Bunker Shots Major Time - COPIED

By Randall MellApril 20, 2010, 5:53 pm

Blasting into the week ahead, from Cajun country to a giant slayer’s Jeju Island home.


Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Just three of the top 30 players in the world will tee it up when play begins Thursday at the TPC at Louisiana, but there is plenty of story power, if not star power.

No. 3 Steve Stricker and No. 6 Ian Poulter are the highest ranked players in the field, but there are compelling stories to be told if Sergio Garcia, David Duval and John Daly can get themselves in contention. Should any of them win, it promises to make fascinating reading.

Bunker Shot: Love him or loathe him, Garcia is among the most charismatic players in the game. The sport’s better when he’s on leaderboards. That’s the problem. He isn’t finding his way onto them this year. In 2008, when Tiger Woods failed to record enough starts to qualify for the Vardon Trophy, Garcia claimed the award with the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour. Through his first six stroke-play starts this season, he’s 158th in scoring (71.43). He’s 136th in greens in regulation and 129th in putting average. He’s looking for his first top-10 finish in stroke play since the Dubai World Championship last November.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Steve Stricker. Contender – Charles Howell III. Darkhorse – Bubba Watson.

Course: TPC Louisiana in New Orleans, par 72, 7,341 yards (Pete Dye design, player consultants Jerry Kelly and Steve Elkington).

Purse: $6.4 million (winner’s share, $1,152,000).

TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Last year: Jerry Kelly (14-under 274) finished a shot better than Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini and Charlie Wi.


Ballantine’s Classic

Y.E. Yang is the story on the European Tour this week.

Fresh off his victory last week at the Volvo China Open, Yang heads home to play at Jeju Island, his South Korean home, where he’ll always be remembered as the guy who beat Tiger Woods in a major. The momentum and home cooking make Yang the man to beat, but there are strong challengers with Ernie Els, Anthony Kim and Henrik Stenson in the field. Kim is also a European Tour member who ranks 10th in Race to Dubai points.

Bunker Shot: Ernie Els, for so long the world traveler, makes his first appearance of the year outside the United States this week. After winning back-to-back events in Florida, Els seemed to have found the joy in his game again. That’s what made his struggles at the Masters so disturbing. It wasn’t so much the way the course beat him up, but the way he beat himself up afterward. He was dejected over how Augusta National had broken his heart yet again. Will the depression linger over his game? This week will be telling as to what kind of summer may await Els.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Anthony Kim. Contender – Y.E. Yang. Darkhorse – Peter Hedblom.

Course: Pinx Golf Club in Jeju Island. Par 72, 7,345 yards (Designed by Ted Robinson)

Purse: 2,205,000 euros, about $2.9 million (winner’s share, 366,660 euros, about $494,000).

TV times: Thursday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Last year: Thongchai Jaidee (4-under 284) defeated Gonzalo Fdez-Castano and Sung-hoo Kang in a playoff.


Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf

The Fred Couples show rolls into Savannah, Ga., this week.

Couples makes his first appearance as a “legend” and will team with Jay Haas in the 54-hole best-ball team event. Corey Pavin, Paul Azinger and Hal Sutton also are making their debuts. Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman are back as defending champs.

Bunker shot: Ken Green makes his return to competition after that devastating crash in his RV took so much away from him last summer. He lost his lower right leg in the accident and will play with a prosthetic leg with Mike Reid as his partner. Whether the duo gets in contention or not, it promises to be heart-tugging action. Green lost his girlfriend, his brother and his dog in the crash. Green’s also motivated by the fact that the Champions Tour turned down his request for a medical extension. He’s dependent on sponsor invites to play this Tour.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Fred Couples/Jay Haas. Contender: Bernhard Langer/Tom Lehman. Darkhorse – Denis Watson/Eduardo Romero.

Course: The Club at Westin Savannah Harbor in Savannah, Ga. Par 72, 7,087 yards (Designed by Robert Cupp and Sam Snead).

Purse: $2.7 million (winner’s share, TBD).

TV times: Friday, Golf Channel, 12:30-2:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m.

Last year: Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman won in a playoff, defeating Jeff Sluman and Craig Stadler when Langer holed a 45-foot birdie at the first playoff hole.


South Georgia Classic

This week’s event marks the quarter mark of the season, the seventh of 28 events.

Bobby Gates is the Nationwide Tour’s leading money winner with $161,960. At 7,781 yards, Kinderlou Forest is the longest layout on the Tour, about 300 yards longer than any other course.

Bunker shot: Who leads the money list is a big deal on this tour but so is the guy who holds down the 25th spot with the top 25 earning PGA Tour cards at season’s end. Brian Vranesh holds that final spot this week, but there’s plenty of movement in and out of the top 25 every week. David Hearn leaped from 54th on the money list last week to 10th this week with his runner-up finish to Kevin Chappell at the Fresh Express Classic. For every player who moves into the top 25, somebody’s feeling the pressure of moving out.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jamie Lovemark. Contender – Chris Kirk. Darkhorse – Marco Dawson.

Course: Kinderlou Forest Golf Club in Valdosta, Ga. Par 72, 7,781 yards (Designed by Davis Love III).

Purse: $625,000 (winner’s share, $112,500).

TV times: Friday-Sunday, Golf Channel, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sunday, 7-9:30 p.m.

Last year: Garth Mulroy won at 13-under 275, finishing a shot ahead of Chris Tidland.

Getty Images

Watch: Tiger birdies 3 of 4, then goes OB

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 18, 2018, 8:30 pm

Starting Sunday five off the lead, Tiger Woods teed off in his final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.

Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.

A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.

A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.

Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.

Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.

His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.

But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and another birdie at No. 10.

He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.

And with this roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, the charge was officially on, with Woods just one back.

Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and sniped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.

He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 to drop back to 11 under, three behind.

(More coming...)

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

Getty Images

McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

Getty Images

Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.