Pardon the Pedigree-less Leaderboard

By Rex HoggardMarch 27, 2011, 3:17 am
Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. – Since Arnold Palmer slapped his own moniker on the PGA Tour’s Central Florida staple five years ago, the King has enjoyed an embarrassment of Hall of Fame riches. In order, the trophy has been hoisted by Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.

So pardon the masses, who largely bolted for the exits after Woods finished his third round nearly an hour before the front runners.

With a monsoon of respect for Martin Laird – the leader by two heading into Sunday, Sunday, Sunday – the top 10 through 54 holes have a combined 19 Tour victories and two majors. If you remove David Toms, who is tied for fifth and five back from the equation, that total drops to seven Tour tilts and one major. That’s compared to a collective 20 Grand Slams for the last four Bay Hill winners.

Maybe more intriguing is the total for the top 4 – three victories, no majors. That list includes Spencer Levin, alone in second, and Steve Marino (T-3), arguably the two best frat brothers without a Tour bottle cap.

If winning on Tour is an art form, consider Sunday’s primary antagonist eager novices.

Complicating, or perhaps encouraging, the situation is a golf course that falls into the mid-major category. “It’s a good, long, hard golf course sort of like you get at a major championship,” Laird said.

Spencer Levin
Spencer Levin lost in a playoff at the Mayakoba Golf Classic last month. (Getty Images)
In the common wisdom of Tour Sundays experience kills, but that kind of cliché holds little meaning with 18 to play in the Florida Swing. Not with Woods, who struggled to a third-round 74 and headed down Apopka Vineland Road hoping for a windstorm on Saturday, and Phil Mickelson (2 under and the closest Hall of Famer to the lead) well outside the conversation, while defending champion Els will be on his way home by the time the leaders tee off on Sunday.

For those who left early on Saturday wondering if Bubba Watson (T-3) was Tom’s son the question is not “who are these guys?” so much as it is “who can win this thing?”

Laird may relish Bay Hill’s semi-tough status, but asked after his Day 3 70 to go over his scorecard, he gazed blankly at the ceiling, “I don’t know this golf course well enough to just rattle them off,” conceded Laird, who is playing the event for just the second time.

Not exactly the kind of institutional know-how that screams champion.

Levin knows even less of Arnie’s Place, not a surprise considering this is his first visit to the former citrus grove. Similarly, given the “A List” of Bay Hill winners, it’s little surprise the crowds know even less of them.

In short, Laird is a Continental contradiction, the rare Scot who can’t play in the wind, at least not like he used to growing up in Glasgow, while Levin is the rarest of Tour creatures – honest to the extreme with his heart permanently fixed to his oversized shirt sleeve.

One player recently deflected a question about Woods saying, “Have you ever considered the possibility Tiger’s not entirely truthful with you?” There is no need to consider such dishonesty from Levin.

When asked what experiences the former wild child turned flat-liner will pull from on Sunday when the PSI is turned up he stumbled for a few moments, “Mexico,” he said, referring to his playoff loss earlier this year South of the Border.

How about Disney last year, where he tied for third? “Oh yeah, man. Thanks,” smiled Levin, who drew even with Laird through 14 holes but played the next two bogey-bogey.

Asked his best memory of Bay Hill? “Only thing I remember is Tiger making a 100 footer every year to win.” In his defense, that’s most people’s only recollection of Arnie’s big dance.

What the two lack in pedigree and practical knowledge they more than make up for in potential. Levin has missed one cut and posted four top 10s since last October, while Laird has missed one weekend since last August with seven top 10s.

But then many believe the modern fixation on top 10s is over-rated and meaningless. Wins, particularly major victories, are what counts. Tour practice tees are filled with potential but Hall of Fame careers are not perched atop potential.

In many ways, whoever cashes on Sunday will enjoy a breakthrough of sorts, even Toms, whose last victory was the 2006 Sony Open. In fact, for Levin, Marc Leishman (T-7), John Senden (T-7) and Charles Howell III (T-7) Sunday could also earn them a spot in next month’s Masters.

And if six shots back seems a bit of a stretch even Levin, for all his inexperience, knows better.

“If the wind blows anybody at 5 or 6 under has a chance . . . four or five back definitely has a chance,” he reasoned.

Just not anybody with a Hall of Fame pedigree, and maybe that’s not a bad thing whether the Bay Hill masses realize it or not.


 

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard 
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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."