Gronbergs Lucky 13 Leads International

By Sports NetworkAugust 10, 2006, 4:00 pm
2005 The INTERNATIONALCASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- For Mathias Gronberg, it might be the atmosphere more than anything else.
 
'I just like playing in high altitudes, it seems like,' Gronberg said after taking the first-round lead at The International with 13 points in the modified stableford scoring system.
 
Gronberg gave away three points with a double-bogey on Thursday, but that was his only mistake.
 
Stewart Cink
Stewart Cink is fighting for a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
The Swede picked up 16 points with eight birdies in the mountain air at Castle Pines Golf Club -- a venue similar to where he won the first of his four European Tour titles, the 1995 European Masters at Crans-sur- Sierre, Switzerland.
 
'It's the same format -- high up in the mountains where you hit the ball a long way,' Gronberg said. 'So, obviously, I hit the ball long here, which is kind of a bonus.'
 
Long hitters didn't necessarily have an advantage during the first round. In fact, only seven of the top 15 players on the leaderboard rank within the PGA TOUR's top 100 in driving distance -- and none is higher than 51st.
 
Still, the leaderboard was peppered with high scores -- good in the modified Stableford scoring system, which awards points for scores under par and subtracts points for scores over par.
 
Gronberg is two points better than Stuart Appleby, Stewart Cink, John Senden and 2001 winner Tom Pernice Jr., who each posted 11 during the first round to share second place.
 
Danny Ellis, Jeff Brehaut and Patrick Sheehan are tied for sixth place with 10 points, one point ahead of a group of seven players led by 1999 champion David Toms and European Tour Order of Merit leader David Howell.
 
The scores Thursday were outstanding, considering that last year Retief Goosen won with 32 total points -- 16 shy of the record of 48 set by Phil Mickelson in 1997 and matched by Ernie Els in 2000.
 
Under the modified Stableford scoring system, five points are awarded for eagles and two for birdies, while one point is subtracted for bogeys and three points for double-bogeys or worse.
 
Eight points are given for double-eagles, although there have been only three recorded in the 20-year history of the event.
 
Gronberg guessed it might take around 40 points to win this weekend, but said the number could be much lower.
 
'It depends on the weather,' he said. 'Today, we could not have played in better [conditions]. Maybe the last five or six holes there was wind, and except for that it was beautiful.'
 
Gronberg played in an early threesome and two-putted for a birdie at the par-5 first to collect his first two points. He nearly aced the fourth on the way to another birdie, then reached six points with a 7-foot birdie putt at the eighth.
 
The Swede then dropped three points with a double-bogey at the ninth, where he hit a 3-wood into the water.
 
Making the turn with just three points, Gronberg turned it on with five birdies on the back nine. For the first, he drained a 20-foot birdie putt at the 12th.
 
'It's strange how you can stand over 3-footers and you're not even hitting the hole, and you can step up on the 20-footer and think, 'I'm going to make this putt,'' Gronberg said.
 
The biggest difference for Gronberg on the back nine, he said, was his putting.
 
'The front nine was a little iffy, so I'm happy that I started to roll some good putts in,' Gronberg said.
 
Els leads a group of 12 players who are tied for 16th place at eight points. Further down the leaderboard, two other previous champions had less-successful rounds.
 
Goosen opened his title defense with three points and is tied for 65th place, while two-time winner Mickelson had a double-bogey and two bogeys and managed just one point to end tied for 86th.
 
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    Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

    Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

    Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

    Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

    New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



    FALLING

    Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

    Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

    Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

    Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

    Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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    Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

    By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

    “I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

    Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

    “If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


    Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


    Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

    Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

    “He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

    As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

    "I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

    Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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    McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

    The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

    McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

    And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

    “I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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    Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

    No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

    Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

    With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

    “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

    Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.