McGladrey taking multiple-course trend to East Coast

By Doug FergusonOctober 28, 2014, 11:13 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - The McGladrey Classic will be the fourth PGA Tour event next year to use multiple courses, and the first that is not in California.

It's all about timing and opportunity.

The McGladrey Classic will be the last official event in 2015, taking the spot now held by Mexico. But once daylight saving time arrives at the end of October, it's a scramble for even a 132-man field to finish.

The plan is to use the Seaside and Plantation courses at Sea Island Golf Club. Not only will using both courses allow the rounds to finish with plenty of daylight, the field can be expanded to 156 players at a time when Web.com Tour graduates are trying to get spots. Davis Love III, the tournament host, also expects a stronger field because it will not be the week before or after the Asian swing. 

''Some guys like it, some guys don't,'' Love said of the multiple courses. ''But if we get a better field - 10 guys better because it's the last one of the year, and no conflicts going to Malaysia - then you lose 12 spots when you go down to 132 players. We want to play two (courses) so we can get as many guys in as we can.''

The one drawback could be the weather. It can get chilly the week before Thanksgiving, especially along the water.

The McGladrey has never had the same date in its five years. Love would like to go first, though that spot is held down by the Frys.com Open. If nothing else, it's critical that it not be the same weekend as the Georgia-Florida game. St. Simons Island is the home base of Georgia fans the week of the game.


MONEY LIST: The PGA Tour was ready to base all its criteria on the FedEx Cup points after making it through the first wraparound season. That was until the four players on the PGA Tour policy board stepped in on behalf of the money list.

As a result, players can still keep their card by finishing in the top 125 money list this year - and maybe for following years.

One of the four player-directors - Paul Goydos - made one interesting distinction in his request. Instead of the board voting each year whether to keep the money list to determine who keeps their cards, the board would have to take action to remove it.

So far, it hasn't made much of a difference.

Nicholas Thompson, Mike Weir, Jim Renner and Charlie Beljan kept their cards for the 2014-15 season by finishing in the top 125 on the money list. A year ago, four players who didn't make the FedEx Cup playoffs also kept their cards.


CADDIE CAROUSEL: Chris Kirk will use three caddies in his next five tournaments, and that's by design.

In an era when players tend to stick with one caddie until the relationship gets stale, Kirk likes to bounce around. Laddie Cline was with him at Sea Island and will be on the bag for the BMW Masters and HSBC Champions in Shanghai. G.W. Cable, who normally caddies for Heath Slocum, will work for Kirk at the Hero World Challenge and the Franklin Templeton Shootout in Florida.

Bill Harke, with whom Kirk won twice last year, will rejoin him at Kapalua.

''Harke is kind of my caddie now, but he takes breaks,'' Kirk said. ''That's just how I like to do it. It keeps the conversation fresh, helps me relax and play well. It's taken me years to get the formula just right.''


CINK'S COMPANY: Stewart Cink hasn't won a tournament in more than five years dating to his British Open title at Turnberry. But he hasn't lost perspective on a game that takes far more than it gives. 

''You know what you can do,'' he said. ''And when you're continually not doing it, it's easy to get down on yourself. But you've got to realize you're not the only one who has a rough day or a rough hole. A lot of times you can feel like an island out there.''

That led to a query - is it better to spend time around those who are struggling or those who are succeeding.

''It's dangerously easy to hang out with the strugglers,'' he said. ''You want to commiserate, but it's easy to spiral. There are plenty of guys out here who will tell you about struggles. You want names? Everybody who's ever started in a PGA Tour event.''

Cink has gone 30 straight events since his last top 10 - the AT&T National in 2013 - though he doesn't lack of motivation. And while he finished just outside the top 30 in his two starts this year, he is seeing enough good signs. He opened with a 64 in Las Vegas and shot a 63 in the third round at Sea Island.

''When you see good scores come out early in the season, it leads to a confident attitude,'' he said. ''You come out with a different set of goals. And I've always felt if you're making a lot of birdies, it's easier to iron out mistakes than to try to make birdies out of nothing.''


MILLER & SON: Johnny Miller is stepping out of the broadcast booth and onto the golf course.

Miller and his son Andy, who missed the cut in the Frys.com Open earlier this month, will play in the PNC Father-Son Challenge on Dec. 12-14 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida. It will be the first time since 2006 that Miller played in the event.

Andy Miller played one year on the PGA Tour before going off on a mission.

''We will play hard,'' the two-time major champion said. ''But this will be more to have an enjoyable, relaxing weekend. He is going to have to do most of the work off the tee. I still hit my irons pretty good and I'm putting better. The bottom line is it will be a good time to be with Andy and spend some days with him. It will be a lot of fun.''


DIVOTS: One Las Vegas bookmaker listed Rory McIlroy as the 5-1 favorite to win the Masters, followed by Tiger Woods (12-1) and Adam Scott (15-1). Defending champion Bubba Watson is in the group at 20-1 with Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. ... The European Tour has another tournament in China. The Shenzhen International will be April 16-19, the week after the Masters, at Genzon Golf Club. ... Bob Ford, the head pro at Oakmont and Seminole, will start hosting a monthly radio show in January on SiriusXM PGA Tour radio that concentrates on competitive amateurs.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Zach Johnson is the only player from the top 25 in the world ranking who has not competed outside the United States in the past five years except for the British Open.


FINAL WORD: ''When your short game is no good, then you can't get it up and down. So you can't shoot 70 or 71 on those halfway days and stay in the golf tournament.'' - Will MacKenzie

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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

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“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.”