What We Learned: Phoenix Open

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 5, 2012, 11:05 pm

Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent big events. This week, the team reflects on Kyle Stanley's reversal of fortune in Phoenix and John Daly's showing at the Qatar Masters.


Kyle Stanley heals quickly.

After Stanley collapsed at the end of the Farmers Insurance Open last week, nobody could be sure how Stanley would respond just a week later. We weren't sure if he would be playing the Phoenix Open with an open wound or tender scars. Either way, we learned the guy can play with pain. Or he's got a cornerback's short memory . . .  or enabling amnesia.

The tears Stanley shed last week made you wonder about his toughness. We learned in his tears of happiness in Phoenix that tough guys can cry. He showed terrific toughness bouncing back so quickly. – Randall Mell


I learned that Kyle Stanley's lips quiver in either defeat or victory. Granted, in both instances, the circumstances – a devastating 72nd-hole triple bogey to lose at Torrey and then the semi-miraculous comeback win at Phoenix – were off the charts on an emotional level. – Golf Guy


I learned that other PGA Tour events should use the Waste Management Phoenix Open as a blueprint for garnering more fan support.

For years, I’ve agreed with the majority of players who believe that the fun-first atmosphere is fun for one week out of the year, but shouldn’t be the norm at other tournaments.

Forget that.

Quite simply, having more than a half-million fans envelop a tournament should be the rule, not the exception. Even if many of the spectators were more interested in finding the bottom of their own cup rather than seeing which players could find the bottom of those on the course, having an entire community support its local PGA Tour stop should hardly be construed as a negative. In fact, it should be the model. Not necessarily the party atmosphere, but the sheer volume of people involved in the tournament.

It grows the game, it grows the Tour. Before now, I thought it was a nice diversion each year. I learned this week that it should the blueprint instead of the exception. – Jason Sobel


I learned that there is no way to know the resiliency of a player. Last week Kyle Stanley blew a seven-stroke lead at Torrey Pines and lost a playoff for his first PGA Tour title.

On Sunday in Scottsdale the man many predicted would need months to recover from his San Diego collapse began the day eight strokes behind Spencer Levin, one-putted two of his final five holes and signed for a 65 and a one-stroke victory. Some players need time, others just need another start. – Rex Hoggard


This may be the year Webb Simpson wins a major.

Simpson finished T-8 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open to notch his second top 10 in the three events he's played this season.

He had the fewest putts at the U.S. Open last year and only two players had fewer putts than him at the 2011 Open Championship. Consider that alongside his two victories in '11 and finishing second on the PGA Tour money list and we've got a star in the making.

Already off to a hot start in 2012, it’s only a matter of time before he secures a ‘W’ this season and I’d put money on that victory coming at a major championship. – Bailey Mosier


I learned that John Daly will continue to get sponsor exemptions as long as he wants them. Really, truly thought after the debacle Down Under in November – where an exemption was rescinded the following week after he exploded on a hole and walked off the course – that other tournament officials would see that Long John doesn't value the opportunities he's been given and only cares about himself. Sadly, I was wrong. As long as he sells tickets, he'll have a place to play. – Jay Coffin


I learned I've been using the wrong club to hit out from under bushes. After watching Spencer Levin, I realized I have to get me one of those long putters. Not to putt with, just to knock my ball out from under bushes.

I also learned I don't understand swing analysis. I watched and listened to Peter Kostis describe just what went wrong in swings that produced wayward shots. Those swings all looked uniformly perfect to me. I know a bad swing when I see one. I've videotaped my own. – Al Tays


On Super Bowl Sunday, I realized the mantra of 'any given Sunday' is more applicable to golf than our modern national pastime.A week after stunning everyone with a 72nd-hole collapse at Torrey Pines, Kyle Stanley walked through an open door cracked by San Diego first round co-leader Spencer Levin. 

Meanwhile, Paul Lawrie outshined a sandblasted, deep field in Qatar to politely remind the golf world that he can still win. Thirteen years ago, Lawrie won the same event before winning the Open Championship at Carnoustie – curiously, seizing on one of the all-time great collapses in major championship history.

History sure has a funny way of repeating itself. – Ryan Ballengee

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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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.”