Levi Breaks Through Leads Senior PGA
Levi's two-day total of 3-under-par 137 marks the highest score to hold the lead through the midway point of the championship since 1990 when Harold Henning and Gary Player shared the top spot.
The four players at the top are the only golfers under par at Firestone Country Club as high rough and slick greens have made play difficult.
One of the best golfers on the over-50 circuit struggled Friday as Tom Kite, one of the three co-leaders after the first round, shot a 3-over 73. He is tied for 10th at 1-over-par and is joined by a large group headlined by former champions Hale Irwin and Ray Floyd.
Jack Nicklaus, who has battled back injuries, opened with a 1-over 71 Thursday but did not play as well in round two. He shot an 8-over-par 78 and made the cut on the number at 9-over-par 149.
Had Nicklaus not carded an even-par 35 on his second nine Friday he could have missed the cut and in the process snapped one of the most impressive streaks in his storied career. Nicklaus has made every cut in a major tournament since joining the elder circuit in 1990, a streak that has now reached 46 consecutive championships.
'I don't worry about cuts - I'm more interested in hitting good shots,' said Nicklaus, who has been forced to withdraw from two majors on the Senior Tour. 'I was pretty pleased with the back nine. You know, I don't really worry about my injuries, it's just years of playing golf taking its toll. All I can do is take one shot at a time. Some days you are good and some days you aren't, and today I wasn't very good.'
Jim Thorpe, the first major champion of the year at The Tradition, is tied for fifth place with Jay Overton, Bobby Wadkins, Bob Gilder and Fuzzy Zoeller. The group stands at even-par 140.
Levi has only one top-five finish this season in 10 starts, a tie for fourth at the Farmer's Charity Classic two weeks ago. Levi won 12 times on the PGA Tour, including four wins in 1990 en route to being named PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Levi's brief career on the Senior Tour has been filled with ups and downs with the short stick. He took 32 putts in Thursday's round of 69 but only needed 24 to get around Firestone in the second round.
'The putting has been fairly poor, so that's what probably has kept me from doing better than I have,' said Levi, who ranks 62nd in putts per round on tour with an average of almost 30 putts a round. 'This poor putting has killed me, but I'm out here to win tournaments.'
Friday's second round was highlighted with more ups and downs for Levi. Levi shot an 1-under-par 34 on the front side with three birdies and a pair of bogeys.
At the turn, Levi was tied for the lead at 2-under-par but he broke out of the pack and drained the birdie putt to go to 3-under. Levi extended his lead two holes later when he played a 5-iron to 20 feet, where he cashed in on another birdie putt.
Levi did not take long to squander his edge. At the 15th, Levi blocked his tee ball into a right greenside bunker where he left his bunker shot on the fringe. He chipped to four feet and rolled home the bogey putt but still maintained a one-stroke lead.
Levi, who turned 50 in February, looked in great shape at the par-5 16th when he ripped one down the center of the fairway before he pushed his second shot in the right rough under a tree. Levi's third bounded off the green and his chip on to the green left him six feet from the hole, where he missed to fall back into a tie for first at minus 2.
He rebounded at 17 when once again he striped his drive down the fairway and played a 6-iron five feet behind the hole. Levi holed the birdie putt to take the 36-hole lead at 3-under-par.
'Early on I played a couple of bad shots but after that I started to settle down a little bit more and started hitting the ball quite well,' said Levi. 'There's a lot of tough holes out there. You have to keep at it.'
Nelson, Ziegler and Hall each posted rounds of 2-under-par 70 Friday and each player loved the level of difficulty that Firestone offers.
'(Firestone) feels more like the U.S. Senior Open than our Opens have been,' said Nelson, considered the best Senior player never to win a major on this tour. 'We haven't played a U.S. Senior Open course that's been as difficult. I think it's great. There's no reason to make our majors a pitch-and-putt.'
'I think this is the hardest, fairest course I've ever played. No gimmicks,' Ziegler said. 'Guys love coming here to play golf. We play so many courses where you feel like you're playing Mickey Mouse. They've got big, old rolly greens. It's not fun to play what they're building today.'
'Today is a great example of a perfect weather day to play, yet the scores are not low,' said Hall, a former salesmen. 'The course will not allow it.'
Tom Watson, the 2001 champion, struggled to a 6-over 76 Friday and shares 36th place at 5-over-par.
The 36-hole cut fell at 9-over-par 149 and 80 players advanced to the weekend.
Full-field scores from the Senior PGA Championship
Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal
Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.
Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.
Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.
"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."
Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:
Disappointing. Clearly misunderstood my explanation. pic.twitter.com/YcKHMPf2v7— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) July 15, 2018
Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.
Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker
A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.
The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.
There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.
But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.
As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.
This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.
Stone (60) wins Scottish Open, invite to Carnoustie
There's never a bad time to shoot a 60, but Brandon Stone certainly picked an opportune moment to do so.
Facing a jammed leaderboard in the final round of the Scottish Open, Stone fired a 10-under 60 to leave a stacked field in his wake and win the biggest tournament of his career. His 20-under 260 total left him four shots clear of Eddie Pepperell and five shots in front of a group that tied for third.
Stone had a mid-range birdie putt on No. 18 that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history. But even after missing the putt on the left, Stone tapped in to close out a stellar round that included eight birdies, nine pars and an eagle. It's his third career European Tour title but first since the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016.
Stone started the day three shots behind overnight leader Jens Dantorp, but he made an early move with three birdies over his first five holes and five over his first 10. Stone added a birdie on the par-3 12th, then took command with a three-hole run from Nos. 14-16 that included two birdies and an eagle.
The eye-popping score from the 25-year-old South African was even more surprising considering his lack of form entering the week. Stone is currently ranked No. 371 in the world and had missed four of his last seven worldwide cuts without finishing better than T-60.
Stone was not yet qualified for The Open, and as a result of his performance at Gullane Golf Club he will tee it up next week at Carnoustie. Stone headlined a group of three Open qualifiers, as Pepperell and Dantorp (T-3) also earned invites by virtue of their performance this week. The final spot in the Open will go to the top finisher not otherwise qualified from the John Deere Classic.
Daly (knee) replaced by Bradley in Open field
Former champion John Daly has withdrawn from The Open because of a right knee injury and will be replaced in the field at Carnoustie by another major winner, Keegan Bradley.
Daly, 52, defeated Costantino Rocca in a memorable playoff to win the claret jug at St. Andrews in 1995. His lingering knee pain led him to request a cart during last month's U.S. Senior Open, and when that request was denied he subsequently withdrew from the tournament.
Daly then received treatment on the knee and played in a PGA Tour event last week at The Greenbrier without the use of a cart, missing the cut with rounds of 77-67. But on the eve of the season's third major, he posted to Twitter that his pain remains "unbearable" and that a second request for a cart was turned down:
Sorry...really tried these last 2 days to compete & walk, my rt knee osteoarthritis is unbearable. It would have been nice to have gotten a cart but unfortunately was turned down by our tour board. I couldn’t even hit balls this am!— John Daly (@PGA_JohnDaly) July 14, 2018
This will be just the second time since 2000 that Daly has missed The Open, having also sat out the 2013 event at Muirfield. He last made the cut in 2012, when he tied for 81st at Royal Lytham. He could still have a few more chances to improve upon that record, given that past Open champions remain fully exempt until age 60.
Taking his place will be Bradley, who was first alternate based on his world ranking. Bradley missed the event last year but recorded three top-20 finishes in five appearances from 2012-16, including a T-18 finish two years ago at Royal Troon.
The next three alternates, in order, are Spain's Adrian Otaegui and Americans Aaron Wise and J.B. Holmes.