Notes: McIlroy's American dilemma; Lefty's lament

By Doug FergusonJune 22, 2011, 12:05 am

BETHESDA, Md. – When Rory McIlroy walked onto the first tee Sunday at the U.S. Open, he briefly acknowledged one golf official and quickly extended his hand to warmly greet two others, USGA executive director Mike Davis and USGA president Jim Hyler.

The first official who got little more than a nod was PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

That scene was a reminder that while a star was born outside the nation’s capital, McIlroy is only a part-time golfer in America.

McIlroy decided last year not to renew his PGA Tour membership, which required him to play 15 times (including the four majors and three World Golf Championships). He now can play only 10 events a year. The tour amended its policy so The Players Championship would not count against the 10, but McIlroy chose not to play that, either.

There are no hard feelings with the PGA Tour, or with Finchem. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland simply found himself playing too much golf right about the time the FedEx Cup playoffs got under way in late August, which would be the reason to take up membership in America in the first place.

Still, it leaves the PGA Tour with limited exposure of golf’s new Boy Wonder. And that wouldn’t seem to help as the tour negotiates a new television contract that expires after 2012.

“Rory’s performance in the U.S. Open has generated a lot of interest and a lot of excitement,” PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said Tuesday. “Who knows what the future holds with respect to his membership status.”

There is talk that McIlroy might consider joining the PGA Tour again, although likely not until the 2013 season. Chubby Chandler, his agent at International Sports Management, suggested Sunday evening that McIlroy has “a duty to be over here a little bit more being the Open champion.”

“So I think obviously there’s a good chance that he’ll play a little bit more over here,” Chandler said. “But he won’t play a lot because he can’t do both tours.”

Tour officials likely will bring up its membership policies, as they do just about every year, and decide if anything needs to be changed. One policy that seems to unfairly punish McIlroy is that he is restricted to 10 events (not including The Players) because he gave up his membership, while Martin Kaymer and Alvaro Quiros can play 12 Tour events because they never joined the PGA Tour.

Finchem was an observer in the final group, and after seeing that record-setting performance said it would only help golf.

“Rory’s victory this week creates a lot of interest globally,” Finchem said. “It’s a global game. That’s the way you have to look at it. We’d love to have him play a little bit more, but there’s an integration of tournament and competition t – hat’s what the fans are into. Candidly, it’s in our interest for the European Tour to be very, very strong. So if he’s playing more on the European Tour and we have Paul Casey and Luke Donald playing more over here, that’s a good thing.

“So it’s all good,” he said. “There’s no downside to it.”


LEFTY’S LAMENT: For only the third time since he has been playing all four majors, Phil Mickelson heads to the British Open without having finished in the top 10 in the first two majors of the year.

“I just didn’t play how I had hoped,” Mickelson said after finishing 23 shots out of the lead, his largest gap ever at the U.S. Open. “It just gets me more geared up to look forward to the British. We had some big tournaments – the British and the PGA – coming up, as well as the FedEx Cup. So I’ll have the next two weeks to try and get my game ready and head over to Europe.”

Mickelson’s next start is the Scottish Open, played this year at Castle Stuart.

His win at the Houston Open is looking more like an anomaly, and his performance in the majors has tailed off since he realized he was dealing with a rare form of arthritis last summer.

Mickelson has finished out of the top 10 in four straight majors.


THE BIGGER, THE BETTER: Padraig Harrington thinks the U.S. Open is more fair when it starts out on a big, strong course like Bethpage Black or Torrey Pines and Congressional, giving it room to scale back and still challenge the players.

His concern is the smaller courses, and he only hopes the USGA doesn’t go to extremes to compensate for their lack of length. The first test figures to be Olympic, followed by a return to Merion in 2013.

“The problem has always been when you went to a tricky golf course, all of a sudden you’ve got to find a way to protect it,” he said. “It’s much better off going to a big, strong golf course. I’ve got to say, Augusta before the changes, the pin positions were getting right on top of the slopes. Now that it’s a bigger golf course, the pins are three or four paces from the ridge.”


BRITISH OPEN: Winning the St. Jude Classic did not get Harrison Frazar into the British Open, but it gave him a big step in getting to Royal St. George’s. With two tournaments remaining, Frazar leads a special money list that consists of THE PLAYERS Championship and five PGA Tour events through the AT&T National next week.

The top two make it off that money list.

Not including those already exempt for the British Open, Frazar is at over $1.05 million, and the next person on the list would be Paul Goydos, who is at $646,000 from his third-place finish at The Players Championship. Still very much in the picture are Brandt Jobe ($622,055), and even Kevin Chappell, who is at $411,141 on the strength of his tie for third at the U.S. Open.


DIVOTS: Jason Day has been runner-up in the last two majors. The last time a player was a runner-up in the successive majors without winning was Tiger Woods in the 2007 Masters and U.S. Open. Day also is the only player who has finished in the top 10 at the last three majors. … One similarity between Rory McIlroy’s U.S. Open title at Congressional and Tiger Woods’ win at Pebble Beach – McIlroy was 37 shots ahead of last place, while Woods was 41 shots ahead of last place in 2000. … Charl Schwartzel has shot 66 in the final round of both majors this year. … Because only the majors count this year, The Ryder Cup standings for the American team start with Bo Van Pelt, Kevin Chappell and Robert Garrigus.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Rory McIlroy has shot par or better in 14 of his last 16 rounds in the majors.


FINAL WORD: “They evidently think there is value in advice from an old man.” – Jack Nicklaus, on meeting with Rory McIlroy and other young players in recent years.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”