Tag:bay hill friday
Posted on: March 25, 2011 7:13 pm

Langer surgery means Masters streak to end

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Maybe someday, when Bernhard Langer is bouncing a grandchild on his knee, the kid will ask how his Hall of Fame granddaddy's 27-year streak of playing at the Masters came to an end.

Hopefully, by then, Langer will have concocted a sexier story to unveil, because the truth is sorta embarrasing.

The Champions Tour star and two-time Masters winner had surgery on his left thumb Wednesday and will be out of commission for the next eight weeks, meaning his run at Augusta National has ended.

Langer hurt the thumb in a cycling accident, but that requires an asterisk of sorts. He had slowed down at an intersection near his home in Boca Raton, Fla., and was attempting to press the button on an electric pedestrian unit used at crosswalks when he missed his target and hurt the thumb. An IMG official said Langer hurt the thumb two months ago, tried to play through the pain and actually won a tournament in that span, but got a second opinion recently.

It was originally diagnosed as a sprain.

The surgery was conducted by the same doctor who handled the wrist/hand surgeries of Trevor Immelman and Luke Donald. 

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 25, 2011 6:50 pm

Masters hopefuls head opposite directions

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The last-gasp chances of two Masters hopefuls headed in decidedly opposite directions this week when Italy's Matteo Manassero missed the cut and American J.B. Holmes improved his standing to keep his hopes alive.

Manassero, attempting to become the first player to tee it up at the Masters two times before turning 18, struggled for the second day in a row at the Bay Hill Invitational and shot 3-over 75, missing the cut by a stroke.

This one might sting -- he played his last five holes in 2 over. A day earlier, he was playing nicely in high winds in the afternoon, but double-bogeyed the 18th hole.

Holmes, ranked No. 59 in the world, needs to move inside the top 50 by Sunday night to secure his second Masters berth. He shot a 3-under 69 and moved into a tie for 17th. Though it's been hard to estimate specifically where Holmes must finish because of the many moving parts involved with the fate of other players around him in the rankings, he more than likely needs a top-7 finish to have any chance.

At the halfway point, Holmes is seven strokes behind leader Martin Laird, but only four strokes out of a tie for fourth.

Posted on: March 25, 2011 6:33 pm

Improved Laird guns for the biggest cup of all

ORLANDO, Fla. -- After 11 years of living in the United States and mostly dismissing his chances as remote, if not implausible, Scotland's Martin Laird is taking a different look as it relates to playing in the biggest event in golf.

Darned rightfully so, too.

After the last seven or eight months, the Ryder Cup is no longer a vague notion that isn't within his reach.

The former Colorado State player, who came to the States at age 17 to play college golf, said the way he's played since last summer has given him hope that he can crack the loaded squad the next time around, in 2012.

Now that he's leading the Arnold Palmer Invitational after a second-round 65 on Friday, who can argue? He already has moved up to 40th in the world and a top finish this week would give him another huge jolt, given the strength of the field. Sure, we're 18 months away from the next matches, but he's surely solidifying his position as a big-league player.

"It's gone from being kind of an outside shot to definitely being on the radar," he said.

After making the FedEx Cup finale last fall, assuring him of a spot in the Masters, he finished second in Las Vegas and T3 in Malaysia. Earlier, he lost in a sudden-death playoff to Matt Kuchar at the FedEx series opener, The Barclays.

Not much has changed this year, either. He already has three top-10 finishes, including two in succession at Doral and Tampa, heading into this week's event at Bay Hill.

"To make that team would mean everything to me," Laird said. "Next year, I'm going to do everything I can to get on that team.  Especially the way my game's improved the last four or five, six months."

At age 28, he's certainly looking good over the long term, too, which is terrific news for Scottish golf fans. After all, the Ryder Cup is set for Scotland at Gleneagles in 2014, the next time Europe will host the event.

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 25, 2011 6:02 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2011 6:03 pm

Choi drives his hybrids to top of API pack

ORLANDO, Fla. -- On the other side of the gender fence, they call it the "LPGA bouquet."

That's the term used to describe the cluster of headcovers and hybrids the women use in lieu of long irons, which tend to get noticed when peeking ourt over the top of a tour golf bag.

South Korean star K.J. Choi, a former powerlifter, has gone a step farther.

In an attempt to hit higher, softer shots, he showed up at Bay Hill this week with a driver, 3-wood and 5-wood in the bag, which is not particularly unusual. The three hybrids he has in the bag most certainly are, however.

As a result of the three-club change, the least-lofted iron in his bag is a 7-iron, which might even make some LPGA players giggle. But good luck critiquing his decision after an 8-under 64, which moved him into a share of second place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The hybrids are in lofts of 24, 26 and 28 degrees and replace his 3, 4 and 5 irons, essentially. His caddie, Andy Prodger, half-seriously laughed when asked how far one of them flew. He wasn't sure of the answer.

"He just got one of them today," said Michael Yim, Choi's manager.

Describing his best shot of the day, Choi said it came on the 14th and was, "my No. 4 hybrid to seven feet for birdie."

Words never before uttered on the PGA Tour, to be sure.

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 25, 2011 4:26 pm

Poulter gripes spike interest in steel cleats

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It would be a stretch to say that Ian Poulter is stomping mad.

Though the metaphor is certainly proper.

The outspoken Englishman played in the afternoon on Thursday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, then drove back to his Orlando abode and began sending forth some stern Twitter thoughts about the numerous metal spikes that are still in use on the PGA Tour, and the damage they cause to certain putting surfaces.

If it were up to him, he'd ban them completely, he said after shooting a second 71 in the second round on Friday.

"I would, personally," he said. "I was one who wore spikes for a long, long time and had fairly active feet, so I felt they give me stability. But once I gave soft spikes a decent go, there is no real difference."

Some clubs in the States have banned metal spikes for years, but the tour lets players make the decision. Tiger Woods still wears nails, for one, and noted that playing partners Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland had a few huge spike marks in their putting line at times.

"Dustin and Gary got a couple of Mt. Everests out there, and unfortunately they couldn't do anything about it," Woods said.

The Bay Hill greens, soft in the morning, have grown progressively tougher to navigate as they dry out in the afternoon sun, Poulter said. Of course, players are not allowed to tap down spike marks until after putting.

Posted on: March 25, 2011 3:49 pm

Pride thanks Palmer with stellar 66 on Friday

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sometimes, it just doesn't pay to be polite.

Tour veteran Dicky Pride, a Bay Hill member since 1992, was threatening to steal the show in the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational before a couple of last minute mistakes let some wind out of his sails.

Still, his 6-under 66 was about as solid as it gets, second only to the 65 posted by Charles Howell on Friday. At one point, Pride was 8 under through 15 holes, a point that was raised as a compliment.

"Thanks for reminding me, you *&@$$," he said playfully. "I made two bad swings."

Pride, 41, rinsed his approach shot on the 16th and also bogeyed the 18th, but for a guy with only minimal tour status and playing on a sponsor exemption, it was a nice recovering after a 77 on Thursday. As for the bogeys, he hit the same club on approach shots.

"Apparently, I need to go practice my 4 iron," he laughed. "I am going to tie it with a rope to the back of my car and drag it home."

Pride said he was relieved that he played well, since he knows Palmer personally and didn't want to make anybody regret giving him a pass into the event.

At one point, Pride had seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch on his home track.

"You don't want to have Mr. Palmer stick up for you and then play like a dog," he said.
Category: Golf
Posted on: March 25, 2011 3:37 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 1:36 pm

Streelman and caddie put their Dukes up

ORLANDO, Fla. -- They knew it was coming, it was just a matter of when.

But once they started playing in the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Friday, Duke graduates Kevin Streelman and caddie Mike Christiansen figured the torrent of abuse would stop.


Both avowed Duke fans, they were hammered early and often by their professional peers about the Blue Devils' loss on the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night. Then when play began and they thought it was over, they heard some chatter coming from a different place completely.

Second-year star Rickie Fowler, playing an adjoining hole, looked over and chirped fake innocently, "You watch the game last night?"

Streelman and Christensen, who both played on the Duke golf team, were all but wearing black armbands after the round.

"We're kind of in a state of mourning," Christensen said.
Category: Golf
Posted on: March 25, 2011 3:26 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2011 5:00 pm

Woods in familiar spot -- contending at Arnie's

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sean Foley was waiting for Tiger Woods on the driving range a moment after the former world No. 1 finished one of his best rounds of the young season.

Foley had his video camera out and seemed to be inviting Woods for a post-round practice session, but the latter threw up his hands, laughed and playfully backed away, heading toward the scoring trailer to sign his card.

Though they set up a session later in the day at Woods' private club a few miles away, Woods could rightly have taken the afternoon off this time around.

Creeping closer to some semblance of his old form, Woods shot a 4-under 68 in the morning wave on Friday and moved into the top-10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, an event he has won six times, including his two most recent starts.

Still tinkering with his swing and putter, Woods made a 53-foot bomb on the 18th green and 23-footer to end the round on the ninth, which had him in a decidedly upbeat mood when the dust settled afterward. Both birdies sent the spring break crowds into spontaneous eruptions louder than any cheers heard all week.

Woods has felt the love from galleries only intermittently over the past year, but in his hometown, they seemed to be on the edge of their seats, waiting for something to happen. He certainly used the crowd's energy, just like old times.

"Probably a combo platter there," he said. "We definitely tend to feed off one another when I get is going. It's a lot of fun."

Woods shot 66 in the closing round of his last start at Doral two weeks ago, which matched the number he posted in Dubai earlier in the year, so yet again, he's succeeding in fits and spurts. 

Woods is again tinkering with his putter, using a different version of the mallet model he tried at Doral. He said he left five putts a shade short and dead online, "or this could really have been somethng special today."

It was plenty good enough to get him in the weekend mix, which is exactly what he needs before his next start at Augusta National. 

"It's like anything," he said. "We are trying to build towards the first major and that's what my game is headed towards. It's building and it's coming."
It can't hurt the reconstruction project when Woods makes monster putts as he did on the 18th, where he made walk-off winning birdies to win in his last two starts, in 2008-09. The greens have been completely rebuilt since then, however.

His group had just been put on the clock for falling behind a few moments earlier.

"We pulled a little hurry-up offense and I tugged it a bit," he said if his approach shot. "I hit that putt in a practice round and was surprised at how straight it was. I played a little less break and it went in."

Woods shot 73 in the windy opening round, and considering that he only hit four fairways Thursday, it was a good result, considering. But Friday seemed to mark a step forward, though stringing together four solid rounds has been a challenge all year, no question.

"It's kind of the same feeling and working on the same things that Sean and I are working o n and they are starting to become a little more fluid."
Category: Golf
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