Big hitters and small hitters share Firestone stage

By Rex HoggardAugust 6, 2009, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio ' They will tell you that Firestone, and next weeks Hazeltine National, can only be scaled by the strongest of men.
 
That winning Glorys last Two-step demands 320-yard carries, all others need not apply. That only the games bombers have a betting chance at this weeks WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the bookend PGA Championship.
 
Its all a shame, of course.
 
Tiger Woods at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
Tiger Woods is eyeing his seventh win at Firestone. (Getty Images)
Sure, Padraig Harrington sluffed his way out of a season-long slide that has been tough on Irish eyes everywhere with an opening-round 64 and a Day 1 driving average of 326 healthy yards. And that hard-swinging Tiger Woods fellow is lurking just four shots back. At 7,400 humid yards, Firestones South Course may have the Tours only legitimate three-shot par 5, the 667-yard 16th hole, and the Midwest monster rewards power ' end of list.
 
But then Tim Clark and a smiling mite named Prayad Marksaeng would beg to differ. Neither player would ever be plucked from a PGA Tour lineup for performance-enhancing drug testing. Nor would either crack the lineup of your office pick-up squad.
 
And yet, despite all that real estate, there they were after the first lap at the Firestone oval, two shots off Harringtons pace, tied for second place alongside Scott Verplank, another player on the back end of the Tours driving curve, and standing shoulder to, well, ear with the games bombing elite.
 
Marksaeng tips the scales at 5 foot 4, while Clark is a towering 5 foot 7 and both ranked near the bottom of the 79-player field in driving distance (290 yards for Clark and 309 for Marksaeng).
 
Or, to put things into perspective, our diminutive heroes are 12 shots clear of Adam Scott who is about a time zone longer off the tee. Its a good things from small packages lesson.
 
Its a lesson thats taken Clark some time to learn. Truth is women may dig the long ball, or so the old saw goes, but there is something to be said for life from the middle of the fairway and a steady putter.
 
I used to cry about being here and said I should go to Reno (this weeks opposite-field event) and play, said Clark of Firestone, who figures Hazeltine will play to about 74,000 yards, or so everyone says. I come in here now with a different attitude. I try to enjoy myself and give it a good effort rather than hang your head.
 
Positive stuff, he must have solicited the psychological advice of Harrington, the picture of positive thought who has been mired in what he says is largely a self-inflicted slump.
 
The Irishman hit nearly 80 percent of his greens in regulation to post his best round in a year that XM Radios John Maginnes observed, he has worn all over his shirt.
 
The first six months of the year had a purpose, Harrington said. I was working on some things. Now I can play.
 
On Thursday the new swing simply worked, whereas Woods had to work a little harder for his 2-under-par card, saying his game came in spurts, with a mid-round birdie flourish that pushed him into red figures and a pair of gritty pars to close his day.
 
Woods, the biggest of men, is essentially an adopted son of the Cuyahoga, as much an Ohio fixture with his six Bridgestone titles as that signature water tower or Cleveland Indians fire sales.
 
After nine trips to Firestone, few know the leafy turns and twists of the South Course better than Woods, and even he was taken by how big the Akron ballpark played on Thursday: I havent seen this golf course play this long in a while, he said.
 
All of which makes that Clark - Marksaeng cameo that much more impressive, and it could have been better.
 
The mighty Thai got to 6 under before a messy bogey-bogey finish and Clark three-putted the inward loops par 3s (Nos. 12 and 15) from 12 and 20 feet, respectively.
 
The duos play, however, was worth noting as the Tour eases into the bombers portion of the schedule.
 
Not that its easy for the likes of Clark and Marksaeng to play long ball with what is, at least in Tour terms, squeeze bunt games. Clark switched out his 4-iron for a new 22-degree hybrid for Firestone and Hazeltine National, site of next weeks PGA, and Marksaeng wore out his long irons in his fourth WGC start.
 
But they proved, at least for a single sunny day, that there is room for the plodders among the pounders. Corey Pavin would be proud.
 
The ultimate test still awaits, three more loops at Firestone and Hazeltine, where three par 5s measuring over 600 yards await. But if Clark is concerned with the lengthy road ahead he wasnt letting on.
 
I dont feel like length is a huge advantage on this golf course, said Clark, who ranks 174th on Tour in driving distance but finds the fairway better than all but three of his Tour stable mates. On some holes youre actually driving into a down slope and I get a bit more run. Some guys are flying the slopes and were kind of ending up in similar positions.
 
After 18 holes, some of the circuits longest would gladly switch positions with Clark and Marksaeng ' the mighty among mice and men.
 
Related Links:
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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

    Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

    By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

    Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.