Weir not weary of playing new-look Bay Hill

By Associated PressMarch 26, 2010, 3:40 am

Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. – Not that long ago, Mike Weir wouldn’t even consider playing at Bay Hill.

A personal talk from Arnold Palmer changed that.

Weir was playing the Bob Hope Classic in 2005 and stopped at nearby Tradition Golf Club with a friend, bumping into Palmer in the locker room.

“I said, Hey, Mr. Palmer, how you doing?” Weir recalled. “And the first thing he said was, ‘You haven’t played my tournament in a few years.’ Didn’t say hello.

“I said, ‘No, I haven’t,”’ Weir continued. “He said, ‘Hey, Mike, I would love to have you come play.”’

He did more than that Thursday.

Weir shot a 5-under 67 in the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, finishing one shot behind leaders J.B. Holmes and Davis Love III. Henrik Stenson also was tied with Weir.

After skipping the tournament four straight years, the Canadian has played four of the last five since his chat with Palmer. Weir’s struggles were a big reason he stopped playing the tournament – a tie for 17th in 2006 is his best finish during his latest span.

He credits Bay Hill’s big makeover in part for his improvement.

Among the major changes since last year: All the greens were revamped and replaced with a sand base 18 inches deep. The strain of grass was altered, tee boxes were upgraded and the course returned to a par 72 after experimenting with a par 70 the past three years.

“For a few years there, it was really hard on a medium-length hitter,” Weir said. “The greens were so firm; wedge shots were bouncing as high as this tent.

“It just wasn’t a great setup for me, even as much as I loved this tournament,” Weir added. “I didn’t see the point if I couldn’t contend. But I think he’s done a nice job blending that back.”

FAMILY TIES: Henrik Stenson has had a tougher time keeping up with his family this week than playing golf.

Not so easy with the Stensons.

The Swedish player’s wife, Emma, gave birth to a boy at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando three weeks ago. Karl is the couple’s second child. Their 2-year-old daughter, Lisa, was born in Sweden. They live part of the year near Orlando, visit Sweden in the summer and make their permanent home in Dubai.

“So I guess if we have a third one, it better be in Dubai then to really make sure we spread them out,” Stenson joked.

And what countries will Karl’s passports say?

“Two passports. I’m thinking he behaves, he gets the Swedish one when he’s 18. Otherwise, he gets the American one,” Stenson said, chuckling. “That a good plan, do you think?”

For Stenson, playing golf is less complicated.

Stenson shot a 5-under 67 in the opening round at Bay Hill on Thursday. That put him in a tie with Mike Weir, one shot off leaders J.B. Holmes and Davis Love III.

Even with all the work that comes with a newborn, Stenson said he has stayed focused.

“A little bit less sleep, maybe,” he said. “But didn’t seem to effect me too bad today at least. I’ll blame that some other day.”

ELS CONTENDING: Ernie Els isn’t ready to say “he’s back.”

His play of late might suggest otherwise.

Els shot a 4-under 68 in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Thursday, putting him in a four-way tie for fifth. The South African is only two weeks removed from ending the longest drought of his career at Doral, so he doesn’t want to get too excited with his recent resurgence.

“I feel good,” Els said. “I don’t want to feel like I’m totally back, you know, because I know I’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Els’ victory at the CA Championship earlier this month was more relief than celebration. It was his first win since the 2008 Honda Classic.

The man who had once challenged Tiger Woods in majors had slipped off the top of leaderboard. That is, until recently.

His six-birdie day in the opening round again has him contention. For now, that’s enough to feel good about.

“You have to get the ball around the golf course, and I think I did that on the front nine, and then something clicked,” Els said. “So hopefully I can get on and push on from this.”

DIVOTS: With six-time winner Tiger Woods missing the tournament for the first time in his career, the gallery ballooned around Phil Mickelson. When Lefty teed off on No. 1, fans were pushing against the ropes from the tee box to the green in what was easily the day’s largest swarm. Mickelson shot a 1-under 71. … Byeong-Hun An, the 18-year-old amateur who earned an invitation to the Arnold Palmer Invitational by winning last year’s U.S. Amateur at Southern Hills, shot a 5-over 77. … Rain is expected overnight but not when play resumes Friday morning, with the forecast calling for partly cloudy skies and a high around 79 degrees.

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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.

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Monahan addresses alcohol, fan behavior at events

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 3:53 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Fan behavior has become a hot-button topic on the PGA Tour in recent weeks, with Rory McIlroy suggesting on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the circuit should “limit alcohol sales on the course.”

The Tour’s policy is to stop selling alcohol an hour before the end of play, which is normally around 5 p.m., and on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play commissioner Jay Monahan said it’s something the Tour is monitoring.

“When you have people who aren’t behaving properly and they’ve had too much alcohol, then I agree [with McIlroy],” Monahan said. “In those incidences those people who are making it uncomfortable for a player alcohol sales should be cut off.”

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Fan behavior became an issue with some players when Tiger Woods returned to competition at last month’s Genesis Open. During the final round of the Honda Classic Justin Thomas had a fan removed when he yelled for Thomas’ tee shot at the par-4 16th hole to “get in the bunker.”

Monahan declined to address Thomas’ situation at PGA National specifically, but he did seem to suggest that as interest grows and the Tour continues to attract more mainstream sports crowds, vocal fans will continue to be the norm.

“I believe that there was more that went into it that preceded and in a situation like that we’re hopeful our players will reach out to our security staff and they can handle that,” Monahan said. “[But] yelling, ‘get in the bunker,’ that’s part of what our players have to accept. In any sport, you go to an away game, in any other sport, and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

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Senden playing first event since son's brain tumor

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 3:03 pm

John Senden is back inside the ropes for the first time in nearly a year at this week's Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Tour.

Senden took a leave of absence from professional golf in April, when his teenage son, Jacob, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He didn't touch a club for nearly four months as Jacob endured six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, a gauntlet that stretched from April until mid-November.

But Senden told that his son's tumor has shrunk from the size of a thumbnail to the size of a pinky nail, and after a promising MRI in January he decided to plan his comeback.

"I haven't really played in 12 months, but in that time Jacob has really, really hung tough," Senden said. "His whole body was getting slammed with all these treatments, and he was so strong in his whole attitude and his whole body. Just really getting through the whole thing. He was tough."

Senden was granted a family crisis exemption by the Tour, and he'll have 13 starts to earn 310 FedExCup points to retain his playing privileges for the 2018-19 season. He is allowed five "rehabilitation" starts as part of the exemption, but will reportedly only make one this week before returning to the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage, followed by starts in San Antonio, Charlotte and Dallas.

Senden, 46, has won twice on Tour, most recently the 2014 Valspar Championship.

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Added videos shed light on Reed rules controversy

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 2:39 pm

Additional fan videos shed some light on a rules controversy involving Patrick Reed during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, when Reed suggested that Jordan Spieth would have gotten free relief after he was denied a favorable ruling.

Reed had sailed the green with his approach on the 11th hole Sunday at Bay Hill, coming to rest under a palm tree. As the below thread of videos from fan Tyler Soughers illustrates, Reed wanted a free drop because he believed a nearby television tower was in the way of the shot he planned to play.

The initial rules official didn't "see" the shot Reed planned to attempt given the tight confines, and his decision to deny Reed a free drop was upheld by a second rules official. Reed eventually tried to play the ball, moving it a few feet, before being granted relief from the tower from the ball's new position. He ultimately made double bogey on the hole and tied for seventh.

After finally taking his free drop away from the tower, Reed was heard muttering to nearby fans, "What a crock of s---."

Reed and Spieth will have plenty of time to discuss their favorite rulings Friday, when the two players face off on the final day of round-robin play in Group 4 during the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin.