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.
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    Frittelli fulfilled promise by making Match Play field

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:40 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dylan Frittelli attended the University of Texas and still maintains a residence in Austin, so in an odd way this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is a home game for the South African who plays the European Tour.

    Frittelli actually attended the event last year as a spectator, when he watched the quarterfinal matches on Saturday afternoon, and made a promise to himself.

    “I told a lot of people, I was running into them. I said, ‘I'll be here next year, I'll be playing in this tournament,’” said Frittelli, who climbed to 45th in the world ranking after two victories last year in Europe. “People looked at me, you're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64. It was a goal I set myself.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Frittelli’s next goal may be a little payback for a loss he suffered in college when he was a teammate of Jordan Spieth’s. Frittelli is making his first start at the Match Play and could face his old Longhorn stable mate this week depending on how the brackets work out and his play.

    “We had the UT inter-team championship. Coach switched it to match play my senior year, and Jordan beat me in the final at UT Golf Club. It was 3 and 2,” Frittelli said. “So I'm not too keen to face him again.

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    Match Play security tightens after Austin bombings

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 8:06 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – A fourth bombing this month in Austin injured two men Sunday night and authorities believe the attacks are the work of a serial bomber.

    The bombings have led to what appears to be stepped-up security at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

    “I was out here [Sunday]; typically that's the most relaxed day. But they had security officials on every corner of the clubhouse and on the exterior, as well,” said Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and is playing the Match Play for the first time this week. “It was pretty tough to get through all the protocols. I'm sure they'll have stuff in place.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    The PGA Tour told The Associated Press on Monday that it doesn't comment on the specifics of its security measures, but that the safety of players and fans is its top priority. The circuit is also coordinating closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of players and fans.

    Despite the bombings, which have killed two people and injured two others, the Tour has not yet reached out to players to warn of any potential threat or advise the field about increased security.

    “It’s strange,” Paul Casey said. “Maybe they are going to, but they haven’t.”

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    Rosaforte Report: Faxon helps 'free' McIlroy's mind and stroke

    By Tim RosaforteMarch 19, 2018, 8:00 pm

    With all the talk about rolling back the golf ball, it was the way Rory McIlroy rolled it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that was the story of the week and the power surge he needed going into the Masters.

    Just nine days earlier, a despondent McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship, averaging 29 putts per round in his 36 holes at Innisbrook Resort. At Bay Hill, McIlroy needed only 100 putts to win for the first time in the United States since the 2016 Tour Championship.

    The difference maker was a conversation McIlroy had with putting savant Brad Faxon at The Bears Club in Jupiter, Fl., on Monday of API week. What started with a “chat,” as McIlroy described it, ended with a resurrection of Rory’s putting stroke and set him free again, with a triumphant smile on his face, headed to this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Augusta National in two weeks.

    The meeting with Faxon made for a semi-awkward moment for McIlroy, considering he had been working with highly-regarded putting coach Phil Kenyon since missing the cut in the 2016 PGA Championship. From “pathetic” at Baltusrol, McIlroy became maker of all, upon the Kenyon union, and winner of the BMW Championship, Tour Championship and FedExCup.

    Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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    As a professional courtesy, Faxon laid low, respecting McIlroy’s relationship with Kenyon, who also works with European stars Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Knowing how McIlroy didn’t like the way Dave Stockton took credit after helping him win multiple majors, Faxon let McIlroy do the talking. Asked about their encounter during his Saturday news conference at Bay Hill, McIlroy called it “more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

    “There was nothing I told him he had never heard before, nothing I told him that was a secret,” Faxon, who once went 327 consecutive holes on Tour without a three-putt, said on Monday. “I think (Rory) said it perfectly when he said it allowed him to be an athlete again. We try to break it down so well, it locks us up. If I was able to unlock what was stuck, he took it to the next level. The thing I learned, there can be no method of belief more important than the athlete’s true instinct.”

    Without going into too much detail, McIlroy explained that Faxon made him a little more “instinctive and reactive.” In other words, less “mechanical and technical.” It was the same takeaway that Gary Woodland had after picking Faxon’s brain before his win in this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Sunday night, after leading the field in strokes gained-putting, McIlroy was more elaborative, explaining how Faxon “freed up my head more than my stroke,” confessing that he was complicating things a bit and was getting less athletic.

    “You look at so many guys out there, so many different ways to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “The objective is to get the ball in the hole and that’s it. I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All of this occurred after a conversation I had Sunday morning with swing instructor Pete Cowen, who praised Kenyon for the work he had done with his player, Henrik Stenson. Cowen attributed Henrik’s third-round lead at Bay Hill to the diligent work he put in with Kenyon over the last two months.

    “It’s confidence,” Cowen said. “(Stenson) needs a good result for confidence and then he’s off. If he putts well, he has a chance of winning every time he plays.”

    Cowen made the point that on the PGA Tour, a player needs 100-110 putts per week – or an average of 25-27 putts per round – to have a chance of winning. Those include what Cowen calls the “momentum putts,” that are especially vital in breaking hearts at this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

    Stenson, who is not playing this week in Austin, Texas, saw a lot of positives but admitted there wasn’t much he could do against McIlroy shooting 64 on Sunday in the final round on a tricky golf course.

    “It's starting to come along in the right direction for sure,” Stenson said. “I hit a lot of good shots out there this week, even though maybe the confidence is not as high as some of the shots were, so we'll keep on working on that and it's a good time of the year to start playing well.”

    Nobody knows that better than McIlroy, who is hoping to stay hot going for his third WGC and, eventually, the career Grand Slam at Augusta.

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    Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

    According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

    The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

    The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.