Toms leads at halfway mark of The Players

By Associated PressMay 13, 2011, 11:12 pm
The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – David Toms  has gone five years without winning, and 10 years since his lone major at the PGA Championship. Now he has to fend off a host of players who have won big events a lot more recently.

Toms went 25 holes before making a bogey Friday and countered with enough good shots for a 4-under 68, giving him a one-shot lead over Nick Watney going into what figures to be another wild weekend on the TPC Sawgrass.

Watney won a World Golf Championship two months ago at Doral, punctuated by a birdie on the tough closing hole. Despite missing four birdie putts inside 12 feet on his last seven holes, he got into the final group.

Luke Donald, the World Golf Championship winner at Arizona in February, became the first player since 2004 to make it around Sawgrass without a bogey for the first 36 holes. He birdied the island-green 17th and shot 67 to finish two shots behind.

Also two shots behind:

– U.S. Open champion and Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell, who is back on track after a dismal April.

– Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, riding high after his win last week at Quail Hollow.

– Steve Stricker, who has won two FedEx Cup playoff events and has become a regular among the top 10 in the world.

The favorite?

“Whoever plays the best on the weekend,” Glover said, as good of an answer as anyone can provide.

Toms quite trying to be perfect on a course that looks like it demands no less. It led to nearly perfect play over two days at The Players, and pole position going into the weekend.

Toms doesn’t have a great record at TPC Sawgrass. In 18 previous attempts, he has missed the cut 10 times and only once has finished in the top 10. He just couldn’t figure out the right angle into the greens, and always believed it had to be just right.

“It seemed early in my career around here I was always trying to play the perfect shot,” he said. “I think the last few years, I’ve just learned to try to play my game, my shot … rather than trying to hit the perfect shot on the golf course.”

Watney did his best to catch him.

He started the back nine with back-to-back birdies, then gave himself a chance on every hole. Watney missed four birdie putts inside 12 feet over his last seven holes, settling for 71 after opening with a 64. His emotions showed what this place can do for you.

“I’m not exactly happy,” Watney said, before ending his remarks with, “I’m excited where I am.”

Toms was at 10-under 134, leading a quality list of contenders at the biggest event of golf’s strongest tour.

Looming particularly large was Donald, the Englishman who can go to No. 1 in the world with a victory. He has only been out of the top 10 once since last September. Perhaps even more impressive this week is that Donald hasn’t made a bogey all week.

“I think it’s an accomplishment anywhere,” Donald said. “This is a tough course. There is a lot of danger lurking. It is pretty easy to slip up around this course. So it’s pretty satisfying to go without making a bogey 36 holes.

Four major champions are among the top 10 – one of them is Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, a two-time winner of The Players who was three back going into the weekend. All but Toms among the top six have won tournaments in the last year.

Even with Tiger Woods long departed after withdrawing Thursday, there was no shortage of drama.

A fan offered to be lifted down into the lake off the 18th tee to retrieve Michael Bradley’s driver when it came out of his hands. Mark Wilson called a two-shot penalty on himself for a double-hit – even though video evidence was inconclusive – which caused him to miss the cut. Jonathan Byrd challenged a bad time he received, and had Rory Sabbatini argue on his behalf.

The cut came at even-par 144, and even that featured some tough moments. Ernie Els, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday, was in front of the par-5 ninth in two, flubbed a chip and missed a 4-foot putt to make bogey and miss the cut by one.

Then there was the scorecard of Phil Mickelson – a 31 on the front to get within two shots of the lead, a 40 on the back to settle for a 71 and linger eight shots out of the lead.

For all the putts he missed, Watney got a pair of good breaks. On the par-5 11th, his ball was headed into deep rough short of the green when he noticed it slightly plugged and covered with mud. It was determined to be in his pitch mark, so he was able to take a drop and wipe the golf ball clean, then chipped up to 4 feet for birdie.

“I would have lot a lot of money had I bet on a ball plugging today,” he said. “It was a great break and I took advantage of it.”

He was in deep rough on the 15th, but the ball landed in a divot, leaving him a clean shot that he could spin. This time, though, he missed a 7-footer. And in a mental blunder, Watney was over his 6-foot birdie putt on the 16th to tie for the lead when he heard the cheer for Bubba Watson making a long birdie on the island-green 17th. He pulled back the putter and missed it badly to the left.

No matter. He’s one shot behind, confident of adding to a World Golf Championship he won earlier this year at Doral.

Watson, meanwhile, shot a 66 to easily make the cut, and Sergio Garcia rallied for a 68 to make it to the weekend.

So did McDowell, which didn’t used to be big news.

His U.S. Open victory last summer at Pebble Beach set up a dream year for McDowell. He won the decisive singles match in the Ryder Cup to lead Europe to another win, then ended the season by coming from four shots behind to beat Tiger Woods in the Chevron World Challenge in a playoff.

Fortunes can change quickly in this game, and so can the confidence. McDowell missed three of his last four cuts on the PGA Tour before The Players, and he was starting to wonder what was going wrong.

“You go through a spell like I’ve just gone through where I just couldn’t piece anything together, you have crazy thoughts. ‘Will I ever win again? Will I ever be in contention again? Am I done? Am I finished?’ It’s just the craziness of this sport,” he said. “You never know what’s around the corner.”

That much still holds true going into the weekend.

Getty Images

Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

Getty Images

Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

Getty Images

Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

Getty Images

Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."