AKRON, Ohio – The dog days of summer must be Carl Petterson’s time of year. The Swede, who became an American citizen in January, won the RBC Canadian Open – which was played last week -- two years ago. He’s the 2008 winner of the Wyndham Championship, which is two weeks on the horizon, as well. So maybe it should come as no surprise to see Pettersson, who won the RBC Heritage earlier this year, at the top of the leaderboard at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. He’s played 14 holes in 4 under and has yet to make a bogey. K.T. Kim and Charl Schwartzel, who are playing in successive groups, and have just made the turn, are one stroke back. Retief Goosen, Lee Westwood and Keegan Bradley are tied at 2 under. Goosen needs a big week. He came to Firestone Country Club ranked 139th in the FedExCup and could use a big push to finish in the top 125 and make the Playoffs.
By Chris Dunham, PGATOUR.COM FEDEXCUP: Current standings | Movers | Weekly leaders | 2012 Winners chart The countdown is now at three weeks before the FedExCup Playoffs get under way. With just 125 spots available in the field for The Barclays, the race to move into one of those 125 positions continues to intensify. Below are six players at risk of missing out on the Playoffs who will be intriguing to follow this week at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and the Reno-Tahoe Open. Sergio Garcia Currently: 108th | This week: Bridgestone Garcia famously said that he’s not good enough to win a major at this year’s Masters but said nothing about a World Golf Championships event. In 11 starts at this event (10 of them at Firestone), Garcia has carded nine first-round scores in the 60s. In his other 33 rounds, Garcia has just seven sub-70 scores. It’s been an unusual ball-striking year for Garcia, who is 123rd on TOUR in total driving and 108th in greens in regulation. His 15th-place standing in strokes gained - is a career best and a reason for hope for the Spaniard. Harrison Frazar Currently: 113th | This week: Reno A tie for fifth in his first start and a tie for second the following week … then 15 starts without a top-25 finish. That’s the story of Harrison Frazar’s 2012 season. The 41-year-old has dropped from No. 4 to No. 113 in the FedExCup standings since mid-January and travels to Reno after missing four of his last five cuts. Frazar’s had solid success at this event with five top-25 finishes in his last seven starts. Jason Day Currently: 114th | This week: Bridgestone A year after his brilliant season featuring two runner-up finishes in major championships and 10 top 10s overall, Day has trimmed his schedule and seen a decline in his results. He entered the 2011 World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational at No. 13 in the FedExCup standings and went on to finish No. 12 overall. This season, Day will need to scramble just to qualify for the Playoffs. In two starts at Firestone, Day has finished T22 and T25, so he should expect good things this week. Y.E. Yang Currently: 146th | This week: Bridgestone The 2009 PGA Champion has just one top-40 finish in four trips to Firestone but needs to make something happen in the next three weeks to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs. Yang has played in 11 of 12 Playoffs events over the last three seasons and is presented with a great opportunity to inch closer to the top 125 this week. He’s guaranteed four rounds in this week’s limited-field event and a good round could jump start his season. Nick O’Hern Currently: 154th | This week: Reno Nick O’Hern has qualified for four of the five FedExCup Playoffs, only missing out in 2010 when knee surgery sidelined him for half the season. He enters this week 101 points shy of the 125th position, with just two opportunities to make up ground. O’Hern finished tied for sixth in this event last year, making his first start in Reno since 2001. His recent run of four consecutive missed cuts is cause for concern but O’Hern’s Playoffs chances hinge on his performance this week. John Daly Currently: 163rd | This week: Reno Daly has done very well considering the limited opportunities he’s had. Just one player ranks higher in the FedExCup standings with fewer starts than Daly’s nine. Daly is in position to post his best-career FedExCup finish, topping his 163rd-place standing in 2007, and threaten for his first berth in the Playoffs. If eligible for the statistic, Daly would rank 13th on TOUR in driving distance. Interestingly, he’d rank 12th in strokes gained - putting.
Editor's note: Bill Haas, the reigning FedExCup champion, will be writing a blog for PGATOUR.COM each week leading up to, and through, the Playoffs. Here is his first installment.
AKRON, Ohio -- The World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational marks the start of a busy stretch of golf for me. I took last week off, even though I really like the course where the RBC Canadian Open was played, and got away from the game a little. I wanted to be ready. I always felt like the plan was to play here, the PGA, Greensboro, and then the FedExCup Playoffs start, and those weeks become a really big deal.
All in all, taking last week off was probably a good idea. I just felt like I hadn't been playing that great recently. This summer I didn't play as much as I normally do, and so in that sense I earned the right -- or had the reason -- to focus on these last seven events, even though I'm probably going to be tired come the BMW Championship because it's going to be six weeks in a row. I may be tired, but I think your adrenaline can overcome that. And I feel like I'm working on some good things that hopefully can help me through this.
In order for me to play well my putting is going to have to improve. It just needs to be more consistent. I've struggled on the greens one, two days a week, and then the other two days it feels pretty good. So I'm just looking for consistency and hopefully the practice pays off. I don't think you can ever do too much on the greens. A 30-footer is a 30-footer, however you pull the putter back or what you do in the whole stroke. It doesn't really matter. It's going to be all feel and just natural ability that takes over. The more you practice, the more you hit putts, I think that's what helps you there.
That said, I did play four or five times last week. But when you're home you can hop in a cart and play 18 holes in two hours. Some days like that you do more good than you would if you go to the range for four hours. So overall I feel pretty comfortable with my game. It's just come Sunday if you're in the hunt, seeing how it holds up, and these next few weeks are going to be big.
All in all, I feel pretty good about this week. This is only the third time I've played in the Bridgestone Invitational. The first year I really felt like I played well. I ended up tied for 21st but I shot 66 in the second round and I remember feeling like I could win here. Last year I did not score well. I played okay but wasn't even close. So I've had both feelings here. The greens seem fast this year, faster than I remember here, so again, putting is going to be a premium. But the guys that have won here, Tiger, Adam Scott, they're long and they hit the ball really straight and consistent. So I do think ball-striking is a premium here.
I got to Akron on Tuesday and played a few holes. I am going back out today and really try to get a feel for the course. But since there's no cut and you know you'll be playing four days it makes it less stressful, especially Thursday morning. If you make a couple of bogeys early, you don't get as bent out of shape -- or at least I don't get as bent out of shape as I maybe normally would. I just keep telling myself that over four rounds I feel like I can compete with these guys, and hopefully on Sunday I'll have a chance.
Everybody here at Firestone is a world-class player. I'm excited. I still have the feeling that being here and playing in a World Golf Championships is special. I know the Phils and the Tigers of the world might not feel quite the same. But when these events were created, I remember thinking my dad, when he got into these, how big of a deal it was, and it was to him, too. I'm certainly not beyond saying how special it is just to be here. So to play well this week and hopefully next week in the PGA would be great.
The Playoffs should be interesting. Two of the courses -- Bethpage and Crooked Stick -- are new. I was at Bethpage for the final round in 2002 when my dad tied for 12th but otherwise, I've only seen it on TV. I know it's an Open-style golf course, big and the rough can be pretty nasty. I think it'll be good, though. I think it'll be one thing where it'll weed out people who are struggling, and the guys that play well I think will excel in the Playoffs.
I think I realize how lucky I was in a sense for everything to work out last year. Sure, I did what I had to do and won the TOUR Championship. But I could go and do what Luke Donald did last year -- he never finished lower than 18th in the Playoffs and was fourth or better in the other three events -- and lose. I understand that I can play my best golf here in this stretch and still not win the FedExCup again. Somebody else just has to play a little better, or through our system of recalculating points in the TOUR Championship, it can go someone else's way. So I don't know that I'm exactly geared up to successfully defend, or that's my goal. I think my goal is just more to give myself the opportunity again, and in order to do that, I still have to play well.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
This week marks a couple of firsts for Padraig Harrington.
It’s the first time he’s playing in the Reno-Tahoe Open, and it’s the first time he’ll be playing using the Modified Stableford scoring system .
At 62nd in the Official World Golf Ranking, it’s also the first time Harrington has failed to qualify for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational (also this week).
Harrington hasn’t won on the PGA TOUR since 2008. During that time he hasn’t contended much, either -- though this season he does have as many top 10s as he had all of last year with three.
But that’s not the only reason he is in Nevada. Harington prefers to play the week before a major championship.
“If I was to practice at home I would get all mixed up,” Harrington said Wednesday. “I just wouldn't be competitive for next week if I didn't play this week.”
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C., will play host to the year’s final major, the PGA Championship, next week.
”I want to be competitive,” Harrington said. “When you hit a lot of shots you're breaking down some of your competitive instinct; whereas on the golf course you've got one chance, card in your hand, and you've got to get your mind in the right place.”
Wrapping his head around the Modified Stableford scoring system might be tougher.
Harrington has never played using the format that awards points for birdies and eagles -- and subtracts points for bogeys and double bogeys.
“It's a little bit like changing from stroke play to match play,” Harrington said. “You've got to be that bit more aggressive. The difference between going from, say, a par to a birdie is two points effectively, and the difference between going from par to a bogey is effectively one point. So it's nearly like a shot and a half a shot. Missing birdie putts is a lot worse than missing par putts this week.
“It's an interesting way. Normally they all count the same at the end of the week.”
To get himself in that mindset, Harrington played a couple of nine-hole practice rounds and kept score using the Modified Stableford system.
No matter the system, though, it’s most important to just play, Harrington feels.
“I know it's a little awkward coming three hours time difference from where we're going to play the PGA next week, but saying that I would rather be competitive,” he said. “Reno gives me that opportunity. The key for me is getting my head in the right place, getting my routines right, getting my processes right.”
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- The 2012 season has been a year of firsts for South African Branden Grace.
He won his first European Tour event, then made sure no one could say it was a fluke by winning two more. Grace played in his first World Golf Championships event in March and he will be making his debut in another this week at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Oh, and did we mention that he'll be playing with Tiger Woods for the first time during the first two rounds at Firestone? Grace could hardly believe his good fortune.
"I've heard a rumor at the beginning of the week that that's what they're going to try to do because we're the only two guys that's won three times in the year," Grace said. "But I didn't really think it was going to happen. But it's unreal. He's my idol. He's been my role model since I started playing golf.
“Tomorrow is a little bit of a dream come true."
Woods says he had seen Grace play but he can't recall every meeting the 24-year-old.
"He's really played well," Woods said. "I don't know Branden at all, so it'll be fun to get out there and chitchat a little bit with him and get to know him. ... It'll be a good next couple days for us. I know I am looking forward to it, and hopefully he is, as well."
Grace got a little taste of the kind of crowds he'll face on Thursday when he played in his -- yes, you guessed it – first U.S. Open earlier this summer. His partner during the final round at the Olympic Club was none other than Phil Mickelson.
"There was huge crowds and things like that,” Grace said. “Obviously I played with Mickelson there, as well, so I think the experience is there, and obviously you're going to have a little bit of pressure playing with Woods, but something you just have to deal with."
Grace was playing the Challenge Tour a year ago. He finished 23rd on the money list, which was three spots shy of receiving his European Tour card. He prevailed in q-school, though, and wasted no time making his mark -- winning twice in his first three European Tour starts and adding a thir at the Volvo China Open in April.
"It just shows you how much a year can change in such a short while," Grace said. "I promise you at the end of the last year I wouldn't have dreamt of playing with Tiger first two rounds in the Bridgestone. It's one of those. But it shows you if you stick your head down and keep grinding and keep playing, you never know what can happen."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
Sean O’Hair has parted ways with swing coach Sean Foley, the two sides confirmed Tuesday.
O’Hair, whom Foley coached for the last three years, also withdrew from the Wells Fargo Championship on Monday, citing personal reasons.
Under Foley, O’Hair won the 2009 Wells Fargo Championship and made the Presidents Cup team. This season, however, has been a struggle.
In 10 starts, O’Hair has missed six cuts, including his last five in a row. He has just one finish in the top 25 this year.
The decision was O’Hair’s, according to Foley, who got the phone call from O’Hair on Monday night.
“We will always be close,” Foley said via text message. “He is a great guy just going through a bad stretch of golf and felt he needed another direction.”
Earlier this year, O’Hair fired his caddie Brennan Little, who took over his bag after O’Hair let go of Paul Tesori at the end of last year.
Other players in Foley’s stable include of course Tiger Woods, whom he began working with last August, as well as Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose and Stephen Ames.