Rookie Stefani leads St. Jude; Lefty 5 back

By Associated PressJune 9, 2013, 1:34 am

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Rookie Shawn Stefani has been through enough scrambling around the mini-tours trying to make it to the PGA Tour that a quadruple bogey wasn't going to shake his confidence or his concentration.

Even if it cost him the lead.

Stefani overcame the bad hole that dropped him down Saturday and shot a 4-under 66 to take the third-round lead in the St. Jude Classic.

''I feel like I hit one bad shot on 11, and that was the putt that I missed for a triple,'' Stefani said showing off his sense of humor. ''I know that sounds crazy, but you know I hit the club that I wanted to hit. Unfortunately, was the wrong club at the wrong time.''


Highlights: Stefani takes 54-hole lead

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The 31-year-old Texan rebounded with four birdies over his final five holes to move back atop the leaderboard. He finished with eight birdies to go with that quadruple bogey to reach 12-under 198 at TPC Southwind.

''It's who gets over it fastest and who moves on the fastest,'' Stefani said. ''And to finish the way I did with three birdies on the last three was great. But I was just out there just playing the game and having fun. That's what I'm here for is to play the best I can and have fun with it, and I did that today.''

Harris English was a stroke back after a 69, finishing out of the lead for the first time this week. He sounded happy it wasn't worse after playing with Stefani.

''Shawn played so good on the front side, he birdied 10 I thought this guy's going to shoot 60,'' English said.

Thirteen players shot at least 4 under on a day with easier pins on the small, firm greens and very little wind.

Scott Stallings, Patrick Reed and Nicholas Thompson were 8 under. Stallings had a 67, Reed shot 64, and Thompson had a 66.

Phil Mickelson was another stroke back after a 65 with his best round yet after not playing the previous three weeks. His day could have been even better if not for three bogeys along with six birdies and an eagle. Mickelson said he needs to be a little bit sharper with each swing.

''There were a couple of tee shots that didn't catch the fairway,'' he said. ''I've got to get that ball in the fairway. And I did a better job of it today and consequently I was able to make a lot of birdies because I could be aggressive from there. I also just have to miss it in the proper spot too.''

Pins will be in tougher locations Sunday, and Mickelson said any wind could create the potential for the leaders to shoot over par. Only Stallings has won on Tour among the players ahead of Mickelson, who has 41 career wins with four majors as he tunes up his game for the U.S. Open next week at Merion.

''I feel like I'm playing well enough where I can go out and shoot a low round tomorrow,'' Mickelson said. ''I expect the course to play different tomorrow than it did today. Today was set up for Moving Day. The tees were up, the pins were in easy spots, no wind. ... I'm looking forward to tomorrow's final round.''

This is just the 17th career Tour event for Stefani, who earned his way onto the PGA Tour by finishing sixth on the Web.com Tour money list in 2012. He played the U.S. Open in 2009 at Bethpage, missing the cut. In March, he had the lead after the first and second rounds at the Tampa Bay Championship before tying for seventh in his best finish yet.

''I'm much more prepared with my game than I was then, and I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with it,'' Stefani said. ''It's been a tough year for me. I've stayed patient with it and tried to keep going and focusing on all the things I usually do. But it's tough.''

Stefani went off in the final group with English, who had a share of the lead after 18 and had the lead to himself after 36 holes.

English opened strong with two birdies in his first three holes to become the first to get to 12 under here this week. But the 23-year-old English bogeyed Nos. 5 and 8 with his playing partner getting his third birdie on No. 9 to take the lead to himself.

Stefani hit his approach on the par 4 to 7 feet to set up the birdie, helping him make the turn at 11 under. He then birdied No. 10 rolling in a 12-footer to go to 12 under with a two-stroke lead over English.

Then the rookie ran into trouble on the island green of the par-3 No. 11.

Stefani went with a wedge and said a gust of wind caught it in the air, sending it into the water short of the island green. He took his drop and then hit into the back bunker where he had a buried lie. He got the ball out but didn't clear the slope, so the ball rolled back into the bunker. He pushed an 8-footer past the hole 4 feet before finally salvaging a quadruple bogey.

But Stefani birdied No. 14 and got a big par save on No. 15 after his tee shot rolled into the water near the green. He took a drop, then chipped in from 49 feet to avoid dropping another stroke and stay within a shot of English with a big smile of relief.

Stefani finished with a 3-footer for birdie on No. 16, a 17-footer for birdie on No. 17 and capped his round with an 8-footer on No. 18 just after English made a 14-footer to move back into the lead for a few moments

English had plenty of luck himself.

On the par-4 12th, his approach to the green went left and bounced off the top of a grandstand and hit off a woman before rolling into a greenside bunker. English saved par by hitting his shot within a foot of the hole to stay at 10 under.

Notes: Eric Meierdierks aced the 167-yard eighth with an 8-iron. ... Only Dustin Johnson (2012), Lee Westwood (2010) and Dicky Pride (1994) have won this event in their first start here since the tournament moved to TPC Southwind in 1989. ... This year, the third-round leader has won 11 of the 21 stroke-play events on Tour.

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Miller's biggest on-air regret: Leonard at Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:00 am

Johnny Miller made a broadcasting career out of being brutally honest, calling golf tournaments exactly like he saw them.

His unfiltered style is what kept him on the air for nearly 30 years, but it wasn't always the most popular with players.

After announcing his upcoming retirement, Miller was asked Tuesday if there were any on-air comments he regretted over the last three decades. One immediately came to mind.

"I think that I didn't say the right words about Justin Leonard at Miracle at Brookline about he should be home watching it on TV. I meant really - I did say he should be home, but I meant the motel room. Even then I probably shouldn't have said that," Miller recalled. "I want so much for the outcome that I'm hoping for that I actually get overwhelmed with what I want to see. Almost the kind of things you would say to your buddies if you were watching it on TV, you know? He just couldn't win a match."

After struggling on Friday and Saturday in team play, Leonard ended up the U.S. hero after halving his Sunday singles match with José María Olazábal by holing a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole - one of the most famous shots in Ryder Cup history.

"Of course he ended up - after the crappy comment I made that motivated maybe the team supposedly in the locker room, and he ends up making that 45-, 50- foot putt to seal the deal," Miller said. "Almost like a Hollywood movie or something."

Not only did the putt seal the comeback for the U.S., but it also earned Leonard an apology from Miller. 

"I apologized to him literally the next day; I happened to see him. I tried to make a policy when I go over the line that I get ahold of the guy within 24 hours and tell him I made a double bogey, you know. That's just the way I have done it through the years."

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Love him or not, Miller's authentic style stood out

By Doug FergusonOctober 16, 2018, 10:11 pm

The comment was vintage Johnny Miller, raw enough to cause most television producers to wince.

Miller was in the NBC Sports booth at Doral in 2004 when he watched Craig Parry hit another beautiful shot to the green. Miller said what he saw. That was his job.

He just didn't say it like other golf analysts.

''The last time you see that swing is in a pro-am with a guy who's about a 15-handicap,'' Miller said. ''It's just over the top, cups it at the bottom and hits it unbelievably good. It doesn't look ... if Ben Hogan saw that, he'd puke.''

Parry got the last word, of course, holing out a 6-iron from 176 yards in a playoff to win.

Except that wasn't the last word.

''I was in Ponte Vedra going back to the Honda Classic, and my phone is blowing up,'' said Tommy Roy, the longtime golf producer at NBC. ''It started percolating down in Australia, and you had radio stations demanding Johnny Miller be fired.''

Miller could make golf more fun to hear than to watch.

''He doesn't have a filter. That's why he's so good,'' Roy said. ''What he's thinking comes out. And 99.5 percent of the time, that was a great thing for viewers, and for me. And 0.5 percent of the time, it was a problem for our PR department and for me.

''And it was worth it.''

Roy was in Wisconsin on Monday night for his first look at Whistling Straits for the 2020 Ryder Cup. It will be the first Ryder Cup since 1989 that doesn't have Miller in the booth weighing in on good shots and bad with thoughts that immediately become words.

He often entertained. He occasionally irritated. He was rarely dull.

Miller is retiring after three decades calling the shots for NBC. His last tournament will be the Phoenix Open, the perfect exit for a Hall of Fame player once known as the ''Desert Fox'' for winning six times in Arizona. Miller was so good for so long that it was easy for younger generations to forget about that other career he had.


Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

Best of: Photos of Miller through the years


And to think that was nearly his only career in golf.

Miller said he wasn't interested when NBC first approached him, but then his wife stepped in and told him it would be nice to have a steady paycheck. Even then, it took time for him to realize his audience was in the living room, not the locker room.

He made his debut at the Bob Hope Classic in 1990 and it didn't take long for him to leave his mark. Peter Jacobsen faced an awkward lie to the 18th green with water to the left.

''The easiest shot to choke on,'' Miller said.

People thought about choking. Miller said it because that's what he was thinking.

''What came into his brain came out of his mouth,'' said Mike McCarley, president of golf for NBC Sports. ''He was the first to really talk about the pressure. It's the most important element of the game, especially in those really big moments. He was doing it at a time when others weren't.''

It wasn't just the word ''choke.''

Phil Mickelson was getting up-and-down from everywhere at the 2010 Ryder Cup when Miller suggested that if Lefty weren't such a good putter he'd be selling cars in San Diego. Justin Leonard and Hal Sutton were losing a fourballs match at the 1999 Ryder Cup when Miller blurted out, ''My hunch is that Justin needs to go home and watch it on television.''

During the 2008 U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines that Tiger Woods won in 19 holes over Rocco Mediate, Miller suggested that guys named ''Rocco'' don't get their name on the trophy, and that Mediate looked like ''the guy who cleans Tiger's swimming pool.''

It wasn't all bad.

Roy, who also has produced NBA Finals and Olympics, said he wants analysts who first-guess, not second-guess. The latter is for talk radio. First-guessing means sharing instincts, and Miller had plenty of them.

Woods was playing the final hole at Newport in the 1995 U.S. Amateur when Miller said, ''It wouldn't surprise me if he knocked this thing a foot from the hole.''

And that's just what Woods did.

McCarley remembers how retired NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol used to worry whenever Miller called because he thought it was about retirement. McCarley soon inherited that feeling.

''Every time I'd see Johnny's number pop up on my cellphone, my heart would skip a beat,'' McCarley said. ''Two years ago, he made that call I had been dreading.''

McCarley kept him working a slightly reduced schedule, but no longer. Miller is 71 and has been on the road for 50 years. His 24th grandchild was born on Sunday. He wants to teach them fly fishing in Utah, perhaps even a little golf.

Miller wasn't sure he would last a week when he started. He never imagined going nearly 30 years.

He leaves behind a style all his own.

Most loved it. Some didn't. But everyone listened, and that might be his legacy in the broadcast booth. Roy said what he has heard from viewers he knows is that 70 percent really like Miller, and 30 percent really don't.

''But they all have an opinion,'' he said.

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CJ Cup: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 16, 2018, 9:20 pm

The PGA Tour returns to South Korea this week for the second edition of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. Here is the key information for the no-cut event, where Justin Thomas is defending champion.

Golf course: Located on Jeju Island, the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, The Club at Nine Bridges opened in 2001 and was designed by Ronald Fream and David Dale. The par-72 layout (36-36) will measure 7,184 yards for this week's event, 12 yards shorter than last year.

Purse: The total purse is $9.5 million with the winner receiving $1.71 million. In addition, the winner will receive 500 FedExCup points, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and invitations to the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Players, Masters, and PGA Championship.

Last year: Thomas defeated Marc Leishman with a birdie on the second playoff hole to earn his seventh career PGA Tour win.

TV schedule (all times Eastern): Golf Channel, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

Live streamingWednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 

Notable tee times (all times Eastern): 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im; 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Ernie Els; 8:25 p.m. Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama

Notables in the field: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and last week's winner Marc Leishman.

Key stats:

 This is the third of 46 official events of the season and the second of three consecutive weeks of events in Asia

• 78-player field including the top 60 available from the final 2017-2018 FedExCup points list

The field also includes 12 major champions and two of the top five in the Official World Golf Ranking (highest ranked are No. 3 Koepka and No. 4 Thomas)

Thomas and Koepka both have a shot to ascend to No. 1 in the OWGR this week - they will play their first two rounds grouped together

Stats and information provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit

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Els eyeing potential Prez Cup players at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 6:55 pm

Ernie Els is teeing it up this week in South Korea as a player, but he's also retaining the perspective of a captain.

While the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia is still more than a year away, Els has already begun the process of keeping tabs on potential players who could factor on his International squad that will face an American contingent captained by Tiger Woods. Els played in last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and this week received one of eight sponsor exemptions into the limited-field CJ Cup on Jeju Island.

Els played a Tuesday practice round with Presidents Cup veteran and Branden Grace and India's Shubankhar Sharma, who held a share of the 54-hole lead last week in Malaysia.

"It's going to be a very diverse team the way things are shaping up already," Els told reporters. "We've got another year to go, so we're going to have an interesting new group of players that's going to probably make the team."

In addition to keeping tabs on Grace and Sharma, Els will play the first two rounds with Australia's Marc Leishman and South Korea's Si Woo Kim. Then there's Sungjae Im, a native of Jeju Island who led the Web.com Tour money list wire-to-wire last season.

"There's so many Korean youngsters here this week, so I'm going to really see how they perform," Els said. "Still a long way to go, but these guys, the young guys are going to be really the core of our team."

Els, who will turn 49 on Wednesday, made only five cuts in 15 PGA Tour starts last season, with his best result a T-30 finish at the Valero Texas Open. While it's increasingly likely that his unexpected triumph at the 2012 Open will end up being his final worldwide victory, he's eager to tackle a new challenge in the coming months by putting together the squad that he hopes can end the International losing skid in the biennial matches.

"The U.S. team is a well-oiled team. They play Ryder Cups together, they obviously play very well in the Presidents Cups against us, so they're a very mature team," Els said. "We are going to be a young team, inexperienced. But that doesn't scare me because I know the course very well down in Melbourne, I've played it many, many times. I feel I have a very good game plan to play the golf course strategy-wise and I'm going to share that with my players."