Johnson Still on Top

By Sports NetworkApril 18, 2003, 4:00 pm
Nationwide TourHOT SPRINGS VILLAGE, Ark. -- Zach Johnson shot his second consecutive round of 7-under 65 on Friday to take a commanding lead halfway through the First Tee Arkansas Classic. Johnson established a new 36-hole tournament record at 14-under-par 130 and is four ahead of Tjaart van der Walt at Diamante Country Club.
Lucas Glover and Ted Purdy each posted 67s on Friday and share third place at 8-under-par 136. Bo Van Pelt shot a 4-under 68 in the second round and is alone in fifth place at minus-6.
Johnson, a Monday qualifier with conditional status on the Nationwide Tour, continued his momentum from Thursday as he was in the early wave of tee times on Friday. He missed a four-foot birdie putt at his first hole, the 10th, but rebounded with a 10-footer for birdie at No. 11.
'I was glad to be teeing off early today,' said Johnson. 'You like to keep the momentum going into the next day.'
The Duke University graduate holed a right-to-left 20-footer for birdie at 15 and followed with a 15-foot birdie at the very next hole. Johnson closed his first nine with a six-footer for birdie at the par-5 18th.
Johnson collected birdies at three, four and six to reach 14-under par. He dropped a stroke to par after he missed an eight-footer at the eighth but responded with a beautiful 7-iron to 15 feet at the ninth which set up birdie and gave him a four-shot lead.
'As far as difficulty of the golf course combined with the way I'm playing, it's probably one of my best starts ever,' he said. 'I made a ton of putts. Even the ones I missed were solid. It was pretty ridiculous but I missed a couple too, so it all evens out. If I can get it on the right quadrant of these greens, I feel like I have a chance to make it.'
Johnson found himself in a similar spot two years ago when he held a one-shot lead through 36 holes of the Tri-Cities Open. Tough winds and a difficult course meant weekend scores of 78-75 and a tie for 25th.
'There is a lot of golf left, for one thing,' said Johnson. 'I have to try and stay within myself and not get caught up in what others are doing. If I get caught up in numbers, it can go backwards pretty quick.'
Van der Walt was flawless on Friday with six birdies and no bogeys. He holed out from a bunker for birdie and made a double sand save at his closing hole, the ninth, when he drove into a fairway bunker and found a trap near the green.
'Iron play is the key out here,' said Van der Walt. 'You're hitting a lot of long irons. You're coming in with 4-, 5-, 6-iron and the greens are hard as a table.'
Joe Ogilvie (65), Scott Petersen (70), Chris Tidland (70), Mike Springer (72), Danny Ellis (67), Boo Weekley (69), Steve Haskins (69), Brian Henninger (69) and James Driscoll (70) share sixth place at 5-under-par 139.
The 36-hole cut fell at 1-under-par 143 and 61 players advanced to the weekend. Among the notable players who missed the cut were Casey Martin (145) and former PGA Tour players Mike Hulbert (147) and Chip Beck (148).
Related Links
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    Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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    Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

    By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

    Memo to the golf gods:

    If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

    Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

    It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

    With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

    It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

    We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

    We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

    Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

    In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

    While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

    Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

    Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

    Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

    While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

    Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

    So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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    McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

    By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

    With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

    The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

    Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

    "I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

    McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

    But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

    "I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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    What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

    Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

    Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

    Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

    Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1x