By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
A switch to some new equipment at the start of the season is continuing to pay off big for Steve Stricker.
The Wisconsin native and Titleist player picked up 710 AP2 irons and the new-generation ProV1x ball months ago, and now has two Midwest-based wins to show for it – the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance in June and last week’s John Deere Classic.
That’s also all the more reason not to make another switch, to the new 712 AP2 irons, as some other Titleist TOUR pros have. Nick Watney picked up the clubs and almost immediately won at the AT&T National two weeks ago.
But the way he’s playing now, and on the eve of the season’s third major, Stricker’s bag at the moment is on lockdown.
“I hit them and I really liked them,” said Stricker of the new irons, “but I want to hit them some more at home, so probably after the British I'll give them some more time to hit.
“I changed earlier this year to a different set of irons, different shaft, different ball early in the year. So yeah, I'm open for change, but I want to make sure and have the repetitions in with them before I make the change.”
BLANKS SHOOTING: Kris Blanks came to the John Deere Classic near the bottom of the TOUR’s putting stats but finished T10 in putts per GIR for the week after going back to an old Scotty Cameron Del Mar model with a custom slant neck.
“That makes it hang a little more towards the sky. Most putters will hang at a quarter,” said Blanks, who led after the first round at TPC Deere Run and finished T12. “This one’s a little more face-down so it doesn’t rotate as much through the hitting zone.”
Ironically, Blanks made the switch after using Ping’s iPhone putting app, Golf World Monday reports.
CRACKING THE CODE: Since 2003, TaylorMade has designed special logos for each of the major
Can you figure out all the details? We’ll give you one – the “V” and “6” in the weathervane (since British Opens always have wind) stand for Harry Vardon and his record six titles.
Read about the rest of the logo here.
CLARKE’S CLASSIC: Scotty Cameron putter junkies will enjoy the saga about Darren Clarke’s old friend, a 1997 Titleist Teryllium Santa Fe that the Northern Irishman used for a while, then parked for years, then exhumed in May to win in Spain.
Clarke brought the putter to Royal St. George’s this week to hand off to Titleist reps, who will take it back to the home office in California to restore. The putter was one of Cameron’s first with an insert made of Teryllium, a copper-colored metal that is soft but expensive.
Jhonattan Vegas put himself in good position for the weekend with rounds of 68-64 at TPC Deere Run. On moving day, however, it’s a different story.
Vegas made double bogey on the par-4 eighth hole, having to take a penalty stroke for a drop after a wayward drive. That left him 2 over for the round, which in the John Deere Classic is no-man’s land. He started the day in the top 5 but has plunged to a tie for 38th.
Also at T38 is Kris Blanks, who opened the week with a 63 but has played even par since.
Different day, different story for Kris Blanks.
After grabbing the lead with an 8-under 63 late in the day Thursday, Blanks figured to be in good position with an early tee time Friday. Unfortunately for Blanks, he hasn’t been able to take advantage of that however.
Through his first 14 holes, Blanks is 1 over with with birdies, two bogeys and one double bogey (which came on his first hole of the day). He’s already taken as many putts -- 25 -- as he did the entire first round.
That’s a far cry from Thursday when he reeled off five straight birdies to close out his round.
The other thing working again Blanks? Since moving to TPC Deere Run in 2000, the only first-round leader of the event to forge ahead to victory was John Senden in 2006.
Thanks to five straight birdies to close out his round, Kris Blanks grabbed the lead late in the opening round. He finished with an 8-under 63 and leads by one over three others, including Steve Marino.
The 63 is easily his best round of the year for Blanks, who came into the John Deere Classic having missed three of his last five cuts.
Marino had a chance to join Blanks and it looked like he would after opening the back nine with four straight birdies. Marino made just one birdie the rest of the way, however, to shoot 64.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
CROMWELL, Conn. -- With heavy rain now soaking the course -- and thunder and lightning in the area -- it will likely be a while before play resumes. Six players, however, were fortunate enough to finish their rounds before the horn sounded.
Your leader in the clubhouse at the moment? Kris Blanks, who carded a 2-under 68 that included an eagle on the par-4 15th, which is also this week’s Kodak Challenge hole. Blanks drove his ball short of the green on the 275-yard hole, then chipped in for the eagle from just inside 54 feet.
Ben Curtis, meanwhile, is one back after a 69. Curtis has a history of playing well here with four career top-15s in the event, including a pair of top-5s.
Others already done for the day are: Graham DeLaet (70), Scott Stallings (71), Steve Elkington (71) and Paul Goydos (72).
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
For some players here this week, a win would get them into the field for next week’s U.S. Open (Bredan Steele, among others, for example). Kris Blanks, on the other hand, chose to not even play in the U.S. Open qualifier earlier this week.
Blanks is playing for his ninth straight week this week and even though he’s missed the cut in four of his last six starts, he didn’t want to make it 10 weeks in a row.
“I told my wife it was going to be a tough stretch,” Blanks said. “Best case scenario I played early, had a couple of good finishes and could have taken a couple weeks off. Worst case, I missed a few cuts and home on the weekends.
“It has been a grind. I didn't do the Monday qualifier for the [U.S.] Open basically for that reason. After playing the Memorial and being pretty down on myself, I decided I would forego that.”
Of course if he continues playing like he did Thursday, he’ll be able to afford a week off. Blanks opened with a 66 to earn a share of the early lead after six birdies and just two bogeys.
It was Blanks’ best score since his first round of the year the Bob Hope Classic.
“I've been trending towards starting to play good again, which is why I've been playing a lot of weeks in a row trying to get some rounds under my belt,” Blanks said. “Today just kind of all came together and hopefully get three more days.”
Shortly before his 11:50 a.m. ET tee time for the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Kris Blanks was assessing the conditions.
"On Tuesday and Wednesday wind blew 20-30 from the south. Today 10-20 from the north. Totally different golf course," he tweeted.
There are plenty of players who seem to be adapting well to the new “look” of TPC Louisiana, though.
Six are currently tied for the lead at 3 under -- Charlie Wi, D.J. Trahan, David Toms, Joe Durant, Matt Bettencourt and D.J. Brigman. Wi and Trahan have logged the most holes at 14.
Toms, who grew up in Shreveport and played collegiately at LSU, would be an extremely popular champion. He won the Zurich Classic a decade ago when it was played at English Turn Golf Club.
Toms, who is looking for his first win since 2006, has played in 11 Zurich Classics. He's had three top-10s, most recently a tie for fifth in 2009.
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- You’ve got to love a golfer who doesn’t take himself too seriously. And Kris Blanks certainly fits the bill.
Shortly after he closed with a 43 on the back nine of the South Course, Blanks took to the Twitter airwaves to let off some steam. “Looks like I'm 15 back!!! I got them right where I want them!!!!”
Blanks, who made the turn even par, finished with a 79. His math was right – Sunghoon Kang, the rookie from Korea, leads at 8 under after a 64 on the North Course. – Helen Ross
Through the first rounds, Boo Weekley made just two bogeys. Here in the third round, he’s already equaled that mark in just his first nine holes on Siler Rock. As a result, Weekley, the overnight co-leader, has fallen into a tie for eighth after making the turn in 37.
The problem for Weekley? Putting. After rolling it extremely well through his first two rounds, when he averaged just over 1.5 putts per green in regulation, he’s averaging two putts through the first nine holes today.
Weekley is also the only player in the top 25 currently over par on the round.
Meanwhile, Kris Blanks and Dean Wilson are moving in the opposite direction -- they’re both 5 under in the third round (12 under for the week) and have climbed 22 spots on the leaderboard as a result.