The tee times for the first round of this week’s The Honda Classic have been released. CLICK HERE for the tee times. Use the space below to comment about the pairings at PGA National.
Here’s a look at some of the notable groups in the first two rounds:
Jim Furyk/Y.E. Yang/Henrik Stenson
Yang has owned PGA National in recent years, with a win and a second-place finish.
Kyle Stanley/Keegan Bradley/Rory McIlroy
Three of the best players in the world under the age of 30, and all three bomb the ball.
Mark Wilson/Rory Sabbatini/Camilo Villegas
These three players won at PGA National in 2007, 2011 and 2010, respectively. Villegas and Wilson squared off in a four-man playoff (with Boo Weekley and Jose Conceres) on a steamy Monday in 2007, which Wilson won.
Lee Westwood/Ian Poulter/Tiger Woods
No introduction needed for this trio. Tiger makes his first start at PGA National. This is the third consecutive year Westwood has teed if up here. Tied for ninth in 2010.
John Huh/Charl Schwartzel/Ernie Els
The PGA TOUR's newest winner (Huh) immediately graduates to an A-list tee time with a pair of major champions.
Anthony Kim/Mike Weir/Mark Calcavecchia
Can Kim and Weir get their games turned around at the start of the Florida Swing? And don't count out Calcavecchia, who has lived in Palm Beach for many years. He tied for fourth here in 2008.
Now, it’s your turn: Which groups are you most interested in following this week?
Never before had a player won such honors on all three Tours operated by the PGA TOUR. Lehman, who won the award on the then-Hogan Tour (now Nationwide Tour) in 1991 and the PGA TOUR in 1996, knew he was fortunate to be in such a position by age as much as accomplishment. No other former Hogan/Nationwide Tour Player of the Year is toiling regularly on the 50-and-over circuit.
But Wednesday, upon officially being named Champions Tour Player of the Year, thus completing the triple play, Lehman could fully appreciate the accomplishment and come clean a little bit about just how much he wanted it.
“I think it's every bit as significant simply because it's a goal that I set,” Lehman said. “I think anytime you set a goal that's a lofty goal, and this one was lofty because no one had done it before. I was aware of that.
“Because of that reason, it's significant. It's the culmination of a journey. It's a journey that's been a lot of fun. There's no guarantees. There were no promises that I could achieve that. It took a lot of good playing and also some good fortune for me to win.”
Lehman was strong all year on the Champions Tour, having won three times including a major title. He took over the Schwab Cup points lead after the season’s second event and never looked back, though the points race did tighten up at the season finale as Mark Calcavecchia bid to win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship and take the $1 million season prize. Calc came up short, and Lehman had the Schwab Cup.
“There's a lot of things happened this past year that went in my favor. John Cook lost in two playoffs. Calc almost came back and won the Schwab Cup,” Lehman said. “Those guys had great years, played great golf, but things kind of tipped my way.
“When you work so hard and you want it so badly, you chase that dream, then the dream does come true, it's significant. I was very, very aware over the last couple years I had a chance to do something that no one's done before, at least to this point.”
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods tinkered with some new clubs prior to this week’s Australian Open.
Woods, a longtime loyalist to Nike’s Victory Red blades, tried out a VR-S Forged long iron in Sydney. It’s a perimeter cavity-back weighted iron that allows for higher trajectories, which in turn helps shots stop quicker on fast greens.
The VR-S Forged irons are not available to the public yet.
FOREVER THE KING: Arnold Palmer made his 20th career hole-in-one at Bay Hill earlier this week at his Bay Hill Club and Lodge, using a new Callaway Razr XF 5-iron for the first time. He holed out from 163 yards in a fivesome of friends that had 50 aces collectively.
CALC’S CHANGE: At the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup Championship last week, Mark Calcavecchia had a pair of new Ping G20 drivers overnighted from the company in Arizona after an errant first-round drive where he thought he felt the clubhead come loose.
“I thought the head was loose, but it was probably my head that’s loose,” Calcavecchia joked.
The always-quotable Calc later riffed about driver specs when pressed for more details about the replacement G20.
“They gave me one I think with a little less torque. It's got some numbers on the side of it. I get this question all the time from amateurs. What torque do you use? How many grams? I say, I don't know. I grab a driver, if it feels good, I'll go with it. I'm really not technically up on specifications.
“The other one said 60, which I know is the grams. It says 3.4, then stiff. This one says 2.9. I'm guesstimating that's the torque. It feels a little bit stiffer, so maybe the torque is less or more. I don't know.”
FROM THE BOSS: Loren Roberts of the Champions Tour, long one of the best putters in the game, was asked last week at TPC Harding Park about whether he had ever picked up a long putter.
“I was in my hometown of St. Louis, one of the members there had one. I messed around with it a little bit,” said Roberts, the 1994 PGA TOUR leader in putting average. “If it was outside 20 feet, I couldn’t get it near the hole. And I’m a speed putter. I don’t think it would work for me.”
Mark Calcavecchia had a new style of golf gloves at TPC Harding Park during the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Write your own photo description below -- and please, keep it clean!
For the best photos of the week, please click here .
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – A little more than two months ago, Jay Don Blake was a Champions Tour journeyman.
Now he’s a multiple-event winner.
Blake won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Sunday, the first to win the Tour’s season finale in his first appearance since Mark McNulty in 2004. He took a two-shot lead into the final round and never relinquished it, winning by two over Michael Allen, Mark Calcavecchia, Jay Haas and Loren Roberts.
Add that to his win five starts ago at the Songdo IBD Championship in Korea, where he won a four-man playoff, and Blake ends 2011 as one of four multiple winners on Tour, joining Schwab Cup winner Tom Lehman, John Cook and Fred Couples.
“How can you pass up having a chance to play on the Champions Tour?” said Blake, who rose to fourth in Schwab Cup points and will take $200,000 from that prize pool in addition to his $440,000 share of the winner’s purse from TPC Harding Park. “I wanted to be healthy and ready if I could play out here and perform like I was able to play.”
Blake, 53, won once on the PGA TOUR, in 1991 at Torrey Pines. He cut his PGA TOUR career short of age 50 due to back pain, and for three years worked on stretching and tweaking enough to give the Champions Tour a shot.
He pieced together schedules with his partial status, qualifying for some events and relying on sponsor’s exemptions at times. What he never lost was his drive and, just as importantly, a silky putting stroke.
“He’s always been a great putter his whole life,” Allen said. “When we played in college, he was a great putter, and that’s been his game.
“You go out to dinner with someone, you want to go out to dinner with a good putter, because they’re always happy.”
Blake isn’t the type for overt displays of emotion, happy or not, but the satisfaction was clear on his face late Sunday afternoon, especially with some 20 family members and friends around to share in his win. The next stop will be the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, a winners-only event.
An event for Jay Don Blake.
“I just kept knocking at the door and I felt like sometime down the road it was going to happen,” he said.
It’s now wide open.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Mark Calcavecchia turned the Schwab Cup race into an exciting battle Sunday afternoon, one that required watching several players other than him.
But in the end it was a result he’s all too familiar with – second.
At the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Calcavecchia needed to win or finish no worse than two-way tie for second to steal the Cup from Tom Lehman, the points leader since the second tournament of the season.
He started the final round in a tie for sixth, but on a windy day at TPC Harding Park he made a late run with a 2-under 69.
When Calcavecchia birdied the 15th hole and Jay Haas bogeyed the 13th, there was a three-way tie for second. Minutes later, Loren Roberts made it a four-way tie at 6 under with a birdie at 15. (Jay Don Blake was well in front, so winning the event wasn’t a possibility.)
Haas and Roberts continued to pour in pars, Haas making a solid save off a bad drive at 15, Roberts saving par on the par-3 17th after missing the green.
Calcavecchia’s key moment was on 18, when he hit a great drive and only had 134 yards left to the par-4. He was in between a wedge and 9-iron in switching winds, and his 9-iron ended up pin high but well right of the hole.
“I had the right distance but I never swung at it. Wind just got it,” Calcavecchia said. “If I had to do it again I’d hit a hard wedge and take my chances. I would have hit a better shot, put it that way.”
He two-putted to post 6 under, and Roberts did the same from the next group. Calcavecchia couldn’t afford another finisher at that number, but local favorite Michael Allen hit a chip close at 18 that nearly went in for birdie. In or out, Calcavecchia’s fate was sealed.
He finished second in points, 74 behind Lehman.
“It’s kind of the story of my whole career, I’ve had a lot of seconds in my day and a lot of close calls,” said Calcavecchia, who had 13 wins on the PGA TOUR and 27 seconds. On the Champions Tour, he has one win and four seconds.
“It could have been a lot better but on the other hand I had a great year. Just rattled off more top-10s than anybody.”
True – Calcavecchia had 15 top-10s to Lehman’s 12, in one more tournament. But second place Sunday was just too crowded of a place for his Schwab Cup hopes.
SAN FRANCISCO – Tom Lehman survived a game effort from Mark Calcavecchia to win the Schwab Cup while Jay Don Blake won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Sunday.
Blake won for the second time in two months on the Champions Tour, shooting a final-round 71 at TPC Harding Park to win by two shots.
In the season-long points race, Lehman finished T18 in the finale to open the door for Calcavecchia. But Calc needed a win or a two-way tie for second, and there turned out to be a four-way tie for second with Calc, Loren Roberts, Michael Allen and Jay Haas.
SAN FRANCISCO – He may not do it in style, but Tom Lehman is closing in on the Schwab Cup.
Lehman is only tied for 16th in the 30-man Charles Schwab Cup Championship after a second straight 1-over 72 at TPC Harding Park. He’s 1 over for the event.
But as long as the four other players mathematically eligible for the Cup do not win this week (or in the case of Mark Calcavecchia, win or finish second), Lehman is safe. So far, that’s the case.
John Cook, the two-time defending event champion, is tied for 20th, 11 shots back of leader Jay Don Blake. Peter Senior is tied for 24th, one behind Cook.
Russ Cochran is tied for 12th, but at seven shots back is likely too far to contend on Sunday.
That leaves Calcavecchia, who shot 1 under Saturday but lost ground on a day that allowed lower scores. He’s tied for sixth at 4 under, four shots back. If he can make a Sunday rally, the Cup could still be his.
If not, it’s Lehman’s.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Say Hey Kid dropped in on the Champions Tour Saturday.
Baseball Hall of Famer and San Francisco icon Willie Mays spent some time around TPC Harding Park at the start of Round 3 of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, greeting the final two groups on the first tee.
“Wish I’d have played with you, you could have showed me how to hit it long,” the 80-year-old legend said to Fred Couples and Mark Calcavecchia.
“You don’t need any help,” Couples said.
Indeed, Mays was a pretty good golfer back in the day, a mid-70s shooter who traveled with the PGA TOUR for a short time after his playing days, in association with a sponsor.
“They were so good, I’d shoot 75 or 78, they’d shoot 65 or 68,” Mays said. “When I was out there, it was a fun thing. I learned how to hit the ball, how to fade it, how to chip, how to read the greens. I played a lot with Raymond (Floyd), Trevino, Chi Chi.
Today golf is a popular pastime and topic of conversation in baseball clubhouses. Mays said that wasn’t the case in his time, though many ballplayers were good golfers.
“We talked baseball, why talk golf when you’ve got to go on the field and play baseball?” said Mays, who hit 660 home runs in 22 seasons, including 14 in San Francisco with the Giants. “We did have some golfers on the club. Most of the pitchers would play. But not me, they said ‘you couldn’t play.’ (Managers) Leo (Durocher) and (Alvin) Dark, they said ‘we don’t want you playing because it might mess up your swing.’
“Wouldn’t have messed mine up, but they didn’t see it that way.”
Mays, who was also at TPC Harding Park two years ago for the Presidents Cup, has history with several players in the field this week. Couples is a favorite, and Tom Watson goes back decades with Mays.
Watson remembers a priceless moment with his son and Mays from 1992 at Giants spring training.
“I remember it like it was this morning,” Watson said. “I went up to introduce Michael to him and myself to him, he had that big smile on his face and he looked at my son and started talking to him … ‘How would you like to play some catch?’ And for 15 minutes they threw the ball around. 15 minutes!”