Worth Watching

By Mercer BaggsApril 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
Augusta National released Tuesday afternoon its opening-round tee times for the 2008 Masters Tournament. Here are a few groups worth keeping an eye on:
 
8 a.m. ET: Ben Curtis, Shaun Micheel
How many times do you think these two guys have been paired together over the last five years? Do tournament committees think Curtis and Micheel, both surprise major champions in 2003, look at the pairing sheet, laugh, wag their fingers and say in a Steve Martin voice, You guys . Those silly Augusta octogenarians.
 
8:22 a.m. ET: Mark OMeara, Trip Kuehne (a), Ian Poulter
A couple of weeks ago the Golf Guy (Yes, I know the Golf Guy personally. And, yes, ladies, he's single.) was out at the Tavistock Cup and said that OMeara was doing a TV interview after his Isleworth team victory when Poulter (a Lake Nona guy) ran over and doused him with champagne. OMeara played it off on TV, but then gave Poulter a death stare that would have petrified Charles Bronson. Poulter, of course, either didnt notice or didnt care.
 
8:44 a.m. ET: Gary Player, Miguel Angel Jimenez, D.J. Trahan
How many holes before Jimenez gets tired of the 72-year-old Player yapping in his ear about how hes the most physically fit man in this or any other universe, and that if the Spaniard would quit smoking cigars, do a few crunches and get a decent haircut he might actually contend in a major championship, before he picks him up and dumps him in Raes Creek?
 
9:39 a.m. ET: Fred Couples, Jerry Kelly, Anders Hansen
Player should have been put in the same group with Couples, who is trying to break the South Africans record mark of 23 consecutive cuts made at the Masters. Couples tied it last year. Should he break it this time around dont be surprised if Player says Couples was the guy he was talking about at last years Open Championship.
 
10:23 a.m. ET: Zach Johnson, Luke Donald, Geoff Ogilvy
Johnson will be trying to join Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only men to successfully defend their titles in this event. He will be trying to avoid sharing the company of Mike Weir, however, who was the last defending champion to miss the cut.
 
10:45 a.m. ET: Tiger Woods, Angel Cabrera, Stuart Appleby
Who held the 54-hole lead in last years Masters? That would be Stuart Appleby, who shot 75 on Sunday and finished in a tie for seventh. As they were in the final round of 2007, Appleby and Woods will again be grouped in Rds. 1 and 2 in 08. But if youre looking for someone to stand up to Tiger this week dont look to the Australian, but rather to the third member of this threesome. Cabrera has the length, the confidence (2007 U.S. Open champion) and the record (three top-10s at the Masters) to give Tiger a run. Maybe.
 
11:18 a.m. ET: Craig Stadler, Johnson Wagner, Steve Flesch
Johnson Wagner won last weeks Shell Houston Open to make the Masters field at the 11th hour and said even rounds of 90-90 this week could wipe the smile off his face. So the Masters committee put him with Stadler. That will do it.
 
12:02 p.m. ET: Soren Hansen, Daniel Chopra, Richard Sterne
Winner! Most Non-Descript Threesome in the Tournament. Ever.
 
1:08 p.m. ET: Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Mark Calcavecchia
Bubba has the length. Sergio has the accuracy. Calc has the savvy. If they could combine their skills ' and find a fourth member who could actually putt ' they might have a chance to win this week.
 
1:41 p.m. ET: Phil Mickelson, Andres Romero, K.J. Choi
This is the only group over the first two rounds in which all three players have won on TOUR this season. All eyes will be on Mickelson, but dont overlook Choi. He finished third here in 2004.
 
2:03 p.m. ET: Aaron Baddeley, Camilo Villegas, Lee Westwood
The final group of the opening round. Baddeley is a chic pick to do well this week because of his stellar putting. However, he tied for 52nd last year and missed the cut in two tries as an amateur. Nothing would give Johnson more pleasure ' aside from winning it again himself ' than slipping the green jacket onto his good friend this coming Sunday.
 

Related Links:
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

    Getty Images

    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

    Getty Images

    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

    Getty Images

    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”