AT&T National @ Congressional, Mahan beats the heat to lead by two.

Higher temps, lower scores

Hunter Mahan /Carr/Getty Images

Hunter Mahan had a second round of -6 under par , 65 to lead the AT&T National by two strokes at Congressional Country Club, with a tournament score of -7  under par. Three players are tied in second spot, Brendon de Jonge, Jimmy Walker and Robert Garrigus, these guys are at -5 under par and are in good position going into the weekend.

The heat index reached a high of 109 degrees for the second round of the AT&T National, where players battled a tough Congressional course and very dangerously high temperatures by mid afternoon. Survival was the story much of the day, Brendon de Jonge,  who played in the morning and is from Zimbabwe, where it can get notoriously hot, said after his round;

” It was kind of draining, it’s starting to get just hot now, really, really hot.”

Jimmy Walker battled his way round;

“We know how to battle through the heat and stay hydrated, take your hydration pills and little mixed drinks. It’s the fans you’ve got to worry about because they’re out walking around and they don’t get into this type of stuff and get out and walk in it too much. I saw one lady that went down today, and I’m pretty sure it was probably from dehydration.”

Robert Garrigus also spoke about the heat;

” If there’s no rain, it’s going to be something else. I think it’s a mental thing because we’re all physically fit for the most part. I’m a lot more physically fit than I used to be. If you can just mentally just put it out of your head, my caddie was telling me yesterday, hey, man, just think of the tournaments you’ve played well in; Tampa it was smoldering; Memphis it was smoldering. You play well in the heat because you don’t think about it. It’s one of those things where if you can just get past the fact that you’re dripping sweat all over your golf ball, you can block it out. It makes a big, big difference.”

Tiger Woods thinks being as fit as he is, helped him in the heat;

“I live in it, I live in Florida. It’s not quite this hot, but it’s definitely more humid than this every day. I think it’s one of the reasons why I had success at Southern Hills, because I felt physically fit, didn’t have a problem with it. I’ve played some good tournaments over the years in Malaysia and other places where it’s hot, and certainly fitness, running all those miles and lifting all those weights, it comes into play when you get days like this, and consecutive days like this.”

Tiger managed to  recover today with a -3 under par round, which included a 48 foot Eagle putt.

Vijay Singh had a -1 under par second round and is in the group with total score of -4 under par. First round leader Bo Van Pelt could not match yesterdays good effort, slumping with a poor round of +2 over par, 73, and a -2 under total. He is joined on that score by  Billy Hurley 111, yesterdays news boy, was unable to match his first round score and tumbled down the leaderboard with a sad +2 over par round, leaving him at even for the tournament.

The Irish Open at Royal Portrush, Gregory Bourdy leads after 2nd round

Bourdy reaps benefits of Clarke's advice

Gregory Bourdy (Getty Images)

Gregory Bourdy leads the field after the conclusion of the second round at The Irish Open on the Royal Portrush golf links in County Antrim. Darren Clark offered Gregory some advice before the start of the tournament,  which obviously paid dividends as the Frenchman has moved into a one shot lead on the second day, and a tournament total of -12 under par. Greg spoke of the advice Darren had given him;

“I saw him on a tee and asked if it was possible to share a game. He is with the same manager, so I think that helped to get the right answer. Darren has been great with me. He gave me a lot of advice and maybe that gave me some confidence for the week. It was good for the lines on the tee shots. After just two or three times you can see better to know exactly the way you have to play.”

Darren seems full of gifts, just yesterday he gave a bottle of 21 year-old Bushmills Irish Whiskey to Jeev Milkha Singh. Jeev, who was the first round leader had a quieter day during the second round, completing a -1 under par round of 71, to be at -8 under par, and still in contention. Darren is thinking about his  Open Championship title defense at Royal Lytham and St Annes, which is just three weeks away;

“I’m just not tournament sharp and it’s important to have more competitive rounds.”

He has suffered from a groin strain and needed to rest it, taking a month off;

 “The break was massive, I needed to get away and the injury was a bit of a blessing in disguise. My golf’s not been that bad, but my scoring’s been terrible. I’ve been travelling all round the world trying to fulfil my role as Open Champion,  but now I’m refreshed. The last two days have probably been the best two ball-striking rounds I’ve had in a while. I’m definitely close. I need something around 65 or 64 to get into contention, but I’ve shot low scores here before.”

Darren has certainly achieved that task, he shot a record 61 on this course, at the tender age of 16.

Of the rest of Irish contingent, Padraig Harrington, the only home winner of The Irish Open in the last 30 years, has given himself the chance to do it again. Padraig  is ten under par after two 67s, and will surely be there or thereabouts come Sunday afternoon. Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell are all still around for the weekend, for Open Champion Clarke it was a first cut made all year. McIlroy and McDowell are both on the leaderboard at five under par, with Darren Clarke one further back.

Padraig Harrington said he is playing an unfamiliar game, but is hopeful once it all clicks into place he will win a few more tournaments;

 I’m playing a game I’m not familiar with, I’m hitting far more fairways and greens than normal and I know I could play better if I trusted it a bit more. I’ve shortened my swing significantly and I didn’t really put myself in any trouble. It was as stress-free a 67 as you could get in these conditions. I know they are around the corner and they tend to come like buses. When you get one a few more arrive very quickly.”

USPGA AT&T National @ Congressional Country Club, Bo Van Pelt Leads.

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Bo Van Pelt leads by one shot after the first round of the AT&T National at a tough Congressional Country Club with a -4 under par round of 67, on the par 71 lay-out.

There are three players tied for second spot on -3 under par, they are; V.J. Singh, Brendon de Jong and Jimmy Walker. One shot further back on -2 under par are; Pat Perez, Jason Day and the top story of the day man Billy Hurley 111.

Tough course, tough man

Billy Hurley 111 / Stan Badz/PGA Tour

Billy Hurley 111 has a degree from the United States Naval Academy and has served as a Lieutenant on the U.S.S. CHUNG-HOON. Billy shot a 2-under 69 in the opening round and is just two strokes off the lead of Bo Van Pelt at Congressional Country Club, he is also a one-time U.S. Walker Cup team member who now calls nearby Annapolis home. As Billy said;

“Nobody has ever went to a service academy and played out here. But as far as fitting in out here, the background gives me a little bit of a story. I think there’s certainly a mental toughness that I learned from the Navy that translates well into golf, but the pressures and the life are very different. For whatever reason, I play really good when it’s hot. This is certainly a special tournament, and I think that any time that we as an American public take time to pause and remember, reflect and honor the military, it’s a great thing.”

Bo Van Pelt was happy with his position;

 “I mean, made a good up and down on 18, hit a good shot there that had gone long into the back bunker and had a pretty tough shot and hit it to about a foot and just kind of kept my momentum going after birdieing 17. Hit a good drive on No.1, it’s just a hole I’ve always kind of hit driver off of to just be aggressive. It’s a tough fairway to hit, and had a good number. Been working on my wedges a bunch. Been feeling like I need to improve in that area. I was working specifically today before I played, a shot I was hitting a bunch. So it was like 98 yards, and when I got 93 I thought I had a pretty good number.”

VJ said he had played well;

” I played well. I hit a lot of good shots, made a lot of birdies, and finally I made a couple of putts, which I guess is the key to playing good golf is you’ve got to make putts, and I did that. I actually thought it had kind of spun back in front of the hole, and all of a sudden this guy behind the green started going nuts. Yeah, you never know when those are going to happen, so it’s nice to get a deuce.  I thought I was going to go out and really shoot a low one, and then I bogeyed three in a row after that. You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to keep calm out there. I gathered myself and made some more birdies coming in. All in all, I played really nicely, and I’m playing good golf.”

Tiger Woods was never under par in the afternoon and opened with a 1-over 72, he said;

“It’s certainly, I think, a little retribution for what happened last year. Don’t be mad at me. I didn’t play. “

Irish Open 1st round, Jeev Milkha Singh Leads the way at Portrush G.C.

Jeev Milkha Singh  (Getty Images)

Jeev Milkha Singh (Getty Images)

Jeev Milkha Singh leads the first round of the first Irish Open in Northern Ireland since 1953, shooting a marvelous round of -7 under par, 65 at a wet and windy Royal Portrush golf course. The weather did not stop eager fans turning out in huge numbers to see their home town hero’s, but they were treated to a special round of golf from the Indian player. Jeev was certainly not complaining about the number following him as he set the pace. Before he teed off Daren Clark had presented him with a bottle of Bushmills single malt whiskey. Jeev was not used to links golf, but it did not show during hiss opening round;

“Growing up, I never played a links golf course. The first time I played a links golf course was when I came for the Open Qualifying, it must have been about 20 years ago, and I enjoyed every bit of it,even though it was really tough. I thought, how can you play courses like this, in these conditions? It’s so tough! but now I just love it. I love links golf, you have to hit a lot of low shots and you have to have a lot of imagination. I think a lot of feel and imagination is required, and that’s what I love about links golf. The atmosphere and the feel to the golf course is just fantastic. It looks and feels just great.”

Jeev was really appreciative of Darren’s gift to him;

“Darren presented me with a 21 year old Bushmills single malt, which was very gracious of him. I like to have some whiskey once in a while, especially with my father on Sunday nights. He likes it as well. So I’ll sit down with him after the tournament, have a nice chat and have a drink with him. I really enjoy doing that.”

There are fout players tied in second place at -6 under par, they are; Gregory Bourdy, Mark Foster, Mathew Zions and Andrew Marshall.

The best Irish player on the day was Padraig Harrington whose good round of -5 under par, 67, got him into tied for 7th place. Rory McIlroy had a quieter day finishing with a -2 under par, 70 for his first round. Graeme McDowell and Darren Clark both had -1 under par 71 opening efforts.

Last weeks winner Danny Willett could only manage a +1 over par round of 73, and will hope to improve his position tomorrow to get above the cut line. If the weather continues to be wet and windy the conditions will only get tougher and only the best will survive.

I have read other reports from the Irish Open, where the reporters do not know the difference between Scotch Whisky, and Irish Whiskey, when writing about Darren Clark’s gift to Jeev of a bottle of Bushmills Whiskey.

Lee Westwood, World Number Three, heads back to France

Lee Westwood  (Getty Images)

World Number Three Lee Westwood (Getty Images)

World Number Three Lee Westwood returns to contest the Alstom Open de France next week in what appears to be one of the strongest fields in the history of this tournament.

Lee is seeking  back-to-back victories on European soil after capturing  his 22nd European Tour title in the Nordea Masters in Sweden at the start of the month, just before he achieved a top ten finish in the US Open Championship at Olympic Club. He has a strong record in the Alstom Open de France, with four top ten finishes in nine appearances. He really came close to winning this title at the Le Golf National in 2009, eventually losing in a play-off to Germany’s Martin Kaymer. Martin will  join Lee in the field next week, along with  four other players who currently occupy Ryder Cup spots, they are;

Race to Dubai leader Justin Rose, 2010 US Open Champion Graeme McDowell, Swede Peter Hanson and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño. Other players from the Worlds top fifty rankings are, Englishman Ian Poulter and Scotland’s Martin Laird, Graeme McDowell and European Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal, who was the 2001 champion in this tournament. There will also be an appearance from  Open Champion Darren Clarke, who is in a group of those players travelling from this week’s Irish Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club.

The defending champion is Frenchman Thomas Levet, the former Ryder Cup player who delighted the home support last year when he finished one shot clear of Dane Thorbjørn Olesen and Englishman Mark Foster to lift the trophy. The victory for Thomas came in front of packed galleries, just six weeks after Le Golf National was awarded The 2018 Ryder Cup.

I am a great fan of Thomas Levet, he used to pay at my club in Berkshire, England when I lived there. His son went to the same school as my grandson, and a more pleasant fellow and Professional golfer you could not wish to meet.

Greg Norman returning to Turnberry.

Greg Norman  (Getty Images)

Greg Norman (Getty Images)

Greg Norman is set to experience a sentimental return to the scene of his career defining first Major Championship victory, he has  confirmed that he will play in The Senior Open Championship  at Turnberry, a tournament presented by Rolex.

Greg famously finished five shots clear of English Ryder Cup player Gordon J Brand over the famous Ailsa Course to win The 1986 Open Championship. That win cemented the Shark’s place in golfing history, as he then went on to occupy the World number one spot for 331 weeks,  and also claim a second Claret Jug at Royal St George’s in 1993. Turnberry will always hold a special place in Greg’s heart and he is really happy to have the opportunity to return to the renowned Scottish links next month. The now 57-year-old Greg Norman will also renew his acquaintance with fellow Turnberry champion Tom Watson, who is also in the field for the 26th  Senior Open Championship.

Greg spoke about returning to the scene of his first Major triumph;

 “I’m really looking forward to returning to Turnberry for this summer’s  Senior Open. I’m sure once I arrive the memories will come flooding back.  Turnberry will always be special to me as that is where I won my first Major Championship. But aside from my victory, there is also some great history at Turnberry. It produced the “Duel in the Sun” between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in 1977.  That finish where Watson pulled out the victory will not soon be forgotten.  So this place produces some dramatic golf and provides a great venue for both The Open Championship and The Senior Open Championship.”

The  ‘Great White Shark’  still has some vivid recollections of how he captured that  first Claret Jug;

“It really was a special time, I will never forget that victory and the events of that week.   I vividly remember sitting in the restaurant at the Turnberry Hotel on Saturday night when Jack Nicklaus came over and pulled up a chair.  Jack gave me a tip that night on grip pressure.  He said;

” Concentrate on the pressure of your grip, and that will orchestrate your tempo.  Everything should fall in place.”

“I took that tip to heart and the next day I really did play well.  I had a five shot lead walking down the eighteenth hole and when some of the fans formed a traditional rugby scrum in the middle of the 18th fairway, I knew I had won my first major golf tournament.”