Toms, Crane, Wilson share Humana lead

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2012, 1:52 am

LA QUINTA, Calif.—When Mark Wilson got to 8 under through 11 holes on the Palmer Private course Friday, he seriously discussed golf’s magic number with playing partner Harrison Frazar, who once shot a 59 on another Humana Challenge course.

“I don’t know why the conversation went there … but I thought about it,” Wilson said.

Wilson ended up posting the lowest score of his career, and that 62 wasn’t even the best round of the day in the desert. Bob Hope’s name is no longer on this reformatted tournament, but its tradition of stunningly low scores is still going strong.

Wilson pulled even with Ben Crane and David Toms at 16-under 128 to share a three-stroke lead after the second round of the Humana Challenge on Friday, topping a leaderboard covered with bogey-free rounds and personal bests.

Extremely low numbers always dominate the erstwhile Bob Hope Classic, which features two of the PGA Tour’s three easiest courses. Add a second day of ideal Palm Springs weather, and exceptional play is necessary just to stay in contention.

For example, Ryan Moore tied the Nicklaus course record with a 61, yet he was still five strokes back of the lead—and he wasn’t even among 23 players who played bogey-free rounds Friday.

“Everything has been much improved, and we got a much better field because of it,” said Crane, who had just 48 putts in his first two rounds.

“This is a great place for players to start their year, because it’s like playing indoors.”

To illustrate his point, Crane mimed his caddie picking grass blades and dropping them from shoulder height.

“I’m like, `Where’s the wind?”’ Crane said. “He’s like, `I don’t know.’ I’m like, `OK, let’s just hit a normal shot here.”’

Crane shot a 63 on the three-course tournament’s Palmer Private course, and Toms had a 65 on the Nicklaus Private course to match Wilson at 16-under 128. Rookie Harris English had a 62 on the Nicklaus Private course to join five players in fourth place at 13 under.

“That’s what you’ve got to do out here,” said English, the University of Georgia graduate playing his sixth round on the PGA Tour. “Put it in the fairway and then try to go out and get after it. I was getting my putter hot, and it was a lot of fun.”

Moore tied Charlie Wi’s 2009 record on the Nicklaus course despite starting with consecutive bogeys on his second and third holes before an eagle on the fourth. He then birdied 11 of 12 holes, including six straight around the turn.

“Really the last thing I remember was being 2 over through three, and then I just walked off the 18th hole,” said Moore, who rose 103 spots on the leaderboard. “Maybe that just freed me up. I just let go. … I don’t know if I ever putted that good in my entire life.”

Wilson earned a reputation as a fast starter when he won in Hawaii and Phoenix during the first five weeks of last season. He also gets a boost from his offseason connection to the Coachella Valley, including a membership at the Ironwood Country Club near his in-laws’ home in Palm Desert.“It’s always been very good to me, and then Q-school has been good to me in the desert,” Wilson said. “I get a lot of good vibes here.”

Toms shot a fairly pedestrian 65 on the Nicklaus course with a second straight day of steady play—but not everybody chewed up the three courses. Toms’ playing partner, Phil Mickelson, shot a 69, but remained well back of the leaders after opening with a 74.

“I’m excited about how I was playing heading into this tournament, but I had a bit of a slap in the face with my first two scores,” said Mickelson, who tried out a new driver Friday.

Mickelson is the tournament’s career money leader despite not playing in Palm Springs since 2007. He has made seven straight cuts, but sits in 124th place heading to the third round.

Dustin Johnson, the world No. 8 and the tournament’s top-ranked player, withdrew after nine holes Friday. The two-time Pebble Beach champion with exceptional power off the tee underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in November and hadn’t walked 18 holes until Thursday, when he started with an even-par 72.

Scott Stallings also withdrew before the round with an injured chest muscle.

Crane’s in-laws also live in the Valley, and he was grateful to play well in front of them after a rocky offseason in which he contemplated getting surgery on a labrum injury before learning he didn’t need it.

Instead, he spent the offseason working on his putting, which has been exceptional at the Humana. Crane also started with a bogey before an eagle-birdie run kick-started his round.

The plunging scores might level off on the weekend, with wind and clouds in the forecast for Saturday when President Bill Clinton plays a round with Greg Norman. Crane and his wife spoke with Clinton on Thursday, discussing their work with a foundation that battles sex trafficking.

“It’s really given this tournament a spark to have him around,” Crane said. “It’s been great for everybody in this tournament. It’s just grown so much in a year. The buzz is unbelievable, and it’s really fun to be a part of it.”

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

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Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

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Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

Made Cut

Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

Tweet of the week:

Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

“No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”


Missed Cut

Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.