Watson leads Travelers, trying to win wire-to-wire

By Associated PressJune 27, 2015, 12:01 am

CROMWELL, Conn. - Bubba Watson had to think a bit more Friday at the Travelers Championship, where the wind was a little stronger, the greens a bit firmer and the pin placements more challenging.

The long-hitting lefty shot a 3-under 67 to maintain the two-stroke lead he took with an opening 62.

''[Thursday] I added it up after I left the media center, I had three holes I didn't have a wedge into,'' he said. ''Today was different, because the wind conditions were different. They were faster and it was coming from a different direction, so it made the golf course a little bit tougher.''

The two-time Masters champion is trying to become the first wire-to-wire winner at TPC River Highlands since Peter Jacobsen in 2003.

Watson won his first PGA Tour title at the 2010 event and has finished in the top 20 five times in eight previous starts. He tied for sixth in 2008, tied for second in 2012, and finished fourth in 2013.

He was delayed in talking to the media Friday after being pulled for a random drug test, something he saw as a positive sign.

''I hope I passed it,'' he joked. ''It's usually when you're at the top of the leaderboard they want to drug test you, especially me.''

Brian Harman birdied two of his final three holes during an afternoon round of 65 to join Brian Stuard and Carl Pettersson at 9 under.


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Stuard, who followed an opening 64 with a 67, pulled within a shot of Watson after back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16. But he bogeyed the 17th after hitting his second shot over the green and missing an 8-foot par putt. He then saved par on the 18th with a 19-foot putt.

''That was kind of a nice momentum-keeper going into the weekend,'' he said.

Pettersson started on the back nine and shot a 31 on those holes before finishing with a 66.

The back nine was less affected by the wind than the front, where a headwind had several holes playing longer than their yardage.

Scott Brown had a double bogey on his first hole and posted a 38 on the front. But after making par on the 10th, he reeled off six straight birdies to finish with a 67. He was 8 under, tied for fifth place with Jason Gore and Chris Stroud, who is still looking for his first tour win after losing here in a playoff to Ken Duke in 2013.

''The back nine always plays a bit easier here anyway, so I knew there were going to be some opportunities out there,'' Brown said. ''So I just kind of hung in there. When my caddie said, 'Let's go get them on the back nine,' that's what we did.''

Nick Watney had the round of the day, shooting a bogey-free 64, with three birdies on each side of the course. Watney was at 7 under in a group that included New England native Keegan Bradley.

Thirty-three players were within six shots of the lead.

Ernie Els, who shot a 66 in the opening round, bogeyed the first five holes and missed the cut after shooting a 76 to finish 2 over after 36 holes. Els, making his first appearance here since 2002, threw his club into the air in frustration after bogeying the 12th hole and hitting his tee shot on the 13th left and into the water guarding the green.

Others notable names who failed to make the cut include Stewart Cink (139), who has won this tournament twice; defending champion Kevin Streelman; four-time major champion Padraig Harrington (141), 2007 winner Hunter Mahan (141) and Louis Oosthuizen (142).

Representatives from the British Open brought the claret jug to display at the Travelers on Friday, as a reminder to players that four spots and as many as nine in that tournament are up for grabs this week.

The leading five players, not already exempt, from the top 20 in the FedEx Cup will be part of the field at St. Andrews next month.

In addition, the leading four players who finish in the top 12 at TPC River Highlands also will get spots. The Travelers is the first of three PGA Tour events where top finishers can get into St. Andrews. There are four spots available at The Greenbrier Classic, and one at the John Deere Classic.

''I've been in professional golf for 18 years now and I've never been to Europe,'' Gore said. ''So that just blows my mind. It blows a lot of people's mind. Playing at St. Andrews would be a lot of fun, but we've got a long way to go.''

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.