Schwartzel takes lead at Doral

By Doug FergusonMarch 12, 2010, 4:58 am

2010 WGC-CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. – Charl Schwartzel managed to get around the famed Blue Monster course without a bogey on his way to a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead Thursday on a rough-and-tumble day in the World Golf Championship event.

Schwartzel, who got into the elite field with two victories in his native South Africa at the start of the season, had five birdies in a mistake-free round.

Not so fortunate were Ernie Els, Robert Allenby and Vijay Singh, all of them poised to claim a share of the lead or better until they stepped to the tee on the 443-yard closing hole at Doral that was playing into a wind strong enough to knock the caps of some players.

Singh was in the lead until hitting his tee shot into the water and making double bogey, giving him a 68.

Els was tied for the lead until his approach around the palm trees came up short and into the water. He scrambled for a bogey and also wound up with a 68.

Allenby, who had a five-shot lead early in the round when he was at 8 under through 12 holes, finished with four straight bogeys, the last one when he blasted out of a back bunker and saw his ball roll off the green and nearly into the water. He had 68 and found perspective quickly.

“That’s the way things go,” Allenby said. “If someone had said you’re going to shoot 4 under today, I would have taken it.”

Schwartzel could not have agreed more.

The south Florida wind, which gives the Blue Monster its fangs, was gusting when the 68-man field teed off and only relented late in the afternoon. Schwartzel got the toughest part of the course – No. 18 – out of the way early because he started on the back nine. He was among the few players who made par on a hole that averaged 4.65 strokes, which was higher than three of the par 5s.

“I didn’t think 67 was out there at the beginning of the day, with the wind as strong as it was,” Schwartzel said. “Early on, I made five birdies, which I thought you could do, especially with three par 5s being downwind. Some of them you’re hitting wedge. The big achievement for me today was not making any bogeys. That kept the scorecard very clean.”

Francesco Molinari of Italy was tied for the lead until he went into the water and made double bogey, giving him a 69 and putting him in the group that included Pebble Beach winner Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey.

Luke Donald had one of five birdies on the 18th, holing a bunker shot, and was in a group at 70 that also featured Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk and Martin Kaymer.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson, who was in Houston last week while his wife was treated for breast cancer, did not arrive until Wednesday night and spent the morning shaking off some rust. Mickelson, who had two drivers in his bag to negotiate the wind, was pleased with his opening 71.

“I know it’s not in contention yet, but my goal was to shoot something solid and improve on it each day. So I have to go lower each day,” Mickelson said.

Tee times were moved up Friday with storms in the forecast for the afternoon. The threat that figures to remain all week is the finishing hole, one of the toughest on the PGA Tour.

“Today, it was almost like a par 5,” Singh said.

Formerly No. 1 in the world, Singh has not won since the end of the 2008 season when he captured the FedEx Cup. He finally showed signs of getting healthy when he tied for fourth last week at the Honda Classic. And even with a double bogey to end his round, he found plenty of optimism for the rest of the week.

“I think I swung the club better today than I did all week,” Singh said. “Making a double on the last, it doesn’t leave a good taste in your mouth. But you know, thank God it’s on Thursday.”

Despite his four straight bogeys, Allenby couldn’t figure out where he hit a truly bad shot. It started on the par-3 15th, when he posed over a 6-iron and figured he had come up short. Allenby and his caddie stood toward the front of the green, looking in the wiry rough for his ball when Lucas Glover called out, “It’s back here.”

The ball had gone through the green and was suspended by thick grass framing the bunker. He pitched to 6 feet and missed for his first bogey, unaware that three more were going to follow – a flier out of the rough on 16, the edge of a bunker and a short miss on the 17th, and scrambling for survival on the 18th.

Schwartzel was surprised to look at a leaderboard and see Allenby slip from 8 under to 4 under in four holes. And it made the South African appreciate what he had accomplished for the day.

“I played a lot of good rounds in my career, and yeah, this one rates right up there,” Schwartzel said. “It could even be at the top. You couldn’t miss a shot.”

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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

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Spieth vs. Reed random? Hmm, wonders Spieth

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Monday’s blind draw to determine the 16 pods for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play didn’t exactly feel “blind” for Jordan Spieth, whose group includes Patrick Reed.

Spieth and Reed have become a staple of U.S. teams in recent years, with a 7-2-2 record in the Ryder and Presidents Cup combined. So when the ping-pong ball revealed Reed’s number on Monday night Spieth wasn’t surprised.

“It seems to me there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness,” laughed Spieth, whose pod also includes Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel. “It's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List and Justin [Thomas] in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.”

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Spieth will play Reed on Friday in the round-robin format and knows exactly what to expect from the fiery American.

“I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match-play scenario,” Spieth said. “I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us.”

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U.S. Open champ Koepka (wrist) to miss Masters

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:12 pm

Reigning U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka will miss the Masters, according to a USA Today report.

Koepka has been battling a left wrist injury since late last year, and he hasn't played since finishing last at the limited-field Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January. Weeks later he revealed that he had a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU) tendon but hoped to return in time for the season's first major.

According to the report, Koepka only started putting this week and plans to begin hitting chips next week.

"They said I would be about 80 percent, but I can't play 80 percent," Koepka said. "I either have to go full bore or not at all. I don't want to risk getting it re-injured and then be out a long time."

Koepka has finished T-33 or better in each of his three prior Masters appearances, culminating in a T-11 result last year.

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Spieth's agent leaving firm, but keeping Spieth as client

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Jay Danzi has stepped down as COO of Lagardère Sports U.S., and will take one of the game’s most marketable players, Jordan Spieth, with him.

In a press release, Danzi said, “after careful consideration I feel that it’s time for a new adventure.” Danzi will represent Spieth independently.

“It’s been a privilege having Jordan be part of the Lagardère Sports’ family for the last five years and watching him grow from a promising young player to someone who transcends the game,” said Steve Loy, Lagardère Sports president of golf. “We are also grateful for Jay’s contributions over the years, in golf and other areas of our business.”

Lagardère Sports underwent an aggressive expansion in recent years, acquiring numerous boutique firms including Danzi’s business and Crown Sports Management.

Although losing Spieth, the world’s fourth-ranked player, and Danzi, who took over as Lagardère COO in February 2017, is a setback, the firm still has a number of high-profile clients including Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.