Watney leads by 3 heading into Sunday at PGA

By Doug FergusonAugust 15, 2010, 5:10 am

2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – The only number that matters at the PGA Championship is on the scorecard, not the birth certificate.

Golf has been trending toward youth over the past several years, and on a Saturday at Whistling Straits, the final major of the year turned out to be a showcase of the next generation.

Leading the way was Nick Watney, whose college friends called him “Rube” after a character in “Major League II” because he was so polite to the seniors. He showed no mercy to Whistling Straits by firing off five birdies in the opening seven holes, leading the 29-year-old American to a 6-under 66 and a three-shot lead.

Right behind were 26-year-old Dustin Johnson and 21-year-old Rory McIlroy, two of the most talented young players on either side of the Atlantic. Both of them left their marks in the majors already this year, Johnson as the 54-hole leader in the U.S. Open, McIlroy for tying a record with a 63 at St. Andrews in the opening round of the British Open.


Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson is looking to atone for his Pebble Beach meltdown. (Getty Images)
Of the top six on the leaderboard – five of those players in their 20s –  none has won a major. The last time the top six contenders were this green in the PGA Championship was in 1992 at Bellerive, which Nick Price won for the first of his three majors.

“There’s some really good players that haven’t won a major,” Watney said. “And all the guys that have, at one point they hadn’t won, either. So you’ve got to start somewhere. And hopefully, tomorrow will be my day.”

Watney only seriously struggled at the end, when he went from deep rough on the right of the 18th to deep rough in the side of a hill left of the green. He did well to make a bogey and finish three long days at 13-under 203.

Johnson found enough accuracy to go with his awesome power for a 67, giving him a shot at redemption. He had a three-shot lead at the U.S. Open, only to lose it all on the second hole on his way to an 82.

He figures that will only help him.

“Any time you can be in that situation and know what to expect, you’ve definitely got a leg up on the other people,” Johnson said. “Because not everyone has been in that situation of being in the lead in a major. So I’m pretty confident. And I’ve been playing really well this week. I’m looking forward going into tomorrow.”

McIlroy also had a 67 while playing with Johnson, and while he made six birdies, he saved his round with a number of par putts from the 6-foot range that could easily have dropped him down the leaderboard.

McIlroy, who won the Quail Hollow Championship this year by closing with a 62, is coming off a memorable major of his own. He opened with a 63 at St. Andrews, got knocked sideways in the wind with an 80 in the second round, and rallied to tie for third.

Is he ready at age 21 to become the youngest major champion since John McDermott was 20 when he won the 1911 U.S. Open?

What’s too young anymore?

“The players are just getting so much better at a younger age,” McIlroy said. “Their confidence is so high that they can take on shots that other guys just might not have thought they could. I don’t know if that’s because most of the guys swing it better out here now or whatever, but it does seem the younger guys are coming out and they’re just a lot better and more ready to win.”

And there are a lot of them, especially at Whistling Straits.

Jason Day, the 22-year-old Australian who won in Dallas this year, had a 66 and was in the group at 9-under 207 that included Martin Kaymer, the 25-year-old from Germany who has top 10s in the last two majors. Kaymer shot 67.

The only player among the top six not in his 20s was the biggest surprise of all – Liang Wenchong, a 32-year-old from China who set the course record at Whistling Straits with a 64. He didn’t start playing the game until he was 15.

Some of these guys already were dreaming of winning majors at that age.

As for Tiger Woods? His only hope is to shoot his best round of his strange season on Sunday and try to earn a Ryder Cup berth.

Woods scrambled brilliantly in the morning to finish off the second round with a 70 and get within five shots, then opened the third round by stuffing his first couple of iron shots. He couldn’t make a birdie, however, and had to rally for a 72 on a day when the average score was 71 in soft conditions and relative calm.

Woods wound up 10 shots behind. He likely will need to finish at least in seventh place alone to make the Ryder Cup team.

“I just want to play a good round and see where that puts me,” Woods said.

Five of the last six major champions had never won one before, the exception Phil Mickelson this year at the Masters. To see so much inexperience at the top –  not to mention youth – is not nearly as surprising in a year in which 27-year-old Louis Oosthuizen won the British Open at St. Andrews, and 30-year-old Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland won at Pebble Beach.

“I guess you could say the younger guys are starting to play a lot better,” Johnson said. “We’re starting to contend in majors. We’re definitely moving forward, that’s for sure.”

Major championship experience is lurking.

Former Masters champion Zach Johnson shot a 69 and was in a group at 8-under 208 that included former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk (70) and former PGA champion Steve Elkington (67).

The course was such a pushover that 19 players shot in the 60s. But at least everyone could see, ending two days of fog delays that forced some to play 30 holes on Saturday.

Watney has only two PGA Tour victories, the most recent last year at Torrey Pines, and while he has top 10s in two majors this year, he was never a factor in either one.

It sure didn’t look that way Saturday, when he came out firing.

He birdied the first two holes with wedges inside 6 feet to jump past 36-hole leader Matt Kuchar, who didn’t make a birdie until the 16th hole and shot a 73 to fall six shots behind. Watney then ran off three straight birdies starting on the par-5 fifth, perhaps his best shot a 5-iron to 12 feet on the tricky par-3 seventh.

Mickelson continued to hit tee shots all over the course, and it finally caught up with him in a round of 73 that put in a tie for 48th.

Woods almost certainly will end a second straight year without a major.

Even giving himself a chance on Saturday was a minor miracle. He hit only five fairways, putted for birdie on only half of his holes and made every hole an adventure. Standing behind the 17th green, where Woods hit a 4-iron right at the flag on the dangerous left side of the green for birdie, caddie Steve Williams shook his head.

“In my 32 years as a caddie, this is the greatest 70 I’ve ever seen,” Williams said. Before heading to the 18th tee, he added, “And if he bogeys the last hole, it will be the greatest 71 I’ve ever seen.”

Woods made par, but only after hitting a huge cut with a 5-wood from a bunker that was sunken below the fairway, leaving his 60-foot birdie putt inches short. “I’m right back in the ball game,” Woods said, who finished his second round at 3-under 141, only five shots back.

As has been the case for so much of the year, however, no one can ever tell who is going to show up.

Two hours after he finished his second round with 25 putts, he missed birdie putts from inside 10 feet on the opening two holes and soon was spiraling down the leaderboard.

“I didn’t make any putts early when I stuffed them in there,” he said, “and didn’t get any momentum.”

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Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.

 

A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

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Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

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5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

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Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”