Feels Like the First Time

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 7, 2003, 5:00 pm
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Twenty players are competing for the first time this week at Kapaluas Plantation course, the vast majority of whom are making their debut in the Mercedes Championships.
 
There were 18 first-time winners on the PGA Tour in 2002, a single-season record on the circuit by four. It started with Jerry Kelly picking up his first trophy at the years first full-field event, the Sony Open, and continued through to the seasons final full-field event, the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, where rookie Luke Donald was declared champion after a final-round washout.
 
All 18 have made their way to Maui for the seasons tip-off, and some have offered their thoughts on who might don the champions crown for the first time in 2003.
 
Chad Campbell, replied reigning Invensys Classic winner Chris Riley without hesitation. I think hes going to win this year.
 
Campbell was the 2001 Nationwide Tour (formerly known as the Buy.Com Tour) Player of the Year, having won three times that year and earning a promotion to the PGA Tour.
 
In his first full season with the big boys, the 28-year-old Texan used six top-20s to easily keep his card.
 
I think Brett Quigley, said Kiwi Craig Perks, who made the elite Players Championship his first tour title. Hes played a lot of events. I think hes a good enough player to win. Hes put himself in position a few times; its just a matter of closing the door. Hes certainly got the experience, and hes a great player.
 
Quigley has primarily played the PGA Tour over the last six years, but hes only once ended the season inside the top 125 on the money list during that span. That was in 2001, when he finished 56th in earnings by way of six top-10s, including a runner-up finish in the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic.
 
However, he once again slipped outside the realm of full exempt status by ending 2002 140th on the money list. He will have a partial exemption, though, because he maintained a position inside the top 150.
 
A few of last years first-timers threw out the name Pat Perez. The volatile, but talented 26-year-old was twice a runner-up in 02 while finishing 40th on the money list.
 
Perez was a 2001 Q-School graduate. Of the 18 first-timers last year, four came directly from the qualifying tournament, while two were Nationwide Tour graduates.
 
Jonathan Byrd earned his 2002 PGA Tour card by finishing eighth on the developmental tours money list a year prior. He went on to win the Buick Challenge en route to capturing Rookie of the Year honors.
 
All the guys that come from the (Nationwide) Tour can win out here, he said. Aaron Baddeley, guys like Patrick Moore, they already know how to win.
 
Baddeley won back-to-back Australian Open titles, once as an amateur. After some early professional troubles, he made his way to the premier playing ground by finishing 10th on the 2002 Nationwide money list.
 
Moore was the tours Player of the Year after winning three times to earn a PGA Tour promotion.
 
There were other names bantered about: Harrison Frazar, who has finished inside the top 100 on the PGA Tour money list each of the last five seasons; Jay Williamson, who was 125th in earnings a year ago; Peter Lonard, who made 23 of 24 cuts in 2002, and Ben Crane, who was runner-up in the most recent Byron Nelson Classic.
 
But there was one name in particular that was uttered most. One name sauted in respect and unachieved expectation.
 
Steve Flesch, said 2002 Pebble Beach champion Matt Gogel. More than anybody I think hes due to win.
 
Flesch has been a regular on the PGA Tour since 1998. During that span, hes never finished worse than 75th on the money list. He made over $2 million in 2000 alone. In fact, he's the tour's career leading money earner without a victory ($5.76M).
 
The 35-year-old left-handed Kentuckian has averaged one top 10 for every four cuts he made in his career. He even won the 1997 Nationwide Tour Championship.
 
But for all his skill and potential, Flesch has yet to step into the winners circle on the PGA Tour, a fact thats puzzling to even established tour players.
 
Ive played with him a number of times and hes got the game, said 20-year PGA Tour veteran and six-time winner Jeff Sluman.
 
Hes got a ton of talent, hes just got to put it together.
 
Hes the guy I pick (to break through) every year, and Im picking him again.
 
Related Links:
  • PGA Tour Statistical Preview
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    Even with broken driver, Salinda beats Hagestad at U.S. Am

    By Ryan LavnerAugust 17, 2018, 2:52 am

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With a trip to the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals on the line, and with the Pacific Ocean staring him in the face, Isaiah Salinda piped a 330-yard drive down Pebble Beach’s 18th hole.

    Not a bad poke with a replacement driver.

    Salinda’s Round of 16 match against Stewart Hagestad got off to a rocky start Thursday afternoon with an awkward tee shot on the second hole.

    “The ball came out weird, with no spin,” said Salinda’s caddie and former Stanford teammate, Bradley Knox. “He said, ‘Yeah, that felt weird.’”

    Salinda looked at the bottom of his Callaway Epic driver and noticed a crack.

    Worried that they'd have to play the rest of the round with only a 3-wood, Knox called a Callaway equipment rep, told him the issue, and was relieved to hear he'd meet them at the back of the third tee. Salinda teed off the next hole with a 3-wood – he’d taken driver there all week – and wound up in a tricky spot, on the side of a mound, leading to a bogey.

    “Then they came over and cranked the driver,” Knox said. “It was like a NASCAR pit crew.”

    The replacement driver was nearly identical – same head, same loft, same weighting – except for the lie angle. The new one was a degree flatter than his gamer, which led to a few more pulled shots than usual.

    “It took a little while to recover the mindset that we’d had the rest of the week,” Knox said.


    Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

    U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


    Salinda downplayed the equipment malfunction – “I just had to adjust, and it wasn’t really a problem” – but he didn’t play well early. After trailing for just one hole during his first two matches, he was 4 over par and 2 down through 10 holes against Hagestad, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who’d finally made match play after eight previous failed attempts.

    On 11, Salinda finally got going, stuffing a wedge shot to 10 feet and recording his first birdie. He followed with three clutch pars before another good approach on 15, leading to a conceded birdie to square the match.

    On the home hole, Salinda bombed his drive about 30 yards past Hagestad and had 220 yards to the flag. It was a perfect 4-iron distance, and he sent a rocket into a blinding sunset.

    “I never saw it,” Salinda said. “I told my caddie: ‘Where is that? I have no idea.’ But it felt good.”

    A lone voice shrieked as the ball landed on the green. They knew the shot had to be tight. Years ago, Stanford senior Chris Meyers had made an albatross on 18 for a walkoff victory with Lee Janzen at the PGA Tour Champions’ First Tee Open. Knox thought they’d come close to duplicating the feat.

    “Probably almost had a Chris Meyers,” Knox said, chuckling, as they walked up the fairway.

    The shot never had a chance to drop – turns out the spectator was well-lubricated – but it still was only 35 feet away, for eagle. Salinda cozied his putt to a few feet and could only watch as Hagestad’s last-ditch 25-footer stopped a rotation short of the cup.

    The Round of 16 victory continued a breakout summer for Salinda. His 15th-place showing at the NCAA Championship kick-started a three-month stretch in which he’s finally taken his game to the next level.

    “He’s shown flashes of brilliance before,” Knox said, “and he’s had the game. But now he has the consistency and the confidence that it’ll come back time and time again.”

    Salinda shot 62 in the third round and won the Pacific Coast Amateur, which boasts one of the strongest fields of the summer. Then he finished third in stroke play at the Western Amateur before a quarterfinal loss in match play.

    Now he’s one step closer to his biggest victory yet – even with a backup driver.

    Getty Images

    Salas (62) leads LPGA's Indy Women in Tech

    By Associated PressAugust 17, 2018, 12:50 am

    INDIANAPOLIS - Lizette Salas' waited 77 minutes to line up her 4-foot putt to take the lead Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    She refused to let the weather delay get to her.

    When the 29-year-old California player returned to the course, she quickly rolled in the birdie putt, finished her round with another birdie at No. 18 and took a two-shot lead over Angel Yin and Nasa Hataoka with a course record-tying 10-under 62.

    ''I didn't even think about it the entire time,'' Salas said. ''I was hanging out with Danielle (Kang) and she was giving me her silly dad jokes. So it definitely kept my mind off of it. I was really excited to be back and to finish off with a birdie, from off the green, was the icing on the cake.''

    It's the lowest score by a female player at the Brickyard Crossing.

    Defending champion Lexi Thompson opened last year's inaugural tournament with a 63, one shot off of Mike McCullough's 62 in the PGA Champions Tour's 1999 Comfort Classic.

    But the way the saturated 6,456-yard course played Thursday, Salas needed virtually every putt of her career-best round to reach the top of the leaderboard.

    The morning starters took advantage of overnight rain by shooting right at the pins.

    And nobody made a bigger early splash than Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who finished second in last year's rookie of the year race.

    She opened with five straight birdies and shot 8-under 28 on the front nine. Only a par on No. 6 prevented her from becoming the sixth LPGA player to shoot 27 on nine holes. South Korea's Mi Hyang Lee did it most recently at the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup.

    Yin also tied the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.

    Her only bobble came with a bogey on No. 13 and she closed out her best career round with a birdie on No. 18.


    Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


    ''I have never done that before,'' she said. ''I had nine putts, I think, on the front nine, which is incredible. I've never had that many little putts. But it just felt good. Everything was working.''

    Last year's runner-up for rookie of the year has never won an LPGA Tour title in her home country though she did win in a playoff at Dubai on the Ladies European Tour.

    Everybody seemed to find their groove Thursday.

    Eighty-eight of the 143 players shot under par and 54 were 3-under or better.

    And with more rain in the forecast Thursday night and Friday, the scores could go even lower as a star-studded cast chases down Salas, Yin and Hataoka.

    Four players, including Kang and Jane Park, are three shots behind.

    Seven players, including last year's tournament runner-up Lydia Ko, are four shots back. Ko was tied with Yin for the lead - until she knocked her tee shot on the par-4, 16th into the water. She wound up with a double bogey and birdied the final hole to finish with 66.

    After taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion, Thompson looked relaxed and comfortable in her return to the course. She shot 68.

    ''It was hard for me to take the break because I didn't want to show weakness,'' she said. ''But at the same time, it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge that you need that kind of break and just take time for yourself, especially when you're in the spotlight like this.''

    Salas, meanwhile, started fast with an eagle on the par-5 second and finished with a flurry.

    She birdied three straight holes on the front side to get to 5-under, added birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 to get to 7-under and then birdied the final three holes - around the approaching storm - to put herself in contention for her first title since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

    ''I have been just striking the ball really well this entire year, and just glad some more putts dropped today,'' she said. ''I was really refreshed. I didn't practice at all last week, and I was just really eager and excited to be back.''

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    Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters

    By Associated PressAugust 16, 2018, 11:23 pm

    GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.

    Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''

    The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.

    Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.

    Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.

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    Peterson confirms plans to play Web.com Finals

    By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 9:17 pm

    After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals.

    Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.


    Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

    Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.

    Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."

    The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Web.com Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.