Spieth, McIlroy struggle, but stay in PGA contention

By Will GrayAugust 11, 2017, 12:13 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The two men entered the week as heavy favorites, and they left Quail Hollow after the opening round with matching over-par scores.

But on a day where scoring at the PGA Championship more closely resembled that of a U.S. Open, all is not yet lost for Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.

The two have shared the pre-tournament spotlight, with Spieth gunning for the final leg of the career Grand Slam and McIlroy returning to a course upon which he has feasted like no other. While they both flashed the form needed to lift the Wanamaker Trophy at various points Thursday, they each signed for a 1-over 72 that left them five shots behind Thorbjorn Olesen and Kevin Kisner.

For Spieth, the issue came surprisingly on the greens. After rolling in, what seemed like, miles of putts over his last three starts, Spieth didn’t make anything over 6 feet all day. The recently-renovated Bermuda greens vexed many players in the field, and even one of the PGA Tour’s best putters was not immune.

“I can’t putt any worse than I did today,” Spieth said. “The score won’t be any higher than it was today if I’m driving the ball like I did today.”


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog: Day 1 | Full coverage


McIlroy was also flummoxed from short range, missing everything outside 6 feet, but his problems extended to the tee as well. The Ulsterman bogeyed each of the first three par-3s he faced Thursday, and after clawing his way to 2 under for the round suffered a costly double bogey on the drivable par-4 14th after hooking his tee shot into the water and flubbing a chip.

“Played that stretch of holes, 13, 14, 15, in 3 over,” McIlroy said. “So if I just could have had that three-hole stretch back, but I think other than that I played nicely. Did what I needed to do.”

It was an oddly positive refrain to hear from a top-ranked player coming off an over-par round. The PGA has traditionally been a place where excitement is built one birdie at a time, and by week’s end the leaderboard is awash with red figures. This tournament hasn’t crowned a winner who failed to break par in the first round since Y.E. Yang in 2009.

But with forecasted rain staying away, the sub-air system sucked any remaining moisture right out of the ground at Quail Hollow. What resulted was a long layout with thick, penal Bermuda rough and greens that ranged from “dicey” to “absurd” depending on who you asked.

It added up to an unusually jam-packed leaderboard, as no player shot 5 under or better in the opening round of a PGA for the first time since Oakland Hills in 2008. It also means that Spieth and McIlroy remain firmly in contention heading into a pivotal second round.

That particular fact was not lost on the two-time PGA champ.

“I can see a low one out there. It’s just a matter of not shooting yourself in the foot too often like I did today,” McIlroy said. “I’m only five behind. Four under is the best score out there, and it’s a tough golf course. I shoot something in the 60s tomorrow, move right up there. So yeah, I’m in it.”

None of Spieth’s 11 career Tour wins have included over-par openers, but he at least gave himself a chance to break that trend with his closing stretch. While it wasn’t on the level of his salvage at Royal Birkdale, Spieth was 3 over and already at risk of a missed cut after a three-putt bogey on the sixth hole, his 15th of the day.

Just as caddie Michael Greller intervened with a pep talk during the final round of The Open, Spieth again credited Greller for offering some timely encouragement before heading to the next tee.

“When we were at 3 over, he said, ‘Grind these last few. You had a chance to win Augusta and we were in worse position at this point.’” Spieth said. “And he was spot-on.”

Spieth responded with birdies on each of the next two holes to not only return to the fringe of contention but escape with a bit of momentum on a day when big names like Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson essentially saw their title chances come to an abrupt end.

Sure, there were loose shots and missed opportunities, more than either would have preferred. But despite their respective stumbles, Spieth and McIlroy each enter the second round equipped with a realistic chance to win.

And after starting in the black, a chance is more than either could have hoped for.

“We’re still looking at single digits winning this tournament, I imagine, and potentially 6 under, something like that,” Spieth said. “Somebody could really get it going, but if that doesn’t happen then it’s definitely single digits.”

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Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

"I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

"Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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Three years later, PXG launches new iron

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

“Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.

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Maggert and Parnevik lead at Bass Pro Shops

By Associated PressApril 19, 2018, 10:49 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik shot an 8-under 63 in better-ball play Thursday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' chilly Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

''It was very relaxing for me because I felt like terrible,'' Parnevik said. ''I was so stiff this morning. It was freezing cold. I thought if I can just try to make some pars in case he ever makes a bogey, but I didn't even have to do that.''

Playing together for the first time in the team event, Maggert and Parnevik eagled the par-5 eighth and had six birdies in the cool and breezy conditions on Big Cedar Lodge's Buffalo Ridge course.

''We play well together,'' Maggert said. ''We both contributed a lot. Jesper had a lot of birdies and an eagle on our final nine. It was so cold this morning, I just was going to come out and just try to hit fairways and greens. Really I wasn't thinking about making birdies, I was just trying to play steady and give myself an opportunity to have some birdie putts.''


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


The next three rounds will be played on par-3 courses. Maggert and Parnevik will play the 18-hole Top of the Rock on Friday and Sunday, and the 13-hole Mountain Top on Saturday.

Mark Calcavecchia and Woody Austin were a stroke back. They also eagled No. 8. Austin won the 2016 title with Michael Allen. Calcavecchia won the Boca Raton Championship this year.

''I lucked in a few birdies on the back, but it was tough, tough conditions,'' Calcavecchia said. ''Even when it warmed up a little bit, it was still tough to make birdies out there. All in all, 7 under's a pretty good start.''

Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman were at 65 along with Davis Love III-Scott Verplank, 2015 winners Billy Andrade-Joe Durant, Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett and Steve Flesch-David Toms.

''We kind of brother-in-lawed or ham-and-egged it or partnered it,'' Love said. ''Neither one of us were playing great, but we had one guy in every hole and that's kind of what you have to do. We're going to have to go to the par 3 courses and get two birdie putts on a hole is what you really want to do and we didn't do that enough today.''

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week for his first senior title.

Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were tied for 22nd at 68.

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Dredge, Quiros share early lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 19, 2018, 8:41 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Bradley Dredge reeled off three birdies in his last five holes to share the lead with Alvaro Quiros after the opening round of the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II event Thursday.

Quiros finished with two straight birdies as the big-hitting Spaniard joined Welshman Dredge on 5-under-par 67.

Dredge, who made seven birdies in all, has won twice before but his last triumph came in 2006.


Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II


Quiros, who has claimed seven victories, last won at the Rocco Forte Open in Sicily last year.

The joint leaders have a one-shot advantage over Oliver Fisher, Joakim Lagergren, Erik Van Rooyen and Lorenzo Gagli at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course.

Former U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett, without a win since his victory at Augusta two years ago, opened with a 1-over 73.