McIlroy grabs share of lead before storms halt play

By Doug FergusonAugust 11, 2012, 11:45 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Tiger Woods watched the flight of his tee shot until he could see it drifting too far right, and he hung his head slightly as the ball tumbled off the green. Already with three bogeys in seven holes, it looked as though nothing was going right for him in the PGA Championship.

Dark clouds seem to have followed Woods on the weekend at majors this year. On Saturday at Kiawah Island, they might have saved him.

Facing a 7-foot putt to avoid another bogey, the darkening sky crackled with thunder and play was suspended with 26 players having to return for a marathon finish Sunday. That might be good news for Woods, not so much for Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy raced to the top of the leaderboard, and not even a tee shot that lodged into a tree on the third hole could slow him. Once he finally found it stuck in a rotted section of a thick limb, he took a penalty drop and drilled his wedge to 6 feet to save par.

He went out in 32 after a bogey on the ninth hole and was at 6-under par, tied with Vijay Singh, who was on the par-3 eighth hole.

''It's nice going into the final day - hopefully, if we get it finished - in a great position,'' McIlroy said. ''And it being 27 holes, I definitely don't mind. I don't mind if it takes a while to get done.''

Singh started and finished his short day with birdies - an 18-foot putt on the first, and a 25-foot putt on the par-5 seventh.

Right behind was Adam Scott, showing more magic than hangover from his British Open collapse last month. Scott was three shots out of the lead when the third round began and cruising along with pars until four birdies on the last five holes of the front nine. That stretch began with a shot he holed from a sandy area on the par-3 fifth, and it ended with a 45-foot birdie putt across the green on the ninth.

''Right now I am in good position,'' Scott said. ''Unfortunate not to continue because I was on a little bit of a run. But hopefully, I'll come back out and play 27 good ones tomorrow.''

About the only players disappointed to see the windswept third round end were the players who had already finished - Bo Van Pelt (67) at 3-under 213, Steve Stricker (67) at 2-under 214, Padraig Harrington (69) another shot behind.

And Woods.

''I got off to a rough start today and couldn't get anything going,'' Woods said through a spokesman. ''I'll come back tomorrow morning and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play.''

He failed to birdie the par-5 second hole when he tugged his approach into the back bunker and only blasted out to 20 feet. The real damage came on the third hole, the one that saved McIlroy. Woods hit a wedge into 4 feet, and his birdie putt raced by the edge of the cup.

It unraveled after that. He hit a spectator with his tee shot at No. 4, signing a glove for the fan, went over the green and muffed a difficult chip. Woods had to make a 4-foot bogey putt, and then hit another low hook that led to bogey on the fifth.

He started the third round tied for the lead with Singh and Carl Pettersson at 4-under 140. Seven holes into the third round, Woods already was five shots behind. It was starting to look familiar to Woods, who has yet to break par on the weekend at a major this year. This was the second time this year Woods had a share of the 36-hole lead going into weekend at the majors. He is 13-over par in his six weekend rounds at majors, including a 75-73 finish at Olympic Club to go from a tie for the lead to a tie for 21st in the U.S. Open.

The 26 players who didn't finish the round will return Sunday morning. The final round was to be played in threesomes of both tees, rare for a major championship.

Singh, the 49-year-old who has not been in contention at a major in six years, opened with a 15-foot birdie putt and made a strong recovery from trouble on the par-5 seventh by making a 25-foot putt to join McIlroy atop the leaderboard.

Pettersson was at 4 under through eight holes.

Stopping play might be the best thing that happened to Woods - and a tough break for those who finished.

''You never know what the weather will be like when they go back out,'' said Van Pelt, the clubhouse leader. ''So they might get the good end of it or the bad end of it. To me, just glad to be done. I did what I could do, and I'm sure before I go to bed tonight I'll know kind of where I stand going into tomorrow.''

Not really.

It's the first time since 2008 that the PGA Championship didn't complete three rounds on Saturday. Some players had to go 36 holes on the final day that year, and Padraig Harrington wound up winning his second straight major.

''Unfortunately, the weather gods turned against us today,'' said Kerry Haigh, the PGA's managing director of championships.

Harrington might be in the picture again, depending on how the rest of the field fares Sunday morning. He was 4 under on his round until a double bogey on the 10th hole, though that was his only big mistakes and he wound up with a 69. Harrington was at 1-under 215.

''I would rather it just stayed the way it was,'' Harrington said about the weather. ''Who knows what's going to happen now? ... It could be a good break, but it could be a bad break. We'll just have to wait and see how it all pans out. But would have settled for the guys to play the same conditions we played and have them play the back nine in the wind, because the back nine was a lot tougher than the front nine.''

McIlroy opened with a 15-foot birdie putt, followed with a long two-putt birdie on the par-5 second, and then the adventure began. His tee shot dropped out of the sky and into a crevice in the thick limb that appeared to be dying.

''I know the line of the ball was right on the tree,'' McIlroy said. ''We'd been looking for it for maybe about three minutes and then one of the guys that was working for TV came over and said, 'You know, it's actually stuck in the tree.' I'm like, 'How can it be stuck in this thing? There's no branches, no leaves for it to be stuck in. But it had wedged itself in between the tree bark and the actual tree.

''I was just happy to get it up-and-down for 4 and move on to the next,'' McIlroy said.

The next hole was just as good, though not as dramatic, when he holed a 15-foot putt for par, and then he hit his tee shot to about 5 feet on the par-3 fifth hole.

Stricker, trying to earn his way onto the Ryder Cup team, brought a chance at his first major championship into the picture when he ran off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch around the turn before missing a short putt on the 13th for his lone bogey. He finished with a birdie.

Trevor Immelman was 3 under through 10 holes, while Graeme McDowell remains poised to contend in a third straight major. He was at 2 under through 11 holes, and then ducked into the clubhouse to avoid the pounding rain. Players checked the weather on their phones, and saw nothing but bad weather.

''Disappointing,'' McDowell said. ''We've done well this week to avoid the storms that are pretty inevitable in this part of the country this time of the year.''

And it was slightly disappointing to have to stop, especially for those chasing.

''It was a great test of golf out there this afternoon, a nice 50 mph breeze to keep everyone honest,'' he said. ''We'll see how conditions are in the morning.''

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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  


Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open


Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)


Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.