Price is Still Right in Charlotte

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 9, 2003, 4:00 pm
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Nick Price watched his 40-foot putt climb a ridge and swing sharply to the left toward the hole. When it disappeared into the cup, he took off his cap in disbelief, turned to the gallery and smiled.
 
Price needed all the help he could get to stay on top Friday at the Wachovia Championship, finishing with a 1-under 71 for a one-stroke lead over Fred Couples and J.P. Hayes.
 
His drives kept landing in the rough. He hit only one green in regulation over the final eight holes, on the par-3 17th where he made the long birdie.
 
'A scruffy day,'' Price described it. 'You have to drive the ball in the fairway here if you're going to break par. If my putting goes off a little bit and I play like I did today, I'm going to shoot 74 or 75. If I have one wish on the weekend, it's to hit fairways.
 
'If I can do that, I think I'll have a chance.''
 
Price was at 7-under 137, an indication that Quail Hollow is no pushover.
 
Rich Beem had just posted an even-par 72 to finish at 139 when a PGA Tour media official mentioned that no one went low among the early starters.
 
'Well, they shouldn't have,'' Beem said. 'It was a grind. It was definitely a lot tougher today than it was yesterday, and I don't see the scores going very low this afternoon. You guys will probably be bored.''
 
Hayes made sure that wasn't the case. He birdied four of his first six holes, and closed out the best round of the day -- 66 -- with a 5-iron into 15 feet for birdie at No. 9.
 
'My initial thoughts were this is very difficult,'' Hayes said of the 7,396-yard course. 'And I still think it's very difficult.''
 
Couples had back-to-back birdies and was at 9-under through his first seven holes until his round got away from him. He chunked a 6-iron on No. 17 (bogey). He hit under a tree on the 18th (bogey). He was too aggressive on the par-3 second hole (bogey) to slip out of the lead.
 
It got worse. He felt a back spasm on the fourth green, but worked out the kinks and closed with all pars.
 
'I'm very tired and sore right now, but I feel fine,'' Couples said. 'Usually, I can play around it. This happens a lot, and I think because it was hot, I was able to kind of get out of there.''
 
David Toms had a bogey-free 69 and was at 5-under 139 along with Beem, Charles Howell III (69), Brandt Jobe (69) and Robert Gamez (67).
 
Mike Weir, playing for the first time since winning the Masters, had to settle for a 70 and was at 142, five strokes out of the lead.
 
'This is the best I've played in two months,'' Weir said. 'My putting is just awful. I better get that straightened out if I'm going to have a chance.''
 
Along with missing fairways and greens, Price encountered another problem. He had two new sand wedges to get ready for the firm, fast conditions in Texas and the U.S. Open, but the fresh grooves that create more spin were no good for him at Quail Hollow.
 
With a sand wedge into the par-5 fifth, he spun it back some 40 feet and lost a chance at birdie. Price did it again on the par-5 10th, and by the time he reached the 346-yard 14th hole, he was so uptight that his 80-yard shot only got halfway to the green.
 
'That shot is normally bread-and-butter for me,'' Price said. 'I was powerless today from that distance.''
 
Price dropped a shot on the 18th hole when his drive barely hopped into the rough and disappeared in a patch that had not been mowed. What really irritated Price was his wedge out to the fairway, which went farther than he wanted -- 88 yards from the pin.
 
His sand wedge hit 10 feet from the hole, spun back sharply and finally stopped rolling 70 feet from the cup. Price made two good putts just to get bogey.
 
'I've got my old ones with me, which I'm going to put back in the bag tomorrow,'' he said.
 
Birdies weren't entirely rare.
 
Playing with Price was Brad Faxon, who made eight birdies in a round of 68. Even so, that many might be tough to find over the weekend.
 
'You've got to plod along and make as few mistakes as you can,'' said Beem, who has played his best on the tougher courses this year. 'Whoever does that successfully will be right up there at the end of the weekend.''
 
Divots
Vijay Singh is at 1-over 145 despite 10 birdies over two rounds. He might be better off except for a two-stroke penalty assessed on the 15th hole Thursday, when Singh used his towel to dust away sand from off the green. ... Every player received a Mercedes-Benz for a courtesy car except for 18-year-old Ty Tryon. The contract stipulated players be at least 21. NASCAR team owner Felix Sabates, a Quail Hollow member, came to the rescue by letting Tryon drive his Rolls Royce. 'I'm not worried about him driving it. There's insurance,'' Sabates said. Tryon didn't get to keep it long. He was among those who missed the cut. ... David Duval followed his 79 with a 1-over 73 and missed the cut for the eighth time this year, and the sixth straight tournament. ... Scott Hoch missed the cut for the fourth straight tournament, the first time he's done that in his career. He said he probably would take the next three weeks off.
 
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    LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

    The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

    The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

    The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

    The LAAC was founded by The Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

    The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in The Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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    Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

    An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

    It was too much “socializing.”

    “I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

    Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

    “Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

    Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

    His plan for doing that?

    “Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

    Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

    McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

    Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

    So much for easing into the new year.

    So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

    McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

    “It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

    McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

    If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

    After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

    “It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

    McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

    “When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

    A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

    A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

    Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

    To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

    Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

    McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

    “I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

    A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

    “I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

    A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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    Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

    SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

    The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

    Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

    Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

    ''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

    The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

    ''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

    Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

    ''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

    Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

    He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

    Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

    Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

    He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

    Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.