Cureton Takes Control at Q-School
Cureton carded a third-round 69 in windy conditions Thursday and is the overall leader at Black Bear GC with a 54-hole total of 8-under 208. Calgarian Scott McNeil came in with a 70 and is just one shot back.
Glenn Collins is alone in third at minus-4 while U.S. amateur standout Casey Wittenberg sits three shots in the red.
Danny Sahl of Edmonton, who began the day just one stroke off the lead, struggled to a 77 Thursday and is at even-par 216.
Marc Savard, an Ottawa native and a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, struggled for the third day in a row. The fourth-round draft pick of the NY Rangers in 1995, who has a 1.2 handicap and practices regularly with PGA Tour champion Stewart Cink, carded a third-round 78 and has a three-day score of 19-over (78-79-78).
Once Fridays final round has been completed, the Canadian Tour will award exempt playing cards for the 2005 season to the low seven finishers with an additional seven players, plus ties, earning non-exempt status.
Wittenberg, the only player in history besides Tiger Woods to be ranked the number-one amateur in the United States prior to starting college, posted a third-round 2-over 74 Thursday but is still in an ideal spot with just one day remaining before the Canadian Tour dishes out playing cards for 2005.
It would seem that Curetons second brush with Canada will be more memorable than his first.
Last September, the former University of Oklahoma starter travelled to Whitby, Ont., attempting to qualify during the Tours annual Fall Q-School at Royal Ashburn Golf Club.
The attempt didnt last long.
Cureton missed his morning wake-up call before the opening round or, he stresses, one did not come. Either way, with just six minutes before his tee time and a twenty-minute trek to Royal Ashburn ahead of him, Cureton was disqualified before even taking a swing in Canada.
That wasnt one of my finer moments, he says. I loved it up there and it was a great course, but it didnt end the way I had hoped.
He is making up for it this time around.
Playing out of Stonebridge CC in McKinney, Tex., Cureton has spent a lot of time practicing with reigning British Open champion Todd Hamilton, a former Canadian Tour member, and has been working out much of this past winter with Adam Short of Vineland, Ont.
Paired with Wittenberg Thursday, Cureton was all over the map early in the third round. After getting up and down for par on his opening hole, the 25-year-old followed that up with a bogey before making back-to-back par putts from ten and fifteen feet, respectively, on his next two holes.
I could have been 3 or 4-over right away, so it was key for me to make those par saves early, said Cureton, who credits legendary Texas coach Ben Parks for much of his improvement. It was great playing with Casey today, he is a heck of a player and just a good guy. But I needed to focus on my own game. I told myself two things before I teed off: Ive played a lot of golf with a guy that just won the British Open, and you know, Im a pretty good player myself.
All week long, Wittenberg has proved the media scrutiny and accolades are warranted. Less than a year after a 13th-place finish at The Masters, the best result by an amateur at Augusta in more than four decades, the 20-year-old is showing maturity and composure well beyond his years as he looks to lock up playing status on a professional circuit for the first time. Despite a double-bogey, bogey finish in the opening round that tested that composure for a few brief moments, Wittenberg has lingered near the top of the leaderboard all week, following up his 73 Tuesday with a 6-under 66 in the second round, the low round of the day.
With just one day to go before he nails down membership on the Canadian Tour, Cureton has no intention of slipping into cruise control for the final 18 holes.
I cant think of a better place to be, added Cureton. but you cant go out there and gimp it around the golf course (in the final round). Things can go sour in a hurry.
There may be a little extra pressure on Cureton this week. Three months after he tied the knot, his new bride Jenny is asking Cureton to take a more serious approach on the course.
Cureton may want to heed her advice. Jennys father, who also moonlights on the side as Curetons part-time caddy, is a Dallas police officer.
She told me I had better get serious about this, he laughs. It was time to start playing for real, or get a real job.
Scores Thursday after the third round of the Canadian Tours Winter Qualifying School being held at the 7,000 yard, par-72 Black Bear GC (a-denotes amateur):
1. Cureton, Chris McKinney, TX 72 67 69 208
2. McNeil, Scott Calgary, AB 71 68 70 209
3. Collins, Glenn Winnipeg, MB 70 68 74 212
4. Wittenberg, Casey Memphis, TN 73 66 74 213
5. Davis, Brien Las Vegas, NV 72 73 69 214
5. Heinen, Eddie Las Vegas, NV 70 71 73 214
5. Humphries, John Baton Rouge, LA 70 70 74 214
5. Seki, Jim Palo Alto, CA 74 68 72 214
9. Lydiatt, Chad Omaha, NE 73 71 72 216
9. Sahl, Danny Twinsburg, OH 69 70 77 216
9. Smith, Jesse Barrington, NH 74 67 75 216
12. Horowitz, Joe Long Beach, N.Y. 70 75 72 217
12. Meierling, Jan Germany 72 71 74 217
12. Mulder, Brock Dallas, TX 72 71 74 217
15. Kings, Ryan Kitchener, ON 72 73 73 218
15. McNally. Michael Billings, MT 70 77 71 218
15. Snelling, Justin Boise, ID 71 72 75 218
15. Zihala, Billy Little Rock, AR 70 71 77 218
19. Hospodar, Michael Brantford, ON 76 72 71 219
20. Ferlic, Gavin South Bend, IN 73 72 76 221
20. Hibler, Jesse Boise, ID 75 68 78 221
20. Makino, Yuji Japan 76 70 75 221
20. McLeod, Mac Winnipeg, MB 73 72 76 221
20. Park, Pedro New Zealand 74 77 70 221
25. Guetz, Bret Scottsdale, AZ 81 71 72 224
26. Brown, Michael Cheltenham, PA 81 74 70 225
26. Parker, Adrian Jupiter, FL 77 74 74 225
28. Peterson, Brett Mesa, AZ 79 69 78 226
28. Yopchick, Scott Chicago, IL 79 77 70 226
30. Dickenson, Billy Haines City, FL 74 77 76 227
30. Kennedy, Robert Phoenix, AZ 78 73 76 227
30. Martin, Greg Austin, TX 72 77 78 227
30. Sherriff, Justin London, ON 75 79 73 227
30. Williams, JJ Palm Beach Gardens, FL 75 75 77 227
35. Kilduff, Lynn Dallas, TX 75 73 80 228
36. Cook, Dan Charleston, SC 79 74 77 230
36. Deschaine, Matt Bay Minette, AL 74 74 82 230
38. Berger, Kelly Wausau, WI 78 75 78 231
38. Hoenig, Ron Hobe Sound, FL 78 76 77 231
38. Johnstone, Evan Orinda, CA 78 76 77 231
38. Sitterley, Rob Orlando, FL 78 78 75 231
42. Heinz, Jerry Poway, CA 81 74 77 232
43. Ibarreche, Juan Pablo Mexico 78 75 80 233
43. Tripp, Shane Orlando, FL 84 74 75 233
45. Noble, Scott Cartersville, GA 77 76 81 234
46. Savard, Marc (A) Peterborough, ON 78 79 78 235
47. Petrie, Michael Inverary, ON 78 79 79 236
48. Ryan, Jeffery Key West, FL 76 84 77 237
49. Yarvi, Matt (A) Orlando, FL 85 74 79 238
50. Hogg, Ian St. Davids, ON 76 79 88 243
Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back
CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.
A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.
The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.
Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.
Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.
Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement
AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.
Just like that other tournament, right?
Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.
But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.
After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.
Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.
“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”
The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.
It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.
“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”
His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.
Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.
Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.
“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”
But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.
While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.
“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”
But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.
Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.
Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.
Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title
BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.
Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.
Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.
The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.
First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).
Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson
AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.
In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.
“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”
Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.
After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”