Lee, Perez among four tied in chilly Tampa

By Doug FergusonMarch 14, 2014, 12:22 am

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Matt Every made the best of the worst conditions Thursday at Innisbrook. Danny Lee, finally, seems to be playing good golf in any weather.

They were among a four-way tie for the lead after the opening round of the Valspar Championship, a day so challenging that 3-under 68 was the highest score to lead after the first round in the 14-year history of this event.

Pat Perez and Greg Chalmers also had 68s to share the lead.


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Every was the only one among the leaders to play in the morning, when the temperatures were in the mid-50s and felt even colder because of a strong wind. He had three birdies on his last four holes, all of them about 15 feet or longer, and was five shots better than he would have hoped when he teed off.

''I would have been satisfied with 2 over today,'' Every said. ''It was tough. This morning you couldn't feel your hands. The wind was brutal.''

The temperature warmed under full sunshine in the afternoon, though that only helped a little. Only three players broke 70 in the morning, with the average score nearly 3 1/2 shots over par. Eight players broke 70 in the afternoon, and the average for the day turned out to be 72.6.

Lee was in the last group, and how he got to Tampa Bay explains why he was one of the leaders.

The former U.S. Amateur champion had missed every cut this year, and six straight dating to the OHL Classic in Mexico last November. That changed last week in the Puerto Rico Open, when he posted all four rounds in the 60s to finish second to Chesson Hadley.

That got him into the field at Innisbrook, and Lee kept right on rolling.

He ran off three birdies in five holes to start his round and was the only player all day to reach 4 under with a birdie on the par-5 first. He dropped his only shot on No. 6 when he failed to get up-and-down from the bunker.

''I gained a lot of confidence after last week playing with the finish in Puerto Rico,'' Lee said. ''It really helped me a lot with that confidence stuff, and I'm hitting it really well right now. My ball striking is the best it's ever been, especially with the putting. I got the new claw grip - still working great, which is fantastic.''

Only 25 players managed to break par.

Matteo Manassero, who didn't break 74 in four rounds at Doral last week, was in the large group at 69 that included Nicolas Colsaerts and Bill Haas. Russell Knox, who lost in a four-man playoff two weeks ago at the Honda Classic, was in the group at 70. John Merrick made bogey on his last two holes for a 70, while Peter Uihlein made birdie on two of his last three holes, including a 35-foot putt on his last hole, for a 70.

This is a big week for Uihlein, a European Tour member, who is No. 73 in the world. He has only two more tournaments to try to get into the top 50 in the world and become eligible for the Masters.

Justin Rose, at No. 7 the highest-ranked player in the world at Innisbrook, Luke Donald and 20-year-old Jordan Spieth were among those at 70.

More cold was expected Friday morning before the warming trend returns the rest of the week. That means Lee, Perez and the others could face wind and cold at the start of their second round.

Lee can only draw comparisons with his game, not the course or the conditions.

He had never been to the Copperhead course, regarded by many as perhaps the best tournament course in Florida. He played a practice round Tuesday and jokingly said he would have shot about a 90.

''I was shocked how hard it was,'' he said. ''Without the wind and the cold weather - even we're playing in nice weather - it's a very tough golf course.''

Every traded birdies and bogeys until a strong finish. He made birdie putts of 15 feet on the sixth and seventh holes, and then made a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth and he made par from a fairway bunker on his last hole.

''I've played enough to know the first round doesn't matter that much,'' Every said. ''This place is just going to be about not making doubles and taking yourself out of the tournament.''

Perez played well on the West Coast, earning nearly $1 million, and then took three weeks off. He worked a little with his coach, but felt some rust early, so he was happy to get around Innisbrook at 68. And he was lucky to be playing late.

''Definitely the guys that teed off at 7:40, 7:50, they had the hardest of what we're going to see this week,'' Perez said. ''I think so far we got the good side.''

DIVOTS: Angel Cabrera opened with a 72 with a backup set of clubs and rain gear belonging to swing coach Charlie Epps. Cabrera took one airline from Buenos Aires through Santiago and into Miami. The last he heard, his clubs and luggage were being shipped on another airline through Los Angeles. ... Blake Adams withdrew with a hip injury after opening with a 78. Adams missed all but two tournaments last season with surgery on his left hip.

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Kang on cheating allegation: 'I did the right thing'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 1:26 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three weeks after his playing partner claimed that he “cheated” while taking an improper drop at the Quicken Loans National, Sung Kang insisted Thursday that he did nothing wrong.

Joel Dahmen tweeted that Kang cheated after a lengthy dispute about where his ball had last crossed the line of a hazard. A PGA Tour official ruled in Kang’s favor, he made par on the hole, shot 64 and earned one of the available spots in the Open Championship.

Kang didn’t learn of the controversy until the next day, when he received an email from a PGA Tour communications official seeking comment. He researched online what the furor was about, then issued a brief statement through the Tour (which added its own statement, saying that there was “no clear evidence” to suggest that Kang dropped incorrectly).

Kang said he tried to clear the air with Dahmen before the first round of last week’s John Deere Classic, but they never had the opportunity to discuss their differences.

“I followed the rules official and I think I did the right thing,” Kang told a handful of reporters Thursday following his opening round at Carnoustie, where he shot a 2-under 69 to sit three shots off the early lead.

Kang said he was hesitant to discuss the incident with reporters, because he said there clearly was a difference in opinions. He said he’d already told his side to South Korean news outlets but that “whatever I say, some people are going to trust it and some people are not going to trust it. Then I’ve got to think about it more and more when it’s not going to help my golf game.”

“I really want to say a lot of things about it, the truth about what happened,” he added, “but I’m not going to say anything.”

Kang said that he wouldn’t alter his approach when dealing with rulings in the future.

“No. Why?” he said. “I did the right thing. There’s no point in changing.”

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Kisner (67) enjoying 'frat' life, soccer matches with Jordan and Co.

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:49 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The frat house tradition continued this year at The Open, with a group of seven high-profile Americans rooming together for the week, including early first-round leader Kevin Kisner.

Kisner explained after his opening 5-under 66 that the group – which includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler – has spent the week talking about how demanding Carnoustie is playing and enjoying the summer weather.

“We're out there playing soccer at night and hanging out,” he said.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


To be clear, this isn’t a proper soccer match, but instead a penalty-kick situation with all but one player taking turns trying to score.

“I just try to smash [Dufner] in the face,” Kisner laughed. “He's the all-time goalie.”

Although Kisner said he’s always impressed with the athletic prowess of other players, Spieth has proven himself particularly adept on the impromptu pitch.

“Jordan scored when Duf tripped, it was hilarious,” Kisner smiled. “[Spieth] is good until he sends it over the goal four houses over, and we've got to go knock on a neighbor’s door for the soccer ball.”

The group is actually staying in two local houses that are next to each other, one with a large enough back yard and a soccer net, but perhaps not enough soccer balls.

“We’re going to have to Amazon Prime a couple new balls to replace the ones we lost,” Kisner said.

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Van Rooyen continues links run with impressive 67

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 12:27 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For Erik van Rooyen familiarity has not bred contempt.

The South African, like many European Tour players, has been on a links golf odyssey the last three weeks, playing the Irish Open, Scottish Open and this week’s Open Championship in consecutive weeks, and the crash course paid off on Day 1 at Carnoustie when he opened with a 4-under 67 to assure himself a spot among the early leaders.

Although van Rooyen missed the cut last week just down the coast at Gullane Golf Club, he entered the final round in Ireland with a four-stroke lead.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I didn't pull it off the final day,” said van Rooyen, who closed with a 74 to tie for fourth place. “I still think I played pretty well. I was nervous. That's completely normal, and I'll learn how to deal with that. I'll take that experience into tournaments like this.”

Van Rooyen, who was alone in second place when he completed his round, began his round with back-to-back birdies and was bogey-free until the last hole. It was just what one would expect from a player who has immersed himself in links golf for the better part of a month.

“We've been playing nice golf now the last three weeks, so definitely used to the way this course is playing, definitely used to handling the wind,” he said. “So I'll be ready.”