Category Archives: Golf

Dufner flirts with history at PGA Championship

Jason Dufner has been on a tear ever since he paid a visit to the Cleveland Browns.

That’s documented, not sarcasm.

OK, it’s sarcasm, too.

But there’s no denying Dufner is playing some of the best golf of his career, and in Friday’s second round of the PGA Championship he matched the record for lowest round in a major, ever, with a 7-under 63.

He had a putt on No. 18 for the record come up short. At 9-under, he leads the tournament by two shots headed to the weekend at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.  His 63 set a new Oak Hill competitive course record.

Dufner lived in the Cleveland suburbs until he was 11 and still has family in Northeast Ohio.He finished tied for fourth last week at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational in Akron.

He became the 24th player ever to shoot 63 in a major on Friday. Before last week, he had just one top 10 finish in 2013.

Schedule change Saturday at Bridgestone

AKRON, Ohio – If you’re planning to come to Firestone Country Club Saturday for the third round of the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational, the possibility of thunderstorms has slightly changed the schedule.

Instead of the players playing in pairs, they’ll play in groups of three and begin at both hole No. 1 and No. 10, as they do on the first two days of the tournament.

The first groups will tee off at approximately 11 a.m. with the last groups teeing off at approximately 1 p.m.

Exact times and groups will be set late Friday afternoon or early Friday evening when the second round is completed.

Defending champion Keegan Bradley made the turn early Friday afternoon with a one shot lead at 7-under, putting him — for the moment, anyway, one shot ahead of Thursday leader Webb Simpson, who tees off Friday afternoon at 1:40. Seven-time Bridgestone champion Tiger Woods tees off at 1:10.

That Other Guy with Tiger worth watching, too

AKRON, Ohio – Some leftover notes as the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational gets underway at Firestone Country Club…

*As usual, Tiger Woods teeing off will draw the morning’s biggest crowd.

His playing partner is more than just That Guy With Tiger.

Hideki Matsuyama, who’s all of 21, has had an outstanding year that’s helped him climb the rankings and become the world’s No. 33 player heading into his first Bridgestone Invitational.

He tied for sixth at the British Open and tied for 10th at the U.S. Open, and the young Japanese sensation has people taking notice — and not just for the slow-play penalty he was assessed in the British Open. He also has two wins on the Asian Tour in 2013.

Thursday will be the first time Woods and Matsuyama have played together.

**The “other” star pairing of the first two rounds plays Thursday afternoon as the two most recent major winners tee off together.

British Open champion Phil Mickelson and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose tee off at 1:40 p.m. Thursday. Like the Woods-Mastuyama pairing, it’s probably not a coincidence these two marquee players will play the first two days in the same group.

Mickelson has played in all 14 WGC-Bridgestone tournaments but has generally not fared well since finishing as runner-up in 1999. He’s up to No. 2 in the world rankings and has to be considered a major contender — and maybe the favorite — at next week’s PGA Championship. After a disastrous showing at the Masters, Mickelson finished tied for second at the U.S. Open and won the Scottish Open the week before the British Open.

**Defending Bridgestone champion Keegan Bradley goes off in the day’s last group with Luke Donald. Bradley didn’t lead until the tournament’s final hole last August when he made a 15-foot par putt to close with a 64 and won when Jim Furyk finished with a double bogey.

Bradley became the second-youngest player ever, behind Woods, to win a WGC event.

**This tournament begins a busy stretch that goes beyond the PGA Championship and will be capped by most of the world’s top players at the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio on the first weekend of October.

No one has won in Ohio like Woods has. Twelve of Woods’ 78 career PGA Tour wins have come in the state, seven here at Firestone and five at the Memorial at Muirfield Village.

Down the stretch of the season the top PGA players also play for the FedEx Cup. Woods comes into the weekend leading in FedEx Cup points, ahead of Matt Kuchar, the red-hot Brandt Snedeker, Mickelson and Henrik Stenson.

14-year-old Guan will play in The Memorial

The latest next big thing in golf will play in next week’s Memorial Tournament.

The Memorial announced Monday that 14-year-old Chinese amateur sensation Tianlang Guan has accepted an exemption to compete next week at the 38th edition of Jack Nicklaus’ event at Muirfield Country Club in Dublin.

Tianlang became the youngest player to make a cut in a major championship in PGA Tour history at The Masters last month. His invitation to the first major of the season came by way of his victory at the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, and since the Masters has played in two additional PGA events.

“I am very excited to accept the invitation to play at the Memorial Tournament,” Tianlang said in a statement. “It is Jack Nicklaus’ event, and the same as all the golf fans out there I have very high respect to Mr. Nicklaus, not just as a golf legend, but also as a great person. He has been actively involved in the development of golf in China, and junior golf development worldwide, and as a junior golfer myself I appreciate what he has done to help us grow. My parents and I got the chance to meet him in person at the Masters, and that was one of the highlights of my week at Augusta National. I appreciate a lot the Memorial Tournament for having me there, and it is going to be a great week.”

Said Nicklaus: “I have had the fortunate pleasure of spending time with Guan and his family, and I have found him to be mature beyond his years and very passionate about his development in the game. The performance of this young 14-year-old—who, mind you, is just an eighth-grader—in making the cut at the Masters and then in New Orleans was fantastic. Winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur was a great achievement in and of itself, but his maturity, composure and competitiveness in these two significant events sends a message that this young man has a wonderful future. For the growth of the game internationally, he is a role model for all aspiring Asian amateurs, as well as young boys and girls around the globe, so it is only appropriate to give him another opportunity to compete on a world-class stage.”

Tiger Woods seems to have lost an edge

Tiger Woods might never be the same.

Whether it’s age, humiliation from the way he treated his marriage, or injury, the guy simply is not what he was.

Sunday’s blowup at Pebble Beach was the latest example. Phil Mickelson put the smackdown on him like he was Bob Goalby.

Remember the days when merely playing in the final pairing with Woods caused lesser men’s nerves to explode? Those days have gone the way of the rotary phone.

They could come back, but at present Woods seems a shell of himself.

A day that started with Woods leading Phil Mickelson by two saw him shoot 75 and finish nine behind Mickelson. Mickelson played great golf, shooting 64. But Woods on the final day was like the guys he used leave in the sand trap. In the vernacular, he blew up.

As FOX’s Robert Lusetich wrote: “Sunday represented the fifth straight time when (Mickelson and Woods have) played together in the final round that the left-hander has prevailed. He used to make birdies on Sundays; now it’s become the day to make excuses.”

Even the normally staid Jim Nantz opined on “This will be a difficult one to get out of the mind.” And Nick Faldo said Woods would be “seriously bruised.”

So much of golf is physical. Swing plane, ball striking … that kind of nonsense.

But much of it is also mental. When Woods was winning he believed he would win, and more important the guys playing against him never really believed he would lose. That matters.

Now, Woods is trying to regain that feeling. And it’s not easy to find. Mickelson may have said that Woods can get it back in “a week,” but it seems more difficult.

Woods is simply not the same mental attack-dog he once was.

Whether he is that way again remains to be seen.

If he’s not, he’ll have to wonder whether everything that happened that led to this point was really worth it.