5 Things: Stuard leads OHL; Quiros on mend; more
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – The PGA Tour might have flipped the calendar to a new season already, but no one told Mother Nature to turn the page and quit with the bad weather.
Thunderstorms and lightning suspended play twice at the OHL Classic, leaving players howling almost as much as the wind on the Yucatan Peninsula in southeast Mexico.
William McGirt tweeted, “Well....the word of the week is rain here in Mexico. At least I did get a shot off. Guess we will see how long this lasts.” That was followed by: “I’m afraid we may need to starting gathering the animals in pairs here. Not looking good for golf this afternoon.”
Play was called for the day at 3:30 p.m., with only 15 of 132 players having completed the first round at El Camaleon Golf Club. When play was halted, Brian Stuard held the lead at 5 under through 15 holes. Matt Jones, Will Mackenzie and Len Mattiace were the leaders in the clubhouse, at 2-under 69.
Here are 5 Things to Know about Thursday's first-round play.
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1. WEATHER STILL REIGNS (AND RAINS): New season, same old story. For the third time in six events on the 2013-14 season, weather has halted play in a PGA Tour event. That was a recurring theme of the 2013 campaign, in which 22 of 40 tournaments were delayed for various reasons.
The first round of the OHL Classic was suspended from 8:40 to 11 a.m. local time because of a dangerous weather situation, with the entire morning wave on the course. Play was suspended again at 1:22 p.m.
All told, more than 3.25 inches of rain has fallen at El Camaleon since Wednesday evening.
“It just knocked us out,” said Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions.
The field is facing a long Friday, with play scheduled to resume at 6:45 a.m. local time. But the forecast tomorrow morning calls for more of the wet stuff.
“Hopefully this is just a brief setback in the tournament,” OHL tournament director Joe Mazzeo said.
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2. STUARD'S GOOD VIBES: Brian Stuard is happy to be back at El Camaleon Golf Club at the Mayakoba Resort. He returned for the first time since 2010, when he tied for second. That result remains his best performance in 56 Tour starts.
Stuard, who is coming off his first missed cut of the season, at the McGladrey Classic, strung together three birdies in a row, on Nos. 4-6, before the first suspension of play.
When play resumed, he made his lone bogey of the day, at the par-5 seventh. But he bounced back with a birdie to tour the front nine in 33. Stuard tacked on birdies at Nos. 11 and 13.
“You know,” he said, “I played just pretty solid.”
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3. QUIROS SEARCHES FOR 'OLD SELF': The last time I saw Alvaro Quiros – nearly a year ago – he greeted me with a shake of the left hand.
That’s because his right hand was wrapped in a cast that stretched nearly to his elbow after undergoing surgery Nov. 20 to repair a damaged wrist ligament.
Quiros, a Spaniard, returned to action on the European Tour in March and made 20 starts. His best finish was a T-5 at the Irish Open, but his season tested his faith in his ability. Quiros ranked No. 104 on the Order of Merit, and he plummeted to No. 248 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Quiros, who led the European Tour in driving distance from 2007 through '09 and again in 2011, is making his first start in a non-major or World Golf Championships event on the PGA Tour since the 2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open. He made four birdies against one bogey in his first 15 holes of the OHL Classic before play was halted. Quiros said he came here with a simple game plan. “Try to look for the old Alvaro Quiros that I used to be,” he said, “somebody who has fun on the golf course, and don’t worry too much about the score.”
And when he finds his old self, Quiros is confident the journey will be worth it.
“Once you’re in your old spot playing good golf, then you will be able to appreciate it even more,” he said. “That’s what I expect, but I guess it takes time.”
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4. COMPTON TRIES TO FOLLOW LYLE: Jarrod Lyle’s return to professional golf at the Australian Masters after beating leukemia for the second time is the story of the week. But did you know that the OHL Classic played a role in Lyle's having discovered that leukemia had returned?
Lyle’s latest episode with cancer began when he detected something resembling a bug bite on his left arm while playing here in late February 2012.
“It was like a pimple that turned into a big abscess,” he said.
When his flight arrived home in Orlando, Fla., he drove straight to the hospital. Following doctor’s orders, he withdrew from the Honda Classic and flew to his native Australia a week early for the expected birth of his daughter. Not long after his arrival, he consulted a doctor after breaking into a rash from the antibiotics prescribed for his arm. That’s when a blood test revealed his cancer had returned. His initial reaction? “I guess shock more than anything,” Lyle said.
When I spoke to Lyle a few months ago, he said he always has felt a kinship with Erik Compton, a fellow transplant survivor.
Lyle had a bone-marrow transplant; Compton is on his third heart. “We’re both survivors,” Lyle said.
Compton stayed up as late as he could to watch Lyle’s dramatic return.
“I know how hard he’s worked to get back,” Compton said. “It’s like the two of us have lived parallel lives.”
Compton, who earned his first Web.com Tour title at the 2011 Mexico Open and the 2003 Guadalajara Classic on the Canadian Tour, must like playing south of the border. He was one shot off the lead when play was halted. His six birdies offset two bogeys through 17 holes. Following Compton in the first round was instructor Jim McLean, who taught Compton for years. As they made their way to the clubhouse after the horn blew stopping play, McLean told Compton, “Just keep to the game plan.”
The ultimate game plan is to win on Tour. What a story it would be if Compton could win the week that Lyle makes his triumphant return.
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5. BAIRD STILL TALKING NEAR-MISS: At the McGladrey Classic, Briny Baird was a bridesmaid again. It was his sixth runner-up in 365 career starts without a victory. During the rain delay at the OHL Classic, he said that it was the toughest of all. Baird was proud of the way he made birdies at Nos. 13 and 14 on Sea Island's Seaside Course in St. Simons Island, Ga., to take the lead. At 15, his birdie putt was tracking to the hole, and that was the one moment when he let himself start to think what might be.
“I thought, ‘This is really my week,’ ” he said. “It went through my head. I thought the putt was going to slam the back of the hole, do one of those bounce-ups, and go in and I was going to go, ‘Oh, my God.’ ”
Instead, it was more like “Oh, no you didn’t.” The putt slid past the hole, and Baird lipped out the 4-foot comebacker. When his 4-iron approach from an awkward lie in a fairway bunker splashed into the water fronting the green, Baird’s dream of victory sank with it.
“I felt the pressure; I’m not going to lie,” he said.
Baird said his swing never felt right on Sunday, and it didn’t feel much better in the first round of his 366th start. “That’s why I know it’s not just nerves,” he said.
Baird made four bogeys against three birdies through his first 15 holes Thursday.