Irwin Holds Slight Lead in California

By Sports NetworkMarch 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
Champions TourVALENCIA, California -- Hale Irwin stumbled to two late bogeys, but still managed a 1-under 71 Saturday and leads the AT&T Champions Classic by one stroke. He completed 36 holes at 9-under-par 135.
 
Irwin owns the most wins in Champions Tour history with 45, but his best finish at this event is a tie for seventh in 2004.
 
The 61-year-old Irwin has won five of the last six events he has led after 36 holes, including the MasterCard Championship at Hualalai earlier this year.
 
Irwin led by two entering play on Saturday and was never tied during the round. He did stretch his lead to as many as three strokes early on.
 
Andy Bean (66) and Bobby Wadkins (67) each flew up the leaderboard with bogey- free back nines. Bean, the runner-up at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, and Wadkins, who won the ACE Group Classic, are tied for second at minus-8.
 
Tim Simpson matched Bean's 66 for the low round of the day. The 66 moved Simpson into a share of fourth at 7-under-par 137. He stands alongside three-time champion Gil Morgan, Morris Hatalsky, Loren Roberts and Jim Thorpe.
 
Roberts carded a 2-under 70 Saturday. That stretched his tour record of consecutive rounds of par or better to 34. He surpassed Larry Nelson's record of 32 on Friday.
 
Irwin, who matched the course record at Valencia Country Club on Friday, dropped in a 12-foot birdie putt on three to extend his lead to three.
 
After Hatalsky closed within one, Irwin stuck his approach within 2 feet at the par-4 eighth. He tapped that in for birdie to move to 10 under.
 
Irwin, who broke a 15-month winless drought with his victory at Hualalai, drained a 25-foot birdie putt at 11 to again move two clear of Hatalsky.
 
'I made a nice birdie on eight. Later, I made a poor drive on 12 and after that point, I just didn't play very well,' Irwin explained.
 
Hatalsky dropped shots at 13 and 16 to end two back. Irwin also bogeyed No. 13 after he missed the green and could not get up and down for par.
 
Irwin missed the green again on 17 and found a similar result with a bogey that dropped him to minus-9. He two-putted for par at the last to remain there.
 
'I let a lot of opportunities slip away,' said Irwin. 'I lost focus today a little bit. The pace of played seemed slower today and I didn't adjust to it and that hurt my rhythm.'
 
On Sunday, Irwin will look to become the first player over the age of 60 to win twice in a single season on the Champions Tour.
 
Wadkins was 1 under par for his round through seven holes with three birdies and two bogeys. Birdies on nine and 11 moved him to minus-6. The 55-year-old collected back-to-back birdies from the 14th. He parred the final three holes to end at minus-8.
 
'I made a couple nice putts on 16 and 17 for pars. That is the whole key,' Wadkins said. 'You make some putts to keep your round going.'
 
Bean posted six birdies in a bogey-free round. David Eger was the only other player to card a bogey-free round Saturday.
 
'I played steady today and had a lot of birdie opportunities,' Bean commented. 'I drove it better today than yesterday. I played good (Friday), but could have shot better.'
 
Eger shot 5-under 67 to move into a tie for ninth at 6-under-par 138. He was joined there by former Senior PGA champion John Jacobs, Wayne Levi, 2003 winner Tom Purtzer, Bruce Summerhays and Fuzzy Zoeller.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Champions Classic
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

    John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

    The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

    That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

    He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

    Getty Images

    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

    Getty Images

    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “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. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “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.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

    Getty Images

    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.