Trio Lead at Firestone Tiger One Back

By Associated PressAugust 2, 2007, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio -- It has reached the point where everyone expects to see his name atop the leaderboard, and he got there Thursday at the Bridgestone Invitational with five birdies in a seven-hole stretch on a course that felt like a major.
 
Indeed, Hunter Mahan is on a roll.
 
Coming off four consecutive top 10s that included his first PGA Tour victory, Mahan overcame a sloppy double bogey with a torrid stretch of birdies for a 3-under 67, giving him a share of the lead with Paul Casey and Rory Sabbatini at the Bridgestone Invitational.
 
That other name that has become a fixture at Firestone -- Tiger Woods -- didn't fare too badly, either.
 
Woods is a five-time winner at Firestone and going after his third straight title in this World Golf Championship. He opened with a 68 that included another memorable shot, this one a 5-wood from 245 yards in the right rough that he squeezed between two trees and just over the back of the green for a simple birdie on the par-5 second.
 
'Very satisfied,' said Woods, who has posted a score in the 60s in the first round all 10 times he has played this course.
 
Mahan was playing Firestone for the first time, but that doesn't seem to matter. He got his game on track when he shot 63 to qualify for the U.S. Open, and he hasn't let up. There was a victory in Hartford, a 69-65 weekend at Carnoustie to tie for sixth at the British Open, an opening 62 at the Canadian Open, where he eventually tied for fifth.
 
So when he chopped up the 17th hole for double bogey, there was no need to panic.
 
'I'm just playing golf,' said Mahan, a 25-year-old player from Oklahoma State. 'It's just exciting to play this good, to feel like I'm finally reaching my potential and finally playing the way I can. Just going out there and letting go.'
 
For most of the 83-man field, it was a matter of hanging on.
 
The final major of the year starts next week at Southern Hills, but it sure felt like a major at Firestone. The course is in supreme condition with thick rough and greens that figure to be every bit as slick as the PGA Championship. More than one player watched a putt slide by the hole and keep rolling 6 feet away, and K.J. Choi hit one off the green at No. 12.
 
Only 13 players managed to break par.
 
It was the highest score to lead the first round at Firestone since it became a WGC event in 1999, and the scoring average of 72.18 was second only to the final round in 1999, when Woods failed to break par and still won the tournament.
 
Mark Calcavecchia, who also shot 68, played a practice round Tuesday and immediately sent a text message to Woods, who was practicing that day at Southern Hills. He told him the greens were as fast as Augusta National.
 
'I've never seen them this fast,' Calcavecchia said.
 
Mahan had no trouble with them, if only because he didn't have much space between his ball and the cup. He hit 5-wood into 20 feet for a two-putt birdie on the par-5 second, hit a sand wedge to 2 feet on the third, a 7-iron to 12 feet on the fifth and closed out his birdie run with a 7-iron to 10 feet on No. 7 and a wedge to 4 feet on the eighth.
 
Casey also got up to speed -- not with his putting, but his energy level.
 
After a grueling week at Carnoustie, he played last week in Germany and felt drained. He was still dragging his feet when he arrived in America, which swing coach and CBS Sports analyst Peter Kostis quickly noticed. Kostis figured a simple challenge might help, so he offered to buy Casey dinner if he broke par.
 
'The opposite to winning dinner was buying dinner,' Casey said. 'And it worked. It got me going.'
 
One of his birdies came on the 16th, a 656-yard hole that is tough to reach in two and equally difficult when playing the third shot with a wedge over the pond to a shallow portion of the green. Casey was alert enough to realize that Kostis works in the 16th tower, and he stuffed his wedge into 4 feet.
 
'I was aiming 15 feet left of the flag to the center of the green and I didn't hit the shot I wanted to,' Casey said. 'I kind of came out of it slightly and pushed it out to the right, and it finished about 4 feet away. I won't tell him that.'
 
Casey played in the final group last year with Woods and Stewart Cink and tumbled out of contention. He hopes for another chance this week, especially with the PGA Championship waiting and Firestone proving to be an ideal place to test one's game.
 
Joining the leaders was Sabbatini, who hasn't been heard from -- on the golf course, anyway -- since winning Colonial. Sabbatini went six holes without making a par, a streak that included three straight birdies. The longest of those putts was 3 feet, and his final two birdies were inside 5 feet.
 
'The rough is insane out there,' Sabbatini said. 'By Sunday if we don't get any rain, I don't see that anybody is going to be able to really get the ball close to any holes unless they're chipping.'
 
Anyone not on his game paid for it.
 
Cink, a winner in 2004 and a playoff loser to Woods last year, failed to make a birdie on his way to a 79. Mike Weir's progress slowed dramatically when he opened with a 77, while Vijay Singh chopped through the rough on his way to a 74.
 
Phil Mickelson, who has missed the cut in his last two majors, also shot 74.
 
'It's certainly playing different than most years,' Woods said. 'Most years, it's raining here, ball is plugging, you've got some low scores. Not this year. Right now, 3 under is leading. And that's a heck of a round here.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
  • Getty Images

    Golf Channel Ramps Up Six Weeks of Comprehensive College Golf Coverage Culminating With The NCAA Women's and Men's Golf Championships, May 18-30

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsApril 24, 2018, 9:00 pm

    Golf Channel to Announce NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections on Wednesday, April 25 and Wednesday, May 2

     Golf Channel to Expand Coverage of NCAA Women’s and Men’s Regional Championships  

    Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys, a Four-Part Docu-Series Executive Produced by Rickie Fowler, Premieres on Golf Channel Monday, May 7

     More than 100 News and Tournament Hours Planned for Women’s and Men’s Championships, Back-to-Back Weeks at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

     

    ORLANDO, Fla., April 24, 2018 – With conference championships underway, golf fans will be able to follow their favorite college golf programs and alma maters as they attempt to qualify and compete in the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships in May at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., as Golf Channel expands its comprehensive on-air and digital collegiate golf coverage the next six weeks.

    “Through our new long-term partnership, the NCAA and Golf Channel are successfully raising the profile of college golf by shining a spotlight on the game’s future stars and the passion these programs have in competing for national championships,” said Molly Solomon, Golf Channel executive vice president of content and executive producer. “With our expanded coverage of the regional championships and partnering with OSU alum Rickie Fowler for Driven, our viewers will be treated to the most college golf coverage in network history leading into the NCAA Golf National Championships.”

    REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS SELECTION ANNOUNCEMENTS: On Wednesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET (women) and continuing Wednesday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET (men), Golf Channel will announce the teams and individuals selected by the NCAA to participate in the women’s and men’s regional championships, the first step on the road to the NCAA Golf Championships. Live streaming coverage of selection shows will be available through the Golf Channel Mobile App or GolfChannel.com, and Golf Channel will aggregate social content for the shows using the hashtag #NCAAGolf. 

    • Women’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, April 25, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce (live) the 72 teams and24 individuals selected to compete in the four NCAA Women’s Regional Championships, May 7-9 (18 teams and six individuals per regional). 24 teams and 12 individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.
    • Men’s Golf Championships Regional Selections, Wednesday, May 2, 5:30 p.m. ET: Golf Central will announce the 81 teams and 45 individuals selected to compete in the six NCAA Men’s Regional Championships, May 14-16 (13 teams and 10 individuals at three regionals and 14 teams and five individuals at three regionals). 30 teams and six individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships.

    GOLF CHANNEL TO EXPAND REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: New for 2018, Golf Channel will feature expanded coverage of the final day of the NCAA women’s and men’s regional championships, Wednesday May 9 and Wednesday, May 16, respectively. Beginning within Morning Drive, Golf Channel’s daily lifestyle news show, and continuing hourly throughout the day via live Golf Central news updates from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. ET that will be published to Golf Channel Digital and Golf Channel’s social media handles. Coverage will conclude with live news segments, featuring highlights and interviews, announcing the teams and individuals who qualified for the women’s and men’s national championships.

    RICKIE FOWLER AND NBC SPORTS COLLABORATE ON FOUR-PART DOCU-SERIES DRIVEN: OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS: NBC Sports Group is teaming up with PGA TOUR superstar Rickie Fowler to give viewers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look into Fowler’s alma mater in a four-part documentary series – Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys. Driven, executive produced by Fowler, will premiere Monday, May 7 at 10 p.m. ET and continue Monday, May 14 (10 p.m. ET) and Monday, May 21 (8 p.m. ET). The finale will air on NBC on Saturday, June 16, recapping their season that culminates with a run at a potential 11th national championship, taking place on their home turf.

    NCAA GOLF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE: Contested in back-to-back weeks, May 18-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Golf Channel will dedicate its full suite of production resources to the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships, featuring nearly 30 combined hours of live tournament coverage. In addition, Golf Central will feature nearly 30 hours of combined pre-and post-event live news coverage produced on location, as well as daily news updates on Morning Drive and Golf Channel Digital.                                             

    Golf Channel NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Coverage

    Monday, May   21       

    Individual National   Championship  

    4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

    Tuesday, May   22          

    Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

    11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

    Tuesday, May   22                 

    Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

    4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

    Wednesday, May   23            

    Team National   Championship  

    4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

     

    Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage

    Monday, May   28      

    Individual National   Championship  

    4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

    Tuesday, May   29          

    Quarterfinals, Team   Match Play  

    11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET   (Live)

    Tuesday, May   29                 

    Semifinals, Team Match   Play 

    4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

    Wednesday, May   30            

    Team National   Championship  

    4-8 p.m. ET (Live)

     

    COLLEGE CENTRAL – GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL COVERAGE: Golf Channel is providing comprehensive coverage leading up to and during the NCAA Women’s and Men’s Golf Championships as part of College Central,Golf Channel Digital’s home for college golf. Led by Jay Coffin, Ryan Lavner and Steve Burkowski, College Central will be the source for all things college golf, including tournament results and scores, features and columns, video highlights and breaking news.

    CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS COVERAGE: Golf Channel will cover the conference championships with scores and analysis across its on-air news platforms - Morning Drive and Golf Central – and online within College Central.

    Getty Images

    With help from partner, Burns could secure Tour status

    By Ryan LavnerApril 24, 2018, 8:33 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – This week Sam Burns has yet another chance to secure special temporary membership for the rest of the PGA Tour season, but his partner may determine whether he’s ultimately successful.

    In an interesting twist, Burns is burning one of his seven available sponsor exemptions this week at the Zurich Classic. He is 80 non-member points shy of securing special temporary membership, which would allow him to receive unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the season.

    Burns needs at least a two-way tie for fourth to earn the necessary points, but it won’t all depend on how he plays this week. The Zurich is a two-man game, with two rounds apiece of fourballs and alternate shot.

    Burns' partner this week is William McGirt. Their games couldn’t be more different – Burns ranks eighth on Tour in driving distance, at 309 yards per pop, while McGirt is 143rd (290) – but they hope to compliment each other over four days at TPC Louisiana.


    Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Articles, photos and videos


    “I got a good pair of spurs sharpened up last week while I was in San Antonio,” joked McGirt, who is looking for his first top-10 since the fall. “I told him I was going to ride him hard this week. It’ll be fun.”

    Burns will have at least two (and maybe three) more opportunities to earn status, with starts lined up next week at the Wells Fargo Championship and also at the Memorial. He doesn’t face quite as much pressure because he won earlier this month on the Web.com Tour and currently sits fourth on the money list, essentially locking up his PGA Tour card for next season.

    “It’s obviously nice to have that win,” he said, “but at the same time you have to be careful and make sure you play enough out there to where you’re secure for sure. You don’t want to get at the end of the year and then have two or three events left and you have to make a certain amount of money to get your card.

    “So I’m just going step by step, tournament by tournament, and trying to figure out what’s the best route.”   

    Getty Images

    Spieth-Palmer draw Rahm-Bryan early at Zurich

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:49 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – The PGA Tour’s only team event gets underway Thursday at the Zurich Classic. Here are some featured groups to watch at TPC Louisiana.

    Justin Thomas-Bud Cauley/Daniel Berger-Gary Woodland: 8:39 a.m. ET Thursday off 10 tee, 2:08 p.m. Friday off 1: 

    The Bama boys, Thomas and Cauley, team up for the second consecutive year, after tying for fifth a year ago on the strength of a final-round 61. Berger teamed with Thomas Pieters a year ago but missed the cut, so he’ll try his luck with Woodland, who also shares a management team at Excel Sports.

    Jordan Spieth-Ryan Palmer/Jon Rahm-Wesley Bryan: 8:52 a.m. Thursday off 10, 2:19 p.m. Friday off 1: 

    Spieth and Palmer finished fourth a year ago, five shots back of the leaders. Spieth is making his first start since his epic Sunday run at the Masters. Rahm and Bryan have opposite strengths – Rahm is one of the game’s preeminent drivers, while Bryan, statistically, is one of the worst – but the Spaniard is coming off a European Tour victory at home. Another wrinkle here: Even though no world-ranking points are on offer this week, Rahm is set to supplant Spieth as the third-ranked player in the world.

    Jason Day-Ryan Ruffels/Brooks Koepka-Marc Turnesa: 1:31 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:42 a.m. Friday off 10: 

    Two stars with questionable sidekicks. Ruffels is an up-and-coming Australian who has been playing primarily in Latin America. (He also shares a manager with Day.) Turnesa, meanwhile, got the call late last week from Koepka, who is finally ready to return from a 15-week layoff because of a wrist injury. They both play out of Medalist in South Florida, but Turnesa, 40, has turned his attention to real estate instead of professional golf.

    Patrick Reed-Patrick Cantlay/Jonas Blixt-Cameron Smith: 1:44 p.m. Thursday off 1, 9:53 a.m. Friday off 10: 

    Reed makes his first start as Masters champion after taking off the past two weeks. This duo tied for 14th last year, undone by a Saturday 75 in foursomes play. Blixt and Smith are the defending champions, after shooting 27 under par last year and holding off Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown in a playoff. Blixt doesn’t have a top-10 on Tour since then, while Smith tied for fifth at the Match Play and the Masters.

    Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson/Bubba Watson-Matt Kuchar: 1:57 p.m. Thursday off 1, 10:04 a.m. Friday off 10:

    Rose and Stenson, who have proved to be a formidable pairing in the Ryder Cup, were a stunning missed cut last year, after shooting 6 under par for two rounds. Watson teamed up with J.B. Holmes to finish fifth last year, while Kuchar is making his first start in this event since 2009.

    Getty Images

    Zurich Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2018, 7:09 pm

    The PGA Tour tries team competition for the second year in a row at the Zurich Classic. Here are the key stats and information for play at TPC LouisianaClick here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2:30-6:30PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


    Purse: $7,200,000 ($1,036,800 to each winner)

    Course: TPC Louisiana (par 72; 7,425 yards)

    Defending champions: Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt (-27) in a playoff over Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner


    News and notes

    • All four reigning major champions - Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed - are in the field this week. This is the first time all four reigning major winners have played this event since 1984 (Ben Crenshaw, Larry Nelson, Tom Watson, Hall Sutton).

     Both members of winning team this week will earn an official PGA Tour victory, two-year Tour exemptions, and exemptions into the Players and PGA Championships.

    • That said, no Official World Golf Ranking points are awarded from this event and winners will not earn exemptions into the 2019 Masters.


    Notable teams in the field 

    Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson

     Rose won this event in 2014, when it was individual stroke play. From 2012-16, he was a combined 60 under at TPC Louisiana in stroke play, seven shots better than any other player.

     Rose has dramatically improved his performance on the greens from last season, moving from 123rd in strokes gained-putting to 10th.

     Stenson's last three starts look like this: solo 4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T-6 at the Houston Open, and T-5 at the Masters.

    Jon Rahm and Wesley Bryan

     Rahm is coming off a victory at the Spanish Open, his second worldwide win in 2018 and fifth since Jan. 2017.

     Rahm outdrives Bryan by an average of 30 yards off the tee, 305.1 to 276.3.

     Rahm is second on Tour in the strokes gained-off the tee, while Bryan is 210th, last among qualifying players.

    Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay

     Reed is just the fifth reigning Masters champ to play the Zurich since 2000, joining Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson (twice), and Bubba Watson.

     Reed has gone T-2, T-7, T-9, WIN in his last four starts.

     Cantlay broke through for his maiden PGA Tour win earlier this season at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.