Trio Shares Lead in Shell Houston

By Sports NetworkApril 25, 2003, 4:00 pm
HUMBLE, Texas -- Fred Couples continued his strong play from the first round on Friday with a 4-under 68 to share the lead with Mark Calcavecchia and Hank Kuehne midway through the Houston Open. The trio stands at 11-under-par 133 and owns a one-shot lead over Jay Haas.
Defending champion Vijay Singh posted a 68 in the second round and shares fifth place with Paul Stankowski, who carded a 6-under 66. The pair is knotted at 9-under-par 135.
A number of players returned to the course Friday to complete their first rounds. The final groups, including Kuehne, completed their second rounds in darkness but every group finished.
Couples started quickly on Friday with a 20-foot birdie at the par-5 opening hole at Redstone Golf Club. He wedged his approach to 10 feet to set up birdie at No. 4 but dropped a shot at the par-3 fifth when he missed the green and two-putted.
Couples closed his nine with back-to-back birdies at eight and nine but he dropped another shot to par around the turn. He rebounded with a 25-footer for birdie at 13 and a 20-footer for birdie at 17 to grab his first piece of a 36-hole lead on tour since the 1998 Memorial.
'It was a great round,' said Couples, the 1992 Masters champion. 'I played a round of golf where I didn't want to make a mistake or try not to and it worked out great. I am very thrilled with 68.'
Calcavecchia was flawless on Friday. He opened his round with three birdies in his first four holes before parring out the remainder of his front nine to finish at 3-under 32.
On the second nine, Calcavecchia once again started quickly. He sank a 20-foot birdie putt at the 11th and followed with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 12th. Calcavecchia parred No. 13 but once again racked up back-to-back birdies, this time at 14 and 15 to polish off his round of 7-under-par 65.
'I think obviously the guys that you have on the top of the leaderboard are playing just that much better,' said Calcavecchia, who had knee surgery at the beginning of this season. 'The course is so fair and the wind is not swirling around where one minute it is blowing 20 miles an hour and next minute it is stopping where it's got everybody baffled. It is as fair as it is going to get right now.'
Calcavecchia might be undergoing his second career resurgence. In 2001, Calcavecchia won the Phoenix Open in record fashion and made the United States Ryder Cup team, but in 2002, Calcavecchia earned only three top-10 finishes.
'I said I will win a tournament this year. I honestly felt like it,' said Calcavecchia. 'I wasn't just making it up just saying, sure, I am going to win a tournament. I honestly feel like I am. I will be in good shape this week going into Saturday. Now I have got to go out and I am narrowing in on it, but it's been a couple of years, so I am ready to jump into that winner's category again.'
Kuehne, the 1998 U.S. Amateur champion, began his round on No. 10 and collected five birdies on his first nine holes. He birdied one and four and in the darkness, Kuehne holed a 35-foot birdie putt at the par-5 ninth to set a new tournament course record with an 8-under 64.
'I am playing really well and I am pleased with my game,' said Kuehne, who entered the field this week thanks to a top-10 finish in his last event, the BellSouth Classic. 'I think my golf game is pretty good right now. I am just trying to basically get myself in a position where I can do something on the weekend.'
David Toms, the 2001 PGA Champion, shot a 66 on Friday and is part of a group at 8-under-par 136. David Sutherland (67), David Peoples (70), Tom Pernice, Jr. (70) and Stuart Appleby (70) joined Toms in a tie for seventh, three shots off the pace.
The 36-hole cut fell at 3-under-par 141, the lowest at the Houston Open since 1993 and 70 players advanced to the weekend, which is the lowest total of the season.
Among the notable players to miss the cut were Matt Kuchar (143), U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton (148) and young Australian Adam Scott, who also posted a two-day total of 148.
Related Links
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    Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

    By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

    CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

    A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

    The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

    Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

    Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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    Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

    Just like that other tournament, right?

    Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

    But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

    After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

    Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

    “I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

    The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

    “I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “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.”

    His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

    Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

    Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

    “When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

    But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

    While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

    “I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

    But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

    Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

    Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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    Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

    BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

    The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

    First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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    Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

    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.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    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.”