Leaders Swept Away Johnson Now in Command

By Sports NetworkApril 2, 2004, 5:00 pm
DULUTH, Ga. -- Zach Johnson fired a 6-under 66 on Friday to take the lead midway through the BellSouth Classic. He stands at 9-under-par 135 and owns a two-stroke lead at the TPC at Sugarloaf.
Defending champion Ben Crane (69), Craig Bowden (71) and Tim Petrovic (70) share second place at 7-under-par 137. Scott Hend carded a 6-under 66 and is tied with Brian Gay, who shot a 2-under 70 on Friday. That duo is knotted at minus-six.
For the second consecutive day, heavy winds and cool temperatures greeted the players in the final tune-up for next week's first major of the season, The Masters.
Johnson, the Nationwide Tour Player of the Year in 2003, who had a late tee time on Friday, traded a birdie for a bogey on his first nine, the back side at Sugarloaf. He ran home a 25-foot eagle putt at the closing hole to reach 5 under par for the championship.
He parred his first three holes on his second nine, but leapt up the leaderboard with his play, starting at the fourth. Johnson had a severe sidehill lie at the par-5 hole but knocked his third to inches for the tap-in birdie.
Johnson collected another birdie at the fifth when he sank a 7-footer. He made it three in a row at No. 6 with a 10-footer and now the Nationwide Tour alumnus was alone in first at minus-8.
Johnson birdied the par-4 ninth to grab a two-shot lead heading into the weekend, his first on the PGA Tour.
'I'm just going to try to keep doing what I'm doing,' said Johnson. 'One of my goals this year on the tour was to get comfortable out here like I was last year. I feel like I am now.'
Bowden opened on the back nine Friday and immediately went into red figures. He hit a pitching-wedge 25 feet past the hole and sank the birdie putt, but trouble loomed four holes later. At the 14th, Bowden hit his approach to the short right portion of the green and three-putted for bogey.
Bowden, a 35-year-old from Indiana, nearly holed out his 5-iron from the fairway at the 17th. Instead he kicked in his short birdie putt to make the turn at 1-under 35.
At the fourth, Bowden knocked his birdie try three feet past the hole and missed the comeback putt for another bogey. He made up for it at the next hole when he roped a 4-iron 6 feet short of the hole and cashed in on the birdie try.
'It's been a tough two days so far,' said Bowden. 'I'm obviously very pleased with the way I'm sitting, but, you know, it's just it's a good golf course and it's a hard golf course.
'The wind is swirling big time. It's tough to pick a club and then commit to it because there's a few holes out here that you can have a train wreck on.'
Bowden, a winner on the Nationwide Tour last year, is one of those players who is not gearing up his game for Augusta next week. He is not in the field next week for The Masters, but wants win No. 1 at Sugarloaf.
'It's still a golf tournament to me,' said Bowden, whose best finish on tour this year was a tie for 13th at the Honda Classic. 'I don't care who is playing in the field. They are paying $800,000 this week. If I'm the only guy that shows up, that's my fortune.'
Petrovic was 3 under on his round when he made it to the 18th, his ninth of the round. At the par-5 hole, he horribly missed a par putt and instead of taking advantage of the par-5 he left with bogey to fall to minus-7.
Petrovic missed another par putt at the first, from about 2 feet and that left the Massachusetts native stunned.
'Now I'm thinking, what is going on here? It's like a conspiracy.'
Petrovic rallied with back-to-back birdies at 5 and 6, but the wheels came off again.
He bogeyed the seventh, then three-putted from 50-feet for his second consecutive bogey. Petrovic birdied the final hole to polish off his round of 70.
'I was grinding a little bit,' admitted Petrovic. 'I was kind of wearing myself, giving myself a tough time inside. I just have to go out and do my business and play my own game.'
Crane tallied two bogeys in his first three holes but collected five birdies the rest of the way for his share of second place.
Reigning PGA Champion Shaun Micheel (72) and Europe's top-ranked golfer Padraig Harrington (69) share seventh place at 5-under-par 139.
The two co-leaders after Thursday's opening round did not fare well on Friday. Jose Maria Olazabal posted a 5-over 77 and is part of a group in 17th at 2-under-par 142, while Roger Tambellini carded a 78 and is tied for 25th at minus-1.
Phil Mickelson shot an even-par 72 and shares 13th at 3-under-par 141.
The 36-hole cut fell at 1-over-par 145 and among the notable players who will miss the weekend are Matt Kuchar (147), U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton (148) and David Toms (155).
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  • Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

    By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

    At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

    Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

    In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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    Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

    Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

    Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

    ''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

    ''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

    Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

    ''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

    ''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

    Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

    Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

    ''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

    Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

    Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

    ''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

    The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

    ''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

    The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

    ''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

    Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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    ''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

    ''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

    ''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

    ''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

    Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

    ''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

    Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

    Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

    Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

    Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

    Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

    “At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

    Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.

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    With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

    “I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

    Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

    Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

    “As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

    Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

    Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

    Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

    Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

    Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

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    Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

    There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

    “I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

    Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

    The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.