The Highs and Lows from Golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 15, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Front 9 and Back 9, our staff will showcase the highs and lows from the world of golf. We start with the Front 9, which offers up the top moments and stories from this previous week, and then make the turn for the lowlights.
Front 9 Hole 1
THE PLAYER: Leading up to THE PLAYERS, both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were sharing headlines: Tiger for his win at Quail Hollow a week prior and Phil for his change to Butch Harmon as his swing coach. But once they teed it up at TPC Sawgrass, it was all Phil. As Tiger quickly faded, Mickelson grabbed the first-round lead as well as the 36-hole lead, much on the strength of his short game and putting. Come Sunday, Lefty was in complete control of his ball striking, missing only four fairways and two greens en route to his first PLAYERS title.
Hole 2
DE LA HOYA/MAYWEATHER PART II: One week after what was billed as the fight of this young century in Las Vegas, THE PLAYERS offered up its version of a boxing match, albeit in the form of verbal sparing. Following up his brash comments about wanting to go head-to-head with Tiger at Wachovia, Rory Sabbatini was at it again in Ponte Vedra Beach. And while Tiger let his clubs do the talking at Quail Hollow, an off-form Tiger responded this week with actual words. If I remember the quote correctly, he said he likes the new Tiger, said Woods. I figure Ive won nine out of 12 and Ive won three times this year, the same amount hes won in his career. So I like the new Tiger as well. Rory, Rory, Rory.
Hole 3
A TIP OF THE CAP: It was announced last week that former PGA TOUR commissioner Deane R. Beman was named as the seventh recipient of the TOUR's Lifetime Achievement Award. Beman was the TOURs second-ever commissioner, starting his reign in 1974 then handing it over to Tim Finchem upon his retirement in 1994. One of his many highlights as commissioner was the blueprint of the THE PLAYERS Championship itself, as well as the development of the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour.
Hole 4
REDEMPTION IS SWEET: Playing in the shadow of THE PLAYERS was the LPGA Tours Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill, where Norways Suzann Pettersen finally found her first tour title along with a little bit of sweet redemption. Pettersen, whos been a fiery team member for the Europeans at the Solheim Cup the last six years, had twice this season failed to hold leads and had to settle for second. The most painful was her loss at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she was three shots up with four holes left. However, she said that experience helped her down the stretch at Kingsmill.
Hole 5
THAT WAS RARE - OR WAS IT?: Never in THE PLAYERS Championship's history had any player recorded a double eagle. Until Friday that is, when Hunter Mahan holed his 227-yard approach at the par-5 11th with a 5-iron. A rare feat for certain. Well, at least it was for about 24 hours, until Aussie Peter Lonard also used a 5-iron to hole out from 230 yards for an albatross at the par-5 second.
Hole 6
MOVING DAY INDEED: Saturday at THE PLAYERS was absolutely electric with players going low and shots dropping from all over the place. In addition to the aforementioned double-eagle, the day also produced 11 eagles and 298 birdies, many coming from players holing out from the fairways and around the greens. NBC broadcaster Johnny Miller later summed it up quite nicely, The most amazing day.
Hole 7
YOU KNOW YOU HAVE ARRIVED WHEN...: ...You are invited to have a sit down chat with Oprah. And that's just what Masters champ Zach Johnson did, when his appearance on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' aired on Monday, replete with surprise visits on the show from his sister and former NFL MVP and fellow Iowan Kurt Warner. Said Warner, 'A new baby boy, a green jacket, Oprah - not a bad year, kid.' And that's not including the well-done Top-10 List he performed on Letterman.
Hole 8
HAS IT REALLY BEEN THAT LONG?: While the world's best had gathered in Ponte Vedra Beach, the European Tour played out in Marbella, Spain, at the Aloha Golf Club. And aloha was what Lee Westwood was saying to the trophy he had not handled in nearly four years. The European Tour Order of Merit winner in 2000, Westwood had a David Duval-like fall from the game and with this win he's hoping this could be the start of his rise back into a premiere world player.
Hole 9
GOOD ISLAND GREEN: Despite Tiger calling it gimmicky at the beginning of the week, there is just no denying that the par-3 17th is THE best hole to watch in all of golf. With each shot the fans stationed in and around the green hold their collective breath as they follow the tee shots over the water, letting out cheers when the ball lands safely on the green. On the other hand...
Back 9 Hole 10
EVIL ISLAND GREEN: ... If a players ball doesnt find land, that same crowd also lets out one of the loudest united groans youll hear in all of sports. A record 50 groans were recorded on Thursdays windy opening round, but the 17th saved its cruelest intentions for late Sunday afternoon when the final group stepped up to the plate.
Hole 11
GONE FISHIN: After going toe-to-toe against Mickelson all day and impressively holding his own, Sean OHair reached the 17th alone in second place and two back of Lefty. His next two shots found a watery grave as did his hopes for victory, as he walked to the 18th now six shots behind the eventual champion. Second place at THE PLAYERS paid $972,000, but OHair dropped all the way down to 11th and instead walked away with $225,000 ' a difference of $747,000, an amount that would have vaulted him from 66th on the money list to 16th.
Hole 12
JOAKIM, P.E.T.A. IS ON THE PHONE : Sweden's Joakim Haeggman was strolling up the 18th fairway ' two shots off the lead ' Thursday at the Andalucia Open when he reached his ball. He then noticed that a wild goose also had made its way to his ball. An apparent misunderstanding between the two resulted in Haeggman hauling off and slapping the goose across the face, later claiming, I had no choice. The goose gods with help possibly from the golfing gods, made sure karma came into to play as Haeggman drifted from contention the rest of the week.
Hole 13
OK, HE IS HUMAN: Coming into THE PLAYERS, it was, as usual, hard not to think Tiger Woods would be sitting in the winner's circle come Sunday. But a rough start on Thursday - a round in which for only the fifth time in his entire career he failed to produce a single birdie - left him struggling to even make the cut. Even with a Sunday rally that left him in a tie for 37th, it was Tigers worst finish since the 2005 Deutsche Bank Championship where he placed T-40.
Hole 14
RORY MEET STEPHEN AMES: Rory Sabbatini keeps talking about Tiger. And he keeps finishing behind him. Sabbatini wanted a piece of Woods at Wachovia and was paired with him in the final group in the final round. Woods shot 69 and won. Sabbatini, who led Tiger by one, shot 74 and tied for third. At THE PLAYERS, Rory kept on yapping after his opening 67 had him in a share of first place, eight shots clear of Woods. He then went 79-71-72 to fall into a tie for 44th ' one shot back of Tiger, who closed in 67.
Hole 15
CAN I START OVER?: Clichs are boring. Often times, however, they are true. It is said that you cant win a tournament on Thursday, but you can lose it. Sometimes, it doesnt even take the whole round to let a tournament slip away. In fact, Charley Hoffman did it on the very first hole of THE PLAYERS. This years Bob Hope champion began his first-ever PLAYERS with a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 10th. He managed to claw back to 1 under late in the second round, but tied for 75th at 7 over.
Hole 16
LEE ON LPGA: Of all the Lees who had a chance to win this past weeks Michelob Ultra Open, none were in better position to do so than Jee Young Lee. The second-year player, who shot 63 Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round, found herself in a playoff with Suzann Pettersen. After both players parred the first two extra holes, Lee had a 12-footer for birdie and the win on the 75th hole. Not only did she miss that one, but she rushed the 2-foot comebacker and missed that one as well. Sarah Lee, who was one back of Jee Young Lee to start Sunday, shot 3-over 74 to finish third. Seon Hwa Lee had a 73 and dropped into a tie for seventh.
Hole 17
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Every time a player comes close to winning he can point to something he did wrong that cost him the tournament ' like the double-bogey Sergio Garcia made on the 18th hole Saturday (he ultimately lost by two strokes). Or he can point his finger at someone else. Garcia felt that the caddie of his Sunday playing competitor, Cliff Kresge, accused him of cheating, which definitely, according to Garcia, cost him a stroke. Kresges caddie felt that Garcia didnt take full relief on a drop on the second hole. Garcia birdied the hole, and the fourth, before a bogey at No. 5. He did manage to make five birdies on the back nine to storm into second place, but was quite upset about the accusation.
Hole 18
UGA-LY STORY The Associated Press has reported that Todd McCorkle, the women's golf coach at the University of Georgia, has resigned in the wake of complaints from players about inappropriate sexual comments and jokes. McCorkle, who coached the Lady Bulldogs to the 2001 NCAA championship, also reportedly shared the sexually explicit Paris Hilton video from the Internet with the team.
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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”

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    Day (66) only star to shine Saturday at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:01 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – With an early rain softening an already vulnerable course, there were plenty of birdies to be had during the third round of the Travelers Championship. They were few and far between, however, for some of the biggest names in the field.

    On the same TPC River Highlands layout where Paul Casey took control of the tournament with an 8-under 62, the decorated quartet of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka combined to shoot 1 under with no single score better than a 1-under 69.

    Spieth’s dim hopes of back-to-back titles were effectively ended with a 1-over 71, while McIlroy’s second straight 69 dropped him from three shots off the lead to outside the top 10.

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Thomas (70) and Koepka (69) are now 11 and 12 shots back, respectively.

    Among the top-ranked contenders, the only player to make a modicum of a move was Jason Day, who shot a 4-under 66 and heads into the final round in a tie for sixth, six shots behind Casey. The Aussie made four birdies over his first nine holes, but he stalled out on the more gettable inward half.

    “I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now. I played well today from tee to green,” Day said. “Tomorrow it all depends on how Paul plays.”

    Day has won twice already this season, but facing a significant deficit against a seasoned veteran he realizes that a quick start will be necessary to retain any hopes for a third title.

    “This course can yield some birdies, which is quite nice,” Day said. “Get through tomorrow in a couple under on the front side, and then try to let things go a little bit on the back side if you can.”

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    Monkey off his back, Casey freed up to win again

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 10:49 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Paul Casey is flushing his irons, rolling in putts and no longer fielding questions about a lengthy victory drought. For the remaining players looking to chase him down at the Travelers Championship, it adds up to a terrifying combination.

    The Englishman felt right at home on a gray and dreary afternoon at TPC River Highlands, vaulting to the top of the leaderboard with an 8-under 62. It was the lowest round of the week, two shots better than the next best effort Saturday, and it turned a two-shot deficit into a four-shot lead heading into the final round.

    After enduring an afternoon logjam, with as many as five players sharing the lead at one point, the tournament is now Casey’s to lose – and he’s not shying away from the burden.

    “You’d always rather have a lead,” Casey said. “When you’re behind, there is no room for error. No, I’m excited. I’ve got confidence in my game. I’ve got confidence with the man standing next to me (caddie John McLaren), confidence in the gameplan of how to get around this golf course.”

    That approach is undoubtedly aided by the magic act Casey pulled off in March at the Valspar Championship. Teeing off well before the tournament leaders, he shot a final-round 65 and watched as the likes of Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed were unable to match his number.

    Without having to field a single question about the weight of the burden he shouldered, about ending a PGA Tour victory drought that extended back to the 2009 Houston Open, Casey launched the monkey off his back and into the trees lining the 18th fairway at Innisbrook.

    While Casey has won 13 times on the European Tour, including five times from 2009-14, his dry spell on this side of the Atlantic had become a point of discussion and one that wore on the affable veteran. But one sublime round in Tampa rendered it moot, and it will also grant him an extra sense of calm heading into the final round outside Hartford where only Russell Henley will start the day within five shots of his total.

    “If I hadn’t won in a while, then yeah, there would be more pressure. I sit here right now with no nerves,” Casey said. “I’m sure there will be tomorrow, but no nerves now. I’m very happy with what I’ve done. In years past maybe that wouldn’t have been the case because there hadn’t been enough wins.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Granted, this is an event that often doesn’t follow the script. Birdies will be there for the taking on a course softened by light rains, and low scores shouldn’t be hard to find. This is, after all, where Jim Furyk shot a 58 two years ago and where Kevin Streelman ended his comeback victory in 2014 with a run of seven straight birdies.

    Trailing by six, Bubba Watson floated the notion of needing a 60 to catch Casey without any hint that the score is out of reach. Jason Day, who like Watson trails by six at 10 under, quickly sniffed out Casey’s long-term track record like a shark seizing on a droplet of blood.

    “Tomorrow it all depends on how Paul plays,” Day said. “I know that he in the past hasn’t quite got over the line with some of the wins that he possibly could have won, and that’s kind of a positive in my mind knowing that.”

    But the look of calm confidence that emanates from Casey is that of a man who no longer has to answer questions about when The Win will come. His next victory will be just that, the next one. Another trophy to add to the decorated credentials of a player who has re-established himself in the game’s upper echelon over the past three years.

    He’s back on a course he has thrived on from the very first time he set foot on the property, losing in a playoff to Watson in 2015 in his tournament debut. He has returned each year since, finishing T-17 and T-5.

    His final-round 71 in 2016, carded the same day Furyk shot his 58, is proving more and more to be an aberration since each of his other 14 competitive rounds in Cromwell have ended up in the 60s. That includes three straight this week, capped by Saturday’s effort where he hit every green in regulation and tied his career low score on Tour.

    Yes, the tournament is Casey’s to lose. But liberated by a recent win and playing some of his best golf at one of his favorite venues, there’s little reason to expect him to do anything but lift the trophy he barely missed out on three years ago.

    “If I go out there tomorrow and I hit it the way I normally hit it, and I putt it well,” Casey said, “then I’m fairly confident.”

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    Couples one behind Toledo; Sticker struggles in Wisc.

    By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 9:51 pm

    MADISON, Wis. – Esteban Toledo birdied four of the last six holes for a 6-under 66 and the second-round lead Saturday in the American Family Insurance Championship.

    Five strokes behind tournament host Steve Stricker after an opening 69 in rain Friday at University Ridge, Toledo had six birdies in a bogey-free round to reach 9-under 135. The 55-year-old Mexican player won the last of his four PGA Tour Champions titles in 2016.

    Defending champion Fred Couples (67), David Toms (66), Kent Jones (67) and Billy Mayfair (68) were a stroke back.

    ''I'm surprised that someone isn't 11 or 12 under, but the greens picked up a lot of pace today,'' Couples said. ''I think maybe the scoring was a little easier yesterday because we got to clean the ball in the fairways, but it's not easy out there.''

    Bernhard Langer (69) was 8 under with Madison player Jerry Kelly (69), Scott McCarron (67), Mark Calcavecchia (68), Paul Goydos (68), Joey Sindelar (68), Glen Day (69) and Brad Bryant (72).

    Full-field scores from the American Family Insurance Championship

    ''The conditions haven't been that easy,'' Kelly said. ''The pins are in some spots where you can't spin it and you have to hit them firm out of these kind of soft fairways, otherwise you could chunk it. It's not that easy even though the course is gettable. There's just a few things going on out there to keep the scoring from going too low like it normally does.''

    Stricker followed his opening 64 with a 74, ending his Champions under-par streak at 30 rounds - the fourth-longest streak in tour history.

    ''It just was one of those days where I didn't have a lot of energy,'' Stricker said. ''Nothing - hit very few good shots, really. The couple that I did hit well, I was in bad spots, and a couple bad shots even got worse.''

    He had three bogeys and a birdie - on the final hole.

    ''That was a big birdie in my mind,'' Stricker said. ''It kept me a little bit closer. No one ran away with this thing today and three shots back, a lot of guys in between me and the lead. It was a good putt to make and finally get a birdie. That was my only one today.''

    Stricker won in Arizona and Mississippi in consecutive starts in May for his first senior victories. The 12-time PGA Tour winner played the big tour the last two weeks, tying for 18th in Memphis and tying for 20th in the U.S. Open.

    John Daly matched Stricker at 6 under with a 70.