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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Landry turns close calls into maiden win at Valero

By Will GrayApril 22, 2018, 11:15 pm

After years of close calls and near-misses, Andrew Landry now has a signature victory.

Sharing the lead Zach Johnson, the 30-year-old was hardly considered a favorite heading into the final round of the Valero Texas Open. He certainly lacked the pedigree of a two-time major champion, and the other player in the day's final group, Trey Mullinax, had just set a new course record at TPC San Antonio the day prior.

But thanks in part to the lessons he learned from close-but-not-quite finishes in the past, Landry got over the finish line in convincing fashion.

"I was playing some good golf, and I knew that I was going to be in good shape this week," Landry told reporters. "We just came out and had some fun, and that was kind of the strategy this week is just have some fun and be patient, because this golf course can bite you in a hurry."

Landry didn't grow up at a country club like many of his PGA Tour peers. He described the rugged nine-hole course where he learned the game in Port Groves, Texas, affectionately known as the "Pea Patch," as a "goat ranch." But he displayed plenty of game there, and was a three-time All-American at Arkansas.

It was during his time in Fayetteville that Landry had his first brush with near-greatness. Pitted against Texas A&M's Bronson Burgoon in a match that would decide the 2009 NCAA title, Landry rallied back from a 4-down deficit to square the match heading to the final hole. But he could only watch as Burgoon stuffed his final approach, sealing a memorable win for the Aggies.

The feelings were similar in January, when Landry believed he had played well enough to earn his maiden victory at the CareerBuilder Challenge. But that week in Palm Springs he ran into a buzzsaw named Jon Rahm, who finally ended things with a birdie on the fourth extra hole to break Landry's heart as darkness crept over the Coachella Valley.

"We're all here for reasons, because we worked really hard and we're really good at what we do," Landry said. "I think that all of those kinds of things really help every player, whenever you get in a situation and you fail and you continue to fail, you're learning every single time that you do something."

Then there was the 2016 U.S. Open, which to date remains Landry's only start in a major. His opening-round 66 at Oakmont sent reporters shuffling through their media guides to learn more about the unheralded leader. He earned a spot in Sunday's final pairing alongside Shane Lowry, but tied for 15th after a final-round 78. Another lesson.

According to Landry, his brush with major glory taught him to focus on pace: with his swing, with his stride, and with his breathing. Faced with another opportunity Sunday, this time in his home state with plenty of family support, Landry didn't blink.

He birdied the opening hole, then the next, and the next. Birdies on four of his first six holes proved to be all the margin he needed, as he played the remaining holes in even par but still finished two shots clear of Trey Mullinax and Sean O'Hair.

"I mean, whenever I play good golf, I think I can win out here," Landry said. "Obviously I just showed that, so it's fun that I'm in this situation right now."

Following his playoff loss to Rahm, Landry missed four straight cuts. He then took a break as his wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Brooks, last month. He didn't get back to work until last week at the RBC Heritage, where he tied for 42nd after playing his final nine holes in 4 over to tumble out of contention.

This time around, his wife and newborn son were both on hand to watch as he finished the job, making only one bogey over his final 36 holes while playing in the final group both days.

"Andrew played great, specifically the start, and yesterday was obviously very solid, too," Johnson said. "You have a worthy champion, clearly."

Despite his stunning performance at Oakmont, Landry wasn't able to keep his card in 2016 and spent last year back on the Web.com Tour. He quickly earned a promotion back to the big leagues, and after a breakthrough performance in San Antonio he's exempt through 2020.

That stat of one career major start will soon triple, as he's exempt into both the 2018 PGA Championship and 2019 Masters. He's also got spots in The Players, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and Sentry Tournament of Champions. It's an impressive haul for a player who can now point to a trophy instead of a string of close calls.

"It just shows that it doesn't really matter where you come from, it just matters the determination and hard work," Landry said. "Anything that you put your mind to, you can accomplish."

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Niemann finishes sixth at Valero in pro debut

By Will GrayApril 22, 2018, 10:40 pm

Joaquin Niemann wasted little time in making his mark as a professional.

Having turned pro this week at the Valero Texas Open, the former top-ranked amateur made the most of a sponsor invite by closing with rounds of 67-67 over the weekend at TPC San Antonio, including birdies on each of his final three holes during the final round. At 12 under, he finished the week alone in sixth place, five shots behind Andrew Landry, and took home a check of $223,200 in his pro debut.

"I mean, I was playing good. I never thought I was going to finish how I played this week, but I can't be more happy than this," Niemann told reporters. "Just try to keep it up and hope to play well for the next weeks."

The 19-year-old Chilean had plans to turn pro earlier this year, but then he won the Latin American Amateur which brought with it a spot in the Masters as long as he remained an amateur. But now he's off to a fast start on the play-for-pay scene, having finished the week ahead of noted veterans like Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Brandt Snedeker.

Only days into a blossoming pro career, Niemann is hardly short on confidence.


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"I feel like a veteran right now, I feel like a Tour player now," Niemann said. "I know I can beat these guys, and just going to wait for my week and try to win."

In addition to the six-figure check, Niemann also earned 100 non-member FedExCup points which will help in his quest to earn status for the 2018-19 season. He needs at least 269 non-member points to unlock special temporary membership, which would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor invites for the rest of the season.

At worst, his current point total likely guarantees him a spot in the Web.com Tour Finals this fall where he can vie for a PGA Tour card. Niemann has sponsor invites lined up for the Wells Fargo Championship, AT&T Byron Nelson and Memorial Tournament, but thanks to his top-10 finish in San Antonio he won't have to use the second of his allotted seven invites at Quail Hollow in two weeks.

"I think this is going to give me a lot of confidence to try to do my card for this year," Niemann said. "Thing is I've got a couple more tournaments coming, and I just can't wait for it."

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Landry prevails in Texas for first Tour win

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 10:39 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Andrew Landry won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory, pulling away with early birdies and holding on with par saves.

The 30-year-old Texan parred the final seven holes for a 4-under 68 and a two-stroke victory over Trey Mullinax and Sean O'Hair. Landry finished at 17-under 271 at TPC San Antonio.

Landry took a two-stroke lead to the par-5 18th after Mullinax chunked a flop shot and bogeyed the short par-4 17th. Landry hit a 55-foot putt over a ridge to 3 feet for par on 17 and made an 8-footer on 18 after running a 50-foot downhill birdie try past.


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Mullinax closed with a 69 a day after breaking the AT&T Oaks Course record with a 62. O'Hair shot 66.

Tied for the third-round lead with Zach Johnson, Landry birdied the first three holes and added two more on Nos. 6 and 10. He bogeyed the par-4 11th before the closing par run.

Landry won in his 32nd PGA Tour start. He earned his Tour card last year on the Web.com Tour, and lost a playoff to Jon Rahm in January in the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Landry played at Arkansas after starring at Port Neches-Groves High School east of Houston. He now lives in the Austin area.

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Watch: 'Statue' hilariously scares celebs at Jeter's event

By Grill Room TeamApril 22, 2018, 10:05 pm

The Derek Jeter Celebrity Invitational usually provides the golf world a highlight or two; it's no surprise with that much star power gathered in Las Vegas.

But this year's best moment came at the expense of the celebrities themselves, courtesy of a “statue.”

The Players Tribune captured the living statue scaring everyone who decided to pose for a picture near it, including former pro athletes Ray Allen and Ed Reed, news anchor Leeann Tweeden, anti-bullying advocate Paige Spiranac and even Jeter himself.

The DJCI benefits the Miami Marlins CEO's Turn 2 Foundation, which works to help young people reach their full potential by creating and supporting initiatives that promote leadership development, academic achievement, positive behavior, healthy lifestyles and social change.