PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. –- Funny thing about this pushover of a golf course hosting the Players Championship, a proverbial pitch ’n putt where birdies are at every turn of the head.
Phil Mickelson bogeyed two of his last three holes, shot 73, and appeared in danger of missing the cut at 1-over 145.
Long-hitting Robert Garrigus bogeyed each of his last two holes and played the little ol’ 367-yard 12th in 3 over for his two days.
Padraig Harrington doubled his 17th hole, the par-3 eighth, and shot 39 on his second nine to get halfway home at level par, in danger of missing the cut.
Justin Rose, No. 4 in the world rankings? At 2-over 146, he was packing his bags and headed for the exits. So, too, No. 13 Ian Poulter and No. 24 Nick Watney.
Oh, yeah, with “easy” courses like this who needs tough?
Davis Love, having battled to shoot 70-72 and make the cut at 2 under, seemingly was speaking for his colleagues when he shook his head and said, “I heard them saying on TV that it was easy. Easy? I can tell you, it was scary (Thursday) afternoon.”
True, the unheralded Roberto Castro ...
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. –– Something about Kevin Chappell’s health and Players Championship week just doesn’t mix.
In 2011, Chappell got food poisoning and shot a third-round 80 en route to a T-69 finish. Last year, he had the flu and missed the cut.
He’s now playing in his third Players this week at TPC Sawgrass and still can’t catch a break.
“Just kind of congested this year,” Chappell said. “I’ve been trying to get a lot of rest and eat the right things and take the right drugs out there to keep me somewhat sane.”
But unlike the previous two seasons, Chappell isn’t letting his physical state affect his golf game. He shot 6-under 66 Thursday to move to 9 under for the tournament. He nearly shot one stroke better, but closed with a bogey at the par-4 18th.
“Kind of got a little spacey out there at the end of the round, but I made it,” said Chappell, who made six birdies and an eagle, the latter coming at the par-5 11th, a hole that had yielded five eagles by the time Chappell had finished his round.
It’s been a hit-or-miss season ...
Head out to TPC Sawgrass and The Players Stadium Course, one of Pete Dye’s more devilish concoctions, and not write anything about the 17th hole? Why, one has a better shot of getting off the train in Augusta in April and not typing the words “pimento cheese.”
A longtime scribe who covered many a Players Championship once said this tournament will never be accepted as a major for one simple reason: “It’s played on a golf course,” he said, “that has 17 holes and a carnival.”
Funny line. The Players is a terrific event – great golf course, great field, great fan vantage points and great big purse – and boasts a nice crystal trophy that every player in golf longs to have. The one blip in the lineup that the longtime golf writer was talking about, of course, is the short but stout par-3 17th, or The Little Hole That Could.
Ruin a man’s entire week in an instant, that is.
Certainly at TPC Sawgrass, the smallest is not necessarily the meekest. It’s not the most difficult hole on the golf course, but it’s the main attraction, a little more than a football field long surrounded ...
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. In shooting 5-under-par 67, Tiger Woods improved upon his lowest first round at The Players by, remarkably, three strokes. But a stubbed chip shot at 18 prevented his first bogey-free round in 56 attempts at TPC Sawgrass and kept him from tying his low score here.
Woods put himself in a position to contend for only the third time in his 15 starts at the Players, one of the few tournaments that has confounded him. He hasn’t been in the mix since he won here in 2001, the year after he fell victim to Hal Sutton and the “Be the right club today” finish.
The 11th-hour hiccup dropped him into a tie for fourth, four shots behind the stunning, course-record-tying 63 by Roberto Castro, a second-year Tour player out of Georgia Tech playing his first round here.
“This is a tricky golf course,” Woods said when asked whether he is surprised he has never gone 18 sans bogey. “It doesn’t take much to make a bogey around here. I think that’s kind of what (architect) Pete (Dye) had intended, and I’m sure that most of the guys through their careers really haven ...
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. Thursday marks the beginning of the richest tournament on the PGA Tour, which is also referred to as golf's "fifth major" by players and fans alike.
The Players Championship features the top 43 players in the most recent Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, including Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy.
But none are within 3 shots of leader Roberto Castro, who made an early move at the tough TPC Sawgrass course and made his score stand up. He birdies Nos. 16-18 before making the turn, then eagled No. 2, the heart of his 63.
McIlroy is tied for second with Zach Johnson at 6 under. Woods, Hunter Mahan, Ryan Palmer, Webb Simpson, Steve Stricker and Casey Wittenberg are another shot back and tied for fourth. Scott, paired with McIlroy and Stricker in arguably the best group of the day, is T-16 at 3 under.
Check out tomorrow's tee times and scroll down to see how the first-round unfolded.
• • •
Hole #18: Par 4, 447 yards
That was an incredible par save for Tiger, as most would be facing three putts after that ...
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. Just one round is in the books, but this year’s Players Championship has already provided plenty of storylines.
Not only did you have Roberto Castro’s course record-tying 9-under 63 Thursday at TPC Sawgrass, but we also saw Tiger Woods shoot 67; Rory McIlroy record his first under-par round at the Players Stadium course, carding a 66 playing alongside Steve Stricker (67) and Masters champ Adam Scott (69); and Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan all showing great form again, firing 66, 67 and 67, respectively.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from the first round of play on a sunny day along Florida’s northeast coast:
• • •
1. A LITTLE PLAYERS MEDICINE: Zach Johnson fired a 6-under 66 and enters Friday in a tie for second, three shots back of the lead. That means he has now shot 66 at the last three Players Championships (Round 4 in 2011, Round 2 in ’12).
Johnson has had his share of success at TPC Sawgrass, making 7-of-8 cuts and notching four finishes of T-16 or better, including a T-2 showing at last year’s Players.
“This one has always suited my eye,” Johnson said ...
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. –– Hunter Mahan drew comparisons to a mountain man when he donned a fake grizzly beard for the second Golf Boys video.
But Mahan’s recent performances on the golf course have been similar to a man descending a mountain.
Since finishing runner-up at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, his fourth straight finish of T-16 or better, Mahan hasn’t finished better than T-21, has missed two cuts and has just two rounds in the 60s.
“I think I was just trying too hard,” Mahan said. “I was trying to do a lot. I was trying to be this golfer that I picture myself being, and I can’t do it in one day and I can’t do it in one week or two weeks or three weeks. . . . I’m just trying to play golf and get better, and realize that it’s a process and things can change so fast. You just have to allow yourself to let it happen.”
Mahan seems to be heeding his own advice. He shot 5-under 67 Thursday at TPC Sawgrass. He made five birdies, but more importantly, didn’t make a single bogey. And he did it on a course ...
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. Most unnecessary bogey of Round 1 of the 2013 Players Championship? Scott Stallings made one of the triple variety at the tame, par-5 16th, and Aaron Baddley’s triple at the 18th was no joy ride, either. Ugliest of all might have been Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano’s quintuple at the par-3 13th. But purely from a common sense standpoint, nothing seemed as heartless as what happened at the 10th tee with the 8:39 starting time.
Three weeks removed from a stunning victory at the Masters, Adam Scott was introduced as . . . “the 2004 Players champion?”
“It was disappointing,” Scott conceded after his round, and playing competitor Steve Stricker felt similarly.
“As soon as Adam hit, I (said to him), ‘I was a little disappointed they didn’t introduce you as the Masters champion.’ He had a little chuckle and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s probably the most disappointing thing that will happen to me all week.’ “
Based on the way your Masters champion played at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course, he could be right. Scott, well rested after several weeks in the Bahamas, was very much on his game and did very little wrong in shooting 3-under 69 ...
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. –– It was a year ago that Georgia Tech alum Matt Kuchar won his first Players Championship.
Now another former Yellow Jacket is trying to do the same.
Roberto Castro entered Thursday having played the Players Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass just twice before, once in a pro-am for the Web.com Tour’s Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open and the other in a practice round Wednesday with Kuchar and Geoff Ogilvy.
But despite little experience on one of the Tour’s toughest tests, Castro fired a 9-under 63 to tie the course record shared by Greg Norman (Round 1, 1994 Players) and Fred Couples (Round 3, 1992 Players), and grab hold of the early lead.
“I think every hole is hard out here,” Castro said. “So you kind of just have to step up and hit a shot on every hole.”
Castro recorded seven birdies and an eagle Thursday. He started his day on the back nine and was 2 under entering the par-5 16th. He striped a 4-iron into the green at No. 16 to set up the first of three straight birdies.
At the par-3 17th, his tee ball, struck with a 9-iron, landed inside of ...
PONTA VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- James Walton will be on the bag for Y.E. Yang when Yang tees off in the first round of the Players Championship Thursday at TPC Sawgrass.
Yang will begin his round at 12:57 p.m. off of tee No. 1. It's his fifth Players start and he's looking to make just his second cut. Yang finished T-34 in 2010.
But on Wednesday, it was Walton who took the spotlight.
Competing in the annual closest-to-the-pin caddie competition, Walton stuck his tee shot at the par-3 17th to 4 1/2 feet to beat Kevin Baile, who caddies for Jason Dufner, by 4 feet. Steve Stricker's caddie, Jimmy Johnson, finished third after hitting his tee shot to 10 feet.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. –– Scott Stallings has stormed out of the gates at the Players Championship.
Starting on the front nine of the Players Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass, Stallings birdied his first five holes to take an early lead.
He made a 35-footer for birdie at the par-4 first hole. He also made a 20-footer at No. 3 and a 17-footer at No. 4 as part of his early birdie spree.
Stallings has missed 7-of-10 cuts since finishing T-4 at the Humana Challenge. His best finish during that span is a T-29 finish at the Honda Classic. This is Stallings' second Players Championship.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. Eight days after the PGA Tour cleared him of a violation for using deer antler spray, Vijay Singh sued the Tour on Wednesday for unspecified monetary damages, claiming the Tour subjected him to "public humiliation and ridicule for months" and unnecessarily impaired his reputation.
"Vijay is angry and hurt and totally dedicated to reclaiming his reputation, which was tarnished by the PGA (Tour)'s irresponsible accusations," Peter R. Ginsberg, a New York lawyer specializing in sports law, said after the suit was filed in New York's Supreme Court. "He wants to make sure the PGA (Tour) doesn't treat players irresponsibly in the future. This is Vijay's idea. He's dedicated to it 100 percent. It's very important to Vijay to have his name cleared.
In January Singh admitted to using deer antler spray, at the time on the Tour's list of banned substances. On Feb. 19, the Tour issued a 90-day suspension (Feb. 4 to May 11) that Singh appealed while continuing to play. During the appeal process, the Tour cleared Singh after the World Anti-Doping Agency said the "spray (which is known to contain small amounts of IGF-1) is not ...
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. –- This week at The Players Championship, Graeme McDowell, champion of the RBC Heritage, is one of four recent winners trying to recapture the magic in his first start since tasting victory. So is Masters champion Adam Scott, Zurich Classic winner Billy Horschel and last week’s Wells Fargo Championship Derek Ernst.
In golf, as in life, the future drowns out the present, and so we quickly move on to that age-old question: Is victory a launching pad to new heights or the top of the mountain? McDowell, for one, says he’s experienced both sensations.
“I think sometimes wins are springboards for something greater and beyond, and sometimes they feel like the finish line,” he said. “When I won the U.S. Open in 2010 there was certainly a checkered flag feel about that…When I won in 2008 chasing my first Ryder Cup team, it felt like a springboard to a big season. And hopefully this one – this one certainly feels the same way.”
McDowell’s playoff triumph over Webb Simpson in April was the culmination of nearly two years of hard work. McDowell pointed to a missed cut at the 2011 PGA Championship and ...
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Quiet and orderly, just the way he prefers it, at least until he got to every green to begin his walk to the next tee. There, Adam Scott was greeted by commotion, hands thrusting toward him with programs, beach balls, flags – anything – for him to sign.
At that point, his practice round regimen was in danger and Scott – trying for a gentle re-entry into the PGA Tour atmosphere from his Masters euphoria – was forced into action. No shock, given the regal nature that defines him, but the Aussie did so with a decorum to be admired. He smiled and made eye contact, then acknowledged the fans’ presence with a simple request: Allow him to play his late-afternoon practice holes, then meet him at 18 for autographs.
“And he signed for them all,” said Justin Cohen, Scott’s manager.
But if the fans were pleased to have their mementos, they were no more so than Scott, who had the civility that he craves. Nearly a month removed from his Masters victory, Scott has pulled off something perhaps as remarkable as his playoff triumph at Augusta National.
In this day and age of 24/7 internet, round-the-clock talk ...
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