PGA blog: Donald bitten by AAC's closing holes

Luke Donald, of England, reacts after hitting into the water on the 18th hole during the third round of the PGA Championship golf tournament Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Starting the day in a tie for 26th, World No. 1 Luke Donald knew he needed something in red numbers to make some sort of move into contention. He pulled that off by shooting 2-under 68, but few players at Atlanta Athletic Club will walk off the grounds today feeling any more despondent than the usually steady Englishman.

With a great run of six birdies in a 12-hole stretch, Donald moved to 4 under for the tournament, and right into the thick of contention. That’s where he stood when he reached the tee at the par-4 16th, in fact. But he’d bogey 16 and rinse a ball in the water at the rugged, end-your-round-with-a-sharp-fork-in-the-eye 18th hole, where he eventually needed to drain a 5-footer just to salvage double bogey.

“I'm trying to stay positive,” said Donald, who is at 1-under 209. “I am angry. (I) had something really good going there, and kind of threw it away.”

Even with his troubles at 18, where he hit a rescue club off the tee near the lip of a fairway bunker, chopped out, and pushed an approach from 150 yards into the pond fronting the green, Donald will begin Sunday with an outside shot. A reporter mentioned the 18th hole might be “gimmicky,” but Donald disagreed. On Saturday, the tee there was moved up, so the hole, which has water left to negotiate off the tee, bunkers down the right and water guarding the green, played to 460 yards.

“It's certainly playable,” Donald said. “But it's just tough. It's demanding. There's no let‑up. There's no bailout on that hole. You just have to hit good shots. . . . A lot of majors finish on tough holes, and this is just another one of them.”

– Jeff Babineau

• • •

PGA looking more like Byron Nelson

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – This PGA Championship leaderboard might not be what Atlanta Athletic Club legend Bobby Jones had in mind, but it does look like something out of the Byron Nelson past.

A cruise through the current Round 3 board ...

Last time Jason Dufner played the weekend or broke 70, it was at the HP Byron Nelson Championship in May.

Keegan Bradley won that Nelson.

Adam Scott has won it as well.

So did Scott Verplank.

Luke Donald finished second to Verplank there.

Ben Crane also was a Nelson runner-up.

John Senden has been high on the board there.

Brandt Jobe lives near the Nelson site in Texas.

Steve Stricker won down the road at Colonial.

So did David Toms.

And D.A. Points, for some reason he reminds of fellow Illinoisan D.A. Weibring, who renovated the Nelson course.

The story isn’t really compete, though. Larry Nelson, Hall of Famer, missed the cut here. But then he’s 63.

– Jeff Rude

• • •

Molinari plays well despite Tendonitis

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. - Francesco Molinari had a solid round on Saturday with a 3-under 67. For the WGC-HSBC Champion it was a relief to not only have a good round, but to actually be playing this week.

On Tuesday, Molinari was not sure he could tee it up due to tendonitis that had flared up at the Open Championship at Royal St. George's. He's continued to struggle with it since then.

"Last week at Firestone I managed to play through the pain a little bit," Molinari said after this third round. "I took Monday off hoping that it would get better, but Tuesday morning it was really bad. Dale Richardson, my physio, is here, and he worked on my neck and on the shoulder, and that helped a lot."

Molinari practiced on Wednesday and decided to go, but the wrist still is an issue and will not get better until he can rest it.

"It's not easy to cure, these things, but rest, and I have next week off," Molinari said about the plans going forward. "So I'll try to hit as little shots as possible, and as I said, the work on the neck has been really helpful this week, so I'll try to keep working on that with my physio and see if it goes away completely. It's not gone away completely now, but it's just sore in the morning when I wake up, and once I'm warmed up, it's fine."

- Alex Miceli

• • •

When will we see Tiger again?

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Yesterday may have been the last time we’ll see Tiger Woods until November. He said he isn’t playing next week’s Wyndham Championship, and therefore will not be eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs. His next confirmed start is the Australian Open, which will be held Nov. 10-13.

If Woods doesn’t play until then, he’ll likely be outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since Oct. 19, 1996. If Woods doesn’t earn any Official World Golf Ranking points between now and the Australian Open, he’ll enter that an event with an OWGR average of 2.43. That'd rank him 59th in this week’s rankings.


There’s talk that Woods will play in at least one of the PGA Tour’s four Fall Series events in October. The Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, where Woods won his first PGA Tour event, is held Sept. 29-Oct. 2, followed by the Frys.com Open in San Martin, Calif.; The McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, Ga.; and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Walt Disney World Resort outside Orlando, Fla.

Of course, Woods isn’t guaranteed to earn OWGR points if he does play. Players don’t earn points for missed cuts. Even if they make the cut, players don’t earn points if they finish too low on the leaderboard.

– Sean Martin

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Top 10 things Bryon Bell might have said to Tiger

JOHNS CREEK, Ga.–Top 10 list of things fill-in caddie Bryon Bell might have said to his boss and longtime friend Tiger Woods after Woods found 23 bunkers and missed the PGA Championship cut by six strokes with 10-over-par 150:

10. Who are you?

9. Does the rake count as a 15th club?

8. What’s 10 percent of zero?

7. You sure Stevie didn’t fire YOU?

6. This wasn’t the most satisfying tournament of my career, either.

5. Can we turn "interim" into "permanent" – as in permanently done?

4. I’m leaving you to caddie for Jason Dufner.

3. What was so bad about that old swing, anyway?

2. It’s not me, it’s you.

1. You still have Butch’s number?

- Jeff Rude

• • •

Toms' good vibes continue at AAC

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. - During a back-nine rally Saturday at Atlanta Athletic Club, David Toms couldn't help but flash back.

Especially when he arrived on the par-3 15th.

Ten years ago, he aced the 243-yard hole with a 5-wood. The next day, he held off Phil Mickelson to win his first and only major title.

On Saturday, Toms saw the plaque commemorating that iconic moment. As he strode to the tee, he listened to the crowd cheer, "Do it again!"

Alas, he did not. But a par on the 15th, a bold birdie on the 18th and a back-nine 30 on the Highlands Course has Toms in position to make a charge at another PGA title.

With a third-round 65, Toms is now at 2-under 208, three shots behind the leaders as they begin their day.

"That was the goal of the day, to have a good round," Toms said. "I didn't know it was going to be a great round. ... If I can have one of those days (Sunday), I certainly will be in the mix."

Toms' sizzling back-nine run started on the par-5 12th, where he drained a long eagle putt. The tee was moved up on No. 13, now 372 yards, and Toms drove the green and two-putted for birdie. And then on 14, he holed a 40-yard bunker shot for birdie, setting up his theatrics on the finishing hole.

In 2001, Toms famously laid up, knocked a wedge shot close and made the par putt to edge Mickelson by one. On Saturday, Toms barely cleared the water with a 5-iron from 190 yards, but rolled in a 25-footer for an unlikely birdie on the toughest hole on the course. (It was his second birdie there in three days.)

What's his secret to playing 18?

"Maybe I concentrate well on the tee shot knowing that I have to hit a good one and just kind of suck it up and do it," he said. "It's a tough hole. And I'm not afraid to lay up."

Well, we know that. He's got the Wanamaker Trophy to prove it.

- Ryan Lavner

• • •

McIlroy continues to stumble

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- Rory Mcllroy is wearing a smaller wrap around his injured right wrist, but not much else is holding together his game at the PGA Championship.

McIlroy, the U.S. Open champion, shot a 4-over 74 Saturday at Atlanta Athletic Club to fall further off the pace. With the leaders getting under way, the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland is 7 over par, in a tie for 64th.

“I’m disappointed about what happened, disappointed that I haven’t been able to play my best,” McIlroy said.

Much like Friday, when he faded from contention with a 73, McIlroy is struggling mightily on the greens. He needed 33 putts in Round 3.

“It just wasn’t meant to be,” he said. “(Sunday) I’m going to give it my best, shoot a good score and give it a few weeks’ rest.”

McIlroy initially injured his wrist and forearm while striking a tree root on the third hole Thursday. “Looking back, it probably wasn’t the right thing to do,” he said. He continued to play, shot 70, and was later diagnosed with a strained tendon in his right wrist.

Remarkably, he could have been within a few shots of the lead heading into the weekend, but triple-bogeyed the 17th hole Friday and never recovered.

His opening-round 70, when he experienced the most discomfort, is his best score of the week. “Maybe I shouldn’t have went and got it strapped up,” he joked.

As for his future plans, McIlroy said he likely would take off until the Omega European Masters in Switzerland, on Sept. 1-4.

"I still want to win a few more times to make this season a success," he said.

- Ryan Lavner

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