By Tim Price, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
SAN ANTONIO -- When he walks onto the golf course these days, Matt Bettencourt worries about health. It’s not always his own.
Bettencourt appears to have asthma under control, yet he made it through a Valero Texas Open-leading opening round of 5-under 67 on Thursday afternoon after damaging a wedge on one of the numerous rocks at TPC San Antonio’s AT&T Oaks Course.
He pulled his tee shot on No. 8 and still made par when he roughed up his club from out of the gritty native area.
“I didn’t realize there was a rock underneath,” Bettencourt said. “It pretty much destroyed the face of the club.”
The health of his 52-degree wedge will be solved tonight. He’s planning on getting a replacement head for the shaft in time for his morning tee time on Friday. The club, despite a good “chunking” out of the face -- as Bettencourt put it -- wasn’t bad enough to keep him from using it on a full shot later in the round.
“It actually flew OK,” he said.
As his score would indicate, Bettencourt was strong across the board in his game.
It was a six-birdie round, which included a 21-footer on the 405-yard, into-the-wind 12th hole. The only time he missed an up-and-down came on the fourth when he missed from 8 feet.
Bettencourt, who turns 38 this month, finished 10th in the U.S. Open in 2009 at Bethpage Black. His game is healthy, and so is he. He fought for several years a case of asthma that has had him switching medication and inhalers after some doses have left him with a case of the jitters. The last time he won, the 2010 Reno-Tahoe Open, he was bothered by condition.
So, Thursday was only his 16th round of the season. His best finish is a tie for 24th at the Puerto Rico Open.
“I’ve gone back and forth from three to four different inhalers,” Bettencourt said. “It’s helped my health, but I haven’t been able to play golf with it.
“But I think we found (the right combination) last week. I haven’t noticed any jitters, so it’s a bonus for me to play good golf.”
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
A new golf ball got into the winner’s circle when Phil Mickelson won for the 40th time in his career Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The Callaway HEX Black Tour is the company’s newest weapon in the battle for market share in the premium-ball category, long the domain of Titleist’s ProV1 line.
The ball has hexagon-shaped dimples, similar to previous Callaway balls, but with a new dual-core construction where the outer core has a higher compression and the inner core a much softer compression, allowing for lower spin off longer clubs and higher spin off scoring clubs like wedges and short irons.
A dual mantle and proprietary urethane cover complete the package, which will go on sale March 2.
"I had a big advantage this week, I felt, because when the winds started coming up, when the rain started coming up, I felt like I had an advantage by the way my ball was flying and being controlled through that wind,” Mickelson said after his win. “We've got a new ball this year, HEX Black (Tour), and it just flew so good and penetrated through the air so much better that in this thick, cold air I felt like I had a big advantage."
Mickelson also touted the company’s RAZR Fit driver, which was moved into sale a week earlier after the win.
”I don't know how the physics of this work, but usually when I hit ‑‑ I'm able to hit a high, long ball off the tee and I'm also able to hit a low, controlled cut shot off the tee to get to the fairway, usually it's one or the other. Usually a driver is not able to hit both. I don't know what they did with the physics of it, but it allows me to hit every shot I'm trying to hit off the tee.”
PUTTER ANGST: The long putter argument rages on, and among PGA TOUR players the spectrum of opinion keeps growing. There are players like Tiger Woods who are strictly against it and have even lobbied for a solution, and young stars like Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson who are users and huge supporters.
Then there’s Ernie Els, who uses a belly putter and is completely in favor of its disappearance.
“Although I've used it for, what, six months now, I feel the same as most of the traditionalists. I feel that no club should be anchored to your body,” Els said Tuesday at the Northern Trust Open. “I don't know how they're going to go around it, maybe use a putter as long as you want as long as it's not anchored to your body in any way, even up your arm. You see a lot of the guys use it in their armpits now.
“Nothing should be anchored to your body, and I still believe that. I was in such a state that I felt that I needed to change something, which I did. I went to the belly. It hasn't really helped me that much, but it has helped me. But I'm for it. Ban it. It's fine.”
OLD SCHOOL: Corey Pavin won the Champions Tour’s Allianz Championship last weekend, his first win in 35 starts on the 50-and-over circuit. As usual, he excelled with one of golf’s best short games, whether it was saving par from a ridiculously hard tree-root depression or making clutch putts.
For the latter, he uses a 28-year-old Bulls Eye putter (pictured). In an era of putters of all sizes, shapes and lengths, the Bulls Eye is as old school as it gets. And Pavin’s doesn’t have any fancy paintfills or initials, just his full name stamped on the back.
NEW SCHOOL: One antithesis of the Bulls Eye is Odyssey’s new Flip-Face putters, which have two faces containing different inserts (Odyssey’s Metal-X or White Ice). Depending on the kind of a feel a player is looking for on slower or faster greens, the face can be flipped with a special tool included with the club. Stuart Appleby put a No. 5 model (pictured) in play at AT&T.
CASH PLAY: Not every PGA TOUR player has a bag full of free clubs. Golf World Monday reported that Matt Bettencourt bought a TaylorMade RBZ driver at a golf store when it was released on Feb. 3, not waiting for the company to bring the drivers to TOUR pros at the AT&T.
WINNER’S BAG: Mickelson at the AT&T
Pebble Beach National Pro-Am:
Driver: Callaway RAZR Fit, 9.5 degrees
3-wood: Callaway Big Bertha Diablo
Irons: Callaway X-Forged 4-iron, X-Prototype 5-iron, RAZR X muscle-back 6-PW
Wedges: Callaway X-Series JAWS 52, 60, 64 degrees
Putter: Odyssey White Hot XG PT82 Blade
Ball: Callaway HEX Black Tour
SAN MARTIN, Calif. -- At 137th on the money list coming into the week, Garrett Willis needs to play well if he wants to climb into the top 125 and secure his PGA TOUR card for next season. That’s exactly what he did Thursday with a 4-under 67 to share the lead with Brenden Steele, Briny Baird ad Matt Bettencourt at the Frys.com Open.
The performance by Willis, and the others, was impressive given not only the circumstances but the weather.
“I didn't like it one bit,” Willis said of what was a cold, wet day with at times heavy rain. “The way that rain was coming down, it was pretty amazing they continued play, but I was just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it would either stop or they'd call play. It was about as tough of conditions I've ever played in.”
He barely showed it, making just one bogey on the day.
For Willis, it’s the second week in a row he’s opened strong. Last week he carded a 65 in the first round in Las Vegas before finishing in a tie for 34th.
But it’s only the first round and Willis is trying not to get ahead of himself and what a win could mean for him.
“I won't think about that,” he said. “I mean obviously if I'm in this position come Saturday night, I'll think about it, but like I said, this is a tough golf course. I'm glad I got this round under my belt, and like I said, I'm still grinding away trying to make the cut. I'm not even thinking about winning golf tournaments. I'm thinking about being able to play on Saturday morning.”
By Zak Kozuchowski, PGATOUR.COM
Matt Bettencourt made a key eagle on No. 9 at Montreux Golf and Country Club’s that helped the 36-year-old win for the first time last year on the PGA TOUR.
The par-5 hole could play an even bigger role in this year’s tournament. Officials have switched the front and the back nines, meaning the 616-yard par five will now become the finishing hole at the Reno-Tahoe Open.
The change allows for Montreux to be played as architect Jack Nicklaus originally intended. A flood destroyed No. 17 in January 1997, which had to be rebuilt in the spring of 1998. Since its inception in 1999, the Reno-Tahoe Open has played Montreux with the front and back nines reversed.
“I think it's definitely going to provide a great finish on 18,” Bettencourt said in a Wednesday press conference. “You can see a 3-6 combination, where last year's 18th hole it was pretty tough to have more than a shot -- or possibly a two-shot swing.”
The 17th hole (previously No. 8), is 464-yard par 4 that has played as the third toughest hole, and one of the most intimidating shots players face all year on TOUR.
“You have to just be very precise,” Bettencourt said. “You don't want to have a long iron into the green … But Jack, when he built the hole, he basically said, ‘If you want to have a short iron if you need to hit it further off the tee; if you want to hit a 6-iron or 5-iron off the tee or the wide part of the fairway, you're going to be left with a 7- or 8-iron.’ Well, the green's not set up for that.
The 16th hole (previously No. 7) is a 220-yard par-3 and the second toughest hole in tournament history.
“(It’s) a phenomenal par-3. You know, last year No. 16, it was a much shorter hole, so you were hitting anywhere from a 9-iron to a wedge. This year it's gonna be anywhere from a 4-iron to a 6-iron,” Bettencourt said. “So a lot more can happen on these last three finishing holes. You can see a 3- to 5-shot swing without a question.”
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- A year ago, Stuart Appleby came from eight strokes off the pace to beat Jeff Overton by one shot at the inaugural Greenbrier Classic.
Of course, he had to shoot just the fifth 59 in PGA TOUR history to do it. And Appleby birdied his last three holes.
Judging by Sunday's early results at The Old White TPC, a similar come-from-behind win may not be in the offing. There are 54 players on the course right now and only 23 are under par for the day.
And of those 23, only four are 3 under or better. J.P. Hayes, who started at even par, is 5 under through 15 holes while Matt Bettencourt is 4 under through 10 holes and 5 under for the tournament.
Both Carl Pettersson and Garrett Willis are 3 under for the day. Pettersson has played 11 holes and is 4 under for the tournament while Willis, who started the day even, is 3 under through 13 holes.
They’ll all be done way before Anthony Kim and Scott Stallings tee off in the day’s final group at 1:50 p.m. Kim is 10 under after shooting 62 Saturday while Stallings is another stroke behind.
DUBLIN, Ohio – Chris Riley played in the first group off the tee on Thursday at the Memorial Tournament. That 66 he shot held up as the lead after the morning wave, too.
Riley is one stroke ahead of Chris DiMarco and Josh Teater as the second wave begins in earnest. Rickie Fowler, who finished second here a year ago, heads a group of four shooting 68s that includes Matt Bettencourt and the veterans Steve Stricker and Rocco Mediate.
Another four players shot 68s in the morning, including Matt Kuchar, who finished second in the FedExCup last year. Meanwhile, the top two players in this year’s FedExCup had very different days -- No. 1 Bubba Watson shot 75 while Luke Donald turned things around with a string of four straight birdies on the way to a 70.
“The greens are soft and if you drive it in the fairway, the course is in such great shape you can make cuts,” Riley said. “I imagine there’s going to be a 6 or 7 under, another one. Par 5s are reachable.”
The afternoon wave is on the back nine and guess what? No one has been able to catch Bubba Watson.
Webb Simpson and Matt Bettencourt each looked like they were going to make a move, but both are back to 2 under through 13 and 11 holes, respectively. Each is four shots off Watson’s lead of 10 under.
Joe Durant, who ended the first round just one shot off the lead, hasn’t made up any ground either. He’s even through 12 holes today.
Meanwhile, the cut line remains at even par. Rickie Fowler, who was on the wrong side of that number, has since moved inside the cut line by two strokes at 1 under for the tournament.