Snedeker, Kuchar consistent, if not dynamic, duo

By Rex HoggardJuly 31, 2013, 6:12 pm

Without the aid of a lifeline or a scrambling Google search, name the top two Americans in the Official World Golf Ranking not named Tiger or Phil?

If you answered Matt Kuchar  (No. 6) and Brandt Snedeker (seventh) proceed to the collection window and, as an aside, you might want to consider spending a little bit more time outdoors or with the kids.

As for the rest of us, consider that it’s been that way since the start of the major championship season in April, a fact that is as enlightening as it is apropos considering that with slight variations the duo are very much the same make and  model.

Neither would likely cause much of a stir if they showed up unannounced at say, the Akron (Ohio) Zoo, which is where Snedeker celebrated his Canadian Open victory on Tuesday with his family.

Nor does either player have the flash and front-page appeal of their high-profile top-10 stable mates Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, a product of their demeanor and DNA more so than their professional body of work.

There is a theme here: both players are relatively understated family men who can kill you with competitive kindness. Combined, America’s discrete duo has four victories and four runner-up showings in 2013, rank second and third on the FedEx Cup points list and have missed just four cuts in 33 collective starts.

On Thursday’s star-studded tee sheet at Firestone there may be other players with higher Q ratings but few with the potential to dominate courses from Akron to Augusta, Ga., like Kuchar and Snedeker, thanks to a combination of clutch putting and low-risk tee-to-green play.

At the highest level, the “grip it and rip it” generation has given way to playing the percentages. Look no further than Mickelson’s no-driver victory two weeks ago at the Open Championship to prove the pendulum has swung on Tour to a unique brand of competitive conservatism.

And few play this version of Tour small ball better than Kuchar and Snedeker.

“He is not shooting at as many pins, especially with his longer clubs. If it’s the right number and the pin is in the right spot he can be aggressive,” said Snedeker’s longtime swing coach Todd Anderson. “He’s doing a better job of working his way around the golf course. His short game is so good, but he is realizing he is going to make a lot more 20- or 30-footers that way and just giving himself a chance.”

For Snedeker, the slow-and-steady approach has resulted in drastic improvements in his ball-striking. He’s up 109 spots, and five percentage points, in greens in regulation over his 2012 numbers, and 81 spots in the ball-striking category to 61st.

Kuchar wields a similar no-frills approach tee shot to green, and yet is fifth on Tour in actual scoring average (70.14).

“If (Snedeker) misses a shot, he's going to be able to score by getting up-and-down and making a putt.  He's certainly a force to be reckoned with,” Kuchar said Sunday in Canada, although as the words hung in the air he may as well have been talking about himself.

At Glen Abbey on Sunday the blue collar duo was at their best, finishing first and second on a day that Snedeker admits he didn’t have his best stuff. The reigning FedEx Cup champion went so far as to replace his new TaylorMade SLDR driver, which Anderson said is hotter than his older model but not as accurate, with his trusty Burner SuperFast version.

Among the play-for-pay types control is the new category leader – consider that this year’s driving average on Tour is 287.4 yards, the lowest it’s been since 2010 – and Kooch and Sneds are the tempered trailblazers.

In practical terms, risk aversion can be quantified via the Tour’s proximity to the hole statistic. For Kuchar, his average approach shot is 33 ½ feet from the hole, while Snedeker is slightly better at 32 ½ feet. That’s not exactly throwing darts but when you putt as well as the American two-ball it beats spending a round on the short side of every hole location.

Of course, the next step for both players is getting on the Grand Slam board. Both have had their chances – Snedeker went off in the final group on Sunday this year at Augusta National and Kuchar came up two shots short a year earlier at the Masters.

“The more times you put yourself in that situation you understand what you need to do to take that next step,” Anderson said. “Brandt has done it three or four times now; he is realizing what he has to do. He didn’t have his best game in Canada but was able to score well. He needs to learn that at a major.”

The word around the caddie yard is that Oak Hill, site of next week’s PGA Championship, will be a typical major venue, with brutally long rough and even longer holes. But before we dismiss the year’s final major as a bomber’s bout – even Mickelson admitted this week he’s thinking about taking the driver off the shelf – consider that 2003 PGA champion Shaun Micheel ranked a pedestrian 66th on Tour in driving distance when he began his week at the Donald Ross design.

Snedeker and Kuchar may not be the flashiest members of golf’s marquee, but both are one major away from changing that.

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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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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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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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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.