Campbell Blows in Masters Lead

By Associated PressApril 7, 2006, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There's no mistaking this place for Augusta National.
 
Azaleas are bursting with pink, white and purple blooms. The wind swirls down at Amen Corner, turning good shots into bogeys or worse, and Rae's Creek is as scary as ever.
 
Chad Campbell
Chad Campbell is in search of his first major championship victory.
Everything else about this Masters, however, is starting to resemble the U.S. Open.
 
Chad Campbell kept his mistakes to a minimum in Friday's second round, turning three straight birdies into a 5-under 67 and taking a three-shot lead over Vijay Singh, Fred Couples and Rocco Mediate.
 
'I don't think there's anything to celebrate yet,' said Campbell, who was at 6-under 138. 'I haven't really accomplished much yet. We're only halfway through.'
 
Campbell's birdie run through the back nine was about the only thing resembling a charge that typically defines this major. Everyone else was hanging on, happy with par, trying to survive what is shaping up as the toughest test in golf.
 
Just like so many U.S. Opens, the goal was to keep the ball in play off the tee and go from there.
 
'You play away from flags here like you do at U.S. Opens,' Ernie Els, who has won the Open twice, said after his second straight 71. 'The only difference is the rough is not as high. Give that some time.'
 
And as Els looked ahead to a weekend in which 15 players were within five shots of the lead -- including defending champion Tiger Woods -- he expected something else that reminds him of that other major held in June.
 
'You don't want to get too aggressive here at the moment, the way the golf course is playing,' he said. 'I can see a lot of backtracking over the weekend at some stages in this tournament.'
 
For now, much depends on Campbell.
 
He is a khakis-and-a-white-shirt player in an arena of dogwoods and magnolias, a prototype U.S. Open golfer who digs shots out of the dirt. The firm, crusty conditions over two days has shortened this beefy course and helped medium-length hitters like Campbell, who once described his driving distance in relation to a steak -- medium, left on the grill two extra minutes.
 
Campbell began his surge at Amen Corner, holing a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th that drew virtually no applause. He laid up on the par-5 13th and made a 10-foot birdie, then hit a 9-iron to a back pin on the 14th that stopped 6 feet away. His final birdie, a 15-foot putt that swirled into the hole, gave him a comfortable margin.
 
But as so many others learned, no lead is safe.
 
Singh birdied two of his first three holes and appeared to be in command until hitting two shots he thought were perfect. A 6-iron went over the fourth green and into the bushes, and a 7-iron went over the fifth green into a bunker. Singh made double bogey on both holes, and the gallery gasped as it watched him tumble down the leaderboard.
 
For good measure, Singh found Rae's Creek on the 13th for another double bogey. He wound up with a 74, bruised but not out of it.
 
'I don't think I've ever had back-to-back doubles for a long, long time,' Singh said. 'I'm happy that I hung in there. I didn't give up. I cannot win the tournament today. I just made sure I wasn't going to lose too many shots.'
 
Fred Couples, who has never missed a cut at the Masters, was poised to join Campbell in the lead until his second shot in the par-5 15th came up short and rolled back into the water. He managed a 70, while Mediate ground out a 73.
 
Mediate has been struggling on the PGA Tour, but got into the Masters because he tied for sixth last year in the U.S. Open. Clearly, he likes this kind of golf.
 
Phil Mickelson
It wasn't all smiles for Phil Mickelson Friday, as he had four bogeys to go along with four birdies.
'I hit a few good-looking shots that turned out horrible,' Mediate said. 'Just to be in this position to have a shot, that's all I can ask for. It's the ultimate examination, this golf course.'
 
It proved plenty tough for Woods again, although he was very much in the picture. He made short work of the par 5s on the back nine, two-putting for birdie on both of them, but was disgusted by missing birdie putts of 8 feet on the 16th and 18th holes that could have brought him closer to the lead.
 
Instead, he was at 1-under 143 and in a group that included two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (73) and Ben Crenshaw, the two-time Masters champion who shot 72. At age 54, he's wondering when his improbable run is going to end.
 
'I'm in contention, so it's a good spot,' Woods said.
 
The group at 2-under 142 included Els, Darren Clarke (70), Tim Clark of South Africa (72), David Howell of England (71) and former Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who kept his round together with clutch par saves, but failed to shoot up the leaderboard by missing putts after spectacular shots.
 
His best one might have been for bogey.
 
Mickelson posed over a 6-iron into the back right hole location on the 11th, only to feel the wind shift on his face -- switching from left to right -- enough to gently push his ball into the water. From behind the pond, he fired a long chip that stopped 6 feet from the hole and enabled him to escape with only a bogey.
 
He traded birdies and bogeys the rest of the way in his round of 72.
 
'I would not say it resembles the U.S. Open because the rough isn't rough -- it's first cut,' Mickelson said, referring to the grass that grows just under two inches. 'But the penalty for a missed tee shot on a number of holes now is U.S. Open-type penalties.'
 
The leaderboard might be the best indicator.
 
Even with Campbell ahead by three shots, this Masters appears to be wide open with some of the strongest games in golf -- from Singh to Mickelson to Els to Woods to Goosen, all members of the so-called Big Five.
 
The only thing that could transfer Augusta National back to its old self is rain, and there is a chance for that Saturday.
 
'Unless we get rain to soften it up, if it's windy then 2 or 3 under might not win,' Couples said.
 
Perhaps no one is more desperate to wear a green jacket than Els, who has been runner-up twice at Augusta National since 2000, and is still smarting from losing a duel to Mickelson two years ago. He closed with 67 in 2004; he was happy with 71-71 this year.
 
'I've just got to try and sneak something into the 60s over the weekend and see what happens,' Els said. 'At least I know you don't have to try and shoot 65 to win.'
 
Related Links:
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    Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

    Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

    ''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

    Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

    ''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

    Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

    He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

    ''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

    Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

    ''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

    Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

    Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

    But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

    ''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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    LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

    LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

    Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

    Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

    Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

    ''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

    That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

    ''Too many,'' Park said.

    The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

    ''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

    The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

    Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.


    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


    Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

    Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

    ''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

    Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

    She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

    ''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

    ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

    Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

    The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

    Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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    Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

    By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

    Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

    While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

    The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

    "I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

    Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

    With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

    "Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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    Three years later, PXG launches new iron

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

    Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

    “Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

    PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

    The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

    Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.