Notes: Bay Hill, Memorial to award 3-year exemptions

By Doug FergusonJune 3, 2014, 9:25 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – The PGA Tour is honoring two of its most important players - Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus - by making their tournaments a little more meaningful in what has become a crowded golf schedule.

In a resolution approved at the last policy board meeting, winners of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the Memorial will receive a three-year exemption, instead of the two-year exemption from other PGA Tour events.

The tour also is discussing whether to allow the prize money at their events to be the highest this side of a major, World Golf Championship or The Players Championship.

Palmer and Nicklaus, along with a half-century of star power in golf, led the move in the late 1960s to break away from the PGA of America and form what is now the PGA Tour. Palmer bought Bay Hill in the late 1970s, and it has become a staple on the Florida swing. Nicklaus started his tournament at Muirfield Village in 1976.

In some respects, the tour is acknowledging how difficult it is for tournaments to distinguish themselves. In the last 15 years, the PGA Tour has added four WGCs and three FedEx Cup playoff events to the schedule.

''This was more our desire to recognize two iconic figures who started and operate two world-class tournaments that for decades were lynch pins on our schedule,'' said Andy Pazder, the tour's chief of operations. ''We wanted to make sure their place on the tour calendar, as far as being a high-caliber, world-class event, was secure for well into the future.''

It was unlikely the Byron Nelson Championship would get the same treatment. That event was around for two decades in Dallas until Nelson's name was attached to it.

ALLRED IS ALRIGHT: What started with one good round has taken Jason Allred places he never imagined.

He shot 66 to qualify for the Northern Trust Open, and then parlayed that into a 64 in the second round at Riviera that carried him to a tie for third and more money ($388,600) than the 34-year-old had made in his entire PGA Tour career.

Allred made the most of his most recent chance. He was given a sponsor's exemption to the Memorial, shot 68 in the second round to make the cut and then closed with a 66 to tie for 15th and pick up another six-figure check.

''It's been such a fun journey the last couple of months,'' Allred said. ''If you sat me down at the start of the year and said, 'This is what's going to happen,' on the one hand I would have thought you were crazy. But at the same time, all along I've believed in my ability to do this. The thing is, I'm learning to believe in it more, which is fun.''

Allred played only two full years on the PGA Tour out of Pepperdine, the last time in 2008. Why it took him until 34 to figure it out can be explained in one word - golf.

This is not a guy who takes these chances for granted.

He still remembers where he was when tournament director Dan Sullivan called him on the Saturday night before the Memorial to offer him the spot. And he was at Muirfield Village deep into every evening during the tournament, enjoying the moment with his family. His third child was born a week after his tie for third at Riviera.

His letters requesting an exemption are not run of the mill.

''He wrote a nice, compelling, personal letter to the exemption committee,'' Sullivan said. ''And that stuck with them.''

Allred said he sent an email that included links to stories about his week at Riviera, along with photos of his family to give a glimpse of his life off the golf course, and then he followed that with a handwritten note.

''Just try to let them know how much I love this game,'' Allred said. ''We try to be a blessing to others, to engage the fans and really enjoy it.''

The season is getting short. There are only six tournaments remaining where Allred can hope for an exemption. He is the equivalent of 145th in the FedEx Cup standings. If he could get equal points to No. 125 before the playoffs, he would have his tour card. If nothing else, he is assured a spot in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals.

''That is such a bonus,'' Allred said. ''I feel like if you're playing well in four tournaments, you'll have a chance.''

ANOTHER U.S. OPEN: Few players are as experienced at U.S. Open qualifying than Kevin Sutherland. The 49-year-old from Sacramento, California, qualified for the eighth time in the U.S. Open (he was exempt twice), even though he hasn't played a PGA Tour event since last August.

''You play golf, and when you get done, you see where you are,'' Sutherland said Tuesday after qualifying in San Francisco.

Sutherland has played sparingly since a neck injury. A former World Golf Championship winner (Match Play), he has asked for only one exemption in his career, at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am. He didn't get it. Instead, Sutherland drove down to Monterey as the sixth alternate and played a practice round at Spyglass Hill with longtime friend Paul Goydos.

Oddly enough, the first exemption he received was a few weeks ago from the USGA - to the U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree. Sutherland turns 50 on July 4. He would have qualified on his own through career money, except the cutoff for the exemption was before he turned 50. The USGA asked him to write a letter asking for an exemption.

''I think they gave it more because it was a technicality than it was me,'' Sutherland said.

PADRAIG'S ROLE: Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, longtime friends and World Cup partners for Ireland, had dinner in McGinley's home in London recently and covered just about every subject but one - the Ryder Cup.

McGinley is Europe's captain for the September matches in Scotland. Harrington has fallen out of the world 200 and last played in the Ryder Cup in 2010 as a captain's pick. He would seem to be an ideal vice captain.

''He'd never bring it up. I'd never bring it up,'' Harrington told Greg Allen of RTE radio in Ireland. ''Anyway, I would rather him be completely neutral when it comes to something like that.''

Harrington, however, left no doubt he'd take the job.

''I hope to be a Ryder Cup captain myself someday, and I see being a vice captain as part of the learning curve for that,'' he said.

DIVOTS: Patrick Rodgers is trying to make the most with whatever starts he can get on the PGA Tour. That's why he turned down an exemption into 36-hole sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, because he would have had to play the U.S. Open as a pro, and the Stanford star needs as much money (FedEx Cup points) as possible. Alas, the strategy didn't work when Rodgers didn't make it out of local qualifying. He makes his pro debut at the Travelers Championship a week after the U.S. Open. ... Pinehurst Resort & Country Club has acquired National Golf Club, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus and first opened in 1989. It will be renamed Pinehurst No. 9 and will be available to resort guests in July. ... Nick Faldo plans to play the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen a week before the British Open at Royal Liverpool. ... The BMW Championship will return to Conway Farms north of Chicago in 2015.

STAT OF THE WEEK: In his last three PGA Tour events, Rory McIlroy is a combined 12 over par in the second round, and 35 under in the other three rounds.

FINAL WORD: ''I don't think age was a factor. I think desire was a factor.'' - Jack Nicklaus, going five years without a major from 41 until 46.

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Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.

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S.H. Park, Salas co-lead rain-soaked Indy Women

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 1:42 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Sung Hyun Park relied on the same, steady style that has helped make her one of the LPGA's top players. When her putts kept rolling in Friday, she was virtually unbeatable.

Park shot a 9-under 63 for a share of the lead with Lizette Salas during the suspended second round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

''The best round of the year,'' the South Korean player said through an interpreter. ''My putting overall was what really helped.''

Salas, the first-round leader after a 62, had a 69 to match Park at 13 under at Brickyard Crossing. Danielle Kang and Nasa Hataoka were two shots back.

''It was going to be hard to top that 62 yesterday but I stayed patient,'' Salas said. ''This was a completely different golf course, so I had to change my mentality a little bit and I had to forget about the 62 in a way and just go back to what I was doing.''

Park has two majors and four overall LPGA victories the last two years, winning the U.S. Women's Open and CP Women's Open last year and the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic and KPMG Women's PGA Championship this season.

Nothing rattled Park on a sticky, overcast day.

''I worked on my short game the most, especially measuring the distances,'' Park said. ''It paid off.''

After more rain drenched the already saturated layout around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Park completed the round by putting out in a downpour that forced the afternoon groups to contend with a delay of nearly four hours.


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


In between the showers, the world's fourth-ranked player performed like a two-time major champion.

She birdied three of the first five holes to reach 7 under, started the back nine with three straight birdies then took the lead with her ninth and final birdie of the day on the par-4 17th.

Salas took a different tack one day after tying Mike McCullough's course-record 62.

Rather than take advantage of the course's soft greens, the 29-year-old American needed patience Friday. She opened with 12 consecutive pars then made three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6. After her first bogey of the tournament, on the par-4 eighth, Salas closed out the round with another birdie to tie Park.

Salas hasn't won since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship, but she's developed a real affinity for the Indy course where she's had five consecutive sub-par rounds dating to last year's fifth-place finish.

Kang, who kept Salas composed during a 77-minute rain delay Thursday, had a 68 to get to 11 under.

''I've been giving myself a lot of birdie chances,'' Kang said. ''That was my goal this week. I just have been feeling like I was in a little bit of a funk, so I told my caddie we were just going to pick a number, play my game, forget all the swing thoughts, forget everything and just kind of play it by feel.''

Kang hasn't recorded a bogey over the first 36 holes and is in contention for her first tour victory last year's KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

Hataoka shot 69.

Angel Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who was tied for second with Hataoka after the first round, was 10 under with eight holes left. Yin was tied for fifth with Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand and Amy Yang of South Korea, who also had eight holes to go.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson started on the back nine and birdied the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th. She was 6 under with 10 holes remaining in the second round.

And the course could change dramatically as it dries out.

Saturday's forecast calls for partly cloudy conditions with highs in the low 80s and Sunday is supposed to be mostly sunny with highs in the mid-80s.

Park promises to be ready for whatever weather arrives.

''I'm going to do really well,'' she said. ''I feel really good about my game, especially my short game. And it's just about the weather now, so hopefully the weather is good.''

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Snapshot of 2018 U.S. Amateur semifinalists

By Ryan LavnerAugust 18, 2018, 1:39 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – A U.S. Amateur Championship that began with 7,463 entries has been whittled down to just four players.

Saturday morning’s semifinals not only will determine the two finalists for the most prestigious title in amateur golf, but also the players who will receive a likely invitation to the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – the greatest consolation prize in all of sports.

It's Devon Bling vs. Isaiah Salinda. 

And Cole Hammer vs. Viktor Hovland. 

Here’s a snapshot of those left competing at Pebble Beach:



DEVON BLING

In Bling’s player profile, he wrote that his mother, Sara, always wanted to see him compete in USGA championships.

Unfortunately, she never got the opportunity – she passed away in 2013, to a mysterious ailment, when Devon was only 13.

“It took us totally by surprise,” he said Friday night. “In an instant, she was there and totally healthy, and the next day she was gone.”

The sense of loss was massive – Sara was always there, shuttling Devon to tournaments, walking with his group, supporting him.

“Losing her was extremely difficult for my family,” he said. “I know she’s still in my heart and looking down on me, and I’m just hoping to make her proud.”

Bling, now a sophomore at UCLA, has blossomed into a solid player who had yet to take his star turn. That’s beginning to change here at Pebble Beach, where his brother and father are whooping for his many great shots.

They had plenty of reason to cheer Friday, after Bling flipped a late deficit and beat Davis Riley, 1 up, to advance to the semifinals.

Bling led at only one point all match – when it mattered most, after the 18th hole.

He took an aggressive line on the par-5 finishing hole, taking driver left of the tree in the middle of the fairway, while Riley, playing conservatively after twice putting driver into the water during practice rounds, flared his long iron into the greenside bunker. Bling rifled his approach into the greenside bunker and splashed out to 3 ½ feet for the decisive birdie.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.



VIKTOR HOVLAND

Most golf fans’ only introduction to Hovland came last month. Playing on a sponsor exemption at the European Open, the Oklahoma State junior double-pumped during his backswing, regrouped and then drilled his tee shots.

It was a swing drill that had crept into his full swing.

“That helped for a little while,” Hovland said. “I found the center of the clubface and found the shot that I could hit on almost every hole.”

Aggressive, straight tee balls have been the key to his success this week at Pebble Beach. He’s been able to set the tone and continue to apply pressure on his opponents by consistently finding the fairway.   

Paired with a scorching-hot putter, Hovland sure doesn’t have the look of a player who counts only one tournament title outside of his native Norway.

He's been manhandling his opponents at the U.S. Amateur.

After trouncing Austin Squires, 7 and 6, on Friday – matching the largest margin of victory in a U.S. Amateur quarterfinal – Hovland has now led after 45 of 57 holes.

He led throughout a Round of 16 thumping of Kristoffer Reitan.

He led throughout a quarterfinal dismantling of Squires, too.

In his last two matches, he’s a combined 9 under par and has won 16 of his last 23 holes.

“I think I’ve definitely had the game to win more, but I’ve made a few bad decisions here and there and it adds up to you start being too far behind,” said Hovland, who won a college event last season at the Floridian. “My putter also hasn’t been good enough. My ball-striking hasn’t been super flashy, but it’s been consistent. It’s hard to win tournaments if you’re not putting well.”

He's swinging freely and making plenty of putts so far.



COLE HAMMER

The hottest player in amateur golf ran his match-play record this year to 17-1 after a 3-and-2 victory over Alex Fitzpatrick.

Playing the younger brother of 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Hammer went 3 under for his first five holes Friday and never gave his opponent a chance. He kept the ball in play, putted for birdie on nearly every hole and scrambled on the rare occasion he was out of position. In a near-impossible spot short and left of the ninth green, he played a soft pitch that landed on the crest of the hill and funneled into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“It was one of those one-in-a-million shots that just happened to go in,” he said.

They all seem to be dropping recently.

The incoming freshman at Texas won the Azalea Invitational at the start of the year, teamed with Garrett Barber to take the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior, went wire to wire at the Western Amateur and now has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur.

“I’ve played a ton of match play this year and come back from deficits,” he said, “and that speaks to the confidence I have and knowing I can get it done.”



ISAIAH SALINDA

After narrowly escaping in his Round of 16 match, Salinda once again dodged a worthy opponent on Friday afternoon.  

Salinda built a 4-up lead through five holes but was only one hole clear as he headed to the back nine. On six separate occasions, Gordon hit the lip of the cup on a putt or chip, allowing Salinda to stay in front down the stretch.

On 16, the Stanford senior finally put Gordon away: From 150 yards, he hit a controlled 9-iron that landed in the perfect spot, spun left and came within an inch of dropping for eagle. The conceded birdie gave him a 2-up cushion that he used to eventually win, 2 and 1.

“He’s a really good player,” Salinda said, “and I expected him to fight back.”

Salinda, who recently won the Pacific Coast Amateur, is playing in his first USGA event. Six times he’s been the first or second alternate out of a U.S. Junior or U.S. Amateur qualifier in Northern California. The trick this time was to head to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he qualified after playing the Trans-Miss Amateur.

Salinda won’t need to worry about qualifying next year – he’s already exempt into next year’s event.

He could earn a spot in even bigger events – the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – with another win Saturday.

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Garcia among bubble boys keeping playoff hopes alive

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 12:34 am

Sergio Garcia gave himself a chance to keep his perfect FedExCup Playoffs record going with his rally Friday at the Wyndham Championship.

D.A. Points moved into position to make a historic leap into the postseason.

And Johnson Wagner dunked his last shot of the day from long range to keep his hopes of making the playoffs alive.

But the day didn’t end nearly as well for Tyrone Van Aswegen’s FedExCup hopes.

Van Aswegen didn’t do himself any favors trying to hold on to the 125th spot on the FedExCup points list. He missed the cut by a shot.

Only the top 125 advance to The Northern Trust and next week’s start to the playoffs.

Van Aswegen wasn’t alone among “bubble boys” missing the cut. No. 122 Jhonattan Vegas, No. 123 Seamus Power, No. 124 Martin Piller, No. 126 Chad Campbell and No. 127 Robert Garrigus all failed to make the weekend.

Garcia is among 13 players who have advanced to the FedExCup Playoffs every year since they began in 2007, but his run was in jeopardy of ending starting the week. He’s 131st on the FedExCup points list

With a 65 Friday following his opening round 66, Garcia is in more than a great position to advance. He’s in position to win the Wyndham. He is tied for fourth, five shots off the lead. The day ended with Garcia projected to move up to 118th on the FedExCup points list.


Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Current FedExCup points list


“I'm just going to try to keep building on the things that I did well these first two days,” Garcia said. “Whatever happens, happens. Like I said at the beginning of the week, if I have a great weekend, then it will be great. If I don't have a great weekend, it will still be great because

I'll get to rest.”

Points started the week 214th on the FedExCup points list. With back-to-back 64s, he trails only Brandt Snedeker going into the weekend. He can crack the top 125, but only with a win. Nobody has ever started the Wyndham Championship that far back in points and qualified for the playoffs. Davis Love III was 186th when he won and advanced in 2015.

Wagner, 136th on the FedExCup points list, went to spectacular lengths Friday to keep his playoff hopes alive. He was outside the cut line until holing his 153-yard approach at the last.

Bill Haas, who is among those 13 players to have qualified for the playoffs every year, started the week 150th in points. He can keep his perfect playoff record going with a big weekend. He shot 68 Friday to make the cut. He’s tied for 52nd in the tournament.