Immelman Lonard Among Heineken Leaders

By Sports NetworkFebruary 3, 2005, 5:00 pm
VICTORIA, Australia -- Peter Lonard, Steve Webster and Trevor Immelman all posted rounds of 6-under-par 65 on Thursday to share the lead during the first round of the Heineken Classic.
The first round was suspended for darkness and several groups need to return to the Composite Course at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club Thursday afternoon at 3:20 p.m. ET.
The start of the opening round was delayed 2 1/2 hours due to some weather- related problems. Heavy rain the last 24 hours rendered the course unplayable so the course staff needed the time to fix the course. Also, traffic problems resulted from the storms and players were having a difficult time getting to the course on time.
John Bickerton, Brad Lamb and Camilo Villegas are knotted in fourth place at 5-under-par 66.
Ernie Els' bid to become the sixth person in golf history to win the same tournament four years in a row did not get off to a good start. He carded a 1-over-par 72 and is part of a group tied for 70th.
'It was just one of those days. I never got going,' said Els, the No. 3 player in the world.
Lonard, who tied for fourth place last week at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic on the PGA Tour, teed off on the back nine and wasted little time in breaking into red figures. He birdied the 11th and 12th holes, then added a birdie at the par-4 17th.
Lonard continued his steady play on the second nine. He birdied the second, fifth and ninth holes to polish off his bogey-free round and grab a share of the lead.
'I did not think I played great today but I got it around,' admitted Lonard. 'I put the ball in the right position, holed some putts, hit some good wedges close, particularly early on. It was that sort of day.'
Webster played the course from the first and tallied three birdies in his first five holes. He collected his fourth birdie of the round at the par-5 ninth and seemed poised to go even lower on the back side.
The 30-year-old posted back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12, but his run to a solo first was halted with a bogey at the 14th. Webster reclaimed the lost stroke at the 433-yard, par-4 17th to grab a piece of first,
'I played really poorly here last year,' said Webster, who is winless on the European Tour. 'I looked at the golf course and I was determined to play half decent this week, to try and get in the mix of things. I just played really nicely today and got off to a great start.'
Immelman was the first player to get to 6 under par as he caught fire on his opening nine, the back side at Royal Melbourne. He birdied six of his last seven holes for a front-nine 29.
Immelman missed a 10-footer for birdie at the first, but did birdie Nos. 2 and 5. Problems loomed for the South African as a mis-clubbed 5-iron came up short of the green at the 200-yard, par-3 eighth.
'I don't know what I was trying to do,' admitted Immelman. 'I had to carry it at least 200 yards, and then you've got uphill and the wind was not helping. I normally hit my five 200 so I really don't know what I was thinking.'
Immelman made double bogey and fell into a tie for the lead.
'It could have been lower but I am not going to sit here and complain,' said Immelman. 'Like I said, 65 around this course I will take it any day in any tournament.'
Nick Dougherty, who won last week's Caltex Masters, shot a 3-under 68 and is tied for seventh place with Colin Montgomerie, Adam Crawford, Simon Dyson, Mark Foster, Jarrod Lyle, James Nitties and Simon Wakefield. Matt Hendrix is three-under through 15 holes.
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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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    Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

    At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

    Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

    Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

    “Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

    In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

    “I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

    Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.