Day out to 'survive' Sawgrass, go down in history

By Randall MellMay 15, 2016, 1:01 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – We almost forgot this is the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.

With Jason Day looking unbeatable, racing to a record 15 under par midway through The Players Championship, building a record four-shot lead through two rounds, we lost track of who’s really in control here.

The Stadium Course reminded us Saturday that it has more unpredictable mood swings than a dissociative personality.

This place played like some entity determined to have its reckoning after yielding to so much low scoring.

With the course turning from benevolent to malevolent in the third round, Day didn’t look nearly so invincible, and yet he impressively fought his way into the clubhouse with his lead intact.

Still, Day isn’t holding a commanding four-shot lead anymore; he’s clinging to a four-shot lead. That’s how it feels with architect Pete Dye’s course snarling again, with the greens becoming such frightening adventures.

Nothing seems certain if reading 3-foot putts continue to look like linear calculus equations.

“A bit borderline in my opinion,” Day said, referring to the speeds. “A 10-foot putt felt like it was 60 feet away.”

With a 1-over-par 73, Day heads to Sunday at 14 under overall in his bid to win The Players wire to wire. The world No. 1 is seeking his third victory this year and his eighth over the last 15 months.

Hideki Matsuyama (67), Ken Duke (65) and Alex Cejka (72) are Day’s closest pursuers, sitting at 10 under overall.

“I want to win this tournament so badly,” Day said. “I really do, especially with how you can go down in history.”

The Players Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Day has a plan to get there, and Tiger Woods is offering more encouragement. After Day opened with a record-tying 63, he got a text from Woods.

“Tiger said, 'Just stay in your world, it’s a marathon,’” Day said. “Today felt like two marathons.”

Day has closed the door on 54-hole leads the last four times he has held them, but that stat almost seems irrelevant. He has never led after 54 holes at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, where these suddenly amped-up greens promise to test nerves in ways no venues other than Augusta National or Oakmont do.

“The greens are frightening,” said Matt Kuchar, who is eight shots back. “They are as scary as I’ve ever been on. When you address your ball, you feel like your putter is going to slide into the ball. There is zero friction.”

Strange things happen here.

Sometimes, it’s enchantment, magic you couldn’t see coming. It’s Rickie Fowler finishing birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie and then winning in a playoff last year. Or it’s Craig Perks chipping in for eagle at the 16th, making birdie at the 17th and chipping in for par at the 18th to hold off Tiger Woods in ’02.

And sometimes it is bewitchment. It’s Sergio Garcia hitting three balls in the water over the final two holes, losing to Tiger Woods with a quadruple bogey-bogey finish.

You never know what extremes this course is going to deliver on a Sunday.

Duke is hoping for the enchantment nobody saw coming. The 47-year-old is hoping to become the championship’s second oldest winner behind Fred Funk, who won at 48. Duke broke his wrist last September and has missed five of eight cuts this year. His 65 left him shaking his own head.

“It was really an unbelievable round,” Duke said.

Day practically had to wipe his eyes when he looked at Duke’s score on the leaderboard. Day thought it was better than the record 63 he posted Thursday.

“What course was Ken Duke playing?” Day said. “Can anyone tell me? That should be the course record. It was an absolute joke.”

Day made it look so easy, cruising around the Stadium Course without a bogey over the first two rounds, but nothing looked easy on these greens.

“Crazy,” Day said of the green speeds. “I could say something worse, but, no, everyone had to go through it.”

The scoring average Saturday was 75.59, almost five shots higher than the first round.

There were 76 players who made the cut and 60 of them made double bogeys or worse in the third round. There were 149 three-putts on Saturday. Day three-putted the third green for his first bogey of the week. He four-putted the sixth for a double bogey. He made another double bogey after skulling a bunker shot over the eighth green and made the turn in 39.

“It was just such a drastic change from Thursday to Friday to this afternoon,” Day said.

Day showed just how tough he’s becoming with the way he rebounded after that last double bogey. His lead shrunk to one shot there, but he played the final 10 holes in 3 under to build the lead back again.

Day delivered clutch plays when he needed them coming home. He buried a 6-foot putt for par to start the back nine. After pulling his tee shot in the woods at the 15th, then punching his escape attempt into some low lying branches, he saved par by chipping in from 50 feet. He buried a 10-foot putt for par at the 17th.

“All you could do was just try to survive,” Day said.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”