Stallings leads the Memorial; Woods 4 back

By Doug FergusonMay 31, 2012, 11:32 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Erik Compton considers the Memorial a special week no matter how he plays, knowing his second heart transplant came from a donor in Ohio.

The opening round was even sweeter with three birdies on the back nine late Thursday afternoon at Muirfield Village for a 5-under 67, leaving him one-shot out of the lead after a day that featured a timely rally by Rory McIlroy and a surprising departure by Phil Mickelson.

When the day ended, Scott Stallings was atop the leaderboard with a 66 and hardly anyone noticed.

Compton has been an amazing story as long as he has played golf. He had his first heart transplant at 12, played in the Walker Cup after a solid career at Georgia, nearly died from a heart attack on his way home from the golf course in 2007, had a second transplant in May 2008, and earned his PGA Tour card for the first time last year through the Nationwide Tour.


Memorial Round 1 highlights


'It's just a great story, obviously, and it's a great place – for me, it's a special place,'' Compton said. ''For me, there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about my donor. To be able to play here, regardless of whether I play good or bad, it's just always a nice week.''

It could have been another bad week for McIlroy.

Coming off back-to-back missed cuts that cost him his No. 1 ranking and ramped up the scrutiny, McIlroy took a quadruple bogey on his third hole of the tournament when he went from the bunker to the water, back over the pond to the drop area on a forward tee, and then into another bunker. He blasted onto the green and took two putts for a 7, and there were murmurs from the crowd to see him at 4-over par so early.

The next 15 holes were much better, and he rallied for a 71.

''It wasn't the start I wanted to get off to, being 4 over through three holes, especially after the last few weeks,'' McIlroy said. ''I was just like, 'Here we go again.' But I hung in there well, and proud of myself for the way I just fought back. To finish the round under par, I thought was a really good effort.''

Tiger Woods, playing in the group behind him, chopped up the 18th hole for a double bogey and still managed a 2-under 70.

''I didn't do anything great and I didn't do anything poorly,'' Wood said. ''I was just very consistent. And I think with the golf course being the way it's set up, you just have to be that way. ... Over the next three days, hopefully I can play as well as I did today.''

Mickelson wasn't anywhere near those scores, and when his round ended, he was nowhere near the golf course. Mickelson walked out of the scoring hut after signing for a 79 - his worst score ever at the Memorial - and said he was withdrawing because of mental fatigue.

He said playing three straight weeks, followed by a trip to Europe for his wife's 40th birthday, took too much out of him and he needed extra rest with the U.S. Open only two weeks away. Mickelson was among four players who withdrew after a 79 or worse, though none of the others are four-time major champions who were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

''I feel like it's the responsibility of a player to see through your commitment and finish the tournament and so forth,'' Mickelson said. ''And I'm kind of overruling that just a touch, because I'm trying to think big picture on what's the best way for me to get ready for the Open.''

The bigger picture might have been the fans in the gallery using their cellphones for photos of Mickelson, Masters champion Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler. Mickelson has a peculiar way of sending a message, though he danced around a question of whether distractions played a role. He said only he struggled to focus from a busy month.

Watson and Fowler painted a different picture.

''It took Phil out of his game,'' Watson said.

Fowler, a little more diplomatic, said the players had to restart their pre-shot routines because of the phone cameras.

''You could see Phil was a little fatigued and was having trouble blocking it out a bit,'' Fowler said.

Muirfield Village was enough to get anyone's attention, even those who had hardly anyone watching them. The first round was played under bright sunshine most of the day, and the course was as fast as it has been in years. Only four players managed to break 70 from the morning wave. Later in the afternoon, as the breeze subsided and some cloud cover arrived, Stallings, Compton and Spencer Levin made a surge.

Stallings had nine one-putt greens and chipped in for eagle on the par-5 seventh. Levin holed a 25-foot eagle on the seventh hole and made birdie on the eighth until dropping a shot on his final hole to join Compton at 67.

Defending champion Steve Stricker bogeyed his last three holes for a 73. Luke Donald, back to No. 1 after winning at Wentworth, felt like he shot much higher. Thanks to his superb short game, particularly three putts to save par from bunkers, he managed a 71.

McIlroy hit three balls in the water on his front nine, though he saved par on one of them. His putter saved him. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland twice made 8-foot par putts, avoid a three-putt on the 18th with a 6-foot par putt and sprinkled in enough birdies to stay in the game.

The turning point came at the par-5 fifth, when he hooked his tee shot for the gallery. He cursed through clenched teeth, and holding his driver behind him, whacked himself in the back with the grip a couple of times. From the left rough, he played an aggressive fairway metal, low and hot and dead straight, avoiding the water down the left side of the fairway. The ball came up about 15 yards short of the green, and he pitched in for eagle.

''I see enough good shots out there to give me encouragement,'' McIlroy said, one eye toward his title defense in the U.S. Open in two weeks. ''There's still a few that I don't like, but as long as the good ones are in there, then you see the positives.''

Getty Images

Simpson overtakes DeChambeau in Ryder Cup race

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:09 pm

A T-12 finish at The Open allowed Webb Simpson to move past Bryson DeChambeau into the eighth and final automatic qualifying spot in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race with just three weeks to go.

Simpson finished the week at 3 under, five shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. Adding another strong result to his win at TPC Sawgrass and T-10 finish at the U.S. Open, he's now edged in front of DeChambeau by less than 41 points. But with players earning one point per $1,000 each of the next two weeks and 1.5 points per $1,000 at the PGA Championship, the race is far from over.

Jordan Spieth's T-9 finish strengthened his position at No. 6, as the top six players are essentially assured of qualifying automatically. Rickie Fowler held onto his spot at No. 7, while Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner both moved onto the bubble following T-2 finishes at Carnoustie. After a T-6 finish, Tiger Woods jumped from 31st to 20th.

Here's a look at the updated American standings, with the top eight after the PGA qualifying automatically and captain Jim Furyk adding four picks in September:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Webb Simpson

---

9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Xander Schauffele

12. Matt Kuchar

13. Kevin Kisner

14. Tony Finau

15. Brian Harman

On the European side, Molinari was already in position to qualify automatically but is now assured of a spot on Thomas Bjorn's roster this fall. Fellow major champs Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy also solidified their footing with runner-up performances.

Here's a look at how things look for the Europeans, with the top four from each list after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

European Points

1. Francesco Molinari

2. Justin Rose

3. Tyrrell Hatton

4. Tommy Fleetwood

---

Thorbjorn Olesen

Russell Knox

Eddie Pepperell

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Alex Noren

3. Rory McIlroy

4. Paul Casey

---

Matthew Fitzpatrick

Sergio Garcia

Ian Poulter

Getty Images

Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

Getty Images

Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

Getty Images

Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.