By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Could Ricky Barnes be the next young gun to break through on the PGA TOUR?
The former U.S. Amateur champion put himself in position to contend for his first PGA TOUR victory by shooting a 4-under 67 on Saturday at The Heritage ( click here to replay his round). Barnes walked off the course tied for fourth place, two shots behind leaders Jim Furyk and Jason Day, at 8 under.
Barnes, who turned 30 in February, has yet to post a victory on TOUR. He tied for second at the 2009 U.S. Open and was fourth earlier this spring at The Honda Classic, his only top-10 of the season. Barnes has plenty of good feelings about Harbour Town; he tied for fifth a year ago in his first appearance at The Heritage.
Barnes’ scorecard on Saturday featured five birdies and only one bogey. He missed a 10-footer for birdie at No. 17 and got up-and-down from the front of the 18 th green for a par. He missed six of 18 greens in regulation, but was able to salvage par on each occasions, three times from bunkers.
There’s still a long way to go in The Heritage, but Jason Day has put himself in contention in yet another week.
The 23-year-old Aussie, who is coming off a tie for second at the Masters, has birdied three of his last five holes and is now 10 under for the week. In Day’s last 24 holes, he’s 8 under with nine birdies and just one bogey.
He has company, of course, in defending champion Jim Furyk, who is 7 under over his last 23 holes with seven birdies and no bogeys.
Meanwhile, Ricky Barnes and Tommy Gainey have moved within two of day and Furyk with each 4 under on their rounds today.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Ricky Barnes doesn’t exactly have a lot of Masters experience with this being just the third of his career and only second as a professional. But he’s certainly made the most of his trips to Augusta National.
Last year, Barnes tied for 10th, which is what got him in the field for this year’s tournament. Friday, he shot a 71 to get to 5 under and within reach of the lead heading into the weekend.
At one point, however, Barnes had it as low as 7 under after birdies on Nos. 2, 4 and 6, and that left a little bit of a bad taste in Barnes’ mouth.
“Pretty bittersweet,” Barnes said of the round. “I was in position to take advantage and take care of those par-5s again today. I just didn't do it today. No ifs, ands or buts about it; I didn't get it done on the par-5s.”
That wasn’t the case in the opening round for the former U.S. Amateur champ. He birdied all four par-5s Thursday.
Still, considering where Barnes was at one point in career -- he was off the PGA TOUR from 2004-08 -- he’s happy to be here and in contention at a major again. Just two years ago, Barnes tied for second at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
He’s also had other big performances in some big events, including a tie for third at last year’s Memorial tournament presented by Morgan Stanley and earlier this year he finished fourth at The Honda Classic.
”I think you've done something right, obviously to, get back here,” Barnes said. “I definitely do feel comfortable out here. I think a lot of the fans and fairways kind of suit my eye and get me pretty concentrated on the targets.
“Not being on the PGA TOUR, that was probably the toughest thing to swallow. Then the competitor comes out in you and you say, I'm never going to play Augusta until I get back there as a pro. I was fortunate to do it last year, and hopefully we'll keep on doing it.”
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR,COM Chief of Correspondents
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ricky Barnes appears to be picking up where he left off on Friday during the second round of the Masters Tournament.
The former U.S. Amateur champion birdied all four par 5s on Thursday as he opened with a 68. And Barnes picked up his first birdie in the second round on the second hole, a 575-yard par 5 that is called “Pink Dogwood.”
Barnes has added birdies at the par-3 fourth and sixth holes to move to 7 under and into a tie for the lead with Y.E. Yang and Rory McIlroy. Yang is a hole ahead and has answered an opening bogey with three straight birdies.
Barnes is playing in his third Masters this week, and he’s proven to be a quick learner. He finished 21st as an amateur in his 2003 debut and tied for 10th a year ago. Thursday’s 68 matched his lowest round at Augusta National.
And what is Barnes’ most important lesson to date? You’ve got to take advantage of the par 5s.
“It's kind of self‑explanatory,” Barnes said. “In past years when Tiger and Phil have won, and Zach Johnson talked about laying up but he still tore up the par 5s. He might not have been able to reach them in two with 5‑ and 4‑irons but was still taking advantage of them.
“If you are going to play well out here, you are not going to live and die by playing the par 3s and par 4s well out here. You have to cash in on some par 5s. You probably have to get at least two or three of them a day, and then take advantage when you hit good drives on a hole and you get those wedges and 9‑irons in your hand.”
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- With cooler temperatures, overcast skies and a chance of rain at some point, Y.E. Yang is taking advantage of what appears to be a very receptive Augusta National right now.
Yang, who began the day with a bogey on the par-4 first hole, has since bounced back with three straight birdies to move to 7 under and into a tie for the lead.
Ricky Barnes has also gained two strokes on the lead, moving to 6 under for the tournament after a birdie on the par-5 second hole and another on the par-3 fourth.
Overnight co-leaders Rory McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros, meanwhile, will tee off at 12:42 p.m. ET and 10:41 a.m., respectively.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Here are some notable numbers to set up Friday’s second round at Augusta National.
· The last 21 year old to win the Masters was Tiger Woods in 1997. Will Rory McIlroy be the next? He opened with the only bogey-free round of the day, a 65 to share the first-round lead. The last player with at least seven holes of birdie or better and no holes played over par here was … Tiger Woods in the third round in 1997.
· In the past 25 Masters tournaments, only one player -- Trevor Immelman in 2008 -- held or shared the lead at the end of the first round and went on to win the Green Jacket. Only one other official stroke-play tournament that has been played every year during that period has had no more than one first-round leader finish in first place: The Farmers Insurance Open. George Burns won that tournament in 1987 after owning the lead through the first round.
· Ricky Barnes is playing in his just third Masters -- in 2003 he played as an amateur and last season obviously as a professional. Through eight previous rounds here, Barnes had finished his round in the top 10 six times. Thursday, he added a seventh, meaning that 78 percent of the time he has finished a round in the top 10. That’s a higher percentage than any player since 2003.
· Tiger Woods did not make his first bogey of the first round until the 10th hole. That marked just the second time at Augusta National that Woods has played his first nine holes without a bogey. In 2008, Woods did not make his first bogey until the 13th hole. Thursday, Woods finished with a 1-under 71. Woods has been under par in his first round at the Masters six previous times. His worst finish in any of those years was a tie for eighth in 1998.
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Thanks to three birdies in a four-hole stretch in the middle of the back nine, Y.E. Yang is just two shots back of the lead after an opening-round 67 Thursday.
Yang posted birdies on Nos. 13, 15 and 16 and finished the day with seven birdies in all. He also matched his career-low score here -- he shot 67 in the opening round last year before finishing in a tie for eighth, which was also his best finish in the Masters.
That was also the only other time Yang broke 70 in 10 previous rounds at Augusta National.
The only other player on the course with a chance to catch Rory McIlroy is Alvaro Quiros. He’s 5 under with three holes to play. He’s made six birdies and one bogey so far.
Meanwhile, Ricky Barnes is three shots back, along with Matt Kuchar, after just finishing off a 68. Eight others are currently at 3 under with play winding down.
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D.A. Points turned in the wedge shot of the year so far on TOUR at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, using a 52-degree Ping Tour-W wedge for his Sunday holeout eagle on the 14th at Pebble.
Suffice to say, his gap wedge delivered better last week than he remembered on a similar shot a few years prior.
“It was a couple years ago, I was playing pretty well here and I was in the Top-10 and I was making a lot of
birdies,” Points said. “I came down there and I had a gap wedge, similar kind of shot and I spun it left off the green and rolled down the hill under the tree and I made double bogey.
“Most of the time we are worried about putting too much spin on it. This year we are trying to get as much spin on it so we can hold it up there.”
-- Speaking of ball spin, Nike introduced a new TOUR-level golf ball Tuesday, the 20XI. The conventional rubber core is replaced with a resin core, engineered to produce more distance and control. Nike says the ball has perimeter weighting between the lighter core and heavier outer layers.
The ball, which comes in distance and spin models, is being used by Stephen Ames, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Jamie Lovemark, Francesco Molinari and Carl Pettersson, among others.
Whether Tiger Woods switches to the 20XI remains to be seen, though he is said to be considering it. He still plays the Nike Tour One.
-- Golfweek’s Gene Yasuda writes that Wilson Golf spent $4 million on research and development last year – five times what it spent five years ago – in order to help implement to a two-year product cycle. The company’s marketing message has been simplified, touting 61 major championships won with Wilson irons, and Kevin Streelman has been added to a stable of TOUR pros that includes Ricky Barnes and Padraig Harrington.
Wilson posted an entertaining YouTube video of commercial outtakes including Barnes. Look for the wedge-bouncing ball trick, similar to the old Woods Nike commercial, here.
-- What was in amateurs’ bags at the AT&T? TaylorMade said its R11 was the No. 1 driver, with 24 in play.
Bill Murray won the Pro-Am with new Titleist Vokey wedges. Check out the BM stamps on his custom clubs here .
--Odyssey just released their D.A.R.T. putters and E. Michael Johnson of Golf World writes that the company is making a handful of “TOUR-only” options including a mid-length version with a 400-gram head, a long version with a 450-gram head, a black PVD version and one with a red D.A.R.T. alignment device. Some of those putters may be put in play at Riviera.
-- In a Masters conference call this week, Phil Mickelson lent some insight into his bag.
On putting two drivers into play at Augusta:
“That particular year, I believe, was one of the first years, if not the first year, that the golf course was lengthened extraordinarily. I think that was the first year that a lot of length was added; tee boxes were moved back quite a few yards. And to combat that, I tried to get a driver that I could hit an initial 20 yards.
“Although I called one a draw driver and one a fade driver, the long driver was the driver that I drew. But I also hit it 20 to 25 yards longer than I did my regular, was a longer shaft and so forth. And I believe that it played a big factor in me winning the golf tournament.
“Now the driver that I have, is very similar to that distance. It might only be five or seven yards shorter than that driver, and so there's really not a benefit to putting another longer driver in play. And so that frees me up to add another club.”
On his wedges:
“I've set my wedges now -- I used to have as much as five wedges, as you know. And what I did was took the gap and sand wedge and kind of created a club in between.
“So every week now, I am set with four wedges. I have a 64 and a 60. I have a strong sand wedge. Which is about 54, 53 1/2, 54 degrees, and then I have a pitching wedge that's a 47 1/2, 48. So that allows me to add some other clubs longer in the bag.
“And usually at Augusta, I don't have a hybrid. I usually carry a 3-iron. And the reason for that is, if I'm not able to reach the par 5s, like 13 and 15, with a 3-iron or less, I usually don't want to go for it, anyways.
“And second, the additional length on No. 4 puts me a lot of times right between clubs, between a 4-iron and sometimes a 3-iron. And so having a 3-iron in the bag at Augusta is what has helped me the last couple of years in some of those in-between shots from 220 to 245.
“So that is usually how my setup, club setup, is. And I no longer play with five wedges. I've had four wedges now and the same wedges for the last couple of years.”