Hawk's Nest: Golf's biggest underachievers

By John HawkinsMay 5, 2014, 3:40 pm

Man, I cannot wait for the NFL Draft. Not because I care who goes where, but because no event in the history of America has gotten a more ridiculous amount of advance publicity. I love Johnny Football, but seriously, I’ve been Manzieled out since mid-January.

Every draft turns hope into a marketable commodity, but this year in particular, a couple of sports networks have turned hope into a six-month stay at the Bullfeathers Inn. Jadaveon Clowney goes from a 249-pound question mark to the next L.T. in a matter of hours. Mel Kiper is the King of Conjecture, and now there are a dozen or so knockoffs holding stopwatches and 150-proof opinions, leaving some of us to wonder when guesswork became such a lucrative industry.

At any rate, GolfChannel.com held its own draft this past week, a one-round affair that debuted on this website a couple of years ago. I’ve participated in both, picking 28th in 2012 and 31st this year, which must mean I lost in the most recent Super Bowl and flamed out in the playoffs after a 12-4 regular season in ’12.

Results of our latest talent dispersal will be published Tuesday. Let’s just say I didn’t help my ballclub by choosing Kyle Stanley in the inaugural shindig, so in honor of Stanley and Anthony Kim, the subject of last week’s Hawk’s Nest, I’ve compiled a list of the game’s 10 biggest underachievers.

Guys who should be better than they are. Guys who have been OK but not even close to great. Guys who didn’t have a prayer of being drafted this time around. In a meek attempt to discourage the nominees from being even angrier at me than they’ll already be, I’m presenting them in alphabetical order – not from most to least disappointing.

Enter at your own risk. I can assure you – I did.

Chad Campbell

It is easy to forget how good this guy was. A low-ball hitter with a pronounced right-to-left ball flight, Campbell could burn down a golf course when his putter got hot. He played on three U.S. Ryder Cup teams. He almost won a couple of majors: the 2003 PGA and 2009 Masters. As recently as 2011, he finished T-5 at the British Open.

And yes, he still competes. Every once in a while, Campbell makes a little noise and hops on a leader board – there were top-5s in Memphis and Greensboro a couple of summers ago. The fact that he only won four times, is, in the words of one longtime Tour caddie, “an absolute crime. The guy could be so good, it was almost scary.”

Having covered three of those four wins, I always got the sense that Campbell was pretty happy with whatever the game gave him. He wasn’t going to kill himself to be great, and he wasn’t going to lie awake at night amid stretches of mediocrity. If that’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me, but he still makes my list.

Rickie Fowler

Two years have passed since his lone Tour triumph at Quail Hollow, which some will tell you was a long time coming in itself. Li’l Rickie has put himself in excellent position on several occasions, including a couple of final-round pairings opposite Tiger Woods, but his aggressive nature, particularly when firing at yellow-light flagsticks, has hurt him at crucial times on Sundays.

Then again, when you rank 193rd on the PGA Tour in putting, as Fowler does in 2014, hunting tucked pins doesn’t seem like such a dumb idea. He’s driving it eight yards longer and hitting a slightly higher percentage of GIR since he began working with Butch Harmon late last year, but when you sign your scorecard, it’s all about what you shot, not how you shot it.

Given that he ranked 24th in putting last season, it’s hard to imagine that Fowler will continue frittering away strokes on the greens. Until he regains his once-enviable precision in that department, however, the victory drought will continue.

Sergio Garcia

To leave him off this list would be an exercise in sympathy – a cop-out thinly disguised as ignorance of Garcia’s once-immense talent. When he arrived on the scene to a whirl of hype in the late 1990s, he drove it straighter than Woods and almost as long. Sergio’s short game turned more heads than Heidi Klum, and when he did struggle to get out of trouble, he was likely to make that 20-footer for par.

We all saw the future unravel, and while it is easy to dismiss Garcia’s chances of ever winning a major title, he is ranked eighth in the world. He has been doing a lot of things well again for a while, and he is certainly capable of beating any field on any course in any continent.

His eight PGA Tour victories and 17 international triumphs make him by far the most decorated player on this list, but in a world where perception has become reality, in a game where expectations can undermine even an estimable body of work, Sergio has plenty left to accomplish at age 34.

Ryo Ishikawa

If you had told me five years ago that this kid would still be swimming with the tadpoles – he entered last week 83rd in the world ranking – I would have recommended that you stay away from the liquor cabinet. Only through last fall’s Web.com finals did Ishikawa retain his 2014 big-tour card. A T-2 three weeks later in Las Vegas basically secured his status for ’15; he has since posted top-10s at Torrey Pines and Bay Hill.

Forgive me and anyone else who was expecting much, much more. The Bashful Prince arrived here in 2009 as the most heralded Japanese player ever. He made 15-footers with his eyes closed, hit the ball two miles high and was surprisingly long for a 17-year-old, 150-pound kid.

Ishikawa made the International Presidents Cup team that fall, but his performance on both sides of the Pacific has been alarmingly inconsistent over the last 3 ½ years. At the Hazeltine National member-guest a couple of summers ago, I befriended a Japanese photographer who shoots a ton of pro tournaments. He told me about a couple of personal issues that could have knocked the Prince off the fast track.

The fact of the matter is, he doesn’t turn 23 until September. There’s plenty of time for Ishikawa to get off this list and back on the bullet train.

Anthony Kim

Feeling no need to reiterate what I wrote here last week, Kim’s two-year disappearance has proven to be one of the game’s biggest and saddest losses. In 2008 and into ’09, he had all the makings of a special player, seemingly capable of scoring at will. His ability to stuff short irons was unmatched on the Tour, and he drove the ball well enough to get six or seven wedges per round on some courses.

At this point, his return remains on long–term hold. Even if he were to resume playing, say, next month, it’s hard to imagine him performing at the level that made him so popular six years ago. Kim was battling myriad injuries and struggling with his form before a torn Achilles knocked him out of action in mid-2012.

Perhaps he’ll surprise all of us someday. Stranger things have happened. Just not very often.

Jeff Overton

Some guys are really hard to figure out, even in retrospect, and Overton is one of them. In 2010, he finished sixth in the FedEx Cup derby and came as close to winning as a guy could get without actually hoisting a trophy. Overton was a rightful member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team that fall and won a pair of matches in the Irish mud.

At that point, it’s not like he just disappeared, but Overton has certainly been much harder to find. From a world ranking in the mid-40s that August, he has fallen to fluctuating spots between 150th and 200th. He still makes a decent number of cuts and doesn’t have to pinch pennies at the grocery store – a solo fourth in New Orleans last week was Overton’s best finish in almost three years.

That’s the point. Maybe the native Hoosier was just a hot golfer in ’10, playing over his head during a summer when he seemed to be on the leaderboard every week. He finished a career-best 25th in putting that year, but Overton has always been very proficient on the greens. He actually missed more fairways in 2010 than he has in any season since.

Maybe he doesn’t belong on this list. Or maybe he does and can do something about it.

Ian Poulter

He has yet to win a stroke-play tournament in the United States (130 career starts) and has never qualified for a Tour Championship in nine full seasons. Poulter does have two WGC titles: the 2010 Match Play and 2012 HSBC Champions, a late-season event in China that numerous top-tier players chose to skip.

Much like former Yankee killer Colin Montgomerie, Poulter’s ability to perform under Ryder Cup pressure has been astonishing. And just like Monty, he’s had a very difficult time winning in America. Just three of the 24 rounds Poulter has played here in 2014 have produced a score in the 60s.

As many serious golf fans surely have noticed, IJP’s skill set is much more suited for tough-course competition than birdie-fests. He is a self-made grinder – Great Britain’s version of the anti-prodigy. Although his driving accuracy has suffered a bit in recent years, he still owns a quality you can’t measure: the ability to perform his best when he has something to prove.

With all that in mind, Poulter isn’t the first Euro hero to struggle in the U.S. In a twist of metaphorical irony, however, he’s perhaps the toughest not to notice.

Kyle Stanley

It makes no sense. You blow a three-stroke lead on the 72nd hole and lose in a playoff, then come back the very next week and win in very similar fashion to the parameters that framed your defeat. A terrific collegiate golfer (Clemson) who had gotten off to a very fast start as a pro, Stanley wasted even less time turning his most ignominious moment into a gritty, glorious positive.

So the sky was the limit until the sky began falling, and now, Stanley is a competitive non-entity. He has made four cuts in 11 starts in 2014 – his best finish is a T-52. There was a burst of renewed promise last spring, capped by a solo third at the Memorial, but Stanley proceeded to miss six cuts in his last eight starts.

One needn’t look very hard to find the reason for Stanley’s swift downward spiral. His putting has been off-the-charts bad since he qualified for the big tour in 2011. In his first two years, he drove it a mile and hit enough greens to remain a factor. As his ball-striking numbers have deteriorated, his inability with the putter has become far more significant.

You end up 176th in the world ranking, which is where Stanley resides now.

Bo Van Pelt

There isn’t a tour pro on earth who isn’t surprised that Van Pelt remains stuck on one official victory, which occurred in 2009 at the defunct stop in Milwaukee. We’re talking about a guy who finished 33rd or better in the all-around stat every year but one from 2004 through 2012. A player without any glaring weakness and a multitude of strengths.

Few players can boast a more well-rounded skill set, but beyond the lone victory, Van Pelt has just three runner-ups and six third-place finishes in 354 career starts. Only once has he come close to losing his card (2008), and for an extended stretch just prior to the FedEx Cup era, he was a virtual lock to pocket $1.5 million and land somewhere around 51st on the money list.

It’s good work if you can get it, real good work if you can do it. I don’t know Bo well enough to wonder if he wishes he’d won more, but if he does, he’s doing that wishing in a very comfortable chair inside a very large house.

Nick Watney

An ill-advised tweet from Harmon, his longtime coach, ended their relationship last May, but to say things haven’t been the same would be an overstatement. Watney’s career has been marked by lengthy periods of substandard play. He won twice in 2011, for instance, and entered the FedEx Cup playoffs atop the regular-season standings.

In 69 starts since, Watney has just one victory and 10 top-10s, most of which shouldn’t be confused with a serious foray into weekend contention. He appeared ready to break out of his funk during last summer’s playoffs, but in 11 starts this season, his best finish is a T-24.

A couple of Internet bloggers have attributed the demise to his signing with Nike at the start of 2013, but as I’ve said and written many times, blaming it on new equipment is the easy way out. Perhaps Watney doesn’t have the internal drive to become one of the world’s best golfers. That would put him in the same category as, oh, a couple of dozen other immensely talented players.

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Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.

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Ko (68) off to best start of year at Kia Classic

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 12:39 am

Lydia Ko didn’t take long to put last week’s missed cut behind her Thursday at the Kia Classic.

She got off to her best start of the year.

With a 4-under-par 68, Ko finished the day in a tie for eighth, just two shots off the lead at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif.

“I would say I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key,” Ko said.

Ko scrambled her way to her low opening round of the year in light rain. She hit just seven of 14 fairways and 11 greens, but only needed 25 putts.

“This is a pretty tough golf course,” Ko said. ”I think putting is a huge key around this course, where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Aviara’s poa annua greens have been known to give players fits, but Ko had her flatstick working. After making the turn at 1 over, she made five birdies on her second nine.

Ko, 20, won at Aviara two years ago but missed the cut there last year.

“I love Carlsbad,” Ko said “I would say it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s nice to come back to a place where you’ve played well and love the area.”

Ko, seeking her first victory since July of 2016, has her new coach, Ted Oh, working with her in Carlsbad this week. Oh made the trip to Asia last month, helping Ko to her tie for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship. But, she missed the cut in Phoenix last week in her next start.

“All I can do is try my best,” Ko said. “Hopefully, I'll be able to keep this good momentum going.”

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Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 2

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 12:32 am

Here is how things played out on Day 2 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play. Click here for Day 1 match results:

Group 1: Adam Hadwin (38) def. Dustin Johnson (1), 4 and 3: After a dominating performance at last year’s Match Play, where he never trailed in any match, Johnson is already mathematically eliminated. He got routed on Thursday by Hadwin, after the Canadian built a 2-up lead at the turn and then poured it on with wins on the 11th and 13th holes.

Group 1: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Bernd Wiesberger (52), 5 and 4: Kisner made three consecutive birdies midway through the front nine to set the tone, then kept the pressure on Wiesberger, who knocked off DJ on Wednesday, to earn the full point and stay in the mix to advance.

Group 2: Justin Thomas (2) def. Patton Kizzire (48), 3 and 1: After DJ’s early exit, Thomas now has a clear path to world No. 1, if he can win the Match Play this week. Thomas did his part, improving to 2-0 after taking a 3-up advantage and then making birdie on 16 and 17 to close out Kizzire. That sets up a winner-take-all match against Francesco Molinari on Friday.

Group 2: Francesco Molinari (21) def. Luke List (60), 3 and 2: Molinari dropped seven birdies on List and won the 13th, 14th and 16th holes to move to 2-0 this week.

Group 3: Chez Reavie (43) def. Jon Rahm, 1 up: On the verge of surrendering a big lead against Rahm, Reavie’s par on 18 was enough to secure a 1-up victory. He led 3 up with three to go, but Rahm birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to send the match to the last. But there, from just short of the green, Rahm hit his pitch shot well past the flag and couldn’t make birdie. Now 0-1-1, Rahm, last year's finalist, is now eliminated.

Group 3: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Keegan Bradley (63), 1 up: Bradley once again kicked away a late lead. One day after coughing up a 2-up lead with three to play, he squandered a 1-up lead with three to play against Aphibarnrat. Bradley made bogey on 17, then was stymied behind a tree after his drive on 18. Barnrat rolled in a 15-footer for birdie to improve to 2-0.

Group 4: Jordan Spieth (4) def. Haotong Li (34), 4 and 2: Spieth held up his end of the deal, winning the fifth hole with a birdie and never trailing from there. He poured it on late with the Chinese star, winning the 13th, 14th and 16th holes. He'll play Reed, his Ryder and Presidents Cup partner, on Friday in a winner-take-all match.

Group 4: Patrick Reed (19) def. Charl Schwartzel (49), 1 up: In a wild match that saw that only three halved, Reed hung on to defeat Schwartzel, 1 up. Two up with three holes to play, Reed lost the 16th, escaped with a bogey halve on the 17th and then was out of position on the final hole. But he nearly holed his wedge shot, rattling the stick and leaving his ball on the front edge for a conceded birdie and narrow victory.

Group 5: Cameron Smith (46) def. Hideki Matsuyama (5), 1 up: One down with five to play, Smith won the 14th with a par, then chipped in for birdie on 16 to take a 1-up lead. At 2-0, he’s now in control of the group.

Group 5: Patrick Cantlay (30) def. Yusaku Miyazato (53), 1 up: In control throughout, Cantlay bogeyed the 17th hole to return the match to all square. On the home hole, he busted a drive to the front-left corner of the green, then made birdie to win and improve to 1-1.

Group 6: Rory McIlroy (6) def. Jhonattan Vegas (44), 2 and 1: Needing a victory to avoid an early exit, McIlroy won two consecutive holes before the turn and then added a win on 13 to give himself the cushion he needed down the stretch, holing a 6-footer for par on 17 to close out Vegas. McIlroy now has a chance to advance with a victory over Harman on the final day of pool play.

Group 6: Brian Harman (18) def. Peter Uihlein (57), 4 and 2: Harman never trailed in knocking off Uihlein, who soundly defeated McIlroy on Day 1. With 1 ½ points, Harman is in the driver’s seat, but he needs at least a halve against McIlroy on Friday (and a Uihlein loss) to advance.

Group 7: Sergio Garcia (7) def. Dylan Frittelli (41), 2 up: All square with six holes to go, Garcia birdied 13, won 14 with a par and then drove the 18th green for a conceded birdie to close out Frittelli, the former Texas Longhorn, and improve to 2-0 this week. He'll play Schauffele in a winner-take-all match on Friday.

Group 7: Xander Schauffele (20) def. Shubhankar Sharma (62), 3 and 1: Schauffele improved to 2-0 this week by thoroughly handling Sharma, the darling of the recent WGC-Mexico event, never leading by fewer than 2-up on the back nine and playing 3 under.

Group 8: Jason Dufner (42) def. Jason Day (8), 3 and 1: Dufner took down one of the pre-tournament favorites with a steady closing stretch. Five of his six wins came after Day bogeys, but Dufner turned an all-square match on 14 tee into a 3-and-1 victory.

Group 8: James Hahn (56) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 3 and 1: Hahn jumped all over the South African, winning the first three holes and never holding less than a 2-up lead on the back nine. With his victory, each player in the group has a 1-1 record.

Group 9: Tommy Fleetwood (9) def. Kevin Chappell (33), 7 and 6: Avenging an opening-day loss, the Englishman won the first four holes and needed to make only three birdies in a monster rout of Chappell. The 2017 Presidents Cupper made five bogeys and conceded two other holes but still has a chance to win the group.  

Group 9: Ian Poulter (58) def. Daniel Berger (26), 2 and 1: Playing this event for the first time since 2015, Poulter improved to 2-0 on the week with a solid victory over Berger, one of many young American up-and-comers. Using the same putter that he put in play at the epic 2012 Ryder Cup, Poulter won three of the first four holes and never backed down. He is guaranteed at least a playoff Friday. 

Group 10: Paul Casey (10) def. Kyle Stanley (45), 4 and 2: A winner at the Valspar, Casey stayed hot in Austin, taking a 3-up lead at the turn and improving to 2-0 this week. He needs only a halve on Friday to advance.

Group 10: Russell Henley (51) def. Matthew Fitzpatrick (31), 2 and 1: Shaking off a narrow loss to Casey on Wednesday, Henley took control of an all-square match by winning the 12th and 14th holes and then rolling in a tricky 25-footer on the 17th green to put away Fitzpatrick. Still alive in pool play, Henley needs to beat Kyle Stanley, and hope Casey loses, to force a playoff.

Group 11: Bubba Watson (35) def. Marc Leishman (11), 3 and 2: Coming off an impressive opening victory, Watson erased an early deficit, then won Nos. 12-14 to put away Leishman, who is now eliminated. Watson is guaranteed at least a playoff Friday.

Group 11: Branden Grace (23) def. Julian Suri (64), 2 and 1: After a shaky start, Grace made four birdies over his last 11 holes to knock off the surprise Day 1 winner, Suri, who was the last man into the field. Watson is still in control of the group heading into the final day.

Group 12: Tyrrell Hatton (12) def. Brendan Steele (36), 3 and 2: All square through 12 holes, the Englishman made four birdies and an eagle over his last eight holes to improve to 2-0 this week. Hatton needs only a halve Friday to advance.

Group 12: Alexander Levy (55) def. Charley Hoffman (22), 1 up: Levy led from the sixth hole, but Hoffman slowly cut into the deficit and took the Frenchman to the final hole. Levy’s par was enough to notch his first point and stay alive in pool play.  

Group 13: Alex Noren (13) def. Thomas Pieters (39), 5 and 4: Noren made quick work of Pieters in what could be a match of future Ryder Cup teammates. Noren built a 4-up lead after seven holes and then cruised from there, moving to 2-0 this week and eliminating Pieters. In 30 holes this week, Noren has made 12 birdies and no bogeys.

Group 13: Tony Finau (29) def. Kevin Na (61), 3 and 2: In a contrast of styles, the powerful Finau birdied the first three holes and never looked back against Na, setting up a battle of unbeatens in a winner-take-all match on Friday.

Group 14: Phil Mickelson (14) def. Satoshi Kodaira (40), 1 up: Four down through seven holes, Mickelson was on the verge of being eliminated before running off a series of wins, including on 16 and 17 to push the match to the final hole. Then, on 18, he pitched to 8 feet and drained the birdie putt to complete the remarkable comeback.

Group 14: Charles Howell III (59) def. Rafa Cabrera Bello (17), 3 and 1: After knocking off Mickelson on Day 1, Howell pulled away from Cabrera Bello late, winning the 14th, 15th and 17th holes – only one of which with birdies – to take control of the lead. At 2-0, Howell is assured of at least a playoff.

Group 15: Webb Simpson (37) def. Pat Perez (15), 3 and 1: Matched up against the fiery Perez, Simpson seized control of the match with wins on the 11th and 12th holes, sank a 20-footer on 15 and then won the 17th after Perez put his tee shot in the hazard. Now 1-0-1, he’ll have a winner-take-all match against Kim on Friday.

Group 15: Si Woo Kim (50) def. Gary Woodland (24), 5 and 3: Kim won the first hole and never looked back, grabbing a 3-up lead at the turn and leading by as much as 5 up after 12 holes. He is now 2-0. 

Group 16: Matt Kuchar (16) def. Yuta Ikeda (47), 1 up: Though he wasn’t nearly as hot as in his opener against Johnson, Kuchar played solidly, going 3 under (including concessions) and making par on 17 to edge ahead of Ikeda and eke out a narrow victory. 

Group 16: Ross Fisher (27) def. Zach Johnson (54), 2 up: After a remarkable comeback against Kuchar to earn a halve on Day 1, Johnson couldn’t summon the same magic on Thursday. Though he won the 15th to cut Fisher’s advantage to 1 up, Johnson couldn’t convert birdie putts on the last three holes.