Leaderboard lacking star power

By Rex HoggardMay 4, 2012, 12:19 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For a tournament with a proven pedigree for flushing out pedigrees Thursday’s leaderboard looked more Greater Greensboro Classic than Wells Fargo Championship.

A course that has produced a proven list of winners in its 10 years in the PGA Tour rota – including a Tiger Woods, a Vijay Singh, a Rory McIlroy, a Lucas Glover and a Jim Furyk – seemed to go soft on Day 1 . . . literally.

“They just can’t get the greens too firm with this (hot) weather,” Webb Simpson said. Consider Simpson something of a resident specialist on Quail Hollow. He lives about a mile from the Carolina classic and is a regular when he’s not chasing millions on Tour.

But then soft green-light conditions only partially explain a first-round leaderboard that had a Bizarro World feel to it.

Check the record: World No. 2 McIlroy opened with a 2-under 70, No. 3 Lee Westwood managed a middle-of-the-pack 1-under card, No. 5 Hunter Mahan limped in at 1 over, No. 7 Woods carded an eventful 71 and was tied at 56th with No. 10 Phil Mickelson.

To put that line in context consider that a Monday-qualifying, road-weary journeyman named Patrick Reed clipped the “Big 5’s” combined best  . . . by two strokes, with an opening 6-under 66. He’s 972nd in the world golf ranking.

We’re not saying the world golf ranking is broken, just Quail Hollow’s secret mojo for producing top-shelf champions.

Simpson, who was paired with Woods for just the second time in his career on Thursday, adds a measure of cachet to the marquee and he certainly made the most of his round and his chance to play with “Red Shirt.”

“Last time I kicked him in his knee and he had to withdraw,” smiled Simpson, referring to Woods’ early exit from Doral on Sunday this year with an ailing left wheel. “We went from 10,000 people on every hole to zero people on every hole.”

Diminishing interest due to struggling superstars is a concept tournament officials are keenly aware of.

That Simpson is tied with Stewart Cink – who has, by his own account, been adrift competitively speaking – and Ryan Moore, who like Cink is winless since 2009, did little to boost the “Q” rating at what is largely considered a mid-major stop.

Cue Tour cliché: You can’t win a Tour event on Thursday, but you can certainly lose the plot. And on Thursday Quail Hollow seemed to drift off topic.

Perfect scoring conditions seemed to be the primary culprit, with more than half the field (79) carding under-par cards and the feared Green Mile losing a bit of its sting largely thanks to a new tee box at No. 17, as does the increasing impact of parity. But it’s still a fool’s bet to think that with the quantity of stars aligned at the Wells Fargo this week the course will not produce the familiar quality atop the leaderboard.

Not that any of the “Big 5” seemed overly concerned with the collective sluggishness. Not here where the Wall of Champions is a who’s who of modern Tour royalty.

Even Mickelson, who had a Masters moment on Thursday with a triple-bogey-7 at the fourth hole, didn’t seem overly worried, echoing, correctly, that when McIlroy marched to victory here in 2010 he narrowly made the cut.

“We’ve seen it with McIlroy in 2010,” Lefty figured. “The guy who makes the cut on the number can still win this tournament. It’s not something I’ll stress about.”

Ditto for Woods, who is playing his first tournament since the Masters – where he tied for 40th for his worst finish at Augusta National as a professional. Despite hitting just 8 of 14 fairways and flirting with the creek on the 18th hole, his first sentence on the record this week sounded more like a pep talk for tournament officials.

“I made too many mistakes on the front nine,” Woods said. “But still within reach, obviously.”

Obviously. This is, after all, Quail Hollow which – with the singular exception of affable Joey Sindelar, who won in 2004 – has been professional golf’s version of a rainmaker.

Quail Hollow doesn’t do dog champions, particularly not on the event’s 10-year anniversary. The turf will dry, the ball will bounce and the game’s biggest names will surface. They always do.

Thursday’s board may not be exactly what we’ve come to expect in this corner of Dixie, but that doesn’t mean Quail Hollow won’t deliver. It always does.

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McIlroy battles back into tie for BMW PGA lead

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 4:09 pm

Rory McIlroy got off to a rocky start on Saturday in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, including hitting a spectator and making a double bogey. But after that incident on the sixth hole, he didn't drop another shot, birdieing the final hole to shoot a 1-under 71 and tie for the lead.

McIlroy had gone into Moving Day with a three-shot lead, but Francesco Molinari had the round of the day, a 6-under 66. "It was nice keep a clean scorecard," said Molinari, who hasn't made a bogey since the 10th hole on Friday.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy and Molinari will be paired in Sunday's final round. They are tied at 13 under par, four shots clear of Ross Fisher, Branden Grace, Sam Horsfield and Alexander Noren.

The Wentworth course ends with back-to-back par-5s, and McIlroy birdied both of them. He got a break on the 18th hole as his drive hit a spectator and bounced into light rough.

"It was a struggle out there today," McIlroy said. "I think when you're working on a few things in your swing and the wind is up and you're stuck between trying to play different shots, but also try to play - you know, make good swings at it, I just hit some loose tee balls on the first few holes. But I'm proud of myself. I stayed patient. I actually - I'm feeling a bit better about myself after today than I was even walking off the course yesterday."

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Watch: McIlroy hits spectator on hand

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 2:58 pm

We never cease to wonder at how close fans crowd in to the intended line of some shots, and just how skilled Tour players are in not hitting someone.

But every once in a while, golf ball and spectator intersect, with painful results. It happened to Rory McIlroy during the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, after he had hit a wayward drive on the sixth hole. Attempting to hack out his second shot from under a bush, McIlroy struck a female spectator on her right hand. There was no official word on her condition, but she was clearly - and understandably - in pain.

McIlroy went on to make double bogey but was able to put the incident behind him, as he promptly birdied the next hole.

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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.''