Notes: Watson coming up aces, feeling like a kid again

By Doug FergusonJuly 15, 2011, 8:56 pm

SANDWICH, England – Tom Watson refuses to be a ceremonial player, especially when it comes to the British Open. He showed what he was talking about Friday when he quickly turned things around with a hole-in-one on the sixth hole.

Watson drilled a 4-iron from about 160 yards into the wind, a shot that looked good from the time of that crisp click off his club. He never saw the ball bang against the pin and disappear, and he paused slightly even after hearing a sudden burst of cheering from fans perched atop the tall dunes surrounding the green.

He raised his arms, and eventually turned and took a bow for a packed grandstand behind him.

“I didn’t see it,” Watson said. “You can’t see it go in. I just saw it on the replay in there. It was a slam dunk. If it missed the flag it would’ve been 30 feet by. But it was lucky. They’re all lucky when they go in. But that’s what I was aiming at.”

It’s not all luck when it comes to Watson and the British Open he has won five times.

The oldest player in the field at 61, he wound up with an even-par 70 and was at 2-over 142, only six shots behind going into the final two rounds at Royal St. George’s. Not many expect him to contend, even though memories are fresh from when he came within one putt of winning at Turnberry two years ago. Perhaps that’s because Watson has struggled with his putting over the first two days.

Watson isn’t about to give up.

“If my putting was a little bit better, I’d give myself at least an outside chance, let’s put it that way,” he said.

The ace was the 15th of his career, many of them in competition. And it stirred some recollections of other times he made a hole-in-one.

His favorite came at Oakmont in 1969 at the U.S. Amateur. Watson already was 4 over through seven holes when he came to the monstrous par-3 eighth hole. He hit 3-iron into the cup for a hole-in-one, then made birdie on the ninth to get back into the game.

“That’s a really tough golf course, and that kind of got me back into the tournament,” he said. “And I ended up qualifying for The Masters by finishing fifth. So that kind of propelled me onto that.”

And then there was the first one, which did not come with the kind of applause he heard Friday.

In fact, no one clapped at all.

He was about 11 of 12, playing alone at Kansas City Country Club, when he made an ace on the second hole. Then came the desperate search for a witness. Seems there was a promotion in Golf Digest that if someone made a hole-in-one with a Dunlop ball, it would be used to make a plaque. All that was required was the ball, scorecard and a witness.

“My elation went from here,” Watson said, holding his hand high, “to, ‘Oh, man.”’

Watson said John Cosnotti, the assistant pro, walked over to the window and looked some 400 yards toward the second hole and said, “You know, Tom, I saw that go in.”

Watson still has the plaque.

SCHWARTZEL’S BOUNCES: Masters champion Charl Schwartzel was feeling better about his chances after a 67 in the second round. He’s not sure he hit the ball any better than Thursdays, but the bounces seemed to go his way.

And yes, there are a lot of bounces.

“Yesterday I felt I was playing well. I was hitting good shots and I was getting penalized for it,” Schwartzel said. “I was hitting tee shots on the lines I was aiming for—and you’re talking one yard either way and you’re absolutely perfect—and you end up in bunkers and chipping out sideways, and now all of a sudden grinding for bogeys.

“After a while,” he said, “that starts getting frustrating.”

Then again, the South African realizes that everyone is playing the same course. Everyone will be getting the odd bounce during a round.

“That’s what you sort of comfort yourself on,” he said. “You hope someone else is getting these sort of breaks.”

Schwartzel did get some good fortune of his own in the second round. His 3-wood into the par-5 14th was headed for trouble to the left when it struck a spectator in the head and bounced back toward a bunker. He wound up making par.

“It was actually a good break,” he said. “I felt sorry for the guy, but it’s one of those things.”

STRICKER STRIKES AGAIN: Steve Stricker has a chance at a feat achieved only once, and that was 40 years ago—winning a tour event, then winning the British Open the next week.

Lee Trevino did that in 1971 with the Canadian and British Open. Only nine other players have won the week before winning a major, the most recent being Tiger Woods at the Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship in 2007.

Oddly enough, Stricker couldn’t crack the top 50 the last two years that he won the John Deere Classic. On Friday, Stricker had a bogey on the easy par-5 seventh, but made enough birdies for a 71 and was only four shots out of the lead.

BACK HOME: Perhaps one reason Darren Clarke is having his best British Open in a decade is his move back home to Northern Ireland, mainly for his two sons and their schooling.

“The right time for Tyrone, my first born, to be with everybody else,” said Clarke, whose wife died of cancer in 2006. “It’s a lot easier to play better whenever family life and stuff at home is much better, much more stable again.”

The other perk?

Returning to Royal Portrush, the only links course outside Britain to host the Open Championship. It’s where Clarke grew up, learning to cope with strong wind and harsh weather. That’s what players generally face at the Open, and what they likely will get on the weekend.

“I’ve been doing a lot of practicing in bad weather because that’s usually what we get at Portrush,” he said. “It’s not always that bad. But it’s certainly been tough conditions practicing, not quite as easy as it was when I was living in London. It’s a case of getting used to playing in bad weather on links again, and that’s what I’ve been doing all over the winter and stuff at home. Hopefully, it will stand me in good stead.”

AGELESS LINKS: Tom Lehman has played three PGA Tour events this year with modest results. Put the 52-year-old on a links course that measures 7,211 yards and plays to a par 70, and he looks like a kid again.

Tom Watson is 61, nearly won the British Open two years ago, and will be playing on the weekend at Royal St. George’s.

Lehman is not surprised.

“Not being able to carry the ball as far actually benefits you in some ways on a lot of these tee shots,” said Lehman, who won the 1996 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. “The balls that travel so much further in the air tend to land in sports which are a lot more bouncy, a lot more humps and bumps, and balls that fly shorter—like mine—tend to land on more flat spots.”

Lehman said that’s true at some links, but especially here.

“That’s one reason the older guys, or the more experienced guys, are able to do OK,” he said. “Length isn’t required. It’s more about accuracy and the line you take and hitting it where you’re aiming.”

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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.”