Notes Weir within inches of major record

By Associated PressJune 19, 2009, 4:00 pm
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2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' Mike Weir came within one stroke of matching the best round ever in any of golfs major championships.
There have been four 63s in the 108 U.S. Opens, the last by Vijay Singh in the second round at Olympia Fields in 2003. Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf both shot 63 in the opening round at Baltusrol in 1980. Those three rounds, like Weirs, were shot on courses that played to a par of 70.
The best round in relation to par was Johnny Millers 8-under 63 in the final round at Oakmont in 1973, which gave him a one-shot victory over John Schlee.
There have been 10 63s in the PGA Championship, seven in the British Open and two in the Masters.
Weir made eight birdies and a double bogey for a 33-31'64 and said 63 wasnt on his mind.
It really wasnt. I didnt think much about it, he said. I was just in one of those days where I was so focused on what I was doing.
Weir was 2 over through his first nine holes of the second round when play was suspended by darkness. He was two strokes behind Lucas Glover, who had completed 13 holes.

STAY OR GO: When the horn sounded at 8:24 p.m. ET to suspend the round because of darkness, players had the option of completing the hole they were on or marking their ball and finishing when play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m.
One group was divided over what to do. Ricky Barnes, Matt Kuchar and Billy Mayfair were in the fairway on No. 18, their ninth hole of the round, when the horn sounded. Mayfair, who was 4 over for the tournament at that point, marked his ball in the fairway and headed in.
Barnes, one stroke out of the lead at 5 under, and Kuchar, who was 3 over, both hit into the green.
Barnes two-putted for a par, while Kuchar three-putted for a bogey.

OR ELS: Two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els had an opening-round 78 and was 12 over through 11 holes when play was suspended.
Els, who won the Open in 1994 and 1997, has only missed the cut twice in his 16 appearances ' 1995 and 1999.
After finishing 14th last year at Torrey Pines, Els missed the cut in the Masters in April, and this would be the first time since 1995 he has missed the cut in the years first two majors.

AMATEUR HOUR: Three of the 14 amateurs in the field bettered or matched par and two of them completed their rounds in the morning when good scores were much tougher to come by.
Drew Weaver, the 2007 British Amateur champion and a junior at Virginia Tech, shot a 1-under 69, one stroke better than Cameron Tringale, who played at Georgia Tech, and Kyle Stanley, who played at Clemson.
Weaver and Tringale both completed their first rounds Friday morning when the course was still drying out from Thursdays daylong rain, while Stanley played his round under sunny skies.
Ben Martin, who also played at Clemson, was at 72, a shot better than Nick Taylor, a native of Canada who played at the University of Washington.
Rickie Fowler, who just finished his sophomore season at Oklahoma State, was one of the amateurs who made the cut last year at Torrey Pines. He shot an opening 78 at Bethpage.
Its definitely a lot easier playing with a caddie in the rain, he said. In college golf you have an umbrella, bag and rain gear. It gets tough just doing that let alone playing in the rain, but this course is definitely a million times better than a college golf course.
David Erdy, the youngest player in the field at 19, qualified as an alternate and was paired with 2007 Masters champion Zack Johnson and Lee Westwood, who finished third in last years U.S. Open.
They were two great guys, he said after shooting a 78, I talked to them the whole round. Lee was cracking jokes and Zach was just a great guy to be around.

YO, ROCCO: Rocco Mediate became a fan favorite in last years U.S. Open at Torrey Pines when he lost to Tiger Woods in a 19-hole playoff. He may be on the other side of the country this year, but his popularity was still evident as he shot a first-round 68.
He was asked how many times he heard his name yelled out on Bethpage Black.
About 4 million, he said. Unbelievable out there today. It was great, absolutely fantastic.

FILM STUDY: Ian Poulter completed a par round of 70 Friday morning and knew he wouldnt be back to start his second round until some time Saturday. He was asked what he planned for the rest of the day Friday.
Im going to watch `Hangover at the cinema, he said, referring to the popular comedy. Ive heard its very good ' and it sums up my last three days.

TIGERS TALE: When Tiger Woods won the 2002 Open at Bethpage Black he led from wire to wire and his worst round was a closing 72 that gave him a 3-under 277 total and a three-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson.
Woods completed an opening-round 74 on Friday that left him tied for 81st.
I wasnt playing poorly, he said. I was even par with four to go and I was right where I needed to be, and two bad shots and a mud ball later, here we go and Im at 4 over par.

DIFFERENT CONDITIONS: There were 13 rounds below par in the opening round and all but two ' Drew Weaver and Graeme McDowells 69s ' were shot by the second wave of players who were able to play the entire round under sunny skies.
Weaver and McDowell were among those golfers who started their round in drenching rain on Thursday and finished it Friday morning before the sun broke through cloud cover.
Those who finished their first rounds were told they would not be starting their second round until at least 9 a.m. Saturday, meaning another long day without golf.
Id like to get straight out there right now, McDowell said. The weather is perfect out there.

SIM SHOOTING: Michael Sim, the 24-year-old Australian who has won twice on the Nationwide Tour this year and is its leading money-winner with almost $400,000, shot a first-round 71, one of the top scores from the players who started Thursday and finished Friday.
This is a different stage out here. You just have to stay focused and enjoy the moment. Its the hardest test in golf, said Sim, who would earn an in-season promotion to the PGA Tour with another Nationwide victory. Im driving the ball well and my distance control has been really good. I dont think I really have too many weaknesses in my game now.

A FOOT SHORT: Sean OHair closed his 1-under 69 with a double-bogey 6 on No. 18.
My goal this week was to not make any double bogeys because you know youre going to make your share of bogeys, he said. I had to take an unplayable lie off my tee shot, but if it had literally gone another foot I would have been in the fairway bunker and would have had a fair chance at a par. So the goal here is to just try to keep it in play and make pars.

STILL SEVENTY: Padraig Harrington, last years British Open and PGA Championship winner, shot a first-round 76. Harrington hasnt broken 70 on the PGA Tour since a first-round 69 in the Masters. He missed the cut in the Memorial (75-77) and St. Jude Classic (72-72) the last two weeks.
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    Els: Tiger playing well validates his generation

    By Doug FergusonMarch 21, 2018, 12:42 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Tiger Woods has come close to looking like the player who ruled golf for the better part of 15 years, and Ernie Els is happy to see it.

    Never mind that Els was on the losing end to Woods more than any other player.

    He speaks for his generation of Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and others. Els keeps hearing about the depth of talent being greater than ever, and he has seen it. But he gets weary listening to suggestions that Woods might not have 79 PGA Tour victories if he had to face this group.

    ''I'm just glad he's playing like I know he can play to validate me – validate me, Phil and Vijay,'' Els said. ''We weren't bad players. This guy was a special player. To see him back, playing special stuff again ... is great for the game.''

    Generational debates are nothing new.

    Every generation was better than the next one. Then again, Jack Nicklaus used to lament that Woods was lacking competition from players who had more experience winning majors, such as Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros.

    Mickelson, Els and Singh combined to win 12 majors. Els says Woods won 14 on his own because he was that much better.

    Does it get under his skin to hear fans rave about this generation's players?

    ''It doesn't (tick) me off. Can you imagine how it must (tick) Tiger off?'' he said. ''He was leaps and bounds the best player. People forget very quickly, and then you see special players like we have now, the younger generation. But I know what I played against. You can't take anything away from anybody.''

    Doug Ferguson is a golf writer for The Associated Press

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    Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

    The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

    “I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

    Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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    As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

    “I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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    Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

    Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

    “I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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    Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

    “[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

    Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

    “He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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    This week, let the games(manship) begin

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

    What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

    During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

    “Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

    Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

    “There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

    Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

    Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

    “Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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    Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

    “I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

    While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

    But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

    “It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

    It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

    McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

    It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

    “Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

    Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.