By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
In a wide-ranging pre-tournament interview Tuesday at the Frys.com Open more notable for his comments on Tiger Woods, Rocco Mediate also had some perspective on the long putter.
Some 20 years before today’s PGA TOUR long putter craze, there was a young Mediate, not with the yips exactly but just not putting as well as he wanted to.
“I remember Jim Ferree, who was one of my first teachers actually. I was at Long Cove in Hilton Head in 1990 … he goes, you gotta try this thing. I said all right, and I tried it. And I came out in '91 with it, and I know (Bruce) Lietzke used it then, but then I won and I had like six straight Top 10s or five straight Top 10s [actually, four in five weeks] and I won Doral.
“And I was the antichrist then in the putting world. And now look at it now. Yeah, I was the antichrist. People, I mean trust me, I had a lot of interesting comments about the putter, as you probably remember. So now, look at it now.”
Now, Mediate is going for what he calls a “triple crown” of putting mastery. He has won with a conventional-length putter (including last year’s Frys.com Open) and a long putter, and now he’s going to try to win with a belly putter. “Unprecedented,” he said.
BYRD’S DRIVER: Jonathan Byrd’s TaylorMade SuperFast 2.0 driver was a casualty of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup – it broke at the BMW Championship. He experimented to find a new one, and ended up putting an R11 in play at the JT Shriners.
NEW STUFF: Cleveland Golf debuted its 588 forged clubs in Las Vegas, with Jeff Overton becoming the first Cleveland staffer to use the 588 MB model. Seventeen new 588 forged wedges were in play (Woody Austin had four) and three new fairway wood “Mashies” were also used.
CALI CAMERONS: Scotty Cameron is releasing a refined look to its California putter line, featuring improved “visual flow.”
“My main objective for the new California designs was to take the visual flow to a new level,” Cameron said.
More than 30 refinements were made, including deeper milling in the putter’s face. That yields a softer sound at impact, said to be preferred by many good putters.
The model line is slightly changed, with the Monterey 1.5 model replacing the Coronado. The others – Del Mar, Fastback, Monterey and Sonoma – are mainstays in the California line.
BECK’S AID: Chip Beck, the second man to shoot 59 in a PGA TOUR event, has developed a grip training aid with his wife, Karen. Called “Grip Guides,” it features a heat-activated surface that gives feedback to whether or not you’re gripping the club correctly.
ROUGH TRIP: In case you missed it last week, Lee Janzen’s clubs took a beating on the way to Las Vegas. Wished we could have seen the two-time U.S. Open champion’s face when an airline representative suggested that he could get a rental set.
|Year||No. 125 points pre-Week 30||No. 125 points before Playoffs||Difference|
If this year’s change is similar, anyone inside the top 105 in the standings is in good position to secure a tee time at The Barclays for the start of the Playoffs. In 2009, 10 players ranked inside the top 125 prior to Week 30 fell out of the Playoffs with the highest being No. 110. Last year, only six players -- all ranked between Nos. 118 and 125 -- lost their spots in the Playoffs in the Regular Season’s final four weeks. AUSTIN’S CHANCE? Woody Austin, currently 99 points outside the top 125, picked up his first top-10 finish of the season last week with a T6 at the RBC Canadian Open. A top-6 finish this week at The Greenbrier Classic, an event he tied for fourth in last year, could put him inside the top 125 and in position to make his fifth consecutive Playoffs appearance. Check out our bubble watch for more on players close to the cut line. WHO’S UP, WHO’S DOWN: Sean O’Hair, Kris Blanks and Andres Romero each assured themselves of a spot in the Playoffs, and possibly the Deusche Bank Championship, as they moved from outside the top 100 and into the top 70 last week. Two players -- Michael Putnam and Tim Clark -- fell outside the top 125 as O’Hair and David Hearn moved in. MORE ON LAST WEEK’S WINNER: Another player who has made the Playoffs in each of the last four seasons, O’Hair locked up his fifth appearance by moving from 147th to 43rd after winning the RBC Canadian Open. O’Hair’s last top 10 in an official TOUR event came at last year’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. A 2011 season that had featured 10 missed cuts in 17 starts prior to last week, as well as splits with his caddie and swing coach, may finally be turning around for O’Hair.
At 123rd on the money list, Woody Austin is one of those guys who could use a good finish here this week -- especially since he’s got four years to go until he turns 50 and is one spot out of the top 50 in career money for an exemption for next season.
Austin certainly got off to a good enough start, shooting 4-under 68 on the Palm Course that included three birdies, an eagle (on the par-5 seventh) and just one bogey.
“Smoke and mirrors,” Austin joked when asked about how he put together the good score. He was only half kidding, though, with fog having delayed the start of the round for an hour. Still, Austin was his usual self-deprecating self when assessing his play.
“I mean I'm not playing very well and I'm not confident,” said Austin, who has just one top-25 in six starts since early August. “I'm just really ‑‑ I'm really kind of just trying to scramble my way around, and I did a good job.”
One change that made a difference Thursday for Austin: He moved the ball up in his stance.
“I'm trying something on the golf course I never thought I'd try,” Austin said. “I moved the ball in my stance farther than I ever thought possible. I got through it today.”
Woody Austin appears headed for his second top-10 of the season -- and the way he sees it, that couldn't have happened at a better time.
Austin fired a 63 on Sunday at The Greenbrier that included a back-nine 30 and birdies on his last two holes. He's currently 15 under and tied for fifth -- which means a lot of much-needed FedExCup points.
According to the projected standings, the veteran looks to move up 22 spots to No. 122. The top 125 at the end of the Wyndham Championship in three weeks advance to the first event of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.
"First really good solid round of the year," Austin said. "Hopefully first top 10. You just never know. There are so many birdie holes out there.
"I'm just hoping that those last two (birdies) will at least keep me in the top 10, because ... I'm still out of FedEx and all that, and I'm trying to work my way in.
"Hopefully if it can stay top 8 or whatever, then that's gonna move me up considerably."
Not to mention, Austin is currently 152nd on the money list so the three-time TOUR winner has some work to do to secure his card for next season.
"This is gonna be my first real solid top 10 of the year," Austin reiterated. "Hopefully it'll springboard me to where I can keep going and get my job back and play in the FedEx a little bit." – Helen Ross
Woody Austin birdied his final two holes on Sunday to shoot 63 and grab the clubhouse lead at 15 under.
Austin fired a 30 on the back nine that included one eagle and four birdies. The eagle at the 12th hole came courtesy of a 13-foot putt while his birdies came from 14, 13, 8 and 28 feet.
When he finished, Austin was three strokes behind the overnight leader, Jeff Overton, who was playing his third hole. Looks like Austin will have quite a wait.
It’s another hot day in Memphis with the temperature currently at 91 degrees and the humidity near 70 percent. Add it all up and that’s a heat index north of 105 degrees, which is enough for the National Weather Service to have issued a heat advisory until 10 p.m. Monday. None of this has seemed to bother Woody Austin, though. He birdied each of his first two holes, hitting it to 4 feet and 2 feet, respectively. That gets Austin to 7 under and within four of Robert Garrigus’ lead.
With conditions only expected to get hotter throughout the afternoon, scoring conditions are going to get that much tougher for Garrigus, who tees off in about 10 minutes. If Austin can keep making birdies and post an early number, everyone out late might just wilt in the heat. -- Brian Wacker
Jeff Overton has just tied Jason Bohn for the lead with an 18-foot birdie at the 17th hole. Both are 7 under, although Bohn has four holes remaining.
Overton is playing in the Crowne Plaza Invitational for the second time. He tied for 13th last year – shooting rounds of 69-67-65-69.
Bohn and Overton have put some distance between themselves and the rest of the field. No one else is within four strokes – Woody Austin, Justin Rose, Bill Haas, Tim Clark, K.J. Choi, Vijay Singh, Justin Leonard and Brandt Snedeker are all on the course in a tie for third at 3 under.
A few words of wisdom for the afternoon leaders from PGA TOUR veteran Jim Furyk: “Definitely take advantage of the par 5s. That’s the one opportunity you have.”
Furyk, who shot 73, teed off at 9:40 a.m. and saw a completely different golf course than he’s seen the past three days.
“It’s drying out and the greens are dying, turning brown and white,” said Furyk. “It’s difficult to get the ball close on the greens. The moisture from Tuesday and Wednesday resulted in the course playing softer on Thursday and Friday. No matter what happens in this golf tournament, they let the greens die on Sunday. The guys are going to have their hands full.”
Somebody will have to go under par to put heat on Westwood, Furyk predicts, adding, “There are a lot of wrecks out there waiting to happen.”
By the time the leaders teed off at 2:40 p.m., 21 golfers had finished their rounds with 11 of those ballooning to 75 or higher and only four shooting below par -- highlighted by James Driscoll’s 2-under 70 in the first group on the course.
Ben Curtis didn’t like his 79, nor did he like the golf course today.
“We were playing a different course today,” Curtis said. “The fairways and tees are pretty much the same, but you have to hit completely different approach shots and putts. The greens are brown. The wind picked up and that didn’t help. I would guess that anybody that can stay in double figures this afternoon has a good chance.”
Woody Austin has seen his scores go up each day, finishing today with a disappointing 76. He called the changes in the course from Thursday “shocking.”
“It was very difficult,” Austin admitted. “And such a drastic change. It’s hard to fathom that the greens got any water. It’s an amazing transformation. Thursday you could hit any shot you wanted and now you can’t after three days. Even yesterday, you could get the ball to do some things on the green. Today, you can’t control the ball on the greens at all.”
A 12-year veteran of THE PLAYERS, Austin remembers similar conditions in March in past years when the weather was different and the grass was in transition.
He applauded those that finished early under par. “Even or 1 under is a great score today,” he said. “If you’re putting good, you can probably shoot under par, but if you’re not putting or hitting the ball, you won’t even come close. It’s going to beat you up.” -- Michael Curet