Scott squanders chance for Bay Hill title, No. 1 ranking

By Rex HoggardMarch 23, 2014, 11:49 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Tiger Woods was a no-show this week for his annual central Florida annuity, the byproduct of a back that continues to cause aches throughout the golf world, while Adam Scott at least waited until the weekend to go AWOL.

Following a course-record-tying 62 on Day 1 at Bay Hill, the would-be world No. 1 slowly, steadily, painfully back-pedaled his way into one of the more disappointing finishes of his career, squandering a seven-stroke advantage to begin the weekend on his way to a three-shot loss to Matt Every at a tournament that had all the markings of a coronation.

Major champions close. Players on the brink of overtaking Woods atop golf’s mathematically mad rankings don’t drop nine shots over two days to the 94th-ranked player whose primary claim to fame as a professional was, at least until Sunday, a 2010 arrest for possession of marijuana.

On the eve of the final round Scott acknowledged as much.

“I just don’t think you get the chance that much, because there are so many guys playing well,” Scott said on Saturday. “If I only win one tournament in the peak time in my career it’s no different than the rest of my career so far. I’ve got to start closing at a better rate.”

But on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Scott blew the save ... there’s no other way to slice it up.

With a three-stroke advantage over Keegan Bradley, and four clear of Every, Scott bogeyed the first hole for the second consecutive day, added another at the third and by the 12th hole he was trailing for the first time all week.

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Scott didn’t make a birdie on his closing loop on a breezy Sunday afternoon. When pressed for the root of his ills he figured it was his putter – the same club that betrayed him late last year when he lost the Australian Open to Rory McIlroy – which should shoulder the blame.

“I really think the putting has let me down on both those occasions,” said Scott, who has now failed to convert his last two 54-hole leads. “That needs to be tightened up and probably shows that I need to do a bit more work on it to hold up under the pressure.”

To hear Scott talk late Sunday one came away with the distinct feeling that the 2016 ban on anchoring can’t get here soon enough.

On paper, Scott’s take has merit. After needing 23 and 29 putts in Rounds 1 and 2, respectively, he batted his way around Bay Hill on the weekend needing a combined 63 putts, including a particularly deflating three-putt from 19 feet at the 16th hole that turned what could have been a three-stroke swing into an end game.

Every, who claimed his first PGA Tour title thanks to a closing 70 for a 13-under total, fanned his drive into the trees right of the 16th fairway, hit another tree with his second shot and had to chip out with his third. A two-putt bogey dropped him to 14 under and two ahead of Scott, who answered by rifling his second shot at the par 5 to 19 feet.

But Scott missed the eagle attempt, and his 4-footer for birdie. A hole later his broom-handle putter let him down again, this time from 7 feet for par.

Scott would finish with a 76, completing a 3-over-par weekend to finish alone in third place behind Bradley, who also endured a sloppy start (he was 3 over through three holes) but pulled to within a shot when Every bogeyed the last.

From what is considered in these parts the “Tiger putt,” the spot about 30 feet left of the hole at No. 18 where Woods beat Sean O’Hair in 2009, Bradley’s tying attempt remained high.

“(Caddie Steve Hale) said, ‘That’s bogey when Matt putted (at No. 18), birdie and we have a playoff.’ I was actually thinking about the Tiger putt before I putted, but I remember his breaking into the hole,” Bradley said. “I just love that moment.”

Whether Scott has a similar affinity for those types of high-pressure episodes will now be a talking point over the next two weeks in the run-up to the Masters.

His playoff victory last year at Augusta National seemed to evaporate the cloud that hung over Scott for much of his career that suggested he was too soft to win when the pressure was on.

Ending the Aussie “duck” in such dramatic fashion, however, has now given way to familiar rumblings. Recent history and short-term memories now cite Scott’s loss at the Australian Open, where he led McIlroy by four shots heading into the last lap, and now the Arnold Palmer Invitational as Exhibits A and B.

But as tough as the critics can be, it is Scott who will likely spend the next fortnight playing tag with the darkest recesses of his psyche.

“Sometimes you’ve got to be hard on yourself. Sometimes you don’t,” Scott said. “I had an opportunity here to run away with an event and really take a lot of confidence. I’m taking confidence anyway from just some good play. But some opportunities you’ve got to take.”

Four international victories, including the Masters, in the last 12 months appeared to indicate we’d seen the last of the softer side of Scott, that the days of missed opportunities and unmitigated miscues were a thing of the past.

Scott chose to look at the moment as a trophy half full, figuring only bad memories are born from painful association. But the questions, however unfair and shortsighted, will linger, at least until the Masters.

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Down seven pounds, Thomas can gain No. 1

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”

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Garnett's six-shot lead dwindles to two in Punta Cana

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 10:57 pm

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic - Brice Garnett took a six-stroke lead into the wind Saturday in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. He came out with a two-stroke advantage.

Garnett bogeyed three of the final six holes in the wind and rain for a 3-under 69 and a 16-under 200 total.

''Once we made the turn coming back, all those holes coming in toward the north, it was all we wanted and then some,'' Garnett said. ''I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes. Pars are pretty good scores on those holes.''

Canadian Corey Conners was second after a 67, and Tyler McCumber also had a 67 to get to 12 under. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

A stroke ahead after each of the first two rounds, Garnett opened with a bogey, birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 6, eagled the par-5 seventh, and made two more birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 12th. He bogeyed the par-4 13th, par-5 15th and par-3 17th.

Full-field scores from the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

''I looked once and the lead was a little bigger than what it is now,'' Garnett said. ''The eagle was huge, kind of gave me that confidence that I can push it on out and stretch it a little bit more. That wind was tough and I'll take a two-shot lead into tomorrow.''

The 34-year-old Garnett is winless on the PGA Tour. He won twice last year on the Tour.

''You've got another 18 holes. So much can happen,'' Garnett said. ''Just going to try to keep the golf ball in front of me. I have that self-belief this week and that's what I had last year when I won, so I'll just keep my head down and just keep going.''

Conners had five birdies and a bogey on the front nine and added a birdie on No. 12.

''Really happy with the round,'' Conners said. ''I got off to a nice start, made a bunch of birdies on the front nine and kind of held it together on the back nine. It was playing really difficult. The wind was really blowing out there, made things challenging.''

McCumber, the son of 10-time PGA Tour winner Mark McCumber, has played his last 39 holes with a bogey.

''Second shots have been pretty solid,'' McCumber said. ''Putting pretty well, short game is pretty good. Just really being in the right areas and staying below the hole.''

Tom Lovelady was fourth at 11 under after a 68. Seamus Power (71), Denny McCarthy (71) and Seungsu Han (72) were 10 under.

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Poulter incorrectly told he's in Masters before loss to Kisner

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 10:33 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Ian Poulter was not happy, and it was only partially because of his blowout loss to Kevin Kisner in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Following his morning victory in the round of 16 over Louis Oosthuizen, the Englishman was incorrectly informed that by making it to the Elite 8 at Austin Country Club he was assured enough Official World Golf Raking points to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.

“I should never listen to other people,” Poulter said following his 8-and-6 loss to Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals. “When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody is telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, ‘Oh, we've made a mistake, actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.’

“Not that that's an excuse in any form or factor, it's a little disappointing.”

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Poulter actually needed to advance to the semifinal round to move into the top 50. Instead, his last chance to qualify for the Masters is to win next week’s Houston Open, although he was unsure if he’d play the event.

“I don't know yet, I haven't decided,” said Poulter when asked if he’d play next week. “I'm tired. It's been a long week. It's been a draining week. I'll wait until Monday night and if I have the energy then I will.”

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Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 9:34 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.

“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”

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By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.

“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.

Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.