Bugs Drown Out Tiger Vijay Buzz at Memorial
It isn't about tournament host Jack Nicklaus, winding down his incomparable career. Not even the U.S. Open looming two weeks away can generated this much attention.
This is a real buzz - a swarm of cicadas that has returned to Muirfield Village for the first time in 17 years, as big as Texas grasshoppers and almost loud enough to drown out the Ohio State marching band during opening ceremonies Wednesday.
'I thought we had some big bugs in Africa, but these things ...' Ernie Els said.
Kenny Perry was playing a pro-am round Tuesday when a cicada flew under his arm during his backswing and zoomed past his face.
'I kind of flinched and I hit it way left,' he said. 'They could actually play a role in this tournament.'
Jay Haas is one of the few players in the field who were here in 1987 when the cicadas showed up. He was reminded of them during a practice round, when he looked across from the fifth tee and saw Singh on the third tee.
'He let go of the club because one hit him in the face on his down swing,' Haas said.
These are called 17-year cicadas because that's how long they have been in the ground. They crawl out to mate and lay eggs in tree branches. That constant screeching sound is the mating call made by the males 24 hours a day. Along the tree-lined fairways of Muirfield Village, the noise sounds like a police sirens in the distance.
'We don't have bugs in Ireland,' Padraig Harrington said. 'It was interesting the very first day to hear the noise. We weren't quite sure what they were. I read about it in the paper, so I was kind of expecting it. I actually wanted to see my first one. Once I've seen a few, I've seen them all. That's enough.'
The cicadas won't be all the rage once the tournament starts.
The Memorial, which Nicklaus founded in 1976, remains one of the best stops on the PGA Tour because of the course that Nicklaus is constantly tweaking, and a tournament he tries to run like his beloved Masters.
The only significant change this year is three additional bunkers down the right side of the 18th fairway to punish big hitters who try to cut the corner, and cutting down about 500 trees to allow more sunlight for the grass and more wind tunnels to create havoc on certain approach shots.
The field includes nine of the top 12 players - Phil Mickelson, Mike Weir and the injured Jim Furyk are missing. Perry is the defending champion, winning by two shots last year despite closing with three straight bogeys.
But all eyes - even those spooky orange eyes of the cicadas - figure to be on the Woods and Singh the first two rounds at Muirfield Village.
They will be joined by the ever-popular Joey Sindelar, who might want to change his name to Joey Switzerland. While the respect between Woods and Singh is mutual, their relationship is cool at best.
Singh all but predicted more than a year ago that Woods' dominance would not last forever, and he might be right. The 41-year-old Fijian has already won three times this year, and has closed the gap on No. 1 to a mere 1.89 points.
Woods remains the center of attention, not because of his brilliant play, but because everyone is curious - Woods included - where his tee shots might go. Despite spraying the ball off the tee his last two tournaments, Woods still managed to finish one shot out of a playoff at Quail Hollow and the Byron Nelson.
'I'm close with everything,' Woods said. 'It's not just my driver, it's my entire game. You've got to keep working on it and keep staying patient, and hopefully things will fall into place.'
Later, however, he conceded that 'you go through periods where you just don't play well.'
Woods and Singh last played together in the first round of the Tour Championship in Houston. The more famous encounter was the last round of the American Express Championship, where Woods held off Singh to win by two shots, a victory that carried him to his fifth straight PGA Tour player of the year award.
The conversation was nothing like the 'round-the-clock noise from the cicadas. It went something like, 'Titleist 2. You're away. Here's your card,' over 18 holes.
'When Vijay and I play, we just play our games,' Woods said. 'We're trying to win a golf tournament. It's going to be an enjoyable but competitive environment, and we're going to out there and play.'
It could be quite a show, especially if they wind up together on the back nine Sunday with the tournament on the line. Even the cicadas might shut up and watch.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.
The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.
Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.
''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''
Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.
McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.
''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.
Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.
''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''
Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.
Glover (64) leads Web.com Tour Championship
ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Web.com Tour Championship.
The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.
''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''
Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.
Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.
''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''
Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Web.com Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.
''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.
The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.
Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.
Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.
Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.
Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game
ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.
“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.
Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.
“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”
Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.
Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.
“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.
McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68
ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.
In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.
“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”
McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.
“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”