Merritt leads RBC Heritage by 3; Spieth 5 back

By Associated PressApril 18, 2015, 11:07 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Troy Merritt shot a 2-under 69 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead into the final round of the RBC Heritage, while defending champion Matt Kuchar and Masters winner Jordan Spieth stayed within reach.

A day after tying the course record with a 61 to build a four-stroke advantage at Harbour Town, Merritt had four birdies and a double bogey to reach 14-under 199.

Kuchar, Brendon Todd and Kevin Kisner were tied for second.

Todd made the big move with a 63, the day's lowest round. Kisner shot 67, and Kuchar 68.

Jim Furyk led a group another stroke behind after a 68, with Spieth five shots back, also following a 68. Spieth believes he can shoot even lower Sunday to chase a second straight jacket, this one tartan.

Brice Garnett and Branden Grace were tied with Furyk in fifth. Garnett shot 65, and Grace 66. Bo Van Pelt was 9 under along with Spieth after a 67.


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The pack of seven players at 8 under included 2013 RBC Heritage winner Graeme McDowell, past British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen and former world No. 1 Luke Donald.

Spieth thrilled the gallery with his bounce-back 62 on Friday and it was a full house around the first tee when the 21-year-old Texan got started. But Spieth played more like he did in Thursday's opening 74 than in the second round, fighting to put shots close and make putts on the way to 68.

Still, it was Spieth's 18th time breaking par in his past 19 rounds, a monthlong run of success that included the Valspar Championship title, seconds at Texas and Houston and that record-tying Masters win from last week where he matched Tiger Woods' mark of 18 under from 1997.

And the fans continued to celebrate that accomplishment, shouting and applauding Spieth wherever he walked. One more round and Spieth can get some rest: He's not playing the Zurich Open next week.

Spieth isn't counting out his chances of another round like Friday's. ''There's a low one out there and I think it's certainly possible'' to win, he said.

Only Bernhard Langer in 1985 followed a Masters win with success at the RBC Heritage.

Merritt had one-upped Spieth's round Friday with a 61 to tie the tournament's course record set in 1994 by David Frost. It moved Merritt to the top of the leaderboard and looked like it might give him a strong jump start to keep things going Saturday.

And Merritt opened with birdies on the second and third holes to move to 14 under. But a double bogey on the par-4 eighth hole bounced him back down. Merritt eventually regained that edge with a birdie on the ninth hole and on the par-3 14th hole after knocking his tee shot within 4 feet. He made pars the rest of the way and will take to the course Sunday seeking his first career PGA Tour victory.

Kuchar overcame a double-bogey 5 on the seventh hole to keep within reach of playing partner Merritt.

Todd, nine strokes behind when his round began, got his run going with five birdies on the front nine to quietly move up. By the time he chipped in from 70 feet out on the 18th hole, Todd had moved into solo second place with only Merritt in front.

Todd, last year's Byron Nelson Championship winner, has struggled to take that next step forward this year. He hadn't finished better than 23rd in his past four events and missed the cut at last week's Masters after shooting 80-71.

Todd said he struggled with his putting coming in and was glad to see his short game heating up to post his lowest round on the PGA Tour since shooting 63 in the second round of the Humana Challenge in January 2014. ''Maybe it's just coming a little bit early this year,'' he said.

Divots: Threat of rain Sunday had the tournament organizers moving up tee times. Groups of three will go off the first and 10th tees between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. ... Tom Watson was first on the course Saturday and his five birdies on the first 14 holes had the 65-year-old thinking he might shoot his age. But Watson had bogeys on two of the final four holes to finish with a 69. ... Two-time RBC Heritage champion Boo Weekley shot a 77 on Saturday, his highest round ever in 35 career rounds at Harbour Town.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.