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WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Lucky Tiger Leads.

Tiger Woods leads the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, partly due to a generous ruling which enabled him to get a free drop from a poor lie.

Eyes on the prize

Tiger Woods / Getty

Tiger Woods was on his way to posting a 59, when on the last hole he hit a wayward tee shot, leaving him behind some tall tree’s. He attempted to go over the tree’s but did not get enough height, the ball rebounding off the tree and then the hospitality tent, coming to rest on a bare lie. A generous official gave him a free drop off the bare lie, he subsequently made the green and sunk a 25 ft putt to save par, for a round of -9 under par 61. He is now seven shots clear of the field at -13 under par, and with that sort of lead even Cheyenne Woods, daughter of Tiger’s half-brother, Earl Dennison Woods Jr, could defend that total.

When asked if he was miffed at not carding a 59 Tiger responded with;

” Disappointed, absolutely not, a 61′s pretty good. I’m not bummed. How about just pleased, I’m very happy I was able to post that. I just kept thinking, whatever lead I had, `Let’s just keep increasing it.’ It’s at seven now, I believe. So that’s not too bad after two days.”

It seemed like every fan on the course was cheering Tiger towards the magic 59, and he said he heard their excitement;

“Oh, they were excited, you could hear it more than feel it. You definitely could hear it, they were into it. It’s nice to be playing in front of people who are excited like that, especially people who aren’t yelling just because your ball gets in the air. You know, we are pros. I had opportunities to make putts there at 15 and 17. 

Keegan Bradley and Chris Wood are tied in a distant second place, at -6 under par, they face competition to finish in second place from Bill Hass and Henrik Stenson who are on -5 under par.  Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, Jason Duffner and Bubba Watson are all at -4 under par.

Keegan was top of the leaderboard when he finished his second round, and watched Tiger birdie the first two holes, he hoped the birdie fest would not continue, he was wrong;

Tiger, those first couple holes out there are definitely birdie holes, so I’d expect him to do that. You know, I hope he doesn’t go too low.”

This tournament is all over bar the engraving of the Trophy, actually they could even do that right now.

WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Webb Simpson 1st Round Leader.

Webb Simpson is the 1st round leader at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, South Course.

Opportunity knocks

Webb Simpson / Getty Images

Webb had a first round of -6 under par 64 to lead the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone by just one shot.

Webb said he had profited from his caddie Paul Tesori’s knowledge of the Firestone course;

“Well, I knew it all through my caddie Paul Tesori, who’s been here so many years, I just kind of had to listen to him. It’s hard for us players to listen to our caddies, but he basically showed me where to go yesterday and told me where to hit it, where the lines were, what clubs to hit. I didn’t feel like it was my first time because he has so much experience here.”

Henrik Stenson is in second place at -5 under par, 65 to occupy that position on his own. Henrik was upset about his bogey on the last hole, and the fact his new shoes caused a blister and he swapped back to his old pair;

“I wish I didn’t bogey the last hole, it’s one area I’ve got to get better at. When I’m between clubs, hitting more club and swinging easy is where I’ve been struggling. You know, there’s always something to work on. I feel like I’ve let a couple of tournaments go that maybe I should have closed out. They might not match the outfit perfectly, but it felt like I had socks on compared to the other ones.”

You notice there was no mention of the shoe maker, I guess there was too much money involved.

There are four players tied in fourth spot at -4 under par, they are; Ryan Moore, Chris Wood, Keegan Bradley and Tiger Woods.

Tiger reported that he had really concentrated on the wind factor and how he has taken advantage of the Firestone course in the past;

“I hit a lot of good shots. I had a really good feel for the distance today, and Joey and I really read the wind right today. We changed a lot of shots out there, and we both had a really good handle on what we were doing feel-wise with the wind. Luckily, over the years I’ve taken advantage of it. I have played well and I’ve scored well, and I’ve won my share of tournaments here.”

Keegan is trying to ignore the pressure to do something crazy;

” It’s business as usual, I just want to not put too much pressure on myself to do anything crazy. I know this golf course fits me, so to let the course come to me is big here.”

Phil Mickelson, coming off his fantastic victory at the British Open two weeks ago, unfortunately seemed to struggled with his concentration and came in with a +2 over par 72.

“Tonight I’ll get a little bit more rest and try not to do too much and see if I can come out tomorrow a little bit more focused.”

Rory McIlroy will defend his title at the PGA next week, I don’t think he has a hope, Rory has not won a tournament since the PGA, in a year of amazing up and down swings that included a Ryder Cup victory and a whole series of disappointments. Rory shot an even par round of  70. He said he was just throwing shots away;

“I just threw a few shots away around the greens. You know, you start to save shots there and all of a sudden you’re -3, -4 or 5-under par.”

Sony Open, Rookie Russell Rips Up the Record Books.

Smashing debut

Winning Rookie Russell Henley / Petersen/Getty Images

The Sony Open was won by rookie Russell Henley on his Tour debut, and doing so he ripped up the standing records for just about everything.

Russell  finished at -24 under par and a total score of 256, breaking by four shots the Sony Open in Hawaii scoring record, last set by Brad Faxon in 2001. Russell relegated Tim Clark into second place by three shots, Tim was himself on fire, he birdied seven of his last eleven holes and actually only made up one shot on Russell, the rookie from the University of Georgia.

Russell is now tied at the top the FedEx Cup standings in the company of Dustin Johnson on 500 points. The win was the second-lowest score for a 72-hole tournament in PGA TOUR history, two shots behind Tommy Armour III in 2003 at the Valero Texas Open. He also  set tournament records for the low 36-hole score after his 63-63 start, he shared the 54-hole record with Scott Langley and also set another tournament record with the lowest final round by a Champion.

Add to that he became the first PGA TOUR rookie to win his debut since Garrett Willis did at Tucson in 2001, and he will be going to the Masters in April, a local tournament for the boy from Macon, Georgia.

He said of his record breaking day that he had never been so nervous, you would not have imagined that watching him coming down the stretch on Sunday. He played the last nine holes superbly.

“I don’t really know what happened, honestly, this is the most nervous I’ve ever been. That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s been my goal to make it to the Masters my whole life. I’m kind of speechless right now.”

With the results  of his Web.com Tour season last year and this win Russell Henley has already made it into the world rankings inside the top fifty.  That ranking will get him into the Accenture-Match Play Championship for the top 64 in the world, the qualifying date is only a month away, and he should also be in line for the other WGC at the Cadillac Championship, and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, not forgetting the PGA Championship. All in all quite a PGA TOUR debut, I look forward to watching Russell this season, it will be interesting to see how far he can go, he obviously has the talent.

 

WGC Bridgestone Invitational, Furyk Flops at Firestone, Keegan Wins

Buried treasure

Keegan Bradley/Greenwood/Getty Images

Keegan Bradley won the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, after Jim Furyk flopped over on the last hole. Another tournament that did not follow the script, this is why people watch golf, it’s never done and dusted. Standing on the tee at eighteen Jim had a one stroke lead. He proceeded to hit a poor tee shot, which hit a tree but fortunately rebounded back into play on the fairway. He followed that shot with another poor effort that landed in the short but tough rough on the edge of the front bunker. Keegan’s second shot into the green, from the fairway, plunged into the same bunker that Jim had just missed. At this point no one knew who had the better option on the third shot, Jim chipping over the bunker from the rough, or Keegan trying to extricate himself out of the bunker from a plugged lie. Jim duffed his and Keegan came out of the bunker beautifully albeit 15 feet from the hole. Jim’s next effort left him just 5 feet from the hole, which appeared good enough seeing as Keegan was still some distance from the cup. Keegan sunk his putt for a four, and Jim then missed his short put for a five and a play-off. What drama, the strange twists and turns on the last hole, and poor Jim who had led the tournament right up until his last putt on the last hole. Jim said about his performance;

“I led the golf tournament the entire way and lost it on the very last hole. To get that close and to know that I played more than good enough to win the golf tournament, and not close the door, is disappointing. It is a cruel game. I’ve lost some tournaments in some pretty poor fashions, but I don’t think I’ve let one ever slip nearly as bad as this one. This was my worst effort to finish off an event. My worst putt of the week. I have no one to blame but myself, but when things go wrong, it’s an empty feeling. I’m disappointed. I walked over, my boy is crying right after the round. And I guess it reminds you as an adult,  as a parent,  that you have to act the proper way. You have to do and say the right things to try to give the right lessons. But there’s no way I should have made any worse than 5 on the last hole, there’s no way I should have done worse than a playoff. Keegan played a heck of a back nine, he did everything he needed to do to win the golf tournament. I felt like I did the same, until the 18th hole.”

Keegan was on top of the world, insisting he never thought he would miss that last putt, to preserve his -13 under par total.

“I didn’t think for a second I was going to miss it. It was unbelievable. I got behind it, and I barely even had to read it. I knew the exact way it was going to break. I just needed to hit it hard enough. I knew that. And it was dead center. My hope standing on the 18th tee was to make birdie and maybe force a playoff, but you know, just from being out here, you just never know what’s going to happen.”

Keegan had a last round -6 under par 64, while Jim could only muster a -1 under par 69. Yesterday I called this competition a two-horse race,  it turned out to be an exciting adventure with the pack chasing down Jim Furyk. Steve Stricker finished with a -12 total, to tie Jim for second place, leaving Louis Oosthuizen alone in fourth spot.

At eight under were Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, who must both be pretty pleased with their overall performance. Luke Donald plodded his way round for a par round, but managed to finish in the top ten, and he must now be thinking of Kiawah Island next week. He will need a improved performance if he is to contend there.

WGC Bridgestone Invitational, two horse race.

Furyk holding onJim Furyk/Shamus/Getty Images

The WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone County Club has become a    two-horse race, after Louis Oosthuizen chipped away at Jim Furyk’s lead here on Saturday in the third round. Jim finished the day at -11 under par for the tournament.

Jim seemed to struggle on the back nine during the third round, finishing with an even par 70, which reduced his lead at the top of the board to just one shot. At one point he had increased his lead over the field to five shots, after Louis had suffered a bogey on the 8th hole.

South African Louis Oosthuizen recovered from that mishap, to finish with a   -2 under par round, elevating himself into second spot, at -10 under par.

No body else is really within touching distance of these two, nearest player is Keegan Bradley at -7 under par, and he is followed by Rory McIlroy and Steve Stricker at -6 under par. World number one Luke Donald had another frustrating day, with a third round of +1 over par, and at -4 for the tournament can only play for a top five finish.

WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone C.C. Furyk takes control in round 2

 

Round 2 news, updates

Jim Furyk/Shamus/Getty Images

Jim Furyk capitalised on his early tee time on Friday in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, at Akron Ohio.       Jim produced a steady round of -4 under par, 66 and a tournament total of -11 under par, and said afterwards that he had been happy to tee off early as it helped with keeping the moment from yesterdays great start;

“Just probably a little easier to keep the momentum going that way, rather than having an early tee time on Thursday morning, having a good round and having to sit on it until Friday afternoon. I thought it was key to get off to a nice start and see some putts go in. The back nine was a little bit more making some good saves. Good round and it’ll be nice to relax a little this afternoon and maybe check out the weather forecast later on and kind of check out the weekend. I think the wind is supposed to pick up a little bit. If it gets breezy, the wind picks up and the greens get faster, this course will show a little bit more teeth than we’ve seen so far. I’ve played this course so many times and for so many years, I feel pretty comfortable out here and know when center of the green is a good idea and when I can take a shot at the pin and try to get one in there a little bit closer. “

At least Jim will  not have to worry about contesting another play-off situation with Tiger Woods in this tournament, Tiger was over par today and is now 13 shots off Jim’s leading score.

Alone in second place is Rafael Cabrera Bello, he had a second round of -5 under par 65, one shot better that his 1st round effort, but his total score of -9 under par is still two shots behind Jim.

Louis Oosthuizen occupies third spot on his own, he also had a -5 under par 65 in the second round to go with his first round 66, and a total of -8 under par.

Jason Dufner was another mover on the day, with a -4 under par, 66 second round, moving him into fourth place. Jason grew up in the Cleveland area is enjoying playing in front of friends and family;

“It’s nice to come back and play in front of a lot of folks that haven’t had a chance to see me play up close. I don’t have a lot of experience on this course, but I’m from this area, and it’s good to play in front of a home crowd. Everything has been good, I’ve been able to hit the fairways, which is nice for me. I can hit a lot of drivers which gives me shorter clubs into the holes, so I can be more aggressive. And I’ve putted pretty good I feel like; I think I’ve got four bogeys for the week and three of them are on par 5s, so I’ve got to work on that a little bit. We’ve got two more days left. Depends on what the weather does, how the course responds to what they’re doing out there. If it gets firmer and faster it’s obviously tougher to shoot low scores. Feel like I’m in pretty good position heading into the weekend and a couple guys in front of me, so hopefully I can chase them down.”

With a good finish here Jason could take over the number one spot from Tiger Woods, in the race for the FedEx Cup. World number one in the rankings, Luke Donald is having another quiet tournament, he is currently six strokes behind the leader, and needs a great round tomorrow to pull himself into contention here at Firestone. Defending champion Adam Scott has played his way out of contention, a sad and lonely figure struggling to play good golf.

 

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