Notes Seves birthday Mickelson stalls on Saturday

By Associated PressApril 10, 2011, 5:10 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Seve Ballesteros’ birthday is still a big deal, even if he’s not at the Masters.

The two-time champion, who is not here as he battles brain cancer, turned 54 on Saturday. Several European players tweeted birthday wishes to the Spaniard before they teed off, including third-round leader Rory McIlroy, and Jose Maria Olazabal called Ballesteros before he left for Augusta National.

“I called to say 'Happy Birthday,’ and to pass along all of the good wishes from the rest of the champions,” said Olazabal, a fellow Spaniard and two-time Masters winner.

Earlier this week, Phil Mickelson went with a Spanish-themed Champions Dinner in Ballesteros’ honor.

Ballesteros is undergoing chemotherapy, which Olazabal said “takes a toll” on him. But he has been following the Masters, where Ballesteros’ second victory in 1983 set off a wave of dominance by European golfers. A European won the green jacket eight of the next 11 years.

“Obviously he roots for the Europeans, without a doubt, so he’s happy in that sense,” Olazabal said. “He always believed this golf course suited the Europeans better than the U.S. Open, for example.”


LEFTY’S LAMENT: Defending champion Phil Mickelson figured Saturday would be the day to go low and get back into the mix.

He barely moved.

Mickelson made only three birdies in the third round for a 71, leaving him nine shots out of the lead and in need of an improbable comeback if he wants to win a fourth green jacket and rise to No. 1 in the world.

After making 18 birdies last weekend to win the Houston Open, Mickelson feels he can’t make anything at all.

“Yeah, it’s been a little frustrating on the greens,” he said. “I putted so well last week at Houston, I expected to come out this week and kind of light it up. And I have struggled getting the right reads, I struggled getting the right speed. I just have struggled to get it going this week.”

That doesn’t mean he has given up.

The biggest comeback in Masters history was eight shots by Jack Burke Jr. in 1956, the year Ken Venturi shot 80.

“I’m going to be quite a few back, but on Sunday a lot can happen,” Mickelson said. “I’m not going to count myself out. I’ve shot low scores here before, I believe I can do it again and I’m going to give myself every opportunity tomorrow to do that.”
MOVING DAY MOVES: Adam Scott will take a 67 any day at Augusta National.

Doing it on 'Moving Day' at the Masters made it that much better.

The Australian made up some serious ground on the Masters leaderboard Saturday after matching Angel Cabrera and Bubba Watson for low round of the day. Tied for sixth at 7 under, Scott is five shots behind leader Rory McIlroy.

“I felt like I played OK the first two days, just a little bit off,” Scott said. “But today, everything kind of fell into place. It was nice to get a bit of momentum going and keep it going for most of the round.”

Cabrera, Watson, Charl Schwartzel and Bo Van Pelt also made big moves. Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion, and Schwartzel are tied for second at 8 under with K.J. Choi and Jason Day, while Van Pelt is in eighth place behind Scott and Luke Donald.

Going low is one way to climb the leaderboard. But Scott and Co. got a big assist from the guys who’d been ahead of them, too. The last five groups Saturday were a cumulative 11 over, with only McIlroy and Choi shooting below par.

“I think there was a little bit less expectations because those (last groups) are always going to have a little bit more pressure than what we had,” Schwartzel said. “No disrespect to them, but playing out in front there, I don’t think you’re going to go very far a lot of times unless you really get something going.

“It was almost nice to tee off where I did and sort of sneak in from behind.”

Scott hasn’t finished in the top 10 at the Masters since 2002, his first trip to Augusta National. But he arrived here full of confidence after a tie for sixth at Doral.

Then he opened with a 72, and played the first nine Friday at even par.

“I was just trying to not get frustrated with myself, because I was feeling so good,” Scott said. “Going into the back nine yesterday, I know I’m right around the cut line, and it’s never a nice place to be. I played a really solid back nine yesterday, and I was happy with that. But still, the rhythm of my golf swing isn’t quite where I felt it in practice, and even in the practice rounds. Today it fell back into place.

“I think I did a good job of not getting frustrated seeing everyone go low, and just fighting the momentum out there.”

Beginning the day at 2 under, Scott got rolling with a 12-foot birdie putt on the second hole. He picked up two more strokes before the turn, only to give one back on the 10th. But he holed a 30-footer on 11 for a birdie, and eagled the par-5 13th. After two-putting from “100 feet almost” on the par-5 15th, Scott was at 8 under, with three holes still to play.

But Scott played those holes at 1 over.

Still, he can at least see the leaders.

“They always say the Masters starts on the back nine on Sunday. I’ve got to get myself there first,” Scott said. “I’ve got still at least another solid nine holes to play before I’ve got a real chance.”
ONE GOOD MEMORY:
Rickie Fowler has one good memory to take from an otherwise disappointing afternoon.

The 22-year-old was paired Saturday with former Masters champion Fred Couples, who seems to shave a dozen years or so off his age any time he drives up Magnolia Lane. The 51-year-old, who won at Augusta National in 1992, is in contention for a second straight year, going into the final round tied for ninth at 5 under.

“A couple times I had to sit back and remind myself we’re playing the Masters on Saturday and I’m getting to play with Freddie, someone who I’ve looked up to since I was a little kid,” Fowler said. “It was obviously not the round I wanted, but I was just out there a couple times reminding myself to try to calm me down a little bit and relax.”

Fowler began the day tied for seventh after playing “Can you top this?” in the first two rounds with fellow whiz kids Rory McIlroy and Jason Day. But while McIlroy and Day were holding their own on Saturday, Fowler backed up with a 4-over 76. He’s now 1 under, 11 shots behind McIlroy.

“The game feels really good,” Fowler said. “I got a couple bad breaks and then made a couple bad swings that cost me. Some of those things just happened at the wrong time.”
ERNIE AND THE MARKER:
Ernie Els was the first to tee off Saturday, having made the cut on the number. It’s an unusual spot for the three-time major champion, so he was surprised to find that he would have company.

Els played with a non-competing marker, Augusta National member Jeff Knox. The Big Easy could have played by himself, but Knox was already waiting when Els got to the first tee.

“We went and played,” Els said. “I didn’t ask any questions.”

Knox is no slouch, once shooting a 61 from the member tees at Augusta. Els wasn’t sure what he shot, although Knox held his own and often had the honors on the tee as Els struggled to a 76.

“He shot about the same as I did,” Els said. “He played really well.”

Asked if he was aware that Knox had shot 61 at Augusta, Els said: “He told me. Pretty impressive for any tees. I don’t care if you play off the ladies tees, that’s pretty impressive. So we’ll probably see him tomorrow again.”

If Knox plays, it will be with K.T. Kim, who shot a 78 and was in last place.

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Web.com Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a Web.com tournament.

"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to GolfChannel.com that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.

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Handing out major grades: From A+ to F

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 5:00 pm

The Masters is 237 days away, which means these definitive major grades will hang on players like a scarlet letter for nearly eight months.

OK, maybe not.

Brooks Koepka, obviously, gets an A+. He won two majors, and became just the fourth player to take the U.S. Open and PGA in the same season, and did all of this while overcoming a career-threatening wrist injury at the beginning of the year. Very impressive.

Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari – you passed with flying colors, too. Reed showed that he can access his best stuff in an event other than the Ryder Cup, while Molinari’s three-month heater culminated with him surviving a wild final day at Carnoustie to hoist the claret jug. Welcome to the major club, gents.

As for everybody else? Hey, you’ve now got plenty of time to recover, reassess and round into form in hopes of improved marks in ’19.


TIGER WOODS

Grade: A

Why: Sure, a few shots from his major season will linger for years – his too-cute pitch shot on Carnoustie’s 11th hole and his sliced drive on Bellerive’s 17th immediately come to mind – but let’s not forget how far we’ve come: Two years ago, Woods could barely walk because of debilitating back pain; at this time last year, he’d just exited a treatment facility for overusing his pain/sleep medications, following an embarrassing DUI arrest. Now, he’s top 30 in the world, with a pair of top-6s in the majors and undoubtedly the most stirring final round of the year, in any event, with his career-best Sunday 64 at the PGA. If you still think that Tiger doesn’t have what it takes to win another major, you’ve lost touch with reality.


JUSTIN ROSE

Grade: B+

Why: 

Why: He was one of only two players (Webb Simpson) who finished top 20 in all four majors, and he’ll probably look back at 2018 as a year in which he easily could have bagged a second title. At the U.S. Open he was only one shot off the lead after 54 holes but stumbled on the final day. A month later, he tied for second at The Open, but only after a weekend rally once he made the cut on the number. Across all four majors he had the best cumulative score to par of any player (12 under). This was a what-could-have-been year.


RICKIE FOWLER

Grade: B

Why: His 65-67 finish at the Masters left him one shot back of Reed, but it felt like the final obstacle had been cleared. Nothing was stopping Fowler now – he proved he could go low when it counted. Except then he imploded with an 84 in the third round of the U.S. Open and shot over par in both weekend rounds at The Open, before again getting into the mix at the PGA. Alas, battling an oblique strain, he regressed each round after an opening 65 and tied for 12th. Maybe next year …


JORDAN SPIETH

Grade: B

Why: Give him credit: He played better in the majors than he did the rest of the season. He shot an electric 64 on the final day at the Masters (though he’ll rue his tee shot on the 72nd hole) and grabbed a share of the 54-hole lead at The Open, despite not having his best stuff. That he shot a birdieless 76 on the final day was more a product of his form this year than succumbing to major pressure. Like Kopeka, he’s figured out how to perform when the lights are the brightest.


JON RAHM

Grade: B

Why: With the completeness of his game, it’s a little surprising that he hasn’t given himself better chances to break through. But he’s still only 23, and the chances will come in bunches before long. His fourth-place showings at the Masters and the PGA are steps in the right direction. 


Rory McIlroy on No. 18 on Saturday at the 2018 Masters.

RORY MCILROY

Grade: B-

Why: Asked Sunday how he’ll remember the major season, McIlroy replied bluntly: “Probably won’t. I don’t think there was anything all that memorable about it.” Of course, we’ll remember plenty, such as when he played his way into the final group at Augusta, only to fade over the course of the day, thus squandering another shot at capturing the career Grand Slam. And we’ll remember his tie for second at Carnoustie, where he eagled the 14th hole but then, with a chance to apply pressure on Molinari, couldn’t hit a wedge within 20 feet on the 18th green. He’s fallen into bad habits with that majestic swing, but there are holes in McIlroy’s game that need filling – holes that some of the other top players don’t have. And until he refines his wedge play and putting, that majorless drought (now four years and counting) will continue. 


JUSTIN THOMAS

Grade: C+

Why: No one has been better than Thomas over the past two seasons, but he’s likely frustrated by his major performance in 2018 – three top-25s, but only one realistic chance to win. Four shots off the lead heading into Sunday at the PGA, he had erased his deficit midway through the front nine but made critical mistakes on Nos. 14 and 16 to dash his hopes of defending his title. Of all the big-name players, he’s probably the best bet for a major rebound in 2019.


JASON DAY

Grade: C

Why: This has been a resurgent season for Day, with a pair of wins, but he didn’t bring it in the year’s biggest events. It’ll look good on paper, with three top-20s, but the only time he had a chance to win was the PGA, and he was one of the few to back up on the final day, carding a 1-over 71 when he sat just four shots off the lead.


DUSTIN JOHNSON

Grade: C-

Why: The floodgates were supposed to open after the 2016 U.S. Open, and it just hasn’t happened. Yet. He top-tenned at the Masters but was a non-factor, then jumped out to a four-shot lead halfway through the U.S. Open. He couldn’t make a putt during a Saturday 77, then got worked on the final day, head to head, against Koepka. He backed it up with a missed cut at The Open (where he blamed a lack of focus) and finished outside the top 25 at the PGA at a soft, straightforward course that suited plenty of other bombers. He can – and should – fare better.


PHIL MICKELSON

Grade: D-

Why: His series of lowlights at the U.S. Open – where he bizarrely whacked a moving ball on the green and then staunchly defended his actions – underscored that his window is all but closed at the majors. His major results since getting demoralized by Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open: T33-T22-MC-MC-T36-T48-T24-MC. ’Nuff said.


SERGIO GARCIA

Grade: F

Why: No doubt, marriage and fatherhood are massive adjustments for everyone, but he’s missed the cut in his last five majors (and didn’t break par in any major round this year), plummeted down the world rankings (to 25th!) and put European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn in a difficult position of deciding whether to burn a pick on the slumping Spaniard. Memories of that breakthrough Masters victory are already drifting further and further away.

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Watch: Furyk throws out first pitch at Yankees-Mets

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 12:59 pm

As part of a a New York media tour to promote the Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Jim Furyk threw out the first pitch at Monday evening's game between the Yankees and Mets at Yankee Stadium.


Here's a look at some more photos from Captain Furyk's Ryder Cup Trophy tour.