Notes Paddy Slam in progress Champions dinner

By Associated PressApril 7, 2009, 4:00 pm
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AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Quick! Name the guy who is going for his third straight major at the Masters.
 
Tiger? Good guess, but physically impossible thanks to that bum knee last year. Phil? Nope, not this season. Well, then how about the guy who has actually won the last two majors? That, for those of you still scratching your heads, would be Padraig Harrington.
 
With wins at the British Open and PGA Championship last year, the Irishman could join Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan as the only players ever to win three different majors in a row this week. But with Woods returning from that knee injury and his rivalry with Phil Mickelson heating up again, Harrington could actually go out and play a practice round earlier this week with a gallery that numbered in the handfulls.
 
It makes no difference to me, Harrington said Tuesday. The outside stuff, I cant control, so Im not too fussed about it.
 
Harrington has never been one to draw much attention to himself. He splits his time between the PGA and European tours. Hes not an outlandish dresser like Ian Poulter. And the next time he talks trash at the Ryder Cup ' or anywhere else, for that matter ' will be the first.
 
He simply goes out and plays his game. Plays it very well.
 
Despite a wrist so sore he didnt know if hed even be able to play, Harrington won his second straight claret jug last July. He won the PGA Championship a month later, making him the first European to win successive majors in the same season. He also was the first European to be named the PGA Tours player of the year.
 
But the thought of winning a third straight major doesnt faze Harrington. The three hes already won, thats a different story.
 
Now I realize actually I can win majors within my own control, Harrington said. I know if I prepare right and play right and go out and play my golf, its possible for me to win and to be in control of me winning. So thats the pressure and I know I can do it. I have to be able to bring it to the table every time ' well, not every time, but sometimes.
 
Regardless of whats going on outside with you guys, and whether its three in a row or another major, its just the fact that I know I can do it.
 
Harrington certainly has the game to win at Augusta National. Hes been fifth twice, and has finished in the top 10 the last two years.
 
And while fans might not have caught on that hes chasing history, his fellow players certainly are.
 
Lee Westwood said to me yesterday, `Whats all this about the Paddy Slam? Are you starting up wrestling? Harrington said.
 

 
TIGERS RIVAL: Forget about Phil Mickelson or Padraig Harrington. The real rival to Tiger Woods might be a retired player in his 40s who has a history of performing in pressure situations.
 
That would be John Smoltz, the only player in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves. Smoltz is on the disabled list with the Boston Red Sox, but he took time off last week during spring training to play with Woods at Isleworth outside Orlando, Fla.
 
Asked if the All-Star pitchers pockets were still deep, Woods laughed and said, Yes.
 
But he didnt gloat.
 
Ive played a few times with Smoltzy. Ive gotten him and hes gotten me, Woods said.
 
How does a baseball player take down the No. 1 player in golf?
 
Its about negotiating, Woods said, referring to the number of strokes he gave Smoltz. Woods did not reveal how many, but it wasnt entirely a charitable case. He said Smoltz either shot a 72 or 73, and apparently that wasnt even his best day.
 
I remember the time that I shot 63 and lost money, Woods said. He shot 66 that day. The guy can play.
 

 
CALIBER CADDIE: Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal might be the only player at Augusta National who has played fewer golf tournaments than his own caddie.
 
But this is no ordinary caddie.
 
Olazabal, who is battling rheumatism and has played only twice this year, is using Emanuele Canonica as his caddie this week. Canonica is a past champion on the European Tour who has represented Italy in the World Cup. Canonica was a late arrival because he made the cut last week in the Portuguese Open.
 
Both have the same manager, Sergio Gomez, who cleared the player-caddie relationship with the European Tour.
 
Emanuele has been asking for a couple of years whether he could do it, Gomez told the Press Association. Now he is, not just hear, but at Hilton Head next week as well.
 
But the player-caddie relationship needed clearance.
 
The European Tour has a rule that no full member may caddie for any competitor in a European Tour-approved tournament, a definition that includes a reference to former winners of Order of Merit events. Canonica, 38, won the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles four years ago.
 
But as a past champion, he has played recently only on sponsor exemptions.
 

 
GOOD EATS: Before Trevor Immelman broke through last year, it had been three decades since a South African won the Masters. That meant there was little chance he would duplicate any food served recently at the annual champions dinner.
 
Immelman, though, wasnt taking any chances with the queasy stomachs of other former champions.
 
I wanted to have a South African flair, but obviously it had been 30 years since we had a South African win, Immelman said. I wanted to do that as well as keep it simple so that past champions would want to try it and eat it and then enjoy it.
 
The defending champion sets the dinner menu, and Immelman began conservatively with a spinach salad before offering two dishes as options for the main entree. The first was a dish called Babotie that features minced meat cooked in curry spices with a layer of egg on the top and is eaten with yellow rice, while the second was Chicken Sosaties, which includes grilled chicken and vegetables on skewers.
 
The dessert was Melktert, which Immelman described as similar to pumpkin pie except the main ingredient is milk.
 
The menu, though, wasnt as important to Immelman as having a chance to host the dinner.
 
Im looking forward to it, he said before the dinner. Like I said, I think its going to be the highlight of my week, to be in the presence of guys that I have just idolized and looked up to my whole life.
 

 
PHILS DEAL: Phil Mickelson already took care of one piece of business this week, signing a five-year extension with Callaway. Mickelson joined Callaway two weeks before the 2004 Ryder Cup, and while it didnt start well, he cant argue with the results.
 
I just felt like in the last five years, I have won my major championships, I have come closest to No. 1 in the ranking that Ive ever been, and I felt like Callaways support staff and the engineers and technicians have been a big part of that.
 
The financial terms were not disclosed.
 
This is an important part of my career, these next five years, Mickelson said.
 

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    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.

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    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

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    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.”

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    5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

    By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

    The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

    1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

    2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.

    3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

    4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

    5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

    Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

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    Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

    By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

    DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

    Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

    Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.


    Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

    AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


    “He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

    Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

    “I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” 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.”