My 2016 moment: Reed-Rory singles match

By Ryan LavnerDecember 20, 2016, 6:00 pm

This won’t surprise you, but owning a national-media credential has its advantages. Flash area, locker room and range access? Yeah, it all helps us do our jobs. But to me, the single-greatest perk is being able to walk inside the ropes (not least because, as one of the vertically challenged, it’s a chore to watch among the masses).

Never was this more evident than at this year’s Ryder Cup, and the Sunday singles match between Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy. The first eight holes of that showdown are My Moment of 2016.

There were 12 matches that day, 24 players, but it seemed like all eyes were on the Reed-McIlroy opener. And for good reason. A day earlier, Reed had seemingly dragged Jordan Spieth across the finish line in their Saturday fourballs match, making seven birdies and an eagle to dispatch Europe’s best team. And McIlroy, one of the most amiable superstars in sports, was every bit as animated as Reed, confronting a beer-soaked spectator who told him to, well, we can’t print that here; barking the chorus of “Sweet Caroline” after fans tried to tweak him about his ex-fiancée; and even bowing to the crowd after a match-clinching eagle, as if to say, “You’re welcome for the show.”

That 11:04 a.m. pairing was what everyone wanted, and so dozens of media types (hey, who said print was dead?) waited on the first tee.

Normally at the Ryder Cup, I walk around the course with a radio stuffed in my left ear – it keeps me informed with so many other matches going on simultaneously. But there was no need for the background noise that day. Either Reed would win, setting the tone for a U.S. rout, or McIlroy would beat the Americans’ heart and soul, paving the way for yet another European comeback.

What happened those next two hours, those first eight holes, was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced on a golf course. If they weren’t going to beat each other with birdies, it looked as if they might just settle the score with a steel-cage match.

Posnanski: Rory vs. Reed: Good times never seemed so good

Everyone recalls the eighth hole, of course, but there were plenty of memorable interactions before then. Reed won the fifth after driving the green and pouring in an 8-footer for eagle. On the next hole, he sank a short putt, then mocked McIlroy’s bow to the crowd and wagged his finger. McIlroy never saw the gesture, but it wasn’t lost on those following the match, including two interested European observers.

“Did you see that s—?” pop star Niall Horan said, as he and vice captain Ian Poulter headed down the hill toward the seventh tee.

“Yeah,” replied Poulter, who then rattled off a few expletives of his own.

McIlroy and Reed matched birdies on the seventh, but the antics continued, as McIlroy stood defiantly on the green and shushed the crowd. (Seriously, the NFL would have had a field day with these demonstrative celebrations.)

Funny, but there was a slight letdown after both players hit their tee shots on the eighth. McIlroy was well short, about 50 feet, prompting more jeers from the crowd. Reed wasn’t tight either, but he had a better look from about 25 feet. They were the worst shots they’d hit it about an hour.

As I stood next to the grandstand behind the eighth green, there already was a sense of foreboding as McIlroy lined up the putt.

“This is going down,” a fan in the first row grumbled.

And it did, spectacularly, as McIlroy’s birdie bomb touched off a wild celebration. He shook with exhilaration, cupped his right hand to his ear and screamed, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” Sure, there were some appreciative cheers, but the boos were so loud you’d have thought the Yankees’ closer had just served up a three-run homer to the Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth.

“Let’s go, Reed!” the same fan now hollered. “F— that!”

Unfazed, Reed whacked his putt up the hill and into the cup. He turned toward McIlroy, extended his right hand and, in a moment that was forever immortalized, wagged his index finger, Dikembe Mutombo style. No, no, no. The ground shook, $8 beers flew through the air, and McIlroy could only laugh at the absurdity of it all. He waited for Reed behind the green – not to slug him, thankfully, but to offer a fist bump and a pat on the back. It was a truce.

“It’s over,” I told a golf-writing colleague as we floated toward the ninth tee. “That’s as good as it’ll get.”

And unfortunately, it was. After going a combined 9 under in a four-hole span, their play petered out from there. “We just played normal golf,” Reed would say later. I headed back toward the media tent at the turn, and the duo combined for only a few more birdies, the last coming on the 18th green, where Reed closed out the match with an 8-footer and unleashed one more crazed “Come on!” The teeming crowds roared once last time, a satisfying end to an epic duel – and the best few hours I’ve ever spent inside the ropes.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.