Clarke Goes Strait to the Top

By Sports NetworkAugust 12, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipHAVEN, Wis. -- Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland fired a 7-under-par 65 on Thursday to take the lead during the first round of the PGA Championship.
 
Ernie Els, who has had a chance at each of the season's first three majors, and Justin Leonard, who finished second to Davis Love III in 1997, are tied for second at 6-under-par 66.
 
Vijay Singh, the 1998 champion, Briny Baird, Luke Donald and American Ryder Cup hopeful Scott Verplank are tied at 5-under-par 67.
 
Most reports indicated that Whistling Straits would be one of the most difficult venues in major championship history. The course measured 7,514 yards and with eight holes on the shores of Lake Michigan, a heavy wind could cause scores to be very high.
 
As the players greeted Whistling Straits Thursday morning, tees were moved up and the course was shortened by almost 200 yards. The wind was relatively calm despite lower temperatures that forced most players to don a sweater.
 
Even though Whistling Straits, hosting its first major, yielded low scores, not everyone took advantage.
 
Tiger Woods, a two-time former champion who has not won a major since the 2002 U.S. Open, struggled to an opening-round, 3-over-par 75.
 
Woods began on the 10th tee and flew out with a birdie. He ran into trouble immediately after that when his drive at the 11th hooked into the rough. Woods could only advance his ball 100 yards into more rough and when he finally reached the green, he three-putted for a double bogey.
 
Woods, who won in 1999 and 2000, missed a 4-foot par putt at the 12th, then missed the green at the 13th. Woods two-putted from 35 feet for another bogey and a 3-over start through four holes.
 
He calmed down and made three birdies and three bogeys the rest of the way for his 75, which tied him for 104th. That score matched Woods' highest round at the PGA Championship, which he also posted in the final round of the '97 event at Winged Foot.
 
'Well, I got off to a nice start and then ran into a little bit of a problem there for a little bit,' said Woods. 'I just didn't hit the ball all that poorly, but I sure putted bad.'
 
Woods' major streak is at nine and if he is to erase that, he'll have his work cut out for him. He spotted Clarke 10 strokes after one round.
 
Clarke hit a lob-wedge to 12 feet for a birdie at the first. He missed the green with his second at the par-5 second hole, but lagged his eagle putt to 3 feet and rolled it in for birdie No. 2.
 
At the third, Clarke knocked an 8-iron to 18 feet to set up birdie. He made it four birdies in a row at four when his 9-iron stopped 12 feet from the flag.
 
'We had the better conditions this morning,' said Clarke, who is majorless in his career with two good chances at the British Open. 'The wind was blowing a little bit, but not that hard, and the wind eased for us on the back nine. But the greens were soft, and some of the pin positions were, I would not say generous, but reasonable to get at.'
 
Clarke rattled off two consecutive birdies from the seventh, but dropped his first shot of the championship at No. 9. He pulled a 6-iron into one of the 1,400 bunkers at Whistling Straits, then blasted his third through the green. Clarke chipped to 2 feet and tapped in his bogey putt.
 
The 35-year-old rebounded nicely from the mishap at nine with back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11, both from inside 10 feet. Clarke mis-hit an 8-iron at the 13th and plugged into a bunker. He could not go at the flag, instead hitting out sideways to the front of the green. Clarke made bogey, but once again wasted little time in atoning for his mistakes.
 
At the 14th, Clarke hit a pitching-wedge to 5 feet and sank the birdie putt to go one clear of Leonard and Els.
 
Clarke, a European Tour veteran and three-time Ryder Cupper, knows that there is a lot of golf left on a demanding course.
 
'I think if the wind keeps blowing, the greens firm up, then we are going to see a real challenge,' said Clarke. 'Not that it's not now, but if the wind keeps blowing, the greens dry out, then I think there won't be that many low scores this week.'
 
Els started on the back nine Thursday and was 1 under par through five holes. He drained a pair of 8-footers for birdie at 15 and 16, then ran home a 50-footer for birdie at 17, to make it three in a row and a 4-under-par 32 on the first nine.
 
The No. 2 player in the world reached the green with a 6-iron at the par-5 second and two-putted for birdie from 45 feet. Els hit a 9-iron at the par-3 third and made the subsequent 5-footer for birdie. He parred out for his 66.
 
'I wasn't sure what to expect scoring wise today because the practice rounds were pretty difficult,' said Els, who finished second at the Masters and British Open. 'I'm not sure if we expected to shoot 6 under around this course, but that was nice.'
 
Leonard, the 1997 British Open winner, mixed a birdie and a bogey over his first three holes. He birdied seven and 10, then tallied three in a row from the 12th, including a 25-footer at the 13th.
 
Leonard came up short of the green with his second at 16. He pitched to 5 feet and made birdie for his 66.
 
The 32-year-old has struggled in 2004 with one top-10, but credited his group with his first-round success.
 
'Watching Darren (Clarke) and K.J. (Choi) birdie the first hour that we played, it was fun,' said Leonard. 'I think they were playing so well, I kind of got sucked into it on the back nine. I think we all definitely fed off each other, and it was just a fun day, a fun group to be a part of.'
 
Choi, Chris DiMarco, 50-year-old Jay Haas, Stephen Ames, Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, Tim Petrovic, Loren Roberts and Padraig Harrington are knotted in eighth at minus-4.
 
Masters champion Phil Mickelson flew out of the gate Thursday afternoon with three birdies in his first three holes. He played even-par the rest of the way for a 69 and shares 17th with Carlos Franco, Paul McGinley, Chris Riley and Duffy Waldorf.
 
Defending champion Shaun Micheel posted a 5-over 77 and is tied for 129th place.
 
John Daly, who won this event in 1991 and played with Woods and Singh on Thursday, played poorly. He made an eight on 18 en route to a 9-over-par 81, which is good for a share of last place.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - PGA Championship
  • Photo Gallery - Whistling Straits
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Course Tour - Whistling Straits
  • Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

    By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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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.