Levin flawless to lead Bay Hill

By Doug FergusonMarch 25, 2011, 2:12 am
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. – Spencer Levin is atop the leaderboard after the opening round for the third time this year, so that’s nothing new. It was his score Thursday afternoon at Bay Hill that surprised him and everyone else.

In warm, blustery conditions on a course that allowed only three rounds in the 60s and the most rounds in the 80s in nearly two decades, Levin had a 6-under 66 and a three-shot lead over Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Tiger Woods and his power group of Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland provided the entertainment everyone expected, although not this variety. Woodland hit a tee shot onto another golf course, Johnson wound up 80 yards over a green and onto the next tee, and Woods’ angrily tossed his wedge after his best shot of the day.

Their scores weren’t impressive.

Woods missed a 10-foot par putt on the last hole for a 73, his highest opening round since 1999 at Bay Hill, where he is a six-time winner. Johnson and Woodland, coming off a win last week at Innisbrook, each shot 77.

Levin built the largest 18-hole lead of the year on the PGA Tour, but even that doesn’t illustrate how well he played. His 66 was nearly nine shots better than the average score at Bay Hill, which featured gusts over 20 mph and crusty conditions in the afternoon.

Fowler and Mahan played in the morning, as did Phil Mickelson, who opened with a 70.

The tough conditions showed themselves more at the bottom of the leaderboard. U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell had an 80, as did Bob Hope winner Jhonattan Vegas and Brandt Snedeker. Ricky Barnes shot an 82.

There were 13 rounds in the 80s, the most at Bay Hill since there were 24 in the second round in 1983.

And then there was Levin.

“Six under … I didn’t really even think about that on the range,” Levin said. “Because I know the course is hard, anyway, and then you 20, 30 mile per hour wind and makes it even more tough. “I was just kind of hoping anything around par, maybe anything under par, would be a good score in the afternoon for sure.”

As usual, it came down to putting.

Levin, who also had at least a share of the lead in the Honda Classic and Northern Trust Open at Riviera, holed a par putt from just off the green at No. 6 and chipped in for birdie from left of the second green. The finish kept his spirits high. From the right bunker on No. 8, he blasted out across the green and down the slope to 8 feet for par, then atoned for a mediocre bunker shot on No. 9 with a 10-foot putt.

“That was nice,” Levin said. “Obviously, a lot better mood. Parred the last two when I could have bogeyed, so that was good.”

There wasn’t much good about the feature group.

Woods struggled with his tee shots on the front nine and didn’t hit a single fairway, although he only was in big trouble once off the tee. The bigger problem was the wind, and Woods twice had to back off putts because he couldn’t keep still.

“I didn’t drive it well starting out, and then I golf a hold of that,” Woods said. “Hit my irons well all day, and on the green, it was just tough to take the putter back straight because the wind was gusting and it was tough to get the right speed.”

It looked as though he might not have to putt on the par-5 12th with a wedge that covered the flag. It hit the bottom of the pin and spun back some 25 feet. Woods dropped his club then flung it toward his bag.

Johnson and Woodland, two of the biggest hitters, each reached a par 5 in two with the wind straight into them – Woodland on the 560-yard fourth, Johnson on the 557-yard 12th.

They also hit shots rarely seen at Bay Hill.

In a left-to-right wind on the par-5 sixth, Woodland lost it to the right. It bounced off a cart path, over the fence and wound up in the water on the par-3 “Charger” course at Bay Hill, which is out of bounds. That led to a double bogey.

On the eighth, Johnson caught a flyer out of the rough and after a few bounces on the cart path, his ball finally settled 80 yards over the green and toward the front of the tee box on No. 9. Johnson was left with a blind shot over the trees and a TV tower, and it carried all the way into the water, leading to a double bogey.

Fowler set the pace in the morning and reached 5 under, helped by an eagle on the 16th. He didn’t finish as well as Levin, however, dropping shots on the eighth and ninth hole to end his round at 69. It was enough to lead until Levin warmed up.

“It’s nice to have fresh green the first nine holes, and the greens are still soft,” said Fowler, who was in the first group of the day. “You don’t have to worry about balls bouncing too much.”

Mickelson didn’t hit it his best, was pleased with his short game, especially on the greens. He took only 26 putts, and like Fowler, said it helped that the greens rolled true except in a crosswind.

“I was able to salvage par with my short game, and it was a good opening round,” Mickelson said. “I’ll certainly take it.”

Levin, entering his third year on tour and still looking for his first win, now gets to try to build on his lead Friday morning when conditions should be a little more tame.

Woods feels the same way. Sure, it was his highest opening round since a 74 in 1999, but it wasn’t awful compared with the field.

“I think even par to under par would have been a good score this afternoon,” Woods said. “Spencer obviously played well. But most of the low scores were this morning, so I’m still right there in the ball game.”

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below:

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Bubba gets to drive dream car: K.I.T.T. from 'Knight Rider'

By Grill Room TeamMay 25, 2018, 4:42 pm

Bubba Watson is a known car aficionado.

He purchased the original General Lee from the 1980’s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard” – later saying he was going to paint over the Confederate flag on the vehicle’s roof.

He also auctioned off his 1939 Cadillac LaSalle C-Hawk custom roadster and raised $410,000 for Birdies for the Brave.

He showed off images of his off-road Jeep two years ago.

And he even bought a car dealership near his hometown of Milton, Fla.

While recently appearing on the TV show “Jay Leno’s Garage,” the former “Tonight Show” host surprised Watson with another one of his dream cars: K.I.T.T.

The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was made famous in the ‘80s action show “Knight Rider.”

Though, Bubba didn’t get to keep this one, he did get to drive it.

Bubba Watson gets behind the wheel of his dream car—the KITT from Knight Rider from CNBC.

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Cut Line: USGA readies for Shinnecock 'mulligan'

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 3:26 pm

In this week’s Memorial weekend edition, the European team adheres to the Ryder Cup secret formula, the USGA readies for the ultimate mulligan at next month’s U.S. Open and a bizarre finish at the Florida Mid-Am mystifies the Rules of Golf.

Made Cut

Cart golf. When the U.S. side announced the creation of a Ryder Cup task force following the American loss at Gleneagles in 2014, some Europeans privately – and publicly – snickered.

The idea that the secret sauce could be found in a meeting room did stretch the bounds of reason, yet two years later the U.S. team emerged as winners at Hazeltine National and suddenly the idea of a task force, which is now called a committee, didn’t seem so silly.

To Europe’s credit, they’ve always accomplished this cohesion organically, pulling together their collective knowledge with surprising ease, like this week when European captain Thomas Bjorn rounded out his vice captain crew.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald (a group that has a combined 47-40-13 record in the matches) were all given golf cart keys and will join Robert Karlsson as vice captains this year in Paris.

Perhaps it took the Americans a little longer to figure out, but Bjorn knows it’s continuity that wins Ryder Cups.



Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

The USGA’s mulligan. The U.S. Open is less than a month away and with it one of the most anticipated returns in recent major championship history.

The last time the national championship was played at Shinnecock Hills was in 2004 and things didn’t go well, particularly on Sunday when play had to be stopped to water some greens that officials deemed had become unplayable. This week USGA executive director Mike Davis was asked about the association’s last trip to the Hamptons and, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to reinvent history.

“Looking back at 2004, and at parts of that magnificent day with Retief (Goosen) and Phil Mickelson coming down to the end, there are parts that we learned from,” Davis said. “I’m happy we got a mulligan this time. We probably made a bogey last time, maybe a double bogey.”

Put another way, players headed to next month’s championship should look forward to what promises to be a Bounce Back Open.

Tweet of the week:

Homa joined a chorus of comments following Aaron Wise’s victory on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, which included an awkward moment when his girlfriend, Reagan Trussell, backed away as Wise was going in for a kiss.

“No hard feelings at all,” Wise clarified this week. “We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was.”


Missed Cut

Strength of field. The European Tour gathers this week in England for the circuit’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, and like the PGA Tour’s marquee stop, The Players, the event appears headed for a new spot on the calendar next year.

As the PGA Tour inches closer to announcing the 2018-19 schedule, which will feature countless new twists and turns including the PGA Championship’s move to May and The Players shift back to March, it also seems likely the makeover will impact the European Tour schedule.

Although the BMW PGA currently draws a solid field, with this week’s event sporting a higher strength of field than the Fort Worth Invitational on the PGA Tour, it’s likely officials won’t want to play the event a week after the PGA Championship (which is scheduled for May 16-19 next year).

In fact, it’s been rumored that the European Tour could move all eight of its Rolex Series events, which are billed as “unmissable sporting occasions,” out of the FedExCup season window, which will end on Aug. 25 next year.

Although the focus has been on how the new PGA Tour schedule will impact the U.S. sports calendar, the impact of the dramatic makeover stretches will beyond the Lower 48.

Rules of engagement. For a game that at times seems to struggle with too much small print and antiquated rules, it’s hard to understand how things played out earlier this month at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Jeff Golden claimed he was assaulted on May 13 by Brandon Hibbs – the caddie for his opponent, Marc Dull, in the championship’s final match. Golden told police that Hibbs struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

The incident occurred during a weather delay and Golden conceded the match to Dull after the altercation, although he wrote in a post on Twitter this week that he was disappointed with the Florida State Golf Association’s decision to accept his concession.

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Because of the conflicting statements, it’s still not clear what exactly happened that day at Coral Creek Club, but the No. 1 rule in golf – protecting the competition and the competitors – seems to have fallen well short.

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.



Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath.