddie to leave the pin in the cup because he wasn’t aiming at the hole, wanting to avoid any chance of the ball going down a slope. Instead, he hit it well to the right, then made about a 6-footer for par.
“For as beautifully designed as this golf course is tee to green, the greens are by far the worst designed greens we play on Tour,” Mickelson said. “Even though they’re in immaculate shape, I would say that 18 would be the worst green that we have on Tour, except that it’s not even the worst on this golf course – 12 is.”
Love birdied three of his last five holes for a 4-under 68 and will play in the final group with Mayfair.
For a tournament that no longer has Tiger Woods, who missed the cut, it is not lacking in star power. Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera had a 73 and was in the group at 6-under 210 that included Pebble Beach winner Dustin Johnson (72) and J.J. Henry (71).
Another shot back was Jim Furyk, who already has won twice this year. Furyk had a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole that caught the lip and spun 5 feet away, he wound up three-putting for bogey. He still shot 71 and was right in the mix.
So was Rory McIlroy, who had to make eagle on his 16th hole Friday to make the cut on the number. Playing early Saturday, McIlroy made birdie on half of his holes for a 66. By the end of the day, he was only four shots out of the lead.
Ten players were within four shots of the top, a margin that doesn’t seem so large considering how long it has been since Mayfair has been tested like this.
The 43-year-old Mayfair is a five-time winner and still the only player to beat Woods in a playoff on the PGA Tour. That was in the 1998 Nissan Open, and he won the Buick Open later that year. That was his last victory.
He was tested the most Saturday in the middle of his round, hitting his tee shot into the creek on the par-5 seventh and making a bogey as his lead dropped to one shot. He made a tough par after hitting a tree with his tee shot on the next hole, made a good par save on the ninth, then hit a wedge to about 6 feet for birdie on the 10th.
“Once I birdied 10, I kept the momentum going,” Mayfair said.
Mickelson didn’t have much and was happy to shoot the score he did. He made birdie after hitting a spectator in the head on the par-5 10th, and despite not feeling crisp, made only three bogeys.
Mickelson has never won in his first start after the Masters.
“I didn’t have it today,” Mickelson said. “I didn’t have great control over my ball-striking and missed a number of putts that I probably could have made. But I controlled the misses, I kept the round in check, and because of the difficult conditions was able to shoot a number that kept me in contention for Sunday. So I’m excited about my opportunities tomorrow.”
Mayfair leads Mickelson two back at Quail Hollow
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Winless for almost 12 years on the PGA Tour, Billy Mayfair will take whatever he can get.
Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same
AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.
According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.
The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.
The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern
Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.
But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.
Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.
That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.
A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.
“Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.
“Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.
“And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.
“So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”
McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds
After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.
McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1, leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.
Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:
8/1: Tiger Woods
10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas
14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose
16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm
18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson
25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama
40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman
50/1: Alex Noren
60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters
80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay
100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner
NBC Sports' Final Round Coverage of Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard Scores Highest-Rated Overnight at Event in Six Years
Arnold Palmer Invitational and Valspar Championship Post Two Highest-Rated Final Round PGA TOUR Telecasts (Non-Majors) on Any Broadcast Network since the 2015 Wyndham Championship
ORLANDO, Fla., March 19, 2018 – Record viewership of the PGA TOUR continued this weekend for NBC Sports Group at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. Sunday’s final round coverage on NBC (2-6:45 p.m. ET) delivered a 3.6 overnight rating, +136% vs. 2017 and the highest-rated final round at this event in six years. Combined with last week’s final round viewership at the Valspar Championship (5.1 overnight rating) these rank as the two highest-rated final round PGA TOUR telecasts (non-majors) on any broadcast network since the 2015 Wyndham Championship. Golf Channel’s Sunday final-round lead-in coverage earned a .97 overnight rating, the highest at this event in five years. Across NBC and Golf Channel’s coverage, more than 12 million minutes were streamed, +683% vs. 2017.
ADDITIONAL SUNDAY NOTES
- Sunday’s final round coverage on NBC peaked to a 4.89 from 5:15-5:30 p.m. ET.
- Golf Channel’s lead-in coverage peaked to a 1.24 from 1:30-2 p.m. ET.
Saturday’s third round coverage earned a 2.29 overnight rating on NBC (2:30-6 p.m. ET), +92% vs. 2017 and the highest-rated at this event in five years. Golf Channel’s lead-in coverage (Noon-2:30 p.m. ET) earned a .95 overnight rating, +126% vs. 2017. Nearly 5.3 million minutes were streamed, +511% vs. 2017.
Friday’s second-round coverage on Golf Channel generated a .81 overnight rating, +153% vs. 2017 and the second highest-rated early round at this event on Golf Channel (2007-2018), just slightly behind the 2012 second round (.84). More the 4.2 million minutes were streamed on Golf Channel Digital, +682% vs. 2017.
Final numbers from Golf Channel’s opening round coverage on Thursday: .42 U.S. HH rating and 593,000 viewers, +56% vs. 2017 and the most-watched opening round at this event since 2011. More than 1.4 million minutes were streamed, +163% vs. 2017.
NEXT UP FOR NBC SPORTS GROUP: WGC-DELL TECHNOLOGIES MATCH PLAY
Four of the top-20 players in the world, Jon Rahm (No. 3), Tommy Fleetwood (No. 11), Tyrrell Hatton (No. 16) and Pat Perez (No. 19) are scheduled to join the live World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play Bracket Special tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on Golf Channel. The 90-minute live primetime special will originate from Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, Texas, and feature golf’s own version of a March bracket-style tournament selection format under the guidance of PGA TOUR competition officials.
LIVE TOURNAMENT COVERAGE: WEDNESDAY-SUNDAY, MARCH 21-25
NBC Sports Group will feature nearly 35 live hours of tournament coverage from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Golf Channel will carry live coverage of round robin matches Wednesday-Friday, March 21-23. On Saturday, March 24, Golf Channel will provide coverage of the Round of 16, followed by the Quarterfinals matches airing on NBC. On Sunday, March 25, Golf Channel will showcase the Semifinals matches, followed by the Championship and Consolation matches airing on NBC.
-NBC Sports Group-