Muddy Merion may be perfect match for McIlroy

By Rex HoggardJune 11, 2013, 9:25 pm

ARDMORE, Pa. – The insult was not intended, yet just as muddy Merion was beginning to dry late Tuesday it took a metaphorical shower.

“The East Coast has been battered these last U.S. Opens I've played, the ones I've played, Bethpage, Congressional, here this week,” Graeme McDowell said on Tuesday. “It is what it is this time of the year in the Northeast. It's tough. I feel for everyone involved this week, volunteers and maintenance staff, the USGA, really.”

Weather sympathy ... from a Northern Irishman. Tough times indeed.

While G-Mac’s take on the torrents that have swamped East Coast Opens in recent years – from the bath that was Bethpage in 2009 to soggy Congressional in 2011 – may be a harsh reality, it is historically accurate and a fact worth digesting as we inch closer to the start of the 113th U.S. Open.

Note to the USGA: if hosting Opens at historical gems like Merion is going to be a competitive imperative may we suggest digging up the East Course and moving it to Southern California.

Soggy conditions will be an occupational hazard this week at Merion, so much so officials may want to consider replacing the iconic wicker baskets used to mark holes to something more apropos, say a squeegee.

Twice on Monday, Merion was closed by storms and more is forecast for Thursday, which will likely narrow the list of potential champions dramatically.

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In 2009 at Bethpage no one was driving the ball better than Lucas Glover – he ranked 13th for the week in fairways hit. Ditto for Rory McIlroy two summers ago at Congressional, where the Ulsterman was 26th in finding fairways.

While Merion is a dramatically different monster, the math remains the same.

For Glover and McIlroy it was a unique combination of power and precision that lifted them to Open glory. It is a game that the world No. 2 is uniquely suited for despite a season that has been defined by a series of peaks and valleys.

“I didn’t really enjoy the Olympic Club last year. I much prefer this sort of golf,” McIlroy said on Tuesday at Merion. “When you hit a shot and it doesn’t bounce one way or the other, when you hit it and it stays where you think it’s going to stay.”

Despite a fitful year, McIlroy still ranks 14th in total driving, a combination of distance and accuracy, and even in his last start, an eventful tie for 57th at the Memorial, he led the field with a 292-yard average.

“I like the way (Congressional) was set up initially,” McDowell said. “Then by the time the rains came down and Rory split the fairway 14 times out of 14, 330 (yards) down the middle and decimated the place, you know, it was never going to really be my kind of U.S. Open.”

And if McIlroy’s recent record doesn’t exactly scream champion-in-waiting, he preceded his tie for 57th at Muirfield Village with a missed cut at the European Tour’s marquee event in England, consider that the two-time major champion has made a career out of lowered expectations.

In the run-up to last year’s walk-off at the PGA Championship, McIlroy had missed a cut (U.S. Open), tied for 60th (British Open) and tied for fifth (WGC-Bridgestone Invitational). And before his Open breakthrough at Congressional he’d missed a cut (Wells Fargo Championship) and finished fifth (Memorial).

“I’m still waiting to see what happened like it did last year at (the Bridgestone),” said Dave Stockton Sr., McIlroy’s putting coach. “When it doesn’t happen I’m surprised.”

There have been distractions this season. The wholesale equipment change to Nike Golf was heavily scrutinized and not as seamless as he would have liked, and swirling rumors that he is primed to make his second management team change in three years has created concern in some corners.

Throughout it all, however, McIlroy has remained consistently upbeat and somewhat immune to the slings and arrows of Monday morning quarterbacking.

“There’s always going to be a little bit of a transition period switching over (to Nike equipment),” he said. “I would rather do it right away than sort of let it linger for any period of time. I would rather do it in the first two or three months of the year and get it over and done with.”

If that doesn’t exactly sound like the ramblings of your average 24-year-old, McIlroy’s golf IQ has always defied the typical learning curve.

Where others see lost opportunities, McIlroy has embraced the inevitable ebb and flow of a prolonged competitive career. Where the status quo sees a golf course that on the scorecard (6,996 yards) would appear to be a square peg for the Northern Irishman’s round-peg game, McIlroy sees soggy similarities with Congressional, where he won the Open by eight strokes.

Where some have seen failure, McIlroy’s judge of progress has been much more nuanced.

“You never lean a whole lot when you win, it’s the hard weeks that really teach you something,” Stockton said.

And as the golf world learned in 2009 and ’11, wet U.S. Opens are won by great drivers, which may make muddy Merion and McIlroy a perfect fit.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.