Pebble Beach gets serious on Saturday

By Jason SobelFebruary 12, 2012, 2:00 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – A funny thing happened at one of the world’s most scenic golf courses on Saturday.

In fact, plenty of funny things probably happened during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am third round, also known as golf’s ultimate hit-and-giggle. Bill Murray dancing with old ladies in sand traps. Ray Romano hamming it up for the camera. George Lopez performing an 18-hole monologue.

You know, things like that. The usual frivolities that annually permeate this PGA Tour stop.

This day has always been about fun and games, about watching hacking actors and chopping comics steal the spotlight from the pay-for-play guys, about the tournament taking a backseat to the sideshow.

Until now.

This was the year Saturday got serious.

No offense to Charlie Wi, who leads this tournament by three strokes, nor his next closest competitor Ken Duke, but the explanation for this can be found with the big boys.

Tiger Woods posted a third-round 5-under 67 at Pebble Beach and Phil Mickelson claimed a 2-under 70 on the same course to take the focus away from the antics.

During a cold, damp day on the Monterey Peninsula, the game’s two biggest drawing cards over the past decade-and-a-half proved their staying power not only over their peers, but the gaggle of entertainers and athletes who traditionally hold court at these festivities.

Hey, it makes perfect sense. This has always been a tournament for the stars and those of Woods and Mickelson shine brighter than any of the Hollywood heroes who are playing this week.

And so for once, there was more attention being paid to the guys on the leaderboard than those who find themselves plastered on billboards.

For Woods and Mickelson, even though each was competing with an amateur partner – and both of their teams made the cut – it was business as usual at Pebble Beach, especially the part about climbing the leaderboard.

“That's why we play is to be there and that's why I train as hard as I do and practice as hard as I do is to put myself in those positions,” Woods maintained after a round that included six birdies against a single bogey. “And when you're not in those positions, it's frustrating because the majority of the time when we play golf, we are not in those positions. That's the tough part of our sport. So of late, I've been putting myself in these positions and it feels good.”

With galleries burgeoning to nearly as large as those of Woods on Saturday, Mickelson also claimed that it was an enjoyable round on the links while remaining in contention.

“It was a fun day to play golf out here,” he said. “The course is in such great shape. To play with weather that was constantly changing was a fun challenge.”

Ironically, the two players who may have had the most fun in the third round weren’t even at Pebble Beach to witness the festivities.

Wi posted a 3-under 69 at Spyglass Hill, while Duke carded a 5-under 65 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, each with more of a, let’s just say, comfortable atmosphere at the other courses in this week’s rotation.

“I had a lot of Cal friends out there and my parents drove up today,” Wi said. “It was nice to see them.”

“I had four or five people out there, not 15,000 or something,” Duke lamented. “I just got my trainer here and my manager is here and a couple friends and it's good.”

Those two will find themselves in the unenviable position of not only trying to hold off Woods and Mickelson on Sunday, but playing in the pairing behind them. Once again, the focus will be on the PGA Tour pros instead of the amateurs, but some pros will garner a little more attention than others.

It all adds up to more buzz than usual on this famous piece of property adjacent to the mighty Pacific. The usual Saturday fun dissolved into one of purpose for some major stars and leads to a Sunday that should be all business yet again.

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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.

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Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:06 pm

There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.

Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.

Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.

The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.

Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.