Notes Snedekers Augusta Experience Paying Off

By Associated PressApril 12, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. --Brandt Snedeker nearly wore out his welcome at Augusta National.
Once invites for the Masters go out, players are allowed to play as many practice rounds as they want and Snedeker took full advantage of that privilege before his debut back in 2004.
And then some.
I was out of school, had not turned pro yet, he said. They almost changed the rule the next year because of me, because I was down here every day. I wore it out. I thought, `How many times can I have a membership at Augusta National for four months?
All those rounds are paying off. In only his second trip to the Masters, Snedeker has put himself in contention for lifetime privileges. After a 2-under 70 Saturday, hes two strokes behind leader Trevor Immelman and will play in the final group Sunday.
It kind of feels more like a home event for me, Snedeker said. I feel like a lot of the guys in the crowd are cheering me on, and its a good feeling.
Snedeker earned his first trip to the Masters three years ago after winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links championship. He was already somewhat familiar with Augusta National, having played it once a year with the rest of the Vanderbilt team. Once he got his official invite, though, he practically took up residence.
Hed pile into his car Thursday for the 5 1/2 -hour drive, and get in two rounds before dark. Then hed play another two rounds Friday. By the time the tournament rolled around, he had played 40 to 50 rounds.
It paid off when he made the cut, finished tied for 41st, and turned pro the next day.
What better scenario could you have to come out and play this course as many times as you wanted to? Snedeker said. It was great, just getting to know the golf course and getting over the whole aura of it is a lot.
But it surely raised some eyebrows among the members, who are politely discouraged from playing here too often.
Its hard to hold anything against the happy-go-lucky Snedeker. Especially when hes playing as well as he has this week.
He was in trouble with three straight bogeys on the back nine, and it looked as if his nerves and inexperience might finally be getting the best of him. He botched his tee shots on 11 and 12, then plunked his second shot in the creek on 13. But his PGA Tour rookie of the year award last year wasnt a fluke, and he closed with three birdies in his last five holes, including one on 18 that put him in the final group with Immelman.
Its a completely different golf course during the Masters, Snedeker said. But theres a familiarity that comes with playing the golf course. Where you know you can miss it, and you know whats not a good spot to miss it and whats an OK spot to miss it and that kind of stuff.
Despite my experience, I still did it on 11, 12, and 13 and still missed it where I wasnt supposed to, Snedeker said. But hopefully that will pay off tomorrow.
SECOND CHANCE: Paul Casey is getting a do-over.
The Englishman played so well in his first trip to the Masters that he earned a spot in the second-to-last group Sunday. Playing with two-time champion Bernhard Langer, no less. But it was hardly a memorable finish, and he was knocked out of contention with a 74.
Casey is back in that second-to-last group Sunday, and he hopes that experience in 2004 will keep him from another blowup.
I was very excited, probably a little bit too excited, Casey said Saturday. You know, it was all a bit new to me, and I think thats going to put me in good stead for tomorrow.
Casey shot a 3-under 69 Saturday, putting him four strokes behind leader Trevor Immelman. He was actually atop the leaderboard at one point, getting to 8-under for the tournament with four birdies on the front nine. But he lost ground with three bogeys on the back nine, the final one coming when he missed the green on No. 17.
Still, with back-to-back 69s, he knows he can play Augusta National.
This is some of the best golf Ive'probably the best golf Ive played around Augusta National and I feel very comfortable, he said. Today was a day of up-and-downs, birdies and bogeys, but I take the good out of it. I enjoyed myself out there.
Though Casey grew up in England, he played at Arizona State and plays both the PGA and European tours. He has eight victories in Europe, but hes still looking for his first in the United States.
Augusta National would be a nice place to get it. This is only Caseys fourth trip to the Masters, but he already has two top-10 finishes. He was sixth in 2004 and 10th last year, and has played seven of his 13 rounds below par.
No doubt the golf course suits me down to the ground. I have the necessary shots, Casey said. But there is something about this occasion. When you come down Magnolia Lane, there is nothing else like this and I love it. Its a place at which the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and the only other place that does that for me is St. Andrews.
Theres something very cool about this place.
CLOSE SHAVE: What next, Boo Weekley playing in a tuxedo?
Everybodys favorite bumpkin was clean-shaven when he showed up for the third round of the Masters on Saturday morning. He had been sporting a scraggly goatee for his first appearance at stately Augusta National.
My wife kind of told me it kind of started looking hideous, Weekley said. Shes like, `Its time to either trim it up or take it off. I didnt have no trimmers with me, so I just went ahead and took it off.
Weekleys scorecard looked much better Saturday, too. After shooting 72-74 in the first two rounds and flirting with the cut, Weekley tied Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods for low round of the day with a 4-under 68. At 2-under for the tournament, hes tied for seventh though hes nine strokes behind Trevor Immelman.
Were still focusing on fairways and hitting the center of the greens and letting everybody else mess up. Thats the way I look at it, Weekley said.
Weekleys only bogey came on the par-4 11th, when he missed a 3-footer to save par. Yet he still managed to charm the crowd with it.
After tapping in, Weekley fished the ball out of the cup and flipped it, behind his back, into the pond. It was the kind of move Magic Johnson would love, and the crowd applauded politely.
TOUGH PAIRING: Stewart Cink drew golfs equivalent of the short straw.
Somebody has to play with Tiger Woods when hes in contention at a major, and its Cinks turn on Sunday. As if being paired with the best player in the world isnt intimidating enough, theres a circuslike atmosphere that surrounds Woods at every hole.
Its rattled more than a few of his partners, but Cink swears hes not worried.
I dont know if Ive ever played with him on Sunday here before, but Ive played with him plenty of times here and this year Ive played with him a few times on Sunday. Hes good to play with, said Cink, who is at 4-under, one stroke behind Woods and seven behind leader Trevor Immelman.
Cinks best finish at the Masters is 10th in 2006. His best finish at a major is third, at the 2001 U.S. Open and the 1999 PGA Championship.
I always say if youre playing with him on the weekend, youre doing something right, Cink said.
DIVOTS: This years purse is $7.5 million, with the winner getting a check for $1.35 million. The final pairing will feature the PGA Tours last two rookie of the year winners. Immelman won it in 2006, Snedeker in 2007. Play was delayed because of rain for 45 minutes Saturday afternoon. Thirteen players in the 44-person field shot under par Saturday.

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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”