Barnes hopes to atone for last years near-miss
It’s an easy course to remember for the 29-year-old California native.
He certainly remembers his last round at a U.S. Open.
A year ago, Barnes was one of the feel-good stories at Bethpage Black, a young star that never quite reached expectations suddenly flourishing on one of golf’s biggest stages.
He led the U.S. Open after three rounds, sitting at 8 under with 18 holes to go. It all unraveled in a final-round 76 that left Barnes tied for second and two shots behind champ Lucas Glover.
Despite faltering, Barnes only looks back at the positives from last year.
“Nothing but good thoughts,” Barnes said after finishing up on the range Monday afternoon. “I was close and everything, but I’ve got another chance this year and I’ve just got to keep on building up my game.”
Still without a PGA Tour victory in his career, Barnes’ game has finally stabilized in the months since his U.S. Open run. He’s made the cut in 13 of 16 events this season, including five top-10 finishes. He finished in a tie for third two weeks ago at The Memorial and tied for 10th at the Masters in April.
The performances in the last year helped legitimize Barnes’ effort at last year’s Open when he became just the fourth golfer in Open history to reach double-digits under par.
“The game is coming around. I feel a little more confident when I’m out there and my game is proving it,” he said.
When he finished his college career at Arizona in 2003 as the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Barnes was lumped among a wave of young talent about to enter the professional game. But the Stockton, Calif. native floundered.
His finish at the Open earned Barnes $559,830 and spots in the British Open and 2010 Masters and U.S. Open – huge perks for a player who spent the previous four full seasons on the Nationwide Tour. Before surging into contention at Bethpage Black, Barnes had made only six cuts and $68,667 in 12 regular PGA Tour events.
Now he gets an opportunity to erase last year at a course he knows quite well. Barnes played in the Open at Pebble Beach 10 years ago as a 19-year-old amateur qualifier. Barnes missed the cut that year, finishing at 13-over in two rounds.
“I think I’m meeting what I expected and playing where I expected to be playing the last couple of years,” Barnes said. “No one had higher expectations than I did of myself. I’ve just proven (it) to myself, but other people as well.”
PRO TOO SOON: Scott Langley nearly turned pro without anyone knowing.
Two weeks ago, Langley won the NCAA individual championship. The Illinois star finished at 10 under to win by two shots, and a few days later earned a qualifying spot for this week’s Open at Pebble Beach.
During his interview Monday morning, Langley, about to enter his senior season at Illinois, slipped up talking about his status.
“I couldn’t have probably drawn it up any better than to pick my, not only my first major, but my first professional event to be out here. So yeah, it’s pretty special,” Langley said.
To which the moderator asked if Langley had turned pro.
“No, no, I’m an amateur,” he quickly answered. “But my first event on this stage. So I’m an amateur.”
Langley is one of the lucky youngsters to already have the “wow” factor of Pebble Beach out of the way, having played the course as part of the Champions Tour’s First Tee Open in 2006. While the course is setup completely different than four years ago, the focus for Langley can now be on his play and not the surroundings – for the most part.
“Yes, I’ll be distracted by the scenery just a little bit, but it’s nice to be able to just focus on what I need to do,” Langley said.
CHIP SHOTS: Glover, the defending champion, spent part of Monday participating in a youth clinic to help kick off the week of activities. More than 800 local kids turned out for the event at nearby Bayonet and Black Horse in Seaside, Calif. … “June Gloom” was in full effect Monday: fog and low clouds most of the day. Temperatures all week are expected to hover in the upper 50s and low 60s with only brief breakouts of sun.
Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.
Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.
''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''
Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.
Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.
Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.
''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.
Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.
''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''
Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.
''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''
Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.
Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.
Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.
''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''
In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.
Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.
''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.
McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.
Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.
''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''
Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.
''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''
Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.
McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.
''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''
McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.
''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''
McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.
McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.
Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.
''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.
Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.
''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''
Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial
The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.
Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.
Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.
Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.
Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).
This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.
Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting
Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.
Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.
“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."
It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC.
Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.
“I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”