Pettersson leads tightly packed PGA leaderboard

By Associated PressAugust 9, 2012, 11:42 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – The breakthrough moment Thursday wasn't just the sun shining over Kiawah Island. It was Carl Pettersson breaking 70 for the first time in 21 tries at the PGA Championship to take the lead, Rory McIlroy flashing that boyish smile and bashing tee shots.

And yes, even John Daly showing there might be another cycle left in that up-and-down career.

Pettersson, a winner earlier this year in South Carolina down the coast at Hilton Head, got the best of the weather on a steamy day on the Ocean Course and didn't waste the opportunity. He made three birdies in four holes, never dropped a shot and wound up with a 6-under 66.

'There really wasn't much wind on the front nine, so I knew I had to keep going low because I figured the wind would get up,' Pettersson said. 'The wind started blowing a little bit on the back nine, and I carried on solid play. So it was a great day for me.'

It was a good day for Tiger Woods, nothing more.

Despite having to get up-and-down for bogey on three holes, he made enough birdie putts for a 69, a reasonable start as he tries to end the longest drought of his career in the majors. This is his 14th major since he won his last one in 2008, and the last one of an otherwise good season.

'Anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship,' Woods said. 'And I'm right there.'

He had plenty of company, some players who had not been heard from in a while, others that were all too familiar.

Gary Woodland, who started the season with a new coach (Butch Harmon) and injured himself working too hard on the changes, is feeling better and hitting it longer than ever. He opened with a 67, as did McIlroy and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

'I drove the ball the best I've driven it all year,' Woodland said, one of the most powerful players in the game. 'And when I drive it like that, I'm playing a game that most guys can't play out here.'

Daly made an eagle on the par-5 11th hole and was in the group at 68 that included former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and defending PGA champion Keegan Bradley, who had a birdie-eagle start before he settled into his round.

Adam Scott, in his first major since throwing away the British Open with four bogeys on his last four holes, quickly got back into the mix with a 68, one of the better scores from the late starters.

The flags started to ripple in the afternoon, though not enough to make Kiawah as frightening as it can be. With so much rain over the last week, including storms that limited practice time before the championship began, the greens were soft and fairways slow.

Those were the kind of conditions McIlroy had when he shattered the scoring record at the U.S. Open last summer at Congressional. More than soft conditions, though, was that bounce in his step while walking down the fairway after blistering his tee shots. He hit 10 drivers, most of them were he was aiming.

McIlroy was bogey-free, and while he failed to make birdie on a couple of the par 5s, he picked up a shot on the field at the 249-yard 14th hole, which features severe slopes off every corner of the green. Leave it to the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland to hit a towering 3-iron that settled 12 feet from the flag, one of only six birdies on the par 3 in the first round.

McIlroy has been a disappointment in the majors this year - much of his season has gone the wrong direction since he briefly rose to No. 1 in the world after winning the Honda Classic in March - but got a pep talk from putting coach Dave Stockton and has spent more time playing instead of practicing technique.

Perhaps some luck is starting to come his way, too.

Last month at the British Open, he drilled a young kid in the head and the ball bounced out-of-bounds. On Thursday, he badly pulled his tee shot on the scary par-3 17th. The ball could have gone anywhere except that it hit a woman on the hip and bounced toward the green into a bunker. That led to a simple up-and-down for par, one of the few nervous moments McIlroy had all day.

'It's becoming a habit hitting people in the majors, so try not to do that again,' McIlroy said.

Sure, he missed some birdie opportunities, though he was more interested in some of the birdies he made and was satisfied with his start.

'It was a fair reflection of how I played,' he said.

There was no doubting that Thursday might have been the best chance to post a score. More storms are in the forecast for later in the week, and just enough wind could make it more difficult to find birdies.

'I'm expecting this to be the best day of the week,' McIlroy said. 'I think everyone is. So we know that there's going to b e a bit of wind coming in and maybe a bit of bad weather. It's just something that you're going to have to deal with, and I'm just happy that I got off to a great start.'

Equally thrilled was Daly, who showed up 21 years ago as the ninth alternate in the PGA Championship and introduced his 'grip-it-and-rip-it' style to win by three shots at Crooked Stick. Daly hasn't had his full PGA Tour card in more than six years, though he is starting to show some form. He tied for fifth last week in the Reno-Tahoe Open, his highest finish on the PGA Tour since 2005.

'To just free wheel it is the only way I can get my confidence back instead of worrying about bad breaks and worrying about this and worrying about what somebody else is doing,' Daly said. 'I only need to worry about what I'm doing and go out and attack and play golf and enjoy it.'

There was plenty to like in the opening round. Stifling heat, sure, but this is the South in August. Sweat was pouring off the faces of players as early as 8 a.m. Splendid views of the Atlantic over the dunes made it tolerable, as did the number of birdies available.

Three of the last four major champions used belly putters, and Pettersson kept that topic alive with a long putter that he anchors to the chest. He has been using a broom putter since he was a sophomore in college, and he is opposed to the idea of banning any putter that anchors to the body.

If it were that easy, he reasons, everyone would be using them. That's not to say he wouldn't adapt if the putters were ever banned, a possibility as early as 2016.

'Well, I'd have to,' said Pettersson, a Swede who moved to North Carolina as a teenager and became an American citizen last year. 'I've got a high school diploma. What else am I going to do?'

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''


Full-field scores from the Sanford International


Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Web.com Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.


Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship


''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Web.com Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”