Johnson Poised to Claim First Win

By Sports NetworkApril 3, 2004, 5:00 pm
DULUTH, Ga. -- Zach Johnson posted a 4-under 68 on Saturday to take the lead after 54 holes of the BellSouth Classic. He stands at 13-under-par 203 and owns a three-stroke lead over Padraig Harrington and Scott Hend.
Brian Gay carded a 3-under 69 in the third round and is alone in fourth place at minus-9. Defending champion Ben Crane shot a 1-under 71 and is in sole possession of fifth at 8-under-par 208.
In the first and second rounds, cool temperatures and winds made scoring very difficult. On Saturday, it was warmer and the wind was down. That may only last one day as the forecast on Sunday calls for wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour.
Johnson, the overnight leader and Nationwide Tour Player of the Year in 2003, lost his advantage after a bogey at the fourth on Saturday. Crane tied him atop the leaderboard, but fell one back with a bogey at the fifth. Johnson sank a 5-footer for birdie at the same hole, one group behind Crane, to go ahead by two.
Crane fell behind for good at the ninth when his approach sailed over the green. He made double bogey and never got close to the lead again.
Johnson had a comfortable margin and played like it with some looses drives. He hit his tee ball into some hay on the left side at 10, a bunker at the par-3 11th and into sand with a 3-wood past the fairway at 12. But the 28-year-old was able to save par at all three holes and keep his seat atop the leaderboard.
Johnson used the solid par saves to pick up his game. At 13, Johnson found yet another bunker, but knocked his approach to two feet to set up birdie and go three ahead of the field.
He made routine pars at 14 and 15 and even found the short grass off the tee.
While Johnson was playing solid golf on the back side, Harrington was charging. The Irishman tallied four birdies on the back nine, then birdied the 18th after attempting to go for the green in two.
Johnson's margin was now one, but the 36-hole leader hit his tee ball to three feet to set up birdie at the par-3 16th. Johnson knocked his approach 10 feet short of the hole at the 17th and rolled home the birdie putt to go three up on Harrington and Hend, who made a spectacular eagle at 18 to join the Irishman at minus-10.
Johnson had only the par-5 closing hole at the TPC at Sugarloaf. His drive landed in a drain and after his drop, he nailed his fairway metal right into the gallery. His ball was on a blanket and after two failed drops, Johnson placed his ball with no penalty on the hill where it landed.
He faced an extremely difficult shot with the slope of the green going against him and toward the water. Johnson had to hit a delicate pitch over a bunker and that's exactly what he did, landing on the fringe and watching as the ball rolled 20 feet left of the hole.
'The big pond behind crossed my mind,' admitted Johnson, who is the only player in the field to post three rounds in the 60s. 'The plan there was if I couldn't keep it on the green, then get it in the bunker. I just tried to land it over the bunker. If I did, it wouldn't release too far. I was playing the percentages.'
Johnson missed the birdie putt, but tapped in for a great par save.
Now Johnson has the 54-hole lead for the first time on the PGA Tour with win No. 1 in his radar.
'I'm going to go about it as I did today and the previous days,' said Johnson. 'I don't like to look at numbers. I go about it as my business. Two years ago, I played with Padraig on Sunday. Should be fun to play with him again.'
Harrington flew out of the gate on Saturday with two birdies in his first three holes, but lost it all with a triple-bogey 7 at the fifth. He made one more birdie on the front nine, but vaulted up the leaderboard with his play on the second nine.
The Irishman recorded four birdies in his first seven holes, including two in a row from the 10th. He had a look at birdie from 10 feet at the 17th, but the putt died on him at the hole. Harrington, who was the runner-up to Adam Scott last week at the Players Championship, made the birdie at 18 to polish off his round of 5-under 67.
Now Harrington, a week away from the Masters, has a shot at his first PGA Tour title.
'It's quite important,' said Harrington, referring to a win on the PGA Tour. 'Certainly a win on the U.S. tour is an important milestone. I'm not putting myself under any pressure that it has to happen tomorrow, but yes, a win would be very nice.'
Hend, an Australian who had not made a cut on tour until this week, was 2 under on his round until the 18th. He knocked his second shot to 5 feet and drained the eagle putt to finish his round of 68.
'I'm just trying to be composed and keep doing what I've been doing,' said Hend. 'I'm not really worried about what the lead is and what the tournament is doing, I just want to achieve my own goals this week. I'll be happy if I can achieve them.'
Mark Hensby (66), Peter Lonard (69) and Craig Bowden (72) share sixth place at 7-under-par 209. Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen and Glen Hnatiuk each posted rounds of 4-under 68 and are knotted in ninth at 6-under-par 210.
Phil Mickelson shot a 1-under 71 and is tied for 18th at minus-4.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - BellSouth Classic
  • Full Coverage - BellSouth Classic
  • Getty Images

    Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

    By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

    NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

    Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

    The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

    Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

    The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

    Getty Images

    Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

    It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

    Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

    The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

    The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

    For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

    Getty Images

    Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

    By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

    But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

    Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

    Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

    Getty Images

    Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

    Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

    The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

    “There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

    “To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

    Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

    “To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.