Tigers 66 puts him in contention at the Masters

By Doug FergusonApril 9, 2011, 4:17 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Everyone could hear Tiger Woods charging on the back nine of Augusta National, with tree-rattling cheers after each of his five birdies as he made a familiar run up the leaderboard.

The question is whether the two youngsters ahead of him really cared.

Rory McIlroy, the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland, had already finished off his solid round of 3-under 69 Friday at the Masters. That gave him a two-shot lead over Jason Day, a 23-year-old from Australia, who showed off some of his fearless play with a 64.

It's the first time McIlroy has held the lead in a major going into the weekend. And now he's got Woods only three shots behind.

The kid didn't seem too concerned.

'If you start thinking about anyone else here, if you let your mind wander at all, it can cost you a couple of shots,' McIlroy said. 'I'll be focusing on my targets and focusing on where I want my ball to go on the greens, and that's all I can do. I don't really care what anyone else does. I don't need to know.

'It will be great for the tournament if he's up there,' he said. 'But I'm two shots ahead and I'm in a better position.'

Besides, the greater mystery might be Woods.

He has teased before in the 17 months since his last win. Even a year ago at Augusta, he was two shots back going into the weekend and never got any closer. The 14-time major champion has not been able to string together two great rounds since he made his return from a sex scandal last year at the Masters.

'I'm just trying to put myself in the mix come Sunday,' Woods said. 'It's irrelevant who's there. My whole job is to get myself there with a chance with nine holes to go. That's what we've always done. And I've been successful at it in the past by doing it that way.'

If his name on the leaderboard means anything, Saturday might be a time to find out.

And if the next generation of players is serious about becoming a star, the Masters would be a great place to prove it.

'I've played two good rounds to get myself here in this position,' said Day, who is making his Masters debut. 'Obviously, I'm not going to back down because I've got lack of experience.'

McIlroy, Day and 22-year-old Rickie Fowler, who shot 69 and was five shots behind, played in the same group the first two rounds and made it look like child's play at the Masters.

All of them were inspired by Woods winning the '97 Masters by a record 12 shots at age 21. Told they were 7, 8 and 9 years old at the time, Woods bowed his head and shook his head in disbelief.

'A little older now, I guess,' he said. 'It's the next generation. It's good to see these guys out here playing with that much enthusiasm and that much zest for the game. And that's good.'

But it also could present quite a challenge.

McIlroy was at 10-under 134, the lowest 36-hole score at the Masters since 2005. He has tied for third in the last two majors, although this will be his first time in the final group on the weekend at one of golf's biggest event.

It looked as though he might build a big lead going into the weekend until he stalled on the back nine, and now 10 players are within five shots of the lead on an Augusta National course where positions can change quickly.

K.J. Choi three-putted for bogey on the 18th for a 70 and put him tied with Woods at 7-under 137. Another shot back was former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who overcame a four-putt double bogey and a three-putt bogey on par 5s for another 69. He was tied with big-hitting Alvaro Quiros, who had a 73.

Fred Couples, the 51-year-old wonder at Augusta, somehow got into the mix, bad back and all. Couples shot a 68 and was in the group at 139 that included former PGA champion Y.E. Yang (72), Fowler and Lee Westwood, the runner-up at Augusta last year who got back into the mix with a 67.

Experience never hurts at the Masters.

'I'm playing my 12th one. I don't know how many they are playing, but I don't think it's that many,' Westwood said. 'I've been in the situation before, probably more recently than anybody around this golf course. I think it's a big advantage.'

Then again, Colin Montgomerie said the same thing when he was paired with a 21-year-old Woods in 1997 going into the weekend. Woods blew him away with a 65 and was on his way to a 12-shot victory.

It doesn't figure to be that easy for McIlroy, even as easy as he has made it look over two days.

His swing looked strong as ever when he pounded a driver on the fifth hole, leaving him a wedge that he hit to 6 feet for birdie, and another big tee shot set up a sand wedge to the back pin on No. 9 to 4 feet. He bounced back from his lone bogey with a 6-iron into about 10 feet for eagle on the 13th, though he missed the putt.

McIlroy never put himself under much pressure. He was having so much fun that he wasn't even paying attention to Day, one of his playing partners, who was slashing out of the pine straw and firing at flags, piling up one birdie after another.

'We had a lot of fun out there,' McIlroy said. 'I didn't even realize Jason was going so good. I saw he was 6 under on the 15th and thought, 'This is going to be a decent round.' We just fed off each other. The crowd got behind us.'

McIlroy, Day and Fowler were quite the group – ages 21, 22 and 23. The more important number was 18 birdies they made. McIlroy's only regret was not making as many putts as he would have liked.

'I can't really complain,' he said. 'I'm in the lead going into the weekend at the Masters.'

He's just not in the clear.

Woods made sure of that with three straight birdies around the turn – all of them inside 4 feet – a clutch par save on the 11th and three consecutive birdies starting on the 13th, again all of them from close range.

'I played myself back in the tournament,' Woods said. 'I'm three back, and we've got a long way to go. It's going to be fun.'

Phil Mickelson has far more work to do.

The defending champion played more aggressively, but failed to save par too often when he missed the green. Mickelson also failed to birdie the par 5s on the back nine and had to settle for a 72 that put him eight shots behind.

'There's a lot of golf left in this tournament, and I'm going to be making a run at him and the other guys ahead of me,' Mickelson said.

Asked what gives him confidence he can make a move, Mickelson replied, 'Three green jackets.'

The cut was at 1-over 145, matching the lowest ever at Augusta. Among those going home are the last three major champions - Martin Kaymer, now in danger of losing his No. 1 ranking; Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell.

Woods' 66 was his best round at Augusta since he shot 65 in the third round of 2005, which also is the last time he won the Masters. The two players in front of him have only three wins between them, none in a major.

But that's the thing with so many kids. They don't seem to care.

'I'm in the field. I'm in position. I have a chance to win,' Fowler said. 'I think any place is a good place for a first win, and I would love it to be here.'

Getty Images

Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by GolfChannel.com, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

Getty Images

D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

Getty Images

Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith admitted sleeping on the lead of the biggest tournament available to him might be a problem.

''I can't say, 'Oh, it won't bother me.' But to me, it's fun,'' Smith said after shooting a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

''To see my name on the board out there, it's not like I'm blind to the leaderboard, that was cool,'' said Smith, who is playing in his fourth Senior PGA and third at Harbor Shores - where he has made the 36-hole cut the previous two times.

''All my members are taking pictures and I know at home my members are pulling up that screen and like I tell them, going to the middle and looking down. So it probably took them a while to find my name today."

Petrovic, who was among the leaders in the Regions Tradition last week before a poor final round, said it was a little bit of a surprise when he heard Smith was at 7 under through 17 holes.

''There was a little bit of buzz, we were talking about it,'' he said. ''I heard somebody say 7 under and I said 'who is it? And we looked up, but we didn't know who the player was. In a tournament like this, you know how it is, there's always one guy, one smart-alec that shoots 7, 8 under in the first round.''

Smith, who birdied five consecutive holes starting at the seventh, played college golf at UCLA and knocked around the mini tours and South Africa for several years without ever gaining his tour card. He was college teammates with some of the players in the field, including Corey Pavin, Duffy Waldorf and Steve Pate, but said he no longer seeks the tour life.


Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship


''It's just not me anymore,'' he said. ''So that's why maybe I do have an advantage this week because it's just fun to me. It's like my wife said - just enjoy the ride.''

Petrovic had seven birdies in his round while McCarron and Lonard played bogey-free rounds. Short holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par 4 12th and made eagle on the par 5 ninth hole, his last hole of the day.

McCarron is the only one of the six leaders with a major on his resume. He won the Senior Players Championship last year, and played The Players Championship recently.

''It was a lot of fun being on that stage, of course being at The Players with the best players in the world playing one of the best golf courses in the world,'' he said. ''I think the preparation there and just being on that stage helped me going into last week in Alabama, and certainly this week.''

The top two money winners on the PGA Tour Champions are not in Benton Harbor. Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.

Paul Goydos, a five-time senior winner including the 2016 Charles Schwab Cup Championship, and Chris Williams of South Africa shot 67. Joe Durant, David Toms, Kenny Perry, Jerry Pate and Fred Funk were among 15 players at 68.

Colin Montgomerie, who won the first of consecutive Senior PGA titles here in 2014, shot 69, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off a win last week in the first major of the year at the Regions Tradition, opened with a 70.