Clarke, Glover out front at wide open major

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2011, 12:00 pm

SANDWICH, England – Darren Clarke marched along bumpy fairways on a wild ride at Royal St. George’s that was filled with blunders and brilliance, and one final birdie that brought the kind of ovation he had not heard in a decade at the British Open.

Right behind him was Lucas Glover, far more steady in closing his solid round with eight straight pars.

When a sun-baked and wind-blown second round finally ended Friday, they shared the lead in a major that is living up to its proper name.

The Open Championship is every bit of that.

Before anyone could get excited about the prospects of Clarke delivering yet another major to Northern Ireland, all it took was one look down the leaderboard — all the way to the bottom—to realize this championship was just getting started.

Only seven shots separated first from worst going into the weekend.

“There’s still two days of tough golf and tough weather ahead of us,” Clarke said.

Clarke, a forgotten figure as Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy captured the U.S. Open the last two years, bounced back from a double bogey to make a 90-foot eagle putt and survived a few more hiccups on his way to another 2-under 68.

Glover, playing the kind of golf that won him a U.S. Open two years ago in New York, has made only three bogeys in the opening two rounds. He had a 70 to join Clarke in the lead at 4-under 136.

“Unlike often when you’re in contention in a championship where it may be between six, seven, eight of you, now it’s between the whole field,” Thomas Bjorn said. “You’ve just got to go out there and knuckle down and see where it gets you to on Sunday afternoon.”

Bjorn (72) was one shot behind along with PGA champion Martin Kaymer (69), Chad Campbell (68) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (71). The 29 players within four shots of the lead included U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, who met his goal of getting to even par for the tournament with a spectacular save from a buried lie in the pot bunker in front of the 18th green.

McIlroy will play Saturday for the third straight time with Rickie Fowler, a fellow 22-year-old who fought his way to a 70 and then summed up the state of this British Open going into the weekend.

“It’s basically a new tournament starting tomorrow,” Fowler said.

That won’t be the case for Luke Donald, who became the second No. 1 player this year to miss the cut in a major. His hopes ended when his ball plugged so badly in a bunker on the 17th that he had to play back toward the fairway, only to see it roll back into the sand. Donald at least was in good company. Lee Westwood at No. 2 also missed the cut and refused to speak to reporters.

Even with a beloved figure like Clarke in the lead, nothing is drawing more attention than the weather.

The forecast is strong wind and increasing rain late in the morning, followed by heavy rain and even stronger gusts in the afternoon. Depending on the weather, it could be a repeat of 10 years ago at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, when David Duval started the third round seven shots out of the lead and wound up with a share of the lead by the end of the day.

“There’s an awful long way to go yet, and I believe the forecast for the weekend is very, very poor, which I quite look forward to,” Clarke said. “But the course is going to play very, very tough. If that’s the case, then the tournament is still wide open for an awful lot of players.”

So many players, in fact, that it was easy to overlook Phil Mickelson, who has never fared well at the British Open and suddenly finds himself within three shots of the lead going into the weekend.

“I’m looking forward to that challenge, and I’m hoping I’ve got the shots now to be effective in it,” Mickelson said.

The eclectic mix of contenders still includes 20-year-old amateur Tom Lewis, who shared the lead after the first round with a 65 and held it together until the end of his round when he three-putted the 17th and was fortunate to make bogey on the final hole. His shot from the rough went over the green and was headed out of bounds until the ball hit the stake. He shot 74, and was still only three shots behind.

On the other end of the spectrum was 61-year-old Tom Watson, who put on another memorable show with a hole-in-one on the sixth hole, hitting a pure 4-iron from 160 yards into the wind that took one hop and banged off the pin before dropping into the cup.

“They’re all lucky when they go in,” Watson said. “But that’s what I was aiming at.”

The group at 2-under 138 included a former Ryder Cup captain in Tom Lehman (67) and the current captain in Davis Love III (68). They were joined by Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who has experience with a crowded leaderboard. He was among eight players who had a share of the lead on the final day at Augusta National until he birdied the last four holes to win by two.

McIlroy was the favorite going into the British Open, and it’s hard to rule him out at only four shots behind. At times the kid looked as though he was ready to make a move, only to miss a key putt for find a bunker that led to bogey.

Even so, he was right where he needed to be.

“I think you’ll see a lot of chopping and changing at the top of the leaderboard,” he said. “It’s the most open Open I’ve seen in a long time. Yeah, I think it’ll be excited to be a part of, and it’ll be excited to watch over the next two days.”

It wasn’t much fun for him to be watching from his house early Friday, when the day started under so much sunshine and so little wind that low scores were anticipated until the gusts arrived in the afternoon, about the time McIlroy was to tee off.

“It’s the first Open Championship round I’ve played in short sleeves the whole time,” Glover said.

But it didn’t work out that way. There were enough tricky pins to keep anyone from doing better than a 67, and as lunchtime approached, the wind shifted to the opposite direction and made the closing holes as tough as ever.

Glover fired at a tight pin on No. 2 for birdie, and picked up another shot on the downwind, par-5 seventh that could easily be reached in two. A bogey on the 10th hole was his last of the round.

“I didn’t hole as many putts as I did yesterday,” Glover said. “But I’m happy to grind out even par.”

It was the first time Glover has put together consecutive rounds at par or better.

Clarke got into trouble on No. 4 when he missed the green to the right, his chip didn’t get up the slope and he wound up missing a 4-foot putt to take double bogey. Then came the long eagle, a birdie on the next hole and a back nine that featured three bogeys, three birdies and three pars.

“It was a little bit more adventurous today,” Clarke said. “There was some good and some not-so-good. But overall, 68 is very pleasing.”

Equally pleasing was the ovation Clarke received on just about every green. He was runner-up in the Open at Royal Troon in 1997, and tied for third at Royal Lytham in 2001. Still strong are the memories from The Ryder Cup in Ireland five years ago, when he played a month after his wife died of cancer and went 3-0 at The K Club.

“The support I’ve had the first two days has been fantastic,” Clarke said. “The shouting and roaring, it’s been a while, but it’s been very enjoyable, and it’s definitely helped.”

There figures to be plenty more noise this weekend. The only mystery is for whom.

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Cops called in bizarre ending to Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 20, 2018, 7:16 pm

In a one-paragraph post on its website, the Florida State Golf Association declared Marc Dull the winner of the 37th Mid-Amateur Championship on May 13 after his opponent – in a tie match with two holes to go – was unable to return because of an “unfortunate injury” sustained during a lengthy weather delay.

Left unreported was what allegedly happened.

According to a police report (see below) obtained by GolfChannel.com, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office received a call that afternoon from Dull’s opponent, Jeff Golden, who claimed that he’d been assaulted in the parking lot at Coral Creek Club, the tournament host site in Placida. In a statement provided to police, Golden said that he was sucker-punched in the face by Dull’s caddie, Brandon Hibbs.

Both in his statement to police and in a subsequent phone interview afterward, Golden, 33, said that the alleged incident stemmed from a rules dispute on the ninth hole during the championship match. As he surveyed his putt, Golden asked Dull whether the cup was damaged or if there was loose debris around the edge.

“Don’t worry about it,” Hibbs reportedly told Golden. “If you’re going to make it, you’re going around it.”

With tensions already running high because of what he perceived as breaches of etiquette by his opponents, Golden informed the rules official in the group that he believed Hibbs’ statement constituted advice. The penalty was a loss of hole, giving Golden a 2-up lead at the turn.

At that point, Hibbs told police, he recused himself and returned to the clubhouse. Dull and Golden continued their match, heading to the 17th hole all square when they were pulled off the course because of inclement weather.

Golden told police that he headed to the parking lot at 2:45 p.m. to retrieve some dry clothes from his car when Hibbs “approached him, apologized, then punched him on the left side of the face,” causing him to fall to the ground.

“I had a moment where I was happy to see him, because the first thing he said to me was, ‘I want to apologize,’” Golden said last week in a phone interview. “By the time he finished I was being punched.”

Asked why he believed Hibbs would strike him, Golden said: “It was from the earlier ruling, 100 percent. He had anger toward me because I called him out on a ruling.”

In a statement given to police, Hibbs, 36, said that he had “been in the clubhouse the entire time and did not batter [Golden], nor was he in the parking lot.” Hibbs, who caddies with Dull at Streamsong Resort in Central Florida, did not return a message seeking comment.

Police wrote in the report that there were no witnesses to the alleged attack, nor was there any surveillance video from the parking lot. While observing Golden the officer noted “no swelling or abrasions to the face,” but there was “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip.” Hibbs’ hands and knuckles showed “no scrapes or abrasions.”

Golden, however, said that there were three bloodstains on his shirt and punctures inside his mouth that proved he’d been struck. He also described himself afterward as “dizzy” and seeing “weird shades of colors,” and that the area between his wrist and thumb was “very sensitive” from catching his fall. Still feeling woozy, he met with his doctor the day after the alleged incident and also underwent a CT scan on Friday.

“I was extremely shaken up,” he said. “I had concussion symptoms.”

Golden declined to press charges – he said later that he wasn’t given the option, because of a lack of physical evidence – and refused medical attention.

Reached by phone last week, Dull said that he had no knowledge of the alleged attack and was only made aware once the police arrived. He said he had waited out the delay in a storm shelter.

“It was shocking,” he said. “[Hibbs] said to me, ‘I didn’t touch the guy.’”

Once the police left, it was up to the FSGA to determine how to proceed.

With the course now playable after a two-hour delay, under the Rules of Golf, the players were expected back on the 17th hole.

Golden asked Dull whether he would concede the match.

“I said that I wasn’t going to concede,” Dull said. “Why would I concede the match when I was sitting in the shelter, and when I come back someone is accused of being hit?”

So Golden then decided to concede, handing the Mid-Am title to Dull, the reigning FSGA Amateur Player of the Year.

“I just wanted to get home,” Golden explained later.

Asked last week for more details about the final result, Jeff Magaditsch, the organization’s director of tournament operations, said in an email that Golden “expressed concern about a wrist issue” and that “not much additional information is available.”

A day later, once the details of the police report became available, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that Golden “didn’t want to play anymore.”

“Regrettably, the golf course was very playable and Jeff understood that he needed to resume the match,” he said. “I think he was just ready to go.”

When asked to comment on the alleged attack, Demick said that the police “found absolutely no evidence of an assault.”

Last week Golden, who qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open and is now a tennis pro at Palencia in St. Augustine, appealed the FSGA’s decision, writing in a letter that tournament officials shouldn’t have accepted his concession.

Dull said that he was “annoyed by the whole incident.”

“I think it taints the entire championship,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. No golf tournament should end that way.”

Getty Images

Delayed start for Nelson might mean Monday finish

By Will GrayMay 20, 2018, 6:04 pm

DALLAS – Inclement weather  pushed back final-round tee times at the AT&T Byron Nelson by more than four hours, increasing the likelihood of a Monday finish in the tournament’s debut at Trinity Forest Golf Club.

With the field already scheduled to play in threesomes off split tees, the opening tee times for the day got pushed back from 9:23 a.m. CT to 1:23 p.m. because of steady rain in the area. The delay means that the final group won’t start their round until 3:35 p.m. local time.

With sunset in the Dallas area scheduled for 8:23 p.m., the leaders will likely have just under five hours to complete their rounds or face returning to the course Monday morning. Threesomes have been used for each of the first three days, and in part because of the intricacies of the new layout rounds have routinely approached 5 hours and 30 minutes in duration.

Should play spill over into Monday, those playing next week’s event will face one of the Tour’s shortest commutes, with Fort Worth Invitational host Colonial Country Club less than an hour away.

Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise share the 54-hole lead at 17 under, four shots clear of the field. They’ll be joined in the final trio by Australia’s Matt Jones, who is tied for third with Kevin Na.

Getty Images

Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.

 

A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

Getty Images

Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”