Furyk takes Bridgestone lead with 63; Woods 7 back

By Doug FergusonAugust 2, 2012, 10:32 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Jim Furyk made a detour to Florida to sit on his back porch and hang out with his kids as he tried to figure out why decent golf was producing ordinary scores. The short break appeared to do him a world of good Thursday in the Bridgestone Invitational.

With seven birdies and a 30-foot eagle putt, Furyk had a 7-under 63 for his best score ever at Firestone and a two-shot lead over Lee Slattery of England.

The conditions could not have been more ideal with sunshine, heat and very little wind, along with carpet for fairways and smooth greens. It showed in some of the tee shots on the South Course - 58 drives of at least 350 yards, and a 427-yarder b Branden Grace of South Africa – and mostly in the scoring.

Luke Donald, the world's No. 1 player, and Masters champion Bubba Watson were among those at 66. Thirty players in the 78-man field at this World Golf Championship managed to break par.

Tiger Woods was not among them. He was 3 under after back-to-back birdies to start the back nine, but had to lay up with his third shot on the par-5 16th after driving into the trees and ended his round with a three-putt bogey from 25 feet for a 70. It was his second-worst start at Firestone, a course where he has won seven times. The other was a 74 in 2010, his last week without a swing coach.

''I think I averaged about four putts per hole, so it was a great day on the greens,'' said Woods, who lost his touch on the greens but at least kept his sarcasm.

Since missing out on a chance to win the U.S. Open, Furyk has tied for 34th in two tournaments and missed two cuts, including last week in Canada. For a guy who is 15th in the Ryder Cup standings - even a win this week would not make him eligible for the U.S. team - this was no time to be stuck in neutral.

So when he had another weekend off after rounds of 70-70 at the Canadian Open, he flew home for three days.

''I think more than anything I needed a little time to clear my head,'' Furyk said. ''It wasn't anything that was going wrong, (but) why I wasn't playing better. I just felt like I needed to come in here and quit concentrating on trying to be so mechanically sound and just go play some golf and try to score and get the ball in the hole a little bit. It worked today. I did a lot better job of scoring.

''It's been a while since I made seven birdies and an eagle in a round,'' he said. ''So it was a lot of fun.''

The average score was 70.33, which is on the low side for Firestone.

Defending champion Adam Scott, in his first tournament since making four straight bogeys to lose the British Open, had a four-putt from just inside 10 feet early in his round and shot 71. So did Phil Mickelson, while British Open champion Ernie Els had a 73.

This is a course where players can smash it off the tee, and most of them did. Watson said he hit driver on all but three of the long holes. When he was asked how many fairways he missed, Watson replied, ''I don't know. I shot 4 under. That's all I know.''

That ultimately was all that mattered.

Grace, who along with Woods is the only player with three wins this year, crushed a tee shot into the speed slot on the 656-yard 16th hole that left him only 222 yards to the hole. One problem.

''It was a reasonable opportunity,'' Grace said. ''But I was right between clubs. I could either thump a 3-iron or hit my rescue, and going just over the back of that green and chipping back is not the best.''

So he laid up with a gap wedge, and then hit another gap wedge just over the back of the green, the very place where he feared his hybrid might go. He settled for par.

''Tiger and I were talking about it going up the 17th,'' Grace said. ''It's a pity you hit a great drive and go gap wedge, gap wedge. It doesn't make sense.''

Grace had one of three drives that traveled over 400 yards, and there were 58 drives of at least 350 yards. Firestone always allows for extra distance when it's dry and the fairways are running fast. But it reached the point that when Furyk was told he hit seven drives over 300 yards, he said, ''That's it?''

''I never crack the top 150 in driving distance on tour,'' Furyk said. ''If all of a sudden, out of all the guys that played today, I was 30th in today's field, I would say I was a lot longer than normal. But if I end up being - was there 80 guys in the field, 78? If I was 63rd today, I really wouldn't worry about it.''

He was 59th.

''It was hot,'' Furyk said. ''The ball is going pretty far and the ground is quite firm. Statistically, it'll probably look pretty good.''

What looked superb was the 63 on his card, on a course he loves and has twice come within a shot of either winning or getting into a playoff. Furyk is No. 15 in the Ryder Cup standings, and he has played on every team - Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup - since 1997.

Even if doesn't earn one of the eight spots after the PGA Championship next week, he would have three weeks to audition as a captain's pick. One of the knocks against Furyk is that he doesn't make a lot of birdies. His strength is staying in every hole and fighting for every shot, as he showed against Donald in the last Ryder Cup in Wales.

''Eventually in my career, I'm going to miss playing on those teams, and I'm hoping it's not this year,'' Furyk said. ''I'd be lying if I said it wasn't on my mind. But I'm also wise enough to know that it's there in the back parts of my mind right now. And I know the only way to take care of business is to really focus on golf and the next shot and the next round, and forget about it and just try to play as well as I can and let those things work themselves out.''

Woods, meanwhile, said he would head to the practice green to work on his pace.

He missed nine putts from around 15 feet or closer, including a couple of them inside 5 feet for par. The rest of his game was reasonable, and starting out seven shots behind is no cause for him to panic.

''I was 3-under par. I mean, that's not that bad,'' Woods said. ''At the time I was three back of the lead and hadn't made a thing. I thought that was a good sign. Unfortunately, finished awful and here we are.''

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Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 12:41 am

ROGERS, Ark. – Since its first year on the LPGA Tour in 2007, the crowds at the NW Arkansas Championship have belonged to Stacy Lewis.

Another former University of Arkansas star staked her claim as the hometown favorite Friday when Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead at Pinnacle Country Club.

Like Lewis, the two-time winner of the tournament, Lopez starred as a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks before joining the LPGA Tour in 2016. Despite flashes of potential, Lopez had yet to join Lewis among the ranks of the world's best - missing the cut in her last two tournaments and entering this week ranked 136th in the world.

For a day, at least, the Mexican standout felt right at home atop the leaderboard in her adopted home state.

''I feel like home,'' Lopez said. ''I feel so, so comfortable out here, because I feel that everyone and every single person out here is just rooting for us.''


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok. Six others finished at 6 under on a day when only 26 of the 144 players finished over par, thanks to some mid-week rain that softened the greens and calm skies throughout the day.

Jutanugarn finished second at the tournament last year and is trying to win for the second time on the LPGA Tour this year. Her younger sister, Ariya, is already a two-time winner this year and shot an opening-round 66.

Lewis, the former world No. 1 who won the event in 2007 in 2014, finished with a 66. She's expecting her first child in early November

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.

Friday was Lopez's long-awaited day to standout, though, much to the delight of the pro-Arkansas crowd.

After missing the cut her last two times out, Lopez took some time off and returned home to Mexico City to rest her mind and work on her game. The work paid off with two straight birdies to open her round and a 6-under 30 on her front nine.

Lopez needed only 25 putts and finished two shots off the course record of 61, and she overcame a poor drive on the par-5 18th to finish with a par and keep her place at the top of the leaderboard. Her previous low score was a 64 last year, and she matched her career best by finishing at 8 under.

''(Rest) is a key that no one really truly understands until you're out here,'' Lopez said. ''... Sometimes resting is actually the part you've got to work on.''

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Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:28 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.

Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.

“Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.

Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.

“The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”

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10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:06 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.

Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.

Was it a birdie, or a par?

According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.

According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

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“Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”

Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.

“The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”

While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.

His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.

“I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”

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Travelers becoming marquee event for star players

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 11:29 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Get lost in the throngs following the defending champ, or caught up amongst the crowds chasing the back-to-back U.S. Open winner, and it’s easy to forget where this tournament was a little more than a decade ago.

The Travelers Championship was without a sponsor, without a worthwhile field, without a consistent date and on the verge of being jettisoned to the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The glory days of the old Greater Hartford Open had come and gone, and the PGA Tour’s ever-increasing machine appeared poised to leave little old Cromwell in its wake.

The civic pride is booming in this neck of the woods. Main Street is lined with one small business after the next, and this time of year there are signs and posters popping up on every corner congratulating a member of the most recent graduating class at Cromwell High School, which sits less than two miles from the first tee at TPC River Highlands.

Having made it through a harrowing time in the event’s history, the local residents now have plenty of reason to take pride.

The Tour’s best have found this little New England hamlet, where tournament officials roll out the red carpet in every direction. They embrace the opportunity to decompress after the mind-numbing gauntlet the USGA set out for them last week, and they relish a return to a course where well-struck shots, more often than not, lead to birdies.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Ten years ago, this tournament was also held the week after the U.S. Open. Stewart Cink won, and for his efforts he received a paltry 36 world ranking points. But thanks to a recent influx of star-power, this week’s winner will pocket 58 points – the same amount Rory McIlroy won at Bay Hill, and two more than Justin Rose got at Colonial. Now at the halfway point, the leaderboard backs up the hefty allocation.

While Brian Harman leads at 10 under, the chase pack is strong enough to strike fear in the heart of even the most seasoned veteran: McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, they of the combined eight major titles, all sit within three shots of the lead. Former world No. 1 Jason Day is one shot further back, and reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas will start the third round inside the top 20.

Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, both likely participants at the Ryder Cup this fall, are right there as well at 8 under. Casey lost a playoff here to Watson in 2015 and has come back every year since, witnessing first-hand the tournament’s growth in scope.

“It speaks volumes for what Travelers have done and how they treat everybody, and the work that Andy Bessette and his team put in to fly around the country and speak highly of this event,” Casey said. “And do things which matter, to continue to improve the event, not just for players but for spectators.”

Part of the increased field strength can be attributed to the Tour’s recent rule change, requiring players who play fewer than 25 events in a season to add a new event they haven’t played in the last four years. Another portion can be attributed to the short commute from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, a three-hour drive and even shorter across the Long Island Sound – an added bonus the event will lose two of the next three years with West Coast U.S. Opens.

But there’s no denying the widespread appeal of an event named the Tour’s tournament of the year, players’ choice and most fan-friendly in 2017. While Spieth’s return to defend his title was assumed, both Day and McIlroy are back for another crack this year after liking what they saw.

“Anyone that I talked to could only say good things about the tournament about the golf course, how the guys are treated here, how the fans come out, and how the community always gets behind this event,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I witnessed that for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it.”

After starting the week with all four reigning major champs and five of the top 10 players in the latest world rankings, only Masters champ Patrick Reed got sent packing following rounds of 72-67. The remaining top-flight contingent will all hit the ground running in search of more low scores Saturday, with Spieth (-4) still retaining a glimmer of hope to keep his title defense chances alive, perhaps with a 63 like he fired in the opening round.

The Tour’s schedule represents a zero-sum game. Outside of the majors and WGCs that essentially become must-play events for the game’s best, the rest of the legs of the weekly circus become victim of a 12-month version of tug-of-war. Some players like to play in the spring; others load up in the fall. Many play the week before majors, while a select group block off the week after for some R&R far away from a golf course.

But in an environment where one tournament’s ebbs can create flows for another, the Travelers has continued a steady climb up the Tour’s hierarchy. Once in jeopardy of relegation, it has found its footing and appears in the process of turning several of the Tour’s one-name stars into regular participants.

Rory. Jordan. Bubba. JT.

It’s been a long battle for tournament officials, but the proof is in the pudding. And this weekend, the reward for the people of Cromwell – population 14,000 – looks to be a star-studded show.

“All the events are incredible,” Thomas said. “But this is kind of one of those underrated ones that I think until people come and play, do they realize how great it is.”