Season of Change at PODS Championship

By Associated PressMarch 7, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 PODS ChampionshipPALM HARBOR, Fla. -- If not for evidence found in PGA TOUR records, Paul Goydos might have a hard time believing how much his career has changed from the last time he was at Innisbrook.
 
For a guy whose previous TOUR victory came when Tiger Woods was still an amateur, Goydos has won 25 percent of his starts since that runner-up finish last year spared him a trip back to Q-school. He's now a regular at World Golf Championships, not opposite-field events. And he can think about a trip to the Masters, where he hasn't played since Ben Crenshaw was the defending champion.
 
Innisbrook Course
The maintenence crew tries to get everything in order Wednesday before the start of play. (WireImage)
'That's as big a turnaround as you can get in golf,' Goydos said.
 
Some of the statistics are slightly skewed.
 
His winning ratio is helped by the fact he has played only four tournaments since Tampa. He's a regular at the WGC events because two of them are played in a five-week span. And only four months have passed since the tour last came to Innisbrook.
 
Talk about a big turnaround.
 
The PODS Championship begins Thursday with a new look, a new title sponsor and a new date on the calendar. It used to be in the fall, the final stop before the TOUR Championship. Under the new FedExCup schedule, it has moved to the second leg in the Florida Swing.
 
And that has brought changes in everything from the color of the grass to the mood of the players.
 
'It's green,' former British Open champion Todd Hamilton said after a practice round Tuesday had him hitting longer clubs. 'The ball doesn't roll very much. If the hole says 560 yards, then it's 560 yards -- it's not 520 yards and 40 yards of roll. But that doesn't matter. I'll be hitting first, just like always.'
 
The Copperhead course at Innisbrook was slightly brown and very crispy when played in the fall, and the Bermuda grass was a menace. Now that spring is near and the Bermuda is dormant, Florida golf courses are overseeded with rye grass to bring out the green color. How much that matters remains to be seen, but the change is hard to ignore.
 
'I think you'll be able to figure out more what the ball will do,' Dean Wilson said.
 
As for the mood?
 
This used to be serious business with so much at stake. In its fall spot, this was the last chance for players to qualify for the TOUR Championship, finish in the top 40 on the money list to become eligible for the Masters, for get into the top 125 to keep a TOUR card.
 
That's where Goydos was.
 
He was 160th on the money list and No. 295 in the world ranking, going nowhere but qualifying school.
 
Then came his best week of the year, and he closed with a 70 to tie for second behind K.J. Choi. He earned $466,400 and moved up 63 spots to No. 97 on the money list.
 
His next start was in January at the Sony Open in Honolulu, and Goydos birdied three of his final four holes for a 67 and a one-shot victory, his first since Bay Hill in 1996. Because he plays a limited schedule -- he is a single parent raising teenage girls -- Goydos shot up to No. 39 in the world and became eligible for the Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
'Coming into this tournament last year, I was a different person,' he said. 'I was struggling, wondering about my future in the game. Two tournaments later, I'm playing in Match Play, I'm eligible for the World Golf Championship at Doral, I have a reasonable chance of playing in the Masters. And this is the event that started that.'
 
Asked what sparked the turnaround, Goydos still isn't sure.
 
He knows his limitations -- mostly off the tee, where he is among the shorter hitters on tour -- but never felt he couldn't win. He continued to work on his game, waiting to see a change in the results, not knowing when that would be, if ever.
 
'Luckily for me, it turned into results the very last week,' he said.
 
Whether he gets that again remains to be seen, although the timing again would come in handy. Goydos is No. 45 in the world ranking, and he has to stay inside the top 50 through the end of the month to get into the Masters.
 
He hasn't been to Augusta National since 1996, three weeks after his victory at Bay Hill. And for a guy who loves statistics, don't think Goydos isn't paying attention.
 
'I was 295th going into Tampa last year,' he said. 'When I got done playing Hawaii, I knew ... there was a chance I could move into the 70s and 80s. I looked down and I was 39th in the world. I almost fell off my chair. I look at them every day now.'
 
Goydos preferred Innisbrook when it was firm and brown because he's at the lower end on driving distance and won't get the roll he did the final week in October. But he still likes the shape of the holes and the sight lines off the tee.
 
Most players who were at Innisbrook a little more than four months ago should remember it well, no matter what color the grass. In fact, several could not remember the time they returned to the same course in such a short time except for their home club.
 
'Don't think I've ever done that, for a tournament,' Wilson said. 'It's a little strange. I mean, the defending champion is K.J. Choi, and it's like he just won this thing a few months ago.'
 
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    Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

    Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

    Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

    Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    "I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

    Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

    Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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    Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

    A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

    The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

    There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

    As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

    This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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    Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

    There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

    Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

    Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.


    Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open


    Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

    The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

    Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.

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    Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field

    By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 12:13 pm

    Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.

    Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.

    Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:

    This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.

    Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.

    The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.