By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Meen Whee Kim has a one-shot lead through the first two rounds of q-school after shooting a course-record tying 9-under 63 Friday on PGA West’s Stadium Course.
Another Kim, however, could make even bigger headlines.
Si Woo Kim is tied for 14th and at 17 years, 5 months and 6 days on Monday would be the youngest player ever to reach the PGA TOUR via q-school. In 2001, Ty Tryon became the youngest player to reach the TOUR via that route. He was 17 years, 6 months, 1 day old when he tied for 23rd.
Should Kim earn his card, though, he wouldn’t be able to take up membership until June 28th of next year when he turns 18. He could play no more than 12 PGA TOUR events as a non-member on sponsor exemptions or Monday qualifiers prior to that date.
Alone is second, meanwhile, is Vaughn Taylor, who shot a 64 on the Tournament Course.
Taylor is looking to secure his card via q-school for the second straight year after never finishing outside the top 100 on the money list from 2004 to 2010. Last year, he finished 148th before tying for fifth here. This year, he was 139th in earnings.
Other notables in good shape to finish in the top 25 and earn a card include Robert Karlsson ( who overcame an admitted case of the yips this year ), who is tied for fifth at 10 under, and Billy Horschel, who is one of nine players tied for 14th at 8 under.
Camilo Villegas is another stroke back after a 67 on the Tournament Course.
This is the first time Villegas has played in the final stage of q-school after failing to finish in the top 125 on the money list for the first time in his career.
“One thing is working hard with a purpose, but another is working hard without a purpose,” Villegas said of his struggles earlier this season. “A little bit of that happened with me and when that happened the good results went away, and when they go away the smiles go away and you’re miserable. You have a great life, but you’re miserable. Then you realize, ‘Why am I being so hard on myself?’ and you start playing good golf again and the smiles come back.
“I just wasn’t having as much fun as I should have been.”
A second-round 67 gave Villegas plenty to smile about, and in a tie for 23rd through the first two days puts him in position to regain his card.
A few notables haven’t been so fortunate: Billy Mayfair (5 under/T-39), Shaun Micheel (5 under/T-39), Nick O’Hern (4 under/T-59), James Nitties (3 under/T-71), Billy Hurley III (3 under/T-71), Patrick Cantlay (1 under/T-94), Tim Petrovic (even/T-110), Alex Cejka (1 over/T-127), Steve Flesch (1 over/T-127) and Todd Hamilton (2 over/T-142) are all on the outside looking in at the moment.
Rory McIlroy is in line to pick up some more honors in 2012. The United States Sports Academy has nominated McIlroy for its Male Athlete of the Year award. He's one of a dozen athletes -- including NBA star LeBron James, top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic and record-breaking footballer Lionel Messi -- to be in the running for this annual award. The USSA, in conjunction with NBC Sports, will reveal the award winner on Christmas Day, Dec. 25. Click here for more information, or to vote on the award. McIlroy also made the shortlist for the 2012 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, joining 11 Olympic or Paralympic athletes. Cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy, tennis star Andy Murray, athletes Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, rower Katherine Grainger, boxer Nicola Adams and sailor Ben Ainslie are other hopefuls. Paralympians Sarah Storey, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir also make the list for the award, which will be announced on Dec. 16. While the shortlist was selected by a panel of experts, the winner will be decided by a public vote. For more information, click here McIlroy had four victories in 2012, including the PGA Championship in record fashion and a pair of FedExCup Playoffs events. He had 10 top-10 finishes in all and is one of the nominees to win PGA TOUR player of the year.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- One down, five to go.
Q-school is a marathon and not a sprint, but Steve LeBrun put himself in good shape with an opening-round 64 on the Stadium Course to take a one-shot lead after the first round at PGA West.
Only the top 25 (and ties) after six rounds will receive PGA TOUR cards for 2013 with the rest earning Web.com Tour status or conditional status on that tour.
On a pristine day in the desert, LeBrun was flawless, making eight birdies and no bogeys on the typically more difficult of the two courses.
LeBrun spent this past season on the Web.com Tour, where he had four top 10s and made 14 of 21 cuts. His best finish was a fourth-place at the Miccosukee Championship.
Among the four players tied for a second is Kris Blanks, who despite nagging injuries since mid-summer managed to be mistake-free.
Prior to the second stage of q-school, Blanks hadn’t played competitively since the John Deere Classic in July because of a shoulder injury.
During that time, Blanks played only a half-dozen rounds and most of those were with buddies at his home course in Jupiter, Fla., where more beers were consumed than strokes counted.
At one point, Blanks’ shoulder was so bad he could hit an 8-iron just 130 yards. He’d routinely play from the forward tees just to avoid being frustrated.
“I just didn’t have the ability to swing with any amount of speed,” said Blanks, who got three different opinions on his shoulder before visiting Dr. James Andrews, who prescribed a daily routine of rehab exercises. “If I did, it would hurt.”
If there was an upside to being sidelined, it was that Blanks spent many of his waking hours working on his putting -- one of the weaker areas of his game -- on the synthetic green in his backyard.
“I couldn’t beat balls and do the things I needed to do until I got things calmed down in my shoulder,” Blanks said.
That extra time spent on his putting paid off in the opening round Wednesday with Blanks at one point making six birdies in an eight-hole stretch on the Stadium Course.
”It’s definitely great to get a low round under your belt,” he said. “It affords you the luxury of not having to be so precise the next five rounds.”
That same luxury was also afforded to Robert Karlsson and Erik Compton, who are 6 and 5 under, respectively, after the first round.
“Sometimes in a TOUR event you’re 10 back before you even tee off,” Compton said. “Here, you have to get a piece of the pie every day.”
Other notables in good shape after the first round include Vaughn Taylor, Joseph Bramlett and Daniel Chopra. All three are tied for 20th at 4 under.
Ross Fisher is among a large group another stroke back, while Camilo Villegas, Billy Horschel, Billy Hurley III, Heath Slocum, James Nitties and Rod Pampling are among those at 2 under.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Steve Stricker hasn’t played golf since the U.S. lost the Ryder Cup two months ago outside Chicago.
“It still lingers,” Stricker said Tuesday from the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Financial. ”That wasn’t much fun the way it ended.”
None of it, at least inside the ropes, was fun for Stricker, who failed to earn a point in four matches, which included going 0-for-3 alongside Tiger Woods. Stricker said the loss hurt more than anything else in his 24 years on the PGA TOUR, including the years in which he lost his card.
“I feel a lot of responsibility for not winning a point,” Stricker said. “I still think about it a lot, and there are reminders all over the place. Every corner I take (at home), there’s a picture from the Ryder Cup or a present or something.”
Stricker added that he wouldn’t have changed anything about the experience -- other than the outcome.
He was so haunted by the defeat, he had trouble sleeping the first two weeks after the historic collapse.
“I think it still hurts a lot of us just because how it all played out,” said Stricker, who never had more than a 1-up lead in any of his matches and who trailed for much of them.
If there’s a moment that sticks out in particular, it came on the 17th hole on Sunday against Martin Kaymer.
Stricker hit his tee shot through the green on the par-3 and failed to get up and down to save par. Kaymer made his par to take a 1-up lead he would never relinquish.
“I haven’t watched it,” Stricker said of the matches. “I don’t plan on watching it.
“I feel a lot of responsibility there just because I didn’t do anything for the team.”
As for playing on the next team when he’ll be 47 years old, the wounds of this loss are still too fresh for Stricker to think that far ahead.
“Not right now,” he said. “I’ve had a good run with it. It’s been a lot of fun. Yeah, you know what, I don’t know. It still stings. It’s not a fair question at this time.”
Rory McIlroy provided some clues as to what his 2013 schedule will look like recently. For one, he's looking forward to finally taming THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass -- an event where he's missed the cut in each of his three attempts. His post-Masters schedule at least will include THE PLAYERS Championship, which began his streak of missed cuts in 2012. He said this year the TPC Sawgrass was a course that he would have to figure out how to play, even if it took him 20 years. "I'm determined," McIlroy said. "I feel like I'm a good enough player to get around that course. But yeah, I at least want to see what the weekend is like there." McIlroy will cut back on the number of tournaments he plays, and while he didn't want to say which ones he will skip, he offered a few clues. Singapore and Hong Kong are not on the 2013 schedule, and he played both this year. McIlroy also said he likely would not play the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., the week before the U.S. Open. He added it this year because he had missed three straight cuts. "I added that this year just to try to get a little bit more golf because I was only playing two-round tournaments," McIlroy said. He said his schedule leading up to the Masters would at least include Abu Dhabi, the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, The Honda Classic, the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the Shell Houston Open. That would mean McIlroy does not play the Dubai Desert Classic next year. -- The Associated Press contributed to this report
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Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods played together earlier this month in China.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Like most things Rory McIlroy will experience in golf, Tiger Woods can certainly relate. That includes changing equipment at the height of his career.
Last month, McIlroy announced he and Titleist were parting ways at the end of this year. It’s long been speculated that McIlroy will sign with Nike alongside Woods. (A Nike spokesman said last month the company will not comment on rumors.)
Woods of course made the move successfully, moving from Titleist to Nike, beginning with the golf ball in 2000 and golf clubs two years later. As history has shown, however, not everyone has been as fortunate.
“Any time you make a change in equipment, it’s certainly a big deal,” Woods said Tuesday from the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual. “Going through the testing process, trying to get the right shaft, and the club head, plus the ball, it’s a challenge.”
Unlike Woods, it appears McIlroy, who is not in the field here, will endure that challenge all at once.
How long did it take for Woods to adjust?
“Sometimes it’s taken almost a year, sometimes it’s taken just a few weeks,” Woods said. “Is this equipment in general, is this going to help me win golf tournaments? If the answer is yes, then it’s in the bag. If the answer is no, then it’s not.”
It’s of course a careful balance. For Woods, it helped not to make wholesale changes all at once.
“But when you get it right,” Woods said. “It’s pretty good.”
If not, it can be another story.
The late Payne Stewart suffered a season-long slump in 1994 after leaving Wilson for a lucrative deal with Spalding.
In Woods’ case, he didn’t skip a beat. When he switched golf balls in 2000 Woods went on to win nine times on the PGA TOUR, including the final three majors that season.
“It’s a huge process to get to that point,” Woods noted. “It was very time consuming. It’s tiring quite frankly because it can take a long time, but it’s worth it in the end if you get it right.”
Most weeks, Damon Green is caddying for Zach Johnson on the PGA TOUR. This week, he’s on the other end of the bag in the final stage of Champions Tour q-school at TPC Eagle Trace in Coral Springs, Fla.
Through the first of four rounds, Green shares the lead at 4 under with Bobby Clampett after each shot 68 on Tuesday.
Green played in two Champions Tour events this season, finishing 73rd in the Principal Charity Classic and tying for 17th in the U.S. Senior Open.
Clampett, meanwhile, had 20 starts on the over-50 circuit with four top 10s, including a tie for fourth in the Insperity Championship presented by United Healthcare in what was his best finish of the year. He finished the year 39th in the Schwab Cup standings.
Esteban Toledo and Neal Lancaster are a shot back, while Lance Ten Broeck is among a group of 10 players tied for fifth at 2 under.
The second stage of q-school began on Tuesday with play under way at one site in Florida and two in Texas.
Three more sites will begin play on Wednesday.
Here’s a look at some notable players looking to advance to the final stage of q-school later this month.
Plantation (Fla.) Preserve, Nov. 13-16: Notah Begay, Kris Blanks, Carlos Franco, Hank Kuehne, Jesper Parnevik. Leaderboard
TPC Craig Ranch, McKinney, Texas, Nov. 13-16: Woody Austin, Chris Baryla, Matt Bettencourt, Steven Bowditch, Todd Hamilton, J.J. Killeen, Bio Kim, Jeff Klauk, James Nitties. Leaderboard
Redstone GC, Humble, Texas, Nov. 13-16: Rich Beem, Joe Durant, David Gossett, Kelly Kraft, Parker McLachlin, Shaun Micheel, Ted Purdy, Patrick Reed, Chris Riley. Leaderboard
Southern Hills Plantation, Brooksville, Fla., Nov. 14-17: Arjun Atwal, Daniel Chopra, Robert Damron, Marco Dawson, Robert Gamez, Billy Hurley, Lee Janzen, Robert Karlsson, Frank Lickliter, Ben Martin, Sam Saunders, Garrett Willis.
Hombre GC, Panama City, Fla., Nov. 14-17: Erik Compton, Peter Lonard, John Peterson, Kyle Thompson, Brett Wetterich.
Bear Creek GC, Murrieta, Calif., Nov. 14-17: Michael Allen, Patrick Cantlay, Brent Geiberger, Jason Gore, Danny Lee, Bob May, Troy Merritt, Tom Pernice, Jeff Quinney.
To promote this week’s UBS Hong Kong Open, Y.E. Yang and several other players gathered at the top of Victoria Peak, a mountain on the western part of the island, to hit shots into the stratosphere.
The views were spectacular and Yang tweeted several photos. In one, he posed with two other well-known players -- one of whom is participating in "Movember," a charity where men grow moustaches to raise funds and awareness for men's health.
"Guess who these guys are," Yang tweeted. "You'll never know who the guy with the 'stache is.'
For the record, the Fu Manchu belongs to three-time major champion Padraig Harrington.