Lee Westwood made 11 birdies to shoot an 11-under 61 to catch Louis Oosthuizen at the top of the leaderboard after 54 holes of the HSBC Champions on Saturday in Shenzhen, China. Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, held a five-stroke lead after 36 holes, but carded a 70 as his putting wasn't as sharp as in Round 2. Both players are at 18 under, three shots ahead of Phil Mickelson (66).
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – In 11 years of Schwab Cup history there has never been a back-to-back champion.
Tom Lehman is halfway home to changing that.
Lehman is second at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at 7 under after a second-round 63, trailing leader Jay Haas by three shots. That’s good enough to surge ahead of Bernhard Langer in the points as they stand now, with Langer tied for fifth at 5 under.
The 63 was also Lehman’s career low on the Champions Tour, a good sign going into the weekend at Desert Mountain’s Cochise Course.
“I was extremely pleased with my play. I really saved some shots coming in,” the 2011 Schwab Cup champion said. “Missed the green on 14 on a tough up-and-down, got it up-and-down from the bunker on 17 for par. Those par putts are what really keep the round, the momentum going.”
For Langer, Friday was a more satisfying day than the previous, where he couldn’t get anything going until late in a round of 69. In Round 2 he had six birdies and just one bogey.
“The greens are a little softer. They were inconsistent yesterday, they fixed that today,” Langer said. “(Thursday), I couldn’t make a putt. Today, I made them.”
Two rounds remain to decide the Schwab Cup, with plenty of volatility left given the two players’ high spots on the leaderboard and double points available.
“I can only play as good as I can play, and hope it’s good enough by Sunday,” Langer said.
Roger Chapman’s longshot bid at the Schwab Cup appears over. He would have to win the tournament and he’s tied for 21st through two rounds, at 1 under.
Jay Haas has two Schwab Cups, but has never won the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship. He’s making a pretty good push toward that in Round 2 at Desert Mountain.
Haas is on a run of four consecutive birdies and is 7 under through 13 holes and 11 under for the tournament, four clear of Tom Lehman and Fred Couples.
Lehman, 5 under for his round, projects to win a second consecutive Schwab Cup as the leaderboard stands, with him being T2 and Bernhard Langer at T6. Langer is 4 under through 17 holes.
Jay Don Blake, the opening-round leader, is tied for fourth and even through 11 holes in his second round.
The second round is under way at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, and Tom Lehman is rising to the top of two leaderboards.
Lehman, a Scottsdale, Ariz., resident, made three straight birdies from Nos. 5-7 at Desert Mountain’s Cochise Course to get to 5 under and the lead, alongside Jay Haas and Gary Hallberg.
Bernhard Langer is currently tied for 10th at 3 under, which means that Lehman projects to No. 1 in the Schwab Cup. Langer came into the event 211 points ahead of Lehman, but with double points available at the season finale, the Cup is still up for grabs.
Lehman is gunning to be the first back-to-back winner of the $1 million prize.
First-round leader Jay Don Blake has backed up a bit with two bogeys in his first three holes. He’s at 4 under.
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM Louis Oosthuizen is certainly enjoying his time at the HSBC Champions. He can thank his putter for a good part of it. Showing the same form that won him the 2010 British Open, Oosthuizen tied the event record with a 9-under 63 -- setting the 36-hole scoring mark in a WGC event in the process -- to take a five-shot lead at 16 under on The Olazabal Course at Mission Hills on Friday in Shenzhen, China. "I made putts," said Oosthuizen, also 11 under on the par 5s this week. "I putted great." Before those putts started to fall, Oosthuizen opened par-bogey. But then he birdied Nos. 3 and 5, eagled the seventh, and then birdied Nos. 8, 9, 10 and 11. He also birdied 15 and 16. Ernie Els, who carded a 29 on the front nine (which would tie his lowest on the PGA TOUR) en route to a 63, was at 11 under with Adam Scott (68). Jason Dufner (66) and Shane Lowry (68) were tied for fourth at 10 under. Phil Mickelson (69) and Dustin Johnson (68) were tied for sixth at 9 under. Oosthuizen, who has birdied or eagled every par 5 through 36 holes, didn't win on the PGA TOUR this season, but did record five top-five finishes. "Still two rounds left," Oosthuizen told Golf Channel. "I'm going to go out tomorrow, same game plan, give myself as many birdie putts as I can and just hope I can make some putts like I did today."
It's been quite a season for Ernie Els. And he's not done yet, either. Els carded a 7-under 29 on his front nine en route to a 9-under 63 at the HSBC Champions on Friday in China. He's five shots behind leader Louis Oosthuizen. The 29 would have matched the career-best nine-hole score Els shot at the 2002 British Open -- but the HSBC is a non-sanctioned event. His 29 at the 2002 British also came on the front nine and also in the second round. Els won that week. Will history repeat itself at this week's HSBC? Els, who rallied to win the 2012 British Open, has nine top 25s and five top 10s on the PGA TOUR this season.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
On Tuesday, PGA TOUR Executive Vice President and Chief of Operations Andy Pazder discussed a number of topics on “Maginnes on Tap” with John Maginnes from SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. Among them: conflicting event releases (and the conditions attached to them) granted to the eight players who participated in the World Golf Final in Turkey last month, the 2013 PGA TOUR schedule and more.
Here are some of the highlights:
On attaching conditions to the releases granted to those who played in Turkey the same week as the Frys.com Open: “We felt it was not unreasonable to ask them to support specifically the Frys.com tournament in a future year,” Pazder said. He wouldn’t go into specifics but added the players all know they have a future obligation to the tournament -- meaning it seems likely Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan, Charl Schwartzel and Matt Kuchar will play in the Frys.com Open at some point. “A lot of factors that go into this,” Pazder said. “Even though it was an unofficial event, we wanted to support the European Tour. We felt we would go against what we would ordinarily do, which is not approve those releases at all. If not for the possibility of Europe benefitting with developing a full-field event in Turkey, we may have had a different view.” Pazder also noted that not all releases have conditions attached to them because it depends what other factors are in play.
On the 2013 tournaments and changes to the structure of the schedule : Pazder cited the six Player Advisory Council meetings -- double the normal amount in a given year -- as just one of the many examples of just how difficult it was to restructure the tournament schedule as we know it.
Three specific areas he discussed was the movement of the Valero Texas Open to the week before the Masters, the FedExCup Playoffs bye week and what could amount to essentially fewer playing opportunities for those who finish outside the top 125 in the FedExCup standings.
Let’s start with the Texas two-step. The reason the Valero Texas Open had to be moved to the week before the Masters was two-fold. First, the Masters always finishes the second Sunday in April. Next year, that will be April 14 -- a week later than this year -- which caused the TOUR to have to move a tournament that’s normally behind it, in front of it. Second, the Valero Texas Open has an annual pro-am the day after its event that generates $8 million for charity. Had the status quo held, that day would have been the day after Easter, which would have had a negative impact on charitable dollars. The positive is that the Shell Houston Open might get some players it normally doesn’t since a lot of players prefer to not play the week before a major. Likewise, the Valero Texas Open now provides a last chance for players trying to qualify for the Masters with a win. “It was probably the most complicated part of the schedule,” Pazder said. “It happens every 5 or 6 years, so it’s not something we haven’t dealt with before.”
On to the FedExCup Playoffs bye week, which switches back to the week after the Duetsche Bank Championship (the second of the four Playoffs events) after following the BMW Championship (the third Playoffs event) this year. This had mostly to do with it being a Presidents Cup year next season. “In 2013, we have a week off after the TOUR Championship before we play the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village,” said Pazder, noting players didn’t have a week off before this year’s Ryder Cup. “That’s what gave us an opportunity to slide that off week in the Playoffs between the second and third events.” Pazder also said some “excitement” was lost this year between the third leg of the Playoffs and the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, but “we felt that’s what we needed to do to give players a little bit of a breather.”
Lastly, and what Pazder said was “probably the single biggest downside” to what he called a transitional year, is the fact that players outside the top 125 will potentially have fewer starts with what was the Fall Series now being folded into the FedExCup portion of the following season’s schedule beginning next October. To augment the possibility of fewer starts for those players, Pazder said the TOUR is “doing everything possible,” including increasing field sizes at eight tournaments and increasing the number of sponsor exemptions in that eligibility category. “But no question when you take four events off the schedule because they are going to start the following season, it has an effect,” Pazder said. “We knew from Day One that was going to be our biggest issue.”
Louis Oosthuizen and Adam Scott used strong finishes to get to the top of the HSBC Champions on Thursday in Guangdong, China. Oosthuizen birdied the par-4 ninth hole -- his last -- to post a 7-under 65 just before Scott came from the back of the pack to match him. Scott finished birdie-birdie-eagle on the front nine to tie Oosthuizen. The top pair had plenty of company behind them. Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson opened with 6-under 66s on The Olazabal Course at Mission Hills. They were tied for third with Peter Hanson and Shane Lowry. Mickelson was pleased with the way he played. He is still using the modified claw putting grip that he began using earlier this fall. "I hit a lot of good shots," Mickelson told Golf Channel. "... And I feel very good putting with the grip I've gone to." Mickelson, the 2007 and 2009 champion here, closed with an eagle 3 on the ninth hole. Watson also had an eagle, carding a 3 on the 11th hole.
The top golfers in the world have certainly come to play at the HSBC Champions. Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson opened with first-round, 6-under 66s on The Olazabal Course at Mission Hills to grab a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in China. Mickelson, the 2007 and 2009 champion here, closed with an eagle 3 on the ninth hole to join Watson and Peter Hanson at the top while other golfers were still on the course. Watson also had an eagle, carding a 3 on the 11th hole.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- Considering he rated himself a 5 out of 10 health-wise, Retief Goosen's round of 67 Thursday in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational was pretty impressive.
Goosen, who made six birdies and dropped just two shots to par, has been battling a degenerating L3-L4 disk for the better part of the last year. As if that's not bad enough, "some of the bone is growing a bit funny," the South African said.
Physiotheraphy sessions help stem the tide, and he's been consulting a cadre of doctors in an attempt to avoid back surgery.
"At the moment we've just got to keep grinding away and play well," said Goosen, who is one shot off the early lead.
The two-time U.S. Open champ, who ranks 139th in the FedExCup, says he struggles to keep the muscles from firing down the lower back. Cortisone shots have helped keep the 43-year-old going. He's even had PRP injections like Fred Couples and Vijay Singh did earlier this year.
"At the moment it is a struggle to sleep properly and to get going in the mornings, to warm up," Goosen said. "And yeah, I'm losing a lot of distance out there on the golf course. I can't quite go at it as hard as I would like to."
Even so, Goosen, who says he normally can't hit more than 30 balls after a round before he's struggling to stand up straight, is coming off his best finish of the season at the RBC Canadian Open that included a third-round 63. In fact, that was his second tie for 10th in his last three starts, with the other coming at the U.S. Open.
Goosen has never won a World Golf Championships event, although he does have 12 top-10s, including a tie for third at Firestone two years ago. He says the greens this year are running at Augusta speeds, which has always been his preference, and he used 30 putts on Thursday.
"I like this golf course," Goosen said. "I don't know, for some reason I putt better on quicker greens, so I feel like I can make a better stroke when I just have to stroke it and not hit it. The greens are perfect here. If you hit it on the right line, it's good. But they're also very tricky. There's a lot of break on them, so it's hard to get the right lines, as well."