Odds and Ends

By Jason SobelAugust 26, 2011, 7:41 pm

EDISON, N.J. – Matt Kuchar has never enjoyed the spoils of returning to the scene of a triumph one year later as defending champion. He’s never relived certain shots he hit during crunch time, never recharged the ol’ memory bank by making another victory lap.

His first career PGA Tour title was the 2002 Honda Classic at TPC-Heron Bay – which just happened to be the final time it played host, giving way to Country Club at Mirasol one year later.

Kuchar’s next win came seven years later at the Turning Stone Resort Championship. He didn’t return for the next edition of the event, though – not by his own volition, but because the event was opposite the more prestigious WGC-Bridgestone Invitational the same week.

And lastly, his third and most recent victory took place at last year’s Barclays, as he edged Martin Laird in a playoff at Ridgewood Country Club, only to return to a brand new venue this week, as Plainfield Country Club gets its turn in the rotation.

He may soon have another title defense at a different course, too. Plainfield gives way to Bethpage Black next year and based on his leaderboard status at the already-shortened tournament entering the final round, Kuchar may have the inside track on returning as a conquering hero to a course on which he didn’t conquer.

“Right now, I'm three for three with not being able to defend on the same course,” Kuchar said. “Somebody told me if I won this week, I won’t defend on the same golf course again next year. But I am a fan of the rotation. I think there are so many great courses in the metro area up here. I think rotation is a good thing.”

Course rotation, that is. As for rotating places on the leaderboard with his fellow FedEx Cup contenders, Kuchar is perfectly fine with his reigning title of Baron of The Barclays, as he attempts to win a second straight on Saturday.

That’s right – Saturday. Due to the impending effects of Hurricane Irene later this weekend, tournament officials elected to shorten the event to 54 holes, the final 18 of which will be played early Saturday morning in an effort to clear the course before the heavy stuff starts coming down.

A lengthy delay on Thursday already meant that more than half of the field was forced to conclude their opening rounds on Friday morning. That group included Kuchar, who polished off a tidy 8-under 63, then turned right around and shot 6-under 65 in his second frame on a short, soft course that has witnessed more birdies over the first two days than the Audubon Society.

“To me, it seems like any time you have soft conditions, it doesn't matter how long, doesn't matter how deep the rough is, some guys are going to figure out a way to make a bunch of birdies,” explained Kuchar, who has already posted 15 of ‘em through 36 holes. “I think the kind of biggest determining factor in how hard a course plays and how difficult it is to make birdies is how firm greens are. I think when you have really firm greens, it becomes difficult to get a ball close to the hole and difficult to chip balls close to the hole. I think the scores are just a lot less under par with firm conditions.”

Don’t expect this course to firm up at all for the final round. The forecast calls for early showers before the deluge, which means plenty of pin seeking in what should ultimately turn into a Saturday shootout.

Though he’s not the typical how-low-can-you-go type of streaky performer, Kuchar isn’t unfamiliar with the occasional birdie barrage, as his average of 3.88 per round ranks 17th this season.

Talk about quixotic statistics, though, and it’s his round-by-round scoring average in which something’s gotta give. Kuchar ranks third on the PGA Tour in Saturday scoring average, but just 46th in the final round. Considering his next 18 holes will come on both a Saturday and in the final round, it’s a mystery as to which one will prevail this time around.

“Good question, good question,” he responded with a laugh. “Right now I'm putting myself in pretty good position and I think the thing I'll try to stay most focused on is just trying to defend The Barclays.”

If he does, once again Kuchar will travel to a venue on which he hasn’t won, but as the defending champion. It’s a strange scenario, but not an unfamiliar one. And certainly not an unwelcome one should it happen again next year.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."