Day in Review: James-Smyth capture Raphael Division titleDes Smyth and Mark James shot two rounds of 63 to capture the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf Raphael Division title.April 23, 2011
John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
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They made sure Saturday that 2012 is guaranteed -- they'll be defending Raphael Division champions.
James and Smyth fired a second consecutive 63 in the better ball format to edge the teams of Gary Koch/Roger Maltbie and Ben Crenshaw/Curtis Strange by a shot in the 36-hole competition. Their back-nine 30 at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort featured six birdies in seven holes.
"We fitted well together. When one person was out (of the hole), the other person was sort of good under pressure," James said. "We made no bogeys and even the odd birdie when one person was out, so that was clutch."
The Englishman (James) and Irishman (Smyth) have had success here before, they closed with two 62s to tie for fifth in the 54-hole official Legends Division in 2009. Smyth won in 2005 when the tournament was individual stroke play.
But getting to the first tee together this year was an adventure. Smyth was exempt into the Legends Division and James was not, so James made arrangements to play in the Raphael Division with Blaine McCallister.
McCallister withdrew earlier in the week due to a death in his family, so James was left without a partner. Smyth, who was to play with Rod Spittle in the Legends Division, dropped down to Raphael to play with James.
The Raphael Division champions meet the press after their surprise victory in Savannah.
Smyth had not played in the U.S. since the Senior PGA Championship last May, and James had yet to get into a Champions Tour event this year. But their Savannah magic returned Friday and Saturday, and now they'll know where they'll be one year from now.
Like the winning team of James-Smyth, the NBC Sports broadcasters shot 63 Saturday with a back-nine 30.
"You come to play, the fun is in competing," Maltbie said. "For me it's one tournament a year, that's it, the clubs are going back in the closet."
PEAKING TOO EARLY?: The team of Andy North and Tom Watson, four-time winners at the Liberty Mutual including the 2008 Legends Division, had one of the day's larger galleries following them but ended the day as they started it -- three shots off the pace.
The potential to get to the lead was there, however, as they got to their target score of 10 under for the day through just 13 holes. North eagled the par-5 13th with an old-school 2-iron second shot to the green, followed by an 18-foot putt.
Watson practically beamed while describing it -- "nobody carries a 2-iron in their bag anymore!" -- but admitted that the team's mojo sagged afterward. They played the last holes in even par with a crippling bogey on No. 17.
"That's the thing that's always been my Achilles heel, when you hit a great shot like that, sometimes you just tend to let the air out of your sails and you lose your edge a little bit," Watson said. "I think that's what happened to us after that eagle."
BACK TO TEACHING: Fourteen-time Champions Tour winner Dave Stockton finished ninth in the Raphael Division, playing alongside Jay Sigel. For him, playing golf is a vacation of sorts from his day job as a renowned putting instructor.
Stockton's expertise is so valued that he learned not to go to the practice green as much at Savannah Harbor as the week went on, "because every time I did I got nailed."
McIlroy reached out to Stockton in the wake of his week at Augusta National, where he lost a four-stroke Sunday lead at the Masters.
"What I'm interested in is seeing what their routine is getting to the ball," Stockton said. "I'm not interested so much in the stroke, most of the errors I see people make is that they don't see the ball going in the hole. Consequently they miss putts because they're just not lining them up correctly."